HWMI was established in 1920 as a memorial to the men of Harlow who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war and as a social meeting place for armed forces personnel.


Following the end of World War I, many local communities, parish councillors and more affluent members of society strived to leave something more tangible than a cross or a scroll in memory of the fallen.

Erecting a Memorial Hall was seen as one of the most symbolic.

The idea was for the returning servicemen to have a place to meet. Unlike most Memorial Halls, Harlow’s membership did not include women or children.

However, the Women’s Institute was built next door and a gymnasium / hall was built between the HWMI and WI for use by the local Boy Scouts.

An extract from the Herts and Essex Observer dated Friday 10th December 1920 reads:


A large company assembled at the recently completed Harlow War Memorial Institute and Harlow, Latton and Netteswell Women’s Institute on the occasion of its opening by Mr and Mrs J. Swire on Wednesday. The Institute is situated near the Victoria Hall in a central position on the site of the housing scheme. Erected by Mr W. Winch, it is a handsome building constructed of breeze block, concrete, plastered grey outside and with a strong light roof of asbestos slates and heated and lighted throughout by gas.

The men’s portion has reading and smoking rooms, a canteen, the usual offices and a billiard room measuring 30ft by 24ft, in which is a full sized billiard table presented by a few friends in memory of the late Lieut-Col J.N. Marshall V.C. and bearing a brass plaque to that effect. On the wall above the table is a framed photo of Col Marshall surmounted by a laurel wreath and the Union Jack.

Next to the canteen is a gymnasium, the gift of Mr Swire in memory of the men of Harlow who made the supreme sacrifice, and in particular of his son and of the regiments with which he served. Divided from this by a moveable partition is the Women’s Institute Club room, attached to which is a large ante-room fitted with a sink and cupboards etc. By removing the partition, the gymnasium and Women’s Institute Club room form a large hall, 72ft by 24ft, eminently suitable for concerts and similar functions.

The cost of the Memorial Club was £1,300, most of which has already been raised by public subscription, including the surplus from the War Memorial Fund. The Women’s Institute cost £500, more than £300 of which has been obtained by various gatherings organised by the members over the last 18 months. Furniture, books and gymnastic apparatus have been given by various residents and the whole of the rooms present a most comfortable appearance.

The main hall was decorated with flags, evergreens and flowers. 


For the full Herts and Essex Observer report of the opening ceremony on Wednesday 8th December 1920 - CLICK HERE

History of HWMI


Having lost his son Alexander in the war, John “Jack” Swire, (left) together with local builder Mr W. Winch, built Harlow War Memorial Institute.


The original brass plaque in memory of Alexander Glen Swire is still displayed in what is now the snooker hall.

History of HWMI

Pictures of HWMI and the WI taken soon after the completion of the buillding work in 1920.


HWMI was built at a cost of £1300 raised through public subscription with the WI being funded by the surplus from the HWMI fund and additional local fundraising. 


Jack Swire paid for the gymnasium that was dedicated to the memory of his son.

It was mainly used as a gymnasium for the local Boy Scouts and also incorporated a library.

History of HWMI

A memorial stone is located on the outside of the club to the right-hand

side of the door at the top of the disabled entrance ramp.


This was incorporated during the 2nd extension to the club (Ladies room and new main entrance) some time after 1940. It is not known if the stone was moved from the original building or was an addition during the extension work at the time.

History of HWMI

Pictures after the 3rd extension to the end of the building behind the ice cream van.


The above mentioned Memorial Stone can be seen between the door and window at the side of the grey coloured car.


Picture taken around 1968


Note the cars parked in front of the gymnasium / hall. There were 6-8 parking spaces.

History of HWMI


Extension No.6 included the flat above the main lounge and the new main entrance which is still used today.


Extension  No.7 to the side including the ladies and gent toilets, boiler room, TV room and additional room for WI and extension of the snooker hall.

History of HWMI


Trustees and committee members in 1970


Bill Briggs, Steward who served the club for 28 years. 

John “Jack” Swire (1861-1933)


Having lost his son Alexander in the war, John “Jack” Swire, together with local builder Mr W. Winch, built Harlow War Memorial Institute. In particular. Jack Swire paid for the gymnasium that was dedicated to the memory of his son.

Harlow War Memorial Institute was opened by Mrs Swire on Wednesday 8th December 1920

It was mainly used as a gymnasium for the local Boy Scouts and also incorporated a library.

Jack was a Trustee and the first President of the club from 1920 until his death in 1933. During this period he also shared Chairmanship with Mr J Balfour.


As well as building HWMI and Hillingdon House (1907) where he lived with his wife Emily and their four children, he was president of Harlow Cricket Club and Harlow Football Club, Master of the Essex Hunt, Leading Member of the Hunter’s Improvement Society, District Commissioner of Harlow Boy Scout’s Association, Honourable Treasurer of the West Essex Unionist Association and member of the Board of Management at Bishop’s Stortford Hospital. His main passion was with the Essex Hunt.

During the war, he allowed Harlow Hospital to use Hillingdon House as an annex to treat wounded soldiers.

Hillingdon House was later to become, and still is, St Nicholas School.

John “Jock” Swire (1893-1983)


Jock took over as President of HWMI following the death of his father Jack in 1933. It was a position he was to hold until 1975.

The “Swire” room is dedicated to Jock in recognition of his many services to the club.

During the annual general meeting on Wednesday 26th September 1934 the Chelmsford Chronicle reported the following:

“Their Chairman, Jock Swire, had notified that he did not desire the remainder of the mortgage that stood at £100, therefore the premises were now free of mortgage, which was originally granted by their Chairman’s father, Mr John “Jack” Swire”. Loud applause followed.

John Kidston Swire, “Jock” became Chairman of Swire.

Swire were founded in 1816 as a shipping import-export business.

In 1948, Swire acquired a 45% shareholding in a local airline, Cathay Pacific Airways.


Cathay Pacific are today Hong Kong’s largest and most successful airline.

Today, Swire Group has grown to include Airline, Property Development, Hotels, Shopping Malls, Shipping and 18 Coca Cola bottling plants supplying half of China’s population, approximately 650 million people.  















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15 Garden Terrace Road

Old Harlow


CM17 0AT

Tel: 01279 866242


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