SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Southall during the 18th century

The appearance and everyday life of the precinct changed only very slowly. To most of the inhabitants what few changes there were must have been imperceptible or hardly momentous. The affairs of the bigger landowners were certainly important to them, but we are left with very little record.

In 1714 the Turnpike Trust assumed control of the Uxbridge Road. At Hanwell, Hayes and other remoter points on the road toll-gates were set up where small amounts of money were collected from road users. These receipts should have been devoted to the repair and maintenance of the highway, but they were not always well applied. About 1740, admittedly a long time after the road had been taken over, a plan of the road was made by Thomas Lediard in connection of the Turnpike Acts. On it he shows towns, villages and hamlets and their distances from London, and he also shows salient features visible as landmarks from the road.

In 1730 John Awsiter became lord of the manor. We do not know his relationship to his predecessor, Robert, or indeed very much about him at all, except that he was the last Awsiter to fill the position, for in 1756 he sold the memorial rights to Agatha Child, the widow of the banker Francis Child of Osterley Park. The actual Manor House was retained by the Awsiters.

At the time John Awsiter assumed the dignity of lord of the manor in 1730 we find that his steward was a man named Joseph Biscoe. Twenty years later this man’s son Elisha, succeeded him in this position (still during his father’s lifetime, however, for Joseph survived until 1769 and died aged 82). Elisha Biscoe is chiefly notable for the school22 he founded at Norwood in 1767. He left a substantial investment to provide for the continuation of the school and designated a board of trustees (mostly dissenters) to see to its proper government. The pupils were to be local poor children. With only a few modifications this school survived until 1950, a remarkable memorial to Biscoe’s philanthropy.

The Merrick family meanwhile continued to live at Southall Park. John Merrick died in 1749 and, since he had no sons, his heir was his grandson Francis Ascough, then aged about 27. Ascough’s wife Anne, died in 1763 leaving an infant son whom his father christened George Merrick Ascough after his own mother’s family. Later he bought the manor of Hayes (1771) but continued to live at South Hall [Southall], as his monument in Norwood Church calls it. At the time of his death in 1788 his son was still only 25. The memorial to his son, also in Norwood Church, shows that he died only eleven years later. His house is called Southall Park.

During the middle years of the century the great French cartographer Jean Rocque was drawing his great series of maps of London and the home counties. There are two or three editions of his huge map of Middlesex all of which repay close study.17

At Osterley the lords of the manors of Southall and Norwood were also changing. Upon the death of his mother, Agatha, in 1759 her son, Francis assumed the title. This was the man who had the perspicacity to employ the eminent architect Robert Adam to re-model much of Osterley, but received little personal reward for his expenses as he died in 1763 when not yet 30. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Robert, but he too died comparatively young (aged 43) in 1782 shortly after his daughter had disgraced herself by eloping with Lord Westmoreland. Robert’s widow, Sarah, then entered into the manorial rights, for his will stipulated that Osterley and other properties of his should not go to the Earls of Westmoreland but to a younger son of his errant daughter, or, if she were to have only one son (who would, of course, succeed to the peerage) then to a daughter. Thus after the deaths of her grandmother and her mother – both died in 1793 – the estates and other rights decended to Sarah Sophia Child Fane. In 1804 she married Lord George Villiers who the next year became the 5th Earl of Jersey. Osterley Park remained in the posession of the Jerseys until the time of the present Earl.