In 1969 at the tender age of 8 ½ my family moved from Alexandra Close to Shaftesbury Avenue, both in South Harrow. Despite it only being a mile between the two places it might as well have been the other side of the world. I had to go to a new school (Roxeth Hill) and make new friends.
My new playground became what is now called the Grange Farm Estate. Work on the estate had begun in the January of 1969 and as I walked past it every day to and from school my overriding memory of the place at that time was of cows. Cow dung to be precise. The place had been a dairy farm and oh boy, did it pong! Every time the bulldozers started moving earth about, you’d get the smell of manure!
In the early 1900’s the farm had become part of the Hall & Sons dairy which had another large farm over at Pinner Park. In those days it was 120 acres in size and formed the boundary of what was to become Shaftesbury Avenue and down as far as Abercorn Crescent.
As early as the 1950’s part of the farm was earmarked for development as a school for 150 disabled children. This plan was dropped in 1953. The council decided it would be used instead as a recreation/sports ground and nursery school. In 1962 the council purchased 9 acres at a cost of £270,000. Eventually planning permission was granted to build a housing estate at a cost £750,000.
The contract was given to Harrow firm William Old Ltd of Pinner Road to build 225 flats in 25 three-story blocks (75 1-bedroom, 150 2-bedroom along with parking spaces for 300 cars).
The estate was officially opened on Saturday 15th November 1969 by the chairman of the Greater London Council Horace Cutler. Formally a Harrow councilor, his family had built many of the houses in the area during the inter-war period.
Apart from Grange Farm Close, there was Osmond Close, named after a local family and Wesley Close, named after John Wesley the Methodist theologian who it is believed used to preach to his followers in a barn on the Grange Farm in the 18th century.
A number of the farm buildings were still there in 1969 and early 70’s and made a great place for us kids to play. I had my first kiss there in 1973. I rode my fist skateboard on the top of the Osmond Close car park and had my first go on a computer at the Goodenough’s place in Wesley Close!
Those were the days when in the school summer holidays, you’d go out after breakfast with a few pennies in your pocket and came home in time for tea. And of course, the sun was always shining…
About the author: Steve Kirby was born at Bushey Maternity Hospital in 1963. He spent the first 34 years of his life in Harrow. From working as a paperboy for Shaw’s Newsagent on Harrow on the Hill, he left school in 1979 working at the Post Office on College Road a few years later. Over the years Steve has worked in many jobs in and around Harrow. In 1997, Steve moved to the Cotswolds with his family. He is now retired and lives in Cirencester. He regulary returns to Harrow to visit family and recently started a Facebook group for his year’s group at Whitmore High School – his 40th reunion was celebrated in 2019! He enjoys genealogy research and photography.
Featured Image: Merton Road Gang – taken circa 1969, L-R; Myself, Dewi, John – with kind permission from Steve Kirby