Harlow New Town: ‘Too good to be true’?

Municipal Dreams

Harlow got a mixed press in the 1950s.  To some, it was ‘Pram Town’, a tribute to the preponderance of young families who had moved there and perhaps, by extension, to the new life that this New Town heralded.  To others, it was little more than an urban prairie, one which left an unfortunate pedestrian ‘with a feeling of hopelessness in face of a terrifying eternity of wideness’. (1)  Let’s look more sympathetically at the ideals which inspired it and, with the benefit of distance, at its successes and failures.

1957 Royal Visit The Market Square during a royal visit, November 1957

Harlow, like Stevenage and the six other New Towns located around the periphery of London, was born in the confluence of two powerful currents.  The first, the belief in planning – that society and the economy should be rationally organised to benefit all – had emerged as the inhumanity of Victorian…

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