Histories of Harrow Weald Highways - Volume 1
Ronald S Brown, 1974,

pages 1, 2 and 3

Foreword and Historical Preamble

 

A collation of historical facts relating to roads in the Harrow Weald area.

Foreword

The Bishop Ken Residents' Association publishes a quarterly magazine entitledthe "New Resident" and in recent years a series called 'Down our road' has been included among the featured articles.  The series deals with histories of local suburban roads situated in fairly close proximity to Bishop Ken Road in Harrow Weald which is the main centre of the Association's activities.

Some narratives also include a résumé of interesting incidents which have occurred in the lives of famous people (such as church dignitaries, statesmen or poets) after whom some roads have been named.  The series has been compiled and written by the Editor of the magazine, R.S. Brown.

The purpose of this special publication is to collate the road histories which have been written to date and present them under one cover.  The historical narrative as published in the "New Resident" have in some instances, been revised to update the information contained in the magazine and to avoid duplicated statements.

 

Historical Preamble

The earliest beginnings of Harrow and the surrounding hamlets can be traced to the establishment of major trackways - the very first highways - which carried travellers from the South Coast of England through London and on to the Midlands and the North.  The trackways were marked by Sarsen stones, two of which are still located in the area (outside "The Hare" and the "Red Lion" public houses).

South Eastern England was in fact covered by such trackways generations before the arrival of Julius Ceasar- one track crossed the river at Brentford and proceeded via Perivale, Horsenden Hill, Greenford Road, over Harrow Hill and through Wealdstone to Harrow Weald.  Ancient documentation (dated 767 AD) suggests that a Saxon chief named Gumen took possession of the area in the sixth century at which time Harrow was described as "Harrow of the Gumenings".

In the pre-Roman era thick forests covered the district in which Harrow Weald would later develop and it was therefore unsuitable for the settlement of early inhabitants to the North West of London.  During the first part of this millenium, however, steady efforts to clear the area persisted and by the beginning of the 13th century numerous acres of arable land were in use.  In subsequent centuries a large area of Harrow Weald and its surrounds were converted to farmland and as late as the first part of the 19th century 55% of Harrow's population was dependent upon agriculture - hay-farming reached a peak in the 1880's.

One of Harrow's major problems at the end of the 19th century (when various forms of transport, including the motor car, were developing rapidly) was the absence of good roads.  Access from place to place was mainly through lanes which were in a bad condition and proper drainage was unknown.  This resulted in much of the area being impassable for five months of the year because of mud and it took a wagon a whole day to reach London from "The Weald" (as Harrow Weald was then known) due to the bad state of the Harrow Road.  Anthony Trollope, in his autobiography, makes a reference to the state of the lanes in Harrow as they were in the early part of the same century.  In 1832, when he was 17 years old, he made a daily journey on foot from the farmhouse where he lived (at the junction of Weald Lane and Harrow Weald High Road) to Harrow School where he was a student.  He recalls this time with the comment, "Perhaps the 18 months which I passed in this condition walking to and fro (from farmhouse to school) on these miserable, dirty lanes was the worst period of my life."

At the turn of the century Harrow Weald was a very rural area but the neighbouring town of Wealdstone had already become a thriving community during the reign of Queen Victoria (see photograph number 1 in centre pages).  A residential and industrial district began to develop around the first local railway station (called Harrow and Wealdstone from 1897) which was opened on 20th July, 1837.  It was built by Robert Stephenson, son of George (who was the chief engineer for that section of the London and Birmingham Railway) and was originally known as Harrow Station.  Wealdstone was not so named until the 1870's, having been previously known as "Station End".  So well did Wealdstone evolve during the Victorian era that there has been little land available for more modem development and this situation will persist until some of the older properties are demolished.

The new Civic Centre has taken a large chunk out of old Wealdstone and, perhaps when the status of this new establishment is fully implemented, the now modern image of what was once called Poet's Corner (since most of the former roads were named after famous poets) may extend outwards and transform the more antiquated areas of Victorian Wealdstone.

Highways such as Canning, Peel and Palmerston (which were of course named after Victorian Prime Ministers) were planned as long ago as 1854 when they formed part of Harrow Park Estate.  Industry became established in Wealdstone at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of Eastman Kodak (1891), Winsor and Newton (1897) and Hamilton's Brush Factory (1898).  The Salvatorian fathers have served in the district since 1901 and the Weslyan Methodists were installed in Locket Road in 1904.  A Cornish builder began the Methodist movement in Wealdstone in the mid-Victorian era.  After using a temporary iron building in Rosslyn Crescent for nearly 20 years, the present Church and Hall were erected by the swiftly growing religious Society at the junction of Montrose Road and Locket Road, Wealdstone, at a cost of £5,000.  The existing Wealdstone Police Station was built in 1908 and opened a year later.  The first police officer on duty inside the station was Sergeant W.T. Lanning (father of Stanley Lanning who is mentioned in the Acknowledgements).

During the early part of this century the framework of Harrow Weald was beginning to take shape but it was not until the 1930's when the Middlesex building boom hit Harrow and the surrounding areas that it became the highly residential suburb it now is.  Unfortunately for the existing residents of Harrow Weald, a new wave of development is sweeping through the suburb and many of the elegant bay-windowed houses of the 1930's are being demolished to make way for more box-like structures mainly taking the form of detached houses and flats - these are being sold at the current inflationary prices.

To return to the main theme of our preamble, it was the developers of the 1930's who changed the profile of Harrow Weald from a largely farming area with inadequate roads to the present built-up suburb with its intricate highways system.

In the centre of the area with which we are concerned is Bishop Ken Road and this highway is situated on what is known as New College Estate.  First references to this land can be traced back as far as 1410 when the estate was owned by a Richard Walworth.  After subsequently changing hands on numerous occasions, a gentleman named Sherbome Langton presented the land to New College, Oxford in 1504 and it remained the property of the College until a local developer, John Searcy bought it for building purposes prior to the last war.

This preamble does not purport to have given a comprehensive story of Harrow's general history - W.W. Druitt and Percy Davenport have written about the area in much more detail in their various books - which may be borrowed from the public libraries (*)  Having therefore perused this rather brief introduction to our historical survey it is to be hoped that the reader's interest will be maintained as the more domestic histories of various roads in the district - perhaps including your road - are unfolded.

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* "The Stanmores and Harrow Weald through the Ages" by Walter W. Druitt (1938) "Old Stanmore" by Percy Davenport.