Volume 9 - Kenton Hamlet and District

R S Brown, 1979

pages 15, 16, 17

Kenton Lane

Now we come to what is probably the second most important - and the longest - highway in Kenton.  This Lane was the subject of a narrative in Volume I of this series, although it dealt mainly with the Harrow Weald section of the highway (i.e. between the Uxbridge Road and Belmont Circle.)

As recently as the early part of this century, the mile stretch of Kenton Lane between Kenton Lane Farm and Kenton Road was totally uninhabited.  The Lane passed between double hedgerows bordering open fields and as one travelled south, the Lane's surface became increasingly muddy - thanks to a little brook (another section of the Lidding) which overflowed with great frequency at the junction with Kenton Road.  This region was often swathed in mists and was not a place to walk alone at night - with marauding gypsies lurking in the undergrowth and the occasional drunk staggering back from the Plough.

By the late 1920's, local people saw the Lane undergoing a radical change; houses were springing up and the road was properly surfaced.  Older residents still living at the southern end (near Kenton Road) can remember the fine job that contractors made of the highway when fleets of lorries ferried foundation materials to the site.  The road has stood up admirably to an increasingly heavy weight of traffic which now travels along it.

One interesting feature in this particular stretch of Kenton Lane is the farm previously mentioned.  The large red-brick house (see photograph number 3 on page 7 of Volume 3) with slate roof is over 200 years old and stands well back from the road behind a hedge.  The Brazier family have occupied the building for almost 40 years: as dairy farmers their herd of cows once grazed in local fields, but the fields have gone and so have the cows.

About 3,000 gallons of milk arrives each day by tanker from farms in the Watford and Elstree areas for sterilising and bottling before being delivered to almost 10,000 houses in Kenton, Harrow Weald and Stanmore.  Earlier occupants of the farm were - James Brown (1874-1890); James Bransgrove (1892-lst world war); the Woodbridge family (1915-1918); the Alexanders until 1928 and F.G. Wood until the late 1930's.  The Bransgrove's family history makes interesting reading:-

Family tree

James (one of five brothers and a sister) was a huge but hard-working man who began married life with his wife managing the Rising Sun, Sudbury while he worked for a farmer Gurney.  Later, James moved to Kenton Lane Farm but as the large acreage became too much for him, he was negotiating to buy a small holding when he died in a Kenton field while driving his pony and trap.  James, who won several silver cups for his farming achievements including one for the best load of hay sent to London, is buried in Harrow Weald Cemetery near to one of the Grinling brothers (land-owner in Harrow Weald).  James had his own pew in All Saints Church.

His son, who was mainly responsible for supplying details of the family history, was named James Samuel Bransgrove.  He did not follow in his father's footsteps and adopt a career in farming because he did not enjoy the best of health.  As a child he almost died, first from meningitis and later from diptheria.  Although left with a permanent weakness in his chest, he was still alive in 1976, aged 78 years of age.  His only son had just completed 20 years in the Amy.

Instead of farming, James Samuel became a qualified plumber but he found the work too heavy and switched to chauffering for the Kemp family who lived at Elstree (the biscuit manufacturers).  James Samuel's mother re-married after his father died but she had already developed a drink problem and sold off many possessions to subsidise her costly 'hobby': on one occasion a basin of whiskey was found under her bed.  Before taking to drink she had been a talented pianist, clever with figures and a good cook.  Her new husband, a butcher by trade - found life increasingly difficult and began beating the daughter, Betty, presumably to relieve his feelings.  This resulted in the girl becoming an epileptic and her life ended sadly in an asylum.

In the meantime, young James Samuel, discarded by the family, had been installed in the London Orphanage at Watford where he played in the first eleven of a local cricket team, won a silver watch for running and entered rifle competitions at Bisley.  His father's friend, Jim Smith of Greenhill Farm was his Godfather and benefactor: other farmers once known to the Bransgroves were Tom Durrant (Harrow Weald); Kinch (Woodcock Hill); Goddard (New College Farm) and Tom Smith {Sheepcote Farm)

We have previously referred to the brother, John Bransgrove in volume 3 who was a neighbouring farmer in Stanmore at Marsh Farm (now demolished) - see number 4 photograph, page 8, volume 3.  It is not known when John died or where he is buried but in his later years he walked across the fields to attend services at St. Lawrences Church with his cousins Nell and Ern.  John had one son, James, who managed a butcher's shop in Kenton Lane but he was a cripple and died from the effects of his affliction.

The four other members of the Bransgrove family shown on the second branch of the tree followed their own destinies and disappeared from the scene.  Chip Bransgrove worked for brother John on adjoining Marsh Farm mainly at hay-making time: he later got married and had two sons, Jerry and Charlie.  Tom and Harry emigrated to Australia but returned on one occasion with two parakeets!  They became sheep farmers but nothing is known of their only sister, Eliza.

One of Kenton Lane's most notable residents of the past was the late Alderman Walter Robert Cowen, OBE, JP, (see photograph on page 6) who was elected as the first Mayor of the Borough of Harrow in 1954.  He died five years later.

As a final interesting comment in connection with Kenton Lane, it had been the practice of Victorian and Edwardian house-builders to use good-quality bricks with stone cladding for the frontages of suburban dwellings but this was discontinued in the 1920's to enable builders to achieve a low price level.  Cheap Fletton bricks were more widely used, afterwards covered with pebble-dash to improve the appearance and reduce erosion.

In January, 1936 an interesting exception was made for three pairs of semidetached houses at numbers 55 to 65, Kenton Lane which were built with cotswold stone frontages and sold at 875 each.  The builders claimed that these houses were the first of their kind in London and nothing similar in the north west region of the same age has been discovered.  Forty years on, the same stone elevations provide a pleasant contrast to brick-built neighbouring houses.