pages 23, 24 and 25
We now move away from the immediate vicinity of Bishop Ken Road to visit one of the most picturesque highways in the district - namely, Old Redding.
Before we discuss the physiographical, botanical and historical aspects of this delightful area, some consideration as to how this thoroughfare gained its unusual name may be of interest to the reader. There are two main schools of thought, the first is of the opinion that Old Redding is named after Thomas Redding of Pinner who was one of the first governors of Harrow School and a leading figure in the district. The second view, which is widely held and is supported to some extent by local geography, asserts that 'Redding' is a derivation of the ancient word 'riddiing' meaning a clearing in a wood - a ridding of trees. The location through which Old Redding winds has been woodland and common for hundreds of years and in days of yore. Cardinal Wolsey and his friends hunted wolves and other wild animals in the area. It follows that a clearing was made to make room for limited domestic habitation and to provide for the passage of carts and cattle. Ancient local documents also make reference to "New Redding", the precise location of which has been lost with the passage of time. Although the name 'Old Redding' appears on an Ordnance Survey Sheet of 1864, later editions referred to it as 'Wealdwood Road'. The earlier name has only reappeared in comparatively recent times.
Old Redding is a favourite haunt for the inhabitants of Harrow Weald and Stanmore for various reasons. The highway can, for instance, offer the traveller refreshment, since the 'Hare" public house stands at the junction of Old Redding and Brookshill. This establishment was first licensed in 1706 although the original building has been enlarged and altered. In the last century the "Hare" was owned by the Clutterbuck family (who also owned several other public houses in the district) and beer was produced in their own brewery on Stanmore Hill up until the first world war. (See photograph number 9 in centre pages). A little farther up the road is situated the "Case is Altered", another public house with a long history which was once known as "The Cathedral". Just beyond this ancient edifice is a clearing which serves as a car park, picnic site and courting area, depending upon which direction your interests lay. There is a public footpath nearby to Hatch End.
Because Old Redding is situated on high ground, the view from the car park near "The Case is Altered" offers extensive and pleasing vistas on a fine day of Harrow, Northwood and beyond.
The charm and beauty of Old Redding is to be found in its natural rural surroundings; occasional attempts at road widening have so far failed to destroy its charm and a stroll through the woods and fields which border the road reveals that they are studded with hawthorn and silver birch trees. During the Spring a variety of wild flowers abound including Queen Anne's lace, sorrel, clover, meadow pea, bush betch and margerites to name a few. In the Autumn can be found the fairy lane toad stools, amanatia muscaria under the birches and variety of berries (hawthorn, white byroney, rose hips and blackberry).
In the 17th century a brick-making industry was developed near the junction of Old Redding and Common Road and run by the Bodimeade family until the end of the 18th century when Mary Ann Bodimeade married a Charles Blackwell. During the 19th century the Blackwells became a large and wealthy family owning several extensive properties, including The Kiln; The Hall, Brookshill; The Cedars, Uxbridge Road; Oxhey Hall and a Manor House in Chipperfield, Hertfordshire.
In 1829 Thomas Blackwell formed a business venture with Edmund Crosse which became known as the firm of Crosse and Blackwell. During the 19th century a number of cottages were built to house the kiln labourers and this group of dwellings near the "Case is Altered" became known as "The City", (See photograph number 10 in centre pages). In 1930 Mr. R.A. Blackwell gave thirteen of the cottages to Hendon Rural District Council and, only recently, Harrow Council authorised the demolition of numbers 1 and 2 because they had fallen into a bad state of repair. Derelict footings and garden posts are all that remain of the oldest cottages.
One famous building adjoining Old Redding which remains intact is Grimsdyke, a fine old red-bricked house which was built in 1872, on land purchased in 1856, for Frederick Goodall R.A. (a well-known painter of the Victorian era) from designs by Norman Shaw. The house which was then known as Grimes Dyke was later occupied by Sir William Gilbert (composer and playwright). He died tragically in 1911 in a lake in the grounds from heart failure following an attempt to rescue a guest who was in difficulties in deep water. (See photograph number 11 in centre pages). There is a monument to Sir William in All Saints Church, Harrow Weald, in the form of a handsomely carved bronze tablet. It was designed by Sir Bertram Mackenna. R.A.
In early Summer the grounds of Grimsdyke are profuse with Azaleas and Rhododendrons. The House is now a Country Hotel and restaurant.
Another one-time famous inhabitant of Old Redding was Franklin Engleman, B. B.C. commentator of 'Down your Way' and numerous quiz programmes. He lived for several years in a handsome property standing in beautiful grounds at the Oxhey Lane end of Old Redding. Due to failing health he was forced to sell up and move into central London in an effort to reduce travelling fatigue but within a short time he died from the effects of a heart attack. The other side of this end of Old Redding is bordered by Grimsdyke Golf Course.
This brief discourse about Old Redding must suffice but let us be grateful if we are fortunate enough to live in close proximity to this charming piece of Old England (the land around which remains protected as part of the Green Belt) and may its special delights always be available to the appreciative rambler.