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Borough of Harlow
Town & Borough
Harlow Water Gardens pictured were landscaped in the 2000s decade.
Harlow Water Gardens pictured were landscaped in the 2000s decade.
Shown within Essex

Shown within Essex
Country United Kingdom
Const Country England
Region East of England
Ceremonial County Essex
 • Leadership Alternative – Sec.31
 • Control Conservative
 • MP Robert Halfon
 • District 11.79 sq mi (30.54 km2)
 • District Ranked 309th
 • Density 3,910/sq mi (1,511/km2)
 • Ethnicity[1] 92.5% White
2.5% Asian
1.8% Black
1.6% Chinese or Other
1.5% Mixed
ONS code 22UJ

Harlow is a predominantly new town and local government district in the west of Essex, England. Situated on the border with Hertfordshire, it occupies a large area of land on the left bank of the upper Stort Valley, which has been made navigable through other towns and features a canal section near its watermill. Old Harlow is a village-sized suburb founded by the early medieval age and most of its high street buildings are early Victorian and residential. In Old Harlow is a field named Harlowbury, a de-settled monastic area which has the remains of a chapel, a scheduled ancient monument.

The M11 motorway passes through the east of the Borough, entirely to the east of the town. Harlow has its own commercial and leisure economy. It is also an outer part of the London commuter belt and employment centre of the M11 corridor which includes Cambridge and London Stansted to the north. At the time of the 2011 Census, Harlow's population was recorded at 81,944 and its borough had the third-highest proportion of social housing in England, 26.9%, a legacy of the 1947 commitment to re-house blitzed London families after World War II and provide a percentage of homes for other needy families who cannot afford market rents.


  • History 1
    • Etymology 1.1
    • Early history 1.2
    • Later history 1.3
    • The New Town 1.4
    • Redevelopment 1.5
  • Economy 2
  • Politics 3
  • Transport 4
    • Rail 4.1
    • Road 4.2
    • Air 4.3
    • Bus 4.4
      • Harlow First Avenue Multi-Modal Corridor 4.4.1
  • Healthcare 5
  • Education 6
  • Sport and leisure 7
  • Art and culture 8
  • Environment 9
  • People from Harlow 10
  • Twin towns 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13



There is some dispute as to where the placename Harlow derives from. One theory is that it derives from the Anglo-Saxon words 'here' and 'hlaw', meaning "army hill", probably to be identified with Mulberry Hill, which was used as the moot or meeting place for the district.

The other theory is that it derives from the words 'here' and 'hearg', meaning "temple hill/mound", probably to be identified with an Iron Age burial mound, later a Roman temple site on River Way.

Early history

The earliest deposits are of a Mesolithic (circa 10,000 BC) hunting camp excavated by Davey in Northbrooks in the 1970s (Unpublished) closely followed by the large and unexcavated deposits of Neolithic flint beside Gilden Way. These deposits are mostly known because of the large numbers of surface-bound, worked flint. Substantial amounts of worked flint suggest an organised working of flint in the area. Large amounts of debitage litter the area and tools found include axeheads, hammers, blades, dowels and other boring tools and multipurpose flints such as scrapers. An organised field walk in the late 1990s by Bartlett (Unpublished) indicates that most of the area, some 80 hectares, produced worked flint from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age with a smattering of Mesolithic. This indicates organised industry existed from 5000 BC to 2000 BC. The deposits are so large and dispersed that any major archaeological work in the area will have to take this into consideration before any ground work is started.

Later history

St Mary's Church, Churchgate Street

The entry in the

  • Visit Harlow – a website from Harlow District Council
  • Harlow Enterprise Zone

External links

  1. ^ Resident Population Estimates for Harlow
  2. ^ Harlow Mill (now restaurant) - Grade II listing.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Gardens Guide – Frederick Gibberd
  5. ^ New town, a name change and all the jazz BBC News web site
  6. ^ Memorial University – Department of Geography – Harlow's History and Geography
  7. ^ English Heritage – Images of England – The Lawn
  8. ^ BBC News – Redeveloping Essex's fallen utopia
  9. ^ Vision of Britain – Harlow parish
  10. ^ Vision of Britain – Harlow UD
  11. ^ Ropemaker Properties Limited – Harlow North
  12. ^ Stop Harlow North Campaign Group
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Harlow District Council – Harlow: A Comparison with Essex 2001 Census
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Stewards Academy
  20. ^ Mark Hall Academy
  21. ^ St Marks School
  22. ^ Burnt Mill Academy
  23. ^ Passmores Academy
  24. ^ Sir Charles Kao UTC
  25. ^ Harlow College
  26. ^ [1] – Information on new school on the Passmores School and Technology College website. 25 October 2010
  27. ^ Harlow College
  28. ^
  29. ^ Whiteley, Gillian: Sculpture in Harlow, Harlow Art Trust, 2005
  30. ^ Harlow Herald, 31 March 2009
  31. ^ Harlow Art Trust
  32. ^ see Gibberd Garden
  33. ^


Twin towns

For a full list, see Category:People from Harlow

People from Harlow

In 2006 the entire South East of England was affected by drought, with Harlow covered by a water restriction order, preventing unnecessary use of water. The area is generally much milder than most other parts of the UK. The summer of 2006 also saw flash floods hit many parts of the town, causing major roads through the town to become temporarily impassable, and severe damage to many properties around the town.

Harlow Town Park is one of the largest urban parks in Britain, and occupies a large chunk of the central town.

There are only 12 parks with significant post-war element on the English Heritage ‘Register of Parks’. With these Harlow is seen as one of the first examples of a civic scheme to marry the modern science of town and country planning.

Harlow Town Park is a 71.6-hectare park (just under 1 km²) and is a mixed-landscape well-used facility. The park has been used for recreation and enjoyment for over 50 years. This park is in the centre Netteswell ward and is between the town centre and the train station, both of which are within walking distance of the park, which is a natural thoroughfare from the station to the town centre.

A major feature of Harlow New Town is its green spaces; over one third of the borough is parkland or fields containing public footpaths.


The Town of Harlow and Harlow New Town are cited in the song Get 'Em Out by Friday, by progressive rock group Genesis, on their 1972 album Foxtrot.

Harlow also has a local museum, which hold exhibitions and which contains artefacts on Harlow's historic past, charting the story of the town through the ages. Harlow Museum is in Muskham Road, and is set within the grounds of a sixteenth century manor building with walled gardens. The museum is currently operated by Science Alive, who also run the Time Machine Gallery at the Leisurezone.[33] The museum is run in conjunction with the Essex Records Office (ERO) which holds family history archives in the search room. Admission to the museum is currently free, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to ensure future maintenance of services.

Harlow's Playhouse Theatre is in the town.

As part of the 'Sculpture Town' branding, Harlow is also home to the Gibberd Garden, the former home of Frederick and Elizabeth Gibberd, which is a managed twentieth-century garden, and home to some of the Gibberd's private sculpture collection.[32] The Gibberd Gallery, in the Civic Centre, contains a collection of twentieth-century watercolours and temporary exhibitions.

In 2009 Harlow Council voted to celebrate Harlow's collection of sculpture by branding Harlow as 'Harlow Sculpture Town – The World's First Sculpture Town'. Harlow Sculpture Town began as an initiative from Harlow Art Trust, presenting itself as 'Sculpture Town', in a similar way to Hay-on-Wye's presentation of itself as Booktown.[30][31]

Harlow is the home to a major collection of public sculptures (over 100 in total) by artists such as Frederick Gibberd. Gibberd had idealist notions of the New Town as a place where people who might not normally have access to art could enjoy great sculptures by great artists on every street corner. Consequently almost all of Harlow's sculpture collection is in the open air, in shopping centres, housing estates and parks around the town.[29]

The Playhouse Theatre

Art and culture

The 2010 Bowls England Singles Champion was resident Steve Mitchinson who won against Scott Edwards from Sussex.

In 2010s investments have included its skatepark next to Burnt Mill School. The project has been funded by investment of over £300,000, largely coming from Harlow Council with £57,500 coming from Sport England. The park also has many security features such as 24/7 CCTV coverage, and is floodlit at night. The 650sq metre park is made entirely from concrete, and has a bowl as well as a street course which contains quarter pipes, flat banks, rails and steps. It is suitable for people of all ages as well as skateboards, inline skates, scooters and BMXs.

The town was the site of the UK's first purpose-built sports centre, Harlow Sports Centre, in 1960. The building was replaced by the state-of-the-art Harlow Leisure Park, built near Harlow College as part of the Gateway Project.[28] Harlows 'Leisurezone' opened on 23 June 2010, with new dry and wet sports facilities, including tennis, gym, football, martial arts and swimming.

The town's football team Harlow Town F.C. play in the Isthmian League Division One North and built a new stadium in 2006 at Barrows Farm with their old ground converted to housing. Their planning gain grant part-funded the Leisure Park mentioned below.

Harlow has four cricket clubs. Harlow Cricket Club plays league cricket in Division 1 of the Essex Shepherd Neame League, meaning it plays the highest standard of cricket of the clubs in Harlow, it is based at its Old Harlow ground of Marigolds. Near neighbours Potter Street & Church Langley Cricket Club play in the Herts & Essex League.

The clubhouse has just undergone a six figure refurbisment to promote women's & disabled cricket in Harlow & the whole of Essex. This has led to Essex County Cricket Club Ladies and disability sections to use the club as well as the England disability teams.

Harlow Town Cricket Club was formed in 1960 as Stort Cricket Club and plays at Ash Tree Field.

Harlow Rugby Football Club play their home games at Ram Gorse in the town. The first team plays in the London & South East Division II North East league.

Sport and leisure

Memorial University of Newfoundland also has a small international campus in Old Harlow.

In the 1980s a further two secondary schools were closed, Latton Bush (now a commercial centre and recreational centre) and Netteswell (now forms part of the Harlow College Campus)[27] is a major further educational centre, covering GCSE's, A-Levels, and many vocational subjects including Hair & Beauty Therapy, Construction, Mechanics, ICT, and a new centre for Plumbing due to open. The college is currently under major regeneration and is due to open a new university centre in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, covering mostly Foundation degrees in a variety of subjects relevant to local employers' needs.

Brays Grove Community School and Specialist Arts College closed down in June 2008 due to decreasing pupil numbers over a number of years. Following the schools closure, the site was demolished and redeveloped into a £23 million state of the art Academy which Passmores School and Technology College relocated to in September 2011 opening as Passmores Academy.[26]

St. Nicholas School is an independent school in the town while Harlow College[25] provides sixth form and further education and St Mark's West Essex Catholic School also provides sixth form education.

Harlow contains six state-funded secondary schools:


Harlow is served by the NHS Princess Alexandra Hospital, situated on the edge of The High, which is the main Town Centre area of Harlow. This hospital has a 24-hour Accident & Emergency and Urgent Care Centre.


Essex County Council was involved in development to Harlow's First Avenue, which was intended to reduce congestion and create better transport connections between the Newhall housing developments. The scheme was implemented in two phases, each phase focusing on developing First Avenue on either side of Howard Way. Phase two had an estimated cost of £4.4 million and was due to be completed in early 2010, phase one is already complete and is listed as having had £3.6 million of funding from the Community Infrastructure Fund (CIF).[18] The scheme includes construction of a shared use cycleway and development to the bus service along First Avenue and into the Newhall development site where 'high quality bus' services between Harlow town centre and Harlow Town Railway station are listed as part of the intentions of the development.

Harlow First Avenue Multi-Modal Corridor
Developments in and around Harlow.
Location Essex
Proposer Essex County Council
Cost estimate £4.4 million (2008)
Completion date February 2010
Geometry KML

Harlow First Avenue Multi-Modal Corridor

Harlow has an extensive bus network and serves as a regional hub for the local area, with operators such as Arriva (Essex and the Shires), Network Harlow (Subsidiary of Arriva), SX Connect (Subsidiary of Arriva) SM Coaches, Roadrunner Coaches, Regal Busways, Town Link and Trustybus. There are links to many other local towns and villages such as Chelmsford City and Bishops Stortford.

Harlow Bus Station


Bishop's Stortford is the closest large town to London Stansted Airport, though Harlow is only 10 miles from this major transport hub, and therefore provides several hundred airport employees. The airport operator withdrew a planning application for a second runway after the General Election of 2010, when all major political parties opposed it.


Harlow is reached from junction 7 of the M11 motorway, which runs from London to Cambridge, placing it within a short distance of Stansted Airport and the A120 and the orbital M25 motorway. Running through the town is the A414, a major road from Hertford to Chelmsford and linking the town with the A10 to the west. This road is often a cause of major congestion to the town and is awaiting a decision of both a southern and northern bypass to the town, with the Harlow North proposal including the latter as part of its bid to secure planning permission for 8,000 homes to the north of the town. It is unlikely to be built in the near future however. Another major road running from Harlow is the A1184, which also leads to the nearby town of Bishop's Stortford.


Harlow is served by two railway stations, Harlow Town railway station and Harlow Mill railway station. There is also a bus service to Epping tube station on the London Underground.



Party Councillors
  Labour Party 19
  Conservative Party 12
  UKIP 2

Elections to the district council are held in three out of every four years, with one-third of the 33 seats on the council being elected at each election. Labour had a majority from the first election in 1973 until the 2002 election. From then until the 2008 election no party had a majority. The Conservatives gained control in 2008, but lost it back to Labour at the 2012 election and as of the 2015 election the council was composed of the following councillors:-[17]

The Member of parliament (MP) for Harlow since the 2010 general election is Conservative Robert Halfon. He defeated Labour's Bill Rammell who had been the MP since the 1997 election, but had only held the seat at the 2005 general election by a majority of 97 votes. Robert Halfon kept his seat at the 2015 general election with an increased majority of 8,350 votes.

See also: Harlow (UK Parliament constituency), Harlow District Council elections


Unemployment is frequently around 10%, higher than the national average in the UK. Harlow also has a large number of people in social housing, almost 30%[16] of dwellings being housing association and local authority owned, and many more privately rented.

Raytheon and GlaxoSmithKline both have large premises within the town. Nortel also had a large site on the eastern edge of the town, acquired when STC was bought in 1991, and it was here that Charles K. Kao developed optical fibre data transmission. Nortel still has a presence, but it is much reduced. One of Europe's leading online golf stores, Onlinegolf, is also based in Harlow.

The original manufacturing took the form of a biscuit factory, on the Pinnacles. Owned and run as a co-op, it provided employment to the town for over 50 years, before closing in 2002. It has since been demolished and the site is now small industrial units. At its peak, the factory employed over 500 people. At the time of its closure, the owner was Burton's Foods Ltd. An £8 million production line – installed in 1999 – was left to rust in the car park upon the closure of the factory.

Harlow was originally expected to provide a majority of employment opportunities in manufacturing, with two major developments of The Pinnacles and Templefields providing the biggest employers in the region; as with the rest of the country, this manufacturing base has declined and Harlow has had to adjust.


In 2011 the government announced the creation of an enterprise zone in the town.[14] Harlow Enterprise Zone consists of two separate sites under development, at Templefields and London Road, with the London Road site divided into north and south business parks.[15]

In 2004 Harlow businessman Mo Ghadami won his High Court case to block a multi-million pound extension of the town's Harvey Centre. The Iranian-born entrepreneur, who presented his case in person, persuaded Mr Justice Richards to quash Harlow DC's grant of planning permission for the development. In his judgment he backed Mr Ghadami's claim of 'apparent bias or predetermination' in the decision, as a result of the continued participation of Michael Garnett, the chairman of the planning committee, in the planning process after he had attempted in telephone calls to persuade Mr Ghadami to consent to the scheme.[13]

The south of the town centre also underwent major regeneration, with the new civic centre being built and the town's famous Water Gardens being redeveloped, a landscape listed by English Heritage. Their intended effect is somewhat spoiled by the abutment of a range of new shops, a major superstore, and several restaurants and cafés. It is likely that this development will be continued throughout the rest of the shopping district, with plans awaiting planning permission to be granted.

Other major developments under consideration include both a northern and southern bypass of the town, and significant expansion to the north, following the completed expansion to the east. The Harlow North[11] plans, currently awaiting permission, involve an extension of the town across the floodplains on the town's northern border, into neighbouring Hertfordshire. The plan was supported by former MP Bill Rammell, all three political groups on Harlow Council, and the East of England Regional Assembly. It is opposed by Hertfordshire County Council, East Herts Council, Mark Prisk, MP for Hertford and Stortford in whose constituency the development would be, and all the parishes concerned. The opposition is coordinated by a local group based in neighbouring East Hertfordshire.[12] An attempt to have Harlow North designated an "Eco Town" was rejected by the Minister for Housing, Caroline Flint, MP in April 2008

Since becoming a new town, Harlow has undergone several stages of expansion, the first of which was the "mini expansion" that was created by the building of the Sumners and Katherines estates in the mid-to-late seventies to the west of the existing town. Since then Harlow has further expanded with the Church Langley estate completed in 2005, and its newest neighbourhood Newhall has completed the first stage of its development, with the second stage underway in 2013. The Harlow Gateway Scheme is currently underway, with the relocation of the Harlow Football Stadium to Barrow's Farm in early 2006, and the building of a new hotel, apartments, and a restaurant adjacent to the railway station being complete. The next stage of this scheme involves the completion of the 530 eco-homes being built on the former sports centre site, and the centre's relocation to the nearby former college playing field site.

The Newhall housing development built circa 2007 between Old Harlow and Church Langley


The town centre, and many of its neighbourhood shopping facilities have undergone major redevelopment, along with many of the town's original buildings. Subsequently many of the original town buildings, including most of its health centres, the Staple Tye shopping centre, and many industrial units have been rebuilt. Gibberd's original town hall, a landmark in the town, has been demolished and replaced by a new civic centre and shopping area.

The town's authorities built Britain's first pedestrian precinct,[6] and first modern-style residential tower block, The Lawn,[7][8] constructed in 1951; it is now a Grade II listed building. Gibberd's tromp-l'oeil terrace in Orchard Croft and Dawbarn's maisonette blocks at Pennymead are also notable, as is Michael Neylan's pioneering development at Bishopsfield. The first neighbourhood, Mark Hall, is a conservation area. From 1894 to 1955 the Harlow parish formed part of the Epping Rural District of Essex.[9] From 1955 to 1974, Harlow was an urban district.[10]

The new town was built after World War II to ease overcrowding in London and the surrounding areas due to the mass devastation caused by the bombing during the Blitz. Harlow was a 'Phase I' new town along with other new towns such as Basildon, Stevenage, and Hemel Hempstead. New Towns were designated following the New Towns Act of 1946, with the master plan for Harlow drawn up in 1947 by Sir Frederick Gibberd.[4][5] The development incorporated the market town of Harlow, now a neighbourhood known as Old Harlow, and the villages of Great Parndon, Latton, Tye Green, Potter Street, Churchgate Street, Little Parndon, and Netteswell. The town is divided into neighbourhoods, each self-supporting with their own shopping precincts, community facilities and pub. Gibberd invited many of the country's leading post-war architects to design buildings in the town, including Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya, Leonard Manasseh, Michael Neylan, E C P Monson, Gerard Goalen, Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, Graham Dawbarn, H. T. Cadbury-Brown and William Crabtree. Harlow has one of the most extensive cycle track networks in the country, connecting all areas of the town to the town centre and industrial areas. The cycle network is composed mostly of the original old town roads.

The New Town

The original village, mentioned in the Domesday Book, developed as a typical rural community around what is now known as Old Harlow, with many of its buildings still standing. This includes for instance the Grade II listed St Mary's Church in Churchgate Street. Its former Chapel is in a ruinous state in a field which was once the Harlowbury Abbey part of Old Harlow, is Grade I listed and is a scheduled ancient monument.[3]

7 beehives, 8 cobs, 43 cattle, 3 foals.[2]

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