A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY.
Domeday Book accounts for over 118 persons in the manor of Isleworth, which then included Heston, Hounslow, and Twickenham. Of these six were cottars and a few were bordars. Most of the remainder were described as villeins, mostly holding a virgate or ½ virgate each. Among those who were free were a Frenchman or some Frenchmen and an Englishman who were proven knights. (fn. 1) An extent of 1300 lists 24 free tenants, 15 burgesses, 18 persons holding by apparently semi-free tenures, and between 100 and 200 unfree tenants holding by a variety of customs and services. (fn. 2) Several persons appear in more than one category, and in 1312 an inquiry revealed that since 1300 a dozen customary tenants had acquired free land and a few free tenants had acquired customary land. (fn. 3) Another rental made later in the century reveals a smaller number of tenants and possibly a less complex system of tenures: (fn. 4) the earlier one is partially illegible, however, and the later may not be complete, so that detailed comparison is impossible. In 1378 a freeman of Heston claimed that according to the custom of the manor he should be free of villein services for his customary land: (fn. 5) three years later some of his neighbours attacked him during the Peasants' Revolt, perhaps taking the opportunity of general disorder to work off an old grudge. (fn. 6) In 1385 the king remitted to all the tenants a customary annual payment of 1d. each from each man over 15 years old. The total due had become fixed at 8 marks, but for a long while there had only been enough tenants to make up the sum if they all, including children and servants of over 15, contributed 6d. each. They asserted that this had caused a general defection of children and servants, to the detriment of agriculture. (fn. 7) If the figures were accurate, the adult male population would have dropped from 1,280 to about 213. In 1547 the houseling people of Isleworth were said to number 400 and those of Heston 363. (fn. 8) Isleworth seems to have suffered heavily from the plague in the early and mid-17th century. (fn. 9) In 1665 149 people died of it, and there is said to have been a plague-house on the site of the later union workhouse. (fn. 10) A hundred and twenty families were said to live in Hounslow in 1650, most of them getting their livelihood from the traffic on the main road. (fn. 11) In 1664 27 people in the town were assessed to hearth tax, twelve of them having five or more hearths. Another 50, all but one with less than five hearths, were listed as exempt. In Heston and Isleworth, each excluding Hounslow, those assessed numbered 59 and 138 respectively, and those unassessed 110 and 143. In Isleworth 15 persons had ten hearths and over and 36 had five and over. (fn. 12) There were said to be about 160 families in Heston parish in 1723 and more than 200 in Isleworth. (fn. 13) In 1801 their respective populations were 1,782 and 4,346. Until the middle of the century the most rapid growth was in Heston, and in 1851, just after the railway had been built with stations at Isleworth and Hounslow, Heston had over 4,000 inhabitants and Isleworth between 6,000 and 7,000. The rate of growth in Isleworth was thereafter well over 1,000 each decade, reaching a peak of 8,000 between 1901 and 1911. Between then and 1921, the date of the last census giving separate figures for the two parishes, the population of Isleworth increased by less than 2,000. In Heston the growth was less rapid throughout, and sank to under a thousand a decade at the end of the century. In 1921 Isleworth, with nearly 30,000 inhabitants, still had over 13,000 more than Heston. Since then the balance has probably changed, while the total population of the borough had mounted to nearly 107,000 in 1951. (fn. 14)
There is insufficient evidence to deduce more than the bare outline of the medieval history of agriculture in the Middle Ages: such as there is refers to Isleworth manor and therefore to the whole area of the parishes of Heston, Isleworth, and Twickenham. In 1086 there were 6 ploughs in demesne and the freemen and villeins had 28 more. (fn. 15) In 1195 the demesne seems to have been stocked with 10 ploughs, each having 8 oxen. (fn. 16) The carucage of 1220 was paid in Isleworth on 20 plough-teams. (fn. 17) A lord of the manor in the late 12th century granted away a hundred acres in his assarts on the edge of Hounslow Heath, and it is possible that some of the larger freeholds which appeared later in the Middle Ages represented clearances from the waste. (fn. 18) In 1296-7 171 acres of arable were sown in demesne. (fn. 19) Thereafter, as far as can be ascertained from the very few surviving manorial accounts, the acreage may have dropped a little by the mid-14th century. In the half-dozen or so years for which evidence is available the main crops seem to have been oats, wheat, and barley, possibly in that order of importance. About a score of cows were kept, and some sheep: in 1351-2 157 wethers were sheared, but there were no ewes. There was also a vineyard which produced two tuns and one pipe in 1297, but this seems to have been given up soon after and was later planted with cherry-trees. At least two ploughservants and a carter appear in all the accounts, and a shepherd, cowman, and dairymaid in some. In addition, a good deal of work was done by labour services: well over a third of the ploughing was done by services in 1296-7 and 1313-14, and in 1352 160 workers appeared at the lesser harvest boon-work and 104 at the greater. In addition to the services owed by most of the tenants, the customary tenants who held 'workland' or 'acreland' took it in turns to provide extra workers in the summer.
An indication of heavy mortality in the 14th century has already been mentioned. In 1351-2 the demesne was cultivated apparently much as usual, but by 1361-2 all the demesne arable (152 a.) was leased on five-year terms, of which that year was the third. None of the lessees held more than 15 acres. The only works which were not sold were the mowing ones, and these were still being done in 1463, but by that time the tenants were refusing to pay for the harvesting works they never performed. (fn. 20) Some, however, still seem to have been paying for not doing their boon-works in 1538. (fn. 21) The memory of the complex system of tenures prevailing in the manor during the Middle Ages was recalled by Isleworth Syon's Peace, an agreement made between the lord of the manor and the copyholders in 1656, following many disputes. (fn. 22) This laid down the customs of the manor concerning copyhold, which included inheritance by the youngest son: this had applied only to some holdings in the 14th century. (fn. 23) A tallage of £20 a year was remitted to the tenants in 1424. (fn. 24)
The area cultivated outside the demesne in the Middle Ages is unknown. In 1351-2 94½ virgates of customary land alone owed ploughing services and boon-works to Isleworth manor. (fn. 25) In 1635, when the medieval arable had been diminished by inclosures for pasture and parkland, there were 2,817 acres of arable in the whole manor, of which 910 were in Isleworth and 1276 in Heston. The 1,541 acres of several pasture no doubt included a good deal which had once been open field or common meadow. (fn. 26) An account of the rectory manor for 1324-5 suggests that the largest tithes were paid that year in barley, with oats and maslin not far behind. (fn. 27) Labour services were still owed to some of the lesser manors in the 15th century. (fn. 28)
Syon Abbey seems to have taken back most of the nearer demesne lands into its own hands after the manor was granted to it, (fn. 29) but little is known of their cultivation before 1508. From then until 1538 are preserved several accounts of the Dairy, which was the name given to the abbey's demesne farm. (fn. 30) In the years for which accounts survive it had a staff of four or five men and one or more women, and between 100 and 200 acres were sown out of a probable total in the Dairyfarm at this time of rather over 300. (fn. 31) Oats and wheat were the chief crops, with some barley, and a good deal of stock of all kinds was kept: nearly all the produce went straight to the abbey. In the 1530's, just before the Dissolution, there was a flock of about 200 sheep, 60 or so pigs, and about 18 milch cows. After the Dissolution the demesne passed through various hands and was split among different lessees. It was never again cultivated as a whole, but came to be mostly divided among two or three farms. (fn. 32)
Complaints of inclosures are heard from the 15th century. Until then, and for some time afterwards, the arable lands in Heston and Isleworth lay mainly in open fields, though there were always some inclosed lands, especially in the north-east. The situation of the fields is described elsewhere: (fn. 33) there is no evidence that they lay in two or three well-defined fields between which all the tenants rotated their crops in common, though grazing on the stubble of Link Field is mentioned in 1309. (fn. 34) In the 16th century some lands were thrown open for common grazing between Michaelmas and February. (fn. 35) The earliest large inclosures may have been of the meadow and pasture lands round Syon Abbey in the 15th century: the abbey's park north of the London Road may have also lain partly on former arable. (fn. 36) In the later 16th century several people tried to inclose different bits of land. Two attempts about 1600 seem to have been defeated by a group of tenants led by Sir Gideon Awnsham. (fn. 37) Complaints were also made in 1634 about recent inclosures of the common lands. (fn. 38) The next two centuries saw the piecemeal inclosure of nearly all the open-field land of Isleworth for fruitgrowing and market-gardening. Fruit-growing seems to have started during the 17th century, and caused a number of disputes about tithe: one man with a garden of about 5 acres was said during one of these disputes to have sold some 3,000 fruit-trees to his neighbours in 1661 and 1662. (fn. 39) In 1724, in the course of more litigation, several hundred acres of arable and common-field land were said to have been converted to fruit-growing within the past 60 years. This was attributed to the easy watercarriage to London, (fn. 40) but the virtual coincidence of gardens with the flood plain gravel in 1746 should also be noticed: (fn. 41) later they spread to other ground nearby. (fn. 42) Later in the century a good deal of the produce was taken to London by road. (fn. 43) In 1801 only 360 acres in the parish were said to be sown with grain: of these, 163 acres were wheat, 102 were oats, 69 barley, and 26 rye. (fn. 44) A few years earlier marketgardens had been estimated at 430 acres and nurseries at fourteen. By this time raspberries and strawberries were among the chief crops. Some of the raspberries were used for distilling, while the rest of the soft fruit was carried to London on foot by women who came up from Shropshire and Wiltshire for the fruit season. (fn. 45) Oziers, which were grown along the river and on the aits and were used, among other things, to make baskets for the fruit grown in the market-gardens, are said to have been another product of Isleworth. (fn. 46)
Agriculture in Heston followed a different course, and the open fields, in spite of inclosures on their edges, remained largely untouched until 1818. In 1593 Norden commented on the supreme quality and good quantity of the wheat grown here, from which he said the queen's bread was made: (fn. 47) succeeding writers repeated his praises, perhaps with little new information, and it is clear that Heston Field still produced fine wheat in the late 18th century. Different accounts were given of the rotation practised, but in neither was there any fallowing on the common fields, and in one version wheat was the only grain crop, while in the other it was the principal one. The cavalry barracks built on Hounslow Heath in 1793 were said to furnish the neighbouring farmers with a ready market for straw, oats, and hay, as well as supplying manure. (fn. 48)
John Robinson (d. 1802), the politician, had a model farm at Wyke in the late 18th century, (fn. 49) and Sir Joseph Banks, P.R.S., experimented with roses, strawberries, and sheep at Spring Grove. (fn. 50) A few sheep were also kept on Hounslow Heath, but these 'pitiful, starved-looking animals' were very different from Banks's merinos. (fn. 51) Because of the high production of Heston's open fields the movement for inclosure was directed at the heath rather than the fields, but the Act passed in 1818 covered both the fields and commons of Heston, Isleworth, and Twickenham. (fn. 52) The awards of both parishes were dated 1818. (fn. 53) The position of open-field land and common immediately before inclosure is shown on the map facing p. 88. After this, though Heston went on producing wheat, more land was steadily given over to orchards and market-gardens there as well as in Isleworth. (fn. 54) In 1840 Isleworth had 875 acres of market-gardens, &c., and only 443 of arable, (fn. 55) and in 1845 one of the growers of the parish was said to have the largest extent of land under spade cultivation in England. (fn. 56) Strawberries continued to be a staple crop, and a number of new varieties were raised in Isleworth in the first half of the century. (fn. 57) At the time of the 1841 Census 123 women from Shropshire and Staffordshire were fruit-picking in Isleworth, and 32 men were there for the haymaking. (fn. 58) Other crops increased with the use of glass, and at the end of the century both fruit and flowers were still being grown on a large scale at Isleworth: one grower had over 100 acres of mixed fruit-trees and bushes. Heston was noted for cherries, and round Hounslow and Whitton roses, lilies of the valley, and other flowers were produced. (fn. 59) By 1906 the numbers of men coming each year from Buckinghamshire to pick cherries and from Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire to hoe the market-garden land was said to be declining, (fn. 60) but some Shropshire women were still coming to work in Heston as late as about 1935. (fn. 61) Within the last hundred years, however, first brickfields and then buildings have steadily driven the industry farther west away from London. (fn. 62) In 1901 and 1921 there were still just over a thousand men in the two parishes who were employed in farming, gardening, and other work on the land. (fn. 63) Between 1921 and 1931 the number dropped to 855, and by 1951 there were only 434 persons in all the agricultural occupations. Of these well over half worked in market- and other gardens. (fn. 64)
Trade and Society.
In 1300 six persons held four burgages in Isleworth manor by charter. There were also nine burgesses who held without charter: one held 4 acres and the others 2 acres each. (fn. 65) By the middle of the century the four chartered burgages were still further divided but there were only eight of the second group of burgesses. (fn. 66) One burgage is known to have been in Isleworth, (fn. 67) and this seems the most likely place for them all, since it was not only the centre of manorial administration but also possibly the largest settlement in the early Middle Ages. The market and fair granted in 1231 do not seem to have survived long, however, (fn. 68) and the trading element in Isleworth probably declined a good deal as the Middle Ages advanced, though references to ferries, wharfs, and wharfage dues indicate, as might be expected, that the river carried traffic to and from the town. (fn. 69) Hounslow's medieval market seems to have been hardly more popular and enduring, (fn. 70) but as the traffic on the main road increased so Hounslow grew with it, and by the great coaching age of the early 19th century the chief business of the town was providing relays of post-horses. (fn. 71) With the opening of the Great Western Railway there was a short but disastrous depression in the town, and in 1845 it was calculated that the inn-holders had 1,700 fewer horses than before. (fn. 72) The owner of the 'King's Head', with stabling for 127 horses, went bankrupt, and he may have been only one among several to do so. (fn. 73) Though the town did not recover its greatest prosperity, the railway soon afterwards gave it a new position as the centre of a growing suburb. (fn. 74) Hitherto, though the inns had created some sort of social life, (fn. 75) Brentford and not Hounslow had been the centre of the country around, and a market established in the 17th century had passed out of existence at the height of the coaching age. (fn. 76) Isleworth, like the other riverside villages nearby, had been a fashionable resort in the 18th century, with its riverside villas and public breakfast-room, (fn. 77) and its leading inhabitants fought strenuously in the 19th century to prevent it from becoming an appendage of Hounslow. (fn. 78) Hounslow, however, had the first local newspaper in the Middlesex Chronicle. This started publication in 1858, was first entirely produced in Hounslow in 1870, and was still in existence in 1958. Isleworth maintained the Middlesex Mercury from 1871 to 1896, (fn. 79) but a second venture, the Middlesex Telegraph, which started soon after the Mercury had closed down, lasted only a few years. (fn. 80) Workmen's clubs and reading-rooms in both places went through various vicissitudes, as did the earlier sports clubs. (fn. 81) By 1890 the first branch of a chain store had opened in Hounslow, and the High Street rapidly became established as the shopping centre of the urban district, as well as of a wider district round about. (fn. 82) The importance of the High Street was enhanced by the later demolition of much of Old Isleworth. The first films were shown in the High Street in 1909 and the first regular cinema was opened in 1911 in a building in the Hanworth Road which had earlier been used, among other things, as a variety theatre. One of the five existing cinemas closed in 1957. (fn. 83)
In 1635 a proposal to erect a limekiln near the river at Isleworth was opposed by the inhabitants on the ground that it was 'too fair a seat for so foul an employment'. (fn. 84) The kiln was probably not built and the river bank retained its appearance for many years, but by the time that Hounslow was becoming the social and commercial centre of a growing suburb there was a certain amount of industry settled in the area. The mills are described elsewhere. (fn. 85) The medieval Manor Mill remained the only corn-mill until the 19th century, but in the last hundred years of its life before it was demolished in 1941 it was said to be one of the largest in England. The mills built on the Crane and the Duke's River from the 16th century on did a variety of work, and the manufacture here of brass, swords, and paper in the 17th century, and of gunpowder in the 18th and 19th was of more than local importance. The gunpowder from the Hounslow Mills (in Twickenham parish) was transported by barge from Isleworth and the fear of explosions periodically disturbed the town. (fn. 86) Altogether, the mills must always have employed a fair amount of labour: the flax mill on the Crane is known to have had 21 pauper children from London parishes as 'apprentices' in 1821, and was said to have had 53 a few years before. (fn. 87)
Brick-making is mentioned in the 15th century, when Syon Abbey leased a brickhouse to a tenant for 12,000 bricks a year: some of the bricks were used in building the abbey. (fn. 88) All Angels' Chapel also had a brickfield which was probably north of the London Road on the strip of earth which ran thence past Worton to Twickenham: (fn. 89) bricks were dug from Conduit Field in this area in the 16th century. (fn. 90) There was a brickfield near Worton Lane in the 18th century (fn. 91) but by the 19th all the brick-making was carried on in the larger brickearth area round Heston and North Hyde. (fn. 92) The brick-makers were said in 1834 to be drunken in summer and, like the workers in market-gardens, out of work in winter, so that they were the class most liable to distress and were 'the great burden' of the parish of Heston. (fn. 93) There was less brickmaking here towards the end of the century, but there were still one or two fields in the early 20th century. (fn. 94)
A brewhouse, evidently of some size, was built at the west end of Brentford Bridge about the late 15th century, (fn. 95) and Sir Thomas Gresham bought a 'burgage called a brewhouse' on an unknown site from the Crown in 1572. (fn. 96) There was a brewery in Isleworth in the early 16th century. (fn. 97) The brewery in St. John's Road had already been in business for some time when it was bought by William Farnell in 1800. (fn. 98) As Farnell and Watson's and later as the Isleworth Brewery Co. Ltd. it expanded greatly during the 19th century. It was bought by Watney Combe Reid & Co. in 1923 and was used in 1958 as a bottling store. (fn. 99)
Wheels appear to have been made in Hounslow for the king's service in 1523. (fn. 100) There was a pottery at the Railshead between about 1750 and 1833, when it moved to the Hanworth Road. It closed altogether about 1855. (fn. 101) Heston had no industries except brick-making before the Norwood Vitriol Works were set up on the parish boundary in the early 19th century. (fn. 102) Like the ordnance depot in the same area, and a gas works later, it closed later on in the century: this area north of the Grand Junction Canal was later transferred to Southall-Norwood. (fn. 103) At Isleworth the river and wharfs which already served the flour- and gunpowder-mills attracted some more industry, including a cement works. (fn. 104) Though Old Isleworth has declined as a residential and shopping centre, and though the flour mills have closed and the brewery has become a bottling-store, it has gained some new works and the wharfs are used, among others, by boat-builders and buildingmaterial merchants. The wharfs and railway at Brentford End also attracted several factories there, but there was not a great deal of space available for them on the Isleworth side of the Brent. (fn. 105) In the extreme south-west the railway repair works belonged socially to Feltham, Twickenham, and Hanworth as well as, or more than, to Isleworth. (fn. 106) Pears' soap factory, the first of the big modern firms to arrive, was built close to the railway station at Smallberry Green in 1862, and has since much expanded. (fn. 107) Williams's dye-works were established in the Hanworth Road in 1878. (fn. 108) Other industries which were started soon after included mineralwater- and candle-making and laundries. (fn. 109) Parke Davis & Co. took over the derelict Heston Mill north of the Staines Road to make chemicals in the early 19th century, (fn. 110) and several firms came to the Worton area and the south of Hounslow at about the same time. (fn. 111) Worton Hall (now a Coal Board research establishment) was used as a film studio by various companies between 1913 and 1952. (fn. 112) In the north, the opening of the Heston Air Park in 1929 had attracted nine aircraft manufacturers and other firms connected with flying by 1933. (fn. 113) The airfield was finally closed to flying after the Second World War and most of it was turned over to gravelworking, but the factories round the edge remained. The event which had the greatest single effect on the industry of the area, however, was the opening of the Great West Road in 1925. (fn. 114) The first factory there was Firestone's, which was built and opened in 1928. (fn. 115) Others followed in the next ten years until they lined the road as far west as Syon Lane, and stretched up Harlequin Avenue and a little way up Syon Lane itself. (fn. 116) At the same time more factories started work in other parts of the borough. In 1911 there were 82 offices, workshops, and factories, and in 1921 there were 95. (fn. 117) By 1957 the number of industrial undertakings had risen to nearly 200. (fn. 118) Of those in the Great West Road area (see plate facing p. 101), Firestone, Gillette, Macfarlane Lang, and Pyrene each employed over 1,000 persons in 1958, their principal products being respectively tyres, razor-blades, biscuits, and fire-extinguishers. Parke Davis in the Staines Road and the Unilever concerns in the old Pears works also had over 1,000 employees each. Four other factories (Concrete, Dewhurst and Partner, Fluidrive, and Heston Aircraft) employed over 500 each, and about 30 employed over 100 each. (fn. 119) The variety of products was very great. (fn. 120) Other large employers (fn. 121) were the local authority, with over 500 persons, and the hospitals, with nearly 2,000 working at the West Middlesex Hospital in Twickenham Road (established 1806), (fn. 122) the Hounslow Hospital (established in Bell Road c. 1875, now in Staines Road), (fn. 123) and the South Middlesex Hospital in Mogden Lane (established 1937). (fn. 124)
The expansion of industry has not quite kept pace with the growth of population: in 1921 there was a net movement each day to work outside Heston and Isleworth of 11.3 per cent. In 1951 it was 12.6 per cent. Of those working outside in 1921 just over half (4,437 persons) went into the county of London each day. In 1951 about this proportion (16,171 persons) worked in other parts of Middlesex, most of them quite nearby, and a smaller number (11,894 persons) went into London itself. Most of those who came into the borough to work in 1951 (16,821 persons) lived in neighbouring districts. (fn. 125)