In 2022, Harrow enjoys some pretty great transport links both into Central London and to the rest of the country including buses, the underground and overground trains. While these vital links help to keep Harrovians on the move, today we’re going to be looking at one from the past – the Stanmore Branch Line.
On track for a country retreat
In 1882, successful hotelier, Frederick Gordon, had big plans for Stanmore. The owner of Gordon Hotels purchased the historic Bentley Priory with an ambitious plan to turn it into a luxurious country retreat for the super-wealthy.
Having purchased the priory, Gordon was faced with figuring out how his guests would actually reach the hotel, so, in 1885, he hired renowned civil engineer, W.B Myers, to lay out a rail network which would run west of Belmont Circle and meander through Hill House and Bamfords Corner before continuing to the northern side of Stanmore Park Mansion.
Unfortunately, Gordon was entirely unprepared for the level of community opposition that his plans would receive from Stanmore’s 1400 residents and he failed to raise the necessary funding for his project.
Although the opposition had stamped on the brakes of Gordon’s original plans, a new, more modest line was given the go-ahead and Mr Myers got to work on the new rail link which would travel through the Rifle Butts and Kenton Lane Farm, then east around Bell Mount, finishing at Old Church Lane. The line, which was approved by parliament in 1888, included the new Stanmore Station which, by order of Stanmore’s residents, was made to look like a country church in keeping with its surroundings.
In 1890, the new Stanmore Branch Line was finally opened to much fanfare and a local holiday. 400 people of note were invited to Gordon’s hotel to witness the spectacle of the first train on the new line – the 12.17 Webb’s 2-4-2T on December 18th 1890. It was decreed that the line would run from Monday to Saturday and, in celebration, Frederick Gordon built a road to be named after himself – Gordon Avenue.
The Stanmore Branch line would continue to transport local passengers until 1952 when passenger services were replaced by freight trains, and the line was closed for good in 1964.
Although Frederick Gordon continued to enjoy success in the hotel and gold industries, his hotel at Bentley Priory was not a success and so he moved himself and his family into the building and lived there until his death on the 22nd of March 1904 after suffering a heart attack at the Hotel Metropole in Cannes. Today, Harrow history enthusiasts can still catch a glimpse of the old Stanmore Branch Line – on Christchurch Avenue, where the roundabout joins Forward Drive, a staircase of old railway sleepers marks the place where a bridge once stood. This bridge was part of the line which would transport the trains north toward Stanmore.