Harmondsworth, Hillingdon

A Heathrow satellite village located south of West Drayton

Harmondsworth Great Barn interior

Evi­dence has been found here of Iron Age huts and sixth-cen­tu­ry Sax­on dwellings. In 1069 William the Con­queror gave the parish church and the manor to the Bene­dic­tine Abbey of Holy Trin­i­ty, Rouen, lat­er known as St Catherine’s. The abbey rebuilt the church and the old­est parts of the present struc­ture date from the mid-twelfth cen­tu­ry.

Around 1211 the abbey estab­lished a pri­o­ry here that became increas­ing­ly unpop­u­lar for the tax­es it imposed on the mano­r­i­al ten­ants, who in 1281 burned down some of its build­ings. The manor of Har­mondsworth was appro­pri­at­ed in 1391 to Win­ches­ter Col­lege, which com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of an aisled, tim­ber-framed barn for the manor farm. Com­plet­ed in 1427, it was the last in a series of vast barns built on this site and is the largest medieval Eng­lish barn to have sur­vived intact. Bought by Eng­lish Her­itage in Jan­u­ary 2012 and shown in the pho­to­graph above,* the barn is open to the pub­lic on the sec­ond and fourth Sun­days of each month between April and Octo­ber.

The Grange and Har­mondsworth Hall were among the grand­est of the homes built in the 17th cen­tu­ry and both remain in exis­tence, the for­mer as offices and the lat­ter as a hotel, with an 18th-cen­tu­ry brick front.

Once part of Houn­slow Heath, the land around Har­mondsworth was steadi­ly enclosed from the 1750s and brought under cul­ti­va­tion. Orchards and mar­ket gar­dens were estab­lished in the lat­ter part of the 19th cen­tu­ry.

The vil­lage grew slow­ly but did not change sig­nif­i­cant­ly from its medieval form until the open­ing of the Colnbrook bypass in 1929. This brought some sub­ur­ban hous­ing, and to the south of the vil­lage, com­mer­cial premis­es, notably in the form of Pen­guin Books in 1937. When the walls and roof of the Pen­guin ware­house were first erect­ed, there were still cab­bages grow­ing amidst the stacks of books and the company’s founder, Sir Allen Lane, insist­ed they should be sold to recoup part of the out­lay.

The devel­op­ment of Heathrow Air­port since 1945 has erased all for­mer traces of the parish south of Bath Road but the vicin­i­ty of the High Street remains an authen­tic delight, and is now both a con­ser­va­tion area and an archae­o­log­i­cal pri­or­i­ty area. How­ev­er, if the pro­posed plan for a third run­way at Heathrow over­comes all the remain­ing obsta­cles most of Har­mondsworth will have to be demol­ished – but the church and the barn will be saved, though the for­mer will have few parish­ioners. The air­port’s new perime­ter would extend just a frac­tion beyond the north­ern tip of present-day Swan Lake. The lake is vis­i­ble cen­tre-left in the satel­lite view below.

Har­mondsworth has not acquired the diverse eth­nic mix of oth­er Heathrow ‘sub­urbs’, although a small minor­i­ty speaks a lan­guage oth­er than Eng­lish, most com­mon­ly Pun­jabi, Ben­gali, Soma­li or Gujarati.

Postcode area: West Drayton UB7
Further reading: Philip Sherwood, Harlington and Harmondsworth, Tempus, 2002


* The picture of Harmondsworth Great Barn on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Prioryman, at Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.