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.
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Harrow was never a society composed solely of peasants and dominated by one lord, for even in the Middle Ages there were some influential residents, like the Flambards, Boyses, Bellamys, and Cheyneys. Apart from drawing rents from land, Elizabethan Londoners built houses in Middlesex 'for their recreation in the summer time and for withdrawing places in the times of common sickness'. (fn. 1) From the 17th century merchants and minor gentry increasingly lived in Harrow in addition to owning property there. By 1614 people like Master Bartholomew Cokes 'a tall young squire of Harrow o' the Hill' and Mistress Grace Wellborn 'of the same place' must have been common enough to have been recognized by Ben Jonson's audience. (fn. 2) Later in the century the Gerards and the merchant families of Claxton and Waldo dominated Harrow-on-the-Hill, Sudbury, Pinner, and Harrow Weald. The native-born Pages won a similar pre-eminence in Wembley, to be replaced in the early 19th century by the Grays, who were treated deferentially as the local squires. (fn. 3) The Copland sisters, of Sudbury Lodge, were great local benefactresses, (fn. 4) as was George T. Barham, who lived in a house on the site of Sudbury Lodge in the early 20th century. (fn. 5) Another Sudbury resident, Sir William Perkin, was active in nonconformist and social work. (fn. 6) Late-19th-century Alperton was dominated by Henry Haynes, whose brick-works provided work for almost everyone there. (fn. 7) Other villages, like Pinner and Harrow Weald, contained many 'gentlemen of wealth . . . mostly engaged in the City of London', who fought to protect Harrow Weald from the encroaching factories and terraced housing of Wealdstone. (fn. 8)
By 1826 the trade of Harrow-on-the-Hill was in a great measure dependent upon the school. (fn. 9) Harrow School also attracted new residents, especially old boys who needed to live near London. Sheridan, for example, entertained Fox and Burke at the Grove when he was an M.P. in the 1780s. (fn. 10) There were also parents who could not always afford boarding fees. They included Anthony Trollope's mother, (fn. 11) and Mary Shelley, who in 1834 found Harrow a dull, inhospitable place. (fn. 12) In 1861 a large proportion of 'educated members of the upper classes' were in the parish because of the school. (fn. 13) Matthew Arnold and Charles Kingsley (fn. 14) were exceptional, but the Harrow schoolmasters, clergy, and booksellers, and the relatively numerous gentry and professional people, formed a cultivated, if conservative, society.
In 1826 it was claimed that 'families of the first distinction and opulence' lived in and around Harrow, but this was an exaggeration based on the presence of the marquesses of Abercorn. (fn. 15) The Norths in the 16th and the Rushouts from the end of the 18th century, who belonged to the nobility, were seldom resident. Lord Northwick once entertained Lord Nelson at Harrow, (fn. 16) but the most brilliant society was to be found at Bentley Priory under John James Hamilton, Marquess of Abercorn (d. 1818), an exotic figure who provided the model for Sheridan's Don Whiskerandos. (fn. 17) Between 1788, when he bought Bentley Priory, and his death, Abercorn entertained politicians such as Pitt, Canning, Liverpool, Sidmouth, and Wellington, writers like Wordsworth, Moore, Rogers, Scott, and Campbell, and distinguished members of the theatrical profession like Mrs. Siddons and John Kemble. Abercorn was succeeded by his grandson, a minor, whose step-father, Lord Aberdeen, lived at Bentley Priory. Under Aberdeen, Colonial Secretary 1834-5 and leader of the Conservative Free Trade Society, Bentley became a Conservative Party headquarters. Its last distinguished occupant was Queen Adelaide, who leased the house in 1846 (fn. 18) and died there three years later. (fn. 19)
In spite of royal protection for Lanfranc's deer, (fn. 20) John in 1206 ordered ten greyhounds and three attendants to be kept at Harrow for his own use. (fn. 21) After the disappearance of the forest cover, the deer were maintained at Pinner Park partly to provide hunting for the archbishop, but after Pinner Park's conversion to farm-land only smaller game were hunted. Richard Layton, when Rector of Harrow, sent partridges killed by his hawk to Thomas Cromwell in 1537. (fn. 22) Sir Gilbert Gerard was accused in 1638 of hawking for partridges and pheasants. (fn. 23) In 1533 tenants were forbidden to ensnare those birds. (fn. 24) Snaring hares before St. George's Day with nets or 'harpipes' had been similarly forbidden in 1512. (fn. 25) A rabbit-warren was kept at Sudbury at the beginning of the 17th century. (fn. 26)
The Queen's hounds hunted over Pinner in the 19th century (fn. 27) and between the two world wars the Household Brigade met twice a year with drag hounds at Pinner Park. The Pinner, later the Middlesex, Drag Hunt was formed in 1932. (fn. 28) In the 19th century coursing took place on Daniel Hill's land in north Pinner and prize-fighting and illegal cock-fighting also flourished, (fn. 29) while cock-shying had been carried on at Pinner in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 30) Horse-breeding by farmers in the 19th century led to the establishment of racecourses. After the failure of one behind Sir William Perkin's house, the site was used by Perkin for religious meetings. (fn. 31) Race meetings held by the lessee of New College farm under the auspices of the licensed victuallers of London provoked an outcry in 1867 from the Vicar of Harrow, who alleged that they attracted 'the very off-scourings of the lowest London stables', and begged that racing should be forbidden when the lease fell in. (fn. 32) A proposal to open a racecourse at Wembley Park, after the collapse of the pleasure grounds scheme, was defeated by local opposition. (fn. 33) The best known racecourse, at Headstone, had to be suppressed in 1899 after a riot started by Londoners. (fn. 34) In 1925 a donkey derby was started in the grounds of Pinner Grove on the initiative of the jockey, Steve Donaghue. (fn. 35)
There were shooting butts in the corner of Roxeth Hill and London Road (fn. 36) by 1392. (fn. 37) During the 18th century the shooting by the Harrow schoolboys for the silver arrow attracted large crowds, but these included unruly elements from London and at the end of the century the contests were replaced by cricket. (fn. 38) A 'tenys court' is recorded in 1574, (fn. 39) but the most popular gentlemen's sport in the 17th century seems to have been bowling. In the 1630s bowls were probably played at Sudbury, just south of Flambards, (fn. 40) and there were also bowling greens in the late 17th century at Pinner Hill and in the north of Harrow Weald. (fn. 41) The cricket played by Harrow School drew crowds from miles around. Pinner Green and Rickmansworth Cricket Club existed by 1790 (fn. 42) and Wembley Cricket Club was founded in 1860. (fn. 43) Barrow Point Cricket Club, which played on Judge William Barber's land, had been founded by 1888 (fn. 44) and Pinner United Club was founded in 1895. (fn. 45) By 1928 there were 17 cricket clubs in Wembley. (fn. 46) A football club was formed in Pinner in 1892 (fn. 47) and by 1928 there were 13 football clubs in Wembley. (fn. 48) Wembley Stadium, built as part of the British Empire Exhibition with under-cover accommodation for 100,000, was first used for the Football Association cup final of 1923. From this date Wembley became a household name until it achieved international fame as the site of the Olympic Games in 1948 and of the World Cup Final in 1966. In 1934 the Empire Pool and Sports Arena was built for indoor sports. Wembley has thus become one of the national centres for spectator sports. (fn. 49) There was a golf club in Wembley in 1896 (fn. 50) and in 1968 there were golf courses at Grim's Dyke in Harrow Weald (opened in 1910) and at Pinner Hill. (fn. 51) Sudbury Golf Course, in spite of its name, lies outside the boundary of ancient Harrow and modern Brent alike. By 1968 there were clubs for almost every kind of sporting activity and over 2,000 a. of park and recreation ground. (fn. 52)
Mummers performed at Pinner at Christmas until the beginning of the 20th century, (fn. 53) and a pleasure fair developed out of Pinner's medieval fair. By the early 19th century wrestling, racing, 'gingling', climbing a greasy pole, and 'other manly and old English sports' accompanied the sale of cattle and hay. (fn. 54) The fair, as a pleasure fair only, flourished in 1968, (fn. 55) despite attempts to close it in 1829 (fn. 56) and 1893 (fn. 57) as a source of immorality. Presentments for breaking the assize of ale indicate many medieval inns and alehouses. (fn. 58) In 1517 presentments were made for permitting dicing within houses, and three 'common dice-players' were fined in 1521. (fn. 59) In 1577 alehouses were forbidden to open on Sundays or feast days during divine service, in 1610 anyone found drunk in an alehouse had to pay a fine of 5s., and a year later it was forbidden to serve drinks after 9.0 p.m., except to travellers. (fn. 60) In 1671 the licence of Richard King of Harrow-on-the-Hill was suppressed, supposedly because he could earn a living by other means but in reality because he entertained local servants 'to the great damage and disturbance of the neighbourhood'. (fn. 61)
In 1722 there were 22 victuallers in Harrow parish (fn. 62) and in 1751 there were 19 inns in Harrow and 6 in Pinner. (fn. 63) In 1787 Pinner vestry resolved to enforce a royal proclamation against frequenting alehouses during divine service and against unseemly behaviour and opening shops on Sundays, (fn. 64) and by 1800 the number of alehouses had dropped to 18 in Harrow and 5 in Pinner. (fn. 65) In 1827, when 'gross misconduct' was alleged against the landlord of the 'Bell', Major William Abbs of Pinner Hall pressed for the inn-keeper's removal. (fn. 66) The magistrates were asked to reduce the number of public houses in Pinner and it was proposed that no relief should be given to people who refused to attend divine service twice on Sundays. At the time there were five public houses in Pinner and a population of between 1,076 and 1,270, giving a ratio of c. 235 people to each public house. (fn. 67) Harrow, with 17 public houses and between 3,017 and 3,861 inhabitants, had a ratio of c. 200. In Pinner an exceptionally large vestry agreed, by 47 votes to 19, to rescind the call made four months earlier for the dismissal of the 'Bell's' landlord, but the temperance party was firmly in control in the 1830s, when the depression probably helped it. In 1830 constables were required to lay complaints against drunkards and against landlords or retailers who permitted drunkenness or who opened outside legal hours. A special committee was to visit alehouses, and strict regard was to be paid to the habits of applicants for relief. A year later all shops were to shut on Sundays except during the summer, when, because of the influx of hay-makers, they could stay open until 9.0 p.m. (fn. 68)
By 1851, when the population of Pinner had risen to 1,331, there were still only five public houses, giving a ratio of 266 people to each public house. In Harrow, whose population had risen to 4,951, there were 36 inns and beershops, a ratio of 137 people to each public house or beershop. (fn. 69) In 1860 a petition claimed that Harrow fair was obsolete and 'productive of . . . serious injury to the morals of the lower classes', (fn. 70) and in 1872 the fair was abolished. (fn. 71) By 1873 there were 27 inns and 27 beershops in Harrow and 8 inns and 7 beershops in Pinner. (fn. 72) The population in 1871 was 8,537 for Harrow and 2,383 for Pinner, giving a ratio of 158 people to each inn and beershop in Harrow and the same proportion in Pinner. In 1873 the Vicar of St. John's, Wembley, complained that 'beer is the curse of the place', (fn. 73) and a census taken by the Harrow Temperance Association, founded in 1876, estimated that there was one drinking house to every 228 persons. (fn. 74) At first the association rented a room in the workmen's hall which had been erected c. 1861 in Crown Street, and offered coffee and literature. In 1879 it converted the room into the Royal Oak coffee tavern, and in 1883, when there were 245 adult and 250 junior members, established a coffee cart at the end of College Road to serve employees of the railway works. By 1885, however, trade was so bad that the committee felt free to close the tavern, which from 1890 became St. Mary's temperance house. (fn. 75) A similar coffee tavern, the 'Cocoa Tree', was opened in Pinner in 1878 by Judge William Barber. (fn. 76)
Clubs founded by the workmen themselves often replaced the small benefit and friendly societies of the 1830s and 1840s. (fn. 77) Sometimes the initiative came from the upper and middle classes, who hoped to mix entertainment with instruction. One of the earliest public halls was founded in 1864 by the Copland sisters at Sudbury, where working men and mechanics over 16 were provided with a library and non-alcoholic drinks. The members subscribed 1s. a quarter and the hall was to be managed by a committee. (fn. 78) In 1930 the hall was replaced by the Wembley institute. (fn. 79) A parish hall in Pinner was used for concerts and penny readings from 1866 to 1897. (fn. 80) In addition to the workmen's hall in Harrowon-the-Hill, opened c. 1861, there was a lecture hall in Roxeth, opened in 1869, (fn. 81) and a public hall and assembly rooms for 400 people at Harrow-on-theHill, opened in 1874. (fn. 82) In Greenhill there was a workmen's club from the 1860s and a Victoria Hall from 1888. The hall was enlarged in 1895 to include a reading room, library, and football and cricket facilities, and by c. 1898 it had a membership of about 200. (fn. 83) St. Mary's church leased a mission house from 1885 to be used for religious and social meetings. (fn. 84) Under the patronage of the middle and upper classes the Harrow Young Men's Society was founded in 1851 to provide evening classes and lectures and a library of 'instructive' books for the benefit of young workmen. It had a building by 1855 and 201 members by 1859, though few of them were labourers. Numbers then declined, although they rose again with a shift of emphasis from instruction to entertainment. The Society lasted until at least 1903. (fn. 85) Other clubs included a young men's institute in Pinner from 1866 to 1895, (fn. 86) a young men's literary institute at Wembley in 1886, (fn. 87) St. Mary's Social Club from 1903 to 1905 for men attending the Sunday afternoon services, (fn. 88) and a men's institute at Roxeth from 1909. (fn. 89)
Harrow Literary Institute, founded by 1851, (fn. 90) acquired a site in the High Street in 1864. (fn. 91) Its successor, Harrow Fifty Club, which survived from 1899 until 1914, was a conversational club restricted to elected members. (fn. 92) A poetical society existed in Harrow Weald in 1878 (fn. 93) and St. John's Debating and Literary Society in Wembley from 1906. (fn. 94) There were horticultural societies in Harrow from 1853, (fn. 95) in Pinner from 1890, (fn. 96) in Wembley from 1893, (fn. 97) and at Wembley Hill from 1921. (fn. 98) A Liberal club was founded in Harrow in 1906 (fn. 99) and a Conservative club at the 'Cocoa Tree' in Pinner after 1931. (fn. 100) Wembley Choral Society was founded in the 1880s but most musical and dramatic clubs started between the world wars. (fn. 101) Examples include the Vagabonds (1920), Pinner and Hatch End Operatic Society (1922), the Pinner Players (1936), and the Pinner Orchestra (1939). (fn. 102) After demands for a theatre the Coliseum was opened in 1940 in Station Road, Harrow, where it remained until its closure in 1955. (fn. 103) The Coliseum had itself replaced a cinema which had been opened on the site in 1922. (fn. 104) A cinematograph hall in Harrow High Street was rebuilt in 1911 to hold 480 people. (fn. 105) Nine cinemas had been closed down by 1964 (fn. 106) but 7 remained in 1968. (fn. 107) Rapid development between the wars stimulated interest in the past. The Pinner Association was founded in 1932 to protect rural scenery and to secure good local government. In Wembley the local history society, which was founded in 1952, has collected archive material and surveyed buildings due for demolition, although attempts to preserve buildings have usually been unsuccessful. A similar society for Harrow was founded in 1932. Both Harrow and Brent have arts councils assisted by the local authority. (fn. 108)
The first local newspaper, the Harrow Gazette, was founded in 1855. A second weekly, the Wealdstone, Wembley, and Harrow Observer, more usually known as the Harrow Observer, was founded in 1895, and in 1912 the two amalgamated as the Harrow Observer and Gazette. The Harrow Press existed from 1892 to 1896. The Harrow Post had been founded by 1956. The Wembley Observer and Gazette was founded in 1912 and the Wembley News in 1923. All these newspapers were published in 1968. (fn. 109)