Ancient History : Celts, Romans and Anglo-Saxons
The subsequent history of the Southall area is for many centuries after this not distinguishable from that of the rest of the Thames valley. We have no records hereabouts of the Celtic Bronze Age and Iron Age people: they preferred to live on open hilltops, so this area was probably deliberately avoided. There have been discoveries of Bronze Age relics in neighbouring districts, particularly at North Hyde, so we may assume that Southall was populated , even if only sparsely and intermittently.
Sir Montague Sharpe believed that the Romans crossed the Thames at Brentford when Julius Caesar invaded Britain4 . If this is true, and it is not universally accepted, then there must have been considerable disturbance in these parts for some time at least, but there is no surviving relic from this period just before the birth of Christ, nor even of the Roman occupation which lasted four or five centuries.
The main reason for this is to be found in the intensive settlement of the Saxons who succeeded them. They either absorbed or displaced their Romano-British predecesors and obliterated all traces of earlier occupation.
Saxons began to make raids on the coasts of Britain before 300 A.D., but they were not a serious menace to the Roman province until after 400. Then they began to arrive in vast numbers and threw back, killed or enslaved the Romanised Britons who were left defenceless in their towns and scattered unfortified villas. The legions that had formerly protected Britain had been recalled to protect Rome itself against other branches of the invading German nations.
After several exploratory raids the Angles, Jutes and Saxons began to settle. Bands of raiders may have passed through the Southall region from about 400, but it is unlikely that they would have begun to make permanent settlements before 500. They preferred to travel by water since they still had a strategic and tactical advantage in their ships, and the river valleys were often clear of the denser forest. The Thames was almost certainly one of the main routes into the interior of the country.
By degrees they spread away from the neighbourhood of the river banks and cleared the land for the plough. They used some of the timber they cut for their wooden farm-houses (or tuns) but cleared only sufficient forest for their most immediate needs. The rest they left for its valuable contents: acorns for their pigs, dead wood for fuel, fruits and leaves for human and animal food, and its wild life – the wild boar and many kinds of deer – was still abundant as long as the the forest itself lasted.
When the English and the Saxons first came to this part of the country most of the land was was still forest or rough heathland with thick undergrowth. The achievement of these newcomers was to clear and cultivate the land for the first time. This was the begining of Southall as a settled community.
Local place names vividly reflect this5 : like almost all others in this part of Middlesex they are of Saxon origin. Middlesex itself was the country of the Middle Saxons between the South Saxons (Sussex), the West Saxons (Wessex) and the East Saxons (Essex). The present county is only a small part of the country the Middle Saxons occupied – Surrey and that part of Buckinghamshire east of the Chilterns were also their territory. Southall meant the south corner of a stretch of land, whose corresponding north corner was probably Northolt: the parallel was clearer before about 1600 when the name was always given as a variant of Northall. Norwood was the north wood: this could have been the edge of another clearing containing Heston, the farmstead surrounded by brushwood hedges or hays – hence also Hayes, of course.