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Bedfont (historically East Bedfont) is a small suburban town in Greater London, some 13 miles (21 km) to the west of central London and only 2 miles (3 km) from Heathrow Airport. It straddles the Staines Road at the west of the London Borough of Hounslow from Baber Bridge on the River Crane to the Surrey boundary at Ashford.
Origins and Medieval Bedfont
The Staines Road follows the Roman Via Trinobantes colloquially a Stane Street (stone street) linking Londinium (London) to Pontes (Staines-upon-Thames) and the West Country, though the name suggests older origins as the Trinobantes were a powerful Celtic tribe before the Roman invasion. Excavations prior to the building of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 site a few miles north west of Bedfont found evidence of settlement during the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, suggesting there may have been people living in and around the Bedfont area during these periods.
The hamlet of West Bedfont lay in the parish of neighbouring Stanwell although the boundary may not have been drawn until the 12th century. West Bedfont today is indistinct, however neighbouring East Bedfont, on the Greater London side of the boundary, has developed into modern day Bedfont.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin is situated on the edge of the village green and is the oldest surviving church in the borough dating from around 1150. Its Norman chancel, chancel arch and south doorway have survived the centuries, as have medieval wall paintings from the mid 13th century, which were uncovered in 1865.
The Domesday Book has an entry stating that the manors of Bedfont, Hatton and Stanmore were all held by William Fitz Other. From the early 14th century the Manor of East Bedfont was held by the Trinitarian Priory of Hounslow, before being taken by the Crown during the reformation. The Berkeley family of Cranford then held the manor before selling it to the Earl of Northumberland in 1656. Pates Manor, architecturally a Grade II listed building also in Bedfont, was held by the Page family, a branch of the Pages of Harrow on the Hill. Col. John Page, a member of the family, became a wealthy Virginia merchant who served on the colonial council.
The growth of the town and industrialisation
Charles I licensed the Hounslow Sword Mill in 1630 on the banks of the Duke of Northumberland's River. The sword smiths, who came from Solingen in Germany, produced one thousand swords a month, which have become collector’s items and an impressive collection of these can be seen at the Gunnersbury Park Museum. There is also one on display at Warwick University.
The Longford River, which also flows through Bedfont, also dates from the reign of Charles I.
This converted mill was supplemented by new mills closer to Baber Bridge, in the area now known as Donkey Woods. The manufacture of gunpowder was a dangerous occupation and workers were killed or maimed in many explosions down the years, with the mills being demolished and rebuilt a number of times. The water-powered gunpowder mills continued to be used until 1926 when they were closed by the then owners, Imperial Chemical Industries.
Following on from the railways, the twentieth century saw the motor car appearing on the main road, and the building of Great South West Road in 1925 saw traffic diverted around Bedfont.
Postwar development and the construction of Heathrow
By 1946 another form of transport began to impact on the village when Heathrow Airport opened and became the largest employer in the area, with the effect of increasing the demand for local housing. The village of Heathrow was lost, as was some of the hamlet of Hatton. This sits beneath the airport's flight path, but The Green Man public house survives from around the 16th century together with a few period properties near the pub and London Underground station on the edge of the airport.
Buildings of interest
Bedfont has the unique claim of having two surviving manor houses. Pates Manor, once owned by the Page family, is behind the church and is the oldest house in the Borough with one wing dating from the late 15th century. Fawns Manor, on the south side of the Green, dates from the 16th century and was sold to the British Airways Housing Association in 1983 .by Derek Sherborn, of the family who had owned it from the 17th century.
As coach services grew from the 17th to 18th centuries, so too did the number of inns in Bedfont. The Duke’s Head and The Bell were situated on Bedfont Green, and The Plough, The Sun, The White Horse and the Queen’s Head joined them in providing stabling and refreshments to the weary travellers on the road between London and the West Country.
The building of the Great Western Railway between London and Bristol in 1841 marked the beginning of the end for the golden age of the stagecoach, and by 1847 both state and mail coaches had ceased to run to the west. The Waterloo to Staines line was opened in 1848 leaving the roads mainly for the use of local traffic.
There are also many leisure clubs and pubs in Bedfont, one being the family run Bedfont Lane Community Association.
Captain Matthew Webb, who was the first man to swim the English Channel (25 August 1875), lived in The Limes, New Road, Bedfont from 1880 until 1883 when he died attempting to swim the rapids below the Niagara Falls.
Bedfont has three Non-League football teams Bedfont Town F.C. play in Wraysbury (five miles west of Bedfont)and Bedfont Sports F.C. play at the Bedfont Sports Recreation Ground. Finally Bedfont & Feltham play at The Orchard ground very close to the ground of Bedfont Sports.
- "Heathrow reveals historic legacy". BBC. 17 July 2003. Retrieved 16 Dec 2011.
- "8,500-4,000 BC Deep Forest and a River". Framework Archaeology. 23 August 2006. Retrieved 16 Dec 2011.
- Susan Reynolds, ed. (1962). Stanwell: Introduction. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3: Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington.. Victoria County History. Boydell and Brewer. pp. 33–36. ISBN 978-0-7129-1034-7. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- St Mary's Church: English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1360959)". National Heritage List for England.
- Pates Manor: English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (1358318)". National Heritage List for England.
- Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. XLIX, Printed for the Association, London, 1893
- Derek Sherborn (2003). An Inspector Recalls: Saving Our Heritage. The Book Guild Ltd. pp. 242–243. ISBN 1-85776-564-8.