SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Werhard and the Bishops

The earliest surviving record mentioning any part of this area is the will of a priest named Werhard. It is dated 830, but in fact it must have been proved some years after this, because it mentions Archbishop Ceolnoth who was not consecrated until 833, and as late as 845 we still come across mention of Werhard in legal documents. By the time of his death he had become an abbot, but we do not know exactly when he did die.

Earlier, in 782, the Council of Clovesho had abolished the short-lived bishopric of Lichfield, and the Province of Canterbury was extended to include the Kingdom of Mercia. Soon after, King Offa of Mercia granted lands in Hayes and Yeading to the Archbishop of Canterbury8. Thus for these parts the church exercised greater control than the crown.

In his will Werhard returned substantial property to the Archbishop in fulfillment of a promise he had made to Archbishop Wulfred. Presumably the land had already been a part of the Archbishop’s gift from King Offa, and the will suggests that Werhard had it merely for use during his lifetime. The amount of land to be given back to the Archbishop includes 100 hides of land at Hayes, and a hide is generally reckoned to be 120 acres. The present area of Hayes and Southall combined does not exceed 8,000 arces, so this estate of 12,000 acres must have been enormous, and even allowing for the fact that it was sparsely populated and largely uncultivated, Werhard was surely immensely rich. One suspects, however, that the equation, though generally true, may be misleading in this instance. The Domesday Book mentions a much smaller area for the manor lands.

In 831 Wigalf, King of Mercia, gave some land at Botwell to Archbishop Wulfred9. The eastern boundary of this land was ‘the Archbishop’s land extending to Hayes’ – presumably the land held by Werhard.

When parishes were marked out about this time, Hayes was chosen to be the site of the church because it was nearer the thegn’s residence. The eastern part of the parish between Yeading Brook and the River Brent was made into a separate Precinct of Norwood, and a chapel-of-ease was built to serve the needs of the local population. As a distinct part of the parish of Hayes the Precinct lasted until the 19th century. The name precinct for this sort of division is unusual in England and derives from the use of the term in other contexts by the archbishops. Whereas the rest of Middlesex became part of the diocese of London, the archiepiscopal manors of Hayes and Harrow remained directly under the control of Canterbury until the 19th century.