The discerning reader may have noticed that the sub-title for this series - 'Histories of Harrow Weald Highways' - as applied to Volumes I and II, has been changed on this occasion to 'Histories of Harrow Highways'. It is no longer correct to put the emphasis on 'Harrow Weald' when about half the space in this book is devoted to highways in Stanmore. This may encourage prospective readers living in other areas of Harrow to add their names to our mailing list.
When Volume I was published in 1974, the Bishop Ken Residents' Association could not have envisaged the enthusiasm with which the publication would be received, nor that the series would apparently become a permanent feature with a new volume issuing about every six months. It remains to be seen whether the momentum can be maintained at the same pace, for as the author 'ventures' into areas beyond Harrow Weald research becomes more prolonged and difficult.
Another problem is the cost factor: whilst it is important to keep the price of copies at the lowest possible level, the incredible effect of inflation from which the country is suffering makes life difficult for publishers. So far the price for all three volumes has been held at 30p; the more copies sold, the more likelihood there is of a price increase being avoided.
Apart from a donation of ten per cent of any proceeds which may accrue being made to the funds of the Association, any remaining surplus is 'ploughed back' towards the cost of the next volume.
It is very gratifying that two volumes of the series have been published in 1975. This year is rather special being officially termed 'European Architectural Heritage Year': our main intention in this series is directed towards making people aware of their Harrow Heritage. Progress is all very well but culturally and architecturally there is much we have inherited from the past for which we should be grateful. The most sobering thought to occur to one is that when an ancient building or tree is destroyed - possibly of historic or aesthetic value - the astronomical costs of the 1970s make a desirable replacement almost impossible. 'Conservation' therefore becomes an increasingly important word.
If the developers are allowed to have their way for purely commercial purposes, there may be no architectural heritage available for future generations. We cannot prevent progress and change - but let us keep a sense of proportion and appreciation.
Introductions in the two previous volumes outlined interesting facets of Middlesex history, particularly those aspects which affected highway development. On this occasion basic information in the briefest terms is included about the way the pattern of civic control in the county has formulated through the centuries. It may help to get in perspective changes which have radically affected the course of history.
As previously mentioned, before the arrival of the Romans, much of the area to the north west of London was covered by thick forests and it was not until the Saxons arrived about 750 A.D. that the history of Middlesex began to evolve. The word 'Middlesex' is derived from the Middle Saxons who were located between the East Saxons of Essex and the early Saxon colonies on both sides of the Middle Thames. The county may originally have been a fragment of larger territory.
At a later date Middlesex did in fact become grouped with Essex and Hertfordshire when the method of manorial nomenclature was common to all three. In 1066 the Normans became the masters and William the Conqueror (who drew up the Domesday Book) introduced the feudal system to the populace of Middlesex: Harrow (then called Herges) belonged to Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury.
For the next five hundred years the people of the county were subjected to manorial domination until the dissolution in the 16th century when the monasteries and manors surrendered to Henry VIII. He gave the lands to his favoured subjects who later rented off sections to wealthy 'tenant' families.
About the middle of the 18th century the working people suffered a serious blow to their living and freedom when large scale enclosure of common lands was introduced under a special Act. The farmers of Middlesex succeeded in warding off the effects for a while but by 1800, the enclosure of eleven Middlesex parishes had been achieved and by 1825 another thirty-one parish lands had been enclosed.
In the meantime the one-time tenants had acquired possession of their estates and in Victorian times became known as the 'Squires'. Both they and their farmers enjoyed considerable affluence up until the third quarter of the 19th century when cheaper farm produce began to arrive in England in large quantities from the continent.
The squire-farmer relationship continued to survive, however, until the first two decades of the 20th century when an army of land developers arrived in Middlesex in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The attractive offers they made enabled them to purchase large areas of Middlesex and before the onset of the last war hundreds of farms had been eradicated by suburbia as we now know it.
It is difficult to realise that residents of Harrow Weald, Stanmore and Kenton are living in areas which, fifty years ago, consisted almost entirely of farmlands. Where were all the farms situated then? Are there any left? As these are questions which must occur to the reader, space has been devoted in this volume to the provision of a map (on page 6) indicating the farms which existed earlier this century and the few which still remain. There are also photographs of some farms on pages 7, 8 and 9.
The point has of course been made many times in this series, that the image of the above-mentioned areas in the late 1920s and early 1930s underwent a drastic change from rural, agricultural countryside to heavily populated, residential townships and many roads were either rebuilt or newly-made, ultimately producing the complex pattern of highways which now straddle most of the Borough of Harrow.