South Acton

South Acton, Ealing

The most deprived part of the Acton sprawl, dominated by the post-war South Acton estate

Harlech Tower, on the South Acton estate
Harlech Tower, on the South Acton estate

South Acton was farmland until the 1859 enclosure award but there­after began one of the most intensive phases of devel­opment seen in the London area at that time. The British Land Company acquired several fields and laid out a network of terraced streets. Thousands of new Londoners arrived from all over the British Isles in search of a job and an affordable home. Many men were employed as labourers in nearby brick­fields while their wives worked in Acton’s burgeoning laundry industry, either for one of the larger concerns of ‘Soapsuds Island’ or taking in washing at home.

South Acton gained a railway station in 1880, on what is now the London Overground’s North London line, and a tube station in 1905, on a short spur line from Acton Town. By this time the settlement had a population of 15,000, many of whom were living in increas­ingly overcrowded surroundings. Conditions barely improved throughout the first half of the 20th century.

It was not until after the Second World War that the municipal author­ities acted to clear the slums. The council compulsorily purchased all the properties on streets that lay immedi­ately north of South Acton station and began to replace these with blocks of flats, the first of which were completed by 1954. South Acton tube station closed in 1959. More blocks of flats went up in the early 1960s, including two of 22 storeys. These subsequently exhibited many of the problems typical of such projects, and some have since been demol­ished as part of a major regen­er­ation programme involving several housing associ­ations.

At the 2011 census, 57 per cent of South Acton’s residents were white and the main ethnic minority was of black African birth or descent. Significant minor­ities of residents are of Indian, black Caribbean and Arabic heritage. Most homes are rented, primarily from the council or privately.

Until 1988 Harlech Tower, in Park Road East, doubled as Peckham’s Nelson Mandela House in the classic television comedy series Only Fools and Horses. The tower is marked with a big pink pin on the map below.

Postal district: W3
Population: 14,873 (2011 census)
Station: London Overground (zone 3)