Harlow's History and Geography


Since its creation in 1969, hundreds of students have spent time at the Harlow Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland and, sadly, many have returned home with little or no knowledge or appreciation of the town or the history that created it. This is a shame. The following brief description of the area around the campus is not intended to take the place of the many books which tell the complete story of Harlow and of the New Town that was grafted on to its western side beginning in 1947. Those interested in the details of the story should consult one or more of the sources listed at the end of this introductory section, and/or pay a visit to the excellent Museum of Harlow. The purpose of this website is to provide just enough details about the local area to make the reader aware of the town's long history, and to appreciate that Harlow has been witness to all the major events of English history, some of which have left visible traces.

There are ten pages on this website. This one contains a brief summary of the development of Harlow and some of its buildings and institutions. The content of the others is described in the Table of Contents at the bottom of this page. Three of them contain a description of the streetscapes and buildings that you would see if you took a walk along the streets in the immediate vicinity of the Harlow Campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland which is located in St. John's Walk, off Market Street.

Clicking on any of the thumbnails will open a larger version of the picture.

The Origins of Harlow

Celtic people were living here long before the settlement was recorded in the Stanegrove Hill on the Altham Estate Map, 1616Domesday Book of 1086. They probably lived on scattered farms, rather than in a nucleated settlement, but there appears to have been a concentration of activity near Ealing Bridge on Gilden Way, south-east of Old Harlow, and another on what is now an industrial site north of Harlow Mill station. The most important site was the hill known as Stanegrove, or Stonegrove now surrounded by the buildings of the Temple Fields Industrial Estate on the north side of the New Town. This was a site for worship during the First Century B.C. More than 230 Celtic coins, some of them in mint condition and 96 bronze brooches have been recovered from the site - presumably left there as votive offerings.

Around A.D. 80 a simple flint and mortar Romano-British temple dedicated to an unknown deity (but probably Minerva) was erected on the hill. In time it was improved and expanded and in the end was a masonry building with painted walls and a large courtyard. The temple was either destroyed, or simply decayed,during the reign of Constantine in the early 4th century A.D. Roman coins - 159 of them, have been recovered here, dated between 15 B.C. and 390 A.D. There is no evidence of a Romanized town nearby, but at least two villas existed in the vicinity.

Romano-British Temple, A.D. 200The Harlow Temple site in the Templefields Industrial Estate

There is no definitive answer to the question of how the town got its name. The traditional explanation is that it derives from two Old English words,: 'hlaw' or 'hlaew' meaning 'hill' and either 'here' meaning an army or host or 'her' meaning 'holy' or 'sacred'. The people of each Hundred needed a place to meet. In the case of Harlow, the meeting, or Moot hill might be Stanegrove Hill, or it might be the one behind the Green Man pub at Mulberry Green . If it was the latter it might explain the name of this crossroads - as 'moot-bury' or meeting place could easily have became corrupted to 'Mulberry'.

The first written record of the town's name is in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it appears as 'Herlaua'. All towns are feminine in Latin, so the Norman scribes added the customary feminine ending of 'a'. In Norman deeds the town is spelled 'Herlaue' (where the 'Her' would have been pronounced 'Har', as in Hertford, and the 'au' would have been pronounced as 'o'). This was the regular form of the name until the 13th century when a 'w' reappears, and by 1430 'Harlowe' had become the most common form. The final 'e' was dropped during the Georgian era.


Table of Contents
Harlow's History and Geography
Introduction & The Origins of HarlowThe Structure of HarlowIndustry
 Second World War Airfields 
Walks Around Harlow
Market Street & St. John's WalkFore Street, Park Hill, London & Station RoadsHigh Street
 Churchgate Street 
Harlow New Town
The Origins of the New Town ProgrammeImportant Developments in Harlow New Town 
References & Acknowledgements
Photo Gallery


Department of Geography

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000