SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Late Victorian Southall

In 1833 one of the town’s finest houses was destroyed. For some time Southall Park had been used by Dr. Robert Boyd as a private lunatic asylum. Early in the morning of Tuesday. 4th August, the house caught fire, and despite the efforts of neighbours and local fire brigades it was more or less completely gutted. Dr. Boyd, his son, two patients and two servants died in the disaster. It looks as if there were insufficient supplies of water to extinguish the flames before takners from Hanwell arrived. The summer had been very dry and the house contained much panelling and timber framing so that the flames spread very quickly.

We can get a certain amount of information on what Southall was like at the time from the files of The Southall News, a half-penny weekly in four or six pages appearing between 1885 and 1888. Its editor and publisher was C.N. Abbot who also seems to have written most of the articles. It was quite a lively journal since Abbot spent most of his time in friction with members of the Parish Vestry and its committees, and he did not hesitate to use his columns to air his own point of view but rigorously excluded that of his antagonists.

There was a good deal of argument for and against the setting up of a local board to be responsible for some areas of local government which had hitherto been supervised by several bodies  Рthe Parish, the new (1888) Middlesex County Council, the Uxbridge Union of Guardians and the Uxbridge Rural Sanitary Authority set up in 1875. Abbot was not satisfied that local boards in neighbouring areas were competent, but although his voice was clearly enough heard by those who cared to pay their half-penny, it was quietly ignored: he was not elected to the Parish Vestry, and his warnings were disregarded. The drainage scheme he attacked was carried through, and in January 1891 the Norwood Local Board was established. Its name changed on 25th March to the Southall РNorwood Local Government District.

For some time past there had been a division in function between civil and ecclesiastical parishes. Since the extinction of tithes and other privilages the church had less concern with civil administration., even though both kinds of parish tended to remain coextensive. The creation of St John’s ecclesiastical parish had not affected civil matters: the Parish of Norwood still concerned itself with highways, drainage and various other matters for the whole area. These powers were now transferred to the Local Government District together with a few new functions. Under the terms of the Local Government Act of 1894 these powers were even further increased, and the Urban District of Southall – Norwood was created. This change took place on 30th September when North Hyde, until then part of the Parish of Heston, was added. The present boundary between Southall and Heston was not established until 1934. Meanwhile the old Vestry continued in a greatly reduced capacity until, shorn of all its powers and deprived of all public interest, it was finally wound up in 1932.

Already Southall Green and Northcote were fast losing their rural character. The growth of population had again demanded the provision of a new church: Holy Trinity in Northcote was built in 1890 to satisfy the need and replace a corrugated iron shed (which was moved to Acton and sold to a firm who still use it, though not as a church).

Anglican churches were not the only ones to be provided. Methodism, for example, was already  established fairly early in the century and a chapel was built in 1859 which, after many alterations, was finally demolished in 1962 to make room for the bank at the corner of South Road and Cambridge Road. Sir William and Lady Ellis were prominent among the early Methodists. Since then all the principal dissenting churches have erected their own chapels in Southall. Non-conformity is particularly strong in the town.

At the side of the railway a vast new factory was opened in 189328. The buildings of Otto Monsted’s margarine factory are still standing today but occupied by several different firms. New railway sidings and a new branch to the canal were constructed to bring the ingredients to this huge factory and take out the finished product. Shortly after the opening hundreds of local people were working there, and even more came in from surrounding districts. The factory workers’ recreation hall is now used as a Community Centre, and the name of the road leading to it has been changed from Margarine Road to Bridge Road.