The History of Middlesex

Part One


DURING the Saxon régime vast areas of swamp in Middlesex had been reclaimed, more roads built and forests cleared and, whilst London in particular had grown into a large and flourishing city, the development of Middlesex had no doubt also been considerable.

As has been the case in succeeding centuries, London dominated the development of Middlesex, for by the nature of its situation London has always formed the market for Middlesex, both in regard to supplies and labour.


When William of Normandy landed at Hastings in 1066, Middlesex was a typical agricultural area and possessed no town of any importance.

The news of William’s victory at Hastings over the Saxon forces of Harold spread quickly to London, where a council of State was at once called. By this time the northern army, which Harold had left when he hastened south, was rapidly approaching the city, and neighbouring inhabitants sought the protection of its walls, as was their custom in times of danger. Two courses therefore presented themselves to the chief men in the city: either to admit the victory of William and submit to him, or to fight it out. They decided on the latter course, and elected Edgar, the grandson of Edmund Ironside, as their King.

On the approach of William’s forces, the Saxons made an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge them from Southwark, but even this small success did not tempt William to make the fatal error of a frontal attack on the city, and he led his army westwards to a crossing of the Thames at Wallingford, between Reading and Oxford. The Conqueror’s army then turned eastwards and marched through Hertfordshire and Middlesex, laying waste the country on its way. The news of the strength and efficiency of the invaders and their rapid approach towards the city influenced the inhabitants to call another council early in December to reconsider the position and at this the vital decision was made to accept William’s claim to the throne.

Leaving his army at Barking, William and his staff made for Westminster, where Edward the Confessor had already built his abbey and palace, and on Christmas Day, 1066, he was crowned in Westminster Abbey amidst the applause of both Saxons and Normans.

Soon after his coronation, William proceeded to secure his position, and his first step in this direction was to build the Tower of London so as to protect him from the raids of the Norsemen, and at the same time to overawe the citizens and their neighbours. He also ousted the Saxon landowners and divided the country among his own faithful followers.

This task having been accomplished, he set in motion the compilation of one of the most remarkable surveys in history, that is to say the Domesday Book. This book—or rather books, for there are two of them—is still in existence, and may be seen at the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane. It was a complete survey of such parts of England as had submitted to his rule and set out the name of the holder and the approximate area of each manor, its value and the name of the previous holder in the time of Edward the Confessor.


From a study of the part which relates to the area of the present County of Middlesex, we are able to form a fairly clear idea of its condition at this date. The County was divided up into six Hundreds just as it is to-day, with the exception that the Hundred of Isleworth was then called the Hundred of Hounslow.

The following places are mentioned by name: Hayes, West Drayton, West Twyford and Willesden in the Hundred of Ossuistone; part of Kingsbury, Harrow, Hendon, and Stanmore in the Hundred of Gore; Hampton and Isleworth in the Hundred of Hounslow; Edmonton, Enfield, South Minims and Tottenham in the Hundred of Edmonton; Coiham, Cowley, Cranford, Dawley, Greenford, Hartwell, Harefield, Harlington, Harmondsworth, part of Kingsbury, Hillingdon, Ickenham, Northolt and Ruislip in the Hundred of Elthorne; and Ashford, Bedfont, Charlton, Feitham, Hanworth, Kempton, Laleham, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell and Sunbury in the Hundred of Spelthorne.

Several places receive no mention by name in the Domesday survey because they were, no doubt, included in other areas. Acton, New Brentford, Chiswick, Ealing (with Old Brentford and Gunnersbury) and Finchley, all belonging to the Bishop of London, were included in his Fulham holding. Hornsey formed part of Stepney; Edgware, part of Stanmore; Hounslow and Twickenham, part of Isleworth; Norwood and Southall, part of Hayes; Teddington, part of Staines; and Yiewsley, part of Hillingdon. There is no reliable information to show why Friern Barnet is not mentioned.


The chief landowners were the Bishop of London, who owned Fulham and Stepney with their members as set out above; the Abbot of Westminster, who held Ashford, Cowley, Greenford, Hanwell, Staines, Shepperton, Sunbury, Hendon and Laleham; the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s, who had West Drayton, West Twyford and Willesden; the Abbot of Holy Trinity, Rouen, in Normandy, who held Harmondsworth; the Archbishop of Canterbury, who owned Hayes and Harrow; whilst of the lay lords, Geoffrey de Mande-yule was by far the most important and held North olt, Perivale (Greenford Parva), Edmonton, Enfield, Hadley and Ickenham; Roger, Earl of Arundel, held Col-ham, Dawley in Harlington, Hillingdon and Ickenham; William Fitz Anscuif held Cranford; Richard Fitz Gilbert, Earl of Brioux, held Harefield; Ernulfde Hesding held Kingsbury and Ruislip; Walter Fitz Other held East Bedfont and the over-lordship of West Bedfont and Stanwell; Roger de Rames held Chariton and Little Stanmore or Whitchurch; Earl Mortain held Feitham, part of Laleham, Kempton and Great Stanmore; Walter de St. Waleric held Hampton and Isleworth and Judith, the widow of Waltheof, held Tottenham. This Waltheof was the son of Saward, Earl of Northumberland, who defeated Macbeth, the usurper of the crown of Scotland, immortalized by Shakespeare. When Gospatric, who had been created Earl of Northumberland by William I, was deprived of his title, the Conqueror granted this earldom, together with the earldoms of Huntingdon and Northampton, to Waltheof, but he was arrested for a conspiracy against the King and beheaded at Westminster.


A study of the Domesday Book shows that most of the County was arable land or pasture, with large areas of wood along its western and northern boundaries. Isolated wooded areas were also found at Isleworth, Northolt, and Han-well, while vineyards are mentioned at Colham, Hillingdon, Harmondsworth, Kempton and Staines.

Except for the Domesday survey very little is recorded in regard to the County during the reign of the early Norman kings. An important meeting of the bishops took place at Hayes in the house of Anseim, Archbishop of Canterbury, as a result of which the Archbishop refused to give way to William II in regard to the recognition of Urban II as Pope and compelled the King to make his peace with the Church.

Many of the parish churches which are now standing still show evidence of Norman work, notably at East Bedfont, Cowley, Harefield, Harlington, Harmondsworth, Harrow, Kingsbury, Laleham, Norwood and South Mimms, but other churches which undoubtedly were in existence then, have since been rebuilt.

Whilst there are now no traces left of early domestic architecture, it is known that the Archbishop had a house at Harrow in addition to his Hayes residence, and that the Bishop of London had a house at Hornsey. Lands in Ruislip, Hillingdon, and Stanmore were granted to various religious houses early in the twelfth century.

The only known fortified house in Middlesex was at Enfield and was owned by members of the de Bohun family, who had inherited the Mandeville estates on the marriage of the Mandeville heiress, Maud, with Humphrey de Bohun.

Some of the Norman landowners who are mentioned in Domesday gave up their English possessions and returned to France, some died without heirs so that their estates reverted to the Crown and others sold off parts of their estates. By the end of the twelfth century we may visualize the County with its village communities well established; the church, the manor house, the rectory or vicarage and a few cottages scattered about to house those tenants who did not live within the Hall.


The peaceful development of the land received a setback in 1135, when the accession of Stephen was hotly disputed by the daughter of Henry I, the Empress Maud. Civil wars raged throughout the majority of the reign, and whilst no actual battle is recorded as having taken place within the County, it suffered much from constant devastation as the opposing armies marched through on their way to the citadel of London.

One of the principal actors in this grim drama was Geoffrey de Mandeville, grandson of the great Norman landowner mentioned in Domesday Book. He was Constable of the Tower and endowed Saffron Walden Abbey in Essex with the churches of Enfield, Edmonton, South Mimms and Northolt. The treacherous support which he gave to both sides resulted in his ultimate downfall, and in 1144 he was slain at the siege of Burwell Castle in Cambridgeshire.

Shortly after King John was forced by his barons to accept the terms of the Great Charter at Runnymede, it is recorded that a tournament was held on Hounslow Heath. Two years later, also at Hounslow, the Dauphin of France presided over the conference between Henry III and his barons, which led to the Treaty of Lambeth. During the later troubles Simon de Montfort stayed with the King’s brother, Richard, at his Palace at Isleworth, while his adherents encamped in the park, though shortly afterwards Richard went over to the King’s side, and a large party of Londoners, led by Hugh Despenser, laid waste the whole of the Manor of Isleworth and burnt the Palace, for which they were subsequently fined 1000 marks. The faint-hearted Earl of Gloucester shortly afterwards brought his forces to Hounslow Heath, but on the arrival of the King’s army its opponents mysteriously disappeared.

Middlesex witnessed the climax of the Peasants’ Revolt, for on the morning of June the i3th, 1381,Jack Straw marched on Highbury with his army and set fire to the Hospital of St. John at Clerkenwell. Two days later the insurgents at Mile End demanded an interview with young Richard II who, with his mother, rode out and granted their requests, but this was not sufficient for the other party of the insurgents at St. Bartholomew’s Church, who demanded that the King should meet them also. As the King approached, Wat Tyler rode forward to press the grievances of his followers, but after a short altercation he was struck down with a dagger by William Walworth, Mayor of London. In November, 1387, the Duke of Gloucester and other nobles opposing the King assembled at Hornsey, but the King’s followers deserted him and he had to make terms with his opponents.

Henry IV married the de Bohun heiress, and consequently became possessed of the original Mandeville estates, which had passed into the de Bohun family as noted above. Part of these estates, consisting mainly of forest land, became the favourite hunting-ground of successive kings of England.

No actual battle was fought within the confines of the County during the Wars of the Roses, though Middlesex must have suffered considerably by the passage of troops, especially before and after the battles of St. Albans and of Barnet, and it may be supposed that many of her sons took part in the contests.

After the short reign of Richard III, Henry Tudor (the direct descendant of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III) acceded to the throne as Henry VII, the first monarch of the house of Tudor.