Local historian Eddie Menday has researched this section. Eddie writes a regular article on local history for the Hounslow Chronicle newspaper and has kindly written a brief historical summary of the constituency.
The section includes the surrounding villages and towns including Cranford, Feltham, Heston, Bedfont, Hanworth and Hounslow.
Heston was one of the little villages on the northern edge of Hounslow Heath and was once well known for making bricks. The last brick maker that we know of was Henry Westbrook who died in 1841. Fine corn and wheat was and still is grown in what is left of the open ground between the village and Osterley Park. The Parish Church of St.Leonards has a fine 14th century tower with a large an interesting graveyard including the resting place of Private White the last man to be flogged in the British Army.
Outside is a very old Lych gate which was recently refurbished and won an English Heritage award. The church has the unmarked vault of Sir Joseph Banks the famous botanist who traveled to Australia and New Zealand with Captain Cook in 1770 and lived at Spring Grove. Later Heston became well known for its Airport after two young flyers bought a piece of ground to park their aircraft. The first commercial air services to Paris started from Heston and was the scene when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from meeting Adolf Hitler in 1938 and waived a piece of paper declaring that there would be no war. Twelve months later, World War II broke out.
Little is left of the old village of Cranford or “Craneforde” as it was once known. In fact, there were two villages Cranford St.John which was given to the Knights Templars and Cranford le Mote which has now completely disappeared. Later it was the country home of the Earls of Berkeley who held Cranford House until the 1930’s. The old house was pulled down but the Tudor cellars, an interesting ha-ha and the stables still remain. A large park and woods are an open space for the community for sports and recreation but the herd of deer that once roamed the area are long gone.
The outside of the historic church of St.Dunstan which nestles at the edge of the park shows a building of various ages. The tower, chancel and portions of the old church are 15th century and after a fire in 1710 the nave was re-built by Elizabeth Berkeley in 1716. The oldest bell in a peal of six was cast in 1338 and is reputed to have been rung on every occasion of national importance during the past 600 years. A number of the Berkeley family are buried within and outside the church where there is a stone representation of the Berkeley coat of arms. The ashes of the comedian Tony Hancock were laid in a corner of the churchyard.
Feltham is thought to have a history going back about 1000 years and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 the name is given as Felteha and according to most experts means a Field Home or Home in the Fields. In 1634 the village burnt down in a disastrous fire which also appears to have destroyed any records before that time. The village grew up around the Parish Church of St.Dunstan and it is thought that the church was dedicated to the Saint at the end of his lifetime in 988. He became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church has a list of priests going back to 1322 and in 2002 celebrated the bi-centenary of the re-building of the present church.
For many years it was an agricultural area save for two gun powder mills at North Feltham and at Hanworth. When the railway came in 1884 it opened up the district to city gentry who enjoyed working “in town” and living in the leafy countryside and many large houses were built to accommodate these families. In the late 19th century and early 20th century the farming family of Smith bought and leased most of the Feltham farms and A.W.Smith developed many vegetable species with the Feltham pre-fix in the name the best known being the Feltham Pea.
After the First World War the town grew and became industrialized with the second largest railway marshaling yard in the country, the assembly and flying of early aircraft. The famous Feltham Tram was developed here and items such as Minimax Fire Extinguishers were manufactured and exported world wide. An R.A.O.C Army depot grew up between the wars and during the Second World War it became a garrison town. By this time the population had moved to housing nearer the railway.
The High Street is now facing a new town centre development and many high tech offices have been built in the area with more in the development stage.
Bedfont or Bede’s Font as it was first known stand on an old Roman Road from Londinium to Pontes (London to Staines) where there was a wooden bridge over the River Thames. It was therefore a Royal road as through the centuries Kings and Queens would have passed this way on their journeys to Windsor Castle, but the latter which stood on the Stanwell Road has now disappeared. Aerial surveys have shown that there were early settlements here close by.. There were two villages East and West Bedfont.
The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin has been described as a “Jewel of Middlesex” as it is of Norman origin with later additions. At the entrance to the church are two trees shaped to represent peacocks one dated 1704. They are said to represent two sisters who lived in Bedfont House and were described as being “as proud as peacocks” The church stands at the back of a delightful village green which once had two ponds. These have now been filled in. Close by is Pates Manor House which is a timbered Elizabethan building that once belonged to Christ’s Hospital. During its long history it once fell into disrepair and was saved by a local historian.
Bedfont House and is an 18th century building of great interest which stands in its own grounds. It was bought in the Edwardian era by David Henry Waring of Waring and Gillows the fine art establishment in London. He made additions to the house which are fine examples of the architecture of the time and also raised a winter garden, which can be seen on the Staines Road side of the house. It is now sheltered accommodation for the elderly and is owned by Hounslow Borough Council.
Off Bedfont Road is Fawns Manor House which was held by generations of one family. On inspection can be seen the additions that have been made to the building over the years.In recent times it has been turned into flats. A village which was once surrounded by fields of produce is now a close neighbour of London Heathrow Airport.
Hanworth has two claims to fame the Tudors and flying. Henry VIII enjoyed hunting and had a hunting box built at Hanworth where he could rest change horses and have refreshment when he took to the heathland that once surrounded the village. It is not certain how Henry came to hold Hanworth but like other places perhaps he just took it. Just before his death, Henry made the property over to his last Queen Catherine Parr, and when he died she came to live at Hanworth. Later, she married Lord Seymour of Sudley and they took charge of the young Princess Elizabeth later Queen Elizabeth I to live with them.
The future Queen spent some time at the Manor House sometimes known as Hanworth Palace and it was here that Seymour acted in an improper manner towards the Princess and was committed to the Tower of London and later executed. Queen Elizabeth returned to visit Hanworth later in her reign as it was said she that she enjoyed the area.
A later Lord of the Manor was Lord Cottington, who held Hanworth and Feltham and Kennington in London. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer and a great favourite of Charles I. During the Civil War he fled to Spain where he died.
At the restoration of the Monarchy Charles II had his body brought back and he was buried in Westminster Abbey. During the First World War, the Whitehead Aircraft Company built hangers on the Feltham side of Hanworth Park to assemble and fly their bi-planes. After the war the company did not survive. In the early 1930’s the park became an airfield once again and had a visit from the Graf Zeppelin the German airship. With the arrival of General Aircraft Company from Croydon in the 1930’s and the formation of the London Flying Club it became known as London Airpark. With the arrival of nearby London Airport in the 1950’s all flying ceased and it is now a local open space.
Over the years, Hounslow was probably best know for its heath which at one time stretched from Brentford to Staines and became notorious for its highwaymen and footpads, especially during the 18th and 19th century coaching days. Straddling the old Roman road from London to Staines and Winchester in the High Street, it forks off North West to Bath and so was a highway for Kings and Queens down the ages to Windsor and the “quality folk” to the west country.
Hounslow was also a garrison town and the heathland used for troop maneuvers. Following the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnemede in 1215, the Barons held a tournament on the heath to celebrate their political victory over the King. Many other great camps were held on the heathland over the years.
Hounslow grew considerably during the coaching era providing refreshment and fresh horses for coaches and travellers. It was estimated that some 8000 horse drawn vehicles passed through the town in one day. With the coming of the railways and trams in the 18th century the towns importance somewhat diminished.
Troops still camped on the heath under canvas and so suffered in the hard winters that Hounslow Barracks were built for them. Now listed buildings, the barracks are still used by troops. In 1919 part of the heath became the first London Airport and early flights took of for Europe and record attempts made to Australia. This only lasted nine months before the opening of Croydon Airport Surrey.,
The town grew again in prosperity when the Great West Road was built north of the High Street and many factories lined this gateway to the west. It was know as the Golden Mile and gave employment to many hundred of people and made an important contribution to the war effort during WW2. With industry declining in the area since the 70’s the Great West Road is now home to great offices of international companies. With its close proximity to London Airport many warehouses and offices have been built in the area especially along the South Great West Road which passes by the southern edge of the airport.
Hounslow now has a large shopping mall named the Treaty Centre beside a pedestrianised High Street, and plans are going ahead for a new shopping precinct with a cinema and restaurants on the north of the high street. This will change the face of Hounslow completely from the long straggling main road of yesteryear.