Petts Hill Primary School

Petts Hill
Primary School

The History of Northolt

Northolt was called Northala when it was first mentioned in 1086 in the Domesday Book. The name Northolt was first used at the end of the sixteenth century.

It is called Northolt to distinguish it from Southolt (as Southall used to be known).

There was a settlement here in Saxon times. After the Norman Conquest it was given to Geoffrey d e Mandeville, one of William's followers. There were fifteen hides of land, a priest, seventeen villagers, three cottagers and six slaves living here. There was pasture for cattle and wood for pigs.

There must have been a church here in 1086 as a priest is listed in Domesday, but the present church dates from the fourteenth century, though parts date from the thirteenth century. This was the only church in Northolt until 1940 when work begun on St. Barnabas' church. The most famous clergyman in Northolt was the Welsh poet, Owen Goronway, who was curate from 1755 to 1758.

In the Middle Ages, arable farming was dominant in Northolt, though there was also some woodland and meadow as well. Wheat, oats, beans and peas were the main crops. There were almost 800 sheep grazing in Northolt in 1388. This pattern of farming lasted until about 1700.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, some land in Northolt was enclosed and grass was grown to be sold as hay in London. Yet, even in 1801, wheat, beans and peas were still being grown. By 1876, though, most of these crops had disappeared and the land was almost all cultivated to produce hay. Women and children, and labourers from Ireland and Oxford helped in the haymaking. Farming continued in Northolt for longer than elsewhere in the locality, but by 1963, very little remained, and by the 1990s it was extinct.

Population growth was slow. This may have been because of the poor state of the roads and poor water supply. There was no spring water until a well was sunk in 1791. Piped water first appeared in 1898 but was not very good quality until the 1920s. In 1801, 336 people lived in Northolt and in 1871 there were only 479. It was only in the 1920s and 1930s that population increased quickly. In 1921 there were still only 904 residents; the number tripled in the next ten years and by 1961 it was almost 26,000.

The reason for this increase in building was that Northolt became a dormitory town of Ealing and London. This was partly encouraged by the building of the Western Avenue which ran through part of Northolt in 1934, and two trunk roads also cut through the parish. Most of the building in the 1920s and 1930s was by speculative builders. Older houses and now redundant farm buildings were being pulled down to make way for new homes.

A famous feature of Northolt was racing. Pony racing began here in 1929. Sir William Bass and Viscount Lascelles were responsible for founding the one and a half mile race course. The track was extended in 1936. It was used as an army depot and as a prisoner of war camp during World War Two. After the war, it was demolished and a housing estate was built on its site between 1951-1955. In total, 3,423 council houses were built in Northolt. The Village Green remains, however, and reminds residents that Northolt was once a pretty village.