Harlow – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter…

Living in Harlow, Essex
Living in Harlow, Essex

Harlow – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter…

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I like to think I’m a fairly hardened sort of person towards ugliness but I was not prepared for Harlow. I spent the early parts of my life in such, shall we say less than aesthetically pleasing, places as Middlesbrough, Bradford, Stoke-on-Trent and pre-gentrification Hackney. About five years, ago, I started a new job in the town. Good lord, I was not prepared for this. It makes Bradford look like Barcelona, Middlesbrough look like Milan and the Potteries look like Paris by comparison.

Dessert in an Oasis

I once had a manager at the company I work for describe Harlow to a new employee who’d just moved there as;

“you know how you sometimes describe something as an oasis of plenty in the middle of a desert of poverty? Well, this place is pretty much the opposite of that – it’s a pool of poverty in the middle of an ocean of plenty.”

I suppose the place never had much of a chance of being a beauty spot to begin with. Harlow is essentially an Essex version of Milton Keynes (see also Basildon). You’ve only got to spend a few minutes there to realise how down-at-heel the place is;

  • Spectacularly ugly town centre full of grey concrete box buildings (a popular style of architecture throughout the town)
  • Populated by Kappa-clad types with attack dog eyes
  • Half the shops closed down
  • Only two pubs (a Wetherspoons and a Yates’ naturally) which practically scream “Stay away if you value keeping your facial features intact” at you.

Exported Homelessness

In recent years its only got worse. The recent gentrification of London has led to a massive increase in the homeless population of Harlow. This is because the various councils within the capital have essentially shipped all the undesirables who, God forbid, might put people off visiting their borough by lying in the pavement somewhere around there, out to this neck of the woods. This means that most of the empty shops now have the added feature of some poor soul bonged out of their brain on cheap booze or heroin collapsed in a sleeping bag in the doorway. Even people I know who’ve lived in Harlow all their lives say they daren’t venture out into the centre after dark now – a really sorry state of affairs.

Somewhere more Salubrious!

I’m shortly due to leave my job here to relocate and start a new one in Huddersfield to be closer to my family. As someone who frequently used to visit ‘Udders growing up, I never thought I’d see the day when a move there would seem like a step up in the world.


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