Little Britain

Little Britain, Hillingdon

A lake and its vicinity located just inside London’s border with Buckinghamshire, north-west of Yiewsley

Herons' nests in alders at Little Britain Lake

Lit­tle Britain’s iden­ti­ty first appeared in print on the far west­ern edge of Green­wood’s map of Mid­dle­sex, pub­lished in 1819. It is pos­si­ble that the name derives from the vague­ly Bri­tan­nic shape of the ‘island’ formed by the Riv­er Colne, Fray’s Riv­er and the Slough arm of the Grand Union Canal. Alter­na­tive­ly, it could have been a whim­si­cal nick­name for a tiny set­tle­ment or have been bor­rowed (for some unknown rea­son) from the City of Lon­don street called Lit­tle Britain.

The ter­rain here is flat and rel­a­tive­ly low: around 90 feet (27–28 metres) above sea lev­el through­out the local­i­ty. There were hous­es on Pack­et Boat Lane and Old Mill Lane by 1864. Since at least this time the nar­row bridge car­ry­ing Pack­et Boat Lane across Fray’s Riv­er has been called Lit­tle Britain Bridge.

The ‘old mill’ at what was then the north­ern end of Old Mill Lane was Yiewsley Mill, which ground flour until it burned down in 1873. The neigh­bour­ing mid-19th cen­tu­ry mill­house has sur­vived to the present day and is a local­ly list­ed build­ing.

In the late 19th cen­tu­ry Yiewsley’s St Matthew’s church estab­lished a mis­sion room at Lit­tle Britain but this did not last long.

Lit­tle Britain Lake was cre­at­ed fol­low­ing grav­el extrac­tion in the ear­ly 1930s. The lake cov­ers approx­i­mate­ly 14 acres and is sand­wiched between Old Mill Lane to its east and the wind­ing Riv­er Colne (which also forms the bor­der with Buck­ing­hamshire) to the west.

The lake’s arti­fi­cial islands were made from horn­beam and birch stakes, com­bined with woven root­ing wil­low, to pro­vide a safe habi­tat for water­fowl.

Lit­tle Britain Lake has been the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Lon­don Bor­ough of Hilling­don since 1983, fol­low­ing a peri­od when it was leased to a pri­vate ten­ant who con­trolled its angling rights.

Much of the Lit­tle Britain area now forms part of the Colne Val­ley Park, which was estab­lished in 1965. In addi­tion to its wildlife walks, an asphalt path laid around the west­ern edge of the lake in 2005 is espe­cial­ly suit­able for users of wheel­chairs, mobil­i­ty scoot­ers and for peo­ple with impaired mobil­i­ty.

Lit­tle Britain is des­ig­nat­ed a site of impor­tance for nature con­ser­va­tion.

Hidden London: Little Britain Lake by Andrew Bowden

On the far bank of the Grand Union Canal, north of Pack­et Boat Lane, Union Park was built in the 1990s as a com­mer­cial office estate. Regen­er­a­tion spe­cial­ist Lon­don Green acquired “this large unloved busi­ness park” in Feb­ru­ary 2015 and obtained plan­ning con­sent for its rede­vel­op­ment with 251 res­i­den­tial units and asso­ci­at­ed land­scap­ing, includ­ing an exten­sive upgrade of the canal tow­path.

The geo­graph­i­cal extent of the Lit­tle Britain local­i­ty is not well defined. On most maps its name has his­tor­i­cal­ly appeared north of Pack­et Boat Lane and east of Fray’s Riv­er, but some­times west of the riv­er. How­ev­er, on cur­rent Ord­nance Sur­vey maps the Lit­tle Britain name is placed close to Pack­et Boat Mari­na and the Slough arm of the Grand Union Canal.

The local­i­ty is very sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed. Its few res­i­dents are pre­dom­i­nant­ly white British; liv­ing stan­dards are rel­a­tive­ly high; most house­hold­ers own their own home and have access to at least one car.

Postcode area: Uxbridge UB8
See also: Cowley Peachey


* The picture of herons’ nests in alders at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stefan Czapski, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, and the lower picture of Little Britain Lake is cropped from an original photograph, copyright Andrew Bowden, at Flickr, both made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.
The above article previously included the assertion that Little Britain was so named because of the shape of the lake. Hidden London now realises that this could not have been the case, given that the place name predated the lake’s existence by more than a century. The lake’s area has also been corrected in this updated version of the article. Apologies for the former errors.