A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4, Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood With Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow With Pinner. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1971.
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The ancient parish of Northolt lay to the northwest of Ealing. (fn. 1) It had the shape of an irregular triangle lying along a north-east south-west axis approximately 3½ miles in length. In 1871 the parish contained 2,230 a. (fn. 2) The northern parish boundaries followed those of Ruislip and Ickenham and of Gore hundred. The Yeading Brook formed the western boundary and the other two sides were bounded by the parishes of Hayes and Southall to the south and Greenford in the east. From at least as early as the 18th century two detached areas of Northolt parish lay in Greenford. The larger area, comprising 47 a. was situated to the west of Greenford village immediately north of the Ruislip road and west of Oldfield Lane. A further 2½ a., called Mill Field in 1775, lay along the southern boundary of Greenford. (fn. 3) These detached parts were transferred to Greenford in 1882 and 1887 respectively, and in 1891 the area of Northolt parish was 2,180 a. (fn. 4) Northolt formed part of Uxbridge R.D. from 1894 until 1928. On the dissolution of the rural district an area of 100 a. in the extreme north-east of Northolt parish was transferred to Harrow-on-the-Hill U.D. The remainder of Northolt civil parish was absorbed into the municipal borough and civil parish of Ealing, which now forms part of the London Borough of Ealing. (fn. 5)
Except for a low ridge which runs in a northeasterly direction from Down Barns to Harrow and reaches more than 150 ft. north-west of Northolt village, most of the parish lies below 125 ft. The old village is sited in a shallow depression between this ridge and further rising ground which inclines gradually north-east to the slope of Harrow Hill. With the exception of two areas of brickearth in the extreme south, the soil is exclusively London Clay. (fn. 6)
There appears to have been a settlement at Northolt at least as early as the 8th century. Three burials and several dwellings of the early Saxon period have been found on and near the site later occupied by the medieval manor-house. The archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest settlement was sited on higher ground north-east of the church, and was replaced in the late 13th century, shortly before the first stone manor-house was built, by a settlement in the shallow valley to the west. (fn. 7) By 1500 settlement had assumed the pattern which it retained until the topography of the parish was blurred by 20th-century housing development. (fn. 8) There appear to have been five distinct areas of settlement in the medieval parish. Northolt village itself lay around a small green dominated by the church and manor-house complex sited on rising ground to the east. North of the village a small settlement called Eliots Green developed around the house known in the Middle Ages as Ruislips Place and later as Islips. (fn. 9) In the west of the parish the hamlet of West End was situated about ¼ mile south of the manor-house of Down. It seems possible that in the early Middle Ages a second settlement may have been sited immediately south of the Down manor site, but there is no evidence of its existence after the 15th century. (fn. 10) The smaller hamlet of Wood End in the extreme north-east seems to have grown up around the capital messuage of a freehold estate held from the 13th century by the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon. (fn. 11) In the south-east corner of the parish the settlement of Goslings End (later Elm) centred on the junction of the roads from West End to Greenford (later Ruislip Road) and that running from Northolt to Greenford (now Kensington Road).
Apart from these roads and internal networks in the settlement areas, there seem to have been only four ancient roads of any importance. Sharvel or Charville Lane or Riggeway, running from Uxbridge to Harrow, crossed the Yeading Brook in the extreme north-west corner of the parish by Golding or Golden Bridge which was out of repair in 1504. (fn. 12) The road then ran parallel to the parish boundary, passing the north-west of Northolt village, until it left the parish in the extreme north-east corner. It was bisected east of Down manor by Ruislip Road running from West End to Ruislip. The road from Eastcote, known as Ruislip Way and later as Eastcote Lane, joined Sharvel Lane north of Northolt village, and the settlements of Wood End and Northolt were connected by Northolt or Wood End Lane, which continued to West End and Hayes as Janes Street.
Almost the whole of the parish west of Northolt village was covered by the open fields. Although a number of field names-Wood End Field, Sharpe's Field, Dowders Field, Priors Field-are mentioned in the 15th and 16th centuries in connection with smaller areas, or without any exact geographical location, (fn. 13) there appear to have been at all later periods six principal fields. About 1700 these covered approximately 900 a. Great or Church Field, comprising about 435 a., lay south and west of Northolt village. Mill Post Field (90 a.) lay in the southeast corner of the parish, and was adjoined to the west by Tunlow Field (115 a.). West End Field (112 a.) covered the area bounded by Janes Street, Ruislip Road, and Sharvel Lane. Hollow Field (68 a.) and Batsey or Batcher Field (63 a.) to the east lay north of Sharvel Lane. (fn. 14) Parts of Great and Tunlow fields, and the whole of West End lay within the manor of Down. (fn. 15)
Between the 15th and 16th centuries the topography of the parish remained substantially unchanged. Small areas of the waste and village greens were inclosed from the early 16th century onwards. (fn. 16) By 1700 there is evidence that the old pattern of open-field arable cultivation was being replaced by inclosure for pasture and hay farming. The large farm-houses of Court, Moat, and Down Barns farms all dated from the early 18th century. (fn. 17) By the early 19th century sections of Sharvel Lane, which in 1754 was shown as a continuous road, (fn. 18) were under cultivation, and much of the remainder served only as field access paths. (fn. 19) A further 700 a. were inclosed in 1835 under an Act of 1825, (fn. 20) and the transition to large-scale hay farming continued slowly. The opening in 1801 of the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal, which followed the 100-foot contour across the south-east corner of Northolt, did little to alter the rural character of the parish as a whole. The population was temporarily augmented after about 1830 by labourers working the brickearth deposits along the canal, and several new houses were built at West End. Many of the brickworkers left after the industry declined in the 1860s, and there were fewer inhabited houses in 1881 than there had been forty years earlier. (fn. 21) Between 1837 and 1937 only three houses were erected at West End, and the area to the north-east of the hamlet was in 1845 said to be one of the remotest areas in Middlesex. (fn. 22) As late as 1896, apart from the localized brick industry in the south, Northolt was still a lightly populated agricultural parish with five compact settlements and only isolated farm-houses elsewhere. (fn. 23)
An inadequate water supply and the poor state of the roads were the chief reasons advanced during the 19th century for the slow pace of development. The road from Harrow to Wood End was in the 1890s known alternatively as Love or Mud Lane, and during the early 20th century the parish council frequently complained to the rural district authorities about the condition of roads in Northolt. (fn. 24) Until 1791, when a well was sunk near the vicarage, Northolt village seems to have had no spring water. (fn. 25) Piped water was not brought to the village until 1898, and the supply remained inadequate until the 1920s. (fn. 26) By 1914 the village also had gas streetlighting, and electricity supplied by the Uxbridge and District Supply Co. (fn. 27) In 1903 the Great Western Railway Co. opened a loop line which connected the High Wycombe and Birmingham main lines and bisected the parish north of Northolt village. A halt at Northolt was opened in 1907, (fn. 28) and this was rebuilt as Northolt Station in 1948 when the Central line was extended from Greenford to West Ruislip along the G.W.R. route. (fn. 29) The Great Central Railway's passenger line to High Wycombe, passing across the north-east corner of the parish, was opened in 1906. A station at Northolt, initially called South Harrow and Roxeth Station, was opened in 1926, and renamed Northolt Park Station in 1929. (fn. 30)
Despite the provision of these amenities there was little residential development until the sale of the Manor Farm and Hillingdon Court estates in 1920 opened the way for the first speculative building. (fn. 31) In 1928 Northolt became part of the borough of Ealing and the pace of development accelerated. (fn. 32) A pony-racing track at Northolt Park was opened in 1929. (fn. 33) Western Avenue, running from east to west through the centre of the parish, was opened in 1934 and by 1936 two trunk roads-Whitton Avenue and Mandeville Road-had been driven across the north of the parish and Yeading Lane and Church Road widened to complete the network of arterial roads. Extensive ribbon development followed, and other areas developed by speculative builders before 1939 included former open-field land lying immediately west of Northolt village, and the area between Mandeville Road and Whitton Avenue to the north. The first Northolt planning scheme appeared in 1937, (fn. 34) and the first industrial premises in Rowdell and Belvue roads were established in the same year. (fn. 35) Further building was halted by the outbreak of the Second World War. After 1945 Northolt was extensively developed as a dormitory area for the borough of Ealing. Only 52 council dwellings were erected at Northolt between 1928 and 1939, but by 1946 building had begun on five council estates, the largest of which, together accommodating 442 housing units, were the South-East Northolt and Bridge Farm estates in the old brick-field area. In 1946 the borough council acquired the 124-acre Northolt Park estate, and building began there in 1951. By 1963 1,084 of the planned 1,150 housing units on this estate, including a number of multistory flat blocks, had been completed. (fn. 36) Other council estates begun since 1949 include the Northolt Grange (1951), Medlar Farm (1949), and Lime Trees (1951) estates in the West End area, and the Fair View estate (1953) west of Eastcote Lane. By 1963 the council had built about 3,423 housing units in the area. This represented more than one-half of the total dwellings erected in Ealing Borough since 1945.
Twentieth-century expansion transformed the old pattern of distinct and autonomous settlements into a peripheral district of the borough of Ealing. In 1958 Moat Farm, the last of the 17th-and early-18thcentury farm-houses, was demolished to make way for private housing developments, and no important domestic buildings of pre-19th-century date now survive. The 'Plough' and 'Crown' at Northolt and the 'White Hart' at West End were all licensed by 1746, (fn. 37) but all have been extensively modernized or rebuilt. By 1963 almost the entire area north of Western Avenue had been built over, with the exception of a wireless station in Wood End Lane (established c. 1926) and Belvue Park which includes the site of the medieval manor-house to the north-east of the parish church. To the west of the churchyard, where the ground falls away to a small stream, the remnants of Northolt Green have been preserved to give the old village centre an almost rural character. (fn. 38) Overlooking the green are the former church school, the Crown Inn, and, mixed with modern development, several houses and cottages of the earlier 19th century. Willow Cottages, a single-storied pair now used as sheds in a small public garden, were first mentioned in 1817. (fn. 39) The district of former open-field land to the south and west remains less heavily built over. A belt of predominantly agricultural land extends from Western Avenue to the Yeading Brook, and includes the West London Shooting Grounds west of the Down manor site. Lime Tree Park, lying west of Church Road, and Rectory Park, north of Ruislip Road, comprise the bulk of the 150 a. developed by the municipal authority as sports and recreation grounds. A further area lying between Kensington Road and Western Avenue was leased to Kensington Borough in 1938 for use as playing-fields. Areas of agricultural and undeveloped land, interspersed with small estates of prefabricated houses and pre-1939 residential building, give the south of the parish an unplanned appearance. (fn. 40) Nevertheless, Northolt in 1963 was a typical suburban, residential parish, with few local industries and a population chiefly employed in London or by industrial concerns in adjoining parishes.
The Domesday Survey mentions 32 people at Northolt. Twenty-two of these were described as villeins, but the size of their holdings varied considerably. There was one single-hide holding, another 5 villeins each had half a hide, 8 held a virgate each, and a further 8 half a virgate each. In addition there was a priest on half a hide, 3 cottars, and 6 serfs. (fn. 41) For a muster of c. 1335 Northolt was expected to contribute 30 footmen under 3 officers, or approximately 1/30 of the total county force. (fn. 42) Twenty-seven persons were taxed for the subsidy of 1522-3, (fn. 43) and there were 100 communicants in 1547. (fn. 44) Ninety adult male parishioners took the protestation oath in 1642, (fn. 45) and in 1664 there were 54 occupied houses, as well as the church-house, which was inhabited by five widows. (fn. 46) Lists of 1659, 1666, and 1669 enumerate about 60 free and copyhold tenants, of whom approximately one half were said to be living out of the manor. (fn. 47)
The growth of Northolt's population from 336 in 1801 to 658 in 1861 was due largely to the influx of labourers which followed the establishment of the brick-making industry. Migration of workers after the closure of some of the brick-fields during the 1860s had reduced the population to 479 in 1871. Until the 1920s there was little significant increase. But between 1921 and 1931, although the area of the civil parish had been reduced after its incorporation into Ealing Municipal Borough, the population jumped from 904 to 3,047. Since 1945 development of the parish as a middle-class dormitory area has continued steadily; in 1951 the population of Northolt ward, covering an area considerably smaller than the ancient parish, was 19,201, and by 1961 it had reached 25,897. (fn. 48)
Most of the notable residents of Northolt have been either incumbents or lords of the manor, and are noticed briefly below. (fn. 49) Goronwy Owen (1723-69), the Welsh poet and first Secretary of the Cymmrodorion Society of London, was Curate of Northolt from 1755 to 1758. (fn. 50) Stephen Demainbray (1710-82), who discovered the influence of electricity in stimulating the growth of plants and was astronomer at the Kew observatory from 1768 to 1782, is buried at Northolt. (fn. 51) Several writers have attempted to prove that John Hart (d. 1585), Chester Herald and author of two books on English phonetics, belonged to the Hart family which was living at Northolt as early as 1460. This identification has been doubted, and the available evidence is inconclusive. (fn. 52)