Saint George

 Historic Headstone


Engraving of Headstone Manor by James Pellar Malcolm, dated 1 April 1800
Engraving of Headstone Manor by James Pellar Malcolm, dated 1 April 1800

The Mission District of what was to become the parish of St George, Headstone was formed in 1906 as part of the Anglican response to the growth of the London suburbs. The Church’s association with Headstone, however, goes back as far as 825 when the land, as part of Herga, initially came into ecclesiastical ownership under Wulfred, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Headstone first appears in records as a distinct area in 1233. The name, probably deriving from two Saxon words meaning ‘enclosed homestead’, has been found with over twenty spellings including Hegton, Hegeton, Heggeston and Hedgstone.

In 1344 Archbishop John Stratford, the feudal overlord, purchased the Headstone estate centred on its moated grange, and the early fourteenth century house became the archbishops' chief residence in Middlesex. Cardinal Archbishop Simon Langham conducted ordinations in the chapel at the manor in June 1367; Lambeth estate records indicate that the chapel may have been removed during rebuilding in 1488/89.

On 20 July 1407 Archbishop Thomas Arundell, engaged in combating the early stages of the Lollard movement, wrote to Nicholas Bubbewyth, Bishop of London, from his manor at Headstone. With a view to alleviating the tensions between Church and State he proposed a series of solemn processions with a grant of forty days indulgence to those taking part.

The great storm was not to break until the reign of Henry VIII in the next century. The Reformation, which swept away indulgences, also saw Archbishop Thomas Cranmer ‘invited’ to exchange Headstone Manor, let as a tenancy since 1383, for land elsewhere. It was surrendered to the King in December 1545 and within days passed from the crown into private hands.

Headstone remained a rural area until the twentieth century. Access to the house was via Headstone Lane, the first record of which is dated 1391. A shorter route to Harrow could be gained by a track known at the beginning of the nineteenth century as Green Lane; by 1874 it had come to be called Occupation Road. By the first decade of the twentieth century Occupation Road could boast a few houses, a temporary church and another name: Pinner View.

The pioneers of St George's were clearly delighted with the historical associations of their new Mission District. Noting that in its various forms the name Headstone ‘goes back into the recesses of history’, the programme to the Grand Bazaar of June 1910 added ‘we do not therefore propose to call our Church St George’s Cunningham Park, or anything else but St George’s Headstone’.

The Rev Ramsay Couper, Missioner from 1907 and first Vicar of Headstone from 1911, was Chairman of the Hendon Rural District Council 1914-15, and also 1923-24. During his second period as Chairman the decision was taken to acquire Headstone Manor and some 64 acres for the local authority. A few minutes’ walk north from St George’s Church along Pinner View, the house includes part of the oldest  timber-framed dwelling yet discovered in Middlesex, and is surrounded by the only complete water-filled moat in the county. The early sixteenth century great barn also dates from the time of archiepiscopal ownership. The Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre is now accommodated on the site.

Church magazine showing the temporary church built in 1907
Church magazine showing the temporary church built in 1907


headstone, harrow