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
Until the 19th century the economic history of West Drayton is almost exclusively agrarian. No industrial buildings are marked on the inclosure map of 1828, apart from the mill, a malthouse, and the workshops of the 'village' trades of smith, carpenter, wheelwright, millwright, collar-maker, and shoemaker, though there were a few small shopkeepers. (fn. 1) The mill had been used for some years for the manufacture of paper. (fn. 2)
Because of the incidental accumulation of sources, more is known about the farming of the West Drayton manorial demesne than of any other lands in the parish. It is first mentioned in 1086, when it comprised 5 hides, with one plough. (fn. 3) By 1181 there were only 2 hides in demesne; (fn. 4) in 1222 the West Drayton hide was apparently 64 acres. (fn. 5) The first detailed survey which survives was made in 1222, when there were 130 acres of arable, 16 acres of meadow, and 8 of pasture in severalty. The stock comprised 50 sheep, 5 cows and a bull, and 12 pigs and a boar. The arable could be tilled by one plough with a team of eight, with the help of the customary services. Of the 29 'demesne tenants' 23 paid only rent for their holdings, while 6 rendered services as well as rent; the standard service was a day's labour a week, for which the tenant received 8 sheaves of wheat yearly. Twenty-four tenants, of whom 14 were also 'demesne tenants', held 'assised' land, for which they paid rent and rendered services by providing a man to flail, to hoe, and to work at haymaking and harvest. There were also harvest boonworks at which the presence of all hands was required. All tenants who held more than 8 acres, as did all those listed, had, in addition, to provide a man with a sickle at haymaking, and to help carry the two yearly firme to St. Paul's. (fn. 6) In 1297 the tenants received an allowance of grain from the farmer of the manor in return for their help with 25 loads of the firma. There were then 144½ acres of arable and 21 acres of meadow in demesne, and 22 acres of pasture to support a stock of 14 cattle, 6 oxen, 8 draught horses (stotti), and 50 sheep. The farmer also had pasture on the common moor for 8 pigs. Fortythree acres of arable were fallow, and the remainder was sown in two courses, with 36 acres of wheat and 10 of rye in one course, and 46 acres of oats, 7 of barley, and 2½ acres of peas and beans in the other. (fn. 7) A comparison with a list of stock made in 1540 shows that at the later date 63½ acres were sown with barley and oats, and 39 with wheat, an increase in the importance of spring crops. (fn. 8)
How far the economy of the demesne arable reflected that of the open field at different times is not clear. In 1539 William Paget, the lord of the manor, leased the manuring of the 'Lord's Piece' to two tenants, (fn. 9) and it is possible that some of the lord's lands in the open field were consolidated even before they were inclosed by Paget about 1549. (fn. 10) This inclosure comprised 150 acres in seven closes, taken from the western part of the open field and stretching from Churchway southwards to Harmondworth parish, with a 16-acre piece of the lord's meadow, the Quaven, to the west. By 1557 it had been converted to pasture, (fn. 11) and was still so appropriated in 1579. (fn. 12) While the tenants were excluded from the inclosed strip, the lord continued to exercise the right of pasturing his own cows on the remaining open field. (fn. 13) In 1557 the new pasture, with the Quaven and Church Croft, a 12-acre close of 'fine pasture', made up 178 acres out of the 191 acres of the demesne estate. (fn. 14) The farm offices mentioned in a survey of 1587, a slaughter-house and a hay-house, are consistent with a development of cattle farming, and there is no mention of a sheepfold or of other buildings connected specifically with sheep-farming. (fn. 15) By 1675 85 acres had been returned to tillage, and there were said to be only 50 acres of pasture and 35 of meadow. (fn. 16) In 1738 83 acres, the greater part of the demesne pasture, were leased to William Eldridge for 21 years. (fn. 17) Eldridge was also tenant at will of most of the remaining demesne lands, and in 1765 paid £237 out of the total rent of £335 due from the manor estate. At the same date he was leasing the tithes for £70. (fn. 18) As has been remarked elsewhere, the greater part of the manor estate continued to be leased or rented as a unit throughout the 18th and early 19th century at least, (fn. 19) and in 1855 William Batt was paying £642 rent yearly for 214 out of the total of 302 acres. (fn. 20) Almost half of this estate was of recent origin, having been acquired under the inclosure award of 1828 in respect of rights to tithe, manorial rights, and land in the open field acquired by the lord of the manor since the 16th century. (fn. 21)
Among the perquisites of the manor recited in 1086 was a fish-weir, (fn. 22) and in 1222 a fishery, with a house and croft, was let to one of the demesne tenants. (fn. 23) The fishery and weir were in existence in 1297. (fn. 24) In the late 15th and early 16th centuries they were leased with the mill, which adjoined the weir, (fn. 25) and as late as 1833 the miller claimed the right of fishing in the mill precincts. (fn. 26) In 1780, however, the Earl of Uxbridge, as lord of the manor, successfully prosecuted James Mills, the miller, and two others for catching trout, eels, perch, and gudgeon in the mill-pool and elsewhere. (fn. 27) In 1855 the weir, Weir Cottage which adjoined it, and the accompanying fishery were let to the tenant of Drayton Hall. (fn. 28) In 1587, (fn. 29) and on numerous later occasions, the tenants of the manor asserted the right of fishing the Colne on three days in the week, 'with all lawful engines', (fn. 30) for a payment of 2d. a year to the lord. This right, originally attributed to all householders or masters of families, had been restricted by 1790 to copyholders. (fn. 31) In the 19th century certain of the copyholders profited by their rights to issue large numbers of 'permits' to outsiders, and in 1889 a number of them were prosecuted at the petty sessions before a bench which decided that 'the right of the lord of the manor to the river as his private property had been proved', (fn. 32) and stretches of the river were immediately fenced. (fn. 33) In the 17th century, at least, the swans on the Colne were preserved and marked. (fn. 34)
Apart from Rowtheys, no tenant's estate appears ever to have attained to 100 acres. In 1086 the land of the 8 villeins amounted to only 2 hides, perhaps comprising 128 acres, and that of the bordars to about 35 acres, while 2 cottars shared 4 acres. (fn. 35) In 1222 the tenants held about 514 acres. One held about 70 acres and another about 40 acres. Two held 2 virgates, or about 32 acres, 12 a virgate of 16 acres, and 8 a half-virgate or 8 acres. (fn. 36) In 1297 there was a new class of 5 freeholders of whom only 1, with 46½ acres, held more than 10 acres. None of the other 62 tenants held more than 32 acres, and 19 of them had only a messuage, with no land at all, or less than an acre. (fn. 37) Of the 5 free tenants in 1549 only the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, lords of Drayton or Colham Garden manor, owned more than a few acres, (fn. 38) and, similarly, of the 8 freeholdings recorded in 1557, including that of the vicar, all but the Bishop of London's holding were insignificant in size. (fn. 39) Seven free tenants, among them Sir Thomas Gresham, (fn. 40) were listed for West Drayton as late as 1575, (fn. 41) but by 1587 only the vicar and the Bishop of London apparently held free land. Their two estates totalled only 99 acres. The largest copyhold estate in 1587 was Rowtheys. (fn. 42) Of the other 53 copyholders 1 held 54½ acres, 3 between 40 and 50 acres, and 2 between 20 and 30 acres. The majority of the remainder held less than 10 acres, and 33 had 2 acres or less. Twentyfour copyholders had strips in the open field, and 13 of these also had forage rights for cattle in Townham or Towney Mead. (fn. 43) The copyholders' rights in the mead are first mentioned in manor court transactions of 1461 or 1462. (fn. 44) Before inclosure in 1828 it comprised 38 acres of meadow in one piece, lying to the south of the village and east of the Colne. (fn. 45) There was forage for 7 bulls and 57 cows in 1587. (fn. 46) Though all the villagers seem to have enjoyed the right to pasture sheep and horses on the mead at least at certain times of the year, (fn. 47) the copyholders' special rights were jealously guarded. In 1693 several tenants claimed the right to inclose sections according to their respective interests, (fn. 48) and in 1730 the cutting of bushes was restricted to those with land in the mead. (fn. 49)
In 1587 162 acres of land were common pasture for all the tenants of the manor. This comprised, on the east bank of the Colne, the Herst (40 a. between the village and the High Bridge), the Hook (22 a. next to Townham Mead), and Oxney, Radney, Huntingdon, and Hawthorn Moors (on the west bank, running from north to south). (fn. 50) Before the 13th century Drayton Moor extended into Iver, and the pasture was common to the inhabitants of both parishes, but by 1223 the Iver portion had been hedged and ditched, preventing access by the Drayton tenants, and a definite boundary was established the following year. (fn. 51) In 1326 the Drayton tenants still retained an ancient right to pasture beasts on Harmondsworth Moor also, but this had apparently lapsed by the 16th century. (fn. 52) As late as 1521 the Harmondsworth tenants were exercising a right of mast pasture in Drayton woods. (fn. 53) This presumably lapsed when the woods were cleared shortly afterwards.
Details of the regulations governing the common pasture occur in Drayton leet presentments of 1718 and 1730. (fn. 54) By ancient custom every tenant of the open field was entitled to pasture 1½ sheep there for every acre of fallow in his possession, and for every two sheep fed on the fallow in summer he was allowed to keep three on the common meadow or moors during the winter. Horses or cows were only allowed on the tenant's own land in the open field, and no steers were allowed on the common moor or meadow. From June to September each household in the parish was allowed to keep up to six 'keebers', an inferior kind of sheep, on the common moor. Householders were also allowed to pasture two geese and a gander. Every tenant had a right to take mud from the rivers, lakes, and brooks within the moor for manuring and dressing. The manor pound was to the south of the village, (fn. 55) and was still in existence in 1839, although in disrepair. (fn. 56) There were gates near the junction of Harmondsworth Road and Church Road to close off the open field. (fn. 57) Action had frequently to be taken by the court leet to prevent undue exploitation of common rights. Thus, in 1718, carting dung off the common was forbidden, and the sale of 'moor earth' or the river mud was condemned. In 1730 the practice of letting commoning rights to 'outdwellers and foreigners' was attacked, and some tenants were censured for pasturing an excessive number of beasts 'to the great prejudice of their neighbours and to the oppression of the poor people of the parish'.
The precise status of copyhold tenure was a matter of prolonged dispute between the lord and tenants, particularly in the 17th century. At the time of the survey of 1587 customary fines for succession and surrender were declared to be fixed, at two and four years' rent respectively, and the heriot due was also defined. (fn. 58) In 1613, however, William, Lord Paget (d. 1628), secured a Chancery decree against a combination of his tenants, that fines were uncertain and at the will of the lord. (fn. 59) Another Chancery cause, begun in 1648, was settled in 1652 when the lord of the manor accepted the tenants' renewed contention that fines were certain. (fn. 60) There was still more litigation on the same subject, however, and over heriots, in 1734-6. (fn. 61) By a late-17th-century presentment to the leet court some other conditions of tenure were defined. Copyholders were said to be entitled to pull down buildings and build on their lands at will, to lease for up to three years without licence, and to initiate the sale of land, provided the surrender was subsequently presented. (fn. 62)
The open field, Townham Mead, and the moors were inclosed by an award of 1828 which completed the inclosure of the parish, apart from the Green and narrow strips which were left along the river banks for access. Forty-one persons, representing less than a third of the households in the parish, received allotments, but, of these, 20 were awarded moorland only, so that less than one household in six received arable land. (fn. 63) It is likely that the extinction of common grazing rights aggravated prevailing hardship, and there was certainly unrest in the district in the years following the award. In December 1830 Hubert de Burgh of Drayton Hall and C. N. Newdigate of Harefield recruited 47 local gentlemen to form the Uxbridge Yeomanry Cavalry, for the protection of property against 'bodies of starving and disorderly Luddites, rick-burners and "Swing rioters" '; de Burgh captained the 2nd, or West Drayton, troop. (fn. 64) In 1834 the general rate of wages in the parish was said to be 12s. a week, on which sum, a contemporary of a neighbouring parish remarked, 'they might barely subsist, on bread, potatoes, butter, and tea'. (fn. 65)
Changes in the pattern of land utilization followed only slowly on the inclosures. The amount of arable land, estimated at about three-quarters of the parish in 1800, (fn. 66) had fallen by 1866 to about 360 acres, or less than half, but there were still about 300 acres of rough pasture, including much of the old common moorland. (fn. 67) The chief crops were described in 1870 as wheat, barley, oats, and fruit. (fn. 68) In 1866 35 acres were already devoted to fruit-growing, and by 1894 most of the old Drayton Field had been laid out in orchards, nurseries, or market-gardens. It remained so appropriated until the housing development of the 1930's and the period which followed the Second World War. (fn. 69) Market-gardens began to appear before 1816, when the site of the old Drayton manorhouse had already been converted to horticulture. (fn. 70) Two local market-gardeners were listed in a directory for 1826. (fn. 71) Horticulture persisted as an important industry, and in 1947 there were 105 acres of horticultural land in the parish. (fn. 72) Perhaps the best known local firm of nurserymen is that of Reamsbottom & Co., with nurseries west of Money Lane; they are chiefly noted for introducing the St. Brigid anemone into Great Britain. (fn. 73)
The soil of West Drayton was described in 1887 as 'that stiff retentive clay which possesses the very negative virtue of being best adapted for the making of the bilious yellow bricks that have rendered the whole of suburban London dingy and dispiriting'. (fn. 74) Although two 16th-century field names, the 'Brickfield', and 'Brick-kiln', (fn. 75) testify to any early exploitation of the local brick-earth, brick-making on a commercial scale does not appear to have begun until the 19th century. A directory of 1826 describes two West Drayton residents as brick-makers, and brickmaking as a considerable local industry, (fn. 76) but the absence of any indication in the detailed inclosure award of 1828 and in contemporary rate-books (fn. 77) suggests that the brickfields worked were outside the parish and probably in Yiewsley. The first certain evidence for the industry in West Drayton is an assessment of Stephen Watkins's brick-making stools and 'perhuse' (fn. 78) for parish rates in 1846 and 1847. Watkins was occupying the land concerned as early as 1840, (fn. 79) and was possibly responsible for working the old clay-pit off the Harmondsworth Road, south of Drayton Hall. The new industrial development was reflected in 1845 in the registering of the Brickmaker's New Union friendly society, which met at the 'King's Head'. (fn. 80) In 1855 the brickfield was being worked by Joseph Thornton, (fn. 81) but it appears to have been closed shortly afterwards. A second brickfield, of 45 acres, in the extreme north-east of the old open field, was opened in 1872 and developed by Samuel Pocock, who had been manufacturing bricks at Starveall, a contiguous part of Hillingdon parish, since about 1859. Between 1876 and 1879 Pocock completed the extension of a branch of the Grand Junction Canal to serve the new brickfield and in 1879 he undertook, as a condition of a lease from the Church Commissioners, to produce at least 4 million bricks yearly from the West Drayton field. His actual tally in 1880, an exceptionally bad season, was 3,350,000.
In 1884 Pocock conveyed his interests to Clement Burgess Broad and George Harris, of South Wharf, Paddington, and the field continued to be leased by Broad & Co. until 1935, when the company bought the freehold. The company's land included, as well as the West Drayton field, about 100 acres lying adjacent in Hillingdon, and centred on Stockley. (fn. 82) In 1908 Broad & Co. advertised themselves as brickmakers, sanitary specialists, and lime, cement, and tile merchants. (fn. 83) At its peak, about 1890, the brickfield was working 18 to 20 stools or berths, and giving seasonal employment to some 400 or 500 men. (fn. 84) In 1885 about 100 West Drayton parishioners, or about 1 in 10, were believed to work in the brickfields. (fn. 85) Canal barges, working between Paddington and Stockley, brought rough dust from London's dustbins which was sieved to obtain the supplies of ash necessary for brick-firing. Moulding, setting, preparing clay, and the ancillary processes were carried out, largely by hand, by gangs who worked for about three months in the summer, starting at dawn and finishing at dusk, and receiving payment by piecerates. (fn. 86) One result of the seasonal nature of the work was an almost annual dispute over rates at the start of the season. There was a strike, or a threatened strike, for example, in the early summers of 1891, 1892, and 1893. The strike of 1891, which lasted 17 weeks, (fn. 87) cut the production of the Stockley works by more than half. (fn. 88) The unrest of the 1890's seems also to have been, to some extent, a reflection of a more general movement towards labour organization and labour militancy in the district. Two massmeetings on the Green at West Drayton in August and September 1889 were followed, respectively, by the formation of a West Drayton branch of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers, and a Southall branch of the Platelayers' Union. (fn. 89) A West Drayton branch of the United Building Labourers' Union was formed in 1901. (fn. 90) The first socialist meeting was held on the Green in August 1893, under the auspices of the Southern Counties Labour League, and a co-operative society was formed in September, which was later known as the Yiewsley and West Drayton Co-operative Society. (fn. 91) This society, which served Uxbridge and district, was merged with the London Co-operative Society in 1930. (fn. 92)
The local brick-earth was becoming worked out at the beginning of the 20th century, (fn. 93) and the brickfields began to decline so that, shortly before closure in 1935, only four or five stools were in operation at Stockley. (fn. 94) About 2 million bricks, however, were still being produced yearly as late as 1930. A secondary industry, gravel and sand extraction, had already begun before 1923, (fn. 95) and this was extended after 1935, the excavated pits forming a lake adjoining the branch canal. (fn. 96) Gravel beds have also been exploited elsewhere in the parish: before 1864 in a district south of the station, (fn. 97) and, more recently, in the moor north of the Iver Road, where Goodman, Price Ltd. were working pits in 1958.
Outside the brickfields, only a few firms in the parish appear ever to have employed a labour force of more than 50. The oldest established, Wilkins, Campbell & Co. Ltd., of the Britannia Works on the Green, began business as wax manufacturers and refiners and soap-makers in 1915, and in 1958 employed about 50 persons. (fn. 98) Before 1915, and at least from 1864, (fn. 99) the buildings were used as the Britannia Brewery, the property of the Thatcher family, whose business was founded in 1806. (fn. 100) Part of the buildings appears to have been used from an early date as a malthouse. (fn. 101) Road Machines (Drayton) Ltd., on the north side of the Grand Junction Canal, began business in 1946, as manufacturers of civil engineering contractors' plant. A new factory was built in 1950, and in 1958 the firm employed a labour force of about 180. (fn. 102) Old buildings of the Stockley brickworks were reopened in 1950 by Cawood Wharton & Co. Ltd. for the manufacture of concrete products, and about 100 people were employed there in 1958. (fn. 103) Though light industries, like printing and light mechanical and electrical engineering, have been established at West Drayton in the 20th century, (fn. 104) they are not on a sufficient scale to affect the predominantly residential character of the parish. Although many of the residents work in large industrial firms and other establishments near by which use West Drayton as their address, such as the Power Plant Co., Technicolor Ltd., the Anglo-Swiss Screw Co., the Admiralty Engineering Laboratory, and the Drayton Regulator and Instrument Co. Ltd., West Drayton itself remains a non-industrial enclave within an industrial belt.