March 2018 Meeting


Talk on the History of Harlow up to 1947

by Ryan Karolak



Resume of the Talk given by Ryan Karolak on The History of Harlow up to 1947

Ryan Karolak, curator of Harlow Museum, gave a very scholarly and interesting account of the history of Harlow covering the period up to 1947, which was much appreciated by the well attended meeting. He will follow this in September with a presentation on the development of the New Town. 

From archaeological evidence, the Harlow area has been settled for about 40000 years. The topography of the Stort valley fulfilled the needs of shelter with plenty of water and woodland for materials and food. Local tribes lived in mud huts with timber supports and thatch for insulation and roofing. The Romans built a few villas and a Temple dedicated to Minerva but did not establish a town. The Temple expanded during Roman Rule, and excavations have found over 6000 objects – coins, bones, pottery etc. Modern place names reflect many of the local Saxon manors but no local administration such as a town was established. Harlow (Haerlowe) is thought to derive from Haeg roweroughly translated as “temple hill”, whilst the Temple per sebecame disused due to its pagan past. After the Conquest, the Saxon parishes/manors of Harlow, Latton, Nettleswell and Parndon were given to Norman Lords, for example to Adolf de Merk in Latton. This became Mark Hall manor and where Elizabeth I stayed during one of her progresses. Potter Street derives from the pottery trade, and a market/fair was established about 1500 on Common Land at Bush Fair which survived many centuries. The Rev Joseph Arkwright, son of wealthy industrialist and landowner Richard, inherited the Mark Hall estate and in 1824 took up residence at Latton Priory (now the Moot House) and acquired land at Parndon in 1860. Son Loftus married Elizabeth, a noted artist, who re-decorated Parndon Hall after the couple had it rebuilt. By 1900, Harlow (ie Old Harlow) was a small village of about 2000 inhabitants, whilst the other parishes remained small hamlets. The Gilbey family leased Mark Hall in 1893 and a number of significant members were brought up there. The Harlow area remained mainly agricultural until the end of WW2.