The Abercorn Arms

If you remember on Monday I wrote on my walk to the home of the esteemed Edward Adrian Wilsonwho died at Antartica with Captain Scott.

One of the reasons his house was located where it was at all was because it stood and still stands almost opposite was when I was growing up The Abercorn Arms though now reduced to merely The Abercorn.

As I’ve mentioned before, this old road was once the main road from London to Watford and beyond that to the Midlands and as such attracted great amounts of traffic, trade, luxury housing and highwaymen too.

the-abercorn-arms

The Abercorn Arms as it was around 150 years ago.

I can long attest to how steep Stanmore Hill is having been walking up it for the best part of 30 years and I imagine if you were a horse or passenger having travelled hours from London and reached 60% up this hill then the Abercorn would be a very tempting place to stop off at.

The Abercorn was named after the Marquess of Abercorn who acquired the nearby Bentley Priory Estate in 1788. There were stables and outbuildings there for traveller’s horses and like many such places there was a real buzz about the place.

It’s hard to believe but since at least 1826 there were twice daily coaches running from the Abercorn to Oxford Street and from Stanmore itself to plush Holborn since 1803!   Rather like a new transit system, the Abercorn itself encouraged new houses to be built nearby by the great and good.  What could be better than a large home in the country with views over a distant London and quick commuter service all supplemented by fine food and drink when you get home?

I mentioned that when I was a boy the pub was known as The Abercorn Arms  but has recently lost its ‘Arms’.  It turns out the name-shortening must be a long term trend as it
was once known as “The Abercorn Arms Royal Hotel” .   They sneaked in the ‘Royal’ due to it being host to a grand meeting on the 20t April 1814 when the future King George IV or Prince Regent as he was met with the King of Prussia and other big names from Europe along with King Louis XVIII of France.

King Louis was returning to France to reclaim the throne after spending many years in exile in England awaiting the defeat of Napoleon. Following a sumptuous meal at the hotel he left the Abercorn at 3pm to journey to London.  It must have been quite a sight to see hundreds on horseback accompanying him along with finely dressed trumpeters and our Royal Horse Guards flanking six royal carriages in a grand procession down Stanmore Hill.

It was much quieter when I visited a few days ago, indeed highwaymen were few and far between which is a good thing when you’re carrying an iPad to take some photos.

The Abercorn Arms

The Abercorn as seen from the road in front of Edward Adrian Wilson

You can see from my photo above that not much has change in a few centuries except for the invention of modern roads which we still use and futuristic telephone boxes which we now only preserve.  This telephone box dates from a 1935 design to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V.

On my way home I sneaked a photo of Hill House where Charles Fortnum of Fortnum and Mason fame once lived as I mentioned here.

Hill House

And finally through the beautiful woods back home.  I’m pretty sure hardly anyone around here knows of all the historical sights I’ve been exploring the last few months.  I’m sure the road must have been much busier when Edward Adrian Wilson was around, let alone before the dreaded Coronavirus.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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