Harlow and Basildon in the Essex Sound and Video Archive

The Essex Sound and Video Archive at the ERO preserves many recordings relating to Harlow and Basildon. Alongside the New Town Development Corporation records, these recordings provide a unique insight into life in both towns, and include oral histories with residents, radio programmes, recordings of events, talks and conferences, and talking newspapers. The ESVA also preserves some cine-films and hospital television features recorded in Harlow and Basildon, as well as copies of relevant films in the East Anglian Film Archive.

You can listen to many of the recordings listed below online or in person in the Searchroom at the ERO. However, some have not yet been catalogued or digitised. To find out more about how to access the recordings or share them further, email our Sound Archivist.

Read transcripts of the clips below here.




Oral histories 🎙️

Harlow Housing and Design, 1982-1986 (SA 22)

17 interviews with residents about the development of the New Town, recorded by design historian Judy Attfield between 1982 and 1986. Many of the interviews are available to listen to online, via Essex Archives Online or our Soundcloud channel. You can read more about this collection in this blog post.

Mrs Summers talks about moving to Harlow from Walthamstow to work for Kores in 1952 (SA 22/1364/1)

Mrs Thompson talks about decorating her maisonette in Harlow in 1961, just after she got married (SA 22/1358/1)

The Harlow Project, BBC Essex, 1987 (SA 1/63/1 to SA 1/84/1)

22 interviews with residents of the New Town and Old Harlow, recorded in 1987. Interviewees include the architect John Graham and MP Stan Newens, as well as a local dentist, record-keeper, housing officer, and teachers.

MP Stan Newens talks about people’s expectations for the New Town (SA 1/66/1)

Jean Searing talks about tour groups coming to visit her house in Harlow (SA 1/71/1)

John Tipton recalls finding out where the Stow shopping centre would be built, on his way to swim in the River Stort at Latton Mill (SA 1/82/1)

Architect John Graham talks about what he’d like to see in Harlow in future (SA 1/67/1)

Harlow Museum recordings, 1968-1997 (SA946)

This collection includes two oral history projects carried out by the museum. The first set, of around 30 interviews, was recorded between 1983 and 1987, largely with residents of Old Harlow. The other set, around 21 interviews, was recorded in 1997 for the 50th anniversary of the New Town.

This collection also includes talks on the history of Harlow from Len White, Ian Jones, and Jackie Starcy, a performance of Bernard Steven’s ‘Choriam’ for orchestra, commissioned for Harlow Festival in 1969, school visits to the Museum, and exhibition soundtracks.

Enid Lawson talks about moving to Harlow in 1951 and living in Mulberry Green House, where many Harlow Development Corporation employees and their families initially lived (SA946-50)

Mr and Mrs Bawa talk about moving to live in Harlow from India in 1968 (SA946-44)

See also: East Anglian Film Archive’s ‘New Towns, Our Town‘ project, carried out in 2018.

Radio programmes 📻

Image from above of AGFA tape reel, on top of paper BBC Essex cue sheet.

Harlow: The Early Years (SA 1/178/1)

Harlow: The Early Years, 1987 (SA 1/178/1)

A BBC Essex programme celebrating the 40th anniversary of Harlow New Town. Includes news extracts and interviews with Harlow’s residents and those involved in creating the New Town, including Frederick Gibberd.


Origins of New Towns in Essex, 1989 (SA 1/464/1)

A BBC Essex programme presented by Chris Manning-Press on new towns in Essex, including Harlow, Basildon, and South Woodham Ferrers. Features archive recording of Frederick Gibberd, an interview with Lady Patricia Gibberd, and comments by early residents of Harlow.


Sound of Essex: Harlow (SA654 Tapes 141-142)

A BBC Essex programme about the accents in Harlow and the development of the New Town, broadcast from Harlow Library. Both clips feature interviews with families who moved to the New Town from London in the 1950s. Listen online here.

Harlow Museum recordings, 1983-1995 (SA946)

This collection includes several BBC Radio programmes about Harlow, including features on Down Your Way (1987), The World at One (1990), and Home Front (1995).

Talking newspapers 🗞️

Three rows of cassettes in a green box. Handwritten labels on the cassettes read 'HTM' and the month and year they were created.

Box of Harlow Talking Magazine cassettes (SA559)

Harlow Talking Newspaper and Magazine, 1986-1993 (SA559)

59 issues of Harlow Talking Magazine, from June 1986 to April 1993. The Harlow Museum recordings collection (SA946) also includes 3 issues of Harlow Talking Newspaper and Magazine, dating from 1989, 1992, and 1995.

Harlow Talking Newspaper Tenth Anniversary Souvenir Edition, 1989 (SA946-59)

Other 💿

Harlow 50th Anniversary CD, 1997 (SA277)

Interactive CD created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New Town.

Harlow Civic Society symposium, 2007 (SA441)

Recording of the symposium held by Harlow Civic Society celebrating the 60th anniversary of the New Town. Speakers include Councillor Gregory Peck, Stan Newens, Bill Rammell, John Graham, Elain Harwood, Andrew Burns, and Dickon Robinson.

Video and film 📼

Slightly fuzzy still from a cine-film, showing several prams linked together to create a carnival float. The pram at the front has a red and white striped hood, and there is a sign across the prams reading 'Theme-Pram'. There are children in the prams and behind in the crowds, along with a horse and another vehicle.

‘Pram’ float at Harlow Carnival (SA538)

Man in front of black curtain, holding two ends of thin wire above a piece of equipment..

Charles Kao at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (SA762)

Film of Harlow Carnival, 1964 (SA538)

Cine-film recorded at Harlow Carnival by Guy Gerald Rogers Cooper.

Film of Charles Kao, 1966 (SA762)

Film showing Charles Kao, inventor of optical fibre communications, at work at Standard Communication Laboratories in Harlow.

A View of Bishopsfield, 1970 (SA305)

A Harlow Cine Club production showing the Bishopsfield area of Harlow, including interviews with residents. Directed by John Greenwood, camera by Edmund Gray. Watch on the East Anglian Film Archive website.

Copies of films in the East Anglian Film Archive

      • An Experiment in Towns, 1958 (VA 1/14/1) Film looking at the history of new towns in Britain, and showing the new town of Harlow. Watch online here.
      • Making Glass Bottles, Key Glass Works, 1959 (VA 1/26/1) Film made at the Key Glass Works in Harlow showing the manufacturing process of producing glass bottles of all shapes and sizes.
      • Faces of Harlow, 1964 (VA 1/28/1) Film made to show off the new town of Harlow. Watch online here.
      • Dial a Bus, 1974 (VA 1/29/1) Film showing the “Dial A Bus” service introduced in Harlow in 1974.
      • Harlow: Town of the Future, 1947-1981 (SA735) Extracts of films from the East Anglian Film Archive.

For more films – including New Towns in Britain (1954), Tour of Harlow (1961), Nearly New Town (1982), and African centre for drumming and dancing, Aklowa (1977) – search the East Anglian Film Archive catalogue.


Oral histories 🎙️

Photograph from above of black tape reel in white box. The tape box has a typewritten label listing the contents, including '1st New Town Residents Mr & Mrs Walker' and 'Mr & Mrs Hood parents to first child born in New Town'

Tape recorded by Ted Haley (SA 20/2)

Basildon Heritage, 1985-1988 (SA 3)

49 oral histories with residents of Basildon and the surrounding area, recorded by the Basildon Heritage group. Many of the interviewees lived in the area before the New Town was built, and talk about growing up in the area, their work, housing, shops, local events and characters, the First and Second World Wars, and how the area changed with the building of the New Town.

In addition to the oral histories, the collection includes a 1962 talk on the history of Langdon Hills given by Reverend C.E. Telford, a 1985 talk on the history of Pitsea by Ken Jennings, and a talk by Colin Ward about his book on the Plotlands (‘Arcadia for All’), broadcast on Essex Radio in 1985.

Jewel Hollingshead talks about watching the New Town being built from her farm, Ghyllgrove, and protesting the compulsory purchase (SA 3/415/1)

Alf Dove, former chair of Basildon Development Corporation, recalls coming to the New Town for the first time, to view the Co-op he was going to manage (SA 3/409/1)

Colin Ward talking about the Plotlands and the development of Basildon New Town (SA 3/307/1)

Basildon recordings by Ted Haley, 1966-1989 (SA 20/2)

Around 20 interviews with Basildon residents and those involved in the creation and management of the New Town, including builders and the general manager. Also includes interviews with the first residents, Mr and Mrs Walker, and the parents of the first baby born in Basildon Hospital, Mr and Mrs Hood.

In addition to the interviews, Ted Haley recorded events like the opening of local buildings, like the swimming pool and arts centre, and the New Towns Festival of Sport. For Ted Haley’s Southend recordings, see SA 20/1.

Interview with Mr and Mrs Walker, the first tenants of Basildon New Town, on Redgrave, in 1951 (SA 20/2/11/1)

Interview with Mrs Hood and her son Derek, the first baby born in Basildon New Town (SA 20/2/13/1)

The opening of Basildon Arts Centre, 21 September 1968 (SA 20/2/34/1)

New Towns Festival of Sport, 13 September 1969 (SA 20/2/2/1)

Fryerns Library Fiftieth Anniversary, 2010 (SA 13/7)

9 interviews with local residents recorded by the ERO on 7 September 2010. The interviews focus primarily on the New Town and the people who moved there. Many of the interviews are available to listen to online, via Essex Archives Online or our Soundcloud channel.

Ann Chapman recalls jumping in puddles and shopping in Basildon after moving there in 1953, aged 6 (SA 13/7/2/1)

Hazel Minchin describes the day she moved to Basildon in 1954 and the fair held to celebrate the opening of the New Town (SA 13/7/5/1)

Interview with Charles Springett (SA487)

Video interview with Charles Springett carried out by pupils from St Anne Line Catholic Junior School, Basildon.

Radio programmes 📻

Photograph from above of vinyl disc, with red 'British Information Services' label. Laid on top of yellowed disc sleeve on white surface.

A Town is Born (SA 24/740/1)

A Town is Born, 1962 (SA 24/740/1)

Central Office of Information radio documentary about the creation of the New Town.


Origins of New Towns in Essex, 1989 (SA 1/464/1)

A BBC Essex programme on new towns in Essex, including Harlow, Basildon, and South Woodham Ferrers. Features interview with Douglas Galloway, Chief Architect and General Manager, Basildon Development Corporation, on the early proposals for the New Town and difficulties establishing ownership of the land.

Basildon Voices project, BBC Essex, 2003-2005 (SA403)

BBC Essex project on Basildon with local schools, including Elmbrook School, Whitmore Junior School, and Moat House School


Video and film 📼

Still from a cine-film with white title 'Basildon Town Centre'. The image behind shows a multi-storey white building in the background with stairs in the foreground.

Basildon Town Centre (SA581)

Still from a cine-film with the title 'Timberlog Presents' across the image of a red flag flying against a blue sky.

Timberlog Presents (SA684)

Out and About in Basildon, 1961 (SA581)

Cine-film footage of Basildon.

Timberlog School films, 1963-1965 (SA684)

Cine-films showing activities at Timberlog School, Basildon.

EastWard Hospital Television, 1986 to 1997 (VA 2)

A series of programmes made for patients in the South Essex area. The programmes were broadcast or distributed on VHS tape in Basildon General Hospital, Highwood, the Marillac, Warley Hospitals, and St Luke’s and Fairhavens hospices. The programmes are a mixture of features on local events, other television programmes, and films. Some of this collection has not yet been catalogued (see SA131, SA138, SA170, SA193, SA230, SA293, SA352, SA477, SA844).

New Town Utopia, 2018 (SA857)

Documentary by Christopher Ian Smith about the New Town, featuring clips of oral history interviews with residents, readings from documents, and artistic works inspired by the town.

Copies of films from the East Anglian Film Archive

    • Streets for Walking, 1970 (VA 1/40/1) Short film showing the roads of Basildon, with fumes from cars, and a new shopping centre in Southend.
    • Basildon Our Town, 1974 (VA 1/1/1) Film made by pupils and staff of Woodlands School, Basildon, showing the old area around Basildon before going on to show the modern estates. Watch online here.

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