|Harrow Weald Common, Grim's Dyke Open Space, The City Open Space||Harrow|
Harrow Weald Common is a remnant of the once extensive woodland of the Forest of Middlesex. Following the Enclosure Acts, gravel extraction was granted as one of the common rights of Harrow parishioners, and this industry was carried on until the late C19th. Adjacent to the common is an area known as The City Open Space, once the site of cottages built for employees of the brick and tile works. Grim's Dyke Open Space is named after the ancient earthwork that runs for 3 miles between Harrow Weald Common and Pinner Green, its original purpose unknown.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2013
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The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Harrow Weald Common, June 2013. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.
Harrow Weald Common is one of the remnants of the extensive woodland of the Forest of Middlesex once covering the area, Weald being an old word for 'forest'. Weald was the second largest settlement in Harrow after Pinner in the Middle Ages, although not referred to as Harrow Weald until 1553. By 1759 the extent of the common land was reduced to 300 ha., since when it has shrunk still further to its present size. In the C18th it was a haunt of highwaymen and the steep hill and wildness made it perilous for coach travellers. Following the Enclosure Acts, gravel extraction had been granted as one of the common rights of Harrow parishioners here, as well as pannage: the right to pasture pigs, and turbary: the right to cut peat for fuel. Gravel extraction took place in the C19th on a large scale for construction and road building, and the undulating floor of the woods is the result of this industry. In 1886 there had been an attempt to get government agreement to sell what remained of this common land since it was considered no longer of use for gravel extraction, but the movement opposing this was successful. One of the supporters of the campaign was W S Gilbert who was then living at Grim's Dyke (q.v.).
Gravel extraction carried on until 1899 when, as a means of conserving the common, the Metropolitan Commons (Harrow Weald) Supplemental Act was passed, revoking most of the commoners' rights, following which a Board of Conservators was set up to manage the site. Within the wider area of the common are 2 hectares of oak and hornbeam coppice remaining from the ancient woodland of Weald Wood. An avenue of trees in the woodland planted by Leonard Renery, Keeper of the Common from 1961-96, is now named 'Len's Avenue' in his memory.
Adjacent to Harrow Weald Common is an area known as The City Open Space, once the site of cottages built for employees of the brick and tile works run by the Blackwell family, and within the overall site is Grim's Dyke Open Space. Grim's Dyke ('Grimm's Ditch', Grim in Old English meaning devil or goblin) is an ancient earthwork that runs for 3 miles between Harrow Weald Common and Pinner Green, whose original purpose is not known. The date of its construction is debated: it may be C5th or C6th, or may have Celtic or Roman origins. Similarly its purpose has caused much speculation: it may be have been built by the Catuvellauni tribe as defence against the Romans; a boundary ditch during the reign of Offa the King of Mercia; to keep out cattle raiders; for agricultural purposes; to drive animals towards during hunting chases.
Site information board; Teresa Farino, Charlotte Pagendam, Sue Swales & Mathew Frith, 'Nature Conservation in Harrow', Ecology Handbook 13 (London Ecology Unit) 1989; Joanne Verden 'Ten Walks Around Pinner', (The Pinner Association) 1999 ed.; Walter W Druett, 'The Stanmores and Harrow Weald Through the Ages' (Hillingdon Press, 1938)