Volume 5 - From Stanmore Common to Chandos Country

R S Brown, 1976

pages 18, 27

The Broadway

We now retrace our steps from the Uxbridge Road, travelling back through Church Road to the foot of Stanmore Hill. From this junction to the Marsh Lane/Dennis Lane cross-road is a highway known as 'The Broadway'. It is, in fact, a continuation of London Road (from the direction of Stanmore Bakerloo Station) but was apparently known to some long-established residents as part of Church Road. By whatever name it was formally known, this fairly short length of highway holds many nostalgic memories for those Stanmore people who can remember it as an integral part of the old Stanmore Village.

We will once again board our time machine and, by rolling back the years, attempt to recall the scene as it was about three generations ago.

Turning left at the bottom of the Hill would of course have taken us past the old Buckingham Cottage (an excellent reproduction of which is on page 27 - photograph No 14), the last occupant of which was an elderly lady approaching her centennial anniversary. The cottage was particularly attractive in the Autumn when it was draped in a bright red creeper.

Passing the entrance to a builder's yard (Kirby's), we would then have come upon the main feature of the road - the horse pond (see photograph No 13 on page 27). In early Victorian times this pond was probably a necessary water supply for Stanmore villagers but by the turn of the century, when fresh water had been piped in, it was used mainly for re-filling water carts engaged in dust-laying duties and for this purpose a pump had been installed.

Apart from two creeper-covered villas behind the pond, there was very little else on this side of the road, except for a house at the junction with Marsh Lane (known as Sherrens Corner - see further information on page 29). Nowadays the large 'Mamos' garage is sited on this corner but in the 1930's it was waste ground and residents who moved into what was fast becoming a new development area can remember a caravan. belonging to the electricity authority, parked at the junction. Also, near this point was the flowing 'mere' from which the second syllable of the name Stanmore' was probably formed.

There were more 'signs of life' on the other side of The Broadway: opposite Buckingham Cottage were seven small shops (known as Church Row) which were demolished before the war, the space now being occupied by the 'AA' showroom. There were a few more shops farther along the road but in between was - and still is - the Bernays Institute.

A hundred years ago the need to provide suitable leisure activities for the populace was becoming increasingly pressing. There were public houses for the men and labourers wives worked long hours cooking, cleaning and washing, in addition to helping on the land. Farmers wives and the newly-developing middle class married women (largely the wives of tradesmen and local officials) could only amuse themselves with needle and crochet work, knitting and reading.. Ladies in the families of the gentry relied upon horse riding and house parties with an occasional supplementary event such as the servants' ball when amusement was derived from attempting to assist with the serving of food and drink.

When the Bernays Institute was opened on 31st August 1870, it fulfilled a need by providing facilities for both social and religious activities. There was the Temperance Society, Band of Hope and bible classes for God-fearing folk and for the socially minded, dancing, a Girls Friendly Society and a working man's club were available, and more than a hundred years later the old building continues to provide useful community facilities. The Institute was erected as a memorial to Ernest, the son of the Reverend Leopold Bernays (Rector of St John's from 1860 to 1883) who was accidentally drowned while on holiday.

Next to the Institute, a property called The Red House (now demolished) was set back from the road (where the bus stop is now sited); it was built of red bricks in Georgian style and the garden at the rear extended as far as Ingram Close.

Before we move on down the road, a brief mention of a few tradesmen in this section of the highway may be of interest to the reader. Shoppers could invariably enjoy a pleasant odour as they passed Nash, the general grocers, where coffee was ground on the premises while the smell of leather emanated from the harness-maker and saddler. R J Leversuch (a member of an old Stanmore family) was the clock-winder for local schools and churches and also repaired watches in a little wooden workshop behind the old shops in the Broadway; he was a tall man and regarded in the village as 'something of a character'.

Before we proceed further along The Broadway, the reader is invited to look closely at the front cover of this volume which displays the reproduction of a sketch by Harrow artist, W Floyd Nash. The subject is the familiar row of old cottages with overhanging upper storey sited near the approach to Marsh Lane corner.

This is one of the really old buildings in the vicinity which has survived the ravages of time and weather. The cottages, which are thought to be of late 16th century or early 17th century vintage, were purchased by a property developer named Cottrell in 1975 who, backed by a preservation order, intends to renovate them for use as offices.

Although the building has been divided up into five separate domestic units, the main access to the upper storey was by a common staircase and numerous theories have been advanced as to the original function of the cottages. It may have been built as a combined unit for several related families or perhaps as an inn or almshouse. One legend supports the idea that it was a home for lepers and another that it housed Londoners escaping from the Great Plague in 1665.

The siting of the cottages supports the view that during Stanmore's medieval history, the village population was probably concentrated in this area of the parish but in the late 18th century, redeployment occurred along both flanks of Stanmore Hill. In the late Victorian era, when the railway line extended to Stanmore Village Station, and Bernays Institute was built, the lower level of Great Stanmore returned to favour.