SCOTT BALCONY is co-owner of Balcony Shirts in Windsor Street, Uxbridge and online at www.balconyshirts.co.uk. He tweets as @balconyshirts and writes this exclusive blog for www.getwestlondon.co.uk
THE LOST UXBRIDGE TOWN TRAIL
The following is a transcription of a pamphlet that my dad found in his garage last year.
It was written by the local history section of Uxbridge library in 1977 and is a walk-through tour of Uxbridge – starting from the library.
A lot of the places are gone, but you can still work your way round, and it gives you an incredible insight into the rich history of Uxbridge.
You’ll be hard pushed to find a better way to spend an hour than doing this tour and reading the guide.
You’d better do it, because transcribing this from the 40 year old manuscript has taken me bleeding hours.
Go straight to number three and read it; you’ll get a flavour for quite how brilliant this thing is.
In 1977, the Uxbridge librarians said this of local street names: “At a time of financial stringency when they are not being replaced it is important to keep their names in memory”.
So here goes ....
Hillingdon Borough Libraries Uxbridge Town Trail – a walk round some older places with notes and a map.
Compiled by The Local History Section, 1977. Use these notes in conjunction with the map. Each note is numbered and keyed to the same number on the map.
The walk starts from the library in High Street, Uxbridge.
1. The Three Tuns. This is one of the oldest pubs/posting houses in Uxbridge (pre-1580). The covered archway to the right of the pub leads to the yard, where in the past horses were stabled. The Yards are a feature of Uxbridge High Street and were the houses of the poor up till the beginning of this (last!) century.
2. (a) Here is another yard originally attached to The New Inn which formerly occupied this corner behind the Market House, and dated from 1723. It will not be long before the archway disappears completely: most of it had already gone at the time of writing (May 1977.)
In the pavement in front of the New Inn building you can see the position of the cellar-flap, and further along a wooden cellar-flap still surviving: this on belonged to The Three Legs, or The Legs Of Man, a pub which stood on the corner of Windsor Street.
This corner of the town was used by the carriers’ carts from the surrounding villages to set down and pick up their passengers on their shopping visits to Uxbridge: in the middle of the road you will see the causeway which crosses it.
(b) Just to your right as you come out of The New Inn yard are the public conveniences – it took a long time for the Medical Officer of Health to get them built (1908 – 1913).
Notice the plaque on the wall, ‘U.U.D.C.’. This and the arms refer to the Uxbridge Urban District Council, which existed from 1895 to 1955. The name still appears on many older street name plates etc.
(c) Cross to the Market House – the large open building with pillars. It was built in 1789 to replace a smaller, market square house built in 1951. Uxbridge is an ancient market town, famous for corn. The market dates back to about 1180, when Gilbert Basset, Keeper of the Honour of Wallingford, granted to the townspeople of Uxbridge the right to hold a market every Thursday. (The original document is in the keeping of Uxbridge Library.) The room above the Market House was used by the first free school for boys in the town.
On the pavement outside is a metal mile-post indicating 15 miles to Hyde Park Corner (it says just ‘15’) and near it the remains of the town pump which supplied water for drinking, washing and cleaning.
Now go through the covered market place and turn left at the end past St Margaret’s Church.
(d) St Margaret’s Church is the oldest building in Uxbridge. It was built in 1248 as a chapel of ease to St John’s Hillingdon, and enlarged in c.1400. Turn left down Windsor Street, a pleasant medley of small shops, some very old. Notice The Queens Head, another old pub (1544) and the old lamp outside the police station (now The Fig Tree pub). Most of Windsor Street is listed as worthy of preservation.
Cross the road at the bottom of Windsor Street into the Old Burial Ground.
3. This is St Margaret’s Burial Ground (the graves have been moved and now stand lined up against the wall). Read the inscription over the gateway. To the right of the entrance is a monument to the ‘Uxbridge Martyrs’ , Protestants who were burned at the stake in this quarter of the town in 1555. They were not Uxbridge men, but were possibly burned here as a warning to the large non-conformist community which existed and still exists here.
Scott’s note: Can I just say, for the record, how proud that last sentence makes me feel?
Now look back from the Burial Ground towards Windsor Street – to the right of it and bounding the Burial Ground on that side there used to be a street of picturesque old buildings, some timber framed, called Cross Street, tragically demolished in 1969.
The name has been transferred to that part of the new dual carriageway.
Further to your right you can see the end of the red brick buildings constituting the new Civic Centre, which is slightly of the present route but is well worth closer inspection all-round, especially the High Street entrance. On the corner between Cross Street and Vine Street is a pub called The Printers Devil, previously known as The Railway Arms, from the days when it faced Vine Street Station, the Uxbridge terminus of the GWR line from West Drayton which was built in 1856 and closed down in 1964 as part of the Beeching re-organisation.
Leaving the Burial Ground by the main gate (the one with the inscription), turn left, walk down the main road and cross it by the bridge. Walk down New Windsor Street.
4. Notice the Masonic Hall on the right (once a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel). Walk down the alleyway to the almshouses. These were built in 1906. The earliest ones were on the corner of Windsor Street. Walk back to New Windsor Street.
5. You have just crossed Rockingham Bridge: you can see its date 1809, on the central arch.
There are two pubs in sight, The Old Rockingham Arms (1747) and The Prince Of Wales (c.1853). High up on the right of the Rockingham Arms facade, notice the grotesque Chinese-style head of a monster – the companion one on the left has disappeared. Across the river (the Frays) you can see the nameplate The Lynch (= ‘the slope’). This area used to extend much further towards Windsor Street. It looks attractive now, but was not always so – it was a poor quarter of town and the occupants suffered from outbreaks of typhoid and other diseases, their homes were rat-infested, and (probably as a result of this poverty) the area was thought to house pickpockets and thieves.
Now walk along the row of houses until you reach Union Villas, where a firemark of the Farmers’ Insurance Company is displayed on the wall. Firemarks date from the 18th century and indicated houses with fire insurance policies. Walk back along Rockingham Parade and in to Fassnidge Park.
6. Fassnidge Park. The Fassnidges have lived in Uxbridge since c.1780, and ran a successful building business throughout the 19th century. The land for their park was donated by Kate Fassnidge in 1926.
7. Fountains Mill. This is an old disused watermill for grinding corn and once belonged to a family called Fountain from which it takes it’s name. A mill existed on the site in 1530. This was rebuilt in 1796 after a fire and operated for about 150 years. It has also been known in its time as Town Mill, Mercer’s Mill and Frays Mill.
Continue along the main road, here called the Oxford Road, to:
8. The Crown And Treaty House. This is an Elizabethan Building. Notice the old bricks and tall chimneys. In 1645 there was an attempt to bring the civil war to an end, and Royalist and Parliamentary representatives met here to try to come to an agreement, (being quartered in lodgings on opposite sides of the High Street.) However, they failed, and no treaty was ever signed. Parliamentary troops were stationed in Uxbridge, where the non-conformist inhabitants would have supported their causeScott’s note: This is getting embarrassing, we’re just so cool we’re sticking it to the man at every turn.
9. The River Colne is the boundary between Middlesex and Buckinghamshire. Many watermills operated along its banks, grinding the corn that was sold in Uxbridge. It is known as the High Bridge (compare the bridge beyond the old Bell Punch Works which also divides the two counties – this is known as Longbridge.
Part of the name ‘Uxbridge’ (brycg) refers to a very early bridge over the Colne; the ‘Ux’ stems from the tribal name ‘Wixan’. Early forms of the name include Wixebrug, Woxbruge.
The High Bridge carries the inscription ’24 + 25 Vict. Cap 42’ and the arms of the City of London. This is a reference to a law (cap 42) passed in 1861, the 24th and 25th years of Queen Victoria’s reign. This was ‘The London Coal and Wines Duties continued’, which extended the area of collection of duties on inland coal and wines to coincide with the Metropolitan Police District which stretched as far as the borders of Middlesex at this point.
10. The Grand Union Canal (here originally called the Grand Junction) was started in 1793. The bridge has the inscription U+X 17B93 which must refer to the building of the bridge. Sometimes you can see old narrow boats here, beautifully painted and decorated; or their ‘butty’ (or companion) engineless boats. Large families were often brought up in the tiny cabins. There are few working boats these days.
The Swan and Bottle Pub is fairly old, c.1761. The name probably originates from two pubs, the ‘Swan’ and the ‘Leather Bottle’, amalgamating. It was a popular place for summer excursions, where refreshments could be served under the waterside trees.
11. Here you can see the remains of the GWR railway line to Denham which was opened in 1907 and closed in 1964 (Uxbridge High Street Station).
12. Notice the old shop of J P Knight and Son, agricultural machinists.
13. Look across the High Street to some 18th and 19th Century houses. The Old Bank House is a Grade II listed building. It was formally the premises of the Uxbridge Old Bank (founded 1791 – see the date above the present building on the corner of Belmont Road) until the amalgamation of the company with Barclay’s Bank in 1900.
14. You have been passing a number of yards on your left. This one is called “Beasley’ Yard” after Dr Beasley who ran a school for boys here when minister of the Old Meeting House, 1790-1824. The Old Meeting House (Congregational) is in this yard and dates from 1726. For the most part the nameplates to the Yards have disappeared, and at a time of financial stringency when they are not being replaced it is important to keep their names in memory.
15. This yard is called Johnson’s Yard after Joseph Johnson, a carrier who took goods into London from here.
Turn left up the very narrow entry on your left, just before Barclay’s Bank. This is called Bennett’s Yard after a fishmonger of that name who lived on the corner. The wall on your right is listed as 17th century or earlier. – Turn right into Belmont Road and cross.
16. (a) The original White Horse was another old posting-house with a frontage on the High Street and can be seen in that position on the North side roll of the ‘Uxbridge Panorama’, c,1800, in the possession of the Uxbridge Library. Uxbridge was the first stage out of London on the way to Oxford which accounts for the number of coaching inns with stable yards. Belmont Road is named after Belmont, a large house formally standing at the north of that road, demolished in 1931.
(b) The former Girl’s School of Industry is on the corner of Belmont Road and the bus station (Baker’s Road). Girls were taught reading, writing, and more particularly sewing, taking in orders from the townspeople for dressmaking and using the profits to buy materials etc. It had a long history, moving to this building in 1816. It later become the Belmont Road Infants School. High up on the wall can be seen a plaque reading “School Of Industry 1816”.
The little path leading past the old school is called “Friends Walk” because it leads to the old Quaker Meeting House. The Society of Friends has been meeting in Uxbridge since 1692 and the present Meeting House dates from 1817. It is built in characteristically simple style and a pleasant quiet garden is kept open for the people to sit and rest.
17. Uxbridge Station. The Metropolitan Railway came to Uxbridge in 1904, although this station was not built until 1938. Notice the stained glass window above the entrance (best seen from inside the station and particularly at sunset). They are by a local artist, Ervin Bossanyi of Eastcote. They depict the arms of the Middlesex County Council and of the Buckinghamshire County Council, and in the centre are the arms of the Basset family of Weldon in Northants, which were used by Uxbridge UDC as their coat of arms until 1948 when a new coat was granted. Turn left out of the station; you will pass two more yards, Nash’s and Attwell’s . Cross the road.
18. The striking three-gabled timbered building with its yard entrance is the former King’s Arms, a coaching inn and licensing court – the yard accommodated the stables. (Much local official business used to be transacted at inns, including auction sales.)
This is the end of this particular walk. If you want to know more about local history, Uxbridge Library (where this walk started) has quantities of old pictures, photographs, books and maps, which can be shown to you on request.
The Uxbridge Library History Section – May 1977.
That’s it. You live, and indeed, you learn.