pages 36 and 37
In the foregoing pages of this volume and in the earlier Volume I, a total of twenty-nine narratives have been written about the highways in the Harrow Weald district. It is fitting that the last highway story in this volume should be about the premier thoroughfare of our district, namely Harrow Weald High Road which is part of the A409. Unfortunately the limitation of space means that inevitably we cannot do full justice to this important road but we shall at least attempt to touch on some of the more salient features.
For many scores of years there has been some sort of thoroughfare tapering from the Harrow Road and winding through Wembley, Harrow, Wealdstone, Harrow Weald and Bushey Heath, leading ultimately on to routes directed towards the Midlands and the North.
For a great many years it was probably a track through forests but this eventually matured into an ever-widening lane through farmlands. Much of it penetrated desolate areas which were inhabited by robbers and highwaymen. It is known for instance, that Harrow Weald Lodge in Uxbridge Road, adjacent to Brooks Hill (which is on the route continuing north from the High Road) was a coaching inn in Elizabethan days. There are other ancient inns and hotels along the route towards London including 'The Hare' (which was built in the 19th century and replaced an older public house which stood in Clamp Hill), the 'Alma', the 'Red Lion', 'The Case is Altered', the 'Queens Arms' and the 'Kings Head' up on the hill.
Whilst highways of some importance were developing in Harrow and Wealdstone during the latter part of Victoria's reign, it was not until this century that the road through Harrow Weald began to take on the appearance of a real thoroughfare. Older residents can still remember the stretch from the top of Brooks Hill (near The Hare) down to the recreation ground when it was not much more than a narrow road which was sunken below the level of the surrounding countryside. The level was eventually raised as development progressed but the general widening of the High Road was not accomplished until 1937.
At the turn of the century there were no buildings between Hall's Corner (which was named after a former occupant of the Lodge to Harrow Weald Park) and the Alma public house - then managed by the Luff family. Mr Luff had been coachman to the Grinling family at 'The Chestnuts'. The previous landlords included a Mr G. Wright and a Mr Smith.
There was an old dust shoot on the site of the Memorial Hall where horse-drawn carts unloaded. Later this location was purchased through the efforts of James Colmer Rackham, a local resident who had served the community well, having been on the Parish Council for thirty years. With little more than a high degree of dedication he succeeded, along with other enthusiastic residents, in building the Memorial Hall and club rooms. He died in May 1935 and was much missed.
Continuing down the road there was a coal shed on the right where the bus garage is now situated. In passing, it is worth mentioning that the site of Perry Motor Showroom was originally owned by the partnership of Parr and Burch; they later separated but Parr operates the Broadway garage in the High Road and started a coach service at the top of Kenton Lane (which he recently sold up).
In those early days the few shops; alongside the garage consisted of a butcher's (owned by W.E. Smith who also had a farm in Boxtree Lane); a second-hand fumiture shop managed by a Mr Dell, and a confectioner's which was the property of P.G.A. Walk. Then there was Wilcox the greengrocer (see photographs numbers 11 and 12 in centre pages).
On the other corner of College Road was (and still is) the 'Red Lion'. At least three public houses have existed on this site, the earliest of which goes back to the mid-eighteenth century period (see photographs numbers 13 and 14 in centre pages). William Henry Smith built the second inn and it was he who discovered the famous Weald Stone in the old foundations which he embedded on the comer of the new inn. Mr Thomas Blackwell took over the business in 1892 but shortly afterwards sold out to the brewers, Benskins, who built the present pub in 1935. The Weald Stone now stands forward of the building at the foot of the signpost.*
Closely connected with this area is the long established local family called Gunn. In the latter part of the last century 'Pistol' Gunn, a farmer in College Hill Road (it is thought to have been called Hamilton Farm) and he took over the 'Duck in the Pond' in 1907 from the Willoughbys (referred to in the Mountside narrative). He had a brother 'Bluey', and eight children (five daughters and three sons), some of whom emigrated to Australia. One son, Dick, was in charge of transport at Kodak and another, Walter, was a cartage contractor who kept his horses and carts on the land situated behind the 'Red Lion' where new flats have recently been built in College Avenue.
Walter Gunn lived in a house called 'Kymberley' in College Road and his widow, Mrs A.L. Gunn, now in her eighties, still resides locally, adjacent to the house of her daughter, Mrs E.A. Massey. The Masseys have a daughter, Julia, and a son, Douglas. The latter has followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, 'Pistol', and manages a 76-acre farm on the Grimsdyke Estate in Old Redding.
On the opposite side of the High Road to the 'Red Lion' was Currant's Farm which extended across the fields to Hatch End and later became part of Anthony's Dairy business (see photographs numbers 7 and 8 in centre pages). Leading into the farm was Weald Lane which is the subject of an earlier narrative in this volume. Returning to the other side where there is now a petrol filling station and shops was the cottage occupied for many years by Mr and Mrs Andrews, parents of George Arliss.* The latter lived at St. Margaret's Bay before be became an international film actor. The cottage was demolished in 1937 when the High Road was widened but some of the timbers were used to help renovate Harrow Weald House Farm in Elms Road. Next to the cottage was the entrance to Anthony's Dairy Shop and one could occasionally see farm girls carrying milk in buckets supported by yokes across their shoulders. After passing the local Smithy (a Mr Day) and his shop*, there were a few isolated houses (including those belonging to families named Curry and Catesby) and on a site opposite Meadow Way an architect, by the name of H. G. Assiter, was housed. He served on the Parish Council and was also Vicar's Warden at All Saints Church where he died suddenly during a Harvest Festival Service in September 1944.
A little farther on we enter into Wealdstone High Street, details of which we hope to include in a later volume. The 1930's saw the erection of many new shops along the stretch of road we have been discussing; this was a necessary adjunct to the population explosion in Harrow Weald. Whilst these shops are mainly small businesses, they do provide an alternative for the housewife who does not wish to make her purchases further down the road in the more competitive atmosphere of Wealdstone.
Various other interesting aspects of the High Road should be mentioned, but for the present this story must suffice until we embark upon a new series of narratives in Volume III.
Thank you for your interest and attention.
(* see photograph on page 27)