Redditch New Town Archives: Sports, Promotion and Leisure

  • 11th March 2024

Within one of our large Commission for the New Town collections, there are c9500 photographs, reports and other items from the Development Corporation Technical Library. We just love showing them to you on our social media platforms. They bring the Redditch New Town collections to life, and capture the design characteristics of the period. One brochure in this expansive collection illustrates the variety of local amenities and services that were developed or re-designed by the Corporation and the self-contained nature of the New Town. So many facilities were available, such as the shopping centres, the Palace Theatre, Arrow Valley Lake, golf courses, playing fields and parks, community centres, health facilities and schools.

Why Not Live in Redditch brochure front cover. c.1975. 499:4 BA10300/123(3)

Why Not Live in Redditch brochure front cover. c.1975. 499:4 BA10300/123(3)


The Kingfisher Shopping Centre was developed in the Town Centre and officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on 5th July 1983.  The name ‘Kingfisher’ was derived from the bird that has long been associated with fishing and rivers. The bird undoubtedly frequented the fishponds at Bordesley Abbey, the site of early Redditch and are still occasionally spotted. The town had also adopted a Royal Navy corvette called the Kingfisher during the second world war, making the name apt.

Kingfisher Shopping Centre Brochure. p1. 499:4 BA10300/123(3)

Kingfisher Shopping Centre Brochure. p1. 499:4 BA10300/123(3)

This image shows off the infamous and much-loved palm trees inside the Shopping Centre.

The Hub of England Brochure. Page showing Kingfisher Shopping Centre interior. c.1976.  BA14226/35(11)

The Hub of England Brochure. Page showing Kingfisher Shopping Centre interior. c.1976.  BA14226/35(11)

Within the Kingfisher shopping centre was the Ecumenical Centre. The designated area had some 24 churches of different denominations and two churches were affected by the Town Centre development; the Congregational Church and Gospel Hall both in Evesham Street. Ideas for an Ecumenical Centre, part of a wider movement, aimed to promote the unity of Christian Churches. It was a welcomed, economical solution, given the denominations typically had few resources. HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh even spoke at the Ecumenical Centre in May 1978.

BA11883-92xxii HRH Prince Philip visiting the Ecumenical Centre May 1978

BA11883-92xxii HRH Prince Philip visiting the Ecumenical Centre May 1978

Due to the self-contained, village-style residential areas of the development, there were additional local shopping centres including Winyates, which also had a crafts centre, Matchborough and Woodrow.  This meant residents had the option to carry out their day to day shopping on foot  rather than having to use main roads. A file in one of the collections features a site plan, location plan and elevation view of Winyates Shopping Centre.

The Arts

In Milward Square of The Kingfisher Shopping Centre are the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics, unveiled in April 1983.  This colourful piece of artwork features twelve mosaic panels celebrating the history of the needle industry in the town.  See our blog at Eduardo Paolozzi – The Pop Art Pioneer – Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service (

mosaics by Eduardo Paolozzi 499-4 BA11883-93ix

The unveiling of mosaics by artist Eduardo Paolozzi at the Kingfisher Shopping Centre in April 1983, Redditch. 499:4 BA11883/93(ix)

The Palace Theatre, built in 1910, faced decline after WWII and diversified into experimenting with cinema, roller skating and bingo. In 1970, plans for the theatre’s redevelopment were, after some consideration, approved, on the basis that a Friend of the Palace Theatre group would be founded to offset running costs, and that a Theatre Trust that would be set up to attract Arts Council Grants. It was re-opened on 10 Sept 1971 as a multi-purpose venue.

BA11883-7v Palace Theatre 1970s

BA11883-7v Palace Theatre 1970s

Open Spaces

In a report on the Provision of Open Space in Redditch, 1972 at , it was suggested that there was a total shortage of 10 hectares of open space in Redditch. One of several solutions put forward was to use Arrow Valley Park playing fields to add over 4 hectares of land. Golf courses were suggested as being enjoyed by the non-golfing community because some of the residential housing overlooked golf courses and therefore took advantage of the green space. Allotment gardens already in Redditch would need to change location during the course of development and so more land needed to be allocated for this purpose.  Several other categories of open space areas were identified in a report including woodland, nature reserves, lakes and children’s play areas. Rather cleverly in the report, the number of hectares programmed to exist at various stages of the development were set out in a table, alongside the predicted increase in population.

We can compare the report to a list of amenities, recreational facilities, churches and schools in the Redditch area d.1970s. It lists the Abbey Stadium Sports Centre, Leys Sports Centre, Arrow Valley Park Lake, Hewell Road Swimming Pool, Pitcheroak Municipal Golf Course at Plymouth Road, Arrow Vale near Matchborough Centre, and Valley Stadium and Football Ground.

BA11883-87ii Oakenshaw Park

BA11883-87ii Oakenshaw Park

In October 1967, a report of the provision of Community Facilities (finding no. 499:4 BA11883/49xxviii) was requested by the Joint Authorities Community and Amenity Working Party, to enable priorities for community facilities to be established. Data used in this report concluded that, as with other New Towns, the new population would have a large proportion of younger aged people; young families and young couples soon to have children who would therefore be inclined to demand sports facilities. Though this would be less so than in other New Towns, as the additional population in Redditch would be ‘grafted on to’ the existing population of the Town that had a more evenly distributed age range.

BA11883-41-v Provision for Open Space in Redditch 1972

BA11883-41-v Provision for Open Space in Redditch 1972

Community Services

In addition to sports and recreation facilities, the report proposed a new Arts Centre could meet the needs to an increasingly cultured population; with a gallery, museum, relocated school of arts crafts, and theatre. Civic buildings were recommended for major social and official functions including new courts and police station, older people’s Day Centre, and Social Services Centre, in order to meet future demand.

BA11883-88xv Magistrates' Courts, Grove Street, 1980s

BA11883-88xv Magistrates’ Courts, Grove Street, 1980s

RDC social development files and social research files can be found in collection 499:4 BA10300.  These include surveys, statistics and projections, on themes such as immigration, children’s play areas, households, employment, industry, housing, the elderly and schools.

Promotional visits

As part of promoting the New Town, several visits from royalty, Central Government and local dignitaries took place.  Otomfuo Opoku Ware II, Asantahene – Traditional Ruler of the Ashanti Region of Ghana, was accompanied by Sir Edward Thompson, Chairman of RDC and Mr Brian Bunch, Chief Architect and Planning Officer, during his visit in 1972. We also have photos of the [1973] visit of Prime Minister Edward Heath, and 1976 visit of Prime Minister James Callaghan.

Note: Some information used in this blog is from The History of Redditch New Town 1964-85, by Gordon Anstis. Ref 942.443 REDD, available at The Hive Worcester and Redditch libraries.

New Jerusalems-HOME

New Jerusalems: Unlocking New Town Archives (@new.jerusalems) • Instagram photos and videos

The final blog in this Redditch New Town series will feature heritage and the old town.

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