Northwick Park Estate was once within the Manor of Harrow, part of Sheepcote Farm until the early C20th when much of the farmland was purchased by Harrow School. It is named after Lord Northwick who was Lord of the Manor in the early C19th and responsible for enclosing much of Harrow's commonland. In 1912 the estate was inherited by Captain E G Spencer-Churchill as development in the area was taking place. In 1936 Middlesex County Council and Wembley Borough Council acquired 192 acres for public open space, carrying out landscaping and tree planting while retaining some existing features. In woodland in the north west corner is Ducker Pool, once a farm pond but later the swimming pool for Harrow School.
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Northwick Park, June 2001. Photo: S Williams
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Northwick Park is on land once part of the Manor of Harrow, and was agricultural land of Sheepcote Farm until the C20th. By the C17th the Manor was in the ownership of the Rushout family. James Rushout was created a knight in 1661 and later the family gained a Barony but the title died out in 1887, although the inheritance descended to the Spencer-Churchills. The park is named after Lord Northwick who was Lord of the Manor in the early C19th and responsible for enclosing much of the commonland in Harrow. In 1905 Harrow School Land Trust purchased much of Sheepcote Farm in order to arrest development. At that time the land was farmed by Thomas Grimwade, famous for inventing desiccated milk. In 1912 the widow of the 3rd Lord Northwick left Northwick Park Estate to their grandson Captain E G Spencer-Churchill who named the streets around after villages near his Gloucestershire estate. In 1936 Middlesex County Council and Wembley Borough Council acquired 192 acres of the Estate to add to the public open space locally, carrying out landscaping and tree planting while retaining the existing landscape and field hedges. Part of the site to the north was used for Northwick Hospital and Harrow Technical College, the latter now the Harrow Campus of the University of Westminster. A pitch and putt course was created on a field south of the hospital border. In the 1960s the land was raised by land-fill.
In the north-west corner of Northwick Park is a wooded area in which there was once a pond of Sheepcote Farm, since infilled. Known as The Ducker Pool, it became the outdoor swimming pool for Harrow School and was one of the largest private swimming pools in the country. Some of the trees and coppice here were planted in 1907 around the Pool, the gift of old Harovian W F Fladgate. It was in use by Harrow School until a new swimming pool was built in 1985 in its Sports Centre. This area was later purchased by the Swaminarayan Mission Hindu sect as the site to build a temple, but this was eventually built in 1995 on a different site on Brentfield Road. Northwick Park today is largely taken up by sports fields to the east, with grassy spaces with trees around the central sports pavilion. Pryors Path runs from the pavilion to Northwick Park station and from north to south through the park runs a small brook. A second stream or brook runs from what was The Ducker to the south-west corner of the park at the eastern end of the Permissive Footpath coming from St Cuthbert's Church. Some of the old hedge boundaries exist particularly to the west, which are largely meadows. Northwick Park is also crossed by the Capital Ring footpath, which enters from the west near The Ducker and exits at the south-east corner near South Kenton station.
The amount of public open space in Northwick Park has diminished over the years. The first non-recreational development allowed was a wartime structure, possibly a field hospital, situated in the north-west corner of the site, visible on an aerial photograph of 1945. In the south-west, an area that was previously rough ground, mounds and a pond was proposed for a new golf facility in the early C21st, and was laid out by c.2009. However, this caused some controversy for its obstruction of an existing public right of way, particularly the path connecting Norval Road to the hospital. A diversion proposed by LB Brent and Playgolf was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate. The planning inspector has now ruled that blocking the footpath with the golf course and driving range had been illegal, and that the footpath should be re-opened on its original line. The new operator (Leisure Golf) has now obtained the necessary planning permission to reinstate the footpath utilising an acceptable engineering solution proposed by local residents; it is hoped that the footpath will re-open in 2013.
Ian Yarham, Meg Game 'Nature Conservation in Brent, Ecology Handbook 31', London Ecology Unit, 2000 p. 47