Volume 3 - From The Weald To Stanmore
R S Brown, 1976
pages 17, 18 and 19
Having completed our narrative about the Davis Estate, we can follow on quite naturally with coverage of Belmont Circle, the two areas being linked together with the one-time Belmont railway bridge. There is mention in a later narrative about Old Church Lane that Mr Frederick Gordon financed the building of the railway branch line from Harrow and Wealdstone station to Stanmore (known locally as 'The Rattler') which was opened in 1890. The permanent way passed near to Belmont and a bridge was built over the line to facilitate the passage of traffic travelling along Kenton Lane.
At the turn of the century the area was entirely surrounded by farmlands and the bridge was narrow with grass verges instead of pavements. Bird life was far more prevalent; in addition to many common birds the occasional partridge could be seen nesting in the long grass and lapwings and peewits were a frequent sight in the fields. Subsequently a wider, more substantial bridge was built and this is still functioning.
The land was originally owned by St. Bartholomew's Hospital and the fields had names like 'Stockingfield', 'Hill House Field' and 'Blackwell Mead'. Much of the land was farmed by J. H. Brazier who founded the Kenton Lane Farm business. He was originally a Buckinghamshire man who moved to Harlesden and started a dairy business. He had four sons and a daughter and his grandsons, Ray, Ted and Leslie now manage the farm.
Arising from the amalgamation of the Hendon Rural District Council with the Harrow and Urban District Council in 1934, the area with which we are concerned became the Belmont ward of the new Harrow Borough Council. The urbanisation of the ecclesiastical parish of Harrow Weald (then part of Hendon Rural Council) which extended approximately as far as the present Kenton Lane - Streatfield Road junction, also entailed a major re-organisation. The southern part was detached and divided into two new parishes, namely St. Michael's and All Angels (see Bishop Ken Road narrative in Volume I) and St. Anselms; the church for the last-named parish was built in Uppingham Avenue and consecrated in the mid-1930's.
With the onset of an intensive housing development programme due to be effected in the early 1930's, a railway halt was opened at Belmont on 12th September, 1932. Access to the wooden platform and a hut (which provided booking office facilities), was by a ramp from what is now the Locket Road side of the bridge. Life was very unhurried in those early 1930's and late-comers could expect the train to stop and allow them to climb aboard, even though it may have started to pull away.
One typical story related by a resident of that time recalls the occasion when another damaged her pram causing a wheel to come off. She trundled it down to the halt and enquired of the porter whether he could help her and at that moment the train arrived bound for Stanmore. The porter spoke to the driver explaining the need for a spanner in response to which the driver said, "Pass the pram up to me". The mother was then told to wait a few minutes and the train steamed out of the halt;with the pram in the driver's cabin. Shortly afterwards, the train returned from Stanmore - and the driver handed the pram to the waiting mother - duly repaired.
About four years later a new station was built with an island platform, complete with booking office, toilets, waiting room and a 'Wyman's' bookstall. Access to the station was then via a wooden foot-bridge which was sited at street level on what is now the Circle side of the road bridge.
In the middle 1930's, development proceeded at all points of the compass from Belmont Circle, which was by then also under construction. The shops and flats were built by a developer named Peppiot who specialised in this type of construction (which is called 'rib building'). His head office was at East Acton and he developed other 'circle' shopping communities including the one at Queensbury. The 'Belmont' public house was opened to customers in 1935.
By the later 1930's the building of a new suburbia in Harrow Weald had reached an advanced stage but the promise of a tremendous future for the building trade and the estate agencies began to look less bright: Hitler's rantings (language possibly resulting from the lingering influence of wartime propaganda) in Germany were becoming ominously more frequent and the buoyant conditions which followed the depression in 1930-33 were proving to be somewhat short-lived. The newly-built houses were becoming more and more difficult to sell.
Nevertheless, the influx of new residents to Harrow Weald continued at a high level and this was reflected in the increased rail traffic through Belmont Station. A passimeter type loop line was built to permit the operation of a simultaneous service from both directions between Harrow and Stanmore and the station thrived so well that in 1934 Belmont won an award for being the station to record the greatest increase in passenger traffic on the L.M.S. railway. The award took the form of a bronze shield which subsequently hung in the new booking office.
The station received substantial support from the numerous railmen living mainly on the Hill House estate (Drummond Drive, The Highway and Woodcroft Avenue) who had moved south from Manchester, Derby and Stoke when the railways with headquarters in those three towns merged along with the L.N.W.R. to become the L.M.S. Railway Company and many of the staff transferred to Euston in London. But much of the credit for the station's success was due to the strenuous efforts of the railway authorities to attract additional business by introducing cheap day and seasonal tickets.
The new Belmont Station staff was comprised a booking clerk and signalman/porter who were under the supervision of the station master at Harrow and Wealdstone Station. Older residents remember with nostalgia the occasion when the young signalman called Conway married Margaret, the manageress of Wymans; both were very popular with the commuters. Rail posters heralded the information that there were "...frequent train services to Euston, West End, Paddington and the City". Examples of fares in the mid-thirties reveal that a monthly season ticket to Paddington was £1 and to Oxford Circus £1.5s.3d (£1.26). In the domestic sphere, charges were: electricity, 1¼d (½p) per unit;gas, 9d (4p) per therm; rates 10s.6d (52½p) in the pound; water, 7% on the rateable value. As the third decade of the century progressed, the shops and flats of Belmont Circle photograph number 14 in this volume depicts the Circle in its original form) were completed and occupied, and the houses in Kenmore Avenue (which is so named because the southern end is in Kenton and the northern end in Stanmore) steadily approached the Circle as property erections proceeded: this Avenue was built between 1934 and 1937.
With the second world war over and families re-united, the affluent post-war age began to arrive and the motor-car, once a luxury, became an accepted family necessity. With the onset of the motor age, the era of the railways (which had dominated long distance transport for more than a hundred years) began to diminish and the 'Beeching Axe' was wielded liberally. Competition from the number 18 bus service (which had commenced during the war) and failure on the part of the railway to connect trains for Belmont with the London services, also aggravated falling receipts at the booking office. Stanmore village station had been closed for some twelve years when the 'Axe descended upon Belmont station (included in a list of over 2000 stations due for closure). Sunday services had been terminated as long ago as 1947 but the station was finally phased out completely on 5th October 1964, to be demolished two years later after vandals had already inflicted much damage.
The Essoldo cinema was demolished in 1970 and, since they were first opened, almost every shop in the Circle has changed hands, sometimes several times. In recent years, as leases terminated, rents have been doubled and many shops (including a branch of Boots the chemist) have vacated their premises. At the time of writing the Circle looks much the same as it has always done - with an attractive circular shrubbery in the centre and a fairly heavy weight of traffic using the roundabout. There could be a dramatic reduction in traffic if and when the link road between Vernon Drive and Wemborough Road is completed.
The name 'Belmont' has a connection with the Mount' the large hill behind Belmont Circle which leads up to Stanmore. This was originally known as 'Bell Mount' and raised by the Duke of Chandos prior to 1728. It was first recorded as `Bell Mount' on John Rocque's `Topological Map of the County of Middlesex' (1754) and a reference to its connection with the Duke of Chandos appeared in the `New Gazetteer of the British Isles and Narrowseas' (1853) Volume II page 631.