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

pages 22 and 23

Dryden Road

 

While many of the roads which were developed by John Searcy have been named after students and tutors of New College, Oxford, other highways of Harrow Weald and Wealdstone bear the names of famous men of the church, renowned statesmen, military leaders and British poets.  In this instance we are concerned with the latter category.  Several roads (some of which have disappeared in the Poet's Corner re-development scheme in Wealdstone) have adopted the names of British poets such as Byron, Shakespeare, Shelley, Wordsworth and Dryden.  It is the last-named that we shall talk about on this occasion.

The properties in Dryden Road were built during 1932 and 1933 by Wimpeys (this company also built the houses in Adderley and Connaught Roads) and before that time the site consisted of a small slip field - probably owned originally by the Church - between two unmade lanes, namely Kenton Lane and what was to become later known as Bishop Ken Road.

Most of the original residents of Dryden Road moved in from Wealdstone although many of these have now either passed on or moved away from the district.

Dryden Road derives its name from John Dryden, a British poet and playwright who lived from 1631 until 1700 and was born in the quaintly named village of Aldwinkle All Saints in Northamptonshire.  Dryden (also known as Driden) does not appear to have had any personal connection during his life with Harrow and was in fact admitted to a scholarship at Westminster.  He later attended Trinity College, Cambridge from where he graduated in 1654.

John was left a small estate on the death of his father. Sir Erasmus Dryden, bart.  But far from being wealthy, he found it necessary on leaving Cambridge to take up the mundane employment of clerk.  It was about this time that he experienced his first pangs of love - with his cousin Honor - but this was short-lived and his desire for a literary career took precedence.  He soon changed his employment for that of a hack writer with a London bookseller and also began to cultivate an acquaintance with a Sir Robert Howard.  In 1663 at the age of 32 he married Sir Robert's sister, Lady Elizabeth Howard, aged 25.

There was some scandal surrounding the marriage as Elizabeth had been showing questionable intimacy with a dissolute nobleman and it was said that Dryden was bullied into the marriage to give her a degree of respectability.  Elizabeth looked down on her spouse socially and for a while John became interested in an actress named Ann Reeve.

In his middle thirties, Dryden began to establish himself as a successful playwright as well as a poet but his career suffered a setback in 1665/6 when as a result of the Plague, followed by the Great Fire, the London theatres were closed. During the late 1660's his talent was receiving nationwide acclamation and in 1670 he became poet laureate and historiographer.

Throughout the ensuing years, although Dryden was accepted by the nobility and wrote several successful (but controversial) plays, he was frequently in financial difficulties and occasionally was quite close to the poverty level.  In his efforts to satisfy the demand for popular entertainment he was accused of pandering to the lowest taste of his audience and of showing prejudice in his writings about the Church.

In 1688 he lost his literary offices including that of poet laureate but this did not deter him and in 1692 he wrote an opera called "Albion and Albanius".  Dryden died in May, 1700 leaving three sons; although his wife outlived him she became insane shortly after his death.

Dryden is described in historical records as being a short, stout man with a florid complexion and a large mole on his right cheek.  He had a very generous and modest nature and the only arrogance he displayed was to be found in his literary works which were frequently critical and satirical although brilliant.

In conclusion, it can be said that Dryden Road is a quiet, pleasant thoroughfare very nice trees and is securely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the in adjoining Kenton Lane.  John Dryden, Poet Laureate, would we feel sure, have accepted the association of his name with this road as a compliment.