Stanwell: 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.

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'Stanwell: 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), pp. 43-45. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Stanwell: 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) 43-45. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Stanwell: 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). 43-45. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,


Domesday Book mentions 46 persons in connexion with Stanwell and fourteen with West Bedfont. (fn. 1) In 1547 the parish was said to contain 240 'houseling' people (fn. 2) and about 1723 there were 109 families. (fn. 3) The population rose at an increasing rate from 893 in 1801 to 2,306 in 1921, and then to 3,275 in 1931 and 8,148 in 1951. (fn. 4)

Apart from two knights at Stanwell and two sokemen at West Bedfont most of the persons mentioned in Domesday Book were described as villeins, and their holdings ranged from ½ virgate to 2 hides. There were also a few bordars and cottars, mostly holding a few acres each, and eight slaves. (fn. 5) By the 13th century the manor of Stanwell received rents of assize from free tenants, as well as customary works from the others. (fn. 6) In 1299 Poyle manor had 12 free tenants, holding altogether 72 acres. (fn. 7) In the 14th century West Bedfont manor had 4 free tenants, owing money rents and suit of court, and 13 customary tenants doing labour services in addition for their virgate or half-virgate holdings. (fn. 8) After the 14th century no references to labour services in the parish have been found. (fn. 9) A considerable amount of copyhold survived until the late 19th century. (fn. 10) By the 18th century many of the villagers held nothing but their cottages and orchards, and at the inclosure in 1792 66 of them received allotments in respect of common rights only. (fn. 11) In addition to the ordinary village population and the owners of Stanwell Place, (fn. 12) a number of families of the gentry and aristocracy lived in Stanwell from the 17th century onwards. Sir John Bankes, attorney general, lived at Stanwell in the 1630's (fn. 13) and Lord Saye and Sele is said to have had a house there in 1647. (fn. 14) In 1716 Lord Grandison leased a house which had formerly been occupied by the Duke of Cleveland, (fn. 15) and in the late 18th century and early 19th a branch of the Stanhope family lived in a house near the present Stanhope Farm. (fn. 16) The radical change in the character of the population since the 19th century is discussed below. (fn. 17)

In 1086 there were 10 plough-lands at Stanwell, with 13 ploughs working, and 4 plough-lands at West Bedfont, with 4 ploughs working. (fn. 18) By 1220 there were 6 ploughs in Stanwell, possibly including those in the various hamlets. (fn. 19) The demesne arable alone of the manors of Stanwell, Poyle, and West Bedfont must have covered over 500 acres in the 14th century. (fn. 20) In 1367 it was said that half the demesne arable of Stanwell manor could be sown each year if it were well cultivated. In that year only 104 acres out of 269 were sown, all the remainder lying fallow. (fn. 21) It is clear that virtually all the arable lay in open fields in the Middle Ages. (fn. 22) In 1086 there was meadow for 12 plough-teams in Stanwell and for 2 oxen in West Bedfont. (fn. 23) In 1340 there were said to be 100 acres of tithable meadow in the parish, (fn. 24) but to judge from the demesne meadows of the manors at about the same time this must have been a low estimate. (fn. 25) In 1367 the Stanwell demesne meadow (50 a.) was common after mowing, (fn. 26) but by the 16th century some at least were in severalty. (fn. 27) There continued to be lammas lands to the east of West Bedfont hamlet until the inclosure. (fn. 28) There was pasture in severalty by the 14th century (fn. 29) as well as on the extensive commons.

In the 17th century the use of open fields, pastures, and meadows was regulated by the manor court in the usual way, and bounds between arable holdings were staked four times a year. (fn. 30) In the 18th century cattle were said to be kept on the commons without stint; (fn. 31) sheep appear to have been stinted in the 17th century and pasturing of sheep for outsiders was forbidden. (fn. 32) The moors were also opened to sheep for part of the year only. (fn. 33)

Between 1488 and 1517 Edward Bulstrode inclosed and converted to pasture a farm of 140 acres, probably lying in the west of the parish, (fn. 34) so that 3 ploughs were put out of use, and Andrew Windsor inclosed a smaller area. (fn. 35) More inclosures were made in the next two centuries so that even those fields which remained open were surrounded by closes. (fn. 36) Despite this, Stanwell was cited in 1744 as an example of the evil effects of open fields and commons on the character of the villagers. Those with only 'a poor house and little orchard (which for the most part are their own, copyhold or freehold), by keeping mares and foals, cows and calves, hogs and geese without stint. . . make shift just to live, some of them doing without any work at all, and those that go to day labour are very lazy and care not whether they are employed or not.' The fact that the lord of the manor owned few houses was taken as a reason why he had not brought about an inclosure. (fn. 37) Efforts to inclose the parish in 1767 were defeated with much jubilation, (fn. 38) but the lord of the manor inclosed one field into his park in 1771, (fn. 39) giving the parish a poor-house and £100 in compensation, (fn. 40) and an Act to inclose the rest was passed in 1789. The award was made in 1792, (fn. 41) when the open fields comprised some 1,621 acres and the commons 505 acres. Sir William Gibbons, the lord of the manor, received 522 acres, Edmund Hill, who also bought most of the land sold for expenses, 400 acres, and three other persons received over 40 acres. Only 24 smaller allotments were made in respect of open-field arable, while 66 were made for common rights. Thirty acres were set aside to be let for the benefit of those holding less than £5 worth of property and not receiving any other allotments. J. L. and B. Hammond used Stanwell as an example of the way in which inclosure injured the poor. (fn. 42) Though the example was probably a just one, this cannot be directly proved, for the sharp rise in the poor rates and the hard condition of the agricultural labourers, which undoubtedly obtained in the early 19th century, were part of a national trend. (fn. 43) From an improver's point of view the inclosure was a great success, and rents rose quickly. The open-field land did well with the artificial grasses and turnips sown there for the first time, and the heathland belonging to those proprietors who could afford to pare and burn it was soon well cultivated. (fn. 44)

By 1844 there were about ten farms of between 100 and 300 acres, and a few smaller ones. There were then 2,466 acres of arable in the parish and 1,148 of meadow and pasture. (fn. 45) In 1865 the grassland in this neighbourhood was said to be used largely for hay for the London market. (fn. 46) A number of the farms remained more or less intact until the 20th century, (fn. 47) but mixed farming ceased to predominate. The orchards of the early and mid-19th century (44 a. in 1844), including that in which the first Cox's Orange Pippin was grown, (fn. 48) did not survive into the 20th century, but during the later 19th century there was a striking increase in market- and nursery-gardening. (fn. 49) This has continued in the 20th century, though the construction of the great reservoirs south of the village removed some of the land hitherto used for the purpose. (fn. 50) Most of the county council smallholdings are used for market-garden crops, but in general the horticultural holdings in the parish are large ones. In 1947 there were 734 acres of horticultural land, divided between seventeen holdings. (fn. 51) Some of this has since been taken for housing, for which the grassland in the west of the parish is less suitable, but there was still a good deal of marketgardening in 1956.

Until the late 19th century, agriculture employed nearly all the working population except the ordinary village craftsmen and the mill-workers. In 1636 the two paper-mills alone employed thirteen journeymen, (fn. 52) and in 1798 Poyle Mill employed 'a considerable number'. (fn. 53) In 1849 Taylor & Co. established their mineral-water works in the London Road: this was the first factory to appear in Stanwell. (fn. 54) It was followed by an iron foundry near by and, in the early 20th century, by an explosives factory at Poyle. (fn. 55) This had stopped work by 1935, but a few other factories were established between 1929 and 1939, and over 70 were added between 1949 and 1956 to what had by then become the Poyle Industrial Estate. (fn. 56) They make a wide variety of goods. (fn. 57) In the twenties tallow-melting began in West Bedfont, (fn. 58) and by 1956 there were several factories there of which the largest was the animal products factory. In addition the four gravel-working firms in Stanwell in 1956 employed nearly 100 persons, and many people from the parish worked at London Airport. (fn. 59) The first bicycle-maker appeared in Colnbrook in c. 1902, and there was a garage on the London Road by 1908. (fn. 60)

Among the social institutions existing in modern times were a temperance hall (the former British school) and a workmen's institute, both in the 1890's. (fn. 61) The cricket club was said in 1953 to have existed with intermissions for over a century, and a bowls club was formed in 1924. (fn. 62) The village hall in Park Road was opened in 1935. (fn. 63) For some years before 1902 and again more recently, annual pleasure fairs have been held on the green. (fn. 64)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130a.
  • 2. E 301/34, no. 132.
  • 3. Guildhall MS. 9550.
  • 4. Census, 1801-1951: from 1901 the figures relate to a slightly smaller area (see above, p. 33).
  • 5. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130a.
  • 6. C 133/22/10.
  • 7. C 133/89/5.
  • 8. S.C. 12/23/35.
  • 9. Later extents of the manors are cited on p. 36, n. 98 and p. 39, n. 88.
  • 10. See p. 36.
  • 11. Hist. MSS. Com. Hastings, iii. 47.
  • 12. See p. 37.
  • 13. A. Heales, 'Ch. of Stanwell', T.L.M.A.S. iii. 115, quoting par. regs.
  • 14. Rushworth, Hist. Coll. (2nd. edn., 1721), vii. 750.
  • 15. M.R.O., Acc. 153/2-3, 4-12.
  • 16. M.R.O., L.T.A. Mdx. 6690-6717; for the house see p. 34; for the family, see Burke, Peerage and Baronetage (1828), 584.
  • 17. See p. 45.
  • 18. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130a.
  • 19. Bk. of Fees, p. 1440.
  • 20. See pp. 36, 38, 39.
  • 21. C 135/196/9.
  • 22. See p. 35.
  • 23. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 130a.
  • 24. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 198.
  • 25. See pp. 36, 38, 39.
  • 26. C 135/196/9 and cf. C 136/48/8.
  • 27. S.C. 12/3/15.
  • 28. Inclosure award and later map penes Staines U.D.C.: see below, n. 89.
  • 29. S.C. 12/26/6.
  • 30. B.M. Add. MS. 21206, f. 41; Bodl. MS. Don c. 26.
  • 31. Hist. MSS. Com. Hastings, iii. 47.
  • 32. Bodl. MS. Don c. 26 (1630); B.M. Add. MS. 21206, f. 41.
  • 33. Bodl. MS. Don c. 26.
  • 34. See p. 40.
  • 35. C 47/7/2/2, m. 13: the number of acres of Windsor's inclosure is illegible; only half a plough was put down because of it.
  • 36. See p. 35.
  • 37. Hist. MSS. Com. Hastings, iii. 47.
  • 38. J. L. and B. Hammond, Village Labourer, 1760-1832, 55, 378-83.
  • 39. See p. 38.
  • 40. See p. 45.
  • 41. Three copies of the inclosure award survive: C.P. 43/835, mm. 134-72; a copy among the Par. Recs.; and a 19thcent. copy penes Staines U.D.C. For the main features of the award see Hammond, op. cit. 379-83. No inclosure map survives though Staines U.D.C. have a slightly later map which is helpful: a draft one in existence 1952 (see catalogue of N.R.A. Exhibition of Docts. Relating to Staines, 1952, penes M.R.O.) could not be traced in 1956.
  • 42. Hammond, op. cit. 33, 55, 86.
  • 43. See p. 45; Rep. Poor Law Com. App. B (2), H.C. 44, pp. 177 g-h (1834), xxxv, xxxvi; ibid. app. B2(3), p. 177h (1834), xxxvi.
  • 44. Baird, Gen. View of Agric. of Mdx. 23-24; Middleton, View of Agric. of Mdx. 126-7.
  • 45. M.R.O., Stanwell Tithe Award.
  • 46. J. C. Clutterbuck, 'Farming of Mdx.' Jnl. R. Agric. Soc. ser. 2, v. 20.
  • 47. See pp. 37, 39, 42.
  • 48. See p. 36.
  • 49. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xix. 2, 6-7, 10-12, 15-16 (1st and later edns.); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1862 and later edns.).
  • 50. Willatts, Mdx. and Lond. Region (Land Util. Surv. lxxix), 200-3.
  • 51. L. G. Bennett, Hortic. Ind. of Mdx. (Reading Univ. Dept. of Agric. Econ. misc. studies, no. 7), 20, 38, 49.
  • 52. See p. 42.
  • 53. Middleton, View of Agric. of Mdx. 438.
  • 54. Date of establishment on factory, 1956; O.S. Map 1/2,500 Mdx. xix. 15 (1st edn.).
  • 55. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xix. 6, 15 (2nd and later edns.).
  • 56. Ex inf. Staines U.D.C.
  • 57. e.g. breeze and concrete blocks, steel prefabrications, furniture, bedding and mattresses, electrical assembly work, machine tools, food products, chemicals: ex inf. Staines U.D.C.
  • 58. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1926-37).
  • 59. Ex inf. Staines U.D.C.
  • 60. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1902, 1908).
  • 61. Ibid. (1886-94).
  • 62. Stanwell: Coronation Souvenir (1953) (copy penes the vicar).
  • 63. Inscription on building.
  • 64. Staines U.D.C., Stanwell Par. Meeting Min. Bk. 1895- 1930, p. 15 (penes Staines U.D.C.), and local inf.