Volume 9 - Kenton Hamlet and District

R S Brown, 1979

page 28, 29

Woodcock Hill

Woodcock Hill is the southern ' leg' of the crossroad with Kenton Lane and Kenton Road: in this volume the highway was previously referred to as Woodcock Hill Lane, the name by which it was known until the 1920's.  'Woodcock' is derived from the old English word, 'Woodcot' (meaning a dweller at a cottage in or near a farm) and Woodcock Hill is associated with an old farm of that name known to have existed since the mid-l7th century - although early records describe it as 'Ruff Leas Farm'.  The farm buildings were demolished in the late 1950's to be replaced by numbers 60 and 62 in The Ridgeway once the home of Costin the builder.

The inclusion of the word 'Hill' in the title is not a misnomer since the highway climbs a pronounced rise in the terrain before dropping away and turning sharply towards the east in the direction of Preston.  Incidentally, when one crosses from Kenton Lane into Woodcock Hill the local authority changes from Harrow to Brent - although somewhat unaccountably, Woodcock Hill remains within the Harrow postal district.  In olden times the overriding authority of the Parish was less confusing than the varying boundaries of boroughs, postal districts, wards and parishes of the 20th century.

Before 1930 two footpaths provided alternative routes to Woodcock Hill Lane.  One started from Kenton Grange and travelled almost parallel with the Lane, crossing open meadows for almost a mile before ending at a stile on the outskirts of neighbouring Preston.  The other turned westwards before reaching a location with the charming name of Woodcock Dell, and then snaked away across fields to Harrow on the Hill - the direction now followed by The Ridgeway and Northwick Avenue.  This was the route that John Lyon, founder of Harrow School in the reign of Elizabeth I, walked along every Sunday on his way to St Mary's on the summit of Harrow Hill.

The country crossed on the approach to Harrow Hill was once the extensive acreage of Sheepcote Farm: subsequently a golf course sprawled across this land but hospital buildings and a college later replaced tees and bunkers.  But an extensive open space called Northwick Park still remains.

Returning for a moment to Woodcock Dell, an old farm residence at this location was demolished in the 1930's to make way for a new residential estate built by Costin and Comben and Wakeling.  In the first quarter of this century a muddy pond adjoined land owned by the Metropolitan Railway on which a pig farm did little to improve the smell of the countryside.  A small 'cattle creep' went under the nearby railway line in the direction of what is now Windermere Avenue.

Fields on the flanks of Woodcock Hill Lane well known to be well stocked with small game and the region was therefore plagued with poachers (frequently of gypsy origin): more respectable and sometimes well-known personalities - such as Freddie Grisewood, the broadcaster, - admit to some shooting in this area as youngsters.  Drag hunting was organised during Christmas and farmers arranged pigeon shoots during seasonal breaks in the agricultural programme.  Clay pigeon shooting was another variation on the same theme: 'pigeons were ejected from the top of a wooden tower sited to the south of a position between Kenton Station and Woodcock Hill Lane.  Well into the 1920's Woodcock Hill Lane continued to be a favourite location for blackberrying and picking wild roses.

St John's United Free Church - built in 1934 - stands half-way up the incline: its large Presbyterian congregation has so far resisted affiliation with the Methodists, an arrangement which has been otherwise adopted nationally.  As a hall for worshippers was built in 1930, the church celebrates its golden jubilee in 1980 and special events have been arranged each month during the year including concerts by orchestras and the choir, dances, fetes and sermons by visiting clergymen.

The modern image of Woodcock Hill and the surrounding highways is that of a highly residential but desirable location: an agent's brochure of 1933 expressed suitable sentiments when it said, "Perhaps the most favoured and best part of the whole residential area (between Hendon and Harrow) is that of Woodcock Hill, which is the highest point and about 300 feet above sea level.  Here the air is invigorating and the climate dry; it is remarkably free from all dampness and fogs with delightful views of the surrounding country.

"Many splendid residences have been erected in this part: this select locality is but eight minutes walk from the Metropolitan railway stations of Northwick Park and Kenton from which a fast and continuous service of trains carry one to the heart of London in comfort and speed.  Within a few minute walk there is the splendid service of buses to Hendon, Harrow, Wembley and all parts.  Many excellent shops have been erected in the neighbourhood and amusement, sport and education are well provided for.

"In 1914 it was mainly open country but the surrounds are still very rural and of a most delightful character - thriving, prosperous and exceedingly healthy."