Essex

Harlow prepares to celebrate 65 years as a new town

  • 6 January 2012
  • From the section Essex
Harlow New Town sign
The new town was built to house 60,000 people moving from London

One of the UK's first post-war new towns is preparing to celebrate the 65th anniversary of its formation.

Plans to build the Harlow New Town in Essex were conceived in 1947, following the previous year's New Towns Act.

Among the events planned by the local council is the creation of an audio archive of its original residents.

Conservative council leader, Andrew Johnson, said: "We'd like to get a lot of the original pioneers together to tell their stories."

He added: "We want to find out what their lives were like moving from the East End of London, what their preconceptions were about moving and how their lives changed because of it.

"We're at that stage where, from 65 years ago, a lot of those people are now getting quite old and we are at risk of losing a lot of those stories."

The new town of Harlow was designated on 25 March 1947, as part of the government's scheme to relieve overcrowding in London.

'Passing on the message'

Designed by Frederick Gibberd for 60,000 people, it is credited as having the first all-pedestrian shopping precinct and the first modern high-rise residential tower block, The Lawn, which opened in 1951.

The Grade II-listed building will be on a tour map of the town's landmarks, being created by the council as part of the celebrations.

Mr Johnson said: "There's also some more obscure things like a set of benches where a Soviet spy was caught handing over information to the enemy during the Cold War."

Other projects being planned include a "65" sculpture made by local artists using archive materials.

"It's still a town full of pioneers and people who have a lot of East End values," Mr Johnson said.

"We need to be passing on the message to the young people of the town about just what it was like moving from the East End where you didn't have a toilet or garden, and emphasise just what a great place it was at the time."

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