We have an interesting personal memoir giving us a glimpse of what Southall was like during the later 19th century. It is by Benjamin Hanson, a local building contractor who was responsible for vast numbers of houses put up at that time. He gave a series of public lectures at the Public Library in 1924 when he was about 80, and notes from the talks were later published as a series in the local newspaper. He was discursive rather than systematic, but much of his information is invaluable; it would be splendid if local residents of today would write down what they could remember – the longer the memory, the greater the value.
‘The first…development…on the Uxbridge Road’, says Hanson, ‘[was] the erection in 1856 of 21 cottages, two shops and the Old 3 Horse-shoes B[eer] H[ouse] on part of Northcote House abutting on Southall Green Lane, now South Road. In 1864-5 Featherstone Terrace consisting of 39 houses was erected, and Harewood Terrace, Norwood, 27 houses. Then houses were built in all directions…
‘The first factory built in the Parish was the Norwood Flour Mills in 1855, subsequently burnt down, Hydro-carbon Oil works in 1856, and others now existing, Steamfield Brickyard in 1860, Buildings on Spencer Street, Sussex Road, Queens Road, Hartington Road, Gladstone Road, etc. Hamborough Estate was opened up about 1876. About 1890 Adelaide Road was opened up. In 1865 the gas works opened. The first lighting of the principal roads was in 1866. In 1866 the first footpaths were made’.
The gas works of 1865 were at North Hyde, but soon after in 1868 a new plant was installed on the present site next to the railway. The most outstanding feature visible today is the vast gas-holder erected 1929-30. At present a continuous catalytic hydro-carbon reforming plant is nearing completion and should ultimately double the output of gas by using liquefied petroleum gas piped from Fawley on Southampton Water.
One or two items of interest in Southall are described in the London and Middlesex notebook for 1892. There is a brief article on Dormans Well:
‘the commercial value of the place now mainly consists in the watercress beds, which send supplies to the London market. The wanderer in search of the picturesque will do well to tramp along the lanes hereabouts, for here is the country, as yet quite untouched by suburban London, though it is but a few minutes’ walk of the spot where the Great Western Railway crosses the old coach-road which runs from London to Uxbridge’.