Volume 9 - Kenton Hamlet and District
R S Brown, 1979
pages 36, 37
Queensbury, situated between Kenton and Burnt Oak, is a product of suburbanisation and, as such, does not have any previous history; but most of the new highways were constructed on the site of Stag Lane aerodrome - and thereby hangs another story....
A man named William Warren was invited to visit a Paris aircraft show before the first world war and subsequently constructed a 'plane, taught himself to fly and formed a flying school at Hendon aerodrome. In 1917 the government took over the aerodrome but, undeterred, Warren formed a partnership with his son-in-law, Smiles, and found a suitable field in Stag Lane to further their interests. Operating under contract and with the help of Warren's two sons, William and Harold, they taught some 500 Royal Flying Corps officers to become pilots after only 2 1/2 hours individual instruction. Although the 'planes were very primitive (see photograph in centre pages), only one fatal accident was experienced.
After the war Warren designed an aeroplane which he had hoped to sell but failure to obtain an air worthiness certificate foiled this venture and he was similarly unsuccessful when he diversified into the manufacture of first, furniture and later, confectionery. Warren left his home in Edgware to retire to Brightlingsea, leasing Stag Lane aerodrome to a Captain de Havilland, who opened an aircraft factory in 1920 with a capital of £20,000.
The following year Warren insisted that De Havilland should buy the aerodrome - or move out - but the latter was saved from financial embarrassment by a wealthy young man named Alan Butler, who later became a director: Alan Cobham later joined the company and made several spectacular flight around the world.
Following De Havilland's involvement in government-sponsored competitions for light aircraft, he went on to design the famous 'Moth' and started the London Aeroplane Club in 1925 where several famous fliers 'gained their wings' including Amy Johnson, Mrs Elliott Lynn (later Lady Heath) and Pauline Gower (of flying circus fame).
Stag Lane aerodrome, sold by Warren in 1921, continued to function until 1934 when the club and aircraft factory moved to Hatfield, leaving only the engines to be manufactured at Stag Lane. In the same year a new railway station was opened nearby called Queensbury - no doubt because this name paired up nicely with Kingsbury, the next station down the line.
With the closure of the aerodrome, developers moved in to purchase a large acreage which included surrounding farmland also belonging to De Havilland.
Queensbury was to follow a suburban pattern which had been established in the 1930's when many new townships were concentrated in the vicinity of a traffic roundabout. In addition to a railway station there was usually a cinema, public house, post office and numerous shops with flats on the floors above. Those amenities were provided at Queensbury - as they were at several other nearby locations, including Belmont, Kingsbury and Northwood Hills. An interesting comparison may be made with the old village centres which invariably included a church, one or more public houses, a blacksmith, a dairy or farm entrance for milk and a general store.
While the Queensbury building site had been recovered from Stag Lane aerodrome, Queensbury Park virtually emerged from a sewage farm and refuse tip. Roxbourne Park and Newton Park were similarly superimposed upon such sites and it is difficult to imagine that these pleasant open spaces - which provided ornamental flower beds, modern pavilions, children's playgrounds, sports pitches and tennis courts - were once unsightly dumping areas.
Over one thousand houses were erected on the old aerodrome site in the mid-1930's by Metropolitan Builders Limited for the Sharon Development Company. The agents were Hilbery Chaplin & Co. This was an instance where the three main operators in the sphere of building - developers, builders and estate agents - worked in unison. On other occasions a developer would decide to handle all aspects of the project himself; but it was usual for both developers and builders to rely upon the services of local agents to publicise and sell the newly-built houses.
The main highway feature of Queensbury is Beverley Drive, a fine residential boulevard, eighty feet in width, which links Stag Lane with the shopping centre, railway station and cinema (the latter being subjected to the indignity of a bingo venue before being demolished for replacement by council flats).
The building and civil engineering firm of John Laing* undertook a substantial part of the development in Queensbury. Not only was Queensbury added to Laing's list of some ten housing estates** which were being developed in north west London in the 1930's (designed largely by Geddes Hyslop, Arthur W. Kenyon and Frances Barker) but two factory sites were provided together with some 80 shops (with flats above) around the station area at the west end of Beverley Drive. This was the largest retail centre to be built by Laings at that time: each shop extended back 40 feet from the frontage with a similar space at the rear for a yard. They were offered to tradesmen on a 21 year lease at rents graded from £180 a year to £290. Thousands of semi-detached properties were built by Laings, and other firms to the east of the railway for prices ranging from £600-£800.
For information about the senior members of the Laing family, please see Page 33 of volume 3 (Sir John Laing): Page 35 of volume 3 (Sir Maurice Laing): Page 42 of volume 4 (Sir Kirby Laing). Sir John Laing died recently at his Mill Hill home not very far short of his 100th birthday.
** For details concerning Laing's Canons Park, estate in the London Borough of Harrow, please refer to pages 32-35 in volume 3.