Volume 4 - Wealdstone and its Victorian Highways

R S Brown, 1976

pages 30, 31, 32, 33

Headstone Drive

So far in this volume the narratives have been concerned with Wealdstone High Street and the highways to the west of it.  We now move across the main road for the first time to talk about one of the most important thoroughfares in the town, both for historical and industrial reasons; this highway is, of course Headstone Drive.  The main connection of this Drive with history arises through its proximity to Headstone Manor - but we shall have more to say about this later.

Headstone Drive was included in an Ordnance Survey of the mid-1860's when it was a tree-lined avenue which started from Wealdstone High Street and passed under the railway to form a 'T' junction with a track which linked Pinner Road with Headstone Manor (later designated as Pinner View).  At this point there were toll gates (which is thought to be the reason why the highway is called a 'drive') giving access to a spinney, on the other side of which was a race track for horses: this was eventually closed because of the riotous behaviour of the punters.

Returning to the High Street end of Headstone Drive, there was a row of Victorian houses situated on the left hand side of Headstone Drive (from the present location of the main post office to the railway bridge) called Alexandra Terrace.  The builder (named Tirpy) dedicated them to his prematurely deceased child, Alexandra, but they were torn down some years ago to make way for modern shops.  On the other side of the highway a brick-making industry flourished in the last century, this was replaced during the first world war by a coal dump and later still by an unprepossessing row of shops.  Farther along, just before Cecil Road, was a nunnery.

Beyond the bridge were three detached villas on one side of the Drive and two pairs of semi-detached houses on the other: they were built by a local magistrate named Lilley who resided in one of the villas called The Chestnuts.  The smaller houses disappeared when Kodak extended its premises and the villas were demolished in the 1930's.  The last of the latter to survive, called Tyneholm, was used as a home for waifs and strays.  Thanks to the efforts of its founder, Dr Barbara Tchaykousky, a new nursery school - the first in Middlesex - was built in 1939 at the rear of the old house (which was later demolished), retaining the name, Tyneholm.

At the end of the last century Headstone Drive was an aggregate-surfaced track with high banks on both sides, between which water gathered in wet weather causing severe flooding.  In winter the water froze and local youngsters turned the Drive into a skating rink.  There is a theory that the banks were formed by surplus soil dug from the moat around Headstone Manor Farm (still known to local people as Moat Farm). Kodak and surrounds

In those days the Goodwill public house was nearer to Wealdstone in Rokeby Road which was also later engulfed by Kodak Ltd, the public house then moved to its present site at the Harrow View crossroad.

Early this century the fields on the north side of Headstone Drive were giving way to various factories and works, Kodak was already established and next door was David Allan's printing works (from 1896 to 1918), currently occupied by a department of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Between 1925 and 1927 the land on the left, beyond the bridge, became the site for the Marlborough housing estate.  In an attempt to raise housing standards in a district which was largely working class, the builder gave the highways somewhat noble names such as Kings Way, Queens Way, Prince's Drive, Earl's Crescent and Duke's Avenue.  There was further housing development along the road during the 1930's and throughout this century growth has kept pace with the expansion of industry.  The best example is the vast Kodak complex in Headstone Drive where, in 1891, a site was purchased covering seven acres and employment was provided for a few hundred hands: by the first world war the acreage had been extended to thirty acres giving employment for 800 people.  Forty years later numerous factory buildings were covering 55 acres with a workforce of about five and a half thousand.  Further historical details about Kodak Limited are contained in an appendix to this narrative.

At this point in our story we must move on to Headstone Manor Farm from which our Drive takes its name.  Headstone is derived from a Saxon word Hegeston (there were other variations) and it is the name of the house which has stood on the estate since the 14th century.  It is said (without foundation) that Archbishop Becket stayed at Headstone in 1170 and that Wolsey resided there during the period he was Rector of Harrow.  What is known for certain (from existing documents) is that the estate was purchased by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1344, who was followed in 1397 by Archbishop Thomas Arundel.  The estate appears to have been surrendered to the King by Archbishop Cranmer in 1545, since which time various well-known households had been in residence, the last being the Hall family.

Because of its convenient situation in relation to Harrow and the adjoining countryside, earlier private owners remodelled the Manor as a farmhouse and several spacious outbuildings were added, two of which - including the Great Barn - still exist.

The Manor House is of unique 14th century, timber-framed construction, only part of the original building remains, including the manorial hall, since various alterations were made in subsequent centuries.  Although the original characteristics of the building have been substantially altered, a recent reporton the condition of the building states that 'it is a house of outstanding importance ... within the fabric of which are first class examples of high quality work'.

Harrow Council took over responsibility for the Manor House in 1928 but unfortunately the neglect of previous owners and the apathetic attitude of local residents towards the question of its preservation during the past half century has resulted in serious deterioration of some unoccupied portions of the building.  Currently there are signs of public anxiety to preserve the building and the council recently upgraded the house as a Listed Building.


Brief History of Kodak Limited

The largest employer of local labour is Kodak Limited.  This vast photographic plant which fronts on to Headstone Drive has been a tremendous asset to the working population of Wealdstone and has undoubtedly been an important factor in the maintenance of the reasonable living standards which have prevailed for the majority of local families for more than three generations.

This great company was formed by George Eastman, born in 1854 in the village of Waterville, New York, to parents of modest means.  He began life as a boy messenger at three dollars a week and graduated to the position of bank clerk in Rochester.  He took up photography as a hobby when a mass of cumbersome equipment was needed to produce a picture but, based on information he read in British magazines, he experimented with various emulsions with a view to producing 'dry' plates.

He started his own dry plate business in 1880 and went on to invent the first emulsioned paper.  By 1891 lightweight cameras and spooled, transparent films were on the market.  The new technique enabled complete amateurs to assume the mantle of competent photographers and minor establishments all over the world were able to develop and print films.

Both the movie film industry and the medical world have benefitted immensely from Eastman's perseverance.  He was a very philanthropical businessman and gave huge sums of money to technical, musical and medical institutions in America.  He also introduced modern large-scale production methods with shared earnings for his workers.  He died in 1932 having given away more than one hundred million dollars.

The Harrow branch of Kodak was started in 1891 with the famous slogan, 'You press the button - we do the rest' (see photograph on page 26 ).  Nearly 13,000 people are now employed in Wealdstone, Stevenage, Hemel Hempstead and Kirkby near Liverpool.  There are other plants in Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, not forgetting the headquarters at Rochester in the United States.

Kodak is planning a long-term development on a 230 acre site near the village of Annesley, about fifteen miles north of Nottingham.  The project involves the construction of an industrial building with a capacity of 350,000 square feet.  If planning permission is granted, it will be one of the biggest developments ever undertaken in Nottinghamshire by a single firm.  Annesley is included in the Mansfield-Alfreton growth zone and is also part of an intermediate development area.