Northolt, Ealing/Hillingdon

A large and unexciting set of housing estates, plus a famous aerodrome (which is really in South Ruislip) and an award-winning new park

Hidden London: Polish War Memorial at Night by Dymo4

This was for­mer­ly Northall (ren­dered in Domes­day Book as Northa­la), the north­ern coun­ter­part to Southall. A set­tle­ment has exist­ed here since the eighth cen­tu­ry, orig­i­nal­ly on high­er ground to the north-east of the church.

The present St Mary’s church and a manor house were built in a shal­low depres­sion in the late 13th cen­tu­ry and a vil­lage then began to take shape around the green. The manor house was thrice pulled down and twice rebuilt in the 14th cen­tu­ry, and gained a moat, but was left in ruins after its last own­er was hanged for trea­son.

By 1500 there were four out­ly­ing ham­lets in the parish, of which only Wood End and West End retain vague iden­ti­ties today. From around 1700, when the vil­lage was first being called Northolt rather than Northall, the open arable fields were increas­ing­ly turned over to pas­ture and hay pro­duc­tion for London’s hors­es. The vil­lage remained qui­et for anoth­er two cen­turies, main­ly because of the poor state of the roads and the inad­e­quate water sup­ply.

A rail­way halt opened at Northolt in 1907, but this at first had lit­tle effect on the vil­lage – oth­er than lend­ing its name to a new aero­drome for the Roy­al Fly­ing Corps, which opened to the west of the parish in 1915.

Between the wars landown­ers began to sell their farms with increas­ing rapid­i­ty, espe­cial­ly after the open­ing of a sec­ond local sta­tion in 1926 – which was called South Har­row and Rox­eth for the first three years of its exis­tence, and then renamed Northolt Park – and the com­ing of the West­ern Avenue and oth­er arte­r­i­al roads in the mid-1930s.

Dur­ing the Bat­tle of Britain, squadrons based at RAF Northolt shot down at least 148 ene­my air­craft. Because of the aero­drome’s pres­ence, the vicin­i­ty was heav­i­ly bombed by the Luft­waffe.

Northolt sta­tion was rebuilt for the arrival of the Cen­tral line in 1948 and the dis­trict became the focus of Eal­ing council’s post­war house­build­ing pro­gramme. This includ­ed exper­i­men­tal projects by the Min­istry of Works, using mass-pro­duced com­po­nents like steel sheet­ing so that prop­er­ties could be built rapid­ly. In the two decades after the Sec­ond World War the coun­cil built almost 3,500 homes in the area, more than half its total for the whole bor­ough.

In 1958 Moat Farm was replaced by a pri­vate­ly built estate, and sev­er­al infill­ing projects fur­ther increased the hous­ing den­si­ty lat­er in the 20th cen­tu­ry with a series of clos­es. Belvue Park and the old vil­lage cen­tre retain some rur­al ele­ments, and the moat­ed site of the manor house is a sched­uled ancient mon­u­ment.

Hidden London: the main mound at Northala Fields by Brett Jordan

Northolt and Green­ford coun­try park is dom­i­nat­ed by the four con­i­cal mounds (vis­i­ble but not labelled on the satel­lite map below) of Northa­la Fields, which were made from 65,000 lor­ry loads of rub­ble from the orig­i­nal Wem­b­ley sta­di­um and spoil from sites like the West­field Lon­don shop­ping mall and Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 5. As well as pro­vid­ing a dis­tinc­tive visu­al fea­ture, the mounds shield the park from the noise (and sight) of the heavy traf­fic on the West­ern Avenue. To their south-west is a net­work of six inter­con­nect­ing fish­ing lakes, a mod­el boat­ing lake and wildlife ponds, streams and wet­lands. The park also has a pur­pose-built café.

RAF Northolt is nowa­days the hub of British mil­i­tary fly­ing oper­a­tions in the Lon­don area and the base for a remark­able num­ber of lodger units, rang­ing from the British Forces Post Office to the Cen­tral Band of the RAF and the Pol­ish Records Office.

At the last cen­sus, one third of Northolt’s res­i­dents were white British. The dis­trict has a wide vari­ety of oth­er minori­ties, includ­ing (in descend­ing order of mag­ni­tude) those of African, Indi­an, Caribbean, Pol­ish, Pak­istani, Sri Lankan, Afghan, Arab, Irish and Nepalese her­itage.

Shown in the photograph at the top of this article,* the Polish war memorial stands at the intersection of Western Avenue and West End Road. Northolt aerodrome was the main base for the Polish Air Force during the early part of the Second World War. The monument, surmounted by an eagle, was unveiled in 1948 and is engraved with the names of the 14 squadrons of the PAF. Behind is a wall with the names of all 1,241 members of PAF crews who died on operational flights.

Postcode area: Northolt UB5 (RAF Northolt is in Ruislip HA4)
Population: 30,304 (Northolt Mandeville and Northolt West End wards, 2011 census)
Station: Central line (zone 5)
Further reading: Frances Hounsell, Greenford, Northolt and Perivale Past, Historical Publications, 1999


* The picture of the Polish War Memorial at night at the top of this page is slightly adjusted from an original photograph, copyright Dymo4, at Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The picture of Northala is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright brett jordan, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of those licences.