Hanwell, Ealing

A likeable west London suburb, connected with Ealing to its east via the Uxbridge Road

The Viaduct - Jim Linwood

Han­well’s name prob­a­bly refers to a stream (weille) fre­quent­ed by cocks (hana). Fifth- and sixth-cen­tu­ry Sax­on graves have been dis­cov­ered where Oak­lands school now stands. By the time of Domes­day Book, Han­well belonged to West­min­ster Abbey.

St Mary’s church was in exis­tence by the twelfth cen­tu­ry but has since been rebuilt three times. Buried in the crypt of the church is the mer­chant and trav­el writer Jonas Han­way, who intro­duced the umbrel­la to Eng­land in the 1750s.

The last of the open land in Han­well was enclosed in 1816 and sev­er­al ter­races of hous­es appeared dur­ing the fol­low­ing decade. Han­well Lunatic Asy­lum (lat­er St Bernard’s Hos­pi­tal) opened on the Southall bor­der in 1831 and, after ear­ly dif­fi­cul­ties, sub­se­quent­ly gained a rep­u­ta­tion for the humane treat­ment of its patients.

In 1836 Isam­bard King­dom Brunel built the Wharn­cliffe viaduct for the Great West­ern Rail­way and Han­well sta­tion opened two years lat­er. An oft-repeat­ed sto­ry has it that Queen Vic­to­ria used to halt the roy­al train on the viaduct so that she could admire the view towards St Mary’s.

Shown in the pho­to­graph at the top,* the Coach and Hors­es inn changed its name to the Viaduct after the com­ing of the rail­way. The build­ing is almost impos­si­ble to date now, because it’s been altered so much on so many sep­a­rate occa­sions, but its ori­gins may be ear­ly Geor­gian while its tiled frontage is Edwar­dian.

Only a few more homes were built fol­low­ing the cre­ation of this ear­ly link to Lon­don and the main increase in Hanwell’s pop­u­la­tion derived from the con­struc­tion in 1856 of the Cen­tral Lon­don dis­trict school, near present-day Cas­tle Bar Park sta­tion.

Hanwell’s two ceme­ter­ies, flank­ing Uxbridge Road, were estab­lished in the 1850s, for the bur­ial of Lon­don­ers from Kens­ing­ton and West­min­ster.

In the 1870s the viaduct was widened, the sta­tion was rebuilt and a full com­muter ser­vice was laid on for the first time in response to grow­ing demand. Han­well became an urban dis­trict in 1895 and began to expand rapid­ly with the arrival of elec­tric trams in 1901 but the dis­trict was absorbed by Eal­ing in 1926.

Hanwell Community Centre, copyright J Taylor, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence
Han­well com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre*

In the 1930s the Lon­don Coun­ty Coun­cil built the Cuck­oo estate on the site of the Cen­tral Lon­don dis­trict school, but the school’s impos­ing main build­ing sur­vives as Han­well com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre (shown in the pho­to­graph on the right*).

Ter­raced and semi-detached hous­es and oth­er coun­cil flats filled most of the remain­ing land – and replaced ear­li­er hous­es – in the years between the wars, although gen­er­ous open spaces have been pre­served in the Brent val­ley.

Con­tem­po­rary Han­well has a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of youngish pro­fes­sion­als, espe­cial­ly in the south­ern part, and a vari­ety of bars and restau­rants to serve them. The pop­u­la­tion is main­ly white, with a broad cross-sec­tion of eth­nic minori­ties.

Streets north-east of the sta­tion are named after Eng­lish poets, so estate agents have trite­ly called it ‘Poets’ Cor­ner’ despite poten­tial con­fu­sion with anoth­er Poets’ Cor­ner not far away in Acton.

In 1962 Jim Marshall – ‘the Father of Loud’ – began making and selling his eponymous amplifiers at his music shop at 76 Uxbridge Road. Pete Townshend, Ronnie Wood, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were among the artists who bought their amps in Hanwell.

In the late 1960s Hanwell community centre provided rehearsal rooms for the rock bands Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. Much of the album Deep Purple in Rock was composed here in 1969.

Postal district: W7
Population: 28,768 (Elthorne and Hobbayne wards, 2011 census)
Station: First Great Western, Heathrow Connect (zone 4)
Further reading: Paul Howard Lang, Hanwell & Southall Through Time, Amberley, 2017


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* The picture of the Viaduct pub at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Jim Linwood, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence and the picture of Hanwell Community Centre is adapted from an original photograph, copyright J Taylor, 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 those licences.