New Jerusalems

Harlow and Basildon New Towns

Harlow and Basildon were part of the New Town movement to help rebuild the country after World War Two. They were a key element of the ‘New Jerusalem’; created by a reforming Government which also founded the NHS. Harlow and Basildon provided new homes for families who were living in overcrowded and often bomb-damaged conditions, mainly the East London. The Towns were designed to have all the things needed for daily life nearby including healthcare, schools, shops, parks, and jobs. 

Basildon New Town High Street with Brooke House in the background

The organisations established to create New Towns were called Development Corporations. Here, at the Essex Record Office, we care for the records of the Harlow Development Corporation and Basildon Development Corporation. Development Corporations were building whole new communities and had a much wider range of powers and responsibilities than local councils. The records in these collections were the working documents used to design and build the new town and are a rich resource, providing fascinating insights into many aspects of 20th century life. The collections contain administrative records but also publicity brochures, maps, plans, architectural drawings, and thousands of photographs.

Public access to the New Town Development Corporation records for Harlow and Basildon have recently been dramatically enhanced. All of the Harlow Development Corporation records were catalogued in 2021 with a grant from The National Archives. In 2022, the Basildon maps, plans and drawings were catalogued as part of the New Jerusalems project funded by the Wellcome Trust. This work has enabled the catalogues for each collection to be added to our online catalogue Essex Archives Online, making it easier for you to find material that is of interest.

Black and white photograph of residential road . Large and cloudy sky.

Redgrave Road, Basildon New Town

The Harlow Development Corporation archive (A/TH in the catalogue) is made up of 5343 records in 596 boxes. This includes 7913 plans; 1331 photographs and 501 photographic negative glass plates; 47 reels of microfilms and seven tape recordings. 

The Basildon Development Corporation archive (A/TB in the catalogue) is also extensive, being made up of 1055 boxes, including more than 2000 plans; and many photographs, microfilms, videos and tape recordings. 

These are large collections so there is a draft source guide to help you start exploring the New Town Development Corporation Records held by the ERO.

Follow the New Jerusalems Project instagram page to find out more about the New Town collections at the Essex Record Office and at our project partner archives.