Draft Old Harlow Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan

Ended on the 2nd May 2011
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2.0 The names Harlow and Mulberry have Saxon origins. Much of the pre-New Town road system dates back to the Medieval period. Settlements at Mulberry Green and Market Street are thought to date back to the 12th century. During this period a series of separate hamlets developed around the principal manor at Harlowbury. These included Mulberry Green, Old Harlow, Churchgate Street and Potter Street. This dispersed settlement pattern is still evident today in the way development has not merged Mulberry Green and Old Harlow, which remain distinct entities.

The Market

2.1 Permission was granted to hold a Monday market and an annual fair in the area in 1218. The market was located where Market Street and Fore Street are today. Mulberry Green was used as the site of fairs. The arrival of the market led to the growth of Old Harlow and the shape of Market Street today echoes its past function as an active marketplace.

2.2 Known as Market Plain, the site for the market site was originally an open space stretching from the southern side of Fore Street to where St John the Baptist’s Church now stands. The space was narrowed by the building of dwellings on the northern side of Market Street. Another row of buildings - Middle Row – was later built on the southern side of Market Street and separated Market Street from Fore Street. However, the market had ceased to be held by 1600 and, although revived in the early 19th century, was finally abandoned in 1850.

Coaching Stations

2.3 Harlow was an important stop-off point for horse drawn coaches on route to London from Cambridge, Newmarket, Norwich and elsewhere. The route to London ran south from Harlow Mill via Old Road, Mulberry Green, the High Street and London Road. The current settlement pattern and the collection of public houses at these junctions is a legacy of the area’s role as a major stop-off point for coaches.

2.4 To serve passengers, inns sprung up on Fore Street, Market Street and at Mulberry Green. The Crown was an inn by 1703. The George is recorded from 1662, and the Marquis of Granby from 1722. The Green Man Inn in Mulberry Green was also an important inn and coaching station.

The Stort Navigation

2.5 The canalisation of the River Stort in 1769 allowed for much quicker transportation of goods by water and had a significant impact on the area. Prior to this, most of the district contained mostly small industries to cater for local needs. With the Stort Navigation, malting and brewing industries developed for export to the London market by horse drawn barges. Converted malting houses are still present on St John’s Walk and on the junction of the High Street and New Road.

The Railway

2.6 The opening of Harlow Mill Train Station in 1842 led to a steady rise in the population of Old Harlow with expansion to the east and west. The line provided an hourly service from Harlow to London. Between 1835 and 1850 a number of attractive terraced homes were built on Market Street and Fore Street. Larger detached homes were also built at 7 and 9 Park Hill and on the eastern side of the High Street at The Wayre and Marigolds.

2.7 The largest area of late-Victorian and early-Edwardian house building occurred to the east of Harlow, with much of Bury Road and New Road laid out between 1870 and 1901. Homes were also developed on Park Hill and Mulberry Terrace at the turn of the 19th century.

Station Road

2.8 Old Road was by-passed by Station Road around 1830 to create a more convenient route to the train station and the River Stort. This road effectively split Old Harlow in half, with Market Street and Fore Street on one side and the High Street on the other.

2.9 This more direct route resulted in an increase in traffic and this sense of separation was increased with the advent of the motor car. As a result, Old Harlow village lost its compact character. This sense of severance is still a defining feature of the conservation area and an issue which remains, to a certain extent, unresolved.

Harlow Garden Village

2.10 With the advent of the railway, areas outside of London with good access by train became attractive for commuters. In the late 1920s an attempt was made to create a Garden Village in Harlow when Charles Scruby proposed to set up Harlow Garden Village in the area between Bury Road and the Stort. Although the plans were never realised in entirety, homes built along St Johns Avenue, Manor Road and The Hill are testament to this era of house building.

Harlow New Town

2.11 The New Towns Act of 1946 proposed a number of new settlements around London, of which, Harlow was one of the first. Frederick Gibberd was commissioned by the Harlow Development Corporation to produce a Master Plan for the town. The New Town was built to the west of Old Harlow. In the early years of the New Town, much of the initial house building was concentrated close to Old Harlow due to the proximity of local shops and services. As part of the original Master Plan, Old Harlow was designated as a neighbourhood sub-centre. It is now a designated neighbourhood centre in its own right.

The redevelopment of Old Harlow

2.12 From 1962 a number of alterations were made to the conservation area by Harlow Development Corporation. The building of the A414 ensured that north-south vehicular traffic could entirely circumvent Old Harlow and this reduced congestion along Station Road.

2.13 However, heavy east-west vehicular traffic remained an issue along the High Street. To resolve this problem, the High Street was pedestrianised and bypassed by Gilden Way in 1970. Loop roads and parking areas were provided behind the High Street to the north and south to provide access to shops and services.

2.14 Gaps in the High Street were filled with residential blocks with shops on the ground floor. Two large blocks - The Gibberd Blocks – were built at the end of the shopping parade to mark the entrance to the High Street. In Market Street the area between Fore Street and Market Street was paved over and turned into a car park and Harlow College demolished and replaced by flats and houses.


2.15 There are no Scheduled Monuments within the conservation area. Whilst the location is not a designated important archaeological area, it is possible that finds may occur. Iron Age burials and a Roman temple have been excavated at Stanegrave Hill to the north of the old town. Excavations in the area of St. John The Baptists’ Church have uncovered evidence ranging in date from the prehistoric through to the post-medieval periods, including a small number of Neolithic flints.

2.16 Archaeological investigation in the Old Harlow Conservation Area has been mainly limited to small test pits and evaluations. However, excavations in Market Street adjacent to the Chequers Public House have uncovered waterlogged deposits containing 13th to 15th century pottery.

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