Acton, Ealing

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

Hidden London: Acton town hall CGI

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 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.

New homes are being cre­at­ed in Acton wher­ev­er oppor­tu­ni­ties per­mit, from the trans­for­ma­tion of the post-war South Acton estate into Acton Gar­dens through the cre­ation of a ‘stu­dent vil­lage’ in North Acton to the con­ver­sion of the old town hall into an apart­ment block, as shown in the developer’s CGI at the top of the page.

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