I received an email a few months back, requesting that I paint a house in West Street, Harrow on the Hill. A bit of a trip down memory lane as I used to work in Harrow on the Hill years ago, so many of the streets are familiar. I used to frequent The Castle pub on West Street which is within site of the commission.
A bit about Harrow on the Hill
Harrow on the Hill derived its name from 767 as Gumeninga Hergae. Its literal translation meaning ‘Heathen Temple’. The hill has historically been used as a place of pagan worship and I would not be surprised to discover that the current site of St. Mary’s Church was built on the older pagan site.
On 27 April 1646, King Charles I, when fleeing Oxford stopped at Harrow on the Hill near St Mary’s Church. He took a final glimpse of London watered his horses before moving on. A plaque on Grove Hill near Harrow School marks the spot and the spring below has been known as King Charles’ Well ever since. The next time he saw London he was a prisoner, soon to be executed outside his own palace.
Harrow-on-the-Hill records the country’s first motor accident that was fatal to the driver. The incident occurred on 25 February 1899. There is a plaque on a wall by the road entitled ‘TAKE HEED’. The name of the deceased driver was not recorded on the plaque which seems a bit thoughtless.
It is also the location of the famous Harrow School which was founded in 1572 by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I. It is steeped in tradition and even today the boys wear straw boaters and have to tip them every time a master walks past.
In the past, five kings and seven former British prime ministers have attended Harrow School including Winston Churchill who hated the place.
Other notable Harrovians include:
- Lord Byron. Poet
- Richard Curtis. British screenwriter
- Chris Blackwell. Founder of Island Records
- James Blunt. Singer
- Benedict Cumberbatch. English actor
- Edward Fox. English actor
The House on West Street
This house was built in 1851 and is a traditional Victorian double bay with a modest area in front allowing for steps below and room for a few plants.
Although houses like this are common all over the UK they are, in close observation, all unique in detail. In addition, like all the best designs, the Victorian bay window house is incredibly adaptable.
You find five bays, single bays, and all sorts of other variations though the essentially pleasing shape remains intact.
In this example I really like the lighter coloured brick used for the construction. Most of the rest of the street is red brick, so I guess the architect was making a bit of a statement with this building. I could also see St. Mary’s Church over the tops of the houses. I made a note on my initial drawing to include it in the final piece.
One of the good things about undertaking a commission is that the client chooses the subject, thus, you get plenty of variety. This helps me to maintain a fresh eye to the world. Most enjoyable it was too.
Here below is another house I was commissioned to paint. This one being on Nelson Street. The house second to the left used to be a pub aptly called The Admiral Nelson.
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