Victorian London - Districts - Areas - Acton

[ ...  back to main menu for this book]

Acton (Middlesex).A suburb on the west side, about five miles past the Marble Arch down Uxbridge-rd. It is prettily placed, but with no very special features, und is being rapidly built over; there being now a continuous line of houses along either side of the road for almost the entire distance. From Paddington or Kensington, G.W.R.(13min.), 1st, -/9, 1/3; 2nd, -/7, 1/-; 3rd, -/5. From Victoria and Broad - street, 1st, 1/-, 1/6; and, -/10, ; 3rd, -/7, -/10.   

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

ALL the characteristics of country life as contrasted with town existed in Acton forty years ago. The occupations, habits, associations and ideas were rural, pastoral, and primitive. ... Wealthy people had good country seats there, as they might now fifty miles and more away; and a pair of village blacksmiths, a wheelwright, a baker, and a country shop sufficed to represent English commerce and manufactures. From the lofty pinnacles of observation which townspeople suppose themselves to occupy, these places were voted dull. It was all very well if you could have a mansion, with big gates hung on stone pillars twenty feet high, shutting the inmates in to library, lawn, and walks well kept; but a place of dread to the poor creature who, with two to five hundred pounds a year, sought a rest and a home. ... Arcadian as in Norfolk, it had no sympathy with town, and cared nothing for it except in that by no intermediate cost all their income came from thence. The parish boundaries remain, the only relic of past time; and that of Acton is as follows:
    From Willesden Junction Station it passes along Old Oak Common-lane as far as the bridge over the Grand Junction Canal, and thence over Old Oak Common, crossing the Great Western Railway there to another Old Oak Common-lane and East Acton, leaving Wormwood Scrubs and Shepherd's Bush to the east. The exact boundary is the little stream that flows from Old Oak Common to Acton Vale, and thence by the stream again to Acton Green and Chiswick Parish, the London and Hounslow road, past the old Turnham Green turnpike, a few yards beyond the John Bull public-house; enclosing a slip of roadside land, it returns to Bollobridge-lane, which it traverses north-west, crossing the road from Brentford to Acton village as far as West Lodge on the Hanwell and London road, passing due north, nearly parallel with Green-lane, leaving Ealing to the west; it then crosses the Great Western Railway, and traverses Mason's Green-lane as far as the boundary of Twyford parish, whence it turns north-east across the fields to Willesden Junction. That completes the circle.
    The Acton Station on the North- and South-Western Railway separates East Acton from Acton. East Acton is sparsely populated. The Grange (A.J.Arrowsmith, Esq.), the Manor House (Charles Walton, Esq.), Hindley House, the Hawthorns, Elm House, the Chestnuts, with villas; a paper company's works with residence, a People's Garden - make up the noticeable parts of the hamlet, which at the common is connected with Friar's Place, the Friars (J.B.Bounin, Esq.), and a few farms.
    In old times East Acton had mineral springs of great repute, and if the fashion should change, perhaps they might yet hold their own against what are called watering-places, for the water now supplied at the King's Arms is famous all the country round. And the old inn itself deserves notice. The Assembly Room at Wells House had, in ancient days, the patronage of the fashionable world, and the residences thereabout were occupied by temporary visitors of all ranks during the summer months. The only relic now is Wells Farm.
    Very near to the Acton Station is the estate of the Goldsmiths' Company of London, on which are their almshouses. That company has given the site of a new church - a red-brick building in harmony with the favourite architecture of its locality. This church will not only be a great accommodation to the public, but materially aid the development of the neighbourhood, as a suburb of London for residents whose engagements are in town.
    The neighbourhood of the railway station has all the enterprising activity of a town. Its main road is called Churchfield-road, and the shops are specially well arranged, and contain good valuable stocks. Out of it runs Milton-road that leads to Shakespeare-road; these are new and the rentals very moderate. The Congregationalists have recently completed a spacious church in Churchfield-road, which connects the station and the modern town with a favoured part of Acton, known as Horn Lane, where are Acton House (Colonel Ross), Derwentwater House (Avingdon, Esq.), Springfield House (C.E.Steward, Esq.), Beaumont Lodge (Mrs. Chester), Birkbeck Avenue, several good villas, and smaller houses and branching roads. Opposite to Acton House are the rectory and parochial buildings, schools and almshouses. To the south are Grove-road, Grove House (Edward Clarke, Esq.); and thence is the beginning of High-street, Acton, on the Uxbridge-road.
    On the northern side from the entrance to Grove House, are several houses with long front gardens; then Church-road, leading to St. Mary's (the rectory) Church, which is worth to its possessor 1000l. a year. It is now held by the Rev. C.M.Harvey, son the venerable Canon Harvey, so many years identified with Hornsey and Highgate.
    The famous old church disappeared about 1864, and a new red-brick building rose upon its site, to which there has recently been added a tower, which imparts competency to the architecture by its solid character. ...
    From Church-road is old commercial Acton, which ends at the George and Dragon, Acton Hill, where, nearly opposite to each other, are the Baptist and Wesleyan chapels. Hill House, the Elms (C.O.Ledward, Esq.), and then the Fishponds, opposite to which are East Lodge (G.S. Hinchliffe, Esq.), and West Lodge (W. Roebuck, Esq.), then Ealing parish begins.
    The area between the Uxbridge-road and the road to Staines encloses the choicest part of modern Acton. What is sometimes described in old books as Town Acton is what we name Acton. East Acton formerly was the most distinguished, and it is as good as ever; but railways have developed the south part of the old village into a independent district. Mill Hill-grove, Avenue-road, Park-road, north, east and south, with Enfield, Osborne, Strafford, and other national terms defining residential property into roads, have so increased Acton, that East Acton is eclipsed.
    The North- and South-Western Railway divides this part of the parish, and South Acton (Acton Green) is the consequence. Here are Cumberland Villa, Fairlawn Villa, and several first-class mansions, having grounds that unite Ealing with Acton.

The Suburban Homes of London, 1881