As a borough goes, Harrow is by no means lacklustre. Endowed with layers of intrigue, this article is dedicated to the many fascinating aspects of Harrow which I hope will not only captivate your interest but will act as a testament to the uniqueness of the borough. Without any further ado, here are 10 interesting things that you may now have known about Harrow.
1. Grims Dyke:
To kick start our list is the infamous Grims Dyke estate, a prolific residence that famously housed dramatist W.S Gilbert. An eccentric character by all means, whilst lodging, he homed a multitude of animals including but not limited to bees, cattle, horses, pigs, fowl, monkeys, lemurs and even a lynx!
Besides the misadventures Mr Gilbert had undertaken whilst at the residence, the housing estate is also renowned for its stunning backdrop which provided an ideal filming location for a number of well-known productions. Offering the set for the filming of a few “Doctor Who” episodes, “The Avengers” tv series and “Eastenders”.
2. Ghoulish ghost stories:
Harrow is no stranger to the gruesome and macabre. There are many tales of frightful fancy that readers may be intrigued to learn. From the haunted bench in Stanmore, to the ghostly apparitions of nuns and monks that lurk the grounds Canon’s Park and St Mary’s Church. Not to mention the infamous Lord Byron’s late daughter Allegra, whose grave lies in one of London’s oldest medieval churches, the aforementioned St Mary’s on Harrow on the Hill.
3. Haven of heritage:
Harrow has infamously housed a number of famous faces over the years, many of which have been recorded on the numerous blue plaques littered across the borough. A few honourable mentions include poet sir John Betjeman, illustrator and comic book artist Heath Robinson, author R.M Ballantyne and last but certainly not least playwright and poet W.S Gilbert, a zany character who made an appearance earlier on this list.
4. Medieval churches
St Mary’s church stands proudly on Harrow on the Hill, as not only a holy place of worship but a temple with a rich and profound history. Besides its reputation as being one of the most visible churches in the borough, the chapel also provided a spot of reprieve for the adolescent Lord Byron during his school years at Harrow School in 1801. The teen poet would often sit dreamily by his favourite tombstone, a tad macabre, but not uncharacteristic for a young lyricist.
5. Record breaking blunders:
You’d probably never have guessed in that in the borough of Harrow the first ever recorded motor accident to have occurred nationwide took place. An unfortunate incident by every means, there is in fact there’s a plaque laid in dedication to the misfortunate motor driver who’d passed. Nevertheless, you can’t help but note a tragic irony that in the loss of this poor soul, the borough has claimed a rather calamitous record.
6. Safety in numbers:
Harrow is classified as the second safest borough in all of London, in terms of a generalised crime rate index as calculated by CrimeRate.co.uk, following close behind Richmond upon Thames.
7. Squashing the competition:
Harrow school has been the birthplace of many now infamous facets our daily lives.
Though certainly many notable Harrovians were enabled to flourish at the institution from the likes of the revolutionary Lord Byron, the valiant and headstrong Winston Churchill and even the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, you’d hardly have imagined that the school originated the now commonplace sport squash.
It’s quite comedic to picture that a happenstance as banal as the squashing of a racket ball during a P.E lesson would have birthed the sport. Nevertheless, in 1864, the first ever squash courts were built on the school’s grounds, after the realisation by the students in 1860 that a compressed ball posed a greater challenge.
8. Caesar’s Pond
Stanmore, a district within Harrow, is known for a lot more than its connections to the dark and gloomy. The Little Common on the far side of the area is the proud owner of a pond whose historical significance dates all the way back to the Classical Antiquity period. Where the pond now lies once sat a Roman garrison, the Sulloniacae, which housed the Claudian Auxiliary Fort from 43-54 AD. It’s also a common myth that Emperor Julius Caesar had a taste of the waters in his initial conquest as a part of the Gallic wars. Playing a pivotal role in the establishment the Province of Britain as a part of the Roman occupation, it’s not difficult to see how Caesar’s Pond in Stanmore’s Little Common lives up to its namesake.
9. The Harrow Museum:
The Headstone Manor and Museum in Pinner is immediately distinguishable for its moated Medieval Manor house. Though the most intriguing aspect of its history may be the impressive barn that lay on the historic grounds. Built in 1506 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, with a framework made entirely from English oak, it was used to store grains and stable horses. Though at a time, it was once referred to as the “tithe barn”. A title that’s more than a little questionable given the barn itself had little to do with tithes.
10. Historical religious tributes
Harrow can live up to its claim as being one of the most religiously diverse regions in London, once famously a hotbed for pagan worship and practices. The etymology of the borough itself a famous indictor of this, as the word harrow in actuality comes from the old English word “hearg”, denoting a heathen temple or shrine. This is not to understate the fact that the borough also boasts a centre dedicated to one of the oldest known religions on earth, Zoroastrianism.
And although the predominant religion of the borough is Christianity in the modern age, Harrow is indisputably a region that pays tribute to ancient practices.