It’s not until you start work on an old building that you truly get to grips with the history it has lived through. Most recently in the manor house, historic wallpaper specialist Allyson McDermott, has begun to reveal (literally) some of the building’s long hidden secrets. This gorgeous Gothic block-printed wallpaper dating from around 1840 is just one of seven layers from one section of wall in one room of the house!
Seeing this fashionable Victorian wall covering really brought home to us the grandeur Headstone once enjoyed as the country house of wealthy merchants. But 1840 also spells the last era of prosperity for Headstone Farm. In 1837 the industrial revolution arrives in the rural villages of Harrow with the first stations of the London to Birmingham railway. Over the next 80 years fields are sold, at first to make way for the middle-class mansions and villas of Hatch End, Pinner and Harrow Weald, then for factories and the terraced houses of Wealdstone, and finally suburban Metro-land.
By the time this graffiti adorned the walls of the kitchen at Headstone in 1901, the writing was definitely on the wall for farming here. With little more land than that of the Recreation Ground you see today, the last dairy cows left Headstone in 1928. The Hall family who were the last to farm here moved all of their diary business to Pinner Park Farm, staying there for the rest of the century. Thankfully the house itself was saved by Hendon Rural District Council who bought what was left of Headstone farm and preserved it as green space for local people.
All of the wallpapers Allyson uncovers will be preserved and some will be on display in the museum when it opens next September. She has dropped tantalising hints about wall coverings from 1930, 1910, and as far back as 1740! We have only scratched the surface of the stories this building has to tell, and we can’t wait to peel back the next layer.