BRENT CROSS walk to EDGWARE
2 3/4 hours
The Underground line is an extension of the Northern line built in the 1920s. Hendon Central was reached in 1923 and Edgware in 1924.
Routing note: This walk connects in Brent Cross with Northern line walk 7. A small section through the core of Hendon is common with my Thameslink walk 3 so that you can switch between the two walks near Hendon parish church if you want to.
The station opened together with the line extension in 1923 and was originally called plain Brent after the local river. The name was changed in 1972 on request by the shopping centre that was being built nearby and that hoped to attract more clients in this manner. There are few other occurrences of a train or Underground station being renamed after a massive shopping centre is built nearby but it does happen, e.g. with “Stone Crossing for Bluewater”.
The building is a modest pavilion hiding behind a very impressive neo-classical colonnade. The company architect, Stanley Heaps, had been the assistant of Leslie Green and his designs in central London stations are in the tradition of his mentor. He chose an other style for Brent Cross, wanting to stress the suburban character by building a portico supposedly reminiscent of a sports enclosure. I personally think the colonnade looks very urban and formal. This being said, it is a seriously nice design.
R Highfield Avenue
R Brentfield Gardens
L on a footpath parallel to Tilling Road, then R on the footbridge across the North Circular Road
The footbridge is a rather unusual device as it is a long concrete arch without pillars. It is held only through a series of cables hanging from the car lanes above your head. The flyover was built in order to ease access to the shopping centre from the North Circular Road. The shopping centre is not particularly big by today’s measure but was impressive when it opened in 1976. It is clearly outdated and is currently undergoing refurbishment.
At the end R towards Haley Road
Follow the road towards the roundabout
L Shirehall Lane crossing under the tracks
L into Hendon Park
The park was the garden of a private mansion until the borough bought it in 1903. Most of the park is held as a typical suburban grass expanse well suited to family picnics and informal football. At the top of the park, there are a few formal flower beds and a rose garden. The latter one has a portico with a Hebraic inscription and is laid out as the “garden of remembrance”. This is a nod to the sizeable Jewish community in Hendon.
Cross the length of the park towards the formal garden, exit then near the tennis courts
L Queens Road
The station opened together with the line expansion in 1923 and was a temporary terminus until the line continued to Edgware in 1924.
It was considered a landmark in urban planning because it opened in the middle of the countryside and could therefore be integrated purposefully in the shopping parade of the future suburb.
Despite being fully integrated within a much larger office and commercial building, the station stands out impressively with two concrete towers breaking the brick front and drawing attention to the majestic neo-classical portico. The details are very similar to those at Brent Cross while the overall impression is much more urban.
The crossroads in front of the station was not developed in a unified manner as you might have expected in a completely new suburb. The two quadrants on the western side are lower and less imposing than the station quadrant and the last quadrant is broken by an oversize white tower, a typical device to draw your attention to what was originally a film theatre. The style is a bit more subdued than in the Art Déco theatres of the 1930s but there is a nice glass awning.
Turn around on Queens Road passing again along the whole upper length of Hendon Park (obviously, you can walk along the road within the park rather than on the pavement !)
L West View (a public footpath)
After crossing Brampton Grove, continue following the sign of the cycling route for Hendon until you reach a footpath junction
L Chapel Walk
West View and Chapel Walk are perfect examples of public footpaths in the suburbs. I use them whenever they are convenient as I find it less boring to walk between gardens and back fences than along rows of identical houses. Most public footpaths were originally church paths and this is obvious in Hendon: West View leads directly to the parish church. I suggest you leave West View in order to see the public buildings of Hendon.
At the end of Chapel Walk, continue around the two churches to the main road
R The Burroughs
Walking up the hill, you first reach an interesting church building. It does not really look like a church, but this is common for Methodist places of worship. It is a particularly austere example of Art Déco style and was opened in 1936. No visible roof, no spires, nothing to distract from the simplest geometric lines.
Nearly opposite the church, you reach the first of a series of official buildings. Hendon Town Hall was built in 1901 in a very Edwardian manner, but the architect did not try to build over four or five storeys as was customary to stress how urban a place was. This particular building reminds somewhat of a french Loire château where the mix of bricks and stones is concerned (so-called Louis XIII style, about 1640s). The main level with the bow windows is more English and reminds a bit of Elizabethan manors. The entrance portico finally reminds of Italian early baroque portals. This eclectic mix is quite typically Edwardian.
The town hall is still in use although the Borough is called Barnet, Hendon being the more central location for meetings. You can also get married here, which I find a rather suitable place for a ceremony although it is not as spectacular inside. Margaret Thatcher must have thought so as her first speech as Prime Minister was here.
The next official building is the beautiful, restrained Hendon library. It is decorated with triangles and columns reminiscent of Georgian manor houses, but they are skillfully put fully out of proportion so that the building avoids any false historicism. The borough was careful enough to keep windows with small panes of glass, which is really sensible.
The following building is the pretty massive Fire Station with a very Georgian balustrade-bound roof. This building dates back to 1914 and is quite utilitarian, which explains probably why you avoid Edwardian ornaments. As fire stations go, I find it rather nice from the front. From the side, it looks a bit too much like a castle, as if the firemen had to protect themselves against attacks. An aisle was added recently and has a large glass front contrasting with the older building. This is popular with architects in order to make optically clear where the historical building is and where not. This concern became more common from the 1980s on as the Charter of Venice became better known. This international agreement from 1964 gives guidelines about how to manage and maintain historical buildings for contemporary uses.
Finally, you pass a very large, institutional building that is now part of Middlesex University. They also have campuses in Dubai, Malta and Mauritius, which is possibly very motivating for students who wish to study abroad for a few months and will appreciate that the alternative campuses are not in Iceland or Russia. The building dates back to 1938 and I don’t find it very convincing, it is a cheap version of neo-Georgian.
At the top of the hill, where the road changes names and turns into Church Road, there is a low brick building with a modest entrance. These were almshouses, the niche above the door certainly holding a statue in older times. The building dates back to about 1800 although the bequeath is from 1729. There is a much nicer row of almshouses just a few steps further into Church Road; the pointed gables used both for the doors and the roof windows is a neo-gothic detail that was a novelty in the 1800s.
L Church End
The parish church at the end of the street lies in a lovely setting with a very pretty flower garden in the front part of the churchyard. From the outside, both the nave and the choir give a feeling of 16th century late Gothic architecture, but this is confusing as the church was rebuilt to a large extent in 1913. I have been unable to enter the church; if you have an opportunity, the most interesting item is the font with clearly Norman arcades. This is a remnant of the original parish church from the 12th century.
The churchyard is particularly pleasant and has two rather imposing monuments. The one in the foreground of my picture reminds a bit of a soup turreen set the wrong way around, but I am obviously a bit unfair.
There is a pub with a very neat appearance just beside the church. According to the parish website, this is no surprise because the pub is actually church property and housed the vestry meetings until the mid-19th century. Church commandments are still displayed inside to inspire those meetings should they take place again. I am not keen on the large chain who now operates the pub but it does look like a village inn.
L down Greyhound Hill
One of the next houses before the road drops down Greyhound Hill is the former Church Farmbouse Museum. It has a nice little overgrown garden and a few pleasant rooms. I was saddened to read that the Borough could not afford to maintain it and closed it in 2011, selling the building later to the nearby University. It was actually the only Borough museum in London to deal in some detail with life in a country village, which was very appropriate as Hendon only became a suburb in the 1920s with the arrival of the Northern Line.
You could have a look at interesting household implements – I did not know that there were special machines to make creases in bed linen. There were also some slightly terrifying and horribly heavy ironing shoes on display. Finally, I learned that you would not give presents for a religious holiday like Christmas until the 1820s (New Year was more usual). Commercial interests pushed Christmas because this enabled them to suggest going out for New Year, doubling the potential spending.
An additional attraction of the museum was the small garden at the back with an unusual mini-maze set in the lawn around a bird fountain. Surprisingly, I have not seen this delightful idea in normal borough parks although I think it would make a nice addition for children and grown-ups alike without causing high maintenance costs.
Ahead Aerodrome Road passing under the motorway
Pay close attention under the motorway and follow the light green sign pointing L to the public footpath towards Colindeep Lane
Follow carefully as the footpath turns several times R then L crossing two separate sets of tracks, then quite further on a third set of tracks. The path ends just afterwards
As you can see on the picture (I apologise for the bad quality due to snow flurries), the subway under the tracks is not exactly the most welcoming place. It is convenient and clean though. The footpath gets better afterwards at it is nicely shaded.
R Colindeep Lane
You cross a brook twice before reaching the next station. This is the quaintly named Silk Stream, a subsidiary of the river Brent. You will be following the stream over some distance later on. As the banks of the stream were prone to flooding, they were left as neighbourhood parks on many occasions and this provides a nice route for this walk.
R Sheaveshill Avenue
At the end L along the tracks across Colindale Park
This is a small neighbourhood park with no particular amenities. It is also the first riverside park you get to cross along Silk Stream.
The station opened in 1924 on the extension of the Northern Line towards Edgware.
The original station building was similar to that at Brent Cross but it was destroyed by a German bomb in 1940. The present building is just a modest corner entrance in a very plain office building from 1962.
R Colindale Avenue
Walk across the roundabout taking the start of Grahame Park Road
Soon L on a footpath along the back of the library. The footpath (called Victor Way on some maps) turns slightly L and skirts a number of residential buildings as well as the back end of Cherry Close and Hazel Close. Do not worry if you are not certain about the path, there are several parallel walks across the estate all ending on the same road
You are skirting the older part of a very large former council estate, Grahame Park. It was built in the 1970s on the site of a disused aerodrome and included about 1800 residences, most of them in low brick buildings devoid of ornamentation. You notice directly that fashion had changed since the 1960s with concrete towers and bars being avoided. You also notice that a network of dead end roads serves each building; this was also a change as fashion in the 1960s was for separate rows of garages and large raised platforms for pedestrian traffic above the car traffic. The change had come about partly because car ownership had become much more frequent including for council flat beneficiaries.
Major reconstruction started in the 2000s and is ongoing. The borough decided to build significantly higher residences in order both to lodge many more flat applicants and also to free space for a large park in the middle of the estate, something that was missing in the original plan of the 1970s. You have a good example of the contrasting concepts if you compare Victor Way and Kenley Avenue on my pictures. The one thing I don’t like about the new concept is that very few trees were planted. Trees break boring lines of sights along roads, provide shade and harbour some modicum of wildlife. They also contribute to lowering temperature on hot summer days. Boroughs are hesitant about trees because of the dreaded leaf falls in autumn causing expensive maintenance requirements.
At the end L Lanacre Avenue
L Kenley Avenue
R Martlesham Walk (a public footpath)
My last picture of Grahame Park shows a recent development on the edge of the area. This architecture is very 2000s and is typical for suburban commercial developments trying to give a feeling of traditional house shapes while squeezing as many flats as possible on the ground available. The style has some fanciful medieval reminders. It is typical for such developments to be designed in L or S shape rather than around a courtyard. Although parents like courtyards in order to protect children from traffic, boroughs worry about illegal handlings away from the eyes of CCTV cameras.
At the end R Booth Road
Soon L (along house number 163) on the footpath crossing under the Underground tracks
Ahead into Montrose Playing Fields, walk ahead until you reach the brook
While you walk towards the brook, you might notice a new development with luxury flats off to your left. My picture shows the previous building, a hospital specialising in vaccines. The development includes 1100 apartments.
R along the brook passing a pavilion (do not cross the brook yet)
Although the park itself is not very interesting, the waterside walk is very pleasant.
When you reach the end of the park, turn L across the brook, then R again into Silk Stream Park still walking along the brook
There is a convenient paved path across this particular park. The disadvantage is that you are a bit further from the brook hidden among trees and shrubs.
At the end of the park ahead on Barnfield Road
R Watling Avenue
The station opened in 1924 on the extension of the Northern Line towards Edgware and was originally called Burnt Oak (Watling). The name was shortened in 1950.
Although the station building was designed by the same architect as Brent Cross, the neo-classical portico is hardly to be seen and the whole impression is much closer to a typical Victorian suburban train station. This is the impression Stanley Heaps indeed intended to give.
Continue on Watling Avenue
The area library is a rather pretty building. Blacked steel beams and lots of glass panels are very 1970s. The pyramid on the roof is a bit surprising and might fit better for a church.
Ahead and L into Watling Park, walking again along the brook
This is a larger park with a rose garden, small cascades and cute little footbridges. Obviously, most of the park is just trees standing in large grassy spaces, the normal design in the outer suburbs where parks are too numerous to make each of them into some formal garden. This park was open farmland in the 1920s and was kept aside by the borough while the surrounding area was being developed. The park then opened in 1931.
Follow the riverside all the way to the park exit
L on Abbotts Road crossing the brook
very soon R Hook Walk (a public footpath along allotments)
L Deansbrook Road
By now, the Silk Stream has disappeared and is just a trace crossing open spaces.
R Deans Lane
The imposing church in this road is worth a short look. It is one of the very few Anglican parish churches that are not named after a Saint but after a simple cleric. It is the “John Keble parish church for Mill Hill” and it honors a leading figure of the Oxford Movement, poet and theologian. The Oxford Movement was an influential group of 19th century Anglican clerics who reacted against new-fangled protestant denominations like Methodism and felt attracted to parts of the Roman Catholic tradition. John Keble remained an Anglican priest and was very sad when a few of his good friends in the movement converted to Catholicism.
From an architecture point of view, the church completed in 1936 is a good example of Art Déco in the northern European version: uncompromising geometric shapes, a sense of verticality, brick walls without any ornamentation. The style is occasionally called “modernist style” in Britain.
A bit further on in the same road, you walk past a contemporary school building. It is obvious that you are in the outer suburbs considering the fact that the school is all on one level and therefore takes a lot of ground. The front is mostly wood, not a traditional material in English public buildings as construction wood usually has to be imported from Scandinavia or Eastern Europe. The advantage of wood is that it weathers gracefully, requiring limited maintenance and that it insulates very efficiently. Contrary to popular belief, construction wood burns very slowly in case of a catastrophe. It additionally burns without issuing chocking fumes or oozing chemicals.
L West Way
When the road turns R, continue ahead across a small open space past the children’s playground
You cross a small brook here but is not Silk Stream, it is a minor subsidiary called Deans Brook.
Ahead Brook Avenue
L Bakery Lane (a public footpath)
The station opened in 1924 as the terminal of the Northern Line extension. Plans to extend the line further towards the North were thwarted by World War II and by the introduction of development restrictions in the outer suburbs (the Green Belt policy).
The station building is obviously a design by Stanley Heaps, who combined here the steep roof of Burnt Oak station with the neo-classical portico of Brent Cross station. The combination fits nicely with the idea of a suburban terminal.