THE ROMANS BUILT straight roads when they occupied Britain. Watling Street, which linked Dover (in Kent) and Wroxeter (in Shropshire) via London, was no exception. London’s Edgware Road, part of the A5 main road, follows the course of Watling Street. It connects Marble Arch with Edgware. A short section of this road travels over a hill between Kilburn Underground station and the start of Cricklewood Broadway, about 840 yards away. This aesthetically unremarkable stretch of the former Watling street is called Shoot Up Hill. Although it is hard to imagine by looking at this non-descript portion of one of London’s main thoroughfares, its name is associated with the history of the area of northwest London known as Hampstead.
Also known in the past as ‘Shuttop’ or ‘Shot-up’, Shoot Up was the name of a mediaeval manor or an estate, which was part of the Manor of Hampstead. The land with the name Shoot Up (or its variants) was part of the Temple Estate, which was granted to the Knights Templars in the 12th century (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp91-111). In 1312, the Pope dissolved the Order of the Templars and transferred its possessions to the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. By the 14th century, the Watling Street marked the estate’s western boundary, as well as that of the Manor of Hampstead. The Hospitallers were dissolved in 1540 by King Henry VIII.
One of the king’s officials involved in the dissolution of religious orders such as the Hospitallers was Sir Roger de Cholmeley (c1485-1565), the man who founded Highgate School in 1565, the school where I completed my secondary (‘high school’) education. One of his recent biographers, Benjamin Dabby, relates in his “Loyal to The Crown. The Extraordinary Life of Sir Roger Cholmeley” that in 1546, Sir Roger was granted the:
“… the lordship and manor of Hampstead Midd. [i.e. Middlesex], and lands in the parishes of Wyllesden and Hendon, Midd. …”
He was granted these lands which he helped to take from the Hospitallers. Dabby wrote that his newly acquired estate was known as ‘Shut Up Hill’ or ‘Shoot Up Hill’ Manor and that it consisted of:
“… some two hundred acres of arable land, fifty acres of meadow, two hundred of pasture, one hundred and forty of wood, and one hundred of waste, in the parishes of Hampstead, Willesden, and Hendon.”
It was a valuable estate, and being a landowner gave him enhanced status in Court circles. Income from this estate helped finance the school that Sir Roger created shortly before his death. Unlike others of his status, Sir Roger was uneasy about the signing of the document that brought the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey to the throne. This allowed him to escape execution when Queen Mary succeeded her as monarch. Instead, he was imprisoned briefly and fined.
The Shoot Up Manor (or Estate), which remained in the northwest corner of Hampstead Parish, passed through various owners after the death of Sir Roger. Until the 19th century when most of it was developed for building, there was little in the way of buildings on the land. A history of the area (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp91-111#p41) revealed:
“There is unlikely to have been a dwelling house on the Temple estate earlier than the one which the prior of the Hospitallers was said in 1522 to have made at his own expense, a substantial dwelling house with a barn, stable, and tilehouse. It was probably on the site of the later Shoot Up Hill Farm, which certainly existed by the 1580s, on Edgware Road just south of its junction with Shoot Up Hill Lane. The farm buildings remained until the early 20th century.”
A map surveyed in 1866 shows that what is now Edgware Road was built-up as far as the railway bridges where Kilburn station is located, but north of this, Shoot Up Hill ran through open country, passing a flour mill (‘Kilburn Mill’) where the current Mill Lane meets the Hill, on the west side of the road.
Today, Shoot Up Hill is lined on its eastern side by large dwelling houses, mostly divided into flats. The western side is occupied mainly by large purpose-built blocks of flats. One of these architecturally undistinguished blocks is appropriately named Watling Gardens. As for origin of the name Shoot Up Hill, this is unknown. It is extremely unlikely that it has anything to do with firing weapons. If the traffic is heavy, you will have plenty of time to meditate on its possible origin, otherwise you will hardly notice it as you speed along it.