Volume 5 - From Stanmore Common to Chandos Country

R S Brown, 1976

pages 10, 11

Stanmore Hill

As we leave the area of the Common, the road bends sharply to the right and the first buildings are encountered on the outskirts of Stanmore.  To the right once stood the Stanmore Brewery owned by Thomas Clutterbuck, which supplied beer to the family’s public houses until the first world war.  To the left is a reservoir, now used for fishing, which once provided the main water supply for the Parish. 

The road then turns slightly to the left and begins to slope gently; on the left is the old Vine Inn.  Opposite is Hill House, now converted into flats but once occupied by Dr Samuel Parr and later by a Mr Fortnum.  Dr Parr, who was a master at Harrow School, failed to gain the vacant headmaster’s post and showed his annoyance by opening a rival establishment in 1771.  The venture was unsuccessful and he left the district to become an assistant master in Surrey.

As the traveller begins to ascend Stanmore Hill, the impression may be gained that much of the old surroundings have remained undisturbed.  Certainly there are some sections of the road where the more ancient buildings have survived but a closer look will reveal that, in addition to numerous houses which were built in the nineteen thirties, (easily identified by their Tudor design) large plots are dominated by very modern flats and houses.  This steady encroachment by developers has been only partially retarded by several preservation orders which apply to some areas and properties adjoining the Hill.  It is interesting to read the impressions gained by Frank Green and Dr Sidney Wolff in a book they wrote jointly about London suburbs over 40 years ago.  They described Stanmore as 'remarkably beautiful and picturesque, enjoying bracing and invigorating air with many fine estates in the course of construction’.  They referred to Stanmore Hill as 'a magnificent ascent up to Bushey Heath from which glorious and extensive views can be obtained’.

One building now listed as being of special and historical interest is Stanmore Hall, sited beyond the Vine, bordering Wood Lane (which takes its name from surrounding woodland).  The Hall last housed staff from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital but now stands empty.  Hall Farm and gardens once occupied the horse-shoe shaped area between Wood Lane and Dennis Lane but Little Common, to the north of this site has changed very little: Spring Pond and the reservoir opposite the one-time Warren House continue to give pleasure to local fishermen.

Warren House is now called Springbok House and has been adapted to provide a home for elderly residents.  The large estate in which the House stands was bought from the last owner, Sir John Fitzgerald, by Middlesex County Council.  Sir John also owned property in Ireland and brought over a herd of Kerry cows to supply milk locally; he played golf on his own 9 hole course and held frequent fox and rabbit shoots on the estate.

Returning to Stanmore Hill we now find the descent is sharper and more hazardous; in bygone days this slope created serious problems for heavily laden horse-drawn carts, particularly in wet weather when the surface became slippery and treacherous.  Drivers of early motor cars tackled this hill with serious trepidation and some vehicles were fitted with a trailing rod which could be lowered to make contact with the road and prevent backsliding.  A flock of sheep being driven to Watford market could sometimes cause a minor traffic jam and provoke an exchange of unprintable language between opposing parties.

One delightful corner which has survived 20th century development almost intact can be seen at the junction with Green Lane.  A large section of this area, including the old properties in Green Lane north of Wallon Cottage, numbers 73 to 131 on the Hill, and the Abercorn Arms, form the Stanmore Hill Conservation Area, effective since 1974.

Unfortunately it is quite impossible in this brief glimpse to mention all the properties on Stanmore Hill, whether past or present, and we now find ourselves all too quickly approaching the base of the gradient.  On the left where there were once peaceful meadows Stanmore Recreation Ground now provides a pleasant area for morning walks with the dog or excursions with a pram.  On the opposite side was once Sharp’s sweet shop, offering local children an amazing choice of confectionery for a halfpenny while on the other corner which turns into the Broadway, were several old houses and the ancient Buckingham Cottage.  The modern row of shops built in very recent times, perpetuate the name of the old cottage with the designation of Buckingham Parade.

A fine old Regency-style property called Elm House stands proudly on a corner site but modern property development is gradually surrounding it and large blocks of red bricked flats on the other side of the road now dominate this area.  The lower end of Stanmore Hill is indeed a strange mixture of ancient and modern but one wonders how much of the past will still remain a decade from now.