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Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex

Historical Description

Harrow, a small town and a parish in Middlesex. The town is in Harrow-on-the-Hill parish, 9¼ miles by rail from the Metropolitan railway station at Baker Street, London, and 11 by rail from the Enston station of the L. & N.W.R. The Metropolitan railway station at Harrow is about half a mile NE from the town, and the L. & N.W.R. station is about 1½ mile from the town in the same direction. It appears in old records as Hearge and Harewe-at-Hulle. The earliest known reference to Harrow is in a charter of Ofia, king of the Mercians, in 799, brought to light by the Rev. W. D. Bushell of Harrow School. It appears probable from this charter that herga means a "temple" or "sacred grove." It stands on a hill fully 200 feet high, surrounded by an extensive plain, and commands a magnificent panoramic view over parts of thirteen counties. It formerly was a market-town, and had a fair on the first Monday of Aug., but both market and fair have been discontinued since 1872. The town is governed by a local board of nine members, formed about 1850, has a head post office, and publishes a weekly newspaper. The church, standing on the brow of the hill, a conspicuous object for miles round, was founded by Archbishop Lanfranc in the reign of William the Conqueror, and consecrated by St Anselm in the reign of William Rufus, but only small portions of the original structure remain. The present edifice, a large and spacious cruciform building of stone, dates from the 14th century; consists of chancel with chapel, nave, transepts, north and south porches, and an embattled western tower with a lofty wooden spire covered with lead. It contains many interesting tombs and monuments, and in the churchyard there is an altar-tomb overshadowed by an elm where Byron used to sit when he was a boy, and which is mentioned in his letters and poems. The font of Purbeck marble is believed by some to be that which was placed in the original church by Lanfranc. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of London; net yearly value, ½£477 with residence, in the gift of the Northwick family. Roxeth is an ecclesiastical parish, which was formed in 1863 from the civil parish of Harrow. It has a handsome church of flint and stone in the Early English style erected in 1863, a lecture hall erected in 1869, and a mission hall built in 1881. The living is a vicarage of the gross value of £340 with residence, in the gift of trustees. Greenhill is a hamlet, forming part of the mother parish, about three-quarters of a mile NNE from the town. Its church is a little cruciform structure of particoloured bricks in the Early English style, and is a chapel of ease to the parish church. There are also Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan chapels.

The town of Harrow, however, derives its chief importance from its famous school, which was founded in 1571 by John Lyon, a yRoman of the parish. It was designed by its founder to be a grammar school for poor boys of the parish, but the master was empowered to receive other pupils, and the governors of the school were entrusted with the power to alter or abolish any of the original rules as the change of times might require. The school has long outgrown the design of its founder, and it now takes a place in the foremost rank of the great schools of England, There are still some thirty-two home boarders, but the "foreigners," or scholars who are not children of the inhabitants of the parish, number about 600. The prosperity of the school has fluctuated like that of most similar institutions, but it has never been in a more flourishing condition than it is now. Its masters have almost always been men of mark, and amongst its scholars are some of the most famous names in English history, the list including five prime ministers, Goderich, George (fourth Earl of Aberdeen), Perceval, Peel, and Palmerston; the antiquary Baxter, Sir W. Jones, Dr Parr, the traveller Bruce, Sheridan, Byron, Lord Dalhousie, Archbishop Trench, Theodore Hook, Cardinal Manning, and Lord Rodney. The Eton plan of education was introduced in 1760. The school buildings are immediately S of the church, and the original building, erected about three years after the founder's death, still exists, and is a Tudor structure of red brick with dressings of stone. A new and larger building was added in 1820, now known as the " Old Speech-Eoom," and a new speech-room was erected in 1874-75 at a cost, inclusive of site, of about £20, 000. The whole of the school-houses are devoted to the purposes of education, and the pupils live in the residences of the head-master and the various under-masters situated in the town. Other buildings belonging to the schools are the Vaughan Library, the Butler Museum, the Sanatorium, the Gymnasium, and the Laboratories and National Science Schools. Up to 1839 the boys attended Harrow Church, but in that year, under the head-mastership of Dr Wordsworth, a school chapel was built at the N end of the High Street. This was taken down in 1854, and a new chapel erected on its foundation from the designs of the late Sir G. G. Scott, R.A. The manor of Harrow belonged at an early period to the archbishops of Canterbury; was leased in Edward the Confessor's time by Earl Lewin; had long an occasional residence of the archbishops of Canterbury; was the retreat of Thomas a Becket during his banishment from court; was exchanged by Archbishop Cran-mer with Henry VIII. for other lands; was given in 1546 to Sir Edmund Dudley, afterwards Lord North; passed in 1630 to Edmund Philips, and afterwards to the family of Enshout; and belongs now to the Northwick family. It is probable that the archiepiscopal residence was originally in Harrow town, and tradition says that it was removed to Hegeston, now'JSeadstone, nearer Pinner; but there is no evidence of this, nor of the further tradition that Cardinal Wolsey was ever rector. The area of the parish of Harrow, including the hamlets of Greenhill, Kenton, Preston, and Roxeth, but exclusive of Pinner, is 10, 027 acres; population, 12, 988; population of the ecclesiastical parish of Harrow, with Greenhill, 4949.

Harrow Parliamentary Division of Middlesex was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population,-96, 727. The division includes the following:-Gore- Edgeware, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Hendon, Kingsbury, Pinner (hamlet of), Stanmore (Great), Stanmore (Little); Brentford (part of)-Twyford Abbey; Rensington (part of)- Willesden.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyMiddlesex 
Ecclesiastical parishHarrow-on-the-Hill St. Mary 
Poor Law unionHendon 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Harrow on the Hill from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Middlesex is online.


Online maps of Harrow on the Hill are available from a number of sites:

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Bentley Priory
Harrow Weald
Westend (Harrow on the Hill)
CountyGreater London
Postal districtHA1
Post TownHarrow