The History of Harrow

How much do you know about Harrow’s history? The town was originally called Greenhill. This was a small settlement at the bottom of Harrow Hill. Over time, the settlements merged, and Greenhill became the focal point of the town – Harrow as we know it today.

Of course, you might also be familiar with nearby Harrow on the Hill. Would it surprise you to learn that some believe an ancient burial shrine might be buried beneath it? We’ll likely never know for sure, but the Anglo Saxon were certainly in the area many centuries ago. We never quite know what’s beneath our feet.

Either way, nearby Harrow on the Hill is now recognised as the historic part of the borough of Harrow. It’s worth a visit for its architectural style and listed buildings.

A modern link to an ancient world

Headstone Manor is mentioned on our Things to Do page, but it’s one of the oldest and best-known buildings that reaches far back into Harrow’s past. It dates from the 14th century, although the land it stands on is confirmed to have belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury back in 825AD. His name was Wulfred.

We only know the age of the building from dating the timbers used in its construction. It’s seen some seven centuries of events and experiences. Perhaps most notably, though, it was once owned by Henry VIII, he of many wives (although it seems he owned Headstone Manor for less than a week!).

1,000 years of worship

The church spire of St Mary’s at Harrow on the Hill is one of the most famous landmarks the area can call its own. It’s been a valued presence for centuries, having been consecrated nearly 1,000 years ago. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the building is Grade I listed, too.

Stet Fortuna Domus, Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis

If those words mean anything to you, you might have a connection to Harrow School, arguably one of the most famous boy’s schools in the country.

Stet Fortuna Domus is Latin for ‘let the fortune of the house stand,’ while the second section is Latin for ‘the faithful dispensation of the gifts of God.’ Quite a message to live by.

The school was established in 1572, hundreds of years after St Mary’s started receiving parishioners and some 260-odd years since the construction of Headstone Manor. It gives you an idea of how long some of the properties in the town have been around for.

The school includes many famous former pupils among its alumni. Former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was among them, although he was by no means the only PM to go there. Six other British PMs also attended the school.

We can also thank a former pupil of Harrow School for the invention of the postbox. Few people know that Anthony Trollope, the famous author, is credited with the invention.

As you can see, Harrow’s history goes back way further than you might have expected. It’s lovely to see how much of that history is still visible in today’s buildings as well.