Little Stanmore: Introduction

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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'Little Stanmore: Introduction', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham, (London, 1976) pp. 110-113. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]


Little Stanmore (fn. 1) parish was similar to Great Stanmore in alignment, although longer and thinner in shape. Its area was slightly larger, 1,552 a. in 1841, (fn. 2) and its centre of population lay closer to London, which was less than 9 miles from Edgware High Street. (fn. 3) By 1538 the parish was also known as Whitchurch, presumably because of the colouring of the church walls. (fn. 4) During the 17th and 18th centuries that name was sometimes used to distinguish the church and its very few near-by buildings from the houses along Watling Street. (fn. 5)

The northern boundary, across Bushey Heath, followed that of the county. (fn. 6) The eastern boundary was formed by Watling Street, which ran south-west from Elstree to Brockley Hill, where it resumed its south-easterly course to London, separating Little Stanmore from Edgware as far as Edgware brook and from Hendon between the brook and Burnt Oak. The parish was bordered by Kingsbury on the south and Great Stanmore on the west.

Little Stanmore, where James Brydges, duke of Chandos (d. 1744), built his mansion of Canons, has always shared its main areas of settlement with Edgware. In the extreme north both parishes included part of the village of Elstree. Most of their inhabitants lived farther south along Watling Street, where houses along the Little Stanmore side were normally thought to belong to the high street of the village or town of Edgware. (fn. 7) Since the 17th century, however, the administrative history of Little Stanmore has been more closely bound up with that of Great Stanmore. The civil parish lay within Hendon R.D. from 1894 until 1934 before it was divided to form part of the wards of Stanmore North and Stanmore South in the urban district (later borough and later London Borough) of Harrow. (fn. 8)

The soil is mainly London Clay, as in the parishes to east and west. Pebble gravel, edged with Claygate Beds, covers the highest ground, from Brockley Hill along Wood Lane to Great Stanmore; in the south alluvium lies along the border at Marsh Lane. (fn. 9) From less than 200 ft. in the south the ground slopes slowly up to 300 ft. at the bottom of Brockley Hill and from there rises rapidly to 400 ft. at Wood Lane, which itself reaches 475 ft. near the western boundary. Northward from its crest the level dips to 350 ft., only to rise to 425 ft. at Elstree, in the extreme north-east. West of Elstree a small part of Aldenham reservoir, one of five reservoirs built by 1819 for the Grand Junction Canal Co., lies within the parish. (fn. 10) A small stream, arising from springs in Cloisters wood, flows southward to form part of the western boundary; below Stanmore marsh Edgware brook crosses the parish to join Dean's brook in Edgware.

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74), who spent three years in Kingsbury, is said also to have lived in an unidentified house 'at the back of Canons', where he laid out a small but elaborately ornamented garden. Albert Chevalier (d. 1923), the singer, lived at Brockley Hill. (fn. 11) All other well-known residents were owners of Canons, or persons connected with them, or incumbents.

The busiest road has always been Watling Street, the Roman road from London to St. Albans (Herts.) and Chester. (fn. 12) Since the mid 19th century the northernmost stretch has been known as Elstree Hill and the slope from the ridge farther south as Brockley Hill. (fn. 13) The name Edgware Road, applied to much of Watling Street in the south part of the parish and beyond, first appeared as Edgware highway in 1574. In 1971 shorter sections of the road were known as Stone Grove, High Street, and Burnt Oak Broadway.

From the Middle Ages until the early 18th century a main road, leaving Watling Street at Stone Grove, led north-west across both Little Stanmore and Great Stanmore to Watford. (fn. 14) In 1718 James Brydges, then earl of Carnarvon, was licensed to inclose the Little Stanmore section of the Watford road in the grounds of Canons. (fn. 15) Brydges in compensation improved the modern London Road from Canons Corner, farther north than Stone Grove, south-westward across the parish to Great Stanmore village, along the line of an older way connecting Watling Street with Harrow and Uxbridge. (fn. 16) Parallel routes across the parish were Wood Lane, following the crest of the ridge from Brockley Hill by 1754, and Whitchurch Lane, running west from the high street past the isolated parish church to meet the western boundary at Stanmore marsh. Bacon Lane, running south from the parish church to Roe Green in Kingsbury, had largely fallen into disuse by 1754, when it also had an easterly branch leading to Watling Street below Edgware bridge. (fn. 17) A track still led south in 1827 (fn. 18) but by 1865 the branch from Watling Street, marked by the present Bacon Lane, alone remained, to peter out among the fields. (fn. 19) Apart from the drives running through the park of Canons, there were no other roads until the first suburban avenues were laid out shortly before the First World War. (fn. 20) In 1971 the north-eastern corner of the parish, including new roads in the Little Stanmore quarter of Elstree village, was cut off by two major roads: the Watford by-pass, finished in 1927, there ran parallel with the M1 motorway, opened in 1967 and intersecting with the by-pass east of Brockley Hill, in Edgware. (fn. 21)

In 1826 Edgware brook flowed through a culvert near the church, (fn. 22) perhaps under Bacon Lane, and under a bridge which had existed in some form since 1597 (fn. 23) at the south end of Edgware village. (fn. 24)

Watling Street, although often in need of repair, brought comparatively good communications with London before the railway age: in 1832 the Royal Mail called every day and other coaches left almost hourly from inns along the village high street. (fn. 25) Apart from coaches to Great Stanmore, (fn. 26) however, public transport was restricted to Watling Street until the 20th century. Horse-drawn omnibuses, opposed by Edgware vestry, (fn. 27) had reached Cricklewood by 1896 and Edgware a few years later. (fn. 28) In 1904 the Metropolitan Electric Tramways Co. opened a service along the route but a proposed extension went no farther north than the corner of London Road, where Canons Park became the terminus from 1907. (fn. 29) By that date the London General Omnibus Co. was running motor-buses to Great Stanmore and Watford along London Road itself. In 1934 motor-buses ran the entire length of the parish, up Brockley Hill to Elstree, and also reached Great Stanmore via Whitchurch Lane and Marsh Lane. (fn. 30) All the routes were used in 1971, when the southern area which had been densely built up in the 1930s enjoyed services linking Edgware and Queensbury stations along Camrose Avenue. (fn. 31)

Although no railway reached the parish until the 1930s, most inhabitants could conveniently use the Great Northern branch line from Edgware station, opened in 1867, or the Underground which ran from there after 1924. (fn. 32) A branch of the Metropolitan line, driven north from Wembley Park through Kingsbury to Little Stanmore, was opened in 1932. It became part of the Bakerloo line in 1939. (fn. 33) Stanmore station, its terminus at London Road, and Canons Park station, near the western end of Whitchurch Lane, also served much of Great Stanmore after the closure of the old Stanmore railway station in 1952. (fn. 34)

Settlement probably was always densest along Watling Street. A 15th- or 16th-century house survived, as no. 47 High Street, until after 1950 (fn. 35) and was one of a line of buildings which stretched from Whitchurch Lane to Edgware brook by 1597. (fn. 36) Together with those forming part of Elstree in the north and others encroaching from Great Stanmore, they left no need for a central village in such a long, narrow parish. From the Middle Ages until the 20th century there were very few buildings between the eastern and western boundaries apart from the church, first mentioned c. 1130, (fn. 37) and the manor-house of the priors of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, to the north. No traces survive of a medieval village around the church nor of any open fields. (fn. 38) The most distinctive feature of the parish became the manor-house, known by the early 16th century as Canons, (fn. 39) which was completely rebuilt at least three times. The duke of Chandos's famous mansion had the shortest life but its extensive grounds, stretching from Watling Street to the western border, helped to limit the spread of modern building.

In the early 18th century, (fn. 40) after improvements carried out by the duke of Chandos, Canons stood at the centre of a square formed by Watling Street, London Road, Marsh Lane, and Whitchurch Lane. The principal drive led south-east to two lodges at the north end of the houses along Watling Street and was balanced by a tree-lined ride leading north-east. Avenues, terminated by lodges, also radiated north, west, and south. Parkland covered most of the eastern part of the square but there were inclosed fields along Marsh Lane surrounding Marsh Farm in the south-western corner. The church, with 17th-century alms-houses to the north (fn. 41) and, probably, a minister's house, (fn. 42) stood at the end of the southern avenue in Whitchurch Lane. There were no other buildings of any importance away from the main road save at Brockley Hill. (fn. 43) Houses stood close together along the high street of Edgware village from a point south of Edgware brook to the gates of Canons. There were a few others at the south corner of Bacon Lane and one or two at Elstree.

Tenements within the manor of Little Stanmore called the Lion, the Falcon, and the Crown, whose holders had pasture rights in Stanmore marsh in 1582, (fn. 44) were presumably inns in the high street. Part of the inn later called the Crane or the Chandos Arms stood there by 1600 and the later White Hart was rebuilt in the 17th century. (fn. 45) The sole inn recorded away from Watling Street was the King's Head, recently erected on the old Watford road near Pear wood in 1720 and still existing in 1729. (fn. 46) A divided tenement called the Greyhound in 1719, which had been rebuilt as the Green Man inn by 1724, (fn. 47) was licensed in 1751, together with the White Horse, the Coach and Horses, the White Lion, the White Hart, the Crane, latterly also known as the Chandos Arms, and the Mason's Arms. The last four, whose sites ranged from the modern Burnt Oak Broadway northward to the corner of Whitchurch Lane, were the only inns licensed in 1803. (fn. 48) Apart from the Chandos Arms, awaiting demolition in 1937, they survived in 1971, although the White Lion and the Mason's Arms had been rebuilt. An inn called the Load of Hay stood south of Bacon Lane in 1865. (fn. 49)

There was very little new building away from Watling Street in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Oak Villa and other residences at the corner of London Road and Dennis Lane formed part of Great Stanmore village, although they were in Little Stanmore parish, and the Limes (later Limes House), a mansion at the west end of Wood Lane, was approached from across the boundary. (fn. 50) The Little Stanmore side of Watling Street boasted 18th-century gentlemen's residences in Albany House and its neighbour, as well as a chapel from 1834 (fn. 51) and a police station in Whitchurch Lane from 1853, (fn. 52) but in 1865 there were more houses on the Edgware side, both along the high street and in adjoining roads. (fn. 53) In 1887 the park of Canons stretched along the main road, with the result that north of the lodges there were still no buildings to face those on the Edgware side, except where the 18th-century Stone Grove House stood immediately south of Stone Grove Lodge and Stone Grove Cottage. (fn. 54) At Elstree the post office was in Little Stanmore, south-west of the cross-roads. (fn. 55)

Growth along the Little Stanmore side of Edgware Road was made possible by sales of Canons and the gradual reduction of its surrounding estate. (fn. 56) A small plot on the north side of Whitchurch Lane, near the high street, and 10 a. on the south side, beyond the church, were advertised for building in 1887. The Canons Park Estate Co. in 1898 announced plans for building on the remaining 479 a. (fn. 57) and in 1905 land was sold for Whitchurch gardens, where semi-detached houses were under construction in 1911. (fn. 58) By 1919 several houses had been built between the lodges and Stone Grove, and along Whitchurch Lane from the high street towards the church. Meads Road and Montgomery Road with its offshoots were also built up. (fn. 59)

The southern part of Little Stanmore, like that of Great Stanmore, was built up in the period between the World Wars. The park of Canons, although much reduced, (fn. 60) still extended north-east of a lake along the north side of the main avenue in 1920. (fn. 61) Much of it was bought in 1926 by George Cross (fn. 62) and soon afterwards large detached houses were built along the main avenue, which was renamed Canons Drive, and along adjoining roads. Farther south houses lined both sides of Whitchurch Lane, from Edgware to the new Canons Park tube station, by 1935. By that date the fields beyond, in the extreme south part of the parish, had been covered with rows of semi-detached houses. Camrose Avenue stretched almost across the parish to Turner Road, which was under construction, and was linked by Dale Avenue and other offshoots to Mollison Way. (fn. 63) The council built the Chandos estate around Buckingham Road and the Berridge estate around Bacon Lane, which together contained 304 houses. (fn. 64) Most of the shops were in Edgware High Street or its southern continuation Burnt Oak Broadway, where new building and alterations took place. The new suburb was also served by a small shopping parade in Whitchurch Lane, west of the tube station, and in the south by shops over the parish boundary, around Honeypot Lane and Queensbury station. (fn. 65)

North of Canons Park building was in progress along both sides of London Road before the Second World War. (fn. 66) New roads included Merrion Avenue west of Stanmore tube station, Court Drive and its offshoots, and Pangbourne Drive near Edgware Road, although in 1950 there was empty ground immediately east of the railway. Parts of Valencia and Glanleam roads, north of London Road, were also built up along the foot of Brockley Hill. Contrasting conditions prevailed in the extreme north part of the parish. The acquisition of a nursing home by the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in 1920 and the subsequent extension of its grounds ensured that a large area stretching north and west to the Hertfordshire boundary should remain free of housing, although additions were made to the hospital buildings near Wood Lane. (fn. 67) From 1927 the north-eastern corner of the parish was cut off by the Watford by-pass. A depot was built along the by-pass by the London Passenger Transport Board (fn. 68) and building started in Sullivan Way and its offshoots at the Little Stanmore corner of the Elstree cross-roads.

Small council estates, comprising 56 flats and houses in Camrose Avenue and 24 at the junction of the avenue with Edgware Road, helped to cover what little building land was left in the south after the Second World War. Between the Kingsbury boundary and Whitchurch Lane there were no open spaces, apart from playing fields and the 27 a. of Chandos recreation ground immediately south of Edgware brook. (fn. 69) Farther north many houses were more expensive because of their proximity to Canons and its grounds. Land stretching east to Seven Acre lake was saved by the North London Collegiate school, which bought the mansion in 1929, while nearly 50 a. became a public park incorporating a garden. (fn. 70) In 1971 an avenue of trees, cut by the Bakerloo line which had become the western boundary of the park itself, still stretched to the former gateway in Marsh Lane, and a second avenue led south alongside the main park to the churchyard. The entrance in Whitchurch Lane afforded a vista across nearly half a mile of finely timbered land to the south front of Canons, whose modern extensions were largely masked by trees.

North of the park many gaps were filled on either side of London Road between 1950 and 1963. (fn. 71) Westbere Drive and Aylward school were built east of the railway and more detached houses appeared in and around Glanleam Road. Land at the corner of London Road and Brockley Hill was acquired by the Ministry of Works in 1946 and an additional plot to the north was bought in 1957. (fn. 72) Government offices, most of them single-storeyed buildings, stretched for more than half a mile up Brockley Hill in 1971, when they were used by the Department of the Environment, the Ministry of Defence, and several other bodies. Farther north the sports ground and clubhouse of George Wimpey & Co. adjoined a slope of open country, crowned with woods. Beyond Wood Lane more additions were made to the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital and from 1967 Watling Street was carried on a bridge over the M1 motorway. At Elstree building continued along Schubert Road and other offshoots of Sullivan Way; a few modern houses were all that stood on the Little Stanmore side at the top of Elstree Hill in 1971, although some 19th-century cottages survived along the Bushey-Barnet road.

Apart from St. Lawrence's church and Canons, there are no notable pre-20th-century buildings away from Watling Street. (fn. 73) Near the corner of Camrose Avenue a late-18th-century red-brick residence, with adjoining stables, awaited demolition in 1971. (fn. 74) Albany House, a similar building of c. 1750, stands to the north. Beyond Edgware brook is the stuccoed, three-storeyed White Hart, 17th-century but with timbering of c. 1500; (fn. 75) Victorian alterations have been made to its ground floor. Farther north an 18th-century red-brick house has been divided into two shops, nos. 59 and 61 High Street, as has the 17th-century timber-framed building which contains nos. 65 and 67. On the far side of the junction with Whitchurch Lane most of a 17th-century timbered row survives in nos. 81 to 101; the ground floors are used as shops or as part of the Dick Turpin, nos. 99 and 101 having comprised the Sawyers' Arms, dated 1650. Farther north Stone Grove Court, stuccoed and early-19th-century, stands about mid-way between Canons Drive and London Road. Over a mile beyond are Brockley Hill House, a stuccoed mid-19th-century residence in the grounds of the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital, and the 17th-century brick and weatherboarded Brockley Hill Farm, with weatherboarded barns. An older Brockley Hill House, first mentioned in 1725 (fn. 76) and later the seat of William Sharpe, (fn. 77) probably stood farther west. Close to the Great Stanmore boundary, in the grounds of the hospital, is an obelisk erected by Sharpe in the mid 18th century; its inscription, renewed at the expense of the governors, claims that Cassivellaunus made a successful stand there against the Romans. (fn. 78)

There were 127 communicants in Little Stanmore in 1547 (fn. 79) and 91 adult males, including the minister, who took the protestation oath in 1642. (fn. 80) The population rose from 424 in 1801 to 891 in 1861 but was no more than 862 in 1881 and 1,069 in 1891. It rose more sharply in the early 20th century, reaching 1,761 in 1911, 2,015 in 1921, when numbers overtook those in Great Stanmore, and 6,918 in 1931. The density increased from 1.3 persons per acre in 1921 to 4.35 ten years later. Stanmore South ward, covering much of the south of the parish, had 13,363 inhabitants in 1951 and the high density of 30.5 to an acre in 1951. By 1961 numbers had fallen to 11,365, reducing the density to 25.9. (fn. 81)


  • 1. The article was written in 1971. Any references to later years are dated. The help of Mr. R. W. Thomson in making material available and commenting on the article is gratefully acknowledged.
  • 2. Census, 1841.
  • 3. Except where otherwise stated, the rest of the para. and the following para. are based on O.S. Maps 6", Mdx. V. SE.; VI. SW.; XI. NW. (1865 and later edns.).
  • 4. P. N. Mdx. (E.P.N.S.), 66.
  • 5. e.g. J. Ogilby, Map of Mdx. (c. 1677); J. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 6. See p. 114.
  • 7. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 151.
  • 8. See p. 121.
  • 9. Geol. Surv. Map 1", drift, sheet 256 (1951 edn.); ibid. 6", Mdx. XI. NW. (1920 edn.).
  • 10. A. Rees, Cyclopaedia (1819 edn.), vi, s.v. 'Canal'.
  • 11. Druett, Stanmores and Harrow Weald, 190-1.
  • 12. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 151-2.
  • 13. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. V. SE. (1865 edn.).
  • 14. C. F. Baylis, Edgware and the Stanmores, 5 and map facing p. 1.
  • 15. M.R.O., MJ/SBB. 766/33.
  • 16. Baylis, op. cit. map facing p. 1.
  • 17. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 18. M.R.O., Acc. 262/71/2.
  • 19. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XI. NW. (1865 edn.).
  • 20. See p. 112.
  • 21. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 152.
  • 22. Rep. on Bridges in Mdx. 207.
  • 23. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 151.
  • 24. Rep. on Bridges in Mdx. 207.
  • 25. Pigot's Com. Dir. (1832-4).
  • 26. See p. 91.
  • 27. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 152.
  • 28. A. J. Garrett, 'Hist. Geog. of Upper Brent' (London Univ. M.A. thesis, 1935), 130-2 and maps; ex inf. Mr. H. V. Borley.
  • 29. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 153.
  • 30. Garrett, op. cit. 133 and maps.
  • 31. Harrow L.B., Official Guide [c. 1967].
  • 32. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 152-3.
  • 33. C. E. Lee, Sixty Years of the Bakerloo, 22-3.
  • 34. See p. 91.
  • 35. Min. of Town and Country Planning, List of Bldgs. (1950).
  • 36. All Souls Coll., Oxford, map of Edgware man. 1597; V.C.H. Mdx. iv, plate facing p. 127.
  • 37. See p. 122.
  • 38. Garrett, op. cit. 58.
  • 39. See p. 114.
  • 40. The para. is based on Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 41. See p. 127.
  • 42. See p. 123.
  • 43. See p. 113.
  • 44. Davenport MSS., Gt. Stan. ct. rolls.
  • 45. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 115; see below, p. 113.
  • 46. M.L.R. 1720/2/201; 1729/3/388.
  • 47. M.L.R. 1719/3/18; 1724/6/453.
  • 48. M.R.O., L.V. 7/1; L.V. 10/113.
  • 49. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XI. NW. (1865 edn.).
  • 50. See p. 96.
  • 51. See p. 124.
  • 52. See p. 122.
  • 53. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VI. SW. (1865 edn.).
  • 54. Harrow Cent. Ref. Libr., sales parts.
  • 55. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VI. NW. (1865 edn.).
  • 56. See p. 116.
  • 57. Harrow Cent. Ref. Libr., sales parts.
  • 58. A. A. Jackson, Semi-detached Lond. 249.
  • 59. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VI. SW. (1919 edn.).
  • 60. See p. 116.
  • 61. Harrow Cent. Ref. Libr., sales parts.
  • 62. See p. 116.
  • 63. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. VI. SW. (1935 edn.).
  • 64. Boro. of Harrow, Facts & Figures (1963-4).
  • 65. See pp. 55, 111.
  • 66. The para. is based on O.S. Maps 6", Mdx. V. SE. (1938 edn.); 1/25,000, TQ 19 (1950 edn.).
  • 67. See p. 122.
  • 68. See p. 120.
  • 69. Boro. of Harrow, Facts & Figures (1963-4).
  • 70. See p. 122.
  • 71. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on O.S. Maps 1/25,000, TQ 19 (1950 edn.); 1/2,500, TQ 1792 (1963 edn.); 1/2,500, TQ 1793 (1964 edn.).
  • 72. Ex inf. Dept. of the Environment.
  • 73. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 115 and Min. of Town and Country Planning, List of Bldgs. (1950).
  • 74. It was called Edgware Ho. in 1897, when another Edgware Ho. (later Edgware Place) stood farther north on the east side of Watling Street: O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XI. NW. (1897 edn.); V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 154.
  • 75. Harrow Observer, 10 Oct. 1972.
  • 76. M.L.R. 1725/4/368.
  • 77. Ambulator (1807).
  • 78. Druett, Stanmores and Harrow Weald, 12-13 and plate facing p. 16.
  • 79. E 301/34/127.
  • 80. H.L., Mdx. Protestation Rets.
  • 81. Census, 1801-1961.