Market Street, Fore Street, Park Hill and St. John's Walk
High Streets all over the U.K. have undergone dramatic changes during the past twenty years. 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.
The commercial core of Harlow was once much more vibrant than it is today. As recently as 1990 people in Old Harlow could have done most of their shopping in High or Market Street. In High Street alone there were 3 banks, 3 restaurants, 2 butchers, 2 greengrocers, 2 bakers, 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. There is now one estate agent’s office in Station Road, two in Market Street, one in Fore Street and 6 in High Street. The number of similar businesses trading in any one area is supposed to be regulated by Harlow Council but it is difficult to see how this policy has been applied in the case of the Old Harlow Shopping Centre.
What follows is a description of what you will see if you take a walk in Market Street, St. John’s Walk, Fore Street or Park Hill. The aim is to give you a sense of the interesting history of this small piece of England, and to remind you that Harlow has been successfully adapting to the social and economic changes of the past 900 years.
I have not been able to identify every individual trader or house occupant, nor to map the locations in which they lived or worked. Archival and anecdotal material has provided 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 in many case their exact location has not been recorded. However, as you walk through these street, keep in mind that today’s traders in are the most recent in the long line of craftsmen, merchants and entrepreneurs who have contributed to the development of the town.
The descriptions of buildings and their occupants 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 images are reprinted with the permission of the Museum of Harlow. My first visit to Harlow was in 1977 so none of my photographs are older than that. I have updated my collection of images during each of the twelve occasions that I have been in Harlow since then, on two of them for an entire, delightful year.
Chris Sharpe. Shelburne, Nova Scotia. 7 February 2017
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 and in November 2016. In spite of my best efforts, some of the descriptions will now be out-of-date, so if you note errors or omissions, please contact me 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.
The following reproductions of parts of various Ordnance Survey (O.S.) maps from 1875, 1921 and 1947, and the 1969 redevelopment plan may help you to make sense of the descriptions of the buildings along the various streets. Note that Market Street was formerly known as Back Street.
Market Street: North Side
The Chequers is an early 18th century house that was divided into two tenements in 1777. The date of its conversion to a pub is not known, and it is not identified as a public house (P.H.) on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1875, 1921 or 1947. During the 1970s Tony's Cafe was located in its back yard although accessed from Station Road.
4-6 Market Street: Equity House. Occupied by Centurion Properties and the Harlow Business Centre. This is a relatively new building on the site occupied in the 1950s by Mary O'Sullivan's house and shop, then Lucking's Butchers and a shoe repair shop. The Bishop Stortford Dairy Farmer's milk depot was 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 all these premises which 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 and the Old Harlow Conservation Area report considers them to have been an inappropriate addition.
28-32 Market Street was formerly known as St. John's Villa, home of Charlie Coleman and the showroom of C.M. Coleman and sons. The building was supposed to be demolished during the extensive renovation of High and Market Streets in 1969, but the building was given a reprieve and converted into two cottages and four flats. They were originally owned by Harlow Council.
Dellfield Court. A block of flats, built in 1969 on the site originally occupied by the 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. Coleman's Yard (number 35 on the 1969 map of Market Street) 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 is 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 century when it was modified and re-fronted. For more than 50 years, beginning in 1932, it belonged to Tommy Gladwin. He and his wife Florence, usually called Florrie, operated a general store which local boys referred to as 'Tom's grocery'. Prior to the First World War Gladwin's family operated a Market Street confectionery specializing in home-made ice cream. Tommy rejoined the family business after service in the British army between 1916 and 1918. He moved from Market Street 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.
On the morning of Friday, October 1, 1976 Gladwin felt ill 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 until it closed in 1986.
In 1996 the abandoned store was bought by Greene King Brewery and re-integrated into the Crown. During the conversion one of the ground floor rooms was found to contain what the Department of National Heritage describes as "two very rare panels of early 18th century wall paintings depicting red and yellow flowers. These are an imitation of Chinese-inspired wallpapers to avoid the wallpaper tax which was in effect between 1712 and 1836." They are now preserved behind glass panels.
42 Market Street*. This is 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. When Mrs. Fish ceased trading, the building was vacant for some time before being taken over by the dentist Dr. P.S. Arbon. After she moved her practice the building was taken over by a succession of dentists: the Graceland Dental Clinic, the Mulberry Dental Clinic and now the Harlow Dental Surgery.
44-46 Market Street*. This is the west end of a mid-18th Century tenement range. For many years this was the house and shop of butchers. Butchers named Barker are listed in the commercial directories between 1878 and 1922 for either Back or Market Street and sometimes Market Square.
Elizabeth Barker specialized in pork. She traded in the High Street between 1878 and 1898 and moved to Broad Street (now Broadway) in 1908. Henry Barker, and then Wilfred Barker traded out of this building in Market Street. After Henry’s death in 1954 the premises were taken over by Wilfred Norman. His slaughter yard was located behind the building on a site now occupied by two sets of garages and a parking lot. The building was purchased by Memorial University in 1973 and converted into two flats.
50 Market Street. 'Cheshar' is a 19th century brick house, now converted into flats.
48 Market Street*: 'Dial House' is 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 'Waste no Time 1759'. In the late 19th century this was the home of John H. Thurgood, farmer, baker and miller who owned the Latton Mill. His farm near Harlow produced a variety of 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.
52 Market Street. As early as 1874 this was John Thurgood's bakery. It is easily identified in old photographs by the three clipped trees and the decorative fence in the front. The bakery closed in 1912 and the shop was taken over by Mr. 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 sign which advertises the current occupant, Future Let Estate Agents.
54-58 Market Street*. Three early to mid 19th century brick cottages.
60 Market Street*. 'Nunn's' is a red brick house, ca. 1700. It has been a single dwelling since the 1960s but was previously two premises. The to the report of the Roads and Planning Committee of Harlow Council which proposed the re-numbering of the properties in Market 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 Street: South Side
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 stables were located in the 50,000 square foot 'George Yard', located to the north in what is now Station Road. The site is currently occupied by Evans, the motor engineer.
When The George was for sale again in 1890 the advertisement indicated that 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. In 2016 most of the building is occupied by Intercounty Estate Agents although the Gloria M. Skincare Centre is located on the north-west corner of the ground floor.
The Marquis of Granby* is 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 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 way for a parking lot and the remaining 8 disappeared during the post-1969 redevelopment of Market Street. They were replaced with another parking lot. While the lots are always full, as every inch of parking space is in the U.K., the removal of the buildings of the Middle Spine 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, By 1910 this had been taken over by Seeley's Bakery and Confectionary, perhaps because Aplin's daughter married a Seeley. In the 1920s the business was taken over by Steve Martin, who had previously operated a bakery in the High Street. His premises occupied the largest part of the building and Boulevard Chemists the remaining portion. Both businesses faced 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*. This row of three cottages was converted in the early 1960s into a single building which housed the home and dental surgery of Dr. P.S. Arbon. 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. The main building of the Memorial University of Newfoundland campus was Harlow’s most modern maltings, built in the late 1870s. Note that it is not shown on the 1875 O.S. map. During the Second World War
the then-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 and both Gilbeys Care Hire Service and Cannon's Taxis occupied a small building in the yard until the 1969 conversion of the property in 1969.
The small cottages of Black Lion Court were built in 1990 on land originally owned by Memorial University. Unfortunately, because the University failed to live up to one of the conditions imposed on it by Harlow Council when the property was acquired, a portion of the site reverted to the town and these cottages were built on it.
St. John's Church* was built in 1839, closed in 1979, and converted to the St. John's Arts and Recreation Centre. The 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 lonely 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:
I, said the master
and the gardener
held his peace.
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. He was killed when a chain snapped and struck him.
St. John's House and St. John's House Cottage. This building is the only There are other references to it as the Old School House but there is 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. The property was original converted into 2 apartments for visiting members of the Memorial faculty but St. John's House has since been converted back to a classroom.
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.
1 Fore Street*. The Gables is a mediaeval hall house built around 1500 The part of the building was occupied by the offices of the Water Works. During the 1940s, Rhoda's Snack Bar was located here. The Gables Restaurant occupied most of the building from some time in the 1970s until 2015. Undoubtedly one of the more memorable events it hosted was the Arsenal football club’s celebration of its 1979 FA Cup victory. The building is now occupied by Geoffrey Matthews Estates, which moved here from its previous location in High Street in 2015.
The west wing was reorganized in the 19th century to accommodate a shop. From the 1930s until the mid 1950's it was occupied by A. Goodwin's Harlow Electrical Installations. He advertised: 'Complete systems installed for lighting. Bells, power, heating, lighting repairs and renewals speedily executed'. He was succeeded by David C. Evans, Electrical Engineer. Since 1990 it has been the premises of Graham Rogers, jeweller and goldsmith. He is a member of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, one of the 12 great Livery Companies of London, which received its first Royal Charter in 1327, and is still responsible for the issuance of hallmarks on gold, silver and platinum.
The appearance of the building has changed over the years. The 1910 shows the building rendered with stucco in the traditional manner. By the time the lease was renewed in 1917 this ancient method of protecting the structural timbers had become unfashionable. The new lessee wanted to expose the main timbers and the stucco was removed, leaving the exposed timbers subject to deterioration.
Seeley's. This modern housing estate occupies the site formerly occupied by Chaplin's Brewery and the Brewery House. Thomas Chaplin operated breweries in Essex between 1848 and 1926. The Fore Street brewery and the adjacent house, were built in 1897. The chimney of the engine house, which powered the brewery’s water pump, is a prominent feature in many old photographs. By the late 1920s the brewery had been abandoned and the buildings were taken over by Windowlite, manufacturers of a type of plastic sheeting reinforced with wire mesh that was much used in greenhouses. During the Second World War it was being used to replace windows in some of London's bombed-out houses. Brewery House survived until the development of the Seeleys neighbourhood in 1965. The Seeley family owned a large house beside the brewery, facing London Road. After that family moved on the building was converted to offices and occupied by the Ministry of Labour. It was demolished in 1965 to make way for the new houses of the estate which was named in honour of the family.
17 Fore Street*. A late-Georgian (ca. 1840) house and shop formerly known as Gresham Villa. The shop front is probably original. Kelly's Directory indicates that a saddlers and harness makers was located in Fore Street from the 1870's until 1933 - the most recent edition available to the author. John Thomas Mumford was the first (1978-1898), then William Malcolm Thomas (1922) and finally Joseph Young (1933). There are very few places where these saddlers could have traded in Fore Street, and it was most likely here. In 1956 there were still two occupants of this building - Mrs. M Young at No. 17 and Gresham Villa at No. 19. The two units were integrated, probably in the 1980s. For many years this has been the home of Joan Lloyd, manager of the MUN Harlow Campus in the 1970s, and her husband David, author of The Making Of The English Town, a wonderful book which I used as a course text for many years.
21 Fore Street* Orchard Cottage is a 16th century timber-framed cottage. Note the frame of the small original window just to the left of the door. The rest of the windows are later additions. A photo taken in the mid 1960s shows that the timber frame was rendered over and the window was hidden. The exposed timbers are now protected by beeswax. The extent to which the level of Fore Street has risen over the years is shown by the level of the door sill.
23 and 25 Fore Street*. Two brick cottages, dated 1835. From 1896 until 1979, 23 was the shop and 25 (now known as 'Ashton') the house of the Collins family which established a wheelwright and coach building business in the High Street in 1816 before moving to Fore Street in 1896. Three generations of the men in this family ran Collin's Cycle shop., selling Raleigh, B.S.A. and Royal Enfield cycles and motorcycles. They later diversified into automobile repairs and the sale of petrol. Theirs was the first house in Harlow to be provided with electricity supplied by a gasoline-powered generator.
The bicycles collected by Mr. Collins were sold to the Harlow Town Council in 1978 and are now in the Museum of Harlow, housed in the former Mark Hall stable block.
Baptist Chapel: Rebuilt in 1865 to replace an older chapel built in 1764.
Formerly called The Forebury, Park Hill links Fore Street and what was the Netteswell or Roydon Road and was preserved as a cycle track in Gibberd’s plan for the New Town. In 1833 there were 10 malt houses in Harlow and one of these, Reid's, perhaps dating to the late 18th century, was a thatched, weather-boarded structure that survived until the 1960's. During the last few years of its life when it housed the workshop and warehouse of the Harlow Parks Department. Previous occupants were Fyfe Wilson Limited, Electrical Engineers, which made dynamos for diesel engines and power generating stations; a manufacturer of paper bags, one of whose clients was Fortnum and Mason of Piccadilly and Spivey's, a manufacturer of women's undergarments. The Leys, a large house at the north end of the cul-de-sac at the bottom of Park Hill, was built in 1925 by Charles Coleman on the site of the brick malt kiln.
1 Park Hill*. Dower House is a 17th century roughcast, timber-framed house. Despite being re-fronted in the 19th century, when the pedimented door was inserted, it retains its jettied first floor. Around the turn of the 20th century it housed Basil Scruby's doll factory.
3 Park Hill*: The Old House. A late 18th century addition to Dower House, decorated with fake 'half timbering' . The sash windows were inserted in the 18th century, and the doorway with its open pediment in the early 19th century. During the 1890s this was Samuel Deard’s second house, His first house, in the 1870s, was Lawson's Cottage, next to the Chequers, and his third was West House, next door at number 7. In 1898 Kelly's Directory described him as "inventor and patentee of the 'Victoria Dry Glazing'. Fifty tons or 60,000 feet used at the Colonial and India Exhibition, South Kensington; well adapted for railway, exhibition and conservatory roofs; also the patent coil boilers for churches, chapels, greenhouses and conservatories; appointed hot water engineer to 'Venice in London'; painter, glazier; lumber and gasfitter'.
Penshurst: Until the 1969 redevelopment of Park Hill a large house known as 'Penshurst' was accessed by a land between The Old House and West House. The housing 1980s housing estate built on the site of the old house, and of the veterinary surgery (see below) retains the historic name.
7 Park Hill*: West House. An early 19th century house in stock brick. It was the home of Dr. Richard Theodore Grubb, LRCP Edin., MRCS Eng., Medical Officer of Health and Vaccinator from at least 1874. After his death in 1909 the house was bought by Sam Deards the proprietor of Deards' Victoria Dry-Glazing works and the inventor of the cricket score-board which has become a standard feature of the English landscape. His Victoria Works was located behind the house, on a site now occupied by the houses of the 1980s-vintage Penshurst estate.
9 Park Hill. Hemsford*. A mid- to late 19th century brick building. In September 1947, when it was owned by Messrs. Windolite, the Epping Rural District Council (which was then still the governing body for Harlow), gave J. Cowlin and Sons permission to subdivide the building into two houses. The absence of a door on the west end of the building suggests that it was subsequently converted back to a single residence. Until the 1969 redevelopment of Park Hill, the veterinary surgery and stables of J.E.M. Ridge was accessed by a lane on the west side of Hemsford.
15 - 17 Park Hill. A pair of late-19th century brick cottages originally known as No. 1 and 2 Park Villas.
OddFellows Hall. A utilitarian building erected in 1960 on the corner of Park Hill and Broadway Avenue in 1960.
6 - 16 Park Hill: 'Oddfellow's Terrace'. The Oddfellows were a 'friendly society' and played an important role in the community in the days before the welfare state. The organization made payments to its members when sickness, injury or unemployment made it necessary. In 1910 the Mulberry Tree Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Manchester Unity, built two terraces of six brick cottages to provide both housing accommodation and rental income. This is one, andthe other (numbers 1 - 6 Mulberry Terrace) , is around the corner in Broadway Avenue. The Terrace in Park Hill bears a Memorial Tablet commemorating 40 of their brothers who died during the conflict. It reads: "Mulberry Tree Lodge I.O.O.F. M.U. In abiding fraternal memory of our worthy brothers who fell in the Great War 1914 - 1918".
28 - 34 Park Hill. A row of red brick cottages, ca. 1900, originally known as Park Villas.