Harefield, Hillingdon

A large, self-contained village – and a world famous hospital – situated in the far north-western corner of Greater London

Neolith­ic remains have been found in the parish, as well as fos­sils in the chalk. Notwith­stand­ing the ‘hare of Hare­field’ shown in the pic­ture above, the set­tle­men­t’s name prob­a­bly derives from the Old Eng­lish words here (army) and feld (open space; field). The name may thus allude to an encamp­ment by a Viking army dur­ing the Dan­ish inva­sions of the 10th and ear­ly 11th cen­turies.

St Mary’s church is of 13th-cen­tu­ry ori­gin and is not­ed for its wealth of mon­u­ments. Dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages and 16th cen­tu­ry much of the parish con­sist­ed of moors and com­mon land, with the cul­ti­vat­ed lands of Hare­field manor around the vil­lage.

A sundial on a Belhammonds (Harefield Park) stable block, surmounted by a small cupola supporting a coroneted displayed eagle
A sun­di­al on a Hare­field Park sta­ble block

The 18th and 19th cen­turies saw the growth of sev­er­al estates on which coun­try hous­es were built, includ­ing Bel­ham­monds, also known as Hare­field Park, a three-storey, sev­en-bay man­sion dat­ing from the 1710s. Two cen­turies lat­er it became the orginal home of Hare­field Hos­pi­tal (see below) but now stands dis­used and in need of restora­tion. Click here for a Bing bird’s eye view of the man­sion.

The con­struc­tion of the Grand Junc­tion (now Grand Union) Canal on the west­ern side of the parish at the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry changed the char­ac­ter of this part of Hare­field.

By 1813 limekilns and cop­per mills lay along the north­ern part of the canal, and there were coal wharves north of Moorhall. The indus­tri­al area con­tin­ued to expand through­out the cen­tu­ry, but away from the canal Hare­field remained one of the few places in Mid­dle­sex where the ancient pat­tern of an agri­cul­tur­al vil­lage sur­vived into the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tu­ry, main­ly because of the absence of a main road or rail­way.

By the out­break of the First World War hous­es were being built by the mills, around Hill End, along the main roads and round the vil­lage green. Large sand and grav­el work­ings oper­at­ed on the out­skirts of Hare­field between the wars but most of these are now dis­used or have become land­fill sites, while much of the canal­side indus­try has been replaced by offices and oth­er busi­ness premis­es.

Uxbridge coun­cil built near­ly 500 hous­es between 1919 and 1951 around the com­mon and in North­wood Road, and in South Hare­field and Mount Pleas­ant. Sub­se­quent devel­op­ment, both pub­lic and pri­vate, has been tight­ly con­strained by the inclu­sion of almost all the sur­viv­ing farm­land with­in the green belt.

Hare­field vil­lage retains a gen­uine­ly rur­al char­ac­ter, though a fifth of its hous­ing is owned by Hilling­don coun­cil. The pop­u­la­tion is 88 per cent white and edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment is rel­a­tive­ly low. Car own­er­ship is high, as it needs to be out in the sticks.

The story of Harefield Hospital

Dur­ing the First World War a hos­pi­tal was estab­lished at the man­sion lat­ter­ly known as Hare­field Park for the treat­ment of injured Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders. Many of those who died at the hos­pi­tal are buried in the church­yard of St Mary’s Hare­field, where they are com­mem­o­rat­ed by a memo­r­i­al arch and a gran­ite obelisk.

In the 1930s Hare­field became an iso­la­tion hos­pi­tal for tuber­cu­lo­sis patients, lay­ing the foun­da­tions of its exper­tise in lung con­di­tions. In the late 1940s the hos­pi­tal became part of the new Nation­al Health Ser­vice and began to devel­op its exper­tise in heart dis­ease, in addi­tion to its lung spe­cial­i­sa­tion.

Pro­fes­sor Sir Mag­di Yacoub per­formed Harefield’s first heart trans­plant in 1980 and the world’s first com­bined heart and lung trans­plant in 1983. Since then the hos­pi­tal has had a dis­tin­guished his­to­ry of ground-??breaking advances, most recent­ly exem­pli­fied in its work on ‘arti­fi­cial hearts’ and min­i­mal­ly inva­sive pro­ce­dures. Hare­field­’s ded­i­cat­ed Heart Attack Cen­tre deals with car­diac emer­gen­cies from out­er north-west Lon­don, and pro­vides one of the fastest arrival-to-treat­ment times in Europe.

In 1998 Hare­field was twinned with anoth­er renowned Lon­don chest hos­pi­tal to form the Roy­al Bromp­ton & Hare­field NHS Trust. Plans to incor­po­rate Harefield’s facil­i­ties on the site of a new ‘super-hos­pi­tal’ at Padding­ton Water­side fell apart in 2005.

Postcode area: Uxbridge UB9
Population: 7,399 (Harefield ward; by far the borough’s smallest ward at the 2011 census)
Further reading: Eileen M Bowlt, Ickenham and Harefield Past, Historical Publications, 1996
and Geoff Hewlett, Harefield, Amberley, 2012
See also: Harefield Grove


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* The picture of the Hare of Harefield at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Matt Brown, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.