SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Early Victorian Southall

Although still not an independent parish in administrative matters, Norwood had considerably grown by the middle of the century. Since 1800 the population had doubled and was still increasing. Most of the new residents were living not in Norwood but in Southall and Northcote. For this reason Henry Dobbs, the owner of the vitriol factory at Norwood, decided to get permission to build a new church at Southall. It was begun in 1837 and consecrated the following year in the name of St. John. Although extensively repaired in 1891 it survives substantially the same on the corner of King Street and Western Road.  A separate sub-curacy was created in 1850.

By 1910 St. John’s church was already considered too small for its purpose, and a larger replacement was put up almost opposite in Church Avenue. This is the building whose green tiled roof now looms above the Manor House when one looks at it from the Green and spoils what would have been a fine sky-line.

By 1859 the population had grown so much that at last it was decided to separate it once and for all from the parish of Hayes. This was effected on 13th May. The civil parish was not established until 1864, the same year in which Norwood church was largely rebuilt. Thus a connection which had lasted over a thousand years was broken, and the parish of Norwood was legally responsible for its own affairs within the limits of the local government legislation then in force.

The manor had become of decreasing significance during the last two hundred years, but changes were still being made in the ownership. In 1829 Robert Willis Blencowe had bought the manors of Norwood and Southall from the Earl of Jersey. After his death in 1858 they were bought by Charles Mills who was already lord of the manor of Hillingdon and who was knighted in the same year. His son, Sir Charles Henry Mills, succeeded him in 1872 and was created 1st Baron Hillingdon in 1886. The Mills family were senior partners in the banking firm of Glyn, Mills & Co. which had previously merged with Child’s Bank, the institution which had founded the fortunes of the Child family of Osterley. Successive Lords Hillingdon retained the increasingly meaningless title of lords of the manor until the Law of Property Act (1922) extinguished manorial rights. The act became effective in 1926, and manor affairs were finally wound up in 1930.

Thomas Mills (presumably somehow related to the Hillingdons) compiled in 1874 a History of the Parish of Hayes to boost the church restoration fund. He illustrated it with a number of his own drawings, principally of the church, and gathered together various pieces of information about Hayes and its past. Some of what he found naturally concerns the precinct. This was, in fact, the first systematic attempt to write a history of Norwood since Lysons. It was a very unequal work, but Mills could never have intended that it should go so long unchallenged, for this was a period when local histories and guide books were beginning to be published in great numbers. Unfortunately no replacement ever materialised. There were plenty of guide books treating the whole county or just this part, and plenty of histories by other nearby parishes (Ealing, Acton, Perivale, Uxbridge and others) but there has not been a straightforward history of Hayes or Southall.