A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The Ancient parish of Edgware (fn. 1) lay on the northern boundary of Middlesex. The extreme width of the parish was 1½ mile and the extreme length 2½ miles. In 1931, before Edgware became part of Hendon U.D., the area of the parish was 2,089 a. (fn. 2) The old parish was bordered on the north by Elstree (Herts.), on the west by Little Stanmore, and on the east by Hendon. The northern boundary followed roughly the line of Grim's Dyke, (fn. 3) and the western boundary ran from Elstree village southward along the modern Watling Street until it reached the Edgware Brook, which it followed until it joined Dean's Brook; it then turned towards the north and followed Dean's Brook until that stream petered out within a few hundred yards of Grim's Dyke and the eastern end of the northern boundary. This eastern edge of the parish followed the boundary of an estate in Hendon granted to Westminster Abbey severally by King Edwy (955-9) and King Edgar (959-75). (fn. 4) In the 12th and 13th centuries the vill of Edgware included the present parish and also that part of Little Stanmore north of the old road that branched off Watling Street in the direction of Watford along the line of the present Canons Drive. (fn. 5) The parish included part of the village of Elstree in its northwestern corner, while that part of the village of Edgware which stands on the western side of Watling Street has always been in the parish of Little Stanmore. (fn. 6) Edgware was included in Hendon R.D. on its formation in 1895 and was transferred to Hendon U.D. in 1931. Hendon was incorporated in 1932 and has formed part of the London Borough of Barnet since 1965. (fn. 7)
The soil of Edgware consists mainly of London Clay. There is a narrow strip of alluvium along Dean's Brook, and the higher lands in the extreme north-west of the parish, together with Brockley Hill and Woodcock Hill, are composed of the sand and loam of the Claygate Beds, capped with pebble gravel. (fn. 8) The southern tip of the parish is only 150 ft above sea level; a gentle ascent is maintained northward for 2 miles, but beyond Edgwarebury the land rises sharply to reach over 475 ft near Elstree. Brockley Hill, probably the site of the Roman station of Sulloniacae, (fn. 9) and Woodcock Hill, in the northeast corner of the parish, are both over 450 ft high. Dean's Brook, the product of several small springs on the south-eastern slopes of Deacon's Hill, is joined by a small stream from Brockley Hill and Edgwarebury at a point some 500 yards north of the junction of Dean's Brook and Edgware Brook, which there combine to become Silk Stream. In modern times none of these streams has been great enough to be more than an impediment to travellers, but the fact that the name of the village has been constructed to mean 'Ecgi's weir or fishing pool' may well indicate that either Dean's Brook or Edgware Brook was at one time of far greater volume. (fn. 10) Moreover, the bridge known as Edgware Bridge, which carries Watling Street over Edgware Brook, has always been important by reason of the great amount of traffic moving along that highway. In 1370 it was claimed that the Prior of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield, at that time holding land in Edgware, ought to repair a wooden bridge called 'Eggewerebrigge' and that his default had made the king's road there impassable for a year past. The prior claimed that he was not bound to repair the bridge, and after several postponements the jury declared in his favour, stating that the bridge was reparable by the alms of the men of the country and others crossing it. (fn. 11) A map of 1597 shows a bridge, of a considerably narrower track than the actual road, crossing the Edgware Brook; the stream, narrow on the left-hand or Stanmore side of the bridge, is wide and presumably shallow on the right-hand or downstream side. It seems probable, therefore, that the normal means of crossing the brook at that date was by fording, with the bridge used perhaps only by foot passengers and at times when the stream was in flood. (fn. 12) W. S. Tootell, writing in 1817, said that until recently the cost of repairing the bridge had been divided into four portions, two to be paid by the lord of Little Stanmore manor and one each by the lords of Hendon and Edgware manors. In 1814 these lords were indicted in King's Bench for not repairing the bridge. A witness for the prosecution said that a bar across the bridge was invariably kept shut except in time of floods. The judge declared that this showed that the public had the right to use the bridge only in time of flood, and as the indictment stated that the public might use it at their own free will and pleasure the defendants were acquitted. (fn. 13) Only one other bridge is shown on the map of 1597, that taking Edgwarebury Lane over the tributary of Dean's Brook. There was presumably a ford where Hale Lane crossed this stream, and until 1926, when the first bridge was built, there was a watersplash and regular winter flooding at the point where Hale Lane went through Dean's Brook. (fn. 14)
Watling Street, the Roman road from London to St. Albans (Herts.), has always been by far the most important of the roads touching Edgware. Sulloniacae lay exactly half-way between London and St. Albans, and Edgware, situated a mile or so to the south of the Roman station, has also had all the obvious advantages of this medial position. Tootell mentions 'a few large stones which by tradition were dropped by the Romans on their passage through the island, to enable them to find their way back'. (fn. 15) Another tradition is that Edgware was used as a resting-place by pilgrims on their way from London to St. Albans. (fn. 16) The road was certainly important in the Middle Ages, and from time to time various grants of tolls and pavage were made to further its repair. (fn. 17) In 1597 the width of the road through the village varied from 60 to 105 feet, and between Edgware and Brockley Hill there were wide verges on either side for considerable stretches. (fn. 18) A petition to the Commons in 1711 stated that the part of the London-Watford road from Great Stanmore to Kilburn, which included the section of Watling Street in Edgware parish between Canons and Edgware Bridge, was so damaged by the multitude of carriages and passengers that it was almost impassable for six months of the year, and in the same year the Edgware-Kilburn turnpike trust was established. (fn. 19) The turnpike road apparently extended from Kilburn to Sparrow's Herne (Herts.), (fn. 20) but the 'Edgware' tollgate was actually situated in Hendon, 200 yards south of the Edgware parish boundary. (fn. 21) The turnpike seems to have made little difference to the state of the road, for in 1798 it was said to have four inches of mud after heavy rain in summer and nine inches all the winter. (fn. 22) The trust was absorbed into the Metropolitan Turnpike Roads Trust in 1827 (fn. 23) and the road was disturnpiked in 1872. (fn. 24) Other roads in the parish, while not so ancient as Watling Street, have a certain documented antiquity. (fn. 25) The road now known as Station Road (Church Lane in 1845) and Hale Lane has remained unaltered in course since it appeared on the map of 1597, and is presumably the same highway for the making of which Richard Nicholl the elder left 20s. in 1498. (fn. 26) In 1597 Green Lane or Piper's Green Lane (fn. 27) ran north-west from Piper's Green along its present course, but joined Watling Street some 400 yards north of the present junction. Edgwarebury Lane held the same course in 1597 as it did in 1963, but from Edgwarebury it continued northwest to join the twisting track which is now Fortune Lane. This connexion with Fortune Lane was severed by the inclosure award of 1854, and a new way was adopted north from Edgwarebury across the common to meet the Elstree-Barnet road 750 yards east of Elstree crossroads, being for the greater part of its length a public footway only and not a public carriageway. (fn. 28) Clay Lane in 1597 followed its modern course. The modern development of Edgware has caused roads to proliferate within the built-up area. The first new road of more than local importance was Edgware Way, part of the Watford by-pass, which runs athwart the parish and was completed in 1927. (fn. 29) There were proposals in 1928 and 1933 for a major road to run from the junction of Watling Street and Edgware Way across Edgware to the junction of the Barnet by-pass and the northern boundary of the parish, but the project lapsed. (fn. 30) A section of the M1 motorway, cutting north-west from Mill Hill and westward across the parish north of Bury Farm, was opened in 1967. (fn. 31)
During the coaching age Edgware enjoyed good communications with London. In 1791 one stage coach and two other coaches passed through Edgware each day to London and back, and another coach passed through on four days a week. (fn. 32) By 1839 there were nine coaches from London passing through each weekday, and three on Sundays; seven carters went daily, with one extra on Saturdays, together with one wagon each day and two more on three days a week. (fn. 33) By 1851 five omnibuses were running daily to London. (fn. 34) There was no station in Edgware on the Midland Railway's main line from London to Bedford, opened in 1868, which ran north-east across the parish and through a tunnel under Woodcock Hill. (fn. 35) An Act to authorize the construction of a branch of the Great Northern Railway from Finsbury Park to Edgware, however, was passed in 1862; (fn. 36) the original plan seems to have been to place the Edgware station in Hendon, just to the south of Dean's Brook and near the turnpike house, but eventually it was sited in its present position between Station Road and Dean's Brook. The line was opened in 1867. (fn. 37) By 1869 it was showing a weekly increase in traffic and paying its way. (fn. 38) Evidently Edgware was considered to be the end of the line for economic suburban traffic, however, as the proposal to extend the line to Watford was abandoned in 1870. (fn. 39) The parishioners, at least, seemed to want no further connexion with Hertfordshire, for in 1871 the vestry refused permission to the Common Road Conveyance Co. to lay a tramway along the highway from Watford to London. (fn. 40) During the next fifty years there were several abortive proposals to build railways connecting Edgware with Harrow, Stanmore, and Watford, (fn. 41) but the only important move came in 1902, when an Act 'for incorporating the Edgware and Hampstead Railway Co., and for empowering them to construct railways partly underground from Edgware to Hampstead' was passed. (fn. 42) When the extension of the underground reached Golders Green in 1907, however, there was no mention in the official publicity of extensions to Edgware and Watford. (fn. 43) In fact, the surface extension of the tube from Edgware to Watford, authorized by an Act of 1903, (fn. 44) was never built, and in 1912 powers were obtained by the London Electric Railway to absorb the authorized Edgware and Hampstead Railway. (fn. 45) Work was begun on the extension of the tube from Golders Green in 1922, and in 1924 Edgware station was opened. (fn. 46) The intended New Works Programme of 1935-40, which proposed among other things the electrification of the L.N.E.R. line to Edgware and the extension of the tube to Aldenham (Herts.), was never carried out as regards works in Edgware, and the unfinished portions of the original scheme were finally abandoned in 1954. (fn. 47) In 1963 the line of the proposed extension could still be traced on the ground as far as Brockley Hill. In the meantime road transport had been developing. In 1904 the Metropolitan Electric Tramways Co. opened a service from Cricklewood to Edgware, which was extended to Canons Park in 1907. (fn. 48) By 1914 motor omnibuses were serving the village. (fn. 49) In 1936 the tramway beyond Edgware village was abandoned, and in the same year the tram service from Edgware to Acton was replaced by a trolleybus route. In 1938 the trolleybus service was extended to Canons Park. The last trolleybus was replaced by diesel omnibuses in 1962. (fn. 50)
Settlement in Edgware has been chiefly influenced by Watling Street. There is a possibility that the general unrest of the late 10th century had led to a certain amount of movement away from the highway, but there is no evidence that the village was ever sited away from Watling Street for any length of time. (fn. 51) The map of 1597 (fn. 52) shows the village stretched on both sides of Watling Street between Edgware Bridge and the church, the houses cramped together and for the most part fronting the road, although on the Stanmore side there are seven with their gableends to the road, and on the Edgware side some detached houses and outbuildings stand in the gardens and crofts behind the houses lining the road. There are a few houses on Watling Street north of the church, and a square structure standing actually in the road is probably the pound, but otherwise the only settlements of significant size are the farm-houses and buildings at Piper's Green and Edgwarebury.
Over most of the parish there was little change in this pattern of settlement until the great expansion of the 20th century. At Elstree, in the extreme northwest corner, several houses were built along the east side of Watling Street in the 18th century. By 1866 sporadic residential development had taken place at Stone Grove on Watling Street and at Newlands in Green Lane. There was also at least one large house in its own grounds, Deacon's Hill, on the Elstree- Barnet road near the northern boundary of the parish. (fn. 53) In the late 19th century this area, occupying high ground with fine views both to north and south, became a favourite site for such residences. (fn. 54) This trend has continued although the houses and their gardens have tended to become progressively smaller. Early in the 20th century the built-up area of Elstree was extended both eastward along the Barnet road and southward along Watling Street.
Edgware itself resisted wholesale development until after the First World War. In 1914 it could still be called a village although several streets of small terraced houses had been laid out on the site of Manor Farm to the north of St. Margaret's church, and also on the Stanmore side of Watling Street. (fn. 55) The want of quick railway communications was a reason given in 1924 to account for its backwardness, (fn. 56) but although the estate agents and developers began to invade Edgware after 1924, (fn. 57) the year in which the extension to the underground railway was completed, the railway itself was a symptom rather than a cause of the suburbanization of the parish. Once the first breach had been made, the southern end of the parish soon began to fill up with houses and shops, (fn. 58) more, perhaps, as a northern extension of Hendon than as a separate development of Edgware village. Until the outbreak of the Second World War building was confined mainly to the area south of Edgware Way (fn. 59) and after the war the northern part of the parish was included in London's Green Belt, thus ensuring the preservation of open spaces at Elstree, Deacon's Hill, and Scratchwood. The construction of the M1 motorway across this area made less visual impact than might have been expected owing to the deep cutting in which most of it lies. Some building estates have been planted north of Edgware Way in the post-war period, but they have been largely confined to the area between Edgwarebury Lane and the main railway line. The borough council's Spur Road estate was built only after bitter local opposition; it is dominated by five tall blocks of flats, the first of which, of eleven stories, was opened in 1957. (fn. 60)
The Edgware General Hospital is outside the old parish at Burnt Oak, Hendon. (fn. 61) The Anglican Convent of St. Mary at the Cross (Sisters of the Poor), (fn. 62) until 1931 known as the Convent of St. Mary of Nazareth, was founded in 1865 in Shoreditch by the Revd. H. D. Nihill. In 1873 land was bought at Edgware to the north of Hale Lane, and by degrees the work of the convent and its hospital at Shoreditch were given up. In 1937 a new hospital block, providing 50 extra beds, was opened at Edgware. It is now a home for sick and incurable children, who are taken in up to the age of 18 and then kept for life if they have no other home.
Apart from the tower of St. Margaret's church the only ancient buildings which survive in the old village lie on the Stanmore side of Watling Street. (fn. 63) About ten timber-framed houses, including the former 'Chandos Arms' were recorded here in the 1930s. (fn. 64) A few of these, dating from the 16th and early 17th centuries, were still standing in 1969. The inn called the 'George', which stood on the Edgware side of Watling Street half-way between Edgware and the church, is first mentioned in 1454. (fn. 65) It probably continued to be used as an inn until its demolition in 1931, but this function is obscured by the fact that the small farm attached to the 'George' was obviously more important both to its lessees and the lords of the manor. (fn. 66) Henry Hayley, a lessee of the 'George' in the early 17th century, was in 1617 described as a brewer and indicted for uttering drink beyond the rate. (fn. 67) Tootell does not include the 'George' in his list of alehouses in 1753, but states that it was licensed in 1771 in lieu of the 'Red Lion'. (fn. 68) It was called an inn in 1791 (fn. 69) and although in 1834 it was called only a tavern or public house (fn. 70) its fortunes seemed to revive in the later 19th century. (fn. 71) In 1597 the premises had consisted of four buildings, one of them fronting Watling Street, enclosing a courtyard; a long barn, also facing the road, stood to the north of the house, leaving a passageway through it to the enclosed land at the back, which contained a pond, outhouses, brewhouses, and an orchard. (fn. 72) A photograph of c. 1880-90 (fn. 73) shows an agglomeration of two-story buildings, brick-built and of uncertain age, presenting to the road two gable-ends separated by two bays, the first consisting of a door and a shallow brick bow-front, the second of a room over a high, wide passage, the whole suggesting a plan not unlike that shown on the map of 1597. By 1900 most of the front had been covered with roughcast; (fn. 74) after the First World War the courtyard was covered over and made into a dance hall, and the whole house was demolished c. 1931 for road widening. (fn. 75) Two other inns in Edgware were founded in the 18th century. The 'Boot', standing at the corner of Station Road and Watling Street, is probably the same as the 'Boot and Spur' mentioned in 1753. (fn. 76) About 1880-90 the inn was a plain brick building of two stories with attics, (fn. 77) but this house has since been demolished and a modern public house occupies its site. The 'Leather Bottle' existed in 1753; apparently 'silenced' in 1759, it does not appear again until the early 20th century, and the present building replaced an earlier and smaller house in 1925. (fn. 78) Other 18th-century inns in Edgware were the 'Bell', the 'Red Lion', and the 'Green Man' alias the 'Greyhound'. (fn. 79)
Edgware Place, which stood in the village at the junction of Watling Street and the road now called Manor Park Crescent, was built c. 1803 by the Hon. John Lindsay, partly, at least, from materials obtained by the demolition of the buildings at Bermondsey Spa. (fn. 80) The house afterwards became the residence of Charles Day, who built for it a lodge known as Blacking-Bottle Lodge, because its shape represented one of the bottles in which Day and Martin packed their liquid boot-blacking. (fn. 81) The house had been demolished by 1845 but the lodge remained for long after that date. (fn. 82) Nicoll's Farm, a brick house of c. 1700 which stood at the junction of Watling Street and Mill Ridge, (fn. 83) has disappeared but its partly timber-framed barn survives. Further north at Stone Grove are Day's Almshouses, dating from 1828. (fn. 84) Atkinson's Almshouses beyond them, originally built in 1680, were entirely reconstructed in 1957. (fn. 85) Two early-19th-century stucco residences in what is now Piper's Green Lane, Newlands Grange and Bromfield House, have been pulled down since the Second World War.
In the northern part of the parish two outlying farm-houses, Bury Farm at Edgwarebury (fn. 86) and Brockley Grange Farm, are partly timber-framed buildings probably dating from the early 17th century. The older houses on the east side of Watling Street at Elstree Hill South were built in the 18th century. They include a uniform range of five twostoried brick cottages with a central feature consisting of a doorway surmounted by a fanlight and a Venetian window above it; the range was unoccupied and partly derelict in 1969. Further south stands Hill House, a red brick building of two stories and attics. The front of its original block has a central doorway and a central Venetian window, flanked by projecting two-storied bays. A rainwater-head on one of the bays is dated 1779, but the core of the house and a long south wing may have been built earlier in the 18th century. Additional wings to the north were probably added after Hill House became a preparatory school in the late 19th century. (fn. 87) Several imposing 19th-century mansions were still standing in 1969 on the south side of the Elstree- Barnet road, although Deacon's Hill had been demolished and its site was being used for the erection of a close of neo-Georgian houses. Edgwarebury House, now a country club, and the Dower House date from the late 19th century and are both elaborately half-timbered externally. Other large houses of similar date in the area include the Chantry, Abbots Mead, and Penniwells. Much of the road frontage between them has been built up with 20thcentury residences, mostly detached and standing in large gardens.
Until the 20th century there were no violent fluctuations in the population of Edgware. In the manor of Edgware in 1277 there were 8 free tenants (excluding the Grand Priory of Clerkenwell) and 52 customary tenants; the survey from which these figures are taken, however, includes lands appurtenant to the manor lying in Kingsbury. (fn. 88) In 1425-6 the manor of Edgware had three free and 29 customary tenants in the parish, (fn. 89) and in 1525-6 the num bers were two or three free and 26 customary tenants. (fn. 90) In 1547 there were 120 communicants in the parish. (fn. 91) In 1597 there were between 60 and 70 houses in the parish, and 44 more in the village of Edgware but on the west side of Watling Street and therefore within the parish of Little Stanmore. (fn. 92) In 1599 there were six free and 25 customary tenants of the manor within Edgware. (fn. 93) In 1642 the protestation oath was taken by 103 adult males. (fn. 94) In 1664 there were 73 houses in the parish, but the hearth tax of 1672 gives only 66. (fn. 95) During the 18th century the average numbers both of baptisms and burials declined gently but steadily; in the period 1717-26 the average number of baptisms was between 15 and 16 a year and the average number of burials 20, but by 1801-10 the figures were 11 and 9 respectively. (fn. 96) There were said to be 69 houses in the village in 1766 and 76 houses in 1792. (fn. 97) At the first census in 1801 the population was 412. Throughout the 19th century numbers rose slowly, except for the years between 1851 and 1871; the censuses of 1861 and 1871 show successive declines of 7 per cent., attributed in 1871 to migration and to the absence of direct railway communication with London. Ten years later the losses had been more than made good, and in 1901 the figure of 868 had been reached. By 1921 the population had grown to 1,516, but the great infilling of the southern part of Edgware after 1924 caused the most spectacular increase. In 1931 the population was 5,352; this had increased to 17,513 by 1951 and to 20,127 by 1961. (fn. 98)
Apart from a few incumbents, (fn. 99) there have been no well-known residents in the parish. The AngloIrish writer Richard Edgeworth (1744-1817) and his daughter Maria (1767-1849), the novelist, believed that their ancestors had lived in Edgware before settling in Ireland, where Edward Edgeworth (d. 1595), Bishop of Down and Connor, had founded the family's fortune. (fn. 100)