Origins of Harlow
Harlow is both one of the most modern and oldest settlements in England. While the master plan for Harlow New Town was drawn up in 1947, Old Harlow has been around for centuries.
The first written record of Harlow was in the Domesday book of 1086 which was commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess the extent of the land and the resources owned in England at the time. In those days Harlow comprised four or five small villages with a scattered population of just 4,500. But way back before the end of the Ice Age Harlow (primarily the Temple Fields area) was being used as a religious centre and by A.D. 70 a small Romano-British temple had been erected within Temple Fields, hence its name.
Harlow New Town came into being on 25 March 1947 when Lewis Silkin, Minister of Town & Country Planning in the first post-war Labour Government issued a designation order for a completely new planned community to house approximately 60,000 people to the west of an existing Essex village called Harlow.
The order set out the town's location, target population, and broadly determined what kind of town Harlow should be and how it should be developed. This was an ambitious task and described at the time as 'a leap into the unknown.'
Sir Fredrick Gibberd was the driving force behind Harlow and drew up his Masterplan in 1947. The new town was to include the villages of Great Parndon, Latton, Tye Green, Potter Street, Churchgate Street, Little Parndon and Netteswell.
The Masterplan concentrated on self-providing neighbourhoods, each with its own shopping centre, health facilities, community facilities, pub, schools and places of worship. Each area was separated by a green wedge so that open space was never far from home. Two large industrial estates were also included at the north and the west of the town.
Harlow already had a railway station, built in 1841 and a smaller station to the west called Burnt Mill. New roads were built in 1948, and the old roads turned into cycle paths. This was followed closely by the construction of 120 houses in Chippingfield, Old Harlow in 1949.
Building work was slow due to the shortage of materials caused by World War II. Mark Hall North followed in 1950 utilising the amenities that already existed and on completion in 1954, featured The Lawns, the first post-war tower block in Britain.
Industrial development continued alongside house building with Templefields open for business in 1950 and the Pinnacles six years later.
Work continued moving south and west at a rapid pace with the construction of Mark Hall South, Netteswell, Hare Street and Potter Street, with The Stow shopping centre being the first neighbourhood shopping centre to open.
Development of the Town Centre began with the first shop opening in December 1955, along with other neighbourhood areas such as Little Parndon and Bush Fair.
In 1960 the small Burnt Mill Station in the north-west of the town was demolished to make way for a new larger station to be called Harlow Town Station. The old Harlow Station was, from that point on, called Harlow Mill Station.
Building work slowed again with the Kingsmoor and Stewards areas and Staple Tye Neighbourhood Shopping Centre taking shape between 1965 and 1974.
The last areas to be constructed were Sumners and Katherines in 1974 and the Town Centre was finally finished in 1980 with the completion of the Harvey Centre.
Originally homes in Harlow were only offered to those working in the town and this saw many young couples move into Harlow from London - which had been devastated by the bombings in WW II. The population grew rapidly through the 1950s and 1960s with around 50 new families moving into the area each week.
By 1954 Harlow was being called "pramtown" by the national press due to the number of babies and young children and by the mid 1960s Harlow had a population of around 60,000 - many of them children.
With a thriving population and so many young children, Harlow had to focus on the needs of young families. The first Health Centre, with doctors, dentist and a district nurse all under the same roof opened in 1951 at The Chantry. This was replaced by the first permanent Health Centre at Nuffield House, The Stow in 1955.
With such a young population the town also needed schools and the first primary - Tany's Dell - opened in the Mark Hall area of the town, in 1952. The first secondary school was Mark Hall in 1954.
Work on a hospital to serve not only Harlow, but surrounding areas - Princess Alexandra Hospital - began in 1958 with completion in 1965.
Sir Frederick Gibberd was the only town planner to live in the town he designed. He received many honours and awards in recognition of his life's work, most notably a CBE in 1954 followed by a Knighthood in 1967.
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