Walks Around Harlow
Market Street and St. John's Walk
High Streets all over the U.K. have undergone dramatic changes during the past twenty years and Harlow's is no exception. Large national and multi-national corporations have taken over a large portion of the retail sector, squeezing out many of the smaller, locally-owned businesses that were always the backbone of High Street retailing. The unceasing efforts of the big corporations to increase the profitability of their operations has led inexorably to ever-larger stores, usually surrounded by acres of parking. Consequently most of the 'big box' or 'superstores' are located on the periphery of the towns or, even worse, miles away at a major highway interchange. In too many cases the desperate efforts of local planning officers to prevent the construction of such stores have been futile. The development of the Tesco store in Harlow's Edinburgh Way is an excellent example of such a story. There is no doubt that the new retail landscape is more convenient for those who shop by car, that prices are lower and the selection of goods better. But the inevitable result has been a steady erosion of the rich retail mix that characterized the High Street, and the increasing isolation of those, especially the elderly who either do not, or cannot shop at the peripheral superstores. The cultural landscape of Harlow, like so many other towns in England, has been seriously degraded by these trends.
It is difficult to realize how vibrant the commercial core of Harlow once was. As recently as 1990 people in Old Harlow could have purchased most of their daily necessities and many of their long-term ones as well in High or Market Street. In High Street alone there were 3 banks, 3 restaurants, 2 butchers, 2 greengrocers, 2 bakeries, 2 newsagents, a pharmacy, a hardware store, an optician, an undertaker, an off-licence, a fish-and-chips takeaway a public library and several estate agents. Some of these functions remain, but many have disappeared, too often replaced by the office of an estate agent - of which there are now one in Station Road, 2 in Market Street and 6 in High Street (where there were seven, until one closed in July 2011). The Harlow Council has a policy of regulating the number of similar businesses in any particular area, but it is difficult to see how this has been applied to the Old Harlow Shopping Centre.
The following notes are intended to be more than a contemporary description of the townscape in the immediate vicinity of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Campus. They are probably more detailed than strictly necessary, but hopefully they will give you a sense of the interesting history of this small piece of England. That they will remind you that Harlow has been successfully adapting to the social and economic changes of the past 900 years.
I have been able to provide descriptions of only a few of the occupants of some of the buildings. The list is far from complete. But it has not been possible to identify every individual trader, or map the locations in which they lived or worked. From archival and anecdotal material I know the names of many butchers, confectioners, saddlers and harness makers, bootmakers, stationers, builders and jobbers, outfitters, drapers, corn merchants and provisioners who traded in this small area of Harlow, but from locations that I have not been able to identify. Despite the incomplete record, my hope is that anybody who reads these notes and then goes for a walk along High, Market or Fore Street will remember that the current traders in the various shops are just the most recent in a long line of craftsmen, merchants and entrepreneurs, all of whom have made a contribution to the development of the town.
The notes are based on a number of sources. These include the 1875, 1921 and 1947 Ordnance Survey maps, the Kelly Directory of Essex, a description of Harlow in 1938 which can be found in the archives section of the Museum of Harlow, and a series of maps dating from the 1950s and 1960s prior to the redevelopment of the High Street by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The historic photographic images are reprinted with the permission of the Museum of Harlow.
1. 'Listed' Buildings, i.e. those considered by English Heritage to be of particular architectural and/or historic merit are identified by an asterisk (*).
2. The text was originally written in the spring of 2004, and then extensively revised between November 2010 and July 2011. Some of the descriptions will now be out-of-date, so if you note errors or omissions, please contact Chris Sharpe at email@example.com.
3. Station and London Roads run almost due north/south. High and Market Streets run east/west. All four meet at what was historically known as The George Corner.
Maps of Fore, Market and High Streets
These maps may help you to make sense of the descriptions of the buildings along the various streets.
Back (Market) and Fore Streets, 1875
Back (Market) and High Streets, 1921
|Market and High Streets, 1947|
Market (formerly Back) Street
The Chequers. An early 18th century house. In 1777 it was recorded as divided into two tenements. The date of its conversion to a pub is not known, and it is not identified as a P.H. (public house) on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1875, 1921 or 1947. Tony's Cafe was located in its back yard (but accessed from Station Road) in the 1960s.
4-6 Market Street, Equity House. Centurion Properties and the Harlow Business Centre. This is a relatively new building on the site formerly occupied by Mary O'Sullivan's house and shop (in the 1950's) and then Lucking's Butchers and a shoe repair shop. The Bishop Stortford Dairy Farmer's milk depot was located behind this range of shops. After the major rebuilding of Market and High Streets in 1969 Wilce Taylor, the area's wholesale distributor of newspapers and magazines, took over these premises. They were replaced by offices and the cottages of Black Lion Court in 1989.
16-26 Market Street: Terraced cottages, ca. 1900-10. The small porches were added during the renovations carried out in 1969 - the current (March 2011) planning office review of the Old Harlow Conservation Area considers them to have been an inappropriate addition.
28-32 Market Street: This building was formerly St. John's Villa (home of Charlie Coleman) and the showroom of C.M. Coleman and sons. A 1969 property map of Market Street shows it occupied by the Boulevard Stores but I have not been able to confirm this. The building was to be demolished during the extensive renovation of High and Market Streets in 1969, but the basic structure was retained and converted into two cottages and four flats which are owned by the Council.
Dellfield Court: A block of flats, built in 1969 on the site formerly occupied by another shop and showroom owned by John Coleman, ironmonger, decorator and dealer in hand tools, hardware, and builder's materials. The business was later taken over by his son C.M. (Charlie) Coleman. The hardstanding in Coleman's Yard was broken up and the area added to the back gardens of the cottages in St. John's Walk now known as Cabot House.
38*- 40* Market Street: The Crown. A 15th century building that was originally jettied. It was recorded as an Inn by 1703 when the justices of the quarter sessions lunched here. Number 38 was owned as a separate unit in the late 19th centurywhen it was modified and re-fronted. For more than 50 years, beginning in 1932, it belonged to Tommy Gladwin. He and his wife Florence (Florrie) operated a general store which local boys referred to as 'Tom's grocery'. Gladwin's family had operated a confectionery in Market Street, specializing in home-made ice cream, since before the First War and he rejoined the family business after service in the infantry between 1916 and 1918. He moved into this house in 1932 and began his life as a greengrocer and grocer, working a 12-hour day, six days a week (from 6:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. He bought a tricycle to use for deliveries in 1922 and used it for 38 years. In 1960 he replaced it with a green Gundle Box Carrier tricycle built across the street by John Collins - a tricycle that was well-known by everybody in town. It is now part of the cycle collection in the Museum of Harlow.
Gladwin felt unwell on the morning of Friday, October 1, 1976, and closed the shop for the first time in living memory. He died later that afternoon. His widow, popularly known as 'Mrs. Tom' ran the store for another decade. It was bought by Greene King Brewery and re-integrated into the Crown in 1996. During the conversion one of the ground floor rooms was found to contain what the Department of National Heritage described as "two very rare panels of early 18th century wall paintings depicting red and yellow flowers. These are an imitation of Chinese-inspired wallpaers to avoid the wallpaper tax which was in effect between 1712 and 1836." They are now preserved behind glass panels. in one of the rooms of The Crown.
42 Market Street*. Dental Surgery The east end of a mid-18th Century range of tenements. It was formerly a shop run by H.M. (Bert) Fish, Fruitereer and Greengrocer, and his wife, Lillian. It has been vacant fsince July 2010 and is presently (June 2011) for sale.
44-46 Market Street*. The west end of the mid-18th Century tenement range. The building was purchased by Memorial University in 1973 and converted into two flats. The building was previously the house and shop of butcher Wilfred Norman whose slaughter yard was located behind the building on the site now occupied by two sets of garages and a parking lot. Norman took over the business after the death of Henry Barker, the previous occupant, in 1954. There were butchers named Barker listed in the commercial directories between 1878 and 1922 for Back or Market Street and sometimes Market Square. Elizabeth Barker was also a butcher, specializing in pork. She traded in the High Street between 1878 and 1898 and had moved to Broad Street (now Broadway) in 1908.
48 Market Street*. 'Dial House'. A mid-18th century, timber-framed house - the date 1762 is inscribed in the plaster on the original rear wall of the house, now enclosed by a later extension. The motto on the sundial over the front door says 'Wafte no Time 1759'. In the late 19th century this was the home of John H. Thurgood, farmer, miller (he owned the Latton Mill) and baker. His farm near Harlow produced a Red wheat which won a silver cup at the London Agricultural Show in 1880. At some point before its conversion to a residence it was Meredith's Sweet Shop.
50 Market Street. 'Cheshar' A 19th century brick house (part of the structure housing No. 52) now converted into flats.
52 Market Street: Future Let Estate Agents. This was John Thurgood's bakery, easily identified in old photographs by the three clipped trees and the decorative fence in the front, from at least 1874. The bakery closed in 1912 and the shop was taken over by Savage, 'Gentleman's Outfitters'. In time this became Savage and King which traded here until the summer of 2003. The original wooden Savage and King shop sign is still there, hidden behind the modern plastic one.
54-58 Market Street*: Three early to mid 19th century brick cottages.
60 Market Street*: 'Nunn's'. A red brick house, ca. 1700. It has been a single dwelling since the 1960s but was previously two premises. The eastern one (originally No. 60) was occupied by the fishmonger Albert George Banks between 1908 and 1933 according to the copies of Kelly's Directory held by the Museum of Harlow - and still in 1956 according to a report of the Roads and Planning Committee of Harlow Council which proposed the re-numbering of all the properties in Markte Street. The other shop (originally No. 62, on the corner of Broadway) was occupied in 1908 by Mrs. Elizabeth Barker, the pork butcher, according to Kelly's Directory, and in 1956 by A. Schnaubelt.
Market (formerly Back) Street
The George*. This former hotel dominates the corner formed by the intersection of the town's two main roads. Since Fore and High Streets were pedestrianized in 1970 the former importance of the intersection disappeared. Parts of the structure date from the 16th century although it was completely renovated and 'Georgianized' in the 18th century. It was obviously a public house as early as 1602 when the publican, Richard Staines "at the George, Harlow, was charged with buying, selling and keeping beer on the Sabbath". When it was on the market in 1829 it was described as possessing 'convenience and accommodation for families of respectablity with a large yard, coach-houses and stabling for 18 horses'. The 50,000 square foot 'George Yard' where the stabling was located, was in to the north, in what is now Station Road. The site is currently occupied by Evans, the motor engineer. The George was for sale again in 1890 when it had a large sitting room, five bedrooms and box room and a water closet on the first floor and 3 bedrooms on the second. The ground floor had an 'entrance passage, bar, commercial and smoking rooms convertible to one large room when required by the removal of a movable partition, taproom, small parlour, kitchen and larder.' The basement was said to provided capital cellerage comprising coal, wine, spirit and large beer cellars.' The public house license was given up in 1948 and since then the building has housed a succession of different businesses including Frank Peering's 'George Fabrics' and Ivy Arden's dress shop. Most of these businesses had a short life, and at the time of writing the building is largely vacant. Gloria M. Skincare Centre is the only tenant.
The Marquis of Granby*. An early 16th century building (ca. 1519) with later additions. The first floor was jettied but this characteristic mediaeval feature probably disappeared when the building was faced with plaster in the early 18th century. A survey of 1722 identified it as The Wheatsheaf public house, "situate and being in Harlowe Towne in ye Middle Row there", but it had taken on its present name by 1769.
The area west of the Marquis was occupied for a long time by the Middle Spine which ran westwards from the pub, It consisted of the two Judd's Cottages (facing Market Street), a terrace of 8 cottages facing Fore Street, and the another terrace of 9 cottages. All of these are shown on the 1875, 1920 and 1947 O.S. maps. The group of 9 had been demolished by 1958 to make war for a parking lot and the remaining 8 disappeared during the post-1969 redevelopment of the area to create another parking lot. While the lots are always full, as every inch of parking space is in the U.K., the removal of these buildings destroyed the visual continuity of what was previously a much more attractive street.
5-9 Market Street: At the end of the 19th century Robert Aplin ran Piper's Mill in the Sheering Road, and a bakery at the west end of this mid 18th century building, By 1910 this had been taken over by Seeley's Bakery and Confectionary, perhaps because Aplin's daughter married a Seeley. The windows advertised Hovis Bread and Fry's Chocolate. In the 1920s the business was taken over by Steve Martin, whose bakery had previously been in the High Street. The bakery occupied the largest part of the building and Boulevard Chemists the remaining portion - both facing south onto Fore Street. The building was converted into three cottages in the early 1970s during the reconstruction of High and Market Streets by the Harlow Development Corporation.
St. John's Walk
Cabot House*. Originally a row of three cottages which was converted into a single building in the early 1960s. The English Heritage description of this Grade II listed building dates it as mid-19th century, but an inspection of the building and a discussion with architectural historian David Lloyd suggests it is at least a century older than this, making it early Georgian. It was purchased as a student residence by Memorial University in 1995 and re-named Cabot House in 1997, the 50th anniversary of the founding of Harlow New Town and the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland by John Cabot.
The Maltings. This former maltings, now the main building of the Memorial University of Newfoundland campus, was built in the late 1870s. Note that it is not shown on the 1875 O.S. map. During the Second World War the disused building was taken over by the de Havilland Aircraft Corporation and converted to a machine shop. The Harlow Tailoring Service was located in premises attached to the western end of the maltings from the mid-1950s until they were removed during the conversion in 1969. The picture below (top right) shows a small building housing Gilbeys Care Hire Service and Cannon's Taxis in the yard beside the then-disused Maltings.
St. John's Church*. Built in 1839, and closed in 1979. Now the St. John's Arts and Recreation Centre. Its lych gate and graveyard remain, the latter containing one of the few registered military graves in Harlow. Although this is one of only tens of thousands of such graves scattered the length and breadth of the Kingdom, its presence in this neglected graveyard is particularly poignant. It holds the remains of Robert Gerald Lincoln of Park Hill, an electrical mechanic in the Royal Navy, killed on 8 January 1943 at the age of 19. The inscription reads
H.M.S. Holdfast was a civilian cable-laying ship taken into naval service in 1942 and converted for use in the PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean) project. This involved the fabrication and deployment of 17 oil and petrol pipelines under the Channel after D-Day to provide the fuel for vehicles of the Allied armies. Lincoln enlisted in the Royal Navy in September 1941, and had just joined Holdfast, a week after completing his basic training, when he was accidentally killed when a chain snapped and struck him.
St. John's House and St. John's House Cottage. Now the classroom of the Memorial Campus and a house providing accommodation for visiting faculty members, these are the last survivors of St. Mary's College, which operated from ca 1840 to 1966. The Lower and Middle Remove were taught in the left-hand side of the building, and staff accommodation was provided in the right-hand side. It has not been possible to determine the origin of this building which may have been a privately-run school prior to its aquisition by the college. In the 1966 proposal for the conversion, the architect (John Graham, a partner of Freddie Gibberd) refers to this building as 'the village school', and there are other references to it as the Old School House but there no documentary evidence to confirm its origins. The walled garden on the west side of St. John's House was a scrapyard prior to the renovations.
Crabb's Cottages. These three almshouses were built in 1844 using £100 bequeathed by Sarah Crabb 'for benevolent or religious purposes'. The land was provided by the vicar of St. John's Church and the houses were endowed with £1 annual rent from adjoining land. These houses, which still display a badly-weathered commemorative inscription, were modernized in 1956, and sold to a private owner in 1975.
|Table of Contents|
|Harlow's History and Geography|
|Introduction & The Origins of Harlow||The Structure of Harlow||Industry|
|Second World War Airfields|
|Walks Around Harlow|
|Market Street & St. John's Walk||Fore Street, Park Hill, London & Station Roads||High Street|
|Harlow New Town|
|The Origins of the New Town Programme||Important Developments in Harlow New Town|
|References & Acknowledgements|