Volume 5 - From Stanmore Common to Chandos Country

R S Brown, 1976

pages 29, 30

Dennis Lane

Reference has been made on earlier occasions in this series - particularly in the historical preamble of Vol 1 - about the ancient trackways which once traversed the area north west of London in the time of the Ancient Britons.

One relatively short section of a trackway which wound from Kingsbury to Brockley Hill is thought to have followed a similar route to that of four ancient lanes which remain linked together in modern times; they are Honeypot Lane, Marsh Lane, both of which are included in later narratives of this volume) Dennis Lane and Wood Lane.

Further information about this aspect of ancient local history is contained in the Honeypot Lane narrative farther on but for the purposes of this story we shall move forward to the 12th century in order to explain to the reader the reason why Dennis Lane is so called.

Middlesex was a popular residential area for wealthy London businessmen at that time, since it offered them good opportunities for hunting in the thickly wooded areas of the county.  The popular idea was to buy land and build a country residence with a supporting farm where their leisure hours could be spent.

One such city magnate was the very affluent Andrew Bucointe who reared three sons in Stanmore, namely John, Ralph and Humphrey.  The last-named duly married and had a son Andrew who brought disgrace to the Bucointe family.  He joined a gang of young bloods who - for sheer devilment - raided the house of a wealthy citizen, only to have his hand severed in a fight with the owner.  He escaped sentence by turning King’s evidence and betraying his partners in crime but sympathisers later murdered Andrew for his disloyalty.

Fortunately there were other worthier members of the family and one such person was Adam Bucointe, thought to be the first lay master of St Bartholomew, the great hospital which was to own so much land in Stanmore and its surrounds.

Adam’s wife, Dionesia, is thought to be the lady after whom Dennis Lane was originally named - which brings us back full circle to the subject of this narrative.

Whilst Honeypot Lane and Marsh Lane on the route of the old track have become thoroughly motorised highways in true 20th century style, Dennis Lane - as it snakes up the hill towards Little Common - has retained some of its pre-suburban image: early this century it was a good example of a medieval lane.  The lower end on the left at the junction with the Broadway was known locally as 'Sherren’s Corner' where the local veterinary surgeon of that name resided.  He kept a brightly painted dog cart in Billy Woodman’s barn on the opposite comer ready for instant use should he get an urgent call to a sick animal.  Sherren later sold his house and moved residence to Brockley Hill and then to Stanmore Hill.  The old barn which housed his cart was eventually burnt down.

Next to Sherren’s house was a row of labourer’s cottages and, proceeding up the incline, an avenue of ancient oak trees stood like silent sentinels, the lower portions of their gnarled trunks hidden in the thick hedgerows.

An interesting property which once stood at the lower end of Dennis Lane close to the junction with London Road, was 'ffiddells' known in its more recent history as 'Kingsdale'.  This was a fine Tudor house of 15th century vintage, and originally a Head Tenement of the Manor.

Two further habitations were passed on the right namely Belmont lodge and Elstree Cottage, and behind them were the fields and grounds around the one-time Warren House (to which reference was made in the Stanmore Hill narrative).  In the first decade of this century the banker and philanthropist, Louis Bischoffshoem, entertained King Edward VII on the private golf course.

Near the top of Dennis Lane we come again, this time from a different direction, upon the area once covered by the gardens of Stanmore Hall.  Not mentioned in an earlier narrative was the fact that the Hall, originally built by the Duke of Chandos, has over the years undergone much alteration, and in the 19th century was associated with Robert Holland, MP.  He gained fame with a spectacular ascent from Vauxhall Gardens in the Great Nassau Balloon in 1836.  In the Hall gardens was a cave and some old residents believe that Dick Turpin once hid within its dark recesses.

Moving forward in time to a date three years after VJ Day in July 1948, local residents gathered at the foot of Dennis Lane by the crossroads to watch runners in the International Olympic Games turning from London Road into Marsh Lane on their final lap back to Wembley Stadium.  Another crowd at Stanmore Bakerloo Station had marvelled at the stamina of the runners as they restarted, refreshed, having been showered with water and douched with sponges of blackcurrant juice.

The ancient Britons - and no doubt the Romans - who tramped up this ancient lane two thousand years ago might well be pleasantly surprised at what they would find in the last quarter of the 20th century.  The lane is still quaintly narrow - not a place to motor down at speed - but on the site of 'Kingsdale' is now a vast, newly-built complex of modern flats.  On the ascent one encounters a variety of residences, mostly large houses and bungalows with various cul-de-sacs leading to modern property developments.  The old Hall Farm area has disappeared under one such Close bearing the farm name.

Past the half-way mark the houses on the right give way to a fenced-in spinney which - at night particularly - still retains an element of mystery and suspense where, but for the brilliantly lit houses on the other side of the road, one can still imagine Dick Turpin springing out from the shadows with his frightening command of 'Stand and Deliver'.

Our narratives continually remind the reader of the bygone delights of Harrow when it was almost entirely rural - and perhaps one is inclined to yearn for a return of those days.  But a quiet Sunday stroll along highways such as Dennis Lane encourage one to be thankful that, in some places at least, the distant past of Stanmore emerges with its haunting appeal and beauty.