Histories of Harrow Weald Highways - Volume 2
Ronald S Brown, 1974,

pages 1 and 2.

On the suburban trail again

A continuation to the series of narratives about 'Histories of Harrow Weald Highways'



The first volume of 'Histories of Harrow Weald Highways' (published in June 1974) was enthusiastically received by the residents of Harrow Weald and the surrounding areas.  The sixteen reproductions of rare photographs (some of which depicted views of the district as it was more than sixty years ago) stimulated the interest of newcomers to Harrow Weald in local history, whilst for older residents, reading the narratives revived nostalgic memories.

Many readers were of the opinion that, in the light of the information given inVolume I. the suburban!sat ion of the area was not necessarily a step in the rightdirection   In response to this view we would suggest that although it is pleasantto gaze upon and read about the area as it was earlier this century, it should beremembered that much privation was suffered by the residents of those days.  The bad state of the highways and byways (already mentioned in the previous volume )made progress from place to place extremely difficult and tiresome, especiallyduring the winter months.

We must also remember that tap water and adequate provision for sanitary facili-ties was very limited - and frequently unknown - in the farming areas until thethird decade of this century.  The acquisition of water was a major problem torfarm labourers living in the rural areas; they relied entirely upon local wells.

streams, springs and ponds for the supply of water for drinking and domesticpurposes.  Much of the power required for industry and agriculture (in mills andvarious works) was generated by water but it is less than a hundred years sincemany small townships were supplied with piped water.  For instance, the^ColneValley Water Company installed piped water for Harrow Weald in 1876, and adesperate need there was for a supply since such water that was available camemainly from ponds which were in a filthy condition and totally unsuitable forhuman use.  The lack of good water was a major cause of the low average age atthe time of death (tuberculosis, cholera and rickets were very prevalent diseasesjand to quote one example, the average age of 119 people buried in Harrow Wealdchurchyard during the ten years between 1847 and 1856 was 29.5 years.

Statistically this was broken down as follows: under one year of age. 29 deains,1 to 10 years. 19 deaths; 11 to 20 years, 13 deaths; 21 to 50 years, 22 deaths,over 51, 36 deaths.  Even in this century conditions were slow to improve and fewof the terraced houses and cottages built prior to the first world war wereinstalled with bathrooms, and water closets were invariably built outside in a wooden shelter with no facilities for flushing water.

The modernisation which began in the 1920's and was largely completed by the mid-1930's, did of course destroy much of the natural charm of the district but itwas replaced by facilities which made the life of local residents (and the manynewcomers who were moving into the district during that period) far more comfort-able and enjoyable.

Before we resume our surveys of local highways histories, some comments relatingto the now defunct County of Middlesex may be of interest to the reader.  TheDomesday Book divided the County into six areas called 'Hundreds' which weredesignated as Edmonton, Gore, Ossulstone, Eithome, Hounslow and Spelthome.

Harrow is situated in the Gore hundred.  Within these hundreds many residentialareas have developed both in the form of municipal townships and privately-builtestates but relatively few of the highways have been designated as roads orstreets.  They are more frequently described as avenues, closes, rows, ways,drives or lanes.  This rather rural approach to the description of suburban high-ways has helped to preserve the medieval nature of this very historical old County.

Although Middlesex could never boast the majestic scenery of some neighbouringcounties, her share of the Thames and the pleasant eastern ridge of gentle hillswhich stretch from Ealing in the South, through Harrow to Stanmore and Edgware,were features which attracted an elite, well-to-do populace from London in theMiddle Ages and continued on through Victoria's reign and into the first twodecades of this century.  Many fine houses were built by these wealthy inhabitants,typical of which is the Jacobean mansion at Swakeley's (now a sports centre forPost Office staff).

For many decades the flat land to the westward side of Middlesex had provided idealfacilities for an extensive trade in market gardening and the County also suppliedthe capital with corn, livestock and hay.  The heavy clay ground did however tendto hamper progress and the parishes remained mainly rural and somewhat backwarduntil the 19th century.  As the railways advanced the countryside gradually recededand with the suburb an is at ion of Middlesex in the early 1930's families of moremoderate means moved into the County in large numbers and the one-time nurserieswere replaced by modern smoke-free factories.

Despite this modernisation, there were serious efforts to retain many of themellow old buildings in the County and the introduction of the Green Belt to limitencroaching development was a scheme for which we residents of Harrow must beeternally grateful.

The contrasts in conditions are nevertheless very evident today: the countrysideand stately residences along the Hertfordshire border are outlined against thevast housing estates which stretch away to the south.  The ancient high streetsof Harrow and Pinner are now only a stone's throw from 20th century motorways andold churches, almshouses and moats shudder to the activity of nearby London AirportDespite the continuously changing scene which has been emphasised in the seventies, many foreign visitors (particularly our friends from the United States) exp** pleasant surprise at the impact which suburban London makes upon them; Harrcparticular, enjoys the uncrowded, rural atmosphere which the developers of 11930^ created, the generous open spaces which are available, and the closeimity of unspoiled countryside .'These are conditions which/foreign visitors cexpect to encounter in over-populated England. Both Council and populace mihowever take steps to ensure that the new era of redevelopment sweeping thrcHarrow does not destroy the well-spaced suburban planning which earlier dev<introduced.

To return to the immediate vicinity of New College Estate, Harrow Weald, wh:the starting point for our series of narratives, it is interesting to note 1the road names on that Estate have a distinctly alphabetical connotation, v:Adderley, Bishop Ken, Connaught, Dryden, Fisher and Hibbert. Adderley, Bisiand Dryden Roads were the subjects for narratives in the previous volume; t1remainder (together with several other highways) are discussed in this volui