Sipson

Sipson, Hillingdon

A linear village stretching three-quarters of a mile along Sipson Road, most of which lies just west of the M4 Heathrow spur road

Hidden London: Sipson Way by Derek Harper

Grav­el exca­va­tions have revealed Nean­derthal hand-axes and Bronze Age loom-weights, the lat­ter pro­vid­ing the ear­li­est known evi­dence of weav­ing in the Lon­don area. A small cre­ma­tion ceme­tery from the mid­dle Bronze Age has also been dis­cov­ered.

Sip­son was first men­tioned by name in 1214 – as Sib­wine­ston: ‘farm­stead or estate of a man called Sib­wine’ – and there were 14 hous­es here by 1337. Wheat and rye were grown by the 16th cen­tu­ry and an oast house was built for malt­ing and brew­ing.

At Sip­son Road­’s junc­tion with Har­mondsworth Lane (shown in the pho­to below) what is now the King William pub­lic house began its exis­tence as a Wealden-type hall house, per­haps in the 16th cen­tu­ry, per­haps even ear­li­er. It does not appear to have become a pub until lit­tle more than a hun­dred years ago. Near­by, the tim­ber-framed Lanz Farm­house prob­a­bly dates from the late 17th cen­tu­ry. Its two barns have recent­ly been con­vert­ed to four homes.

Fol­low­ing enclo­sure of most of the com­mon land, the vil­lage grew slow­ly from the late 18th cen­tu­ry, when Sip­son House was built. How­ev­er, Sip­son remained of minor impor­tance in 1836, when Pig­ot & Co.’s Direc­to­ry com­ment­ed that, “The dwellings in this place are but few and those of rather mean appear­ance.” A work­house stood at Sip­son Green until around 1860 and an infants’ school was built soon after this.

Hidden London: Harmondsworth Lane, Sipson, by Derek Harper

In the late 1890s an old farm was con­vert­ed into a jam fac­to­ry, which sur­vived until about 1920. The build­ings were tak­en over by a fur­ni­ture man­u­fac­tur­er, which switched to mak­ing car­a­vans in 1947. The works were replaced by two ter­races of coun­cil hous­es in the 1970s.

Sur­viv­ing Vic­to­ri­an build­ings have most­ly been con­vert­ed to new uses. On Sip­son Lane, the for­mer cot­tage hos­pi­tal (1884) is now a Sant Nirankari mis­sion cen­tre. A Bap­tist church (orig­i­nal­ly a Gospel Mis­sion hall, 1891) was divid­ed into a dozen flats in 1988, with the Sip­son Chris­t­ian Fel­low­ship oper­at­ing from the east end of the ‘Church Court’ com­plex. The Crown Inn has become an Indi­an restau­rant. At the north end of the vil­lage the Plough is still a pub. Built in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, it was lat­er extend­ed and altered, as were the hos­pi­tal and the church.

Over the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tu­ry the char­ac­ter of the vil­lage was great­ly affect­ed by the growth of Heathrow. Sip­son House was con­vert­ed to office use by the British Air­ports Author­i­ty, with only its orig­i­nal façade sur­viv­ing intact. Sip­son is now hemmed in to the south and north by Heathrow hotels, and many local res­i­dents work at these estab­lish­ments or at the air­port.

Pre­vi­ous pro­pos­als for the con­struc­tion of Heathrow’s third run­way would have involved the oblit­er­a­tion of almost all of the vil­lage. How­ev­er, revised plans have shift­ed the run­way south-west­wards, instead putting Long­ford and Har­mondsworth in the great­est jeop­ardy, though some prop­er­ties may still be lost on the west­ern edge of Sip­son if the project goes ahead, and the vil­lage will inevitably suf­fer from more noise, traf­fic and air pol­lu­tion.

Charles Dickens may have come up with the name for the protagonist of A Christmas Carol while on a visit to Sipson House. However, opinions are divided as to whether the inspiration came from nearby Scroogeall Cottages or from a local shepherd who assured Dickens that his sheep would be able to ‘scrooge’ through a narrow gate.

Postcode area: West Drayton UB7

 

* The pictures of Sipson Way and Harmondsworth Lane on this page are both modified from original photographs, copyright Derek Harper, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.