Volume 8 - Down the Roman Road to Edgware

R S Brown, 1978

pages 31, 32

Whitchurch Lane

This is the second narrative to appear in the 'Histories of Harrow Highways' series about Whitchurch Lane: the previous account appeared in volume 5 ('From Stanmore Common to Chandos Country').  Although Whitchurch Lane is in the Parish of Whitchurch, for postal purposes the Post Office regard the whole length of the Lane as being in Edgware (and this is confirmed in the 'Harrow book of postcodes').  On this occasion however, we shall concern ourselves with that section of Whitchurch Lane which adjoins the High Street - just before it meets the southern end of Station Road at the crossing which is now regulated by traffic lights.

It is indicative of the indigent conditions which existed in the farming regions at the turn of the century when one learns that this end of Whitchurch Lane was known to many inhabitants as Poor Lane.  Generations of village families had been living very near to the poverty level and it was the policy of wealthy land-owners to ensure that the working classes remained in a deprived and ignorant state.  Terrible penalties were exacted when they were tempted to indulge in relatively minor crimes and there was a time when the theft of goods in excess of twelve pence constituted grand larceny and was a felony punishable by death.

The 'arm of the law' has been much in evidence at this end of Whitchurch Lane as an earlier police station existed for many years near to the site of the present building which was erected in 1932.  Old documents dating back nearly 350 years make reference to the plague in Edgware and record the fact that William Thompson, the parish constable, was punished for failing to take precautions to prevent the spread of the plague.  The precise wording was, "..that he permitted sick persons... to go out at large at their pleasure and allowed other persons to visit them in their houses...and that he later abandoned his office to the great hindrance of justice and the grave peril of dispersing the infection of the pestilence..."

More than 50 years ago the local policeman had adopted a more benevolent image and older residents of Edgware can remember Constable Clayton dressing up as a clown for the annual party at St. Lawrence's Hall where each child received an orange and apple on the conclusion of the festivities.

Among the photographs in the centre of this volume is one taken of the officers and men of Edgware sub-division in 1920.  Another picture on the next page taken somewhat earlier depicts Sub-divisional Inspector Harvey patrolling on horseback: his district included Edgware, Elstree, Bushey and Wealdstone.  He retired in 1924.

The present Edgware Police Station (a solid red-brick edifice) relinquished sub-divisional status in 1964 when the London Boroughs were re-organised.  The new arrangements placed Edgware Police Station only 100 yards from the Borough boundary and in this adverse situation it was decided that Wealdstone Police Station should take over Edgware's street patrol duties.  The Edgware Station is now relegated to the role of dealing with public enquiries and office work.  In 1964 the Station was transferred to 'Q' Division from 'S' Division and has since operated with a reduced complement.

Where there was a police station there was frequently a court house and this combination was to be found in Whitchurch Lane.  The court records refer to a case in 1551 when two men were fined for 'playing cards and tables' and on another occasion local officials were fined for 'failing to have a tumbrel' (a cart for condemned persons) and a 'cucking stool' (see explanation in the 'Cuckoo Hill' narrative in volume 7).  In 1558 a man was fined for selling ale 'at an exhorbitant profit'; he demanded one penny (p) for a pint and a half!

Two Victorian dwellings on opposite corners of Mead Road (called Mafeking and Pretoria Villas) are near to the sharp swerve in the road purpose built to avoid a jutting property which existed in the 1930's.