R S Brown, 1976
pages 33, 34
There is something incredibly rural and homely about the name 'Honeypot Lane' and yet, in the late 20th century, it is an unsuitable and incongruous title for a highway which includes a dual carriageway for part of its length and many factory buildings along its eastern flank.
One explanation for its unusual name was given in volume 3 but a reader has reminded us that there is at least one other probable reason for the 'Honeypot' title. There was, and still is, an old country saying, "Stuck like bees on a honeypot", when referring to the effects of a strong adhesive. Villagers used this expression when describing Honeypot Lane during wet weather, at which times the sticky nature of the moist clay made it almost impassable. This theory is supported by the existence of another lane of the same name in Alperton, where similar conditions prevailed.
The history of this old lane stretches back over aeons of time; it has been trodden by the feet of armies, robbers and labourers - and even earlier by the Druids and possibly Stone Age men. It was a brief stage on the long route which connected Dover with Brockley Hill, before continuing on to Holyhead.
It is quite an awe-inspiring thought when one considers that this route, which was once a path, then a track and later a lane, had altered very little in concept for more than two thousand years - until suddenly, in the late 1930's, the whole scene began to change radically. Put another way, it means that the last forty years in which it has adopted the modern motor highway image represents less than one fiftieth of its known existence.
An interesting aspect of this revelation is that many residents who are not very much beyond the stage of middle age can clearly remember the old Honeypot Lane, which was alternately grassy and muddy, depending upon the season - and even with the advent of the 1930's - was still unmade. One resident described it as a "one cart track. Two carts could not pass unless the driver of one opened a gate and backed into a field".
The only signs of civilisation in its entire length were a few isolated cottages (four of which, namely Marsh Cottages, still remain near the 'Green Man'), a sewage farm and an isolation hospital, which later changed its function to that of a maternity centre.
The public house near the junction with Whitchurch Lane was built in the late 1930's but the previous establishment was more commonly known to the local residents as the 'Hog and Donkey'. Other long-standing public houses in the Lane are The Queen of Hearts' and 'The Honeypot'.
The 1931 edition of 'Metroland' contains some interesting comments about suburban London at that time; referring to Stanmore it says "Construction of a new branch railway line to Stanmore will begin at an early date … the line will branch off at Holland's Shooting grounds … skirt Uxendon Farm, cross and recross the Wealdstone Brook five times … then taking course due north past Gore Farm will run parallel with the unmetalled Honeypot Lane".
Before the area became suburbanised, brooks and ponds were visible in several places, but the most prominent was a stream which flowed over what is now a crossroad, from the corner where the sports ground is now sited, to the Whitchurch Lane junction with Honeypot Lane: it then joined up with the Edgware Brook, which is still exposed on that corner. It was necessary for traffic to ford the stream fifty years or more ago but the water is now culverted below the busy crossroad.
It was the late 1930's which brought the great changes to this ancient track and in the past forty years several hundred residential properties have been built along the old lane. But the unusual feature of this highway is the number and variety of factories which have come into being since the last war. Among the products which are made in Honeypot Lane are car, electrical and engineering parts, and bakery supplies. In addition there are all the 'ingredients' which go to make up a small town, including three shopping centres (at Stanmore, Queensbury and Kingsbury), four filling, stations, a library, clinic, mission hall, industrial estate, frozen food centre, government buildings, laboratories and a territorial army centre. The Ancient Britons and Romans never enjoyed facilities like that!
The highways of Kingsbury may one day be the subject for a separate volume in this series but there is sufficient space in this narrative to mention that this is the township situated at the other end of Honeypot Lane. Kingsbury too, has historical connections; the very name is Anglo-Saxon, denoting that it was once a Royal possession. Julius Caesar is reputed to have camped there after crossing the Thames and in more recent centuries several famous Middlesex families had their country seats in Kingsbury.
We have previously referred to the book written in the early 1930's by Messrs Green and Wolff and the following comments which they made about Kingsbury at that time are interesting.
"There have been striking changes in the district of Kingsbury during the last ten years: to give some idea of the popularity of this charming residential area, one can take the population as a guide - in 1921 it was 1,855, whereas in 1932 it is approximately 20,000 … The difference in these figures prove the remarkable progress which has taken place in Kingsbury.
"The parish is bounded by Hendon and Edgware on one side and Wembley and Harrow on the other. It has a delightful situation, being just off the beaten track. It still retains much of its rural charm, and many open spaces have been preserved charming surrounding country is within easy walking distance or a short bus ride. The town is now modern with well-laid out wide roads, irreproachable sanitation and cleanly kept.
"Living is very cheap, with a wonderful shopping area. There are splendid educational facilities, amusements, sports and recreations on all sides."
The inhabitants of the mid-1970's probably continue to regard Kingsbury as a 'charming residential area' but it is doubtful whether they would agree that 'living is very cheap'.