Harlow is a predominantly new town and local government district in the west of Essex, England. Situated on the border with Hertfordshire, it occupies a large area of land on the left bank of the upper Stort Valley, which has been made navigable through other towns and features a canal section near its watermill. Old Harlow is a village-sized suburb founded by the early medieval age and most of its high street buildings are early Victorian and residential. In Old Harlow is a field named Harlowbury, a de-settled monastic area which has the remains of a chapel, a scheduled ancient monument.
The M11 motorway passes through the east of the Borough, entirely to the east of the town. Harlow has its own commercial and leisure economy. It is also an outer part of the London commuter belt and employment centre of the M11 corridor which includes Cambridge and Stansted Airport to the north. At the time of the 2011 Census, Harlow's population was recorded at 81,944 and its borough had the third-highest proportion of social housing in England, 26.9%, a legacy of the 1947 commitment to to re-house blitzed London families after World War II and provide a percentage of homes for other needy families who cannot afford market rents.
The original village, mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, developed as a typical rural community around what is now known as Old Harlow, with many of its buildings still standing. This includes for instance the Grade II listed St Mary's Church in Churchgate Street. Its former Chapel is in a ruinous state in a field which was once the Harlowbury Abbey part of Old Harlow. The chapel is a Grade I listed and a scheduled ancient monument.
The new town was built after World War II to ease overcrowding in London and surrounding areas due to the mass devastation caused by the bombing during the Blitz. Harlow was a 'Phase I' new town along with others such as Basildon, Stevenage, and Hemel Hempstead. New Towns were designated following the New Towns Act of 1946, with the master plan for Harlow drawn up in 1947 by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The development incorporated the market town of Harlow, now a neighbourhood known as Old Harlow, and the villages of Great Parndon, Latton, Little Parndon, Netteswell, Tye Green, Potter Street, and Churchgate Street. The town is divided into neighbourhoods, each self-supporting with their own shopping precincts, community facilities and pub. Harlow had a population of 4,500 when it became a new town in 1947. The original railway station, Burnt Mill, is now Harlow Town Station.