There is clearly some need for a fairly general history of Southall. After I was appointed Reference Librarian in April 1961 – a post involving the supervision of the collection of printed, manuscript and illustrative matter relating to local affairs – many people asked me for a history of the town, but I was forced to be evasive and ask if they wanted information about one particular thing because, although much of the necessary source material was available, it had not so far been collated and arranged in a form suitable for any except the academic enquirer.
A fully comprehensive history would occupy a great deal of time and space; unfortunately I am not competent to undertake such a task even if I were to devote any amount of energy to it. The Local History Society, however, hopes some day to compile such a history and so far has published annual volumes of Transactions to act as groundwork for this scheme. All this present work can do is to provide a framework for the more detailed papers contained in the Transactions and try to be a small plug in a big gap until something more appropriate is provided .
My concern is with what has happened within the boundaries of the Borough of Southall as they were until 1965, but I have occasionally been obliged to trespass into Osterley or Hayes if circumstances have required it.
I owe a great debt to the late Mr. Geoffrey. M. Bark, at one time an officer of the Borough Council. He was an enthusiastic amateur of local history in the general sense and found that when he came to Southall about the end of the Second World War there was no comprehensive history of the district at all, and so he set about gathering materials to write one. With this ultimate intention he made copious notes, but before finishing his work he retired to Bewdley in Worcestershire where he was unable to continue so far away from his source material. He directed that after his death his notes were to be sent back to Southall: this was duly done and they are now at the Central Library.
His notes were written on shoddy war-time paper in a hand-writing which can most often be read though not always without difficulty. My first task has been to arrange them in some useful order and transcribe the the useful parts.
Mr. Bark’s methods were unimpeachable. He examined documents in the care of the Borough Council, Middlesex County Record Office, the Public Record Office, the British Museum and elsewhere. I had to check some of his information because his evidence conflicted with other sources that I have considered, but I always proved him the more accurate. A curious feature of his work is the amount of duplication: some of his texts have been copied out two or three times , and numbers of his notes are repeated in several different places. This may partly be due to successive drafts of a periodical article he was contemplating, but much of it is unaccountable. I should like to emphasise that much of what is valuable in this history – particularly with reference to factual matters before 1800 – derives from Mr. Bark’s researches . All I have done is to build upon his foundations.
I have made free use of the stock of the local collection at Southall Central Library. My warmest thanks go to Southall Local History Society for information taken from their printed Transactions, and also to the staff of Middlesex County Record Office for their help. Above all I wish to thank the Borough Librarian, Mr. H. V. Jordan, F.L.A., for his help and encouragement. Responsibility for any errors of fact and eccentricities of opinion I must, however, reserve to myself.