Harrow Highways - Volume 1
R S Brown, 1974,

pages 8, 9

Gordon Avenue

 

We begin our story about Gordon Avenue with a brief glimpse of Bentley Priory's long history.  The exact site of the original Priory has never been established but it was founded by Banulf Glanville, a famous 12th century lawyer and the Harrow Bolls of 1512 reveal that it was built in honour of St. Mary Magdalene.  It was the only monastic establishment in Harrow but in 1546, King Henry VIII gave the Priory to a private owner and its ecclesiastical days were over.

Little was heard of the Priory until 1766 when an army contractor called James Duberly bought the estate and built the present Priory to plans drawn up by the most eminent architect of the day, Sir John Soans.  Twelve years later it was bought by the Honourable John James Hamilton, 9th Earl and 1st Marquis of Abercorn.  He fitted it out lavishly and after three marriages, died leaving it to his grandson in 1818.

He lived there intermittently until 1846 when the Dowager Queen Adelaide leased it and remained there until her death on 2nd December, 1849.  Three years later the Priory was bought by Sir John Kelk, a well-known railway engineer.  He added conservatories, a picture gallery, a library, a clock tower and an orangery and employed twenty gardeners to maintain the grounds.

In the year 1882 Mr Frederick Gordon of Gordon Hotels bought Bentley Priory as a business venture and opened the house as a private residential hotel on 6th June, 1885.

He also owned the Grand, the Metropole and First Avenue.  Gordon took a great interest in the district and was responsible for building Stanmore Golf Course.  It was also due to his enterprise in 1890 that the railway line was extended from Wealdstone to Stanmore.  Gordon bore the cost and although it started as a private venture, it was absorbed by the London and North Western Railway in 1899.  One of the stipulations was that no trains should be run on Sundays and this was faithfully adhered to until 1935 when the restriction was lifted.  The passenger service to Stanmore was closed in 1952 but Harrow Council has decided to preserve part of the old station building.  The track was finally taken up in 1964.

Bentley Priory was not a financial success as a hotel and on Mr. Gordon's death it changed hands and was opened as a high class ladies' school, but in 1926 it was takenover by the R.A.F.

Gordon Avenue (first developed by the family firm of Stanmore Estates) is sited on the Western border of an estate which, in the 17th and 18th centuries, stretched down the hill to the "Duck in the Pond".  It formed part of a marriage settlement which Mary Lake conveyed to her husband, the Duke of Chandos.  The Duke planted a row of trees in the early 1700s which lead from his house on the estate to Belmont.

Gordon Avenue was one of the few highways in existence in this area at the beginning of the century but like many other local roads it did not become highly residential until the 1930's.  (See photograph number 8 in centre pages).  Perhaps because of its close proximity to the golf course which borders the eastern side of this Avenue, many of the house erected were larger and more expensive than most local properties.

In recent years, further extensive development has been taking place on both sides of Gordon Avenue and there is a distinct danger that this rather stately thoroughfare may become over-populated.

While Gordon Avenue was undoubtedly named after its chief benefactor - Frederick Gordon - it is interesting to note that another Gordon is vaguely associated with a nearby area.  He was the half-madman.  Lord George Gordon who led an ignorant, plundering mob in 1780 in what were known as the "No Popery Riots". For five days London was terrorised and, the authorities gaining the upper hand, the mob fled for their lives.  Some of them took refuge in Harrow Weald where they were eventually captured and duly paid the price at Newgate.  When some old cottages were demolished near "the Duck" before the last war, old muskets and evil looking knives were discovered in the chimneys; they are thought to have been some of the weapons possessed by Lord George Gordon's mob.

To return to the subject of Gordon Avenue, many well-known persons have resided in the handsome properties which nestle in the shadow of the trees and none more famous than Roger Moore of film and television.  Roger's fame became international when he was engaged in "The Saint" television series and more recently he has assumed the role of James Bond in the lan Fleming 007 epics.  He lived happily at number 58 Gordon Avenue for several years with his beautiful Italian wife and family (his previous marriage with singer Dorothy Squires ended in divorce) but in 1971 the family moved to a new residence in Denham.

Quite apart from the interesting residents which it has harboured, Gordon Avenue has a pleasing character all its own, one which adds charm and elegance to the area.