Dawley, Hillingdon

A little-used name for an industrial and commercial zone in Hayes, situated south of the Grand Union Canal

Hidden London: Nipper outside the former EMI factory

The manor was listed in Domesday Book as Dallega, a name that may have derived from Old English words meaning ‘woodland clearing at a hollow’ or ‘woodland clearing held in common’. 

The statesman and writer Henry St John, Viscount Boling­broke acquired the 17th-century Dawley House in 1725 and substan­tially rebuilt it; Dryden, Pope, Swift and Voltaire were among his visitors here.

In 1755 Henry, Earl of Uxbridge, added the manor to his extensive land­hold­ings in the district and built a mile-long wall around Dawley House to keep out smallpox, or rather unwanted visitors who might have been carrying it. A section of the wall has survived to the present day and is locally listed. It now forms part of the boundary of Stockley Park.

The long wall built to kep out smallpox (at least I think it's that wall)
Dawley Wall is almost all that remains of historic Dawley and has been restored since this photo was taken

Dawley House was demol­ished in 1776 and its once-beautiful gardens became brick­fields. The de Salis family acquired the estate and sold it off little by little over the following 160 years.

The Gramo­phone Company (later EMI) moved its head­quar­ters to Blyth Road in 1911 and opened a factory and recording studio here. It is said that the company bought all the chickens in the neigh­bour­hood to prevent their cackling being picked up by the recording apparatus.

Between the wars other manu­fac­turers colonised the whole area between the canal and the railway line. By the early 1960s, EMI owned 150 acres of land and employed 14,000 staff. The company progres­sively withdrew from Dawley, relo­cating its offices, closing the factory, spinning off its central research labo­ra­to­ries and selling the site to a Far Eastern fund in 1999.

A slow-moving regen­er­a­tion programme has finally picked up speed recently, having hitherto been constrained by the desig­na­tion of much of Dawley as a conser­va­tion area. In addition to a ‘unique media academy’ and several blocks of apart­ments, devel­op­ments have included the conver­sion of the former EMI factory to offices and the instal­la­tion of an 18-foot high statue of Nipper, the HMV dog.

Postcode area: Hayes UB3
Further reading: B T White, The History of Dawley (Middlesex), Hayes and Harlington Local History Society, 2001
See also: Harlington and Stockley Park