pages 36, 37 and 38
It is rather sad to realise that several of the old village high streets in the London Borough of Harrow are now of only secondary importance as commercial venues, having been superseded by other nearby highways. Pinner's High Street is now secondary to Bridge Street; Stanmore Broadway has more to offer than old Church Street (formerly the village centre) and the modern shopping area around Harrow's Station Road has almost effaced the High Streets of Harrow-on- the-Hill and Greenhill. This situation has again been repeated in Edgware where the High Street takes second place to another Station Road - once just a rustic lane with a church, an inn and a lonely railway station - until the advent of the new shopping area between the Whitchurch Lane crossing and Edgwarebury Lane which opened to the public in the early 1930's.
In the Introduction to this volume it was explained that the village now straddles two London Boroughs and so at this point we must leave Harrow and cross the High Street to explore Station Road which is in the London Borough of Barnet.
Although Station Road is a 20th century highway it penetrates an historical region as following explanations will reveal. Some of the land was once granted (probably by the church) to the Knights of St John in the 14th century but the village place of worship at that time was patronised by the Lord of the Manor of Edgware Bois who provided a chaplain's house, garden, alterage and rectorial tithes.
The oldest part of the present Parish Church of St Margaret's (sited in Station Road) is the square, embattled tower - made of rag-stone and flint and dressed with Reigate stone - probably built in the 15th century. The Church was rebuilt in 1763 and again in 1845 with additions in 1927: in 1822 the interior was substantially remodelled. Dedication to St Margaret also applied to an earlier Church back in 1374.
The old Rectory of the present church was built close to the route now followed by Station Road and was sited almost opposite the existing Northern Line station. Entrance gates gave admission to the Rectory grounds wherein was located the foundations of a small, ancient building which is thought to have been a cell or station, built in the Norman style, and used in pre-reformation times as a halting place for monks on their journeys to and from London.
In the first quarter of the 19th century a well was dug near the Parish Church and for more than half a century this provided the villagers'main water supply: water was carted around the village: and sold at 2d per pail.
In August, 1867 the Great Northern line opened a railway from Finsbury Park: from Church End, Finchley it proceeded as a single line, descending steeply for about a mile before crossing the 13-arch viaduct over Dollis Brook to Mill Hill East. It then passed under the Midland Railway line and terminated at Edgware - then a rural old-world village. Five years later the line fell into disuse when the High Barnet branch line was opened: now a block of offices stands on the old station site.
Another half century was to pass however, before the full effect of the railway on Edgware's population explosion would be felt. At the turn of the century Parliamentary powers made possible the extension of the London underground system into the rural areas of Middlesex - to Queen's Park in 1903: Golders Green in 1907 and Hendon Central in 1923. By the latter date a notice was on display in the rustic lane (which would within a decade become busy Station Road) announcing the fact that the new 'tube' station would shortly be erected on the site: a year later commuting by electric trains from Edgware had begun. It was to signal the rapid development of the one-time village as a modern suburban town and within a very few years a promenade of shops arose on the site of the former Rectory grounds, designed in what has been described as 'semi-Georgian' style.
It is interesting to note that a London hotelier named George Cross added considerably to his huge fortune due to his activities as a developer in the Parish of Edgware: but he made one serious error of judgement by refusing an opportunity to buy the five acre Portsdown Estate, which provided a 700 foot frontage opposite the underground station.
An old lady subsequently bought the land for £4,000 and sold it, not long afterwards for £29,000. In addition to a long row of shops this land also provided sites for a cinema, post office anda 26-house estate.
Much of the construction had been completed by 1931; the Ritz Cinema opened its doors to the film-going public in 1932 and is one of the few 'picture-houses' (as they were then known) still operating in the district. The Railway Hotel was later modernised at a cost said to be in the region of £30,000. Among the functions it has fulfilled was that of the headquarters of Edgware Masonic Lodge.
The facilities which Edgware shoppers have found adequate for nearly 50 years are, in the late 1970's, proving to be over-shadowed by the more modern complexes at Brent Cross and Watford. As this volume goes to print, Barnet Borough Council is considering the development of a shopping and office complex on a site adjoining Edgware Station. Numerous large stores would be included in the scheme with the added attractions of extended car-parking areas and recreational facilities.
In an effort to recreate an element of community spirit in the face of ever-growing commercialism, during the past four years local people have organised an 'Edgware Week' in early September providing entertainment, displays, sideshows and a carnival procession. But the old village community has long since been engulfed by 20th century suburbanization.
Incidentally, before the development and extension of Station Road in the 1930's it was known as Church Lane.