SOUTHALL: A Brief History

The author of another book called Middlesex, A.R. Hope Moncrieff (1907), writes in a fly-blown style and has more fervour than accuracy:

‘Southolt [Southall], corrupted by the evil communication of the high-road has changed its name as well as its nature. I can remember Southall when it could still be called a pleasant country nook, half village, half distant suburb; but in one generation it has waxed to what is now, a somewhat commonplace overgrowth of London, which for a time was the tram terminus. It has a weekly cattle market as its most bucolic feature; and there are still some pleasant fields to be found on either side. And that is all to be said about Southall’.

Not all, I should have thought: there is nothing about the Manor House for one thing. Moncrieff is an example of a very common sort of writer: the laudator temporis acti, nostalgic for an unreal past, measuring the worth of the community according to the criterion of its rusticity, and unable to see any virtue in social planning.

The County Grammar School was opened in 1907 with 76 pupils. The Technical School has now been amalgamated with the Grammar School and a large new extention has been erected in Villiers Road to accommodate the new pupils.

Walter Jerrold, in Highways and byways of Middlesex (1909), is more generous than most other authors with illustrations:

‘This part of our country is flat and has no particular claims to beauty, for along the road to Uxbridge…the extention of the electric tramways has led inevitably to the lessening of the number of old-fashioned houses and vilas standing in its own grounds, the cutting up of residential estates into “building estates”, and the consequent building of villas and villa-like cottages in couples and long rows marked by an unedifying sameness’.

Jerrold was one of the few to notice Three Bridges.

In 1910 the new St John’s church was finished and consecrated, and the old church became a parish hall. In the same year the only book specifically devoted to the topography of Southall also appeared. This is Southall and its environs written and illustrated by Samuel G. Short. If there had ever been other books on the town we could afford to dismiss Short’s work, but as there has been no successor or predecessor it has recieved a disproportionate amount of attention. It must be admitted that there is also much that is inaccurate, dubious and idiosyncratic in the book that its true virtues are greatly obscured. He gives, for example some information not found anywhere else, and his sketches are very attractive – certainly better than Mills’ in his history of Hayes. On the other hand his style is unfortunate, and his choice of contents inappropriate.