History of the site


The land had previously been part of the Cowper-Essex estate, also known as the Oldfield lands, and had originally been agricultural land. But in 1880 the estate leased the area south of the railway and north of Southfield Road to a Mr Doubleday, for use as a brickfield. Almost the whole of the southern half of Acton lies on brickearth, a type of clay particularly suited to brickmaking. It contains a sticky substance called aluminaas well as minerals such as iron oxide, and can be found in depths of four to nine feet. Other key elements were also close at hand - sand, chalk, water, dust and ashes (from household waste), and coal, brought by the railway, which was also used for transporting the bricks. In 1884 John Cooper joined Doubleday as proprietor of the Bedford Brickworks. They held a fourteen-year lease on 18 acres, paying rent and royalties to the Cowper-Essex estate, and advertised their wares weekly in the Acton Gazette during 1885-86, by which time Cooper was seems to have been the sole proprietor. They produced London stock bricks, but it is impossible to know where they were used. The bricks would have been stamped on the frogs, but to see this would mean demolishing the buildings. Brick making seems to have ceased around 1894 when the lease ran out, but it is possble that the clay was worked out. It is likely that the holes left by its excavation were filled with waste, as was customary in other Acton brickworks. Most brickmaking leases specified that when the alnd was finished with it should be left in a state ready for cultivation or building. (For more information see Harper-Smith, A. and T, The brickfields of Acton, published by the Acton History Group in 1991, from which this information is taken.)

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Building on the site was the logical next step, and the Cowper-Essex estate let a series of leases on the land for individual plots to the builder, Joseph Hall. The lessor is named as Thomas Cowper-Essex, Grove House, Seymour Place, Fulham Road in the County of London (a Major in the Third (Militia) Battalion of Her Majesty's North Lancashire Regiment). The lease is for a term of ninety-nine years in return for "the clear yearly rent of Five pounds five shillings by two equal half-yearly payments on the Twenty-fifth day of March and the Twenty-ninth day of September without any deduction (except for property tax)". The Lessee (Hall) "will pay the land tax (if any) and all imperial and local taxes rates charges assessments duties and impositions of every description". The Lessee also promises to maintain the "messuages buildings and pathway with all fences fixtures drains and sewers belonging thereto in a thoroughly substantial and sufficient state of repair". A messuage is "a dwelling house with its outbuildings and adjacent land". At the end of the lease the property is to be returned to the lessor in a "a thorough and substantial state of repair" and including any improvements and additions. And the maintenance is spelt out in detail - the outside wood and ironwork is to be painted every three years "with two coats of good oil colour paint in a proper and workmanlike manner" and the inside is to be painted varnished and papered every seven years. The Lessor can enter the premised at least twice a year to ensure that this is being done, and if things are not to their satisfaction can demand that it be remedied within three months.

The Lessee is also responsible for paying at least part of the costs of maintaining the roads and footpaths and drains and sewers until they are taken over by the District Council, and for insuring the property for the sum of at least £225 at an approved insurance company. The property can only be sublet with the Lessor's agreement and the payment of the appropriate fees. No part of it can be used for a shop, workshop, warehouse or factory, or for any other trade or business whatsoever, and no "operative machinery" can be fixed or erected on the land. "And the Lessee hereby convenants in particular that he will not carry on or permit to be carried on upon any part of the premises hereby demised the trade of an Innkeeper victualler or retailer of wines and spirits or beer or any noisy noxious or offensive trade or business. And will also not fix or place or use or permit to fixed placed or used upon the premises hereby demised any operative machinery or any hut shed caravan house on wheels o chattel adapted or intended for use as a dwelling or sleeping apartment or for the sale of goods or allow the same to remain thereon." If this last part is breached the Lessor has the right to make forcible entry, by breaking down fences if needed, to remove the offending objects.