Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Harlow (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 44607 09748


TL40NW CIVIC SQUARE 973/3/10003 (Centre of) 04-OCT-01 Water Gardens


Water gardens. Conceived 1952, built 1960-3 to the designs of Frederick Gibberd and Partners for the Harlow Development Corporation. A series of concrete-lined pools set behind brick and mosaic-clad terraces, with stone steps and pool surrounds. There are three terraces. The upper terrace has a low retaining wall, then long canal, 250 yards long, with York stone surround. Retaining wall clad in blue mosaic gives on to similar canal in middle terrace, linked by seven fountain jets which appear from the mouths of seven lions' heads, each one a different abstract design by William Mitchell. York stone surrounds to canal. Brick retaining wall with artificial stone capping in zig-zag pattern encloses six flower beds and pump room, and forms wall to lower terrace. Here are seven small pool surrounds of York stone, each originally with a fountain. The three terraces are linked by brick steps and retaining walls at either end, modified to incorporate disabled ramps in the 1990s.

Harlow is unusual among the New Towns in its relationship to the surrounding countryside, and the care with which landscape is incorporated into the town's design. The town centre is also the highest point of the town, and for his Civic Square, Frederick Gibberd designed water gardens that would express both his interest in landscape, and the ambitions of the Harlow Arts Trust, of which he was a founder member in 1953, in setting fine works of art in public places. The Water Gardens were conceived in 1952 as part of Gibberd's plan for the centre and were built as the town hall complex neared completion in 1960. The ground falls fourteen feet, which led to the idea of three stepped terraces with the approach to the town centre by steps at either end, and broad views over the suburbs to the south. The relief concrete heads by William Mitchell were completed in 1963, and relate to Mitchell's contemporary work for Gibberd at Liverpool RC Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Gibberd wrote that `Mitchell was given carte blanche to design and make the witty lions' heads' (Harlow, the Story of a New Town, 1980). A number of sculptures were located here in 1963 also, and futher sculpture has been subsequently added to the gardens. The integration of sculpture and formal landscape in a modern public garden is exceptional, and the gardens were among the first post-war landscapes to appear on English Heritage's Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Sources Harlow Development Trust, Sculpture in Harlow, 1973, addenda 1978. Frederick Gibberd et al, Harlow, the Story of a New Town, 1980 Paul M S Hopkins, The Long and the Short and the Tall, Harlow Arts Council, 1983.

Listing NGR: TL4460709748


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Gibberd, F et al, Harlow, the Story of a New Town, (1980)
Hopkins, P M S , The Long and the Short and the Tall, (1983)
Olsen, D., Sculpture in Harlow, (2005)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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