Volume 5 - From Stanmore Common to Chandos Country

R S Brown, 1976

pages 12, 13, 14

Church Road

At the foot of Stanmore Hill we approach what was - and still is - the very heart of the village; the Hill's junction with Church Road and The Broadway is now the scene of speeding vehicles restrained only by the changing traffic lights.  In the first quarter of this century it was a peaceful scene, typical of many other English villages, and the stretch of road between the base of the Hill and St John's Church was narrower and known to local residents as 'along the bottom'.

On the right as we turn into Church Road, a bank has replaced an ale-house called The Queen's Head (see photograph number 7 on page 22); in earlier days there was an old hostelry at this junction dating back to the time of Queen Anne.

Past the Queen's Head was the tea-garden of Zion House, an imposing, gabled building overgrown with virginia creeper - photograph number 10 provides an excellent view of this establishment.  Before the telephone exchange moved to Elm Park, a small switchboard was installed in the front room of a cottage in which 'Auntie' Moxon lived.  In the photograph the cottage is set back behind Zion House but the village grocery store - Bedford's - is clearly visible on the same side.

Farther down on the right was the large, walled garden of a house called 'The Elms', demolished shortly after the first world war; all that remains to remind us of this stately edifice is a tennis club of the same name with courts accessible from Pynnacles Close.  A few yards farther along, separated by an alleyway which led to stables, was the old 'Crown Hotel' replaced in the thirties by a later building.

A large site on the corner of Green Lane was occupied by the 'Pynnacles', once a Head Tenement of the Manor with grounds stretching up to Stanmore Hill.  Its final function was that of a school until it was destroyed by fire in 1930.  What was left of the building was demolished two years later when part of the land was acquired by Middlesex County Council in connection with a road-widening scheme in front of the Church site.  This area was at one time dominated by numerous majestic Elm Trees, many of which have disappeared, either because of highway development, or Dutch Elm disease.

Pynnacles Close, to which we have referred before, now penetrates the site of the old Head Tenement, providing access to a dozen modern properties which enjoy enviable seclusion away from the Church Road traffic jams.

One property which we have not yet mentioned is Regency House, situated about halfway along Church Road on the same side; this building has survived the intrusion of 20th century developers and is now sandwiched between two new shopping parades.  This charming old house at number 21 Church Road looks forlorn but triumphant; in more recent times a succession of residents have been members of the medical profession but in earlier days a Madame Snare presided and taught needlework to young ladies.  When Queen Adelaide lived at Bentley Priory, number 21 was a millinery establishment with a small shop window in the front of the house and a workshop at the rear.

The property is thought to have been named Regency House when, as an inn, it was honoured for one night with the presence of the Prince Regent.  The beer for his table was supplied by the Clutterbuck Brewery on Stanmore Hill.  The current owner has resisted attempts by developers intent on demolition but there have been legal problems since the deeds indicate that number 21 is half of a 'divided property, the other part being situated on Stanmore Hill.  Number 21 is now regarded as a 'scheduled building' but its future preservation depends upon the necessary level of repair being maintained and there is talk of it being covered by a trust arrangement.

It would appear that this single little house has - for better or worse - prevented the transition of Church Road from a highway to a pedestrian precinct.  An alternative traffic route was apparently planned by joining up Ray Court (off Stanmore Hill) with Pynnacles Close - but the garden of number 21 has effectively blocked the completion of such a scheme.

We must now retrace our steps to Stanmore Hill and cross to the other side of Church Road, where banks operate in buildings with Tudor facades; in distant days there was a row of cottages on the bend in this road, later converted into shops.  Passing the entrance to two stables, one would then have encountered the Fountain Inn (which fell to the bulldozers only a few years ago).  At one time a well had been sited in front of this establishment, but was buried at the beginning of this century when the Inn was rebuilt; the last proprietors were a Mr and Mrs Cox.

The pillared entrance to Elm Park was the next land mark and seventy years ago this area was a parking place for carriages from the big houses while their owners attended church.  This section of the road was dominated by a large chestnut tree which provided the villagers with welcome shelter from both rain and sun.

Many older residents of Stanmore can still remember the familiar names of small tradesmen along this side of the road who served the community so well; there was Ginns the bakers (with a small cafe for tea and cakes), Hammond's garage, Eastre the ironmongers, Bates the butcher and Savage the greengrocer.  There was also a German cobbler, a little place to buy fish and chips, and a bicycle shop.

It will be helpful to the reader if the four photographs of Church Road on pages 23 and 24 are studied in order to relate the village scene of seventy years or more ago to the modern orientation. Only photograph number 12 bears any resemblance to the situation in the mid-1970's.

The extraordinary transformation of Church Road has happened in comparatively recent years when the combination of H and V Leach - contractors, and Messrs Highrix - developers, has produced new shopping parades along both sides of the highway including Buckingham Parade, the blocks on either side of Regency House and the extensive shopping area between Elm Park and the new high-rise building near the traffic lights.

The views of numerous residents were sought about the changes in Church Road; the older members of the community who can remember the original village are not impressed by the new image. Some are, in fact, quite hostile about the manner in which the project forged ahead, apparently with little regard for local opinion.  There have been special objections about the temporary closure of a public alleyway through to the rear of premises in Church Road leading to Elm Park, while the development was in progress. Residents suspected that the closure could become a permanent one and representations about the matter were made to the Borough Council.

The old village scene of three generations ago was a very pleasant one but it is doubtful whether such establishments as Bedford's grocery store or Sharp's sweet shop could offer the service or the selection of commodities which are available in modern supermarkets.  The destruction of Stanmore's rural image is the price which must be paid for a population increasing in size and affluence. Incidentally, Church Road was so named because of its proximity to the Parish Church of Great Stanmore.