From its hilltop perch in a pretty, ancient English village, Harrow, the top public school which has produced seven prime ministers including Sir Winston Churchill and Nehru, dominates surroundings.
The school has influenced the development and growth of the town since the early 17th century when the beautiful Old Schools building became the first all-brick structure to be built in Middlesex, going on to provide a free education for local boys.
Today, Harrow-on-the-Hill is an urban village caught in a time warp. It has the atmosphere of a university campus, with school buildings scattered around the roads running over the hilltop. The dark blue-and-white Harrow School signage can be seen on most of the buildings, while boys’ straw boaters in summer and muddy sports gear in winter are a common sight at this £10,000-a-term school.
In the 18th century the pull of a good free education brought families to live in Harrow, and when the school started taking boarders, schoolmasters built large houses to rake in extra income from renting out rooms to boys. Harrow’s big expansion came in the middle of the 19th century under headmaster Dr C J Vaughan, when the school became a rival to Eton.
This brought with it a building boom. Large Victorian houses went up in the village; on the western slopes, small terraces were built to accommodate workers from the school, while on the southern slopes, rows of fine Victorian and Edwardian houses were built, some on large plots in gated roads.
From village to town
With the opening of Harrow-on-the-Hill station on the Metropolitan line in 1880, the focus switched to the area down the hill and around Harrow town centre at the northern edge. Harrow town centre is now a major employment centre. The station has as many incoming as outgoing commuters working for the council, Kodak, Bovis Lendlease and Ipsos Mori.
Properties: rows of small Victorian terraces and some elegant Georgian houses; Edwardian villas, Arts & Crafts-influenced terraces and Thirties semis in and around Roxeth Hill; large Victorian and Edwardian houses on the Mount Park Estate and the South Hill Avenue conservation area, and smaller garden suburb-style cottages around Orley Farm Road. The rest of Harrow is dominated by Thirties semi-detached houses.
The area attracts: mostly families, with houses close to the two private schools, Orley Farm School and John Lyon, particularly in demand. The area is popular with wealthy Asian families.
Staying power: good, with many elderly sellers so it is easy to find large houses in need of modernisation. The late Claire Rayner was a devoted resident.
Postcodes: HA1 covers Harrow-on-the-Hill, Harrow town centre, most of South Harrow and the Northwick Park area.
Best streets: South Hill Avenue and Mount Park Road in south Harrow. The two most expensive houses currently on the market in the area are here. Estate agent Wilson Hawkins (020 8422 3333), is selling an eight-bedroom Edwardian mansion in Mount Park Road for £2.79 million and a smaller eight-bedroom Edwardian house in South Hill Avenue for £1.795 million.
Up and coming: the Roxborough Park and The Grove conservation area, a green area on the north side of the hill close to the town centre, has good-size Victorian and Edwardian houses a lot cheaper than on the south side of the hill.
What’s new: Platinium House is a Comer Homes development of a former office block in the town centre. Prices start at £210,000 for a one-bedroom duplex flat rising to £950,000 for a four-bedroom penthouse. For information, contact Foxtons on 020 7973 2020.
Comer Homes has not yet started off-plan sales for its Bradstowe House project in Headstone Road. The development has 178 one, two, three and four-bedroom flats. For information, call Comer Homes on 020 8861 3700.
Harrow’s biggest development opportunity is in nearby Wealdstone, where Land Securities will be redeveloping the 57-acre Kodak site. Locals will be consulted in November and more than 13,000 leaflets are being delivered to surrounding households. For details call 0800 019 5878.
Schools: the local council’s primary and secondary schools get above-average results. The two best-performing primary schools - both are judged to be “good” by the education watchdog, Ofsted - are St Anselm’s RC in Roxborough Park and St George’s RC in Sudbury Hill.
Orley Farm School in South Hill Avenue started life as a feeder prep school for Harrow, but now sends most of its children elsewhere. It takes boys from age four to 13 and girls from age four to 11. Harrow School itself is boarding-only.
Whitmore High School in Porlock Avenue is the local mixed comprehensive which gets above-average results at GCSE and A-level and is judged “outstanding” by Ofsted.
John Lyon School in Middle Road is a private boys’ secondary school. Harrow council operates a sixth-form collegiate which allows sixth-formers to study a range of subjects at different schools or colleges. St Dominic’s RC sixth-form college is judged “outstanding”.
Life in Harrow
Shops and restaurants: Harrow has two shopping centres, St Ann’s and St George’s, which feature many of the big high street names. Debenhams has a department store in Station Road. However, the surrounding shopping streets are dominated by cheap burger bars, pound shops and amusement arcades. The council is currently working on improving Station Road. Harrow-on-the-Hill is where the best restaurants and delis are to be found. Incanto is an Italian restaurant and deli in the High Street.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF HARROW:
For more local restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres, cinemas or attractions; or to book a table or tickets for a night out, visit LondonLive.co.uk/Harrow.
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Open spaces: the eastern slopes of Harrow-on-the-Hill are dominated by the rolling acres, lakes and playing fields of Harrow School, and although they give the area a green and leafy aspect they are not open to the public.
On the western slopes there is a small area of woodland and open space which leads to Harrow town centre and is popular with local dog walkers. Harrow Recreation Ground is a town-centre park with a top bowls club.
Leisure and the arts: the nearest council swimming pool is in Wealdstone at the Harrow Leisure Centre in Christchurch Avenue. David Lloyd has an indoor and outdoor pool at its gym in Sudbury Hill. There are golf courses on Harrow Hill and Northwick Park. The Vue cinema in the St George’s shopping centre is the local multiplex.
Transport: Harrow has good transport links, both Tube and train. Northwick Park (Zone 4), Harrow-on-the-Hill and West Harrow (both Zone 5) are on the Metropolitan line; Harrow and Wealdstone (Zone 5) is on the Bakerloo line; Sudbury Hill (Zone 4) and South Harrow (Zone 5) are on the Piccadilly line. An annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,472 from Zone 4 and £1,760 from Zone 5.
Council: Harrow (Labour controlled); band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £1,496.37.
Buying (Average prices)
One-bedroom flat: £168,000
Two-bedroom flat: £221,000
Two-bedroom house: £272,000
Three-bedroom house: £335,000
Four-bedroom house: £509,000
Renting (Average prices)
One-bedroom flat: £650 to £900 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £750 to £1,500 a mth
Two-bedroom house: £900 to £1,800 a mth
Three-bedroom house: £1,000 to £2,500 a mth
Four-bedroom-plus: £1,500 to £3,000 a mth
Source: Wilson Hawkins
Pictures by Barry Phillips