Acton

Acton, Ealing

A sprawling suburb situated between Ealing and Chiswick, now almost wholly residential but formerly of major industrial significance


Goldsmiths Buildings – detail of the portico with the Goldsmiths Company coat of arms
Goldsmiths Buildings – detail of the portico with the Goldsmiths’ Company coat of arms*

This page is intended to provide a brief intro­duction to Acton, with in-text links to more detailed pages on each of its quarters.

First recorded in 1181, Acton’s name trans­lates roughly as ‘oak farm’. Acton is one of the few places in London with evidence of Stone Age worship. A Bronze Age cemetery has also been located and relics have been found indic­ating two phases of Roman activity.

The area surrounding the village of Acton remained arable farmland until the latter half of the 19th century, when the ‘new model suburb’ of Bedford Park was created to the south-east. East Acton owes its early devel­opment to the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, whose almshouses (shown in the photo­graph on the right), have recently been renamed the Goldsmiths Buildings and marketed on a commercial basis. Elsewhere, suburb­an­isation was well advanced by the outbreak of the First World War.

South Acton was (and to some degree still is) the poorest and most overcrowded part of the district. It was once famous for its laundries and gained the nickname ‘Soapsuds Island’.

Between the wars, Acton became a ‘suburb of production’, primarily in the vicinity of North Acton and Park Royal. In the 1930s this was Britain’s largest indus­trial area south of Coventry.

The incon­sistent evolution of Acton’s land use has resulted in a variety of housing styles, from Victorian villas, through cottage estates to council tower blocks. The roads nearest Chiswick and Ealing (that is, in the south-east and west) are considered partic­u­larly desirable and West Acton is especially popular with the Japanese community because of the Japanese school there. Many of the larger properties have been subdivided into flats, often rented by young profes­sionals.

In 1959 Acton county grammar school pupils Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Pete Townsend formed the Detours, later to become The Who.

Adam Faith, the pop superstar turned actor, grew up on a council estate in Acton Vale.

Postal district: W3
Population: 49,006 (Acton Central, East Acton and South Acton wards, 2011 census)
Stations: First Great Western (Acton Main Line, zone 3); London Overground (Acton Central, zone 3)
Further reading: Jonathan Oates, Acton: A History, Phillimore, 2003
In addition, Averil and Thomas Harper Smith wrote and published a series of books covering even the most recondite aspects of Acton’s history
Website: Acton History Group
* The picture of the Goldsmiths Buildings portico on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Alan Murray-Rust, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.