Greenford: Introduction

Pages 206-209

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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The ancient parish of Greenford lay to the northwest of Ealing. (fn. 1) It covered approximately 2½ miles from north to south, and 1½ from east to west, and in the 1860's comprised an area of 2,078 acres north and west of the River Brent, which formed part of the southern and western boundaries. Elsewhere the boundaries crossed former open-field country and were defined only by artificial boundary marks. (fn. 2) In 1775 a detached area of Northolt lay inside the parish, in a rectangle of 46½ acres immediately north of the Ruislip Road and west of Oldfield Lane. (fn. 3) It had become part of Greenford by 1871. (fn. 4) Another detached area of Northolt in the parish in the 1860's lay along the southern field boundary. (fn. 5) This was called Mill Field in 1775 and was owned by Daniel Larrimore of Greenford, but the tithes were being claimed by Northolt. (fn. 6) This 2½-acre piece of land remained detached at least until the end of the 19th century. (fn. 7) There were no detached areas of Greenford parish. In 1894, when the urban district was set up, the civil parish of Greenford covered 2,127 acres, (fn. 8) which remained unaltered until 1926, when the parish was dissolved and became part of the municipal borough and civil parish of Ealing. (fn. 9)

The country is undulating, the highest point being 278 feet above sea-level at Horsenden Hill. From the hill the land drops sharply to the Grand Union Canal which runs approximately along the 100-foot contour through the middle of the parish. The land rises again to over 100 feet in the southwest corner. The Brent flows along, or slightly south of, the 50-foot contour. The southern part of the parish is hilly, but the northern half is much flatter. (fn. 10) The soil is predominantly London clay, but a strip of alluvium skirts the river and extends northwards in a narrow band as far as the canal. West of the river there is a certain amount of Taplow gravel, and a belt of flood-plain gravel runs west from Perivale to Coston's Lane. Claygate beds and pebble crown Horsenden Hill. (fn. 11)

The earliest areas of settlement are uncertain. The vill called 'Grenan forda' is first mentioned in 845, (fn. 12) and by the end of the 13th century there were at least two areas of settlement in the parish: Greenford and Stickleton. (fn. 13) It seems probable that Greenford itself lay near or around the church, approximately in the centre of the parish where the buildings of the manor farm, and probably of the manor, were also situated. Stickleton, the name of which means a village on a steep hill, (fn. 14) most probably lay on the Ruislip Road near the Brent, as the lands of the lord of Stickleton manor in 1775 lay in inclosures and open fields in that area. (fn. 15) There was also probably some settlement at Horsenden from the late 12th century, as there was at least one family who took their name from the place. (fn. 16) By 1754 the main areas of settlement were around the crossing of Ruislip Road and Oldfield Lane, and in the north of the parish at Greenford Green, with a few houses round the church and at Brabsden Green, by Horsenden Wood. (fn. 17) By 1959, apart from the late-18th-century schoolhouse, (fn. 18) the only building in the parish to survive from before the 19th century was the Greenford Community Centre, which is of 18th-century origin. There was an ale-house in Greenford before 1692 when its licence was suppressed. (fn. 19) The 'Red Lion' on the Ruislip Road and the 'Black Horse' at Greenford Green were both in existence in 1726. (fn. 20) The present inn buildings, however, are modern. The 'Ballot Box' was in existence by 1862. (fn. 21)

In the early 19th century Greenford was described as being 'pleasantly situated' (fn. 22) and 'very secluded'. (fn. 23) Until the 20th century there were no main roads through the parish at all. In 1754 the main village lay on a north-pointing triangle of roads, the southern line of which was the Ruislip Road running from east to west across the parish. The eastern side of the triangle was formed by Coston's Lane and the western side by Oldfield Lane, which extended north-west through the parish skirting the common to Harrow. A track also continued Oldfield Lane southwards to Norwood, and a lane, Love Lane, branched off Oldfield Lane before Greenford Green and ran northwards out of the parish. Another lane ran past Horsenden wood to Perivale. There were also other minor lanes. (fn. 24) The basic outline remained unchanged until the inclosure in 1816, when Love Lane and two others vanished. (fn. 25) The roads then remained unaltered until after the First World War. (fn. 26)

There seem to have been at least two bridges by 1293. (fn. 27) The position of Stickleton Bridge is a matter of conjecture. It may have been situated on a line drawn from Cow Lane (now Cowgate Road) in Greenford to Cuckoo Lane in Hanwell, or, more probably, at the end of what in 1959 was a footpath continuing from High Lane in Hanwell. This would have crossed the Brent near the Ruislip Road, and continued up Coston's Lane. In 1339 it was said to join the Westminster Abbey estates in Greenford with those in Hanwell, and to have been especially for those using Hanwell windmill. (fn. 28) No bridges in the parish are mentioned again until the mid-16th century when bridges called Pope's Bridge (fn. 29) and New Street Bridge were both in existence, as well as Stickleton Bridge. (fn. 30) Greenford Bridge itself is first mentioned in 1614. (fn. 31) In 1651 the manor court asked for Stickleton Bridge to be moved and set up on the straight way to Northolt or Ruislip, (fn. 32) where it may have replaced Greenford Bridge, since Rocque's map of 1754 and a survey of the manor made in 1775 both show only one bridge. (fn. 33) In the eastern corner of the parish there was also Perivale Bridge.

In 1775 there were fourteen open fields in the parish, covering only 580 acres between them. It is likely that some of them represented remnants of much larger fields which had existed earlier. The two largest, Upper and Lower Town Fields, comprising 252 acres, lay south of the Ruislip Road together with Hanwell Mead and Elm Hook, both adjoining the Brent. Old Field lay on the east side of Oldfield Lane between Greenford and Greenford Green, and, together with Black Lands and How Croft adjoining it on the east side, amounted to 81 acres. Opposite Old Field on the west side of the lane lay the 9 acres of Stourton Field. Five open fields lay slightly north and west of Stourton Field. The largest of these were Garroway Field, lying along the western boundary, West Mead adjoining it on the south, and Skeggs Field, lying along Oldfield Lane. Skeggs was joined to Garroway Field by Riceham Field and Groshet Corner. Altogether the five amounted to 127 acres. The 53-acre Ridding Field lay along part of the north-east boundary of the parish, immediately north of Horsenden Wood. Arable farming was principally carried on in the Town Fields, and in Garroway, Skeggs, Old, and Ridding Fields. West Mead, Hanwell Mead, How Croft, and Groshet Corner all seem to have been meadow-land. The common lay east of the Harrow Road and north-east from Greenford Green, and amounted to about 45 acres. The remainder of the parish was almost entirely covered by inclosed lands. Horsenden Wood, which belonged to the lord of the manor, lay on the northern slope of Horsenden Hill, and Braddish (later Perivale) Wood lay south-west of the hill, on the western boundary of the parish. There were five other small areas of woodland in the north of the parish, lying on the north-eastern and north-western boundaries. (fn. 34)

Between 1775 and the inclosure in 1816 there was one major change in the topography of the parish. In 1801 the Paddington branch of the Grand Junction Canal was opened, which ran through the northern half of the parish just south of Greenford Green. Greenford was said in 1811 to have been a popular halt for day excursionists who could then visit Harrow to view the scenery. (fn. 35) The open area had altered very little by 1816, when the open fields amounted to 548 acres. Hanwell Mead and Elm Hook had been absorbed into Lower Town Field, but the other fields remained the same as in 1775. (fn. 36)

After 1816 there was very little change in the appearance of the parish during the 19th century. The amount of arable land declined until by 1871 the land was described as being almost exclusively pasture and grass-land. (fn. 37) Land drainage was becoming an urgent problem and there were frequent complaints that the manorial estate needed draining. (fn. 38) A survey of 1843 remarked that parts of the parish were waterlogged in winter and cracked in summer. (fn. 39) As late as 1957 there were repeated complaints about the flooding of the Brent and the subsequent blocking of the Ruislip Road. (fn. 40) The population and the number of houses increased very slowly and the chemical factory by the bridge over the canal on Oldfield Lane was the only large building erected. There were several fairly large houses, and as early as 1826 the village was 'the residence of many genteel families'. (fn. 41) By the 1860's there were six large houses marked on the map, apart from the Rectory, which were all still standing in the early 20th century. (fn. 42) During the 20th century the appearance and nature of the parish was completely altered. In 1903 the Great Western Railway opened a suburban service from Marylebone to High Wycombe with a loop line running south from Greenford to the main line between Hanwell and West Ealing. (fn. 43) Two stations were erected, Greenford, and South Greenford at the north-east corner of Perivale Park. London Transport extended the Central London line from North Acton to Greenford in 1947. The line, which ran above ground, replaced the old G.W.R. steam railway, and was built jointly by the G.W.R. and London Transport. (fn. 44) It was extended to West Ruislip from Greenford in 1948. (fn. 45) In 1958 a diesel-train service was started between Greenford and Ealing. (fn. 46) Despite the coming of the railway residential development was only just beginning before the First World War. There was some building at the southern end of Oldfield Lane on two small roads, and the roads immediately north of Ravenor Park were laid out, but not built up. North of Horsenden Wood a nursery garden and glass-houses were laid out, and a rifle range lay across the Brent north of Perivale Bridge. (fn. 47) During and after the war several factories were established in the parish, (fn. 48) and after the war residential development began in earnest.

In 1924 the Greenford Road, an arterial road running north-south through the centre of the parish, was constructed. (fn. 49) By 1932 the roads south and west of Greenford Park Cemetery had been built up. In 1934 Western Avenue, the London-Oxford arterial road, was opened, running from east to west across the centre of the parish, (fn. 50) and before 1935 Whitton Avenue was constructed across the Greenford Road in the north of the parish. (fn. 51) This network of arterial roads led to the rapid industrial and residential development of Greenford in the thirties. Nearly all the building at this time was speculative. No housing schemes were actually carried out by the Greenford Urban District Council. The council planned the Windmill Lane estate, but it was built by Ealing Borough Council in 1927. Between 1927 and 1939 Ealing built 409 houses, most of which lay in the Windmill Lane and Cowgate estates. The latter was built about 1933. (fn. 52) Other areas developed before 1935 lay north of the canal and south of Whitton Avenue; north and east of Horsenden Wood; around Greenford Station; on the west side of Perivale Park, where the other roads were only laid out; and the entire area south of the Ruislip Road. By 1939 the development of the remainder of the parish had been virtually completed. (fn. 53) Comparatively little building was done after 1945. Ealing Borough Council built the Ravenor Park estate and other houses, amounting to 251, but before 1959 the council considered that the area had been sufficiently developed and did not intend to build any more. (fn. 54)

Several open spaces were preserved by the borough and county councils. In 1932 the borough council acquired Marnham's Field as an open space. By 1938 the county council had already acquired Horsenden Hill as part of its 'green belt' scheme, and in 1942 they acquired some charity land to be added to the Horsenden open space. (fn. 55) In 1959 the open land here included as much on the west side of the road, in Brabsden Green, as in the old area of Horsenden on the east. Other open spaces include Ravenor Park and Perivale Park.

Few well-known people have lived in or been connected with Greenford. Two of the rectors were notable, John Feckenham and Edward Terry; (fn. 56) and the chemist, W. H. Perkin (1838-1907), opened his first dye-factory in the parish. (fn. 57)


  • 1. This article was written in 1959.
  • 2. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. x. 15-16; xv. 3-4, 7-8, 11 (1st edn.), and Book of Reference thereto.
  • 3. King's Coll. Camb., Map T. 46.
  • 4. Census, 1871.
  • 5. O.S. Map, 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 11 (1st edn.).
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid. (3rd edn.).
  • 8. Census, 1901.
  • 9. Census, 1931.
  • 10. O.S. Maps 1/25,000 51/18 (1951 edn.).
  • 11. Geol. Survey Map, sheet 256 (drift).
  • 12. Cart. Sax. ed. Birch, ii, no. 448.
  • 13. J.I. 1/540, m. 13; /544, m. 52.
  • 14. Ekwall, Eng. Place-Name Elements, ii. 152.
  • 15. King's Coll. Camb., Greenford Survey Bk.
  • 16. B.M. Add. Ch. 8139; Westm. Domesday, ff. 129b, 567; W.A.M. 411.
  • 17. J. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 18. See p. 219.
  • 19. Mdx. Cty. Recs. Sess. Bks. 1689-1709, 74.
  • 20. M.R.O., L.V. 4/31.
  • 21. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1862).
  • 22. Pigot, Lond. Dir. (1826).
  • 23. Robson, Home Cties. Dir. (1838).
  • 24. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 25. M.R.O., Greenford Incl. Award.
  • 26. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. x. 15-16; xv. 3-4, 7-8, 11 (1st-3rd edns.).
  • 27. J.I. 1/544, m. 51.
  • 28. Public Works in Medieval Law, ii (Selden Soc. xl), 6-7.
  • 29. Eccl. 1/210/2, m. 2.
  • 30. Ibid.; W.A.M. 32025.
  • 31. Mdx. Cty. Recs. N.S. i. 452.
  • 32. S.C. 2/190/23.
  • 33. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754); King's Coll. Camb., Map T. 46. Cf. Rep. of Cttee. of Magistrates on Public Bridges in Mdx. (1826), 216-17.
  • 34. King's Coll. Camb., Map T. 46; Greenford Survey Bk.
  • 35. J. Hassell, Picturesque Rides, 248. See also V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 123.
  • 36. M.R.O., Greenford Incl. Award.
  • 37. T.L.M.A.S. iv. 152-72.
  • 38. Ch. Com. recs. 131453½, 131453 2/2.
  • 39. H. Tremenheere, 'Agric. and Educ. Statistics of several pars. in Mdx' Jnl. of Statistical Soc. of Lond. vi. 120-30.
  • 40. Mdx. Cty. Times, 2 Mar., 9 Nov. 1957.
  • 41. Pigot, Lond. Dir. (1826).
  • 42. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. x. 16; xv. 7 (1st-3rd edns.).
  • 43. T. B. Peacock, G.W. Suburban Services, 25.
  • 44. The Times, 25 June, 1 July 1947.
  • 45. Ibid. 26 Oct. 1948.
  • 46. Mdx. Cty. Times, 30 Aug. 1958; T.S. Rep. of Local Enquiry on Extension of Ealing, 1926 (penes Mr. J. L. Petingale, Hon. Sec., Gter. Ealing Local Hist. Soc.).
  • 47. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 4, 7-8, 11 (3rd edn.).
  • 48. See p. 214.
  • 49. The Times, 23 Apr., 24 Dec. 1923.
  • 50. Ibid. 15 Dec. 1934.
  • 51. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 3 (revised edn.).
  • 52. Ex inf. Ealing B.C.
  • 53. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 3-4, 7-8, 11 (revised edn.).
  • 54. Ex inf. Ealing B.C.
  • 55. Char. Com. files.
  • 56. See p. 217.
  • 57. See p. 214.