Amateur historians have long been fascinated by the changing nature of our borough but few can have been as dedicated as writer Kate McEwan.

Her book Ealing Walkabout was published 25 years ago this week, when the Gazette spoke to the author at the end of three years of painstaking research.

Acton was the focus of the feature on December 8, 1983, when Kate spoke about her long walks around the area and the rich seams of history which had been revealed.

Before most of today's buildings were even blueprints, Acton was covered in oak trees. The town began life as a group of cottages clustered around St Mary's Church which were severely battered by the bitter fighting of the Civil War.

But by 1700 Acton had developed, surprisingly, into a fashionable spa resort where rich people came to take the waters - a status which it clung on to for nearly 100 years until 1790.

Its fortunes changed somewhat in the Victorian era, when much of the landscape became covered in slums inhabited by factory workers and laundresses.

The author said: "I found it quite sad because Acton was far more of a Queen of the Suburbs in her day than Ealing. She became a very grand place before Ealing did, because Acton was that bit closer to London. But most of it has now gone."

While much of Acton's past is now buried underneath today's urban sprawl, many of the street names which seemed so evocative in 1983 still remain.

Perryn Road was named after the goldsmith John Perryn, whose vast estate was handed over upon his death to the Goldsmiths' Company.

In the 19th Century part of the estate was handed over to the Acton Board - a forerunner to the council - which created Acton Park and used much of the land for housing in the form of the Goldsmiths Estate.

Berrymead is another name which reverberates through the centuries. Once owned by the Earl of Halifax, the house was used for religious purposes in the 19th Century by the Nuns of the Sacred Heart.

By 1882 the estate, which covered the High Street, Acton Lane, Avenue Road and Oldham Terrace, was broken up and the council bought much of it to create the magistrates' court and the swimming baths now facing an uncertain closure.

Derwentwater Road was named after another of the town's illustrious residents, the Countess of Derwentwater, who lived in Acton House on the corner of Churchfield Road while attending the trial of her husband, James Radcliffe, who was beheaded for his part in the Jacobean uprising of 1715.

A century later Derwentwater House was built in the grounds of Acton House.

Horn Lane was named in the 18th Century after hundreds of deer horns were supposedly found buried in the area, while the Steyne was, according to 16th century records, a small piece of arable land.

Acton began to grow into a large industrial town after the 1859 enclo-sure acts, when the four remaining medieval open spaces of Church Field, East Field, Turnham Field and South Field were sold.

Rows of terraced houses began to spring up around the Mill Hill area and laundries started to be set up. Eventually 160 laundries dotted around South Acton gave the area the nickname Soap Suds Island.

Their growth helped the population rocket from 3,000 in 1859 to 20,000 just 20 years later.

The railways too meant Acton grew into a large commercial area, and by 1901 the population had reached 37,000.

Increasing numbers of factories meant the rich moved out, and Acton became a world for workers.