Brief History of Hounslow


Perhaps here a few words need to be said about Hounslow as it will figure significantly in the story of 'Pete'.

We do not know whether there were any prehistoric settlers at Hounslow, though the presence of forest in the area makes it unlikely.
The road built by the Romans from London to Silchester goes through the centre of today’s town, though if there was any Roman occupation it remains to be discovered.
Hounslow, or as it was originally known, 'Hundeslowe' or 'Honeslaw', is first mentioned in 1086 AD in the Doomesday Book of William I, (better known as 'William the Conqueror'). 
Originally it was not a town at all, but rather an administrative area which included in its boundaries the ancient civil parishes of Heston, Isleworth and Twickenham.
The name Hounslow itself seems to derive from the fact that it was the sight the 'hundred-ealdor', which was a council or court, which met at monthly intervals for the purpose of local administration and government. 
The sight of this court was a modest hill; hence the word 'law', 'hlawe' or 'lowe', meaning hill. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
This fact was dimly enshrined in the odd fact that the local authority controlling the town, (no longer existing), was called the 'Borough of Heston and Isleworth' (see Civic Arms left), making no mention of the now pre-eminent town of Hounslow, either in its charter or its arms.
Now (21st Century), however, the controlling local authority is called the 'London Borough of Hounslow', and Hounslow has engulfed a vast suburban area to the north-west of London, and the old borough has disappeared. 
Hounslow's early claim to fame lies in the fact that the 'Friars of the Holy Trinity' came to Hounslow in 1211 AD, receiving letters of protection from the infamous King John in 1214 AD (he's the 'bad guy' in the Robin Hood stories).
Hounslow was originally centred around Holy Trinity Priory founded in 1211
The priory developed what had been a small hamlet into a town with regular markets and other facilities for travelers heading to and from London.
Although the priory was dissolved in 1539 the town remained an important staging post on the Bath Road.
The adjacent Hounslow Heath that had been used as a military encampment by both Oliver Cromwell, and James II developed a reputation as the haunt of highwaymen and 'footpads'. Nearby important landowners included those of Osterley House, Syon House, Hanworth Park House and Worton Hall.
A few years later, in 1217 AD, the followers of Henry II, and those of the French heir apparent, the Dauphin, met in Hounslow, putting the small village near London on the international map. 

During the Middle Ages the town, like many others, was the scene of a local fair, but other than that it sank into well deserved obscurity; a huddle of mean huts on the edge of a desolate heath. 
In 1553 Hounslow became a manor, complete with manor-house, but it was not until the arrival of the Bulstrode family, as lords of the manor, in 1705 that Hounslow began to grow and develop.
The name Bulstrode is significant, as you shall discover later in this story, and had many resonances, both in the town, (although no longer), and for Pete.
The purchaser of the manor was a certain Whitlocke Bulstrode (see right), whose Christian name is also both unusual and also, for Pete, significant. 
During the time the Bulstrodes were 'lords' of the manor, the area around Hounslow was both agricultural and rural. 

Farms and market gardens abounded, and scattered about were the great homes of the gentry; Osterley (see left), seat of the Childs and Syon House (see right), both decorated by Adam, also Kneller Hall, seat of Sir Godfrey Kneller, and of course Walpole's sham Gothic fantasy, Strawberry Hill (see left below). 

As the century progressed the stage coach came into its own and Hounslow became a prominent coaching town.
By the beginning of the next century Hounslow had stabling for at least one thousand horses, and a plethora of drinking establishments.
In 1756 Sir Thomas Morris, a distant relative of Bernard Matthews, established the base of his chicken farming empire.
As a rich philanthropist who started from humble beginnings, he used his wealth to establish a school for the under privileged children of the town, believing every child had the right to education.
To add to the over crowding and rawness of the place, however, in 1793 the Army, which used the Heath for manoeuvres, built cavalry barracks, and less than a century later, in 1875, Infantry Barracks (see right) for the Royal Fusiliers, and the Middlesex Regiment were also built in the town.
In addition there were Militia Barracks, and gunpowder mills.
The Army was still an important influence in Hounslow when Jane and John Crawford settled in the area, (they lived in 'Barrack' Road), and later it had a considerable influence on Pete's life as well. 
Despite all this earlier development, the town, during the first half of the Nineteenth Century, was still small, and grubby.
Worse was to come, however.
The building of the Great Western Railway line from London to Bristol from 1838 reduced long-distance travel along the Bath Road.
By 1842 the local paper was reporting that the 'formerly flourishing village', which used to stable 2,000 horses, was suffering a 'general depreciation of property'.
The 'Hounslow Loop Line' was constructed in 1850, prompting new development.
Hounslow became a depressed area, and only the agriculture, and the barracks, (see above) provided any employment for the inhabitants. 
Hounslow was close to London, however, and Victorian entrepreneurs saw an advantage in manufacturing close to one of their largest markets.
Pears, the soap manufacturers, was one of the first light industries to establish itself in the area and as the century came to a close many other companies followed.

(see left) 'Pears House', is recognised as a fine example of 18th century architecture.

It was home to the Pears family, (of Pears soap fame), and well-known botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks, who travelled the world with Captain Cook on the HMS 'Endeavour' and, as a friend of George III, was largely responsible for the development of 'Kew Gardens'.

The Twentieth Century was a time of expansion for Hounslow.

The construction of the Great West Road (a revival of an earlier name for the Bath Road as a by-pass for it around the north of Brentford, Isleworth and Hounslow centres) in the 1920s attracted the building of the factories and headquarters of large companies. The factories were a great local source of employment until a decline in the 1970s, attracting workers from a wide area and leading to a great deal of housing development.
In later decades offices largely replaced factories on the Great West Road, and further expansion in hotel and housing stock has taken place, an example being the appallingly ugly 'Blenheim Centre'.
The 'Great West Road'; a far more romantic name than the 'M4' or 'A2', was a large four lane dual carriageway linking London to the West.
As it passed through Chiswick, Isleworth and Osterley it was lined, on either side with imposing 'Art Deco' factories and offices, the most famous being 'Gillette', 'Pyrene', 'Hoover' and 'Firestone' (now sadly demolished).

More important still was the impact of civil aviation upon the area. 
Firstly there was the establishment of an 'aerodrome' at Heston (see left), made famous by Neville Chamberlain's arrival from his meeting with Hitler in Munich, in 1938 (see right), and later there was the the development of an 'airport' at Harlesden, later known as 'London Airport', and finally as 'Heathrow'. 
The development of the airport, and light industry in the area led to a building boom after the Great War, which gained momentum and reached a peak in the Thirties.
Far from being a time of depression for Hounslow, the 'Hungry Thirties' was a decade of expansion and relative affluence, from which Jane and John benefited.
Medieval Hounslow has been long gone, but now it was the turn of Regency Hounslow to disappear under a welter of low cost, speculative building. 
When Jane and John arrived in Hounslow in 1937 there were still large areas given over to agriculture, and when walking from Barrack Road, where they originally lived, to Heston, the footpath ran almost entirely through farm land.

The 'Jolly Farmer' (see left), a small pub' which exists to this day, is mute testimony to the relatively recent agricultural nature of that area. 
By the end of the Thirties, however, a sprawl of 'Mock Tudor Semis' had engulfed most of Hounslow, leaving only small areas of Victorian and Edwardian development in the area around the town centre. 
The house Jane and John first acquired was built in the Nineteen-twenties and was in the center of an area of Mock Tudor suburban sprawl. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The depression had had little effect on the areas close to London, and John Crawford had little difficulty finding work, being employed at the Headquarters of the Army Southern Command (see left). 
Later Jane and John moved into the center of Hounslow, living in Pears Road, in the Victorian part of Hounslow, where the Broadway and the High Street meet. 
For them, at the time, it was idyllic.
The war of course, had its effect on Hounslow, causing areas in the local parks to be dug up and used as air-raid shelters, but there was relatively little bomb damage - and, of course, John, (Pete's adoptive father) was not in England during the war, and Jane was either in Edinburgh, Newcastle or - surprisingly perhaps in York Street in London).
Now if you don't know Hounslow, don't go there now, thinking it will be an English version of 'Bedford Falls' (see above).
Hounslow Broadway - 1950s
Hounslow was unfortunate in being so close to Heathrow Airport, and from the nineteen sixties onward immigrants, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, got off their 'plane, and simply stayed where they had landed - in Hounslow, and the surrounding areas.
The town now has very few of the original residents, and really has few cultural connections with its past, or even with  England as it once was.

Inwood Park - 1950s Hounslow
It appears, from local newspaper files, to be a hotbed of crime and corruption, and is known to the local 'politically incorrect' English youth, (and maybe not so young), as 'monkey-town'.

Hounslow High Street - as it was
So - you can draw your own conclusions.....

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