Horsenden Hill

Horsenden Hill, Ealing

A swathe of steeply rising open space and woodland (and a pair of golf courses), separating Perivale and Greenford from Sudbury

Horsenden Farm House - geograph-4236582-by-Des-Blenkinsopp

The ancient plough soil on the brow of the hill sug­gests Neolith­ic farm­ing, which may have begun 7,000 years ago. Numer­ous Iron Age pot­sherds have been unearthed here and the site has accord­ing­ly been sched­uled under the Ancient Mon­u­ments and Archae­o­log­i­cal Areas Act – though there is no mon­u­ment on the hill­top except for the mod­ern tri­an­gu­la­tion pil­lar.

Hors­endun (as it was then spelt) was first record­ed in 1203 and derives from an Old Eng­lish per­son­al name (Hor­sa) and dūn, which could either have meant ‘hill fort’ or sim­ply ‘hill’ – and it is not known which applied in this case.

The Vic­to­ria Coun­ty His­to­ry says: “Noth­ing is known of the par­tial­ly moat­ed site on the low­er slope of Hors­enden Hill … The site may be iden­ti­fi­able with a cap­i­tal mes­suage which was ruinous in 1342.” It is pre­sumed to have been the site of one of Perivale’s two for­mer manor hous­es.

Hors­enden Wood, which belonged to the lord of the manor of Green­ford, lay on the north­ern slope of the hill. Over a peri­od of sev­er­al cen­turies many of its trees were cut down for tim­ber and fire­wood, and the roots and stumps were lat­er grubbed up so that crops could be grown.

The Padding­ton arm of the Grand Union Canal wound its way around the south­ern slopes of the hill in the lat­ter years of the 18th cen­tu­ry and was for­mal­ly opened in July 1801.

Shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of the page,* Hors­enden farm­house dates per­haps from the 1860s.

The ham­let of Brab­s­den Green lay due west of the sum­mit of the hill beside Hors­enden Lane. In the 19th cen­tu­ry it con­sist­ed of a few cot­tages, a vil­lage shop and a pub­lic house, the Bal­lot Box, which was so called because of its use as a polling sta­tion for canal boat­men.

Most of the farm­land on the east side of Hors­enden Hill was bought in 1920 by the new­ly formed Sud­bury golf club. The rest was was acquired by Eal­ing coun­cil in 1938 as part of its green-belt scheme and the open space was extend­ed by the acqui­si­tion of neigh­bour­ing char­i­ty-owned land in 1942. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War the west­ern fields were used for grow­ing wheat and veg­eta­bles and remained in cul­ti­va­tion until about 1950.

Hidden London: The Capital Ring on Horsenden Hill
The Cap­i­tal Ring path on Hors­enden Hill

The Bal­lot Box pub was re-sit­ed in Green­ford after the Sec­ond World War and the rest of the hous­es of Brab­s­den Green were demol­ished in 1970s.

Near the canal at the foot of Hors­enden Hill, as Dia­mond Geezer report­ed in 2011, “Eal­ing coun­cil have kind­ly thought fit to build a vis­i­tor cen­tre. I was expect­ing a café and a rack of sou­venir pen­cil sharp­en­ers, but instead found a few locked build­ings and a paint­ed shed.”

The neigh­bour­ing farm build­ings are used by Enfield­’s Capel Manor Col­lege, main­ly as a base for arbori­cul­tur­al field­work. (Click here for a Bing bird’s eye view of the farm.)

Hors­enden Hill is the largest con­ser­va­tion area in the bor­ough of Eal­ing, and is divid­ed by Hors­enden Lane North and the canal into three sec­tions:

  • Hors­enden East has large areas of wood­land, a nine-hole golf course and small patch­es of grass­land on which half a dozen cat­tle are grazed from August to Novem­ber. The hill reach­es 277 feet above sea lev­el here, and the broad, grassy sum­mit is the high­est point in the bor­ough.
  • Hors­enden West has a mosa­ic of wild­flower mead­ows, hedgerows and ponds.
  • South-west of the canal, Par­adise Fields is a wet­land area with scrapes, reedbeds and lagoons.
Postcode area: Greenford UB6
Further reading: Eva Farley, A Farm in Perivale, self-published, 1985
Web page: Horsenden Hill circular walk (Ealing council)
* The pictures of Horsenden Farm House and the Capital Ring path on this page are both adapted from original photographs, copyright Des Blenkinsopp, 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 that licence.