Harrow Highways - Volume 1
R S Brown, 1974.
pages 5, 6, 7.
Number two in this series is concerned with the oldest and longest thoroughfare in the district within which our Association operates - namely, Kenton Lane. Not surprisingly "the Lane" is most closely connected with Kenton, the town from which it stems and it is known that this region was inhabited over 2,000 years ago. The first reference to Kenton was made in 1232 when it was known as Keninton.
Kenton Lane has associations with an old trackway which crossed the Thames at Westminster, passed through Old Willesden, travelled along Kingsbury Lane and up Salmon Street, skirted Barn Hill and ran on to Kenton. It then continued to Kingsbury, along Honeypot Lane, Marsh Lane and Dennis Lane, terminating at Brockley Hill. This track was trodden by the feet of Ancient Britons, Romans and Saxons on their way from the Kentish ports to the Midlands and the North.
It would be a prolonged undertaking to unfold the history of Kenton Lane through the ages and so we shall begin our story about this interesting thoroughfare in the early 19th century when the areas of Kenton and Harrow Weald were mainly farmlands. At this point in time Kenton Lane wound through the countryside from the village of Kenton to the farmlands of William Brockhurst, after whom Brockhurst Corner was named. Harrow Weald had a modest population of about 2,000 at this time.
Old maps denote that in the middle of the 19th century, Kenton Lane was, as it still is, the main artery of the Harrow Weald and Kenton countryside. In those days it could be quite a wild and desolate place and one could travel the full length of the Lane without meeting any life other than the birds. At the Harrow Weald end was a group of dwellings clustered around the foot of the Mount where the "Duck in the Pond" is situated (see photograph numbers 3 and 15 in centre pages). This included a farm which was to become later known as Rose Farm (on the site of which are now flats). At the Kenton end there were about a dozen dwellings grouped together around Kenton Lodge; in between these two points there was New College Farm (then known as Harrow Farm) and Kenton Lane Farm; part of the latter still exists. The only traces which still remain of that old Kenton Lane image are the fields on the right of the road as one crosses the bridge which leads to Belmont Circle. Suburbia has completely swamped all other evidence of the old Lane.
Kenton Lane’s dominant role continued well into the 20th century and it is interesting to note that the present more modern highway follows precisely the original route of the Lane. At the turn of the century, Harrow and the growing suburban areas around the Hill were very much on the map but the only highly residential district North of the London and North Western Railway was Wealdstone, which had virtually attained its present size by 1914.
There was little growth in the area during the post-war years but in the 1930s, Kenton Lane attracted the attention of speculators and farmlands which had been of very little intrinsic value before suddenly changed hands for thousands of pounds as builders stepped in to purchase the land for development. Many fortunes were made by local people during this decade.
Harrow Weald and Kenton were completely transformed during the middle and early thirties with many minor turnings sprouting from Kenton Lane and suburbia as we now know it was born. The "Duck in the Pond" was enlarged and "The Belmont" was built about this time. Residents also saw their one and only cinema erected - the "Plaza" (later named the "Essoldo" ) - although there was the "Herga" and the "Odeon" down in the High Road. All three have now disappeared and the "Essoldo" which lasted the longest, came to an ignominious end in favour of a 1970 supermark and betting shop. Kenton Lane can however, still boast a farm, a public library, three public houses, three filling stations, a civic hall - and the site of a derelict railway station! (See photograph number 4 in centre pages).
The oldest public house in Kenton Lane is the "Seven Balls" situated opposite the junction with Gordon Avenue. Despite recent alterations to the interior, the external appearance has changed little over the years and the reader may be surprised to learn that before the first world war there was a bus service from the "Seven Balls" to Charing Cross in London (see photograph number 5 in centre pages). The service was stopped after protests were made by the residents of Gordon Avenue, along which the buses began and ended their journeys.
Rose Farm flats were completed at the outbreak of war and until recently there had been only a very limited amount of building since hostilities ended. The maisonette on the corner of College Hill Road and the home for elderly people (Vernon Lodge) opposite the "Duck in the Pond" are more recent additions. Speculators are, however, re-entering the "arena" and are making attractive offers to property owners in Kenton Lane with generous allocations of land to encourage them to move out and allow the bulldozers to move in. This is very much the case in the stretch of land between The Avenue junction and the "Seven Balls".
It is a pity that more time and attention is not being given to the redevelopment of Kenton Lane itself for while the highway may have been adequate in the 1930s, the additional weight of traffic now using it, highlights its deficiencies, particularly at the point where it joins Brockhurst Corner.
Although at the time of writing in 1974, the situation at the junction with Uxbridge Road has been slightly improved with the installation of a "mini-roundabout", much still remains to be done if Kenton Lane is not to be the scene of frequent and frightening road accidents.
Traffic which finally succeeds in negotiating Brockhurst Corner then proceeds with all haste down the hill to the "Duck in the Pond", a black spot for accidents. Various road markings and signs at this crossroad (with Mountside and College Hill Road) have not proved to be the answer to the problem. If the other end of Vernon Drive is ever joined up with Wemborough Road, traffic lights will be a 'must’ at this crossroad. Members who live in Kenton Lane between Brockhurst Corner and the "Duck in the Pond" take their lives in their hands when they attempt to back their cars through the garden gates and into the Lane. Belmont Circle slows down the pace of traffic and two sets of traffic lights en route to Kenton Road regulate the flow of cars to a more orderly procession.
Some older residents no doubt long for those bygone days before the peace and serenity of this one-time beautiful Lane were shattered by the onslaught of civilisation, 20th century style.