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Entries about metro-land

WANDERING AROUND WEMBLEY: NOT SIMPLY SOCCER

There is far more to Wembley than simply soccer!

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the construction of London’s local railways, notably the Metropolitan Line, improved access between the centre of the city and places that were open countryside before the rails were laid. The builders of the Metropolitan Line kept hold of land along it which was surplus to the construction of the railway lines. This extra land was developed for housing purposes, thus ensuring a supply of passengers who would need the Metropolitan to commute to and from their workplaces. To sell housing, the railway company developed the concept of ‘Metro-land’, which was to promote the idea of living in idyllic rustic surroundings close to London. However, as Oliver Green writes in his introduction to a modern (1987) facsimile of the promotional literature “Metro-land, 1932 edition”:
“The notion of Metro-land as a ‘rural Arcadia’ certainly no longer matched the suburban reality of Wembley Park or Rayners Lane…”

Ealing Rd, Wembley

Ealing Rd, Wembley

In the late 19th century, the concept of the ‘Garden City’ and the ‘Garden Suburb’ was developed following the ideas proposed by Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928). In brief, his idea was to create communities in which homes, workplaces, and nature were perfectly balanced. This resulted in the creation in London of, for example, Hampstead Garden Suburb (initiated 1904), which is both visually entrancing and well-blended with greenery. This ideal was abandoned later in the 1920s when many of the suburbs contained in ‘Metro-land’ were developed. Architectural variety gave way to mass-produced buildings based on very few patterns, many of which looked identical; and the balance between urbanisation and greenery became minimal. The resulting suburbs, of which most of Wembley is a good example, became lay-outs containing streets lined with houses that were barely distinguishable from one another – a featureless sea of suburbia.
This piece includes an exploration of what, if anything, is left of ‘rural Arcadia’ in the vast suburban sea that covers Wembley and its surroundings.

View of Wembley Stadium from Stonebridge Park Stn

View of Wembley Stadium from Stonebridge Park Stn

Stonebridge Park Station is close to both the North Circular Road and the River Brent, which flows besides it. The name ‘Stonebridge’ is derived from the stone bridge over the river at this location, built between 1660 and 1700, see: http://www.brentmuseumandarchive.org.uk.gridhosted.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Stonebridge.pdf). It was considered unusual at that time because most of the crossings of the Brent were wooden. In the 1870s, developers started erecting villas for professional men and their families in an estate called ‘Stonebridge Park’. By the late 19th century, houses were being built in the area for people with lower incomes than the professionals in the estate. The station stands surrounded by desolate landscape that includes the busy circular road as well as a few high-rise buildings, some of which look derelict or unused. From the station, there is a good view of the soaring arch that spans the not-too-distant Wembley Stadium. In addition, there are plenty of streets lined with two-storey residential building of barely any architectural merit.

Point Place leads from the station to the Harrow Road - a thoroughfare that has linked Paddington and Harrow for several centuries. Point Place crosses a short narrow channel lined with concrete walls.

Wembley Brook at Stonebridge Park Stn

Wembley Brook at Stonebridge Park Stn

This contains a small stretch of Wembley Brook, a tiny tributary of the River Brent. After crossing Harrow Road, it is a short distance to Brent River Park, also known as ‘Tokyngton Recreation Ground’. Tokyngton means ‘the farm of the sons of Toca’ (see: http://www.brent-heritage.co.uk/tokyngton.htm). The name was first recorded in 1171, and in mediaeval times it was the most populous part of the parish of Harrow.

South entrance to Tokyngton recreation ground

South entrance to Tokyngton recreation ground

Tokyngton recreation ground sculpture

Tokyngton recreation ground sculpture

The long narrow park contains a stretch of the River Brent, which winds through it. By the entrance near to Monks Park Gardens, there is a sculpture in the form of a stone with carvings on it. This is near a well-equipped playground. When I visited it, most of the children playing on it were young girls wearing Islamic head-coverings.

Southern bridge over the Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

Southern bridge over the Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent at Tokyngton recreation ground

There is a substantial bridge across the Brent close to the playground. A path snakes its way northwards, often quite close to the tree- and bush-lined river banks. Another bridge crosses the river about halfway along the length of the park.

River Brent from middle bridge in Tokyngton recreation ground

River Brent from middle bridge in Tokyngton recreation ground

This bridge, smaller than the southernmost one, is close to a clearing which contains something that could easily be mistaken for an abstract sculpture by Anthony Caro.

Climate Pavilion, Tokyngton recreation ground

Climate Pavilion, Tokyngton recreation ground

This was built in 2012. It is: “A pavilion which outlines the dangers of climate change while offering residents a place to shelter … The pavilion, which was suggested by the Friends of Brent River Park, has a sustainable urban drainage system for when the park experiences flooding … The structure can also be used by Brent schools as an outdoor classroom for pupils to study and understand climate change and environmental issues in a natural setting.” (see: http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/environment/pavilion-which-is-an-outdoor-classroom-is-unveiled-in-wembley-park-1-1333284). Although only a few years after its inauguration, now in 2017, heavily oxidised, it looks as if it is past its best, but it makes for an intriguing sculptural form.

Oakington Manor Drive Wembley

Oakington Manor Drive Wembley

Walking through the park, it is at times difficult to believe that this rustic-looking area is so very close to monotonous rows of suburban residences. A short walk from the pavilion, and you are plunged into neat suburban streets. The local roads are narrow, reflecting the paucity of traffic during the inter-war years when they were laid out. Then, car ownership was low compared to today. The long Oakington Manor Drive (mostly built between 1914 and 1932; there was an ‘Oakington Farm’ marked on both 1761 and 1873 maps), like all of the residential streets nearby, is lined with houses, many of them decorated with fake half-timbering on their facades. This artifice, according to Michael Robbins writing in “Middlesex” (first publ. 1953), was: “… to inform the observer that the house was not built by a local council…”, but, instead, was paid for by its owner. Several houses had strings of faded bunting above their front doors. Maybe, these were the homes of Hindus who often decorate the entrances to their homes with ‘thoran’ (these are often also in the form of leaves or small dried fruits or peppers). Oakington Manor Drive leads towards the centre of Wembley, where many people with origins in the Indian subcontinent reside.

Sherrins Farm Open Space

Sherrins Farm Open Space

Post Office Tower from Sherrins Farm Open Space

Post Office Tower from Sherrins Farm Open Space

A short lane leads from Oakington Manor Drive to Sherrins Farm Open Space, a large triangular grassy area on the south facing slope of a hill. This is in the place marked as ‘Oakington Farm’ on maps drawn before WW2. ‘Oakington’ might well be phonetically related to ‘Tokyngton’. The two names are used interchangeably to denote the same area. ‘Sherrins’ was the name of the farm during the last few decades of its rural existence (see: http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/tokyngton/).

View of Wembley Stadium from Sherrins Farm Open Space

View of Wembley Stadium from Sherrins Farm Open Space

It is a good place to get a view, unobstructed by construction cranes, of the exterior of the new Wembley Stadium. Within sight of the stadium, there were young boys playing football on the small park. Maybe in the future some of them will be playing in the nearby world-famous stadium. The Open Space also provides good views of central London.

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

St Josephs RC Church Wembley

Oakington Manor Drive meets the Harrow Road just before it becomes Wembley High Road. Near this point, stands the tall brick-built tower of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Designed by Reynolds and Adrian Gilbert Scott (1882-1963; grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott), it was built between 1955 and ’57. Its interior is very dramatic. Arches straddle the nave, and between them there are circular concavities, like the interiors of domes.

Wembley Staium Station bridge

Wembley Staium Station bridge

A main road, Wembley Hill, begins opposite St Josephs. A pedestrian way leads off this road at an acute angle, passing over a modern suspension bridge over the railway station (Wembley Stadium Station) beneath it. Beyond the bridge looms Wembley Stadium. The current building designed by Norman Foster’s architectural firm was completed in 2007. Its distinguishing feature, which can be seen from many points in north London is a steel arch: a lattice of criss-crossing steel rods that spans the stadium like a rainbow. Its purpose is to support the weight of much of the stadiums roofing.

Wembley Stadium detail

Wembley Stadium detail

The present stadium stands on the site of a much older one built in 1923, which was demolished by 2003. The older stadium, which was first named ‘British Empire Exhibition Stadium’, was built as part of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924–25. When, to many people’s dismay, this much-loved landmark in the world of British and International soccer was demolished, the rubble was collected together and used to construct four artificial grass-covered hills next to the A40 road near Northolt. These hills, the burial mounds of the old stadium, form the ‘Northala Fields’ country park.

Corner Wembley High Road and Ealing Road

Corner Wembley High Road and Ealing Road

Jewellery shop Ealing Road

Jewellery shop Ealing Road

Ealing Road begins on Wembley High Road a few bus-stops west of St Josephs. Sanghamam vegetarian restaurant sits at the union (‘sangham’ in some Indian languages) of Ealing Road and the High Road. It offers what in India would be described as ‘multicuisine’ – that is food from a variety of widely differing gastronomic traditions (in Sanghamam’s case, this includes Gujarati, Punjabi, Sri Lankan, and Chinese). The restaurant’s signage is in several scripts including English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Tamil. A short way down Ealing Road, is the first of many jewellery shops along this street. A display of gold necklaces is in the window above some words in Tamil script.

Wembley Central Mosque

Wembley Central Mosque

The Wembley Central Mosque complex on Ealing Road is housed in buildings that have features typical of the Arts and Crafts style popular at the beginning of the 20th century. The building with the clock-tower, now the mosque, was built in 1904, designed by Thomas Collcutt (1840-1924) and his apprentice Stanley Hamp (1877-1968). It was originally St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1335084). In 1993, the local Muslim congregation acquired into this church, which had stood empty for almost fifteen years. They moved here from an earlier mosque that they had built in 1985 in a semi-detached house on Harrowdene Road. The current mosque and its annexe can accommodate 1250 worshipers (see: http://www.wembleycentralmasjid.co.uk/about-us/).

Ealing Road ICICI Bank

Ealing Road ICICI Bank

Ealing Road Methodist Church

Ealing Road Methodist Church

Yet another manifestation of Ealing Road’s ties to the Indian Subcontinent is a branch of the Indian ICICI Bank, which is housed in a semi-detached Victorian house at number 49. The other half of this building is currently occupied by JM Amin, a firm of solicitors. Further along, stands Ealing Road Methodist Church, a brick neo-gothic building with a polygonal tower topped with a tiled steeple.

Clothing and jewellery in Ealing Road

Clothing and jewellery in Ealing Road

South of the Methodist Church, Ealing Road becomes a busy shopping centre. There are large shops selling clothes made in the Indian styles: kurtas, saris, salwar kameez, bridal wear, lenghas, chania choli, and traditional Indian sub-continental menswear. There is no need to fly to India or Pakistan to be properly kitted out. You need go no further than Ealing Road!

Ealing Road: Asia in suburbia

Ealing Road: Asia in suburbia

Fruit and veg Ealing Road

Fruit and veg Ealing Road

Ealing Road: decorative and devotional objects stall

Ealing Road: decorative and devotional objects stall

There is no shortage of jewellery shops supplying high carat gold jewellery in traditional Indian designs. At the other end of the price scale, there are vast fruit and vegetable stores, well-supplied to satisfy even the most demanding of vegetarians. And, there are many vegetarians living in this area, many of them of Gujarati heritage.

Sakonis Ealing Road

Sakonis Ealing Road

If you are keen on South Indian vegetarian food, there are several eateries, where you can have your fill. One of these, which I have visited frequently, is a large local branch of Sakonis. Before my first visit to India in 1994, my then future wife used to dine with me at Sakonis to help me become acquainted with South Indian food, such as I was going to encounter when I accompanied her to Bangalore, where we got married. It was at Sakonis that I ate my first ever dosa (a crepe-like pancake made with rice-flour) and delicious ‘mogo chips’, which are deep-fried strips of cassava. The inclusion of the latter on the menus of Sakonis and other vegetarian restaurants in the area reflects the fact that many of the Indians in Wembley have come to the UK from Uganda (expelled by Idi Amin in the 1960s), Kenya, and other regions of East Africa.

Popat Stores Ealing Rd

Popat Stores Ealing Rd

If you wish to cook your own food, then everything you need in an Asian kitchen is available at Popat Stores, which has been purveying kitchenware since 1972. ‘Popat’ is the Hindi word for ‘parrot’, but it can also mean to ‘goof-up’ (see: http://www.samosapedia.com/e/popat). Nearby, there are many shops with display stalls out on the pavement in front of them. They sell everything from shoes to devotional objects, but not books.

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Wembley Gospel Hall Ealing Rd

Amidst the food shops, jewellers, clothing stores, sweet shops, paan shops, bangle shops, and so on, stands the small Wembley Gospel Hall, which was opened in 1924. The congregation moved there from an older hall close to Alperton Station, which they had used since the 1890s. Notices on the building include texts in Gujarati script, reflecting the fact that there are speakers of this language amongst the Hall’s congregation. Within the Hall’s fence, there is a bilingual sign (English and Guajarati) exhorting people neither to drop litter nor to spit.

Gujarati and English in Ealing Road next to VB and Sons

Gujarati and English in Ealing Road next to VB and Sons

Next door to the Hall, there is a branch of the VB & Sons chain of supermarkets, which have been in existence for more than 20 years. VB’s stores, which are especially well patronised by the Gujarati community, offer a wide range of foodstuffs - from rices to spices - required for both Gujarati and South Indian cuisines. These stores can supply ingredients in anything from small family amounts to huge industrial catering sizes. This is the place to go if you need several gallons of pickle or huge sacks of lentils or other pulses.

Alperton Baptist Church

Alperton Baptist Church

Just south of the shopping arcade, but north of Alperton Station, stands the Alperton Baptist Church. This simple brick building with five windows just beneath its roof was built before 1932. It is adorned with the Union Jack and flags from seven different countries including India and Pakistan. It is a dramatic contrast to the Hindu temple that it faces across Ealing Road.

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

The Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir (‘Mandir’) is a decorative oasis in the desert of dull suburbia surrounding it. Located on land where a school once stood, this Mandir is an exciting riot of fine ornamentation. It is built using ochre-coloured stone from Jaisalmer (in Rajasthan, India), as well as various types of marble. Like much older Hindu temples in India, the surface of the building is rich in intricately executed religious carvings as well as scenes from Hindu legends such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and others. The Mandir was opened in May 2010 with a special ceremony. This eye-catching, attractive building’s appearance easily rivals that of the much-visited (by Hindus and non-Hindus alike) marble Neasden Temple, which is not far away.

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

Shri Vallabh Nidhi Mandir - Ealing Road

So many of the residential houses were built around Wembley during the 1920s and’30s, the period when ‘art-deco’ flourished. Yet these homes, which were built at the same time as the Chrysler Building in New York, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, and many superb cinemas in London, are, to put it politely, unimaginative and dull to look at.

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

Alperton Station

However, London Transport built many of the stations that serve the Piccadilly Line in this style. Alperton Station is no exception. The original station was opened in 1910, and then demolished by 1931. It was replaced by the present, elegant art-deco station designed by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who designed many other stations for the Underground as well as buildings such as the Senate House (built 1937) of the University of London and Zimbabwe House (built in 1907-8, originally for the British Medical Association its façade includes sculptures by Jacob Epstein) on the Strand.

Alperton bus garage

Alperton bus garage

Grand Union at Alperton looking east

Grand Union at Alperton looking east

Alperton Station is next to Alperton Garage, a depot for buses. Soon after this, Ealing Road makes a right angle turn and then continues south-eastwards instead of south-westwards, as had been from its start at Wembley High Road. Immediately, after turning the corner, the road crosses the Grand Union Canal - Paddington Branch (aka ‘Arm’), which flows for about 13 miles between Paddington Basin to Bull’s Bridge (on the main Grand Union Canal network) near Hayes Road in Hounslow. Near Paddington, the Arm joins with the Regent’s Canal to its east. The latter continues eastwards to Limehouse, where it connects with the Thames. The Paddington Arm was opened in 1801.

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

As it was a pleasant sunny afternoon, I decided to walk east along its well-maintained towpath. The towpath is lined with vegetation along its length between Ealing Road and Acton Lane. Along this stretch, the canal, which is close to a number of industrial units, passes through residential suburbia, but one is hardly aware of this. Linking parts of west London with central London, the towpath is used by many commuters on bicycles. Despite numerous signs exhorting them to give way to pedestrians on the path, most of the cyclists travel at high speed, as if they are training for the Tour de France. In addition to these thoughtless cyclists, there are many pedestrians, many of them with non-European features.

Cyclist and swans and Grand Union Canal

Cyclist and swans and Grand Union Canal

Two Moorhens on the Grand Union

Two Moorhens on the Grand Union

The canal, which was originally designed to transport goods, is not empty. I saw a steady stream of long canal boats (‘narrowboats’) travelling in both directions. Many of the helmsmen ‘steering’ these often colourfully decorated craft were quenching their thirst with cans of beer. The water is filled with water-fowl: families of swans, ducks, and moorhens, some of which were sitting on their nests. They swim amongst the waterweed and discarded bottles and cans floating on the surface.

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Abbey Road bridge NW10

Abbey Road bridge NW10

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

Grand Union between Alperton and Park Royal

At one point, the canal crosses high above the River Brent, which seemed to be lost in the dense vegetation growing on its banks.

River Brent beneath Grand Union Canal

River Brent beneath Grand Union Canal

Immediately east of this point, the canal is divided into two lanes by an island, which has two identical concrete-topped brick cubes, each bearing the coat-of-arms of the County of Middlesex. This island spans the length of a bridge (an aqueduct) that carries the canal high over the busy North Circular Road. The original aqueduct was built at the same time as the North Circular in the early 1930s. It was strong enough to repel bombs placed at either end of it by the Irish Republican Army in 1939 (see: https://www.alpertonhistory.info/the-canal-aqueduct/). In the early 1990s, when the North Circular was widened, the original aqueduct was replaced with the present longer one.

Cyclists and canal crossing North Circular Rd

Cyclists and canal crossing North Circular Rd

North Circular Rd from the Grand Union Canal bridge

North Circular Rd from the Grand Union Canal bridge

Canal bridge over North Circular Rd

Canal bridge over North Circular Rd

East of the aqueduct, there is more industrial land usage than west of it, where there is more ‘Metro-land’ type of residential estates than industrial occupation. The Grand Junction Arms is a pub next to the Acton Lane bridge over the canal. With canal-side outdoor seating, this makes a pleasant refreshment stop. The pub was first opened as a ‘beer house’ in 1816. From 1861, it was known as the ‘Grand Junction and Railway Inn’. In the 15th century, Sir John Elrington (died 1483), the Lord of Twyford and sometime Member of Parliament, had his manor house near where the bridge is today. The parish of Twyford, whose name derives from ‘Tueverde’ meaning ‘two fords’, covers about 280 acres of the southwest of modern Willesden.

Grand Junction Arms Acton Lane bridge

Grand Junction Arms Acton Lane bridge

Across the canal, facing the pub, there is a modern café, with an open-air terrace overlooking the water. Many of the outdoor tables were occupied by women wearing bourkas. For, they were about to enjoy Lebanese food in this establishment named ‘Beit el Zaytoun’ (meaning ‘House of Olives’), which appears to attract reviews varying much from ‘great’ to ‘awful’. Unlike the pub across the waters, this place does not serve alcohol.

WEMB 6h Beit el Zaytoun at Acton Road bridge

WEMB 6h Beit el Zaytoun at Acton Road bridge

This ramble has taken us through areas of London rarely visited by tourists (except soccer aficionados), and, probably, with good reason. Viewed from a bus, car, or train, there is little to tempt the passer-by to stop in Wembley and its environs. I hope that what I have written in this chapter demonstrates that what, at first sight, looks dull, really deserves closer examination

Two swans on the Grand Union

Two swans on the Grand Union

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 01:53 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged football london india soccer canal pakistan sri_lanka wembley dosa suburbia gujarati river_brent metro-land grand_union_canal Comments (0)

PINN POINTS

Ruislip and Pinner, linked by the River Pinn, have been almost engulfed in the tide of suburbia that began advancing in the early 20th century, but they retain some remarkable features of their rural past.

Ruislip and Pinner have been almost engulfed in the tide of London's suburbia that began advancing in the early 20th century, but they retain some remarkable features of their rural past. They are connected by the River Pinn.

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

Entrance to Pinner Memorial Park

I had never been on the Metropolitan Line further north of Wembley Park until this year (2017). In the early 1960s, when I was at the Hall School in Swiss Cottage, we made occasional trips to a sports field (not Wembley Stadium!) close to Wembley Park Station. For many decades, I felt the need to travel further out of London on the Metropolitan to see places to which it led. So, on a very hot July day, I travelled to Pinner Station. My aim was to follow the River Pinn as far as Ruislip, which is also on a branch of the line. This essay describes what I saw on my walk between the two stations located on separate branches of the Metropolitan Line.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, both Pinner and Ruislip were small country places in Middlesex, quite separate from London and not part of ‘suburbia’. Ruislip was connected to the Metropolitan Line (Uxbridge branch) in 1904, and to the Piccadilly Line in the early 1930s.

Ruislip Station looking east

Ruislip Station looking east

Pinner’s station opened in 1885. Unlike other companies building railway lines, which were to become incorporated into London’s Underground system, the Metropolitan was not required to give up land surplus to its requirements (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro-land). This excess land could then be offered to developers for building purposes. In 1915, the Metropolitan coined the term ‘Metro-land’, and produced booklets with this name. These aimed to associate in peoples’ minds rustic pleasures of the countryside with suburban living, and thereby encourage folk to move out of inner London to inhabit the remoter places served by the railway. As John Betjeman (1906-1984) put it in his poem “Middlesex”:

“Gaily into Ruislip Gardens
Runs the red electric train,
With a thousand Ta’s and Pardon’s
Daintily alights Elaine;
Hurries down the concrete station
With a frown of concentration,
Out into the outskirt’s edges
Where a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural Middlesex again.”

In another of his poems, “Baker St Station Buffet”, he summarises Metroland’s promises of idyllic life in rural suburbia perfectly:

“And sepia views of leafy lanes in Pinner –
Then visualize, far down the shining lines,
Your parents’ homestead set in murmuring pines.”

Metro-land’s success was responsible for converting out of the way places, difficult to access before the advent of the Metropolitan Railway, from quaint rural settlements to sprawling London suburbs. Fortunately, the results were not totally disastrous, not a complete obliteration of London’s countryside. I saw that even though both Pinner and Ruislip have grown significantly, parts of rural Middlesex near them have escaped urbanisation, and remain as rural spots where Londoners may enjoy the countryside without having to move beyond the city’s boundaries.

When my train reached Harrow-on-the-Hill station, the view from the train window was disappointing. The station is away from the picturesque part of Harrow, upon its hill. Instead, it is in the heart of an urbanised area that reminded me of central Croydon: badly-designed office blocks, supermarkets and shabby car-parks. From Pinner station’s platform, I had no idea of what delights were just around the corner from it.

Pinner High Street

Pinner High Street

I had travelled from Baker Street to Pinner, where I began a walk that lasted several hours, all of which was delightful despite the intense heat. I decided to follow part of the ‘Celandine Route’, which follows the River Pinn as closely as possible. The River Pinn rises near Hatch End, and then flows in a generally south-westerly direction, passing through Pinner and Ruislip, before merging with Fray’s River just west of Yiewsley. Fray’s River is a tributary of the River Colne, which flows into the Thames at Staines.

On Pinner High Street

On Pinner High Street

Pinner’s name first appeared in records in 1231, where it is noted as ‘Pinnora’. This is derived from two words: ‘Pynn’ (meaning unknown, but might be a Saxon first name; the River Pinn gets its name from this) and ‘ora’ (Old English for ‘river bank’). Its High Street is so well-preserved that it is easy to imagine what the village was like long before the arrival of the Metropolitan Railway. It slopes gently upwards towards the Church of St John the Baptist. Although some of the buildings along the street are newish (post-Victorian), many of them are old, and well-preserved. At number 6, the current occupier of an old building, half-timbered, bearing the date 1580 (although it might have been modified since then), which used to house the ‘Victory’ pub, is a branch of the Zizzy’s restaurant chain.

32 Pinner High Street

32 Pinner High Street

Number 32 is an elegant red-brick house with a centrally placed pediment on its classical façade. It is currently the premises of EM Collins & Co, and was built in 1763 by its then owner the brickmaker William Bodimeade (see: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/www2/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=60281). Its neighbour, number 34, is one of several 16th century buildings in the High Street. Across the road from these buildings, there is an early 16th century building that now houses the Friends Restaurant.

Queens Head Pinner High Str

Queens Head Pinner High Str

For almost 100 years until 1915, this house had been home to three successive Parish Clerks. Up the hill from this, stands The Queen’s Head, also in a 16th century building. It has been an inn since 1635. A notice on the pub suggests that there was a pub on this spot as early as 1540, and conjectures that there was one there since the 14th century. The beam (carrying a sign) and post projecting over the pavement have been present since before 1820.

Pinner High Str War Memorial

Pinner High Str War Memorial

With these and so many other equally old buildings, it is unsurprising that the High Street was designated a Conservation Area under the Civic Amenities Act of 1967. A drearily designed WW1 memorial stands just at the top of the High Street beneath the church, whose tall flint covered tower dominates the short street.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

The existing St John the Baptist Church was dedicated in 1321. Its tower and some other features were added in the 15th century. Its pleasant gothic interior contains a stone font with an elaborately crafted wooden cover, and memorials including one to Trooper Edward Russell Apps, who died aged 21 in May 1900 at Bamboo Creek (now ‘Nhamatanda’ in Mozambique) in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The monument to this young bank clerk, who worked for Glynn Mills & Co, was erected by his fellow parishioners because he had volunteered “… for active service in a time of national emergency … for Queen and Country”.

St John the Baptist Pinner

St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow,  St John the Baptist Pinner

Born in Moscow, St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in  St John the Baptist Pinner

Font in St John the Baptist Pinner

Another monument, which caught my eye and roused my curiosity, was that commemorating the Reverend Charles Edward Grenside, Vicar of Pinner from 1886 to 1910. What interested me was that he was born in Moscow (Russia) in 1849. When he entered this world, his father Christopher Grenside (1837-1885) was British Chaplain in Moscow, a post that he held from 1847-1853, having previously held that position in Archangelsk from 1843. Charles died in Kensington in 1933.

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument,  St John the Baptist Pinner

Detail of pyramid monument, St John the Baptist Pinner

There is a small graveyard outside the church. This contains a huge grey stone pyramid with two small (apparently empty) sarcophagi stuck near its apex. This peculiar monument was designed by John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), the Scottish-born botanist, garden- and cemetery- designer. It was erected to honour his parents.

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

Bridge over the Pinn east of Bridge Street

We catch our first glimpse of the Pinn from a small bridge with cast-iron railings behind some shops on Bridge Street at its southern end. This street, in contrast to the High Street, looks like most north London suburban shopping areas.

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

RC Church St Lukes Pinner

Nearby, in Love Lane there stands the Roman Catholic Church of St Luke. Although built between 1957 and 1958 (to the designs of Francis Xavier Velarde: 1879-1960), this unfussy brick construction with its airy interior retains a remarkably contemporary feel (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1429922).

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Pinn River looking west from Bridge Street Pinner

Bridge Street crosses the wide but shallow Pinn, which flows under a wooden bridge connecting two parts of a small park with a few benches. Chapel Lane leads off Bridge Street and heads towards the larger Pinner Memorial Park. Before reaching it, the lane passes Chapel Lane Chambers. These were built in the 1840s, and greatly enlarged during the last century.

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Chapel Lane Chambers Pinner

Pinner Memorial Park was set up in the grounds of West House on land bought by the people of Pinner in order to honour the dead of the two world wars. There has been a house on the site for over 500 years.

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

Pinner Memorial Park: New Heath Robinson Museum and old West House

West House was once the home of Nelson Ward (1828-1917), a grandson of Admiral Horatio Nelson. His mother, Horatia (1801-1881) was the illegitimate daughter of the Admiral and Emma Hamilton. Horatia was conceived on board the “Foudroyant” during a cruise in the Mediterranean on which Emma’s husband was also a passenger (see: “The Pursuit of Victory…” by R Knight, publ. 2005). She married the Reverend Phillip Ward (1795-1859), and Nelson Ward was their fifth-born of ten children. He became a Registrar in the Court of Chancery.

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Pinner Memorial Park aviary

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Lake at Pinner Memorial Park

Little remains of Ward’s West House. It is now joined to new buildings including a café and a small museum dedicated to the memory of the inventive cartoonist W Heath Robinson (1872-1944; he lived in Pinner from 1908). The complex of buildings overlooks a lake which contains one tiny island and a small fountain. It is also close to a small aviary containing colourful budgerigars. Dotted around the park, there are several attractive carved wooden sculptures.

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park sculpture

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

Pinner Memorial Park dog cemetery

To the west of the car park outside West House near to West End Road, a group of five small, tilting, gravestones with mainly illegible inscriptions stand in a circle. One of them marks the final resting place of ‘Effie’, who died aged ten years in 1903. These are all that remain of a Victorian dog cemetery. If you wish to see a larger and better-preserved dog/pet cemetery, you need to visit the one near Victoria Gate on Bayswater Road (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Inside-Hyde-Parks-secret-pet-cemetery/).

Rose Cottage in  West End Lane Pinner

Rose Cottage in West End Lane Pinner

South along the West End Lane with its well-spaced twentieth century houses and gardens – a better part of ‘Metro-land’ that approaches its ideal, Rose Cottage stands, contrasting with its neighbours. It was built in the 1850s when West End was a hamlet separate from Pinner. Further south at the corner of West End Lane and Lloyd Court, there is a bridge over the Pinn. Its waters flow beneath this and then north-westwards through some private gardens to Cranbourne Drive, from where a footpath leads between the stream and some allotment gardens before entering a densely wooded area. The path follows the meandering Pinn through the woods before reaching a broad meadow, which has been preserved for nature conservation reasons.

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

River Pinn and Celandine Route path near Cranbourne Drive

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Celandine Route signs near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

Meadow near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

No ashes! near Cheney Street

At Cheney Street, which crosses the Pinn over a small bridge, I spotted a sign that pleaded with people not to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in the woods and green open spaces. Apparently, the ashes of cremated bodies contain high concentrations of minerals that are deleterious to the plants, which made the place so pleasant for the deceased before they died. The Celandine Route path continues to follow the Pinn, which winds through a corridor of grassland, wild flowers, and trees.

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

An inlet of the Pinn near Eastcote House

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

Sheila Liberty Bridge near Eastcote

After a while, the path, which had been heading westwards, turns southwards and crosses the Pinn over a wooden bridge. This bridge, the Sheila Liberty Bridge (named in honour of a local community leader and conservationist, Sheila Liberty: 1937-2010; see: http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/local-news/sheila-champion-eastcote-dies-73-5991693) leads into the grounds of the former Eastcote House.

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Walled garden and dovecote at Eastcote

Eastcote House stood on a site, where there had been a dwelling since at least 1507. “About the year 1525 Ralph Hawtrey left his parents’ home at Chequers in Buckinghamshire, now the country house of the Prime Ministers of this country, and settled in Eastcote” (see: http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Eastcote-House-Gardens.pdf). The Hawtrey family built a house, which dated back to the 16th century. This fell into neglect, and was demolished(!) in the 1960s. Although, it is not possible to visit the house, we are indebted to the 1936 inspection by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, which reported:
“… the considerable amount of moulded wooden panelling and the fine main early 18th century staircase with its twisted ‘barley-stick’ moulded balusters. One of the ground floor rooms with extensive panelling was known as the Cromwell Room because of an unsubstantiated story that Oliver Cromwell had stayed at the house” (see: http://eastcotehousegardens.weebly.com/history.html).

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Inside the Dovecot at Eastcote

Fortunately, some buildings of the Eastcote House estate remain intact, and open for visitors to examine. The tall, square-based dovecot, which replaces one built in the 16th century, was constructed in the 18th century. Inside, a brickwork structure of (literally) pigeon-holes climbs up the tall walls, and were accessed by ladders. At this point, I will quote extensively from a source already mentioned (http://www.eastcoteparkestate.org.uk/WP/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Eastcote-House-Gardens.pdf):
“Until the development in the 18th century of root crops, winter feed for cattle was scarce and as a result only breeding pairs could be kept and the rest were slaughtered and salted down. It was soon realised that the fresh meat deficiency could be made good in some measure by the keeping of pigeons and this led to the building of dovecotes some of which date from an early age … The building of dovecotes was heavily restricted and normally only permitted to the lord of the manor. One of the early Hawtreys built himself a dovecote at Eastcote House without permission but, presumably because of his standing with Kings College Cambridge, the lords of the manor at that time, he was forgiven and a licence for the building was granted in 1601.”

Walled garden at Eastcote

Walled garden at Eastcote

The dovecote stands at one corner of a walled garden. Its walls were probably built in the 17th century, and repaired frequently since then. It contains many thin red bricks typical of those made during the Tudor period (i.e. late 15th century and most of the 16th). The garden within the walls is beautifully maintained and is laid out attractively. Close to the garden, there is one more building that has escaped demolition. This is the well-restored brick and timber coach house or stables. It can be dated back to the early 17th century. Now, it is used for both community functions and for private hire. It can hold up to fifty people.

The coach house at Eastcote

The coach house at Eastcote

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

Flint foundations at an archaeological dig at Eastcote House

When I crossed the Pinn into the grounds of Eastcote House, the first thing that I noticed was an area fenced off for archaeologists. They had unearthed the flint-based foundations of what had once been a timber-framed building. The friendly archaeologist supervising the dig told me that each year, he and his volunteers dig up different parts of the estate where they expect to find remains, and then after recording their finds they replace the turfs.

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

River Pinn bridge at Fore Street

Pretty Corner today

Pretty Corner today

A chatty man, who was taking five dogs for a walk, led me from Eastcote House back to the Pinn, where it flowed in a narrow, wooded corridor sandwiched between Eastcote High Road and Mount Park Road. At Fore Street, a substantial brick and stone bridge carries the road over the river. A short distance south of the bridge, where Fore Street meets the High Road, we reach the appropriately named Pretty Corner, which is now a triangular patch of grass. Until the 1930s when the grass was laid, there was a small pond, ‘Guts Pond’ on this site and Fore Street was then called by its 19th century name ‘Frog Lane’.

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

Pretty Corner before the pond disappeared

A half-timbered building is visible from Pretty Corner. This is ‘New Cottages’ built in 1879 to the designs of Sir Ernest George (1839-1922; he designed the current Southwark Bridge) and his business partner Harold Ainworth Peto (1854-1933; a well-known garden designer as well as an architect), whose father was a tenant at the now demolished Eastcote House.

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Bridge over Pinn at Elmbridge Drive

Pinn Meadows

Pinn Meadows

After crossing Fore Street, I followed the Pinn to Elmbridge Road, which crosses the river by a white stone (or concrete) bridge. The river then flows westwards through a wide open-space, mostly grass-covered but punctuated by lines of trees that probably follow old field boundaries. The open space is called ‘Pinn Meadows’. It is all that remains of the home farm (‘demesne’) of the historic estate of Ruislip, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. After 1087, the lands became owned by the Benedictine abbey of Bec in Normandy. In the 15th century, the lands were handed over to the newly established Kings College in Cambridge, which still holds much land in London today.

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Skating place at Kings College Playing Fields

Another bridge carries Kings College Road across the Pinn, which then flows south of Kings College Playing Fields. Close to the road and lying between a race-track and the river, there is a rectangular concrete structure with a complexly curved surface – an interesting sculptural form. This is the ‘King’s College Skatepark’ for skate-boarders.

Park Ave Hillingdon,  architects: Connell and Ward

Park Ave Hillingdon, architects: Connell and Ward

North of the racetrack, there are three neighbouring white painted buildings with a design that reminded me of architecture inspired by the pre-WW2 Bauhaus in Germany. They were built between 1935 and 1938 to designs by Amyas Connell (1901-1980), Basil Ward (1902-1976), and Colin Lucas (1906-1984). It is lucky that they were ever constructed because “The original plans were strongly contested by the Ruislip and Northwood planning authority, but eventually passed…” (see: http://www.modernism-in-metroland.co.uk/97-101-park-avenue.html). Surrounded by brick houses of the type that populate most of London’s extensive, mostly architecturally unexciting, suburbia, spotting these exceptional houses was a pleasant surprise for me.

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

PINN 4p River Pinn with depth gauge at St Martins Approach near Ruislip

Where the bridge that carries St Martins Approach crosses over the Pinn, the river appeared to be very narrow or clogged with weeds. The presence of a flood gauge near the bridge suggests that the Pinn does occasionally increase in depth. For example, in December 2012, flood warnings were issued for places along the Pinn including Pinner and Ruislip (see: Evening Standard, 20th December 2012). But, that was difficult to imagine when I saw the river on a sweltering July afternoon.

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Farm House at Manor Farm Ruislip

Leaving the Pinn and the Celandine Route footpath that follows it, I crossed Pinn Way, and then entered Ruislip’s Manor Farm. The former farm and its buildings were ranged around the site of a small motte and bailey castle of the type imported by the Normans. The one at Manor Farm was built just after the Norman conquest.

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

Manor Farm Ruislip the barely discernible bailey of the old fort

With a little imagination and the knowledge, provided by informative notices, that the castle once existed, one can just make out two separate low grassy mounds that are all that remain of the motte and its associated bailey. Raised above the surrounding terrain, the former castle would have commanded a good view of the River Pinn.

The half-timbered and brick building that stands to the east of where the motte met the bailey is Manor Farm House. This was built in the 16th century, probably on the site of an earlier house built by the prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec (see above), which owned the land on which the farm stood until it was taken over by the Cambridge college. It houses a small museum, which I was unable to enter because on the day I visited it, it was being used to hold music examinations.

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Manor Farm Ruislip Winston Churchill Theatre

Close to the farm house, but west of the former castle, stands the Winston Churchill Theatre. Built in the 1960s, this building’s external appearance is unremarkable, even boring. I have not entered it, but photographs of its interior, which I have seen on various websites, make it seem far more attractive than its exterior. It can seat almost 350 people in its flexible-use auditorium. It was designed by the firm of Mackenzie Wheeler.

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

i Manor Farm Ruislip: public library inside Little Barn

Just south of the theatre, there is an exciting ensemble of buildings. These include the Manor Farm Library, which is housed in the former Little Barn. This 16th century building was converted into a public library in 1937. Most of the reading room is under the superb hammer beam ceiling that can be easily seen above the suspended clusters of neon tube lamps.

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: the Great Barn

The Little Barn is at right angles to the Great Barn, which lives up to its name both in size and historical interest. Under one vast roof, this huge wooden barn measuring 120 by 32 feet and reaching a height of over 15 feet, was built of oak in about 1280. The outside of the barn is weather-boarded, and its roof is tiled. Built to store the crops and other products of the farm, it is, according to a notice beside it, “…is the oldest timber-framed barn in Greater London.”

I tried entering this barn, inside which there were noises of people working, but all of its doors were locked. The librarian in the neighbouring former barn told me that it was only ever opened to the public for special events. As I left the library, a little despondent, I noticed a workman leaving the Great Barn. I asked him if I could take a look inside it, and he said: “feel free, I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

Manor Farm Ruislip: In the Great Barn

I am very grateful that this kind man let me see inside the barn. Its hammer beam roof is a remarkable feat of hand-crafted engineering. Although not as ornate as, for example, the one contracted much later at Middle Temple Hall, its scale and complexity are awe-inspiring.

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

Manor Farm Ruislip pond

A few yards south of the barns, there is a village pond surrounded by bushes and some weeping willows. An 1896 map shows that there was a blacksmith’s house by the western shore of the pond and a post office by its southern shore. The quaint brick building that was once the post office now houses a branch of the Prezzo restaurant chain.

Former Ruislip post office in  Bury Street

Former Ruislip post office in Bury Street

Ruislip War Memorial

Ruislip War Memorial

A war memorial in the form of a white stone cross bearing Christ crucified stands a few steps east of the pond. This was unveiled in 1921, and now commemorates the dead of two world wars (see: https://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/article/21117/War-memorials-in-Ruislip). Facing the monument across Eastcote Road, there is a terrace of cottages made in brick with half-timbering.

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

Former almshouses Bury Street Ruislip

These were formerly alms-houses, built in the 16th century (built 1570; see: https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/ruislip-almshouses-ruislip-8292), but now converted into flats controlled by a housing trust. They back onto the older part of the cemetery surrounding St Martin’s Church. Along with a couple of pubs, ‘The Swan’ and ‘The George Inn’, there was little more to Ruislip village in 1896 than what I have described in the last few lines. Before the advent of the Metropolitan Line, this tiny village was the whole of Ruislip. Ruislip station opened in 1904. A 1914 map shows that then there was hardly any building between the village and the railway station. A map published in 1936 shows that not only was the High Street almost completely lined with buildings between the church and the station, but also the surrounding terrain, which had been fields in 1914, was nowmostly covered with built-up suburban streets. Ruislip had become absorbed into ‘Metro-land’. Miraculously, the old village centre of Ruislip has maintained something of its pre-Metropolitan Line character.

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip Seven deadly sins

St Martins Ruislip frescos

St Martins Ruislip frescos

Ruislip’s Parish Church of St Martin is built in flint and stone. Its construction began in the 13th century, but much of its fabric dates from the 15th and early 16th centuries. The pillars supporting the nave are from the earliest construction era. Above them, the walls that they support display some barely visible frescoes. One of these wall paintings, which is in better condition than the others, depicts the Seven Deadly Sins. The 15th century chancel has a hammer beam roof, whereas the nave is covered with an almost semi-circular barrel-vaulted wooden ceiling.

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

St Martins Ruislip Norman font

There was a flower show in progress when I visited the church. There were lovely flower arrangements everywhere, even around the Norman stone font. Refreshments were being served in the bell-ringers room at the base of the square bell-tower. This room contains a lovely group of six framed hatchments, each one bearing the coat-of arms of someone who died in the area.

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip hatchments in the bell tower

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

St Martins Ruislip Hawtree family monument

In the chancel on its northern wall, I spotted the Hawtrey family monument, an elaborately carved piece of stonework, sculpted by John and Matthias Christmas (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1285697), containing two male busts and four crests. Matthias, Master Carver of His Majesties Shipyards at Chatham, was about 49 years old when he died in 1654. His son John, also a Master Carver at Chatham, died in 1694, aged 31 (see: “Registrum Roffense, or, A collection of antient records, charters, and instruments of divers kinds : necessary for illustrating the ecclesiastical history and antiquities of the diocese and cathedral church of Rochester”, by J Thorpe and others, published in 1769). The Hawtrey family of Eastcote (see above) farmed the area in the post-mediaeval period. They leased the Ruislip Manor from 1669 until the 19th century.

St Martins Ruislip with pump

St Martins Ruislip with pump

There is an old hand-operated water pump on the High Street. It is separated from the church by a row of old houses set back from the road. One of these at its southern end is marked as a ‘Police Station’ on the 1896 map. The cast-iron pump was originally placed over an artesian well sunk in 1864 near the old post office (now ‘Prezzo’) at the junction of the High Street and Bury Street, in the heart of old Ruislip. It was moved to its present location in 1982.

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

Ruislip High Str: old Ruislip Park house

A few yards south of the pump, the old village ends, and modern (i.e. 20th century) Ruislip begins. Just south of the old village, there is a what looks from the street like a flat-roofed building with two rows of sash windows above the modern shopfronts at street level. This mid-Georgian house, once ‘Ruislip Park House’, has been used as a British Legion hall. As the High Street descends towards the station, so does the visual interest of the buildings along it.

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Ruislip Station, built 1904

Before leaving Ruislip, you might be interested to know the derivation of its name. The place appeared in the Domesday Book, named as ‘Riselepe’. This is believed to mean, according to a Wikipedia entry, ‘leaping place on the river where rushes grow’, the river being the Pinn. A historian of Middlesex, Michael Robbins, believed that the name ‘Riselipe’ is derived from the words meaning ‘rushes’ and ‘leap’. In the days of the Domesday book, the area was a hunting park, that is in Latin “parcus est ibi ferarum silvaticarum” (i.e. ‘it is a park where there are wild beasts’). The wild beasts no longer leap amongst the rushes. They have long since departed, and have been replaced by crowds of commuters and their families, who enjoy living in ‘Metro-land’, where (to quote Betjeman once more):

“… a few surviving hedges
Keep alive our lost Elysium – rural
Middlesex again.”

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

Mero-land: Greenways West End Lane Pinner

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london metropolitan suburbia middlesex ruislip pinner eastcote pinn rive_pinn metro-land Comments (0)

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