SOUTHALL: A Brief History

The first World War and its aftermath

In Southall as elsewhere the War made many changes. During the fighting local industries turned to the production of munitions and armaments, as they were again to do in 1939. The recreation hall of the margarine factory was converted into a military hospital. After the war things were slow to settle down: work was hard to get and not very well paid. The tremendous upheaval had upset many people and their opinions.

The population in 1921 was not much more than it had been in 1911, but in the course of the next few years it enormously increased. New industries were introduced, and all the time new streets were pushing the outer limits of the built-up area away from the centre of the town – this time towards the north and east. Waxlow Farm disappeared; the strip of land between the Uxbridge Road and the railway, formerly part of the golf-course, was now built over; all over the Urban District roads were being paved and widened, stret lighting improved, bridges widened and strengthened. On the other hand old landmarks were disappearing: B.G. Hanson’s recollections indicate to what extent.

One very important building to disappear during this period has a rather curious history. In 1858 a large school was opened in South Road for the education of the poor children of the Parish of Marylebone. At times there were as many as 500 children there, who have to be taken into account when considering census figures for they represented nearly 10% of the total population at the 1871 cencus. During the war the building was taken over and used as an Australian military hospital. Afterwards it was sold and became a school for Roman Catholic girls under the name of St Joseph’s School. The intention was perhaps to provide a counterpart to the vast St Mary’s boys’ orphanage at North Hyde. St Joseph’s survived only a few years, however, and it was offered for sale in 1931. Possibly owing to rumours that the structure was unsound (this was later disproved) the building was demolished. Most of the site was built over – St Joseph’s Drive occupies most of it – and a small part was acquired by the council who intended to erect a new Town Hall and Civic Centre there. Work had barely begun on the new building when the second World War intervened and work ceased. Since the war progress has been dilatory, and now it is extremely unlikely that it will ever be finished. All we have at present is a temporary, single storied building housing the council’s Information Bureau, a basement housing the headquarters of the Civil Defence, a car park and a piece of waste ground.