Was Stanmore the site of a historical battle in which Boudica's revolting tribes were routed by the Roman army?

The suggestion - however outlandish - is just one of a number of old wives' tales about Harrow and Brent featured in a new book documenting London's most persistent and unusual urban legends and practices.

Author Steve Roud has researched in-depth reports of superstitions and anecdotal stories from across the city's 32 boroughs and compiled them into London Lore.

One of the most astounding local claims is that the Battle of Watling Street - in which Boudica led two indigenous tribes to defeat at the hands of the Romans in AD 60 or 61 - took place on Stanmore Common.

Historians do not know exactly where the clash happened, but place it somewhere between Londinium (London) and Viroconium (Wroxeter, in Shropshire) on the Roman Road now known as Watling Street.

The fact that Boudica's grave is reputedly to be a mound in the grounds of nearby Lime's House in Stanmore does add credence to the claim that the borough of Harrow was the setting of the decisive encounter.

London Lore further explains that a "lost Roman city", again located somewhere along Watling Street, is said to be sited at Brockley Hill in Stanmore.

Beyond ancient military fables, the book serves up several stories - or tall stories? - regarding poltergeists.

In one, writer Augustus Hare recalls in his biography the tale of a friend, Herman Merivale, who saw the ghost-ly apparition of a stagecoach pulling up outside the Headmaster's House at Harrow School at midnight one evening.

When Mr Merivale asked the next day who the visitor was, a servant replied, spookily, that no-one had come by - but that headmaster Dr Butler's father had died the previous night on the other side of the country.

Similarly, in 1873 renowned folk-lorist John Emslie detailed a labourer who said he could see spirits.

"He had never seen a ghost until about two months back, when, passing along the lane from Kenton to Whitchurch, he heard a sound like footsteps, and, looking to the right, at a distance of about two yards, distinct-ly saw a friend of his, a faint light showed him, all around was dark.

"He knew that his friend was ill, and far away; and next morning received a letter announcing the death of his friend in the night."

Two years earlier, Emslie had explored the widespread assumption among residents that several monarchs had found their final resting place in Kingsbury: "That's why it's called Kingsbury," one local told him. The area actually takes its name from King's Burgh, or manor.

Kilburn, Emslie was told, derived its name because "the Catholics used to kill and burn so many people".

In the graveyard of St John the Baptist in Church Lane, Pinner, is an 1843-constructed memorial to William and Agnes Loudon that is pyramid-shaped and has what looks like part of a coffin jutting out of one face.

Mr Roud said that this protrusion gives rise to a local legend that the couple's remains actually lie entombed in a stone coffin but reveals, in reality, the bodies were buried underground.

There is a another tale, picked out from Townshend and Ffoulkes' 1936 book True Ghost Stories, about a publisher, L, who, while one day lost in Kensal Green Cemetery in Harrow Road, Kensal Green, stumbled across the grave of a former girlfriend, Elsie.

At home later, he intended to a call a friend, but accidentally asked the operator to put him through to Kensal Green and gave the number of Elsie's grave. Inexplicably, Elsie's voice answered and said she would see her former paramour soon.

"The front door opened noiselessly, then closed. Footsteps dragged a little, as if their owner's limbs had recently been cramped, came slowly down the passage, heralded by a current of icy air.

"L did not meet the visitor. He fainted - and lay unconscious until early next morning when Bowden "his valet" discovered him.

"'And believe me, or believe me not,' said Bowden, when discussing L's unaccountable seizure, 'bits of wet clay were sticking to the carpet and some was on his dinner jacket. Beats me how it got there.'"

Mr Roud's book mentions a 1992 article in the Observer in which reporter Jim Golland debunked many of the areas myths, even though locals swore they were true.

There was, for instance, a mythical tunnel that supposedly led from what used to be the King's Head Hotel in Harrow on the Hill to St Mary's Church in Church Hill or from Headstone Farm to the church.

London Lore is an absorbing and fascinatingly thorough book in which Mr Roud not only simply relates each story, but tries to rubbish or confirm the myth as well as examine how each tale of lore came into being.

Flick past the pages of the northwest London section of this hardback tome and you will find explanations of some of the city's most enduring and well-known curiosities - Cockney rhyming slang, London Bridge and Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. * London Lore costs £20 and will be published by Random House on Thursday, October 9 with the ISBN 978-1-847-94511-2.

Do you know of a local mystery or urban myth? Email ianproctor@trinitysouth.co.uk or write to us at Congress House, Lyon Road, Harrow, HA1 2EN.