History of Edgware

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View showing the north-west ridge (including Edgwarebury Farm) to the centre of Edgware

Edgware in London (before 1965 in Middlesex) is on the Hertfordshire border and covers a relatively large medieval parish (traditionally defined area of England) of 2,089 acres (8.45 km2).

This place, from its situation within an easy distance of the metropolis, and the excellence of the road to it through an almost uninterrupted succession of elegant villas and agreeable scenery, has become the residence of numerous opulent and respectable families.

S. LewisA Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848[1]

Origins and pre-industrial history[edit]

Edgware's early history is inferred from its Saxon place name and recorded variants. It means "Ecgi's weir". Ecgi is a Saxon name and the weir relates to a pond where his people would catch fish. A legal record of 1422 mentions "Eggeswer", in Middlesex, which, being in Latin, may have been written deliberately using an older form of the spelling.[2] Over many years the name slowly became Edgware, and Ecgi as an individual is long since forgotten. By 1489, and the beginning of the Tudor period those writing the name added the "d" and it was Edggeware.

The manor does not appear in the Domesday survey, nor has there ever been a manor-house as such. But its centre has traditionally always been Edgwarebury Farm since at least 1216. James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos erected a palace at Cannons Park around 1713 for £250,000 (equivalent to £32,482,578 in 2015) and was by far the wealthiest resident in its pre-20th century history. The ancient parish served by St Margaret’s church was larger than the manor and included parts of Elstree in the north, but not land south of Deans Brook and Edgware Brook, or Little Stanmore parish west of the Edgware Road marking a traditional longest boundary of Edgware. The area of Edgware was little altered and was in the 1930s 3.26 square miles (8.4 km2).[3]

Edgware Road follows the same line as the ancient Watling Street, an important Roman Road, and used in the medieval period by pilgrims. The Road was improved by the Edgware-Kilburn turnpike trust in 1711, and a number of the local inns functioned as a stop for coaches. By 1867 a railway line had been built between Edgware and Finsbury Park and a station was built.

Mostly forest until the 13th century the area was mixed agriculture until the end of 16th century. Production of hay and the selling of cattle fattened and driven from other parts of England and sold locally led, by the 17th century to Edgware becoming a small market. Trades included butchers, tailors, colliers (charcoal sellers) and brewers. The market was held every week but petered out in 1790s.[4]

Edgware was associated with the highwayman Dick Turpin- the infamous scene of his worst incident, which happened on 4 February 1735, when five gang members, including Turpin, broke into a farmhouse owned by Joseph Lawrence, called Earlsbury Farm. Lawrence was at least 70 (so considered fairly old) and yet Turpin et al. beat him with their pistols and tortured him by setting him on a fire whilst naked, before announcing that they would amputate his legs. While this was going on, the leader of the gang took a servant girl upstairs and raped her.[5]

Early economic history[edit]

Industry played a minor role in the economy of Edgware. There was a cattle and pleasure fair from 1760s to 1860s with horse racing between 1834 and 1855.[6]

Gravel pits were probably being worked by 1802 and certainly by 1834, partly at least by the labour of the able-bodied poor as a parish employment, and in 1963 gravel was still being extracted on the eastern side of the parish. In 1831 there were no persons engaged in manufacturing in the parish, and in fact there were no industries until in 1900 the firm of Chas. Wright Ltd., manufacturing engineers, moved from Clerkenwell: employed for the UK government in World War I and after this it struck 2,000,000 Mons or 1914 Stars and Victory Medals. Its largest production in World War II was for the metal parts of respirator filters: making 94½ million between 1937 and 1943. In 1963 the company was chiefly engaged in the manufacture of car registration plates. There were 70 workmen employed, together with an office staff of 30. The firm of A.E.W. Ltd., founded in 1923 and established in Edgware in 1927, at the start of the 1970s employed 50 people and manufactured laboratory and industrial electric ovens and furnaces.[6]

Edgware had few residents for its size but saw some prosperous commerce: in 1870, for instance, there were six insurance agents in the village. The opening of the Great Northern Railway branch in 1867, however, seems to have had little effect on the expansion of the village, and plans to extend the railway met with strong local opposition. A Bill to establish a line from Watford to Edgware, brought before Parliament in 1896 and 1897, was opposed by residents, and it was said that the real harm of the railways was the opening up of building sites 'which are quickly covered with architectural atrocities'. In this time the parish had begun to display a tendency to split into an opulent north and a workaday south, separated by an agricultural buffer zone. By 1896 several large houses had been built in the Elstree area or along the Elstree—Barnet road, while the old village gained the post office, the infants' school, the station, and the Railway Hotel. The southern part of the parish was unable to repel the tide of suburban development, but the threatened distinction was to a large extent averted by the quality of buildings between the two world wars.[6]

Suburban transformation[edit]

The first (non-tube connected) railway accompanied a brief decline in population. By the mid 19th century the area was almost entirely for the purpose of hay production. In 1939 the overground railway passenger service ceased to run, and goods traffic ceased by 1964. A tram service began in 1904.[4] In 1921 the population was 1,516. Although much suburban development was encouraged by the opening of the tube station in 1924, the area was already attracting developers like George Cross to the area by 1919. The conurbation increased as far north as the Edgware Way. In 1932 the parish became a part of Hendon Urban District. The shopping district around Station Road developed to included the Ritz Cinema, which opened in May 1932. Following several name changes the cinema was eventually demolished in 2001 replaced by a large gym, apartments and a Caffe Nero. The Edgware Town F.C. was founded in 1939 after a predecessor team in 1915.[4]

Post-war development has been restricted by the Metropolitan Green Belt, sparing urban sprawl into the Scratch Wood and Deacons Hill areas apart from the M1 motorway. By this time the population was more than 17,000. The Mall Shopping Centre, formerly Broadwalk Shopping Centre, replaced the station pulled down in 1961, in 1990.


  1. ^ Lewis, S. (1848). A Topographical Dictionary of England. London: Samuel Lewis, p.145.
  2. ^ Plea Rolls of the Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40/647;http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT1/H6/CP40no647/bCP40no647dorses/IMG_0495.htm; 4th entry, line 1, the home of the defendant Richard Smyth
  3. ^ T F T Baker, J S Cockburn, R B Pugh (Editors), Diane K Bolton, H P F King, Gillian Wyld, D C Yaxley (1971). "Edgware: Introduction". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Edgware & Burnt Oak London Borough of Barnet
  5. ^ Barlow, Derek (1973). Dick Turpin and the Gregory Gang. Phillimore. pp. 85–92. ISBN 0900592648. 
  6. ^ a b c T F T Baker, J S Cockburn, R B Pugh (Editors), Diane K Bolton, H P F King, Gillian Wyld, D C Yaxley (1971). "Edgware: Economic and social history". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 

Further Research[edit]



From the collection of the City of London

From the Collection of Clive Smith

Coordinates: 51°38′02″N 0°16′45″W / 51.63399°N 0.27907°W / 51.63399; -0.27907