Preston emerged in 1220 as a small settlement centred around Preston Green, just southwest of the Lidding or Wealdstone Brook. The settlement’s name may originate from an estate granted to Abbot Stidberht by King Offa (it means ’the farm belonging to the priest’), though any connection to the rural Preston Road was lost by 1086. Preston was established as a township by 1231.
By the mid-1400s, Preston consisted of two farms and some cottages. The northern Lyon family farm, dating to the late 1300s, was described as beautiful in 1547 and was likely the birthplace of John Lyon. He founded Harrow School in 1572, after which the farm supported the school, being rebuilt around 1700. The southern farm was first called Preston Dicket before becoming Preston Farm.
Around 1850, the short-lived “Rose & Crown” beerhouse opened at Preston Hill, likely part of Hillside Farm.
The popular Preston Tea Gardens under George Timms was opened around 1880. The Tea Gardens flourished well into the following century.
Despite the 1894 Wembley Park station opening, the Metropolitan Railway did not spur development, even rejecting a Preston stop in 1896 given the tiny population. Into the early 1900s, the area remained rural with the unspoiled Wealdstone Brook meandering through the district, described as “one of the most perfect little streams anywhere, abounding in dace and roach.”
The 1900s brought slow transformation. Uxendon Farm became a shooting ground (the Lancaster Shooting Club), hosting 1908 Olympic clay pigeon events. Pressure from the shooting club, being two miles from any station led to Preston Road Halt opening in 1908.
Preston Road Halt triggered the first wave of commuter development in the area. After 1910, some large Edwardian houses arose along Preston Road itself. In 1912, Harrow Golf Club opened near the station, joining the earlier Wembley Golf Club from 1895 on Barn Hill’s southern slopes. Both golf courses would vanish under new housing constructed between the wars, as suburban expansion gradually transformed the rural landscape.
Enhanced transportation finally enabled suburban expansion. Christ Church College, Oxford and Harrow School sold their Preston estates between 1921-1933. Construction commenced at Forty Green as early as 1923-1924, with housing quickly spreading along Preston Road and Preston Hill over the next three years. As communications advanced, open land swiftly transitioned to suburban development.
Many country lanes in the area remained unimproved until 1931-1932 under Wembley’s Town Planning Scheme. Preston Road itself continued as a rural country lane into the late 1930s, which may explain its enduring charm.