Whether it is for the summer festivals, the Diwali Celebrations in the Autumn or for the magnificent London’s Fair in December and January, Barham Park in Wembley is one of our favourite venues and this short piece tells you all about the place, its history and traditions and the man after whom it was named.
A brief history of Barham Park
Until the late 14th Century, Sudbury Manor was the main Middlesex home of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Then it was divided and leased out for farming, which thrived in the area until the beginning of the 19th Century, when farmers hit hard times. (Farmers always say they have hit hard times, so nothing surprising about that).
In 1582, John Lyon, who founded Harrow School, paid for the upkeep of what was then called Harrow Waye, and is now the Harrow Road, but the road was in a shocking state until a Turnpike Trust was set up in 1801 who paid for improvements.
It was the presence of Harrow School that lead to the development of Sudbury, which was the first part of Wembley to begin to grow during the 1800s when a number of large houses were built. The first shopping centre in the area, called The Mall, started to grow in the 1860s and 70s. This was a thriving part of Wembley and was so popular that Queen Victoria decided to name her front drive after it.
A house called Sudbury Lodge was built in the 1860s by two sisters from the Copland Family, who were well known philanthropists at the time, in the grounds of Crabs House which was significantly older and which was owned and occupied by their father. Then in 1895, Sir George Barham came to live in Sudbury, and he bought up the entire estate, decided to live in Sudbury Lodge, and renamed his new home Barham House.
The story of Sir George Barham
Let me pause and look at the story of George Barham, who was an important man in the dairy industry. He was the son of a dairyman and formed the Express Country Milk Supply Company in London in 1864. He was a forward thinking man and realised that the milk he was supplying was of a poor quality and recognised that this was because of the disgraceful conditions in which the cattle in London lived.
He wanted to provide top quality milk to his customers and so arranged to transport fresh milk into town from the countryside by railway, hence his choice of name “Express Milk Company.” Had he used Silverlink he would have named this “The Delayed by an hour Milk Company”.
In 1865, London’s Cattle were virtually wiped out by a plague (again no change there then) and George Barham was the only person who could supply milk to the town. He widened his suppliers’ list and was using the railway to bring milk in for over 150 miles. He invented the Milk Churn and developed Chilling Methods to keep the milk fresh, and then built this equipment and sold it to others. In 1882 he renamed the company Express Dairies and by 1885 was bringing 30,000 gallons of milk into London every single night.
In 1895, at the same time as he purchased Barham House, he received a Royal Warrant for delivery of Milk Supply and this has been renewed by each and every Monarch right up to the present Queen. His son, Titus, opened a range of Tea Shops and Bakeries, plus a number of hardware shops too. Then in 1904, George Barham became the first dairyman ever to be knighted, so his daily deliveries became his knightly deliveries!
Interestingly, for the latter part of the First World War George Barham combined with other competitors to stop duplication of deliveries as it was wasting fuel during a national emergency and the group that was formed was called United Dairies, and later Unigate! After George’s death, his son Titus continued the innovations and in the 1930s he developed the first ever Milk Tanker.
Titus left his house and estate to the local community in his will, and therefore on his death in 1937 the house and the grounds were given to the new Wembley Borough Council.
Sudbury in the early 20th Century
During the period that George and Titus Barham had owned their home in the area, Sudbury had grown considerably. The growing train services meant that Londoners came out to the area for entertainment and a day in the countryside, and there was actually a local Racecourse that they and enjoyed and which attracted punters from London. Then the land started getting sold off for housing developments and more roads were built. The 1924/5 Empire Exhibition in Wembley at the Stadium Site increased this and Sudbury became a very desirable area in which to live. Sudbury Station was rebuilt in 1931 by the famous architect Charles Holden and is a listed building. Actually he probably had some help too. Vale Farm Swimming Pool was built in 1932 and the first cinema was built in 1935.
Therefore George and Titus saw this progressive loss of open spaces and that was why Titus bequeathed the land to the Council to guarantee that local people would always have green spaces to enjoy. It also helped a bit with the considerable death duties bill (Loss of open spaces to building. The inheritance tax. Could be writing all this about today could we not.). An important condition that he placed on this bequest was that each year the park should host a function to raise funds for Wembley Hospital and now Irvin Leisure are proud to continue that condition as each year one of our popular family festivals raises these funds. Look at our events programme and you will see when and how this is to be done this coming year.
Unfortunately, whilst Wembley Borough Council maintained the open space superbly, they allowed the house to become neglected and it became unsafe so that it was actually demolished in 1956/7. You can still see the foundations today. Ironically the much older Crabs House is not only still standing but in fact is the site of Barham Park Library and the Parks Offices and is well worth a visit to admire the unusual design and architecture.
All Brent Parks are now superb, and after you have spent your time and we trust your money at the London’s Fair we recommend a visit to Roundwood Park near Harlesden, and Gladstone Park in Cricklewood as being superb open spaces in an urban area. The walled gardens in particular are imaginatively laid out and whilst the winter is obviously not the best time to see them we are sure you will fully enjoy your time in this park. It is no surprise that Brent Parks have recently won the London in Bloom competition, and were runners up in Britain in Bloom, but we have never seen more attractive open spaces anywhere in the country. Whilst in Brent you really must visit the new Wembley Stadium and the Neasden Temple, both of which are landmarks reflecting this forward looking area.
However, despite the pleasure we always get from opening our events in Barham Park it is tinged with more than a little sadness because a good friend of ours who worked for Brent Parks Department in the offices in Barham Park sadly passed away much too young just a year ago. Many of you may have negative preconceptions about staff working for local Councils, but our friend Diane Chatfield, who was responsible for booking of parks to us, without doubt would have changed your mind. She carried out a vital role in allocating events around the borough and ensuring that all relevant details were complete with patience and humour, and we miss her very much. We are sure that Diane would be delighted to see London’s Fair here in Barham Park and for us our visits to Brent will always remind us of her.
How to find the park
Our fairs are always situated on the open space adjacent to the Sudbury Roundabout, on the Harrow Road. We encourage all visitors to come by Public Transport if they can.
Nearest Underground is
Sudbury Town Station on the Piccadilly Line
Other underground stations are
Wembley Central on the Bakerloo Line, then a short bus journey to Sudbury
Wembley Park on the Metropolitan and Jubilee Lines, then take any bus going to Sudbury (slightly longer bus journey)
Main Line Stations
Sudbury is very close
Wembley Central or Wembley Stadium Stations are a short bus journey from the park.
18,92,182,204 are close. Leave the buses at the Fusilier stop on the Harrow Road, just before Sudbury Roundabout. No need to actually stop in the pub, unless you want to! Even if we are in the other section of the park, to the east side of the parks offices, the same directions apply.