Staines: Economic and social history

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


, 'Staines: Economic and social history', in 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, (London, 1962) pp. 22-25. British History Online [accessed 26 May 2024].

. "Staines: Economic and social history", in 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, (London, 1962) 22-25. British History Online, accessed May 26, 2024,

. "Staines: Economic and social history", 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, (London, 1962). 22-25. British History Online. Web. 26 May 2024,


Domeday Book enumerates 94 villeins, bordars, cottars, and serfs, and 46 burgesses, at Staines. (fn. 1) A fair proportion of these presumably lived on the manor's berewicks outside the parish area, while Maitland suggested that the burgesses were in London. (fn. 2) There are known to have been free tenants in the 13th century, and the number of small freeholds seems to have increased during the Middle Ages. (fn. 3) Among the free tenants or in addition to them, there were, by 1320, 68 gavelmen. (fn. 4) These owed rent, tallage, and boonworks, while the holders of the 8½ customary tenements, consisting mostly of half-virgates, also owed other labour-services. (fn. 5) Six of the customary tenements fell vacant at the Black Death, (fn. 6) and by the 15th century the population appears to have been entirely free. (fn. 7) Two other classes were mentioned in the late 13th century and the 14th: tenants de la Penne or holders of tenements de la Penne, and coterelli mannyng. (fn. 8) It is possible that la Penne was an area or areas of the town, (fn. 9) and the coterelli mannyng may have been connected with the trading side of the town's life: (fn. 10) neither class appears to have owed labour-services. Yeoveney, meanwhile, which may have been unpopulated in 1086, (fn. 11) had some free tenants by the 12th century (fn. 12) and 7½ customary tenements by the 14th. (fn. 13) The deaths there in 1349 seem to have been less numerous, but the hamlet, which was probably never large, disappeared in the later Middle Ages after demesne farming had been given up. (fn. 14) Just before the Black Death the two villages of Staines and Yeoveney mustered 62 men for a commission of array. (fn. 15) In 1547 there were said to be 400 houseling people in the parish, (fn. 16) and in 1664 210 persons were listed either as owing hearthtax or exempt from it. (fn. 17) Only five of these had over 10 hearths, and for some time after the manorial estate broke up Staines seems to have lacked any inhabitants of outstanding wealth, whether in agriculture or trade. In 1801 the population was 1,750, and between 1861 and 1951 it grew from about 2,750 to about 12,000. (fn. 18) While the initial impetus to this growth was given by the establishment of industries in the town, (fn. 19) Staines has also been used as a riverside resort and residential area, especially around the turn of the century. (fn. 20) In 1911 most of the working population were employed in the town, as were over 2,000 persons who lived outside it. This still seems to have been the case in 1951. (fn. 21)

Since the Domesday figures relate to a larger area, no attempt can be made to estimate the area cultivated at that date. Whether or not Yeoveney was cultivated in the late 11th century, (fn. 22) 200 years later the two manors with their respective demesnes were worked as distinct units under one reeve. (fn. 23) Apart Trin. In T.L.M.A.S. ix. 453-4 it is assumed that this was the mill which appertained to the manor in 1610, but the terms of the grant might equally refer to Hale Mill which had also belonged to Westm. Abbey earlier. See also West. R.C.O. 64 (doct. of 1795), where the rent reserved on the mill of 1610 (C 66/1998, no. 10) seems to be referred to, though its nature is misunderstood. from a year or so in the early 14th century, when both manors were farmed, (fn. 24) this system continued until the mid-14th century. The two manors also formed part of a larger unit comprising Westminster's estates in the neighbourhood. This is particularly noticeable in the case of stock: the animals kept, beyond those for ploughing or carting, were generally reckoned as belonging to Yeoveney, presumably since they were pastured on the adjoining moor, and in most years there were frequent transfers of stock with Pyrford (Surr.), Denham (Bucks.), Laleham, and Ebury. In any case the amount kept regularly in the two Staines manors does not seem to have been large. As well as the 20-30 cows usually farmed in the 14th century at Yeoveney, there were generally between one and two dozen boves when the account was made up. The number of pigs seems to have declined. Sheep were only once accounted for in the accounts seen, though a shepherd, generally keeping 200-380 sheep, was regularly employed. Possibly the sheep belonged to the tenants, one of whom was pasturing 400 more sheep than was allowed in 1275. (fn. 25)

At Staines about 100 to 110 acres of the demesne seem to have been sown from the late 13th century until 1345 when the acreage dropped to 93. Twentythree acres of former demesne arable were leased out from the next year. Together with about 30 acres of meadow and with fallow land, the demesne must have comprised 150-200 acres, or a quarter to a third of the open-field area as it was in 1845. (fn. 26) In Yeoveney about 206 acres were reaped in 1282 and 180 in 1284, but from 1291 to 1448 about 140-50 were sown; there were 43 acres of meadow in 1346. Later evidence suggests that the whole area of the fields there cannot have been much above 300 acres. (fn. 27)

In neither manor does the land seem to have been arranged in fields of the classic pattern, but in furlongs each of which was often sown with several crops. Spring and autumn crops were sometimes sown in one furlong. The meadows do not seem to have been clearly divided from the arable, and in some years in the first half of the 14th century both meadow- and pasture-land were used as arable. Crops seem to have been rotated on a basically three-year system, but it was far from rigid and peas, vetch, drage, or other mixed crops often replaced the fallow or were introduced in an extra year.

In the early 14th century much of the work at Staines was performed by labour-services, while Yeoveney, with a larger demesne, fewer tenants, and less work owed, always relied more on hired labour and on its larger staff of paid servants. By 1346, however, when a joint account was made for the two manors, works were being sold and nearly threequarters of the harvest was reaped by piece-work. The Black Death, combined with the wet weather of 1348-9, caused demesne farming to be given up at Staines within a few years. There appears to have been no lack of leasehold tenants for the customary holdings which fell vacant, or for the 70 acres of demesne which were leased by 1350-1. By this year the only land cultivated for the lord was a small area north of the town which was transferred to Yeoveney and cultivated as part of that estate. By 1352-3 Staines was put under a rent-collector, and although some mowing services were done for a time, and some services were paid to Yeoveney, demesne farming was not resumed. At Yeoveney the acreage sown dropped for a year or two, and a few acres were leased, but by 1376, with the addition of some former Staines land, and with the leased lands once more in hand, it had risen slightly above its previous level. The labour was increasingly provided by piece-work. With the exception of one year, the demesne continued to be cultivated as before until 1363 when it was handed over to a farmer. Thereafter, except for part of 1376, it never seems to have been taken into hand again. From the start the farmers held the whole manor and demesne for long periods and leases for lives are recorded from the 16th century. (fn. 28) The mill seems to have disappeared in the late 14th century, (fn. 29) and the village probably followed it soon after. In 1555 a possibly incomplete rental lists only three tenants. (fn. 30) Some of the land was then said to be in 'Yeoveney fields', but by 1649 all the demesne was inclosed. (fn. 31) In 1758, after a period of poor farming, the estate was well managed. It apparently covered nearly all the old field area, and was about equally divided between arable in the west and meadow nearer the moor. The tenant had recently vindicated his right, which had been denied, to common rights on Staines Moor. (fn. 32)

Staines demesne was never leased as a whole. By the 15th century some of the demesne land seems to have been held as copyhold for terms of years and some was turned into ordinary copyhold, while much probably became freehold, so that by 1613 the manorial estate had virtually disappeared. (fn. 33) The other farms, few of which contained more than 50 acres, profited by the cheap transport to London provided by the river, and by the extensive common pastures which still survive today. (fn. 34) From the late 18th century at least common rights were generally stinted to one horse or two cows to each house; the corresponding number of sheep allowed is unknown. (fn. 35) As late as about 1775 the vicar provided a bull and boar for the parish; a little later the bull was kept by the moor-masters. (fn. 36) Though some land around the town must have been inclosed already, most of the fields remained open until 1845. By that date, apart from 28 acres north of the town, a fragment near Knowle Green, and the land lying in Ashford Field, the open-field land was divided into three adjoining fields covering respectively 270-310 acres, 100 acres, and 33 acres. (fn. 37) There was common pasture on the fields after harvest so that some form of common rotation may have been practised and the fields may have been fenced. (fn. 38) The lammas lands were said in 1814 to cover 200 acres. (fn. 39) This was probably an exaggeration, but there were about 60 acres of lammas lying west of the church later in the century. Common rights, apparently over the whole of this, were extinguished about 1885, when it was inclosed by its owner. (fn. 40)

The high proportion of arable land in Staines in 1840 was not solely due to the preservation of the open fields, for much arable survived into the 20th century. (fn. 41) Most of the increase in grass after 1840 was accounted for by the making of a rifle range at Yeoveney later in the century. (fn. 42) This is now disused and London no longer provides the profitable market for hay which it did in the later 19th century, but a considerable part of the Yeoveney farm estate remains under grass. The principal change since 1840, however, has been the growth of marketgardening. (fn. 43) In 1947 there were still 113 acres of horticultural land in the parish, divided among seven holdings. (fn. 44) In 1957 most of the remaining open land in the south of the parish was used as market-gardens and allotments.

Staines had a market by 1218 and may, from its position at an important river-crossing, have been an early trading centre. (fn. 45) It was one of the merchant towns which were summoned to send representatives to the first parliament of Edward I. (fn. 46) No reference to the town as a borough has been found, nor to burgage-tenure. The only reference to burgesses is that in Domesday Book, and Maitland conjectured that the 46 burgesses of Staines mentioned there were at Staines's London property, not at the manor itself. (fn. 47) No other manor had so large a number of burgesses in London, (fn. 48) and it is possible that at least some of the 46 represented a mercantile element in the town in 1086. Conveyances of many landless freehold houses and some shops occur from the 13th century. (fn. 49) In the first half of the 14th century the income from market tolls was associated with that from stedgavel, gavelsester, and gilda. In 1301 the gavelsester was said to come from two brewhouses. No other reference to a guild at Staines has been found. The class of persons called coterelli mannyng (mannyngh, mangnyng, mannyngg) or, later, quondam coterelli mannyng, may possibly have been connected with trade in some way. (fn. 50) The income from the market tolls dropped during the 14th century, (fn. 51) and the market seems to have declined after the Middle Ages, while the annual duration of the fairs lessened. (fn. 52) By the mid-19th century the market was discontinued and for some time before this it had been a purely local affair; a considerable supply of corn was said to have formerly passed through it and this was still the staple commodity in 1839 though it was produced only in sample. (fn. 53) In spite of the market's decay Staines retained its place as a centre for the country round. Not only on the main road but also on the river and at the junction of local roads, it was well supplied with inns and was the meeting-place of several local bodies. (fn. 54) Ashby's Bank was established in 1796, at first in close connexion with the brewery, though later the two became distinct businesses. It purchased a Chertsey bank in 1876 and opened several branches in the neighbourhood before it was taken over by Barclays in 1904. (fn. 55) The London and Provincial Bank opened a branch in 1885 and other national banks followed in the 20th century. (fn. 56) There was a savings bank by 1828. (fn. 57) The West Middlesex Herald was published here from 1856 to 1895. It was a duplicate of the Middlesex and Surrey Express, which was also published in Staines from 1886 until it was incorporated with the Middlesex County Times in 1909. The West Middlesex Times was also published in Staines from the late 19th century until 1928, while the Staines and Egham News was still in existence in 1957. (fn. 58) There were a number of local societies in the 19th century, including a mechanics' club from 1842, (fn. 59) political clubs from the eighties, (fn. 60) and the Literary and Scientific Institution. This was established in a specially erected building opposite the bridge in 1835, having been formed a few years earlier. (fn. 61) The building has been the public library since 1950. (fn. 62)

The weekly market was revived in 1872. (fn. 63) It never gained more than local importance, but there was already a growing number of shops in the town, and the chamber of commerce was founded in 1903. (fn. 64) The first branch of a chain store was opened by 1898 and many of the other large concerns were represented by the 1920's. There was a cinema by 1914. (fn. 65) In 1911 there were 161 shops and shortly before 1951 there were between 400 and 500. (fn. 66) By this time there were also subsidiary shopping centres elsewhere in the parish, notably in the Kingston Road.

Industry was for long represented in Staines only by the mills. Two of these did some fulling in the late Middle Ages, and there was apparently a dyeworks in Yeoveney in the early 14th century. (fn. 67) Brewhouses were mentioned at several dates from 1301 and in 1839 the malting trade was said to have been considerable before it had been supplanted in the late 18th century by brewing. (fn. 68) Ashby's brewery was working by 1783 and was sufficiently prosperous for its owners to establish a bank in 1796. (fn. 69) In the first half of the 19th century the brewery, with the large flour and mustard mills, and one or two coachbuilders, constituted almost the only industry in the town. (fn. 70) By 1845 the appearance of bustle and prosperity which the town had nevertheless worn (fn. 71) was gone: despite the new bridge and streets and the spacious brewery and mills, the ending of the coaching age had destroyed the occupation of Staines. Less than half a dozen coaches passed daily instead of the former 68, and only 10 persons were employed at the chief posting house instead of 70. (fn. 72) The coming of the railway in 1848 did not immediately alter the situation, but within the next twenty years industries were established in Staines that renewed its prosperity and determined its later development. About 1850 one or two manufactures were begun in or near the mills which were given up soon after, (fn. 73) and in 1864 was formed the Linoleum Manufacturing Company which has since then become the chief industry of the town. In 1876 about 220 and in 1911 about 350 persons worked in the factory. By 1957 it had become part of a wider concern: some 300 persons were employed at Staines and in 1956 the factory produced about 3,200 sq. yds. of linoleum each week. (fn. 74) A second large brewery was established in the 1870's, and there was also a candle factory at about the same time. (fn. 75) By the last quarter of the century the two breweries, the linoleum factory, and the mustard mills of Finch, Rickman & Co. at Pound Mill were the chief employers of labour. (fn. 76) The last of these closed about 1900, Harris's brewery about 1912, and Ashby's brewery in 1930. By 1920 Harris's buildings were occupied by the paint and varnish makers who still use them, and most of Ashby's were taken over by H. and G. Simonds Ltd. as a bottling store. (fn. 77) Some mineral-water works started in the 19th century still remain, and the first of the present large laundries appeared about the turn of the century. (fn. 78) The engineering works, of which there are now many, date from the second decade of the 20th century. (fn. 79) They are dispersed about the town and are mostly fairly small, though about 500 people worked in 1957 at the factory of W. E. Sykes Ltd. at Knowle Green (established 1927, factory built 1934-6). (fn. 80) There were factories on the Southern Trading Estates (c. 3½ a.) in Gresham Road by 1920. The estate now (1957) has ten firms employing about 100 people together and making a variety of goods. (fn. 81) There are also smaller concentrations of industry around Shortwood House and in Church Street. (fn. 82)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 128a-b.
  • 2. See p. 24.
  • 3. Feet of F. Lond. and Mdx. ed. Hardy and Page, passim.
  • 4. W.A.M. 16929.
  • 5. W.A.M. 16786 and manorial accts. penes Westm. Abbey. An explanation of the accts. used is given in n. 23. Where other statements in this section are based on more accts. than can be conveniently cited in one note they are cited simply as 'manorial accts', and reference should be made to n. 23 to discover the numbers of the appropriate accts.
  • 6. W.A.M. 16872-4, 16932.
  • 7. W.A.M. 16804, 16807 and manorial accts.
  • 8. Manorial accts.
  • 9. See W.A.M. 16807, where lands in la Penne are mentioned: but they seem to have been both by the church and in the East End (for which, see p. 16).
  • 10. See p. 24.
  • 11. See p. 18.
  • 12. See p. 19.
  • 13. Manorial accts.
  • 14. See below.
  • 15. M.R.O., F. 37/2.
  • 16. E 301/34, no. 125.
  • 17. M.R.O., H.T. 6, mm. 12d-14; cf. ibid. H.T. 20.
  • 18. Census, 1801-1951.
  • 19. See p. 24.
  • 20. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 214, 289, 290; Staines and District Chamber of Commerce, Staines: Official Handbk. (1919), 16; for riverside development see p. 17.
  • 21. Census, 1911, 1951.
  • 22. See p. 19.
  • 23. The account of the medieval agrarian history is based largely on a sample survey of the acct. rolls and rentals preserved at Westm. Abbey. Grateful acknowledgement is made to Miss B. Harvey, who has read the account and has supplied additional references to rolls not examined by the writer. The rolls searched systematically are W.A.M. 16907, 16923, 16929, 16930 (Staines 1281-2, 1300-1, 1319-20, 1339-40); 16825, 16842, 16849 (Yeoveney 1281- 2, 1300-1, 1319-20); 16871-4 (both manors together 1345-6, 1348-50); 16932-4, 16941 (Staines 1352-3, 1363-4, 1387-8, 1443-4); 16875, 16879-80, 16883, 16886, 16892 (Yeoveney 1352-3, 1356-8, 1363-4, 1376, 1443-4). The TS. calendar at Westm. Abbey has also been consulted. The rentals used are W.A.M. 16771, 16786, 16804, 16807 (Staines), and 16796, 16812 (Yeoveney).
  • 24. Ex inf. Miss Harvey.
  • 25. W.A.M. 16952.
  • 26. See p. 17.
  • 27. See, e.g. M.R.O., Acc. 325/4 (estate map, 1775).
  • 28. See p. 19.
  • 29. See p. 22.
  • 30. W.A.M. 16812.
  • 31. C 54/3476, no. 51.
  • 32. Westm. R.C.O. 64 (survey, 1758); cf. M.R.O., Acc. 325/4.
  • 33. See p. 18.
  • 34. See pp. 18, 24.
  • 35. Westm. R.C.O. 64 (correspondence about incl.).
  • 36. Par. Rec., Vicar's Tithe Acct. Bk. 1775-9; Vestry Bk. 1820-70.
  • 37. M.R.O., Staines Incl. Award; for the situation of the fields see pp. 16-17.
  • 38. Westm. R.C.O. 64 (hand-bill, 1814); for the rotation practised in this neighbourhood in 1798 see Middleton, View of Agric. of Mdx. 149.
  • 39. Westm. R.C.O. 64 (hand-bill, 1814).
  • 40. Staines U.D.C., Local Bd. Min. Bk. 1884-7, p. 124; Par. Rec., Vestry Bk. 1870-1922, ff. 109-10.
  • 41. Willatts, Mdx. and Lond. Region, 202.
  • 42. See p. 17.
  • 43. Willatts, op. cit.; cf. J. C. Clutterbuck, 'Farming of Mdx.' Jnl. R. Agric. Soc. ser. 2, v. 20.
  • 44. L. G. Bennett, Hortic. Industry of Mdx. (Reading Univ. Dept. of Agric. Econ. misc. studies no. 7), 38.
  • 45. For the history of the market rights, &c. and the market-house, see pp. 20-21.
  • 46. Return to writ printed in E.H.R. xxv. 238.
  • 47. Dom. Bk. and Beyond, 181; cf. F. E. Harmer, AngloSaxon Writs, 518.
  • 48. See Ballard, Dom. Boroughs, 17, 39.
  • 49. Feet of F. Lond. & Mdx. ed. Hardy and Page, passim.
  • 50. Cf. Anglo-Saxon mangung (trade, business); Middle English mangen (to trade).
  • 51. Manorial accts.
  • 52. See p. 21.
  • 53. Trotter, Sel. Topog. of 30 miles round Lond. (1839), 143; Brewer, Beauties of Eng. and Wales (1816), x (5), 507.
  • 54. See p. 15.
  • 55. P. W. Matthews and A. W. Tuke, Hist. of Barclay's Bank, 292-3.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1886 and later edns.).
  • 57. M.R.O., C.P. Reg. of Socs. 5 (misc. index), p. 160.
  • 58. B.M. Newspaper Library catalogue.
  • 59. M.R.O., C.P. Reg. of Socs. 1, f. 53b; 2, pp. 41, 79, 86.
  • 60. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1886 and later edns.).
  • 61. Inscr. on building; Trotter, Sel. Topog. 143.
  • 62. Ex inf. public library.
  • 63. See p. 21.
  • 64. Ex. inf. H. J. Donaldson, secretary.
  • 65. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1898 and later edns.).
  • 66. Census, 1911; Mdx. Cty. Development Plan, 1951, 81, 185: the figures given appear to conflict, possibly because the second refers only to Staines itself and the first to the U.D.
  • 67. W.A.M. 16871-2, 16796; see p. 22.
  • 68. W.A.M. 16923; and e.g. C.P. 25(2)/575/1656 Trin.; /689/13 Chas. II Eas.; /689/16 Chas. II Eas.; /692/33 Chas. II Mic.; Trotter, Sel. Topog. 144.
  • 69. M.R.O., L.T.A. 6634; see above.
  • 70. Brewer, Beauties of Eng. and Wales (1816), x (5), 506-7; for coach-builders, see B.M. Ch. Brief B. lii. 4 (this factory is marked in M.R.O., Staines Tithe Award); see also Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1878); V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 195.
  • 71. Brewer, op. cit.
  • 72. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845).
  • 73. Ibid. (1851 and later edns.).
  • 74. Ex inf. the Linoleum Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
  • 75. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1878 and later edns.); O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xix. 15; xxiv. 3 (2nd edn.).
  • 76. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1878 and later edns.).
  • 77. Ex inf. A. E. Onions Ltd. and H. and G. Simonds Ltd.
  • 78. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1902 and later edns.). Taylor & Co.'s mineral-water factory (est. 1849) was transferred from Stanwell parish to Staines by a boundary change in 1896: see p. 13.
  • 79. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1917).
  • 80. Ex inf. W. E. Sykes Ltd.
  • 81. Ex inf. L. A. Millard, Southern Trading Estate.
  • 82. Ex inf. Staines U.D.C.