Acton's history


The settlement at Acton is mentioned in Doomsday Book, and there are records of the church of St Mary's from the thirteenth century. But for much of its history it was a small settlement around the church, offering refreshment to travellers on the Oxford road. Most of its inhabitants worked the five common fields, farmed in strips, or on the large holdings. One of the common fields was know as the South Field and extended along the High Road from Acton Lane to a little east of Warple Way, stretching south to the north parts of Bedford Park. In 1859 the Enclosure Act made possible the release of blocks of land for house building to meet the demand created by the rapid expansion of London, aided by the growth of the suburban railways. Southfield Road was built across the field, and appears, unnamed, on the Ordnance Survey map of 1866. It also features in the 1871 Census, and was declared a highway in 1904.

crest.jpgActon became an Urban District Council in 1894, and a County Borough in 1921. In 1965 it became part of the London Borough of Ealing. Its first industries were the laundries which grew up in the latter part of the nineteenth century, based on the abundant water supplies and serving the hotels and big houses of the West End.

Heavy industry came in the early 1900's as companies expanded and relocated to the outskirts of London where there was space to develop, but with good transport links to raw materials, customers and for the work force. The two key areas were Acton Vale, and Park Royal. Acton was described in the 1920's as the "Motor Town" and reported by the Times in 1956 as having one of the two largest concentrations of industry south of Birmingham. In 1932 the motor industry employed 5,400 people, some 80% of the workers in the district.
The industrial areas of Acton Vale became available at the turn of the century, and comprised parts of the common fields which had initially been used for the making of bricks. The area was free of the building restrictions imposed inside the London County Council area, and therefore an attractive and economic site creating a cluster of large developments including Napiers (engines and vehicles), Wilkinson Sword (swords, razors, vehicles), CAV and Lucas (automobile components), Evershed and Vignoles - (electrical test equipment), Du Cros (Cars) and Eastmans (Dye).

This section is based on and quotes from the website of the Action History Group, which also has a good list of further reading. More details can be found in the online Victoria County History, in Volume 7 of the County of Middlesex section.