Interview with Local Harefield Historian Lin King
What is your connection to Harefield?
We moved our family to Harefield in 1987 and very quickly became involved in village life, our children loved the freedom of the countryside and we loved the fact that we could visit London easily and come home to a rural setting, having the best of both worlds.
When did you first become interested in local history? One of my first jobs after moving to the village was in the Library, I became aware of the History Society, (but never joined) and books like Gregory King’s ‘Harefield’ had just come out.
Did you study history as a qualification? I have a degree in history and English and have always been interested in history, an interest that was nurtured by my dad.
How did you begin your research, and do you have tips for others wanting to find out more about local area? I begin my research by asking myself questions about the topic then look for the stories. Dates, names etc., are not my priority, it’s the stories that people (and me) are interested in.
Can you share with us some less known facts about Harefield?
The Workhouse is one of the oldest buildings in Harefield and its walls hold all the stories of all the people that passed through its doors but I love the fact that when I found the inventory of purchases for food at the beginning of the term that the building was used as a ‘workhouse’, I discovered purchases fit for a king, huge amounts of beef, beer, flour etc., only to find that the ‘governor’ of the workhouse at the time was the landlord of the Kings Arms…he must have been either using the workhouse as a way to purchase huge amounts of ‘vittals’ for his public house or the residents of the workhouse were the best fed ‘inmates’ in the land!
I love the fact that many villagers set up their own production of beer; but to be fair, the water supply was always suspect, so beer was a good, safer beverage. This also may explain why Harefield ended up with 13 public houses, a huge amount for a small village!
I often wonder if the publicans that now run the few remaining pubs realise that their establishments were used as mortuaries. Because of their cold cellars, bodies needing a coroners’ report would be stored in the cellars of The Kings Arms and The White Horse until the coroner would arrive from Uxbridge, sometimes for weeks.
Are there any unresolved Harefield history mysteries?
Thousands, I’ve only scratched the surface…
Have you heard of ghost stories relating to the village?
Mmm … Well, I try to focus on the facts. However, I defy anyone to walk through St Marys churchyard or Old Park Wood at the end of the day and not feel the ghostly presence of our predecessors…
There is that story about the annex to the Kings Arms, the owner of the garage that used to use that space swears he saw the ghost of a soldier in that building, it’s just coincidental that a soldier’s body was kept in the cellar after he suffered a kick from a horse and sadly died, don’t think the garage owner was aware of the story, so????
Do you have any recommended resources for local history? Have you used Hillingdon local studies resources at UX library?
I did spend hours/days researching in Uxbridge Library, I had to let them know I was wanting to use the facility, but I was free to look in any files/documents that were there and my goodness, there were loads and loads… I also talked to a lot of Harefield-born families who had knowledge of stories and legends passed on from their families, they also played and explored Harefield as children so could pass on stories and information regarding their findings and memories (like the chapel to the Knights of St John that once stood in the field by Moorhall Road and the fact that the pub sign for The White Horse is the same height above sea-level as the cross at the top of St Pauls Cathedral!
I have recently been receiving literature from Harefield History Society thanks to a very kind Lorraine Pearcy but originally the society were reluctant to share their knowledge with me.
Where can readers find out more information about local walks? Guided walks?
As you walk through the woods and pathways around Harefield, you often encounter walking groups, but I do not have any information about those groups. (I don’t want to give too much access to the competition! He he)