Out of the whole borough – which, as we have seen in past weeks’, is hardly lacking for history – Headstone Manor is one of the most historical locations that Harrow has to offer. A large part of this is due to how tangible this history is. The manor grounds remains open for visits to this day, with its remarkable and unique features visible to anyone – a fact that you will be able to test for yourself this bank holiday weekend at the fair held on the grounds on next Monday.
With this in mind, this week we’ll be looking into the history of this notable, and long-lasting, Harrow locale.
Headstone Manor is one of the oldest surviving locations in the borough – with the manor having been built in the fourteenth century – and is the site of the oldest surviving timber building in all of Middlesex. However, actual reference of a manor on this site dates much further back – the earliest mention being from 822, when the land was bought by one Wulfred, an Archbishop of Canterbury, who sought to restore lands like Headstone to the church after they had been taken by the local Mercian King. Yet evidence has been found in the grounds that the land was in use even before that – likely as far as the Roman period.
Regardless, it was in 1310 that the construction of the manor for which Headstone is now known for began. The moat, though, for which the manor is now equally famous, was not built until 1344. This moat, which still encircles the grounds to this day – and is still filled with water no less – was likely built to serve as a status symbol for the manor’s owner at the time. It is the only surviving moat in Middlesex – and remains one of the manor’s most interesting features to look out for when visiting the grounds.
Likely following Wulfred’s initial procurement of the land, the manor remained in the hands of Canterbury Archbishops until the sixteenth century, where in 1546 it was given to the crown – with Henry VIII at the time having been pursuing church property across the country. Shortly thereafter, the famous king sold the land to a court favourite, and the property passed into the private market for the next four centuries. During this time, the various owners made a number of additions – some particularly dramatic – to the manor. The brick façade that the manor has to this day was one such addition, with it having been a fashionable architectural choice in the 1770s.
At the turn of the twentieth century however, the grounds and the various buildings on it were in a state of disrepair – and after the property was bought by the Hendon Rural District Council in 1925, this only worsened. For much of the 1900s, the deeply historic grounds of Headstone were desolate, and increasingly dilapidated. Indeed, in the 1970s, the Small Barn was ravaged by a fire – the barn being almost completely consumed by the blaze – leaving the building in a rather vegetative state under a protective plastic canopy.
By the 1980s however, Headstone underwent restoration following the decision by the council to use the site as the home of a Harrow museum. Celebrating its opening in 1986, the museum remains active to this day, housing a number of artefacts from the local area, some dating back hundreds of years, as well as more recent collections from local industry – most notably those from the recently closed Kodak factory and Whitefrairs Glassworks, both of which have been the subject of past articles.
With the August bank holiday coming up, then, why not pay a visit to this extremely important site, where the annual, old-fashioned village fair will be taking place – this year featuring a dog show as one of its main attractions. Indeed, if the manor’s extensive record is anything to go by, you might uncover but another secret that these historic grounds have hidden within.
For more information on the bank holiday celebrations taking place at Headstone Manor, please visit their website here: http://harrowmuseum.org.uk/events/headstone-village-show-2016/
Written by Harry Turner.
Image Credit: Hidden London