Goodbye, Mr McKee.

Britbox/Factory

Image – Britbox/Factory

Today I heard that David McKee, the British author and illustrator had passed away, at the age of 87. No doubt there will be many tributes to the man. I’m not going to go over the same ground as everyone else, instead I wanted to say what his work meant to me.

David McKee will only ever really mean one thing to me – Mr Benn, the character he created in 1971 for the famous BBC TV children’s series of the same name. I know McKee did loads of other work, but it is the character in the suit and bowler hat that, to me, was his greatest creation. I was born in 1969, just two years before Mr Benn was shown on television. It was one of several kids TV shows that have stayed with me, throughout my life and create warm childhood memories. Others include John Ryan’s ‘Mary, Mungo and Midge’, and the ‘Trumptonshire’ trilogy by Gordon Murray. They all sum up a more innocent time, not just because they are from my childhood, but because of their content. These were joyful, colourful, (colour television in Britain was a relatively new thing), and positive shows. They represented the ideals of community, co-operation and good manners. From time to time, when I feel the World is too much , and when people are cruel and nasty, I will sometimes think back to these programmes, just because they fostered warmth, and joy.

Mr Benn was such a treat to watch. The production company that made it, Zephyr Films, only produced fourteen episodes, but to most people it always seemed like more. Often repeated, part of the fun was to guess which adventure Mr Benn would have that day. My favourite was ‘Spaceman’, which was originally transmitted on April Fools’ Day, 1971. Of course there was one thing that David McKee didn’t create, and that was the voice of the programme, provided by the wonderful Ray Brooks.

So, what was the appeal of Mr Benn? Well, for me it was the detail that was put into each presentation. David McKee put so much effort into each scene. Sure, it was naïve illustration, but that doesn’t matter to a child. I used to enjoy seeing all the things going on, something that would be enhanced when looking at the books that accompanied the series.

Image Britbox/Factory

It is the charm of McKee’s work that makes Mr Benn. I became totally engaged in the worlds he created within these short films. I loved all the bright colours, and the humorous characters. Look at the image above. It is of Festive Road, the street that Mr Benn lived in. It’s a work of art!

Moving past the surface of the presentation, there is the text of each story. Mr Benn is a traveller in time and space, much like the other great BBC hero, ‘Doctor Who’, except our chap uses a fancy dress shop to step into other worlds. He is enabled by the enigmatic ‘Shopkeeper’, another great character. Each story sees Mr Benn visit different times and situations, from the Wild West, to medieval times. Invariably his task, self-subscribed, is to help solve a problem, and to leave quietly back into his own dimension, with only a small souvenir as a memory of his efforts . It really is wonderful, and what better moral message could you send out to a small child – work with one another, help out selflessly, and don’t expect reward.

No words really can convey how special Mr Benn is to me. Just to hear the theme music sends me straight back to the early 1970s, watching on my parents’ new National Panasonic Colour TV, bought just a year after Mr Benn was first shown.

So, dear Mr McKee, thank you. Thank you for Mr Benn, and rest in peace.

The supermat/Wikipedia

Return to Randalls

Back in December 2014 I wrote a small piece about the much-loved Uxbridge department store, Randalls, who, after a long history in the town, were due to close. You can look at that here – https://pastrewind.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/randalls-of-uxbridge/

Then, at the end of January of the following year , I visited again, to have a look at the store in its last moments, and you can read that here https://pastrewind.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/randalls-rip/

It all seemed so long ago, which of course, it was, and at the time the expectation was that wonderful building would be transformed into a new venture, possibly with housing. Well, it has taken a long time, and possibly a challenging time with both Brexit and Covid may have slowed things down – but the good news is that the revitalised Randalls has emerged from its sleep. I visited Uxbridge with my wife, a few days ago , and was delighted to see the red illuminated letters R A N D A L L S all aglow in the distance. As we approached from the bottom of Vine Street, I could see a familiar building, looking rather smart.

Behold!! Randalls is Back!

However, before we all get too excited, it is worth pointing out that Randalls, as a department store is unlikely to make a return, but some form of retail space is going to be available on the ground floor, one assumes, although as you can see from the image below, it is not quite ready.

The space once filled with Gentleman’s clothing is looking a bit sparse.

It’s worth me pointing out here that I hadn’t been given exclusive access, no, I merely put my camera up against the glass, and it was surprising I got anything, because the developer had put a vinyl mesh onto the windows, making it impossible to see through with the naked eye.

Looks like someone stole the ‘F’ from Furnishings!

The building’s frontage has been refurbished, and includes a new period-feel clock, but a great deal has changed, with apartments built on top, to the rear, and to one side, replacing a rather drab 1950s extension, that no one will miss. That said I am not sure the new apartments are in sympathy to the original 1930’s architecture.

Around the back the old fire station building has been refurbished, with new signage.

Obviously things are not quite finished yet, so I will do another report when that happens. In the mean time, here is a link to the developer’s website – https://inlandhomes.co.uk/developments/randalls

Mark Amies, August 2021.

Harrow’s Art Deco Masterpiece REVEALED!!

The view of the Dominion on April 27th 2021

You may have read my previous article about the Harrow Dominion cinema whose fine art deco frontage had been covered for sixty years behind metal cladding.

After so long waiting, on April 26th 2021, I was alerted to news that the metal cladding that was erected to cover this fine example of F.E. Bromige’s work had all come off. It must have been an incredible task, because to keep the metal work up , loads of steel work had to be put into the building’s facade. I got up early the next day and went down to take photos. The results can be seen here.

The wonderful steel window frames and decoration, exposed to sunlight after sixty years.
A fragment of poster, but what film was it promoting??
The side view. All but the frontage will be kept in the redevelopment.
A chopped steel girder juts out from the facade. This would have been part of the large framework put up to keep the 1962 ‘modernisation’ in place.

It is all exciting stuff. But the hard work is just about to begin, because the building is to be redeveloped into residential space, and hopefully a new arthouse cinema. This exposure was a brief-lived affair, because within a week scaffolding went up to hold up sheeting whilst the refurbishment of the art deco frontage can take place. I spoke to one of the workers on the day I went there, and he told me that it will be a proper refurb. the metal window frames will be restored.

So, the best is yet to come. Yes, the original cinema auditorium will be lost, and that is very sad, but we will see something restored that hasn’t been in it’s full glory since the 1930s.

All colour images and text by Mark Amies, May 2021.

A Peek at Harrow’s Hidden Art Deco Masterpiece.

One of London’s great Art Deco cinemas is about to reveal itself, after being hidden away under 1960’s metal cladding.

The former Dominion cinema on Station Road, Harrow, designed by FE Bromige, and opened in 1936 had a magnificent frontage that was truly of its age, but sadly in the 1962 the owners decided that it needed to look less jazz-age and more space-age, and had it clad in blue metal sheeting. It was really the cruellest thing to do, but in some ways it may have been a blessing, especially as the upkeep of maintaining it was deemed to be impractical. As the years went by most local people had no idea what lay underneath the brutal frontage, yet it has sat effectively undisturbed for nearly sixty years.

The Dominion as it was in 1937

However this sleeping giant is about to wake from its architectural slumber, because a new development will see the cladding removed. Developers, Asprea 2 Ltd will build 78 new homes in a new section behind the old frontage, but retain a cinema.

Artist’s impression of the new development.

Clearly this will be an enormous task, and recently scaffolding has gone up in front of the old cinema frontage. Today I went to have a look and interestingly some of the cladding has been removed , giving us a ‘sneak-peek’ of the hidden frontage that has not seen light in fifty-nine years. The following photos were taken by myself.

Blue cadding, what’s that secret you’re keeping? (Author)
More Pigeon Palace than Picture Palace (Auhor)
Probably the best view of the Deco delights that sit behind – a window between the outer curved columns. (Author)
Fifty-nine years of pigeon muck and a glimpse of 1930’s splendour, taken from the top of a bus. (Author)

What is obvious, on examining the work taking place, is that there must be a great deal of structural steel holding up that sheeting. It is also clear that a great deal of the 1936 frontage has already been lost, in particular the canopies. It also appears that many of the metal framed windows have been damaged, with breeze blocks filling in the spaces behind, where once users of the café may have looked out from. It is not really surprising that the work was done with such little care. Back in 1962 Art Deco ‘moderne’ style was very not much loved, and summed-up a long lost pre-war world. Young cinema-goers were not interested in the mystique of the old picture palaces, in fact cinema audiences were suffering a huge decline since the advent of television. Associated British Cinemas, (or ABC as they were better known as), didn’t have the money to spend on shoring-up what was a fading plaster clad frontage, less so on cleaning and replacing draughty windows.

The HSE notice on the outside of the project. (Author)

Time moved on, and as the cinema went from highs to lows those who could recall the Dominion in its glory days themselves faded from history. ABC was taken over by Cannon Cinemas , and by 1995 it had become an independent, renamed the Safari and was showing Bollywood films, reflecting the cultural changes in the local area.

Back in 2015 I wrote a piece for Lonodnist.com, which you can read here –

https://londonist.com/2015/10/harrow-s-hidden-art-deco-masterpiece

The next few months should prove to be interesting, as the work goes on. One imagines that little will be visible , as it is likely the ‘big reveal’ will be shrouded , this time in plastic, rather than metal sheeting. Personally, I can’t wait. Yes, it will be a shame to see the Dominion, as it was, effectively be demolished, with just a cosmetically adjusted frontage, but at least an homage will be made to a previous age. After all, how many cinemas were completely demolished over years, to be replaced with bland supermarkets or office blocks?

Just like 007, the Dominion will return! (Author)

Text and 2021 images – Mark Amies

The Railway Hotel : A Tudorbethan Tradegdy.

Here I am again, trying desperately to bring the plight of this forlorn building to peoples’ attention. The Grade Two listed Railway Hotel on Station Road, Edgware, in North West London. This magnificent ‘Tudorbethan’ structure built for the London brewers, Truman, Hanbury, Buxton, in 1930, sits in what seems a constant purgatory. Closed in 2008, and passing through as many as nine owners since, it has still not been put back into use. Now, before someone says, “Ah yeah, but you know…,Covid?”, that is not a reasonable excuse. It is once again up for let, this despite a promise to be repurposed into a ‘venue’ nearly two years ago. Then, work had been undertaken, the outside given a makeover, and also inside.

The Railway Hotel frontage, December 2020 (Author)

Time and time again, whenever this fine building is brought to the attention of both Historic England, and the local authority, Barnet London Borough, assurances are given that it’s value is assured and it is safe. Years have passed, and I have droned on endlessly through Twitter using the hashtag #RailwayHotelEdgware. I have done a petition, and even done two videos with the kind assistance of Roger Tichborne of Barneteye. All to no avail. I got to the point as with many people who care too much, when I effectively gave up. No doubt those individuals who have no interest in the building, or indeed what is left of Edgware’s built heritage, were delighted, that seemingly I had finally shut up. One only has to look at the horrendous apartment tower block going up currently next to the older Premier House to see what the future will look like for the town. The past saw Edgware as a 1920’s ‘Metroland’ haven on the end of the Northern Line, where Tudorbethan and Neo-Georgian buildings went up, and the only tall building was the Ritz cinema. With this year seeing the Broadwalk shopping centre sold to developers, it is very likely more high density apartment complexes with be going up.

The Railway Hotel (and me) made the front page of the Times once again in 2019
Fly-tipping beside the Railway Hotel, December 2020 (Author)

So, what made me knock out another piece of florid prose? Well, I felt it was overdue, that and seeing the appearance of fly-tipping at the front and rear of the building. This is the first worrying sign of serious and wilful neglect, and it seems to being going unnoticed by the owner , Barnet Council, and Historic England.

So, I am asking that people who do care about this building and buildings of its type to contact Barnet Council, Historic England and whoever else can actually get something done. At least get the place tidied up and secured properly, but better still , give this wonderful building a role. It is an heritage asset, and Edgware Town Centre has precious few of those.

The rear of The Railway Hotel, where the neglect is self evident (Author)

So there I will leave it , but please do have a look at the two videos that Roger Tichborne produced, with yours truly yabbering on.

….and then we have a previous piece I wrote on this blog

https://pastrewind.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/the-saga-of-the-railway-hotel/

London’s Industrial Past

book

Way back in December 2018 I started doing a regular slot, on the theme of London’s industrial heritage, on BBC Radio London’s ‘Robert Elms Show’.  Having started on this I thought I would see if I could interest a publisher in a book on the same subject. Fortunately Amberley decided to take a gamble with me , and over the course of the following year I beavered away on it’s creation.

Having covered the histories of London’s industries on the radio, I decided the the book needed to be slanted toward the visual, and so a great deal of time was spent hunting down and securing old photographs and illustrations. I also went out and took my own photographs, of which you will see some of the unpublished ones here.

talbot Above is the old Clement Talbot car factory in Ladbroke Grove, West London, and below is the Maynard’s sweet factory in Haringey.

maynards

The book was supposed to be on sale back in April of this year, however the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to that , and it was eventually released on July 15th 2020.

‘London’s Industrial Past’ is on sale at all of the main bookselling platforms, and you can read more about it here on the Amberley web page https://www.amberley-books.com/london-s-industrial-past.html

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Smartex – to close after 41 years.

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These days we are becoming used to seeing high street stores closing. The big chain stores announce closures, and it comes as little surprise to us. When Woolworths failed in 2009 people were shocked, but now, when John Lewis and Debenhams say they are closing branches, we just sigh in desperation. “The bigger they come, the harder they fall” comes to mind. Of course for the hundreds of shop workers and suppliers affected the news comes as a sickening blow.

However, for me it is the closure of smaller independent stores that really hurts. These are not the ‘fat cats’, run by shareholders and accountants, that run big seasonal advertising campaigns, trying to convince us that we cannot live without them.  No, these are the modest shops that have been on high street locations for decades, doing their best to survive, and undertaking all this with smiles on their faces, and always eager to give great service.

Such a shop is Smartex in Ruislip, in the leafy suburbs of North West London. They have been trading at 60, High Street since 1979. Today on one of my rare visits to Ruislip, I found out that they are closing down.

 

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The big posters in the window declared something I had long feared, but it is not down to the usual circumstances – unwillingness to carry on under trying times, bankruptcy, death of the owner, etc. No, it is down to the suppliers not wishing to carry on supplying to small stores. This is crushingly sad. The two chaps working in the store, both of senior years, were quite adamant that they would be happy to keep serving, but the hard fact is that if they cannot get stock, they cannot trade.

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As I wandered around the shop I found myself becoming more and more saddened. I am now fifty-one, and I guess I am showing my age. When I was a kid in the 1970s, going around town centres with my late Father, shops like Smartex were very common. You were attended to by welcoming assistants whose only desire was to ensure you got what you needed, and sometimes a bit more!.  ‘Mens’ Outfitters’, as they were known, were places of wonder, and mystery. Every space was filled with every conceivable item of clothing or accessory. Glass-fronted cabinets, walls of pegboard, rows of chromium-plated rails, posters from companies like ‘Double-Two’, Peter England, Jockey Y-Fronts, Tootal….. and so on.  This shop represents the dying gasps of such enterprises.

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What replaces them? Well after decades of self-service stores, and high-end boutiques, we are now in the world of supermarket clothing and online shopping. Gone is the personal touch, so to the element of choice. “Would Sir like a T-shirt with a juvenile design on it to impress your peers at the public house?, we have it in three basic sizes Is it distressed? Well of course Sir, it looks just like you might find on a council tip”.

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All the images in this article were taken by myself today, at Smartex. each one illustrates a world that is soon to go. A palace of accessible menswear, served by assistants who do not give you a strange look, who actually serve you , rather than hide away or give off-hand comments. It is the kind of place where, if you wished to speak to the manager, he would appear from behind a curtain at the far end of the shop and give you his full, undivided attention.

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It’s the kind of shop where if you said, “I don’t suppose……”, that you would be given a solution. In short, it is the kind of shop that people will say “Isn’t it a shame shops aren’t like they used to be?”.  Yes, it is a bit untidy, yes, it has not moved with the times, but for a legion of men of a certain age Smartex, and shops like them are bastions of a world that is disappearing as fast as grains of sand in a egg timer. I spent forty minutes in the shop and in that time  several voices were heard saying the same things, all recognising the sad loss that the shop’s departure will bring to Ruislip High Street.  So, a group of jeering youngsters may say, “It’s an old mans’ shop!”, well, there are a lot of old men in Ruislip, and they all have money to spend.

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Of course this isn’t the first time I have written about a long established shop in the London suburbs closing, I wrote about Randall’s of Uxbridge closing in 2015, and another in that same town, being Boville Wright’s, which closed this year. Goodbye Boville Wrights Randalls RIP

Our high streets are changing forever, and for those of us who recall when shopping malls were a new thing, and when there was no such thing as an empty shop, these are difficult times to live in. I guess we have to accept that money is king and that the future is not ours. We must accept that clothes will one day be only purchased online and delivered by people in knackered old Transit vans. Mind you, whilst there are shops like Smartex still around , I will still go in them.

Oh…and I bet you are wondering “Did he buy anything?”. Well , as a matter of fact I did. I bought myself a rather nice Tootal ‘Harrington’ jacket with a blue Paisley lining.

 

 

Time-shift Shop

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On the outskirts of Harrow lies Belmont, an area of housing and a shopping parade built in the 1930’s.  Up until the mid-1960’s it also had a railway station. Its most remarkable feature is the circular parade of shops with a nicely planted roundabout. It also has a shop which seems to have been frozen in time.

In an age where retailers like unusual names, this shop does what it’s called – ‘Shoe Repairs & Sundries’. Its frontage looks like it dropped through a time portal.

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A few years ago I decided to go in, my curiosity eventually got the better of me. I was greeted by a couple who have run the shop for many years, and they were quite happy to have a chat.

The frontage is really fascinating, despite it’s slightly shabby look. the curved decoration is pure art deco.

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As wonderful as the shop is , I have to wonder how long it will last, and my fear is that it will be modernised one day. So if anyone reading who can ensure it will be looked after , please do what you can.

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From Aero Engines to Movie-making – Elstree’s other studio.

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Tucked away down a unassuming road in Hertfordshire lies a business estate called The Waterfront, if it’s name conjures up a 1954 Marlon Brando film, then its real history is even more interesting. This is was once the home to a short-lived film studios, owned by two quite incredible brothers called the Danzingers.

To get a better fix on the geography the location is on Elstree Road, just off the A41 on the outskirts of Elstree. The road cuts through Aldenham Reservoir, created in the 1790s by the Grand Junction Canal Company to control the water levels in the River Colne. We are in Hertfordshire countryside, but not too far away from the outer London suburbs of Edgware and Stanmore.  Back in the 1930s a plan to extend the Northern Line of the London Underground to Bushey Heath would have seen this area dramatically change. In fact the terminus station would have been just a few hundred yards from the  Danziger’s studios. However World War Two put paid to this project, with the Green Belt following as a limit to London’s surburban expansion.

The war did create some construction in the area however, with the building of a set of aero engine test houses.  The De Havilland aviation company had been awarded the contract to rebuild Rolls Royce Merlin engines, those used in Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster aircraft.

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The image above is taken from the book ‘The Tube Beyond Edgware’ by Tony Beard, and was originally taken by Aerofilms in 1952. By this time the buildings were semi-derelict, but you can see the structures used by De Havilland. Refurbished engines would be taken up to high speeds, no doubt making a great deal of noise. The dark squares on top of the the top buildings would likely be the vents to let exhaust fumes out.  The building with the saw-tooth roof was a workshop. At the top of the photo you can see the Aldenham Reservoir, the road winding through it.

Enter the Danziger Brothers, Edward and Harry, who decide that this site will be the perfect opportunity to start their own film studios. The Danzigers were born in New York, and had arrived from the U.S in 1952, and were keen to develop their movie-making ideas, building up experience at various studios, including Shepperton and Borehamwood.  In 1955 they bought the site at Elstree, and converted the buildings into five sound stages, and other facilities needed to make film and television.  With their typical showmanship, they proudly named their new production base ‘New Elstree Studios’, probably annoying the established bigger studios not far away in Borehamwood, especially the mighty MGM, who had been in the town since the late 1940s.

The_Danzigers

The Danzigers had a reputation as a real production line studio with a prodigious output, and in the late 1950s their productions were lapped up by the new Independant Television (ITV). Between 1955 and 1961 the Danziger Brothers studios produced 350  thirty minute TV shows and 60 B-movies. One particularly succesful TV serial was called ‘Saber of London, a detective series, starring Donald Gray, as Mark Saber.  Born in South Africa , Gray was injured in whilst serving in World War Two, and had to have his left arm amputated.  To give an idea of the fast output of Danziger’s studios , Saber of London was in production between 1955 and 1959, and in that time, went through five series and a total of 156 episodes.  Donald Gray was apparently quite a character in real life, with stories of him driving his car ( Mark Saber’s mode of transport was a Porsche 356 cabriolet) at break-neck speeds, ( remember he only had one arm), and one actor recalled Gray taking his prosthetic arm off and laying it down on the canteen table at lunchtime! The actor became somewhat typecast in the Mark Saber role, but later went onto be the voice of Colonel White in the Gerry Anderson sci-fi classic, ‘Captain Scarlet’.

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Another interesting nugget from the brief period of the studios was that the future star of ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Minder’, Dennis Waterman was to make his first appearance there, in the 1960 film ‘Night Train form Inverness’ featuring the eleven year old as a schoolboy.

The New Elstree Studios were known for their ‘all hands on deck’ approach, with everyone mucking in to get things done. Some may say that the Danzigers were penny-pinchers, others may say they were very efficient with their expenditure.

If you want to read up more on the New Elstree studios or the Danziger Brothers, I would definitely recommend the book ‘MGM British Studios: Hollywood in Borehamwood’ by Derek Pykett, which contains a 23-page section on them.

Production at the New Elstree Studios came to an end in 1961, and the Danzigers eventually sold the site to RTZ Metals for £300,000 in October 1965. They used the facility for storage, and in the 1980s the whole site as a business park, now known as The Waterfront.

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I have to say I find the whole history of this small patch of Hertfordshire very interesting, and the escapades of The Danziger Brothers worthy of some kind of dramatisation in itself.

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Mark Amies , May 2020

All colour images by author.

Where Suburbia Stopped

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In 1924 the London Underground arrived at Edgware. From that point on, everything would change dramatically for this once sleepy part of Middlesex. The electricity that powered this modern form of mass transportation would charge a force of growth that would see the area built over with shopping parades, and huge housing estates. From the 1920’s through to the beginning of World War Two, in 1939, the former fields and meadows were carved up, the roads going in first and then the builders.  However one road was cut short in its tracks, and its name was Edgwarebury Lane.

Edgwarebury Lane is a very old right of way. Starting off at the bottom of Station Road, the main shopping centre of Edgware, it snakes its way through housing , over the busy A41, and on through more ‘thirties housing, its gradient gradually rising, then it the housing stops. The footpath comes to a grinding halt and falls away into a hedgerow. It is as though the march of suburbia was given a red light, and simply didn’t bother to continue its destruction of the Middlesex countryside. Of course, there is a very good reason why the building stopped, and it was called the Green Belt, legislation brought in after the Second World War, to restrict London’s growth into the country.

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When I first discovered this spot, whilst out cycling one day, I was immediately fascinated. It is a scene that almost certainly exists in other parts of London and the UK, but what makes it all the more interesting is that whilst the neat concrete slab footpath stops, the roadway does not. Edgwarebury Lane may have been suburbanised for the first part of its route, but for the rest it was allowed to wind its way through glorious undulating countryside. It is almost like passing through a time portal, it’s fantastic!

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However, before I lose myself, I should state that the road surface is a metalled one, despite being broken up at points. Continuing on , you pass a cemetery entrance, and then a lonely couple of houses. Then on your left is the entrance to Bury farm, its name shortened from Earlsbury Farm. A farm and house has existed on this site since the Fifteenth Century.   In 1735 the farmhouse was robbed by the ‘Essex Gang’ , a member of which was the young Dick Turpin, who became England’s most infamous Highwayman.

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After Bury Farm, the lane takes a sharp left, and then carries on steeply.  Apparently, up until the 1850s when the fields were enclosed, Edgwarebury Lane, would have taken a different route at this point, joining up with Fortune Lane in Elstree.  The diverted route we now use takes us in a northerly direction. As you rise up you are compelled to look back, and it’s then you realise how London has affected the landscape. You can see the increasing number of tall apartment blocks climbing above the built up areas. The Twentieth Century makes an abrupt appearance a little further on. The M1 carved its way through the landscape in the late 1950s, the man made gorge necessitated a bridge to allow Edgwarebury Lane to continue it’s route. The bridge is a typical one of the time, and although purposeful, it takes away the rural feel of ones walk.  Of course, for the motorists on the M1 this part of their route goes past in a blur, they are oblivious to any of the history.

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Once the motorway’s rush has passed we keep climbing, but the openness is over. We are on a rough narrow roadway,  that has become bordered by tress and hedges. We see a mock Tudor mansion put up in the 1930s, that is often mistaken for the old Edgwarebury Manor (more of that shortly). It even has a set of steps down to a tennis court. Further along we pass Penniwell’s, a horseriding facility for disabled people.  We then reach on our right the gates of what is now called The Elstree Manor, which is currently a hotel. This was originally called Edgwarebury Hotel, a Tudor style mansion that  has its origins in the 1540s. The building has made many appearances in British films, due to it’s proximity to the film studios in Elstree.  It’s most notable role was as a country club in the 1960 film, ‘School for Scoundrels’, starring Ian Carmichael and Terry Thomas, but was also seen in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and ‘The Devil Rides Out’.

Edgwarebury Lane then takes a right and comes out onto Barnet Lane, a busy main road.  Our ramble has come to an end. We started off in the North West London suburbs, passed through (almost) unspoilt countryside and reappeared into leafy Hertfordshire. This is a walk, or cycle ride, that I thoroughly recommend, especially if you want to fully understand the impact of London’s inter-war suburban growth. When the Underground railway was pushed out into Middlesex, the big sell was the access to unspoilt countryside, and to own a new home in a rural idyll. Sadly it was this growth which wiped away so much of the countryside. Our start point, Edgware, once a major stopping off point for horse drawn stage coaches plying the old Great North Road, is now just another faded suburb. However thanks to the Green Belt, the rolling countryside is still, just within our grasp.

Text & Photos by Mark Amies,  April 2020.