SPEND a few minutes in Southall Broadway and there can be no doubt that you are in one of the busiest and most vibrant parts of London.
The area is one of the most diverse in the city, but it wasn't always this way. Once upon a time, in keeping with the rest of the borough, Southall was once a quiet corner of suburban London.
The name Southall comes from the old Anglo-Saxon 'aet suo healum', which roughly translated means 'at the south corner of the land'.
The southern part of Southall (south of the railway) used to be known as Southall Green and was centred on the historic Tudor-styled Manor House, which dates all the way back to at least 1587.
Little of the building now is original but parts of it still date back to the days when Southall Green was a quiet rural village.
In 1891, Southall Norwood Local Government District was formed.
A few years later it would evolve into the Southall Norwood Urban District of Middlesex. Uxbridge Road, now the main gateway into the area from Ealing, was put to rather different use when its main function was part of the London to Oxford stagecoach route.
It remained the main route to Oxford for many years until the building of the Western Avenue highway to the north of Southall in the first half of the 20th century.
In 1877, a ceramics factory was set up by the Martin brothers in an old soap works next to the canal and until 1923 produced the brand of distinctive ceramics which is now known and collected as Martinware.
People got around in horse-drawn trams until the advent of electric trams and then eventually trolleybuses.
By 1960, however, the big red bus took over as the cheapest and most effective form of transport in the area.
Southall was also an important cog in west London's business infrastructure. The opening of the Grand Union Canal in 1796 triggered a commercial boom as the area
became a vital artery in the transport of goods around the country.
This boom would lead to the building of factories, flour mills and chemical plants which formed the
town's commercial base.
One of the most successful ventures in the area belonged to Quaker Oats, which built a factory in Southall in 1936.
Part of the operation was sold to Spiller's in 1994 and the remainder to Big Bear Group in 2006. The site is still going to this day and continues to produce popular cereals like Sugar Puffs.
Business has been a major contributing factor in Southall's ethnic diversity. In 1950, the first group of South Asians arrived in Southall, reputedly recruited to work in a factory owned by a former British Indian Army officer.
This population grew because of the closeness of expanding job opportunities at places like Heathrow Airport.
The area has also had significance in the field of health. On the border of Southall towards Ealing sat Hanwell Asylum, which at one point was the world's largest asylum for the mentally ill.
The site was eventually renamed St Bernard's Hospital and in the late 1970s was redeveloped with most of the area now taken up by Ealing Hospital. But St Bernard's still operates a large facility on part of the site under the banner of West London Mental Health Trust.
Southall was also the home of one of the first major film studios in the country, Southall Studios in Gladstone Road, which played a vital role in film-making from the early 30s until its closure in the late 1950s.
Numerous feature films were made at the site, many featuring famous, or later-to-be-famous actors, plus an early TV series, Colonel March of Scotland Yard.
Sadly, Southall is also no stranger to tragedy. A number of dark chapters have stained the area's history.
One of the most notorious was that of Blair Peach, a New Zealand-born teacher and member of the Anti-Nazi League who was beaten to death during the Southall Race Riots in April 1979.
No one has ever been charged over his death.
But the worst moment so far was without a doubt the Southall Rail Disaster on September 19, 1997.
Seven died and more than 130 were injured when a mainline high speed express train from Swansea to London ran a red signal, colliding with a goods train just outside Southall railway station.
But tragedy aside, Southall is today most famous for being one of London's most successful melting pots and looks set to stay that way for generations to come. ..SUPL: