Since the inhabitants were chiefly engaged in agriculture John Norden’s description of Middlesex in Speculum Britanniae (1593) could have been written 350 years earlier or latyer for all the change there was.
‘Middlesex is a small Shire…yet for the fertilitie thereof, it may compare with any other shire: for the soyle is excellent, fat and fertile and full of profite: it yeeldeth corne and graine, not onelie in aboundance, but most excellente good wheat, especiallie about Heston, which place may be called Granarium triciti regalis. for the singularitie of the corne. The vaine of this especiall corne seemeth to extend from Heston to Harrow on the hill, betweene which as in the mid way, is Perivale…
In which vale is also Northold, Southold, Norcote, Greenford, Hayes &c…towardes the time of Harvest, a man may beholde the fields round about, so sweetely to address themselves to the sicle, and sith, with such comfortable aboundaunce, of all kinds of graine, that the husbandmanwhich waiteth for the fruits of his labours, cannot but clap his hands, for joy, to see this vale, so to laugh and sing.
‘Yet doth not this so fruiteful soyle yeeld comfort, to the way-fairing man in the wintertime, by reason of the claiesh nature of the soyle; which after it hath tasted the Autumne showers, waxeth both dyrtie and deepe: but unto the countrie swaine it is as a sweete and pleasant garden, in regard of his hope of future profite, for:
The deepe and dirtie lothsome soyle,
Yeelds golden gaine, to painful toyle.
The industrious and paineful husbandsman will refuse a pallace, to droyle in these golden puddles’.
However, there was another side to these husbandsmen:
‘it seemeth only covet to maintaine their auncient course of life, and observe the husbandrie of their fathers, without adding anything to their greater profite…
Things are more confounded by ignorance, and evill husbandrie in this Shire, than in any other Shire that I know’.