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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Stanwell (fn. 1) lies in the extreme west of Middlesex, between the main road from London to Slough on the north and the main road to Staines on the south. With one small exception the boundaries of the ancient parish remain those of the modern civil parish. The most ancient parts of the parish boundaries are probably in the south, along the road to Staines, which is Roman, and in the west along the branch of the River Colne which separates Middlesex and Buckinghamshire. The boundary in the northeast and east is comparatively modern: in the east the dividing line between West Bedfont hamlet in Stanwell parish and East Bedfont may not have been drawn before the 11th or 12th century, (fn. 2) while the north-eastern boundary of the parish runs over what used to be part of Hounslow Heath, which was probably divided between the parishes which surrounded it before 1545. The Duke of Northumberland's River, which marks the boundary, was constructed at about this time, though it may have followed an old ditch or stream. (fn. 3) The only recorded change in Stanwell's area occurred in 1896, when about 65 acres in the south-west, which were already becoming urbanized, were transferred to Staines. (fn. 4) This left 3,934 acres in Stanwell, which itself became part of Staines urban district in 1930. (fn. 5)
The soil in the west of the parish is alluvial, while the remainder is gravel. (fn. 6) The whole area is flat, lying about 50-75 feet above sea-level, and, especially in the west, is characterized by rivers and small water-courses. Artificial rivers, modern reservoirs, and pools left by gravel-working have added to the water in the parish. The Colne Brook, which divides Stanwell from Horton (Bucks.), and the River Colne, running from Longford through Stanwell Moor to Staines, were formerly considered to be two branches of the Colne. (fn. 7) The Poyle Mill River, which was called the Heacham Stream in the early 18th century, (fn. 8) issues from the River Colne south of West Drayton and joins the Colne Brook at Poyle. Just below Mad Bridge another stream branches out of the Poyle Mill River and runs past Yeoveney to join the River Colne just before it flows into the Thames. This was known as Finch's or Fisher's Allowance in the 18th and 19th centuries, (fn. 9) and possibly as Fawcons Wharf in the 16th. (fn. 10) It seems then to have been a comparatively minor stream, though it was enlarged by water-courses coming across Stanwell Moor from the River Colne. (fn. 11) Now, however, it is known as the Wyrardisbury River and this name has been extended to the upper reaches of the Poyle River, which is considered to branch out of the Wyrardisbury River rather than vice versa. In 1086 the various rivers drove several water-mills and also had three weirs, rendering 1,000 eels, in addition to the 375 eels from the mills. (fn. 12) There are 13th-centurz references to weirs at or near Colnbrook. (fn. 13) About 1543 (fn. 14) the Duke of Northumberland's River was cut, issuing out of the River Colne above Longford and forming the northern boundary of Stanwell across Hounslow Heath. It was diverted in 1949 to run parallel with the Bedfont Road. (fn. 15) The Longford River, formerly known as the Queen's or Cardinal's River, or the Hampton Court Cut, was made in the reign of Charles I (fn. 16) running south of the Duke's River. A loop in its course near West Bedfont was straightened in 1949.
Most of the ancient areas of settlement in Stanwell lie off the main roads. Stanwell itself is first mentioned in 1086. (fn. 17) The village centres upon the small green, with the church, which may have been first built about 1200, (fn. 18) on the south. Stanwell Place, which has been the site of the manor-house since the 17th century at least, lies about half a mile to the west. (fn. 19) Borough Field and Borough Green, to the north and east of the manor-house, may have derived their names from it. In 1796 a number of the cottages and farm-houses of the parish were timberframed and plastered and some had thatched roofs, (fn. 20) but by 1956 the buildings surviving from before the 19th century were mostly of red brick, with red-tile roofs; some were of timber construction with later facings of brick or plaster. Several of the older houses in Stanwell village have been demolished since 1937, (fn. 21) but the green is still largely surrounded by houses of the 19th century or earlier. They include the Vicarage and Brook Cottage, both of the 18th century, and Dunmore House, slightly earlier, all three with red-brick fronts. Windsor Cottage, which also faces the green, occupies the site of an inn called the 'Horns', which was there by the 17th century, and was probably identical with the 'White Hart's Head' (1638) and the 'Buck's Head' (1704). It was the meeting-place of the tenants of land in the open fields on 'staking days'. (fn. 22) The Swan Inn, also in the village, was mentioned in 1730 and the 'Five Bells' in 1795. (fn. 23) Perry Green, in Oaks Road, is a timber-framed building, probably of the 17th century, which has been partly rebuilt in brick. Farther south there is another timber-framed house with a cross-wing, now a bicycle shop. Until 1820 there was a house of some consequence just west of Stanhope Farm at the bend in Oaks Road. (fn. 24) Lord Knyvett's School, in Bedfont Road at the east end of the old village area, was built in 1624. It comprises the master's house and schoolroom in a single rectangular building of red brick with a tiled roof. The master's half has on its west front a pedimented doorway flanked by two-light mullioned windows; above are three similar windows. The schoolroom, which is of one story reaching the full height of the building, has a similar doorway (now altered), with a two-light window above it. On either side are tall mullioned and transomed windows, altered or slightly enlarged during the 19th century. (fn. 25) The other fronts have also been altered, and the school part of the building has been extended. (fn. 26) There is a central cartouche of arms with an inscription below commemorating the foundation of the school, and a text over the school door. (fn. 27)
The hamlet of West Bedfont was also in existence by 1086. (fn. 28) By 1956 it contained few buildings surviving from before the 19th century. (fn. 29) There were people living at Stanwellmoor by the 14th century, (fn. 30) and by the 17th it was evidently a fair-sized hamlet. (fn. 31) The Anchor Inn was there by 1730, though it has since been rebuilt. (fn. 32) The Croft, in Hithermoor Road, is a 17th-century house. Of the three mills formerly in or near the hamlet there remains only one, probably of the 19th century. (fn. 33) There was a hamlet at Poyle by the 13th century. (fn. 34) Several 17th- and 18th-century buildings survive there, in addition to Poyle House. (fn. 35) On the east side of the road are Poyle Green, which has exposed timber framing, and the Hollies, now plastered and with modern additions, but also with much interior timbering.
Apart from Hammonds Farm (now demolished) (fn. 36) in the south-west and the Crooked Billet Inn and one or two other houses along the London Road these comprised all the areas of settlement until the 20th century except that at Colnbrook End. (fn. 37) Most of the small town of Colnbrook lies across the Colne Brook in Buckinghamshire, but a small part extends into the north-east corner of Stanwell parish. This, with the lands lying near it along the river, was called Rudsworth (fn. 38) from the 13th century until about the 17th century when it came to be known variously as Rudsworth End or Colnbrook End. (fn. 39) The old name was lost in the 19th century. While the other hamlets of the parish lie away from the main roads, which impinged on the life of the parish largely through its obligation to repair them, Colnbrook was essentially a wayside settlement. The 'Catherine Wheel', mentioned in 1479, is the first inn to be referred to in Stanwell. (fn. 40) It disappeared about the mid-19th century. (fn. 41) The 'Cross Keys', mentioned in the 16th and 17th centuries, may also have been in Colnbrook End. (fn. 42) The house next to the Star and Garter Inn, sometimes called King John's Palace, dates from the late 16th century or a little later, though it has been much altered, and may once have been an inn. The 'Star and Garter' and the 'White Hart' were built in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively. The Bath Road through Colnbrook was turnpiked in 1727 (fn. 43) and the toll-house opposite the end of Poyle Road was erected. (fn. 44) Colnbrook Bridge had long been a cause of dispute between the adjacent villages. The incorporation of the town of Colnbrook in 1543 was designed to provide for the repair of the bridge, but the revenues arising were insufficient. In 1732 the parishioners of the rest of Stanwell were still trying to enforce the sole obligation of Colnbrook to look after the bridge. (fn. 45) In practice the turnpike trustees seem to have carried out repairs, and by 1826 the two counties in which the bridge lay had assumed the financial responsibility. (fn. 46) In the 16th and 17th centuries Colnbrook Bridge was a wooden structure; (fn. 47) the present brick bridge was erected in 1777. (fn. 48) In the 19th century the long line of mail coaches passing through Poyle turnpike was a nightly show for the inhabitants. (fn. 49) The construction of a modern by-pass to the north of Colnbrook is no doubt partly responsible for the fact that most of the buildings in Colnbrook End date from the 18th century or earlier: the oldest is the house next to the 'Star and Garter' which has already been mentioned. (fn. 50)
Mad Bridge, half in Stanwell and half in Harmondsworth, was also on the Bath Road. It was still built of wood in 1826. (fn. 51) The Staines road in the south of the parish was turnpiked in 1727. (fn. 52) There was a toll-house opposite the New Inn and also a side-bar at the end of the New Road. (fn. 53) With certain exceptions the general course of the other roads was probably established during the Middle Ages. The lord of the manor diverted a road and a footpath near Stanwell Place, respectively in 1760 and 1771. (fn. 54) The roads at Stanwellmoor were laid out at the inclosure of 1792, together with the part of the New Road running south from Park Road. Before this several tracks ran south from the village and Park Road. (fn. 55) Moor Lane was straightened in 1891. (fn. 56) There were naturally a number of bridges in the parish. In the early 17th century the lord of the manor had to repair Poyle Bridge, Gray Bridge (now Lintells Bridge), and Leyland Bridge. (fn. 57) Poyle Bridge was repaired by the county from 1799. Lintells Bridge was rebuilt by Sir William Gibbons in 1811. (fn. 58)
Until 1792 Hounslow Heath extended over the area north of Bedfont Road, and a strip of moorland (Borough Green and Spout Moor) along the present Spout Lane joined it to Hither Moor and Farther Moor, which stretched towards Staines Moor. (fn. 59) There were lammas lands on the east of West Bedfont village and elsewhere and meadows along many of the river banks, particularly in the north, (fn. 60) but the remainder of the parish was largely arable land. In the Middle Ages most of it lay in open fields, (fn. 61) but nearly all the land west of Stanwellmoor and that around Hammonds Farm was inclosed by the mid-18th century. (fn. 62) Borough Field, to the north and west of the manor-house, and another small field nearby were inclosed in 1771 by the lord of the manor, when he diverted a footpath across them away from his house. (fn. 63) Most of the area south of Stanwell and West Bedfont villages remained open until 1792. The triangle of land within the parish to the south of the London Road formed part of Ashford Field and the part near West Bedfont was called Bedfont or West Bedfont Field, but by the 18th century all the rest was generally known as Stanwell Field or Town Field. (fn. 64)
The remaining open fields and commons were inclosed in 1792, (fn. 65) and orchards and marketgardens began to spread over the parish in the second half of the 19th century. (fn. 66) In 1884 the Staines and West Drayton Railway (now part of the Western Region) was opened, with a station in Stanwell parish at Colnbrook. (fn. 67) The streets of small houses behind the 'Crooked Billet' were built in the 1880's. (fn. 68) They really formed part of Staines and were transferred to it officially in 1896. (fn. 69) There was little building elsewhere in the parish before the First World War. The first factory at Poyle appeared before 1914 and the first at West Bedfont in the 1920's. (fn. 70) By 1956 there were between 70 and 80 factories at Poyle, and several at West Bedfont. (fn. 71) During the 1920's and 1930's ribbon development spread along the main roads: on the Bath Road it is mainly residential, while there are garages and a few small factories along the London Road. Each of the old villages grew a little, notably by the building of council housing estates in Stanwell in 1919 and in Stanwellmoor in 1930. (fn. 72) A private motor-bus served the village by 1926 and London Transport buses came in 1932. (fn. 73) Poyle Halt on the railway was opened in 1927 and Poyle Industrial Estate Halt in 1953. (fn. 74)
Until very recently, however, the chief changes in the 19th and 20th centuries have taken place outside the old villages. The Staines Union Workhouse was built on the London Road in the mid-19th century. Together with a former boys' home and a former isolation hospital, both opened c. 1913, it now forms part of the Ashford Hospital. The parish cemetery in Town Lane was opened in 1895, (fn. 75) and the Ashford cemetery on the corner of London Road and Long Lane in 1910. (fn. 76) The Staines reservoirs were completed in 1902 and started supplying water to London in 1904, and the King George VI Reservoir was opened in 1947. (fn. 77) Together they cover much of the former open-field land to the south of the village. To the north, off Spout Lane, the county council established 24 small-holdings in the early 1930's. (fn. 78) These comprise Burrows Hill Close estate and Bedfont Court estate, and they have small twostory houses with steeply pitched roofs and eaves at first-floor level. In 1948 the part of Stanwell New Road north of Park Road was built, thus linking Staines and Stanwell more directly with the Bath Road. (fn. 79) In 1949 most of the former Hounslow Heath land to the north-west of the village was taken into London Airport. The eastern part of the Bedfont Road was then diverted and the roads running north from it were closed, together with the eastern half of Spout Lane. (fn. 80) Part of the land in this area was still cultivated in 1956 but the few houses there were either demolished or deserted. They all dated from the 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 81)
Building on a large scale round the old village began after the Second World War. Between 1945 and 1948 over 300 prefabricated houses were erected between Town Lane and Long Lane. (fn. 82) Small estates of terraced and semi-detached houses were built on either side of Park Road. (fn. 83) Selwood Place and the very large estate between Town Lane and Long Lane have been built since 1954 by the British Airways Staff Housing Society. By 1956 the airways estate comprised nearly 700 houses, as well as a shopping centre, (fn. 84) and an inn, named the 'Happy Landing', has since been opened.
Some land in the west and north of the parish still remained open in 1956, apart from that included in the small-holdings. A good deal of it is used for market-gardening, while gravel-extraction has left many ponds in the low-lying land in the west.
In 1546, when Stanwell manor belonged to the Crown, payments were made to the king's apothecary for supplying perfumes for Stanwell. (fn. 85) The belief that 'Stanwell Heath' was the meeting-place for the electors of Middlesex in the 18th century, whence they proceeded to the poll at Brentford, probably arises from a misreading of 'Hanwell' in the single reference to this. (fn. 86)
Among the notable persons connected with Stanwell were several of the lords of Stanwell manor, (fn. 87) Nicholas Hilliard, the painter, who leased Poyle manor, (fn. 88) and Bruno Ryves, a royalist divine, who was vicar in the 17th century. (fn. 89) James I's daughter Mary died at Stanwell (fn. 90) and several members of the aristocracy lived there in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 91) The Cox's Orange Pippin was first grown c. 1830 by Richard Cox in his garden on the Bath Road, (fn. 92) and the Stanwell Perpetual rose was discovered in a Stanwell garden in 1838. (fn. 93)