Walk 4 HARROW & WEALDSTONE walk to CARPENDERS PARK
The train line opened in 1838 as part of a long-distance connection between London and Birmingham. Because of congestion issues, an additional set of tracks was built in 1879. When the line was electrified, the suburban tracks were provided with a specific system that was compatible with the Underground power supply and this enables both trains and Underground carriages to use the line since 1915, but this lasted only until 1982 when the Bakerloo line introduced new carriages that apparently cannot be used north of Harrow & Wealdstone. It would be possible to reinstate the services relatively easily with a new generation of carriages but this won’t happen in the next few years..
Routing note: This walk connects in Harrow & Wealdstone with Euston walk 3. It connects in Carpenders Park with Euston walk 5. As walk 5 lasts only 1 1/2 hours (not counting the time you spend in Watford shopping or visiting the museum), you can easily combine the two walks in one longer tour.
The end of the walk is over public footpaths through fields. This section may be muddy after rain or a bit overgrown in late summer, so that I advise appropriate clothing.
HARROW & WEALDSTONE
The station is one of the oldest in London as it was opened as early as 1837 together with the long-distance line between London and Birmingham. It was meant to serve Harrow, a village located on a hill about 1,5 miles away. The station was called plain “Harrow” until the end of the 19th century, when confusion with stations on other lines led to the present name.
The train company then opened a branch railway in 1890 serving Belmont and Stanmore from the junction that had been upgraded accordingly. The branch closed in 1964 as Stanmore is served by London Underground, leaving Belmont without rail connections.
There were two station buildings, one on the 1837 line and one used by the stopping trains. The first one has been partly demolished while the second one is now listed and is the one on my picture. The red and white colour scheme on the clock tower makes me think that it was built in the 1910s, which would be logical as this is the time when it would soon become the terminal for the Underground Bakerloo line.
The overall shape is very special, mixing elements from neo-classical garden pavilions with shapes from medieval castles. It actually does not really look like a train station.
Exit the station through the main exit
L High Street
Keep on High Street until you reach Holy Trinity church
L Headstone Drive (not marked as such near the church, it is the pedestrianised road running along it)
Ahead unter the railway line (still Headstone Drive)
You pass on the right the building of the Crown Court for Harrow. Like all court buildings, it has a coat of arms on the façade, the one in Headstone Lane being rather interesting because it is a brick relief. If you have a close look, you can easily see that the bricks had to be sculpted into the necessary rounded shapes. This is expensive hand work and is therefore not very frequent.
The road runs afterwards along endless walls and fences. There is an absolutely huge wasteland behind the fence with a factory somewhere in the background. This was the site of the largest Kodak factory in the Commonwealth with more than 6,000 workers in the 1950s. Now that digital photography makes film production unnecessary, Kodak sold a large part of the site to a developer in 2012. The company hopes to build more than 2,000 flats on the site.
R Harrow View
I found an amusing pub on the road with elephant and hippopotamus heads stuck on the front wall to the street. If you cannot attract visitors with mock-Tudor or country inn imitation like in many places, why not hint at the zoo that can be inside if patrons drink enough ?
L Victor Road
At the end R Pinner View marked as the access road to the Harrow Museum & Heritage Centre
This heritage centre is actually the ancient Headstone Manor, already mentioned as a summer residence for the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 9th century. The property passed through many hands after the confiscation by the Crown and was long a large farm, explaining the agricultural buildings. The manor house had become derelict when the borough bought part of the estate in 1925 in order to prevent development from using up all the green land.
The building is currently being renovated as it is planned to open as the new borough museum in 2017. It can currently only be visited on specific occasions such as open monuments day. What you can already see now is the moat, the only medieval moat you can see in London. In this case, the moat would not really have protected against soldiers, but it did keep away farm animals from the courtyard and is was a status symbol.
What you can already visit is some of the former agricultural buildings as the museum is currently housed in them. The former Tithe Barn is an impressive structure built in 1506 with a clear mind to impress visitors. The barn was unnecessarily large, only part of it being used by the farmer while the rest was reserved for the Archbishop although he never came for an extended period of time. The barn has wooden walls and a huge roof going nearly to the ground, which shows wealth because you needed huge, expensive logs for the dormers. The barn houses a café, a small shop and receptions.
There is a small barn opposite the flashy one. It was the real farm barn and housed animals. Experts believe the wood of the walls is about as old as for the Tithe Barn, which makes it a listed monument with 500 years of service, but the roof has been rebuilt after a fire in the 1980s. There was an interesting exhibition about the manor and its history inside the barn when I visited in 2010, but it is currently being transformed into the new museum café and shop.
The taller square building with the lower level built in bricks is a former farm granary. It looks much more industrial than the barns and is indeed an 18th century structure transferred from an other farm nearby. The utilitarian shapes fit with the 18th century efforts to make agriculture more rational and productive. The granary is the current borough museum and will become an educational structure once the collections are transferred into the manor house.
I was not overly impressed by the collections, you see a certain number of agricultural implements and a number of explanation panels about industrial activity in the borough during the 20th century (in particular about the Kodak factory), but I felt that 30 minutes was perfectly enough. This may change in the new museum as it will possible to show more exhibits in a more modern manner.
Ahead past the museum buildings and the tennis courts
L then directly R Melbourne Avenue
L Greystoke Avenue, turn R following the road
R George V Avenue
R Pinner Park, marked as a public bridleway
You are clearly in the countryside here because this part of Harrow is included in the Green Belt. When suburban development was proceeding at a very fast pace in the 1930s, parlamentarians began to worry about ribbon development (endless rows of identical houses along straight roads with very few public green spaces). The response was to allow boroughs to restrict conversion of green land into suburbs, particularly after World War II. As restricting the amount of land available for development raises real estate prices and as this policy was popular with existing voters in the suburbs, the Green Belt policy was very efficient. You even have some real farms within London, which is not the case in the Paris suburbs.
Ahead past the farm on the public footpath
Near the sports grounds R on the paved access road
L across the railway passing
The station opened in 1913 on the existing train line due to increasing development in the area, possibly also in prevision of the introduction of the Bakerloo line services as Underground carriages are able to stop more frequently than trains without too many delays because of their stronger acceleration and braking equipment.
The station building is of a type used for all the new stations opened in 1912 on this train line and is one of the best solutions chosen for minor suburban train stations in London. It looks a little like a country cottage with its pointed roof. The combination of red bricks with yellowish stone is typical of Edwardian fashion and the windows have a very elaborate design. Even the awning is perfectly in proportion with the rest of the building although it was added much later.
Ahead Headstone Lane
The road passes several roads on the left, the last being Winston Court
The road also passes a substantial old house with an information sign, Letchford House. Although repainted in white so that it looks a little Georgian, the horizontal dormers and the three gables point to its core structure going back to the 16th century. The sign in front of the house mentions several celebrities who lived in the house over the centuries.
After Winston Court, L into Hatch End Playing Fields
The gate might be closed; if you find no opening through the hedge, follow the road along the edge of the playing fields. The playing fields are your average outer suburban green space with football nets and not much else.
Aim for the large institutional building, used now as the Harrow Arts Centre
The building was originally the Royal Commercial Traveller’s School, opened by none other than Prince Albert in 1858. This may not be a glamorous business nowadays, but commercial travellers were obviously considered important in the 19th century, fitting with efforts to develop taste and technology in English industry (cf. the creation of the Victoria & Albert Museum and later the William Morris efforts with the Arts & Crafts movement). The school had many more buildings but closed in 1967 and the borough replaced some of the buildings with more modern school amenities.
Those that were renovated now house an important art venue with a gallery and performance spaces. The gallery opens only in connection with temporary exhibitions. The building looks a little like an oversize simplified Tudor palace and the style is actually quite similar to that of the train stations you see on the Euston to Watford line. The North front is particularly impressive and combines a church window with civilian square towers and buttresses that you actually don’t need on brick buildings of this size. It was the entrance to the Assembly Hall for the school. What the wooden balcony between the towers is supposed to be about I cannot tell.
Ahead to the roundabout
L across the railway line passing
The station opened as “Pinner” when the train company introduced stopping trains on its line in 1842. It was renamed “Pinner & Hatch End” in 1897 due to potential confusion with a Pinner station on an other train line. The name turned into Hatch End (for Pinner) in 1920 and the present name dates from 1956. Considering that Pinner is actually quite a distance to the southwest, the present name is the most sensible.
The station building is rather imposing for such a suburban location and the train company obviously expected to cater to distinguished travellers. There is a clock tower above two very tall arches that may remind a little of a Victorian country house, and there is a detailed coat of arms of the railway company (the London and Northwestern Railway). This company was the result of a merger that took place in 1842 and I guess the building can well be from the 1850s.
Continue on Uxbridge Road
I noticed a bank building in this road that is worth a closer look. It is Georgian in the overall shape with the roof nearly hiding behind a cornice, but the sunray or scallop design above the first floor windows is definitely unusual. Scallops would be more baroque, sunrays more Art Déco, you pick what you prefer.
R Woodridings Close
Ahead at the end on a footpath
Ahead across the road into Shaftesbury Playing Fields
I was pleased to notice that this standard suburban field has conspicuous rugby goal posts rather than the more ubiquitous football nets. I am not exactly sure why football became so much more popular than rugby over the 20th century, possibly as a result of more efficient professional marketing and greedier officials and players. I don’t know many countries where rugby is more universal than football, but it is the case in New Zealand and in parts of southern France.
At the north end of the playing fields, you will find a public footpath leading due north.
The path runs at the very edge of suburban gardens towards the train line. It is marked as part of the London Loop, a long-distance path with signposts. After leaving the garden fences, the path crosses a small brook and a fence through a stile in order to make you feel like walking in the countryside.
The footpath follows the train line to a road
Cross the road and continue on the footpath along the railway line
The footpath merges into Woodhall Lane
At the end R on Prestwick Road
R Station Approach
A station opened nearby in the beginning of the 20th century in order to serve a golf course, but it has disappeared now that people travel by car to such pursuits and the present station was built in 1952. Because it is a late addition on an existing train embankment, it is just an island platform between the tracks.
Due to the embankment, the access is through a tunnel under the tracks but the solution chosen for the building is very unusual. Instead of just stairs leading to a small brick structure integrated into the platform awnings, the train company invested into a full size building in the yellow bricks that were the more affordable material in the 1950s. The building is crowned by an very elaborate skylight. In a nod to materials considered very elegant and noble at the time, the glass panes are held by thin aluminum bars and the shape is a half-round rather than a plain rectangle.