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 old parish of Hanwell (fn. 1) formed a strip, four miles long and only about a third of a mile wide, running down the east bank of the River Brent to the Thames. Because of the turn in the Brent's course from west to south, the river bounded the parish both on the north and on the west, while the Thames formed the southern boundary. The eastern boundary was less well defined, but ran for the most part fairly straight across the fields and common from north to south. (fn. 2) These bounds inclosed about 1209 acres in 1863-4, when they were first accurately surveyed. There was also a detached part of the parish, containing 74 acres, which lay a couple of miles to the north-west, and ran down the northern slope of Hanger Hill to the Brent, between Ealing and Twyford. (fn. 3) Part of this area is later known to have been a demesne wood belonging to the manor of Greenford and Hanwell, (fn. 4) and the reasons for its attachment to Hanwell, though unknown, are probably to be found in its tenurial history. Further description of this detached part is omitted here, since it was topographically more closely related to Ealing than to Hanwell.
By the 12th century, when a chapel was founded in New Brentford, (fn. 5) the town seems to have formed a separate manor. (fn. 6) The boundary between it and the part of the parish which remained subject to the mother church of Hanwell may have been drawn at about this time. It ran straight across the parish approximately on the present line of the Piccadilly railway: the remains of a then dead 'gospel oak' stood beside the road on the north of the line as late as 1928. (fn. 7) Legally New Brentford remained part of Hanwell parish until the 18th century, (fn. 8) and it was still in an historical and technical sense part of the 'ancient parish' so long as that retained any significance. Its history, however, is not described here. From an early date it was more closely linked with Old Brentford than with Hanwell, and it has seemed essential to consider at one and the same time the history of the two constituent parts of the town of Brentford. Since Old Brentford remained more closely connected with Ealing, its mother parish, than did New Brentford with Hanwell, the history of both has been reserved for description with that of Ealing, in Ossulstone hundred. In the following article the expression 'the parish' is generally used, as it was in the past, to describe Hanwell alone, without New Brentford. Where it refers to the whole parish, in its strict legal sense, this is indicated to be so.
Hanwell itself, excluding New Brentford and the detached area beyond Ealing, covered 992 acres in 1863-4. In 1885 it was made into an urban district, (fn. 9) and in 1926 the whole urban district, still including the detached part, was added to the borough and civil parish of Ealing. (fn. 10) Later adjustments were made to the boundary between Ealing and Brentford so that it no longer follows the old line of that between Hanwell and Brentford.
There is less than 100 feet between the highest and lowest points in the parish, but the steepness of some of the slopes gives it a hilly character. This is particularly so north of the Uxbridge road, where Cuckoo Hill, the highest point, rises steeply to over 100 feet and where the parish church stands on a pronounced spur over the curving Brent valley. South of the Uxbridge road, too, there is a sharp drop down to the river from the ridge along which runs the Boston road. (fn. 11) The course of the Brent above the bridge at Hanwell was straightened during the early 1920's in several places, notably just north of the church. (fn. 12) The Grand Union Canal (formerly the Grand Junction), opened in 1798, joins the river a little below the bridge. Several cuts were made when the canal was constructed in order to straighten the old course of the river from there down to the Thames at Brentford. (fn. 13) The soil of Hanwell is mixed: there is a strip of alluvium, wider in the north, along the Brent, and the north of the parish, beyond Church Road, is mostly London clay, with some gravel beyond that again. To the south gravel predominates, with a patch of brick-earth along the eastern boundary. (fn. 14)
Some Saxon graves of the late 5th or 6th century, which were found at the site of Oaklands School in 1886, together with other finds nearby, provide the first evidence of settlement in Hanwell. The settlement to which they belonged may have been connected with the Uxbridge road or with a track running north from Brentford. (fn. 15) Within historic times, however, there were very few houses south of the Uxbridge road until the 19th century, and most of the medieval village is likely to have been nearer the church. This stands, as earlier churches have done at least since the 12th century, (fn. 16) at the top of a steep slope overlooking the river and the bridge from the north. The name Hanwell is in all probability derived from a spring which rises close to the church. (fn. 17) In the 18th century there were only a few houses around the church but more stood farther east along Church Road and, in particular, where the road bends by the present Cuckoo Lane. (fn. 18) The end of Greenford Avenue south of Cuckoo Lane was not constructed until the late 19th century, (fn. 19) but before 1772 another lane led from lower down Church Road to the house at Hanwell Park, approximately on the site of Drayton Manor Grammar School. The date at which a house was first built on this site is unknown; it was there by the 18th century and there were also a few cottages in the two lanes (the present Cuckoo Lane and the lane just described) which met in front of it. (fn. 20)
The settlement beside the Uxbridge road is very probably medieval. It was called Tickill on a map of c. 1680, (fn. 21) but this name is not mentioned elsewhere. The road itself may have originated in the early Middle Ages, and though the date at which the Brent was first bridged here is unknown, references to Brent Bridge and its need of repair have been found as early as 1396. (fn. 22) In the 15th or early 16th century (fn. 23) it was rebuilt or repaired in stone, but it was made of brick in 1675. (fn. 24) It seems to have been repaired by the lords of the adjoining manors until 1762, when the turnpike trustees rebuilt and widened it. (fn. 25) From 1815 the county took responsibility and the bridge was widened again and largely faced with stone in 1906. (fn. 26) The houses round Church Road and the main road comprised the whole village before the 19th century, except that the site of Park Farm (by Elthorne Park) may have been occupied as early as the 13th century, (fn. 27) and there were a few cottages at the junction of Boston Road and Lower Boston Road by 1816. (fn. 28)
Apart from the Uxbridge road, most of the roads through the parish ran from north to south. (fn. 29) Boston Road led up from Brentford between the lands of Park Farm, which may always have been inclosed, on the west, and South Field, which stretched up to the Uxbridge road, on the east. A lane left the road on the south side of Park Farm and led over a bridge to Osterley. (fn. 30) North of Park Farm (i.e. north of Trumper's Way), the heath stretched to just beyond the present line of the Uxbridge road, so that the main road itself, Cherington Road, Lower Boston Road, and the north end of Boston Road all followed ill-defined tracks across it. Another track (now Green Lane) also led across the common to a bridge in the common meadow of Billetts Hart. North of the main road Church Field and East Field lay respectively to west and east of the lower part of Church Road. Farther north again, the whole of Cuckoo Hill was inclosed land by the 18th century, apart from a little remnant of open field called Mill Hill Field. (fn. 31) This commemorated a short-lived medieval windmill (fn. 32) and lay at the top of the hill on the west side of Cuckoo Lane (now Greenford Avenue). Cuckoo Lane was not then the only road north from the village, for High Lane, now only a footpath to Ruislip Road, was probably as good a road as most of the others in the parish. Until 1816 it led to the large common meadow called Hanwell Mead beside the Brent, north of the present golf-course. (fn. 33) The Ruislip Road ran along a strip of common-land beside the Brent to Greenford Bridge, which has been on its present site since 1652. Before that date the history of the bridge is confused: there seem to have been two bridges between Hanwell and Greenford in the Middle Ages, one of which probably crossed the river at the end of Cuckoo Lane. The other may have continued the line of High Lane. (fn. 34) Their sites possibly suggest a stronger flow of traffic here from north to south than from east to west.
By 1746 Hanwell Park had fair-sized grounds on the north of the house, laid out with straight avenues of trees. (fn. 35) In 1775 its owners secured a private Act of Parliament exchanging lands with Hobbayne's charity so as to improve the southern aspect of the house. (fn. 36) They closed both the lane running up from Church Road and the west end of what is now called Cuckoo Lane, and extended the grounds of the house right down to East Field. (fn. 37) The house itself (since demolished) was also rebuilt or altered about this time or rather later. It was the largest in the parish, built on an H-plan with two stories, a parapeted roof, and a portico with coupled columns between the wings on the south front. (fn. 38) Towards the end of the 18th century several cottages near the church seem to have been demolished, (fn. 39) and within the next few decades houses of more pretension were built along Church Road. (fn. 40) The chief of these was the Rectory, which was rebuilt about 1790, (fn. 41) and, according to a writer of 1816, commanded 'truly pleasing views over a rich valley, through which the little river Brent pursues a meandrous course'. (fn. 42) The view, to which other guide-book writers paid tribute in turn, owed much to the 'lawnlike fields' (fn. 43) in which G. H. Glasse (rector 1785- 1809) laid out the lands all round the church, which he held as glebe or acquired as his private property. (fn. 44) A good deal of his property was attached to Brent Lodge, which stood to the south of the church and was rebuilt early in the 19th century and demolished soon after 1931. (fn. 45) The Rectory itself was pulled down some years later, (fn. 46) and the house called the Spring, further east, followed after the Second World War. Among the surviving houses are the Gothic Rectory Cottage by the church, formerly the charity school and built in 1800, (fn. 47) and the Hermitage, a little further east. This is a small cottage orné of the early 19th century, with pointed and quatrefoil windows, an ogee-headed door, and a heavily overhanging thatched roof. More of the houses built at about this time further along Church Road still survive, notably round the little green where the road bends. They include the Grove, built in the late 18th century and now belonging to the golfcourse, and Spring Cottage, which is rather later and has Gothic windows. A few more of Hanwell's larger houses, of which two survive, were built rather later in Cherington Road. Another, called Lawn House, stood north of the Uxbridge road, and was demolished about the end of the 19th century. (fn. 48)
In 1816 the last open fields, commons, and meadows were inclosed. South Field and East Field, were still of considerable extent (80 and 44 acres), though inclosures had been made on their edges, but Church Field and Mill Hill Field had already been reduced to very little. (fn. 49) The most immediately important part of the inclosure was that of the heath, covering nearly 100 acres. Building on the common had taken place in the late 18th century, (fn. 50) perhaps stimulated by increased traffic on the Uxbridge road, which had been turnpiked in 1714. (fn. 51) The 'Coach and Horses' (renamed the Viaduct Inn when the railway was built) stood near the bottom of the hill down to the bridge by 1730. (fn. 52) Two or three other inns which were in the parish during the 18th century do not seem to have survived, (fn. 53) but the 'King's Arms' and the 'Duke of York', on each side of the main road, were both there by the early 19th century. (fn. 54) The parish cage was built about 1788 near the way into Church Field from the main road, (fn. 55) the parish pump was erected on the south of the road in 1815, (fn. 56) a yard behind the 'King's Arms' served as a parish pound, (fn. 57) and both the poor-house and the school stood for a while in the early 19th century just off the main road in the Halfacre (now Halfacre Road). (fn. 58) Following the inclosure there was a good deal of building on the former common-land, so that by the time the railway arrived in 1838 there were already several terraces of houses along the main road and nearby, (fn. 59) and the number of houses in the whole parish (249 in 1841) was nearly double that in 1801. (fn. 60) The construction of Brunel's Wharncliffe Viaduct for the railway made a great change in the landscape of the parish, though most of it in fact lies on the far side of the Brent outside the boundary. It is built of brick, with eight wide elliptical arches supported on massive square piers. On the south side are the arms of Lord Wharncliffe, the chairman of the House of Lords committee on the Great Western bill. (fn. 61) The viaduct was widened in 1877 and it was no doubt at the same time that the station was moved from the top of Station Road to its present position farther east. (fn. 62)
Some building took place around the Uxbridge road and Boston Road in the first few decades after the railway was opened, (fn. 63) but the chief change in the appearance of the parish resulted from the building of the great Central London District School on Cuckoo Hill in 1856. (fn. 64) The opening of the two cemeteries on each side of the main road in 1854 (by St. George's parish, Westminster) (fn. 65) and 1855 (by Kensington) (fn. 66) also had its effect on the parish. In the seventies and eighties large-scale building began and by 1894 the area west of the cemeteries between the railway and Studley Grange Road was virtually covered with close-packed semi-detached and terraced houses. (fn. 67) Some 'rookeries and slums' had apparently resulted from the lack of any control over building and drainage by the time the local board of health was formed in 1885, (fn. 68) and part of the area south of the Uxbridge road was scheduled for redevelopment by the county council in 1951. (fn. 69) North of the railway the Golden Manor estate constituted almost the only building area before the nineties and consisted of larger houses in gardens. (fn. 70) In 1886 the final break-up of the Hanwell Park estate began with the construction of the south end of Greenford Avenue. (fn. 71) By 1913 the house had been demolished, and terraced and semi-detached houses were going up on its site and all round on the west of the Greenford branch line (opened 1904-5) of the G.W.R. (fn. 72) South of the main-line railway, the last gaps were filled in with the laying of tram lines along the Uxbridge road (1901), and Lower Boston Road and Boston Road (1906), (fn. 73) and building spread south and eastward, as part of the great expansion of the adjoining parts of Ealing. (fn. 74) Elthorne Heights (fn. 75) (Studland Road and northwards) was laid out just before the First World War (fn. 76) but already the first step had been taken, with the opening of Churchfields recreation ground in 1898, (fn. 77) to preserve the hillsides and river-valley around the church free of buildings. The second important stage in this process was the opening of the Brent Valley Golf Club about 1910: the club was taken over by the borough council in 1938 and became a public course. (fn. 78) The last stage was the acquisition of Brent Lodge by the council in 1931 (fn. 79) and the addition of its grounds to the recreation grounds already there. The site of the house has been used for various gardening buildings and this has slightly marred the view from the viaduct.
Most of the south of the parish was covered with streets and houses by 1932, and the northern slope of Cuckoo Hill west of Greenford Avenue was also being built up. By 1935, apart from the site of the Rectory and some other land at that end of Church Row, on which small houses and flats were built soon afterwards, the only considerable area left for building was the land belonging to the Cuckoo (Central London District) School. (fn. 80) This now belonged to the London County Council, and by 1939 they had put up 1,592 houses there, and two churches and three schools had been provided. (fn. 81) Most of the houses stood in small terraces, and 82 prefabricated houses were added after the Second World War. (fn. 82) The chestnut avenue which had formed the main drive to the school was retained as the central road of the estate, leading up to the main block of the old building, which was left standing while the rest was demolished. It is a gaunt Italianate brick building of three and four stories with a central tower and an arcaded portico of nine bays. In 1959 it was in rather battered condition but was still used for various local activities.
There has been little building since the Second World War since so little suitable land remained vacant, but the Ealing council have erected 104 flats at Gifford Gardens, on the north-western side of Cuckoo Hill. They and the earlier Hanwell council had built 361 dwellings in the parish before the war. (fn. 83) Despite the lack of building sites, there is still open land in addition to that round the church and to the other official parks, of which the largest is Elthorne Park (opened 1911) in the south. Most of the land along the Brent, except in the late-19th-century St. Margaret's Road area, is open, whether as allotments, recreation grounds, grassland, or simply as waste. On the northern boundary Ruislip Road remains almost a country lane running beside the unfenced Brent, with parkland beyond in Greenford.
Sir Montagu Sharpe (1856-1942), vice-chairman and chairman of Middlesex County Council 1889- 1909, chairman of Middlesex Sessions 1909-33, and the historian of Middlesex and of Hanwell, should probably be named first among the worthies of the parish. (fn. 84) The rectors of Hanwell include notable names, (fn. 85) one or two fairly eminent persons lived in the parish in the late 18th and 19th centuries, (fn. 86) and the Central London District Schools had at least one pupil of international fame. (fn. 87) Jonas Hanway (1712- 86), philanthropist, is often claimed by the parish because he was buried here and was a friend of the rector. (fn. 88) Hanwell Heath was the meeting-place of the electors of the county on at least one occasion in the 18th century, when the poll was held at Brentford. (fn. 89)