North Acton

North Acton, Ealing

A commercial zone with a newly added high-rise residential quarter, divided from the rest of Acton by the Western Avenue

Hidden London: Rehearsal Rooms and the Woodward building

From Eliz­a­bethan times the sup­pos­ed­ly health-giv­ing Acton Wells spa flour­ished on the east­ern edge of the area, near Old Oak Com­mon. Wells House Road marks the site of the for­mer assem­bly rooms, which lat­er served as a school and then a farm­house. Horse races were run at Acton Wells in the sec­ond half of the 18th cen­tu­ry.

Acton ceme­tery opened in 1895 on Park Roy­al Road. A bridge across the rail­way line unites the cemetery’s two halves, which have no remain­ing space for new graves although exist­ing fam­i­ly plots con­tin­ue to be used.

The Cen­tral line tube sta­tion opened in 1923, replac­ing an ear­li­er Great West­ern rail­way ser­vice. In the 1930s North Acton formed part of the indus­tri­al sprawl that made Acton the largest man­u­fac­tur­ing town in south-east Eng­land between the wars.

The capa­cious Cas­tle pub­lic house was built c.1938 to serve the indus­tri­al area and now faces a secure future as a con­se­quence of the devel­op­ments men­tioned below.

The John Comp­ton Organ Works was among North Acton’s best-known employ­ers, build­ing organs for church­es, the­atres and cin­e­mas, includ­ing some mag­nif­i­cent Wurl­itzer-style instru­ments. Bomb dam­age in the Blitz and post-war relo­ca­tion caused pro­gres­sive decline in the area from 1940.

Today, North Acton is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered part of the Park Roy­al area. Much of its indus­try con­sists of small-scale oper­a­tions, often in ware­hous­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion. Some dis­used larg­er premis­es, such as the old Eliz­a­beth Arden fac­to­ry, have been con­vert­ed to offices, work­shops and stu­dios for small busi­ness­es with the sup­port of the Park Roy­al Part­ner­ship. A num­ber of units have lain emp­ty for some time and the ulti­mate aim is to cre­ate a high-den­si­ty, mixed-use zone that includes media-relat­ed enter­pris­es and some res­i­den­tial units and local ameni­ties.

Since 2014 a for­est of new builds has sprung up in the vicin­i­ty of North Acton sta­tion, includ­ing sev­er­al stu­dent halls. More con­tin­ue to appear, each seem­ing­ly taller than the last. Among the more notable blocks are two named after for­mer BBC TV facil­i­ties here – the Rehearsal Rooms (built exclu­sive­ly to rent) and the Cos­tume Store (a Uni­ver­si­ty of the Arts Lon­don stu­dent hall).

The rel­a­tive­ly low cost of the sites is the prime rea­son for the nature of the accom­mo­da­tion here, lead­ing some to fear that an ‘afford­able ghet­to’ is being cre­at­ed in this out-of-the-way spot. Still, it makes a change from the thou­sand-pound-a-week apart­ments on offer in Lon­don’s more desir­able loca­tions.

The junction of the A40 and Horn Lane in North Acton is known as ‘Gypsy Corner’ in recognition of its former use as a stopping place for Irish Traveller groups passing in and out of London.

Postal districts: W3 and NW10
Station: Central line (zones 2 and 3)


* The photo of the Rehearsal Rooms on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Hawgood, 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.