Harlington: Economic and social history

Pages 267-268

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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Twentyeight persons were enumerated at Harlington in Domesday Book and eight at Dawley. This recorded population at Harlington comprised the priest, 16 villeins, 2 bordars, 8 cottars, and a slave. At Dawley there were 4 villeins and 4 bordars. (fn. 1) The two hamlets or villages mustered 20 men and two underconstables for an array about 1335, (fn. 2) and in 1547 the parish contained 91 'houseling' people. (fn. 3) At about this time Dawley probably ceased to exist as a separate community. The Domesday figures suggest that it was never more than a small hamlet. Three houses, with a population of twelve, were reported to have been deserted about 1515 as a result of conversions to pasture by the owner of Dawley manor. (fn. 4) Any remaining cottages at Dawley probably disappeared with the formation of the park by the Bennets in the 17th century. (fn. 5) Seventy-three householders were listed in connexion with the payment of hearth tax in 1664. Fourteen of these refused to give any account of their hearths, only nine of the others had more than four hearths, and only three more than ten. (fn. 6) The last group included Sir John Bennet, by far the greatest landowner in the parish. (fn. 7) The dominance of the village by him and his successors, however, was not exclusive, since many of the villagers were copyhold tenants of the Earls of Berkeley. (fn. 8) About 1723 there were said to be 50 families in the parish, (fn. 9) and in 1801 the population was 363. (fn. 10) The inclosure of 1821 and the great brickworks of the mid-19th century were held responsible for the increase to about 650 in 1831 and to about 1,150 in 1861. (fn. 11) No cottages, whether new or old, belonged directly to the Berkeley or de Salis estates in 1841, though the Berkeley rights over copyholds remained. (fn. 12) The absence of any real squire, or, for much of the 19th century before 1870, of a resident rector, (fn. 13) no doubt had its effect on the social life of the village. Market-gardening was probably responsible for its 'cheerful, well-to-do look' in 1876. (fn. 14) By the end of the century the parish contained nearly 1,700 persons, and this had risen to over 2,600 in 1921. Another 10,000 persons were there by 1931, and by 1951 the civil parish of Harlington had nearly 16,000 inhabitants. (fn. 15) This included the part of Cranford west of the River Crane, (fn. 16) where there were small suburban areas both in the north and south. The increase in Harlington's population is to be connected with the industrial development of Hayes. Until very recently it had left the old village comparatively untouched socially as well as physically: (fn. 17) a number of old families still (1959) remain, and the inhabitants are still dependent upon Hounslow for their more extensive shopping needs. There is no cinema, and no public library nearer than Hayes, though mobile libraries visit the parish. During the 19th century there was a fair on Whit Tuesdays, but this was not of ancient origin. (fn. 18)

Until the 19th century Harlington was an agricultural community with most of its arable cultivated in open fields. There were two ploughs on the demesne at Harlington in 1086 and three belonging to the villagers, and there was said to be land for one more. At Dawley were two ploughs, one of which was on the demesne. (fn. 19) There were still only two teams at Dawley in 1220 but the number at Harlington had by then risen to 7½. (fn. 20) Nothing more is known of the community until 1517, when Richard Aubrey was said to have converted 100 acres of arable into pasture, so that two ploughs were put down and twelve persons made homeless. (fn. 21) By the 17th century most of the Dawley area was probably inclosed and in the possession of the Bennets, but Harlington continued to be characterized by open fields and small farms. In 1821 there were still eight farm-houses in the village street, in addition to Dawley Manor Farm by the church. There were also isolated farmsteads at Pinkwell and on the site of the former Dawley House. (fn. 22) These three formed part of the former Bennet estates, which had been divided between two owners (fn. 23) and seem to have been leased in units larger than most of the independent farms. (fn. 24)

Regulations about staking and fence- and ditchmaking in the 17th century show that the open fields were used for common pasture. (fn. 25) In 1722 there seems to have been a three-course rotation, with two fields, the wheat field and the 'lenthall' (i.e. presumably lenten or spring-corn) field, sown each year. (fn. 26) In 1692 over two-thirds of the parish was said to be arable. (fn. 27) This included more than half the Bennet estate, most of which had been imparked in 1690 and probably went out of cultivation soon after. It was stocked with deer at some time in the 18th century, and Alexander Pope describes Bolingbroke's hay-making at Dawley, no doubt in the park, in 1727. After Dawley House was demolished about 1772 the park may have been used as a stud-farm for Tattersall's. It had reverted to farm-land by 1841. (fn. 28) In 1801 the chief crop in the parish was reported to be wheat (302 a.), and the next barley (216 a.), with beans, peas, and oats (92 a., 60 a., 62 a.) as the only considerable others. Oats were said not to be a regular crop but to have been sown that year instead of wheat, in expectation of an inclosure. (fn. 29) The inclosure was in fact delayed until 1821, when the open fields covered not much less than 500 acres, and the common nearly 170. There was also a common meadow of 8½ acres. (fn. 30) The inclosure did not immediately affect either the size of farms or the pattern of cultivation very much. Kelly's Directory lists eight farmers in 1845, and there were still 868 acres of arable, with 350 of pasture, in 1841. (fn. 31) Fruit-growing began, however, soon after the inclosure, (fn. 32) and by 1841 there were 184 acres of garden ground. By 1845 Harlington Lodge on the former heathland had grounds planted with thousands of fruit trees, (fn. 33) and there were orchards at Dawley and elsewhere. Despite encroachments in the north by brick-working and, in this century, by housing, the acreage of horticultural land continued to increase, at first particularly near Sipson. (fn. 34) Nearly all of it was under orchards until this century, when vegetables, flowers, and ground-fruit have largely replaced the trees, though a few orchards remain scattered about the parish. (fn. 35) Most of the large quantity of open land which remained on either side of the High Street in 1959 was used as market-gardens. The greater part lay in a few large holdings, one of them, which extended into Cranford, containing over 300 acres. (fn. 36) No mixed farms remained, though there were a number of pig-farms. Thanks to the market-gardens, the demand for labour on the land was increasing in the district in 1899. (fn. 37) By 1959 there were thought to be not more than 100 persons regularly employed in the market-gardens. (fn. 38)

The name of Brickfields Lane shows that bricks had been dug there before 1865. (fn. 39) The increase of 287 in the population between 1851 and 1861 was attributed to the building of cottages for brickmakers, (fn. 40) and in 1864-5 there were extensive brickfields at Dawley. (fn. 41) They lay on each side of the canal, which provided easy and cheap transport for the bricks. Side-branches were constructed from it across the brickfields here and at the workings which started later in the century farther west: these were part of the Stockley brickworks in West Drayton and Yiewsley. (fn. 42) By the end of the century most of the brick-earth in these areas had been removed, but gravel-extraction from the level below continued. (fn. 43)

In the 1840's there was a patent chair factory in the Bath Road, (fn. 44) but apart from this the first industries of more than village significance to be established were in the north, where there was a mineral-water factory at Bournes Farm by 1902. (fn. 45) In 1915 the Fairey Aviation Co. took over a shed in North Hyde Road which had been used by the Army Motor Lorry Co. At first they tested their aircraft in an adjoining field, but soon after moved the testing grounds to Heston and Heathrow, while extending the factory into Hayes. (fn. 46) Some 4,000 people worked on the North Hyde Road site in 1959. (fn. 47) After the First World War the factories around the railway and canal in Hayes began to spread into Harlington. The Gramophone Co. (now Electric and Musical Industries Ltd.) acquired the site of Dawley House for an extension to their works across the road in 1929, (fn. 48) and by 1959 about half a dozen other firms occupied sites along the west side of Dawley Road. About 2,000 people were employed by E.M.I. on this site in 1959, and about 550 by the other firms. (fn. 49) By this time there were several factories and workshops, most of them small, in other parts of the parish, while London Airport had absorbed the area south of the Bath Road. (fn. 50) The Public Record Office had a repository to the south of the railway, which it had taken over in 1950 and which had been used during the Second World War as an ordnance factory. (fn. 51) Although these developments have affected Harlington very much, they are only the fringe of what belongs more fundamentally to Hayes, or, in the case of the airport, to the heathland farther south, so that they cannot really be regarded as part of the history of Harlington. People from Harlington work in the new factories, and others have moved into the parish to do so, but the bulk of those employed come from a wide area of the home counties. (fn. 52)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 129a.
  • 2. M.R.O., F. 37.
  • 3. E 301/34, no. 176.
  • 4. C 47/7/2/2, m. 14. For its existence as a separate hamlet in the middle Ages, see, e.g. J.I. 1/536, m. 6d.
  • 5. For the park, see p. 265.
  • 6. M.R.O., H.T. 6, m. 6.
  • 7. See p. 265.
  • 8. See p. 266 and S.P. 29/290, no. 168.
  • 9. Guildhall MS. 9550.
  • 10. Census, 1801.
  • 11. Ibid. 1831, 1851.
  • 12. M.R.O., Harlington Tithe and Incl. Awards.
  • 13. See p. 272.
  • 14. Thorne, Handbook to Environs of Lond. (1876), i. 317.
  • 15. Census, 1871-1951.
  • 16. See p. 258.
  • 17. For building, &c., see p. 260.
  • 18. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 19. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 129a.
  • 20. Bk. of Fees, i. 315.
  • 21. C 47/7/2/2, m. 14.
  • 22. M.R.O., Harlington Incl. Award.
  • 23. See pp. 262; 264.
  • 24. For units of leases, see M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.M. 45, 47; /E.D. 268; Acc. 186/6; Tithe Award.
  • 25. M.R.O., Acc. 530/12 (1608, 1631).
  • 26. Ibid. /15; for the names and situations of the fields see p. 259.
  • 27. M.R.O., Acc. 446/E.M. 45: this survey does not appear to account for common-land, since it gives 1047 a. arable and 373½ a. meadow only. Cf. p. 258 for the acreage of the whole parish.
  • 28. See p. 265.
  • 29. H.O. 67/16.
  • 30. M.R.O., Harlington Incl. Award. The Act was passed in 1819: 59 Geo. III, c.33 (priv. act.).
  • 31. M.R.O., Harlington Tithe Award.
  • 32. See Grantley Berkeley, My Life and Recollections (1865), i. 156. Cherry Lane was Cherryhedge Lane in 1629 (M.R.O., Acc. 446/M. 130), but there are no references to fruit-growing before the inclosure.
  • 33. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845).
  • 34. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xiv. 16; xv. 9, 13; xix.4;xx. 1, 5 (1st and later edns.); W.E. Bear, 'Flower and Fruit Farming in Eng.' Jnl. R. Agric. Soc. ser. 3, ix. 519; x. 42; see inf. from C. de Salis of Dawley Court in Rep. on decline of agric. pop. [Cd. 3273], pp. 23, 33, 63, H.C. (1906), xcvi.
  • 35. Jnl. R. Agric. Soc. ser. 3, x. 42; Willatts, Mdx. and London Region (Land Util. Surv. lxxix), 198-200.
  • 36. Ex inf. Robt. Newman & Son (auctioneers and landagents), Hayes. Cf. L. G. Bennett, Hortic. Industry of Mdx. (Reading Univ. Dept. of Agric. Econ. misc. studies, no. 7), 15, 38, 48-49, where, however, the beginning of marketgardening in Harlington is put later than is suggested here.
  • 37. Rep. on decline of agric. pop. 33.
  • 38. Ex inf. Ministry of Labour, Hayes Employment Exchange. Cf. occupations figures for Hayes and Harlington U.D. in Census, 1931, 1951.
  • 39. O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xx. 1 (1st edn.); cf. the brickground in M.R.O., Harlington Incl. Award map.
  • 40. Census, 1861.
  • 41. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xv. 9, 13; xx. 1 (1st edn.); Walford, Greater Lond. i. 198, 201.
  • 42. See p. 200.
  • 43. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xiv. 12, 16; xv. 9, 13; xx. 1 (2nd and 3rd edns.).
  • 44. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845), and cf. M.R.O., Harlington Tithe Award.
  • 45. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1855-1902).
  • 46. Inf. from display cards at exhib. of photographs, &c. in Hayes Libr., Golden Crescent, in 1959.
  • 47. Ex inf. Ministry of Labour, Hayes Employment Exchange.
  • 48. See p. 265.
  • 49. Ex inf. Hayes Employment Exchange.
  • 50. See p. 260.
  • 51. Ex inf. P.R.O.
  • 52. Ex inf. Hayes Employment Exchange.