Cat no. 401

An Experiment in Towns

Running time20:56 Black & White Sound 1958 Harlow, Essex

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The history of settlement, from Industrialisation through to the development of Harlow a new town.



This film begins with a long sequence that charts the history of settlement. It begins showing farms and early machines such as watermills and windmills. The story continues through the industrial revolution, where the film shows factories, steam pumps and trains. It concludes at the immediate pre-war period where the population of London had risen to 8,635,000 and urban overcrowding and congestion had became a major political issue. An animated map sequence shows the growth of London. There are brief shots of other leading world cities to show that the problem was not confined to London; Paris, Rome, New York and another unnamed oriental city that could be Hong Kong.

The film continues charting the history of the new town development from the report of the Royal Commission in 1940. When work started on the new towns in 1946, this had become a duel problem of relieving urban congestion and providing homes for victims of the blitz. Actors offer arguments against the new town programme. There is an aerial view of a scale model of Harlow before showing the building work. Different types of homes are shown. An idea of Harlow in the early years is conveyed by the sight of a woman pushing a pram through a building site. Harlow New Town is contrasted with Harlow Old Town. Church and community halls are shown. These include children entering the church hall of St. Andrew's Methodist Church. Interior views show a playgroup session. People attend a Christening in the new RC Church of Our Lady of Fatima and a wedding at the Parish Church in Harlow Old Town.

Modern factories feature. There are interior shots at the Stow Health Centre, showing the surgery, waiting room and dentist. The doctor pays a home visit to the first baby born in Harlow (now about ten years old). This shows interior views of a home in the New Town. The film shows the shopping facilities in Harlow, the market and pubs, including The Small Copper, and restaurants. Other leisure pursuits featured are children playing in a recreation ground, a ballet class at Stone Cross Hall, a family relaxing in their garden as well as some of the evening classes available. These included ballroom dancing, drama, fencing and a pottery class. The final sequence is not shot in Harlow but in a new town development in Wales. This shows the interior of a large school, shots of a factory making jet engines, a plane flying and finally views of the New Town.

Featured Organisations:

Harlow Development Corporation

Featured Events:

An Experiment In Towns.

Featured Buildings:

St. Andrew's Methodist Church; The RC Church of Our Lady of Fatima; The Stow Health Centre, Harlow New Town; Stone Cross Hall; The Small Copper Public House; The Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Harlow Old Town

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Central Office of Information

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Alan Harrison

Valentine Dyall

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