With Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor becoming Baroness Taylor of Stevenage last week, we thought we’d take a look at other House of Lords members with Stevenage links. 

As a new town, Stevenage doesn’t have a long list of people connected to it being elevated to the upper chamber, but here are three who managed it. 

1. Baroness Denington of Stevenage

The Comet: Baroness Denington of Stevenage in 1978, on the occasion of her raising to the peerage.Baroness Denington of Stevenage in 1978, on the occasion of her raising to the peerage. (Image: Stevenage Museum)

Baroness Taylor is following in the footsteps of Evelyn Denington, who also made the leap to the Lords following her local leadership as a member of the Labour party. 

From 1966 until its dissolution in 1980, Baroness Denington served as chair of the Stevenage Development Corporation, the precursor to Stevenage Borough Council. She had been a member of the corporation since 1950. 

Her time in Stevenage saw the creation of a pedestrianised town centre, the building of many schools, and the opening of Lister Hospital. 

She was born in Woolwich, southeast London, in 1907, and was part of the London political scene both before and after her membership of the Stevenage Development Corporation.

The Comet: Baroness Denington of Stevenage in 1978 with HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.Baroness Denington of Stevenage in 1978 with HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. (Image: Stevenage Museum)

With a special interest in housing, she also served as chair of the Greater London Council from 1975-76 before being created a peer in 1978, with the title Baroness Denington of Stevenage in the County of Hertford. She died 20 years later, in 1998. 

You can hear Baroness Denington speaking about her time in Stevenage on the Talking New Town’s website here.

Earl Jowitt 

The Comet: Earl Jowitt in 1940.Earl Jowitt in 1940. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

William Jowitt is the only person in this list with a connection to Stevenage before it became a new town.

He was born in 1885, when the population of the town was around 3,300 people – compared to 89,500 in 2021. 

His father was Reverend William Jowitt, Rector of Stevenage, and he had a privileged education culminating in a law degree at New College, Oxford. 

In 1909, he became a barrister and embarked on his legal career. A political career followed soon after, as he was elected a Liberal MP in 1922.

After a tumultuous few years that saw him in and out of Parliament, he served as Attorney General between 1929 and 1932 when Ramsay MacDonald was prime minister of a Labour minority government and then a National Government. 

Out of the House of Commons in the mid-1930s, he called for an end to the appeasement of Hitler’s Germany and for an increase in spending on rearmament.

In 1939, he became an MP again after winning a by-election in Ashton-under-Lyme. 

Shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of a coalition government in 1940, Jowitt became solicitor general and went onto hold a number of cabinet posts during the Second World War. 

Following VE Day in 1945, Labour won the General Election and the new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, decided to make Jowitt Lord Chancellor.

He duly became Baron Jowitt, of Stevenage in the County of Hertford, and served as Lord Chancellor until the Conservative victory in the General Election of 1951. 

In the meantime, he had become Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, and had his title changed twice – to Viscount Jowitt, of Stevenage in the County of Hertford, then to Viscount Stevenage.

In 1952, he became simply Earl Jowitt and he died five years later, at the age of 72. 

Baroness Williams of Crosby

The Comet: Baroness Williams of Crosby in 2014.Baroness Williams of Crosby in 2014. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The final figure on this list, Baroness Williams also spent much of her life in the Labour party. 

She was born in Chelsea in 1930, and her mother was Vera Brittain, the famous pacifist.

After being educated at St Paul’s and Oxford, she became a journalist before embarking on her political career. 

Baroness Williams was unsuccessful in her first two attempts to be elected to parliament, but won the seat of Hitchin for Labour in the 1964 General Election.

At the time, the constituency included the new town of Stevenage, and when the boundaries changed in 1974 she became MP for the newly created constituency of Hertford and Stevenage. 

During her time as local MP, she held a number of ministerial and shadow ministerial positions, and also stood for the deputy leadership of the Labour party in 1976.

She lost to Michael Foot, who would later become leader of the party. 

In 1979, the Conservatives won the seat of Hertford and Stevenage and Williams found herself out of the House of Commons. 

Her time in the Labour party also ended soon after. Unhappy with its increasingly left-wing nature under Foot’s leadership, she resigned her membership in 1981 and helped found the new Social Democratic Party with Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers – the ‘gang of four’. 

In the same year, she won the seat of Crosby for the SDP and became their first MP. Just two years later, however, at the 1983 General Election, she lost the seat. 

She never returned to the House of Commons, but in 1993 she was appointed a life peer as Baroness Williams of Crosby, of Stevenage in the County of Hertfordshire. 

As the SDP had merged with the Liberals to become the Liberal Democrats, she then became the leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004. 

Her political career ended in 2016, when she retired from the House of Lords. She died in 2021.