The road from London to Oxford is a very ancient and important route. The town of Uxbridge grew up as a daughter settlement of the village of Hillingdon, along the road where it crossed the River Colne. Uxbridge is not mentioned by name in the Domesday survey of 1086; it is probably included with the entries for Hillingdon and Colham.
The name 'Uxbridge' probably means the "bridge belonging to the Wixan". The Wixan were a Saxon tribe, the bridge over the River Colne was the boundary of their territory.
Throughout the Middle Ages Uxbridge formed part of the manor of Colham, which was in turn part of the Honor of Wallingford in Berkshire. About the year 1180 Gilbert Basset, keeper of the Honor, granted the people of Uxbridge permission to hold a market every Thursday. By 1248 the town was large and prosperous enough to build itself a chapel dedicated to St. Margaret. All major church services - baptisms, weddings and burials - were still held in Hillingdon church. Between 1400 and 1450 the chapel was enlarged and a tower added. In 1575 the people of Uxbridge were allowed their own burial ground on land at the bottom of the Lynch (Windsor Street) given by the Earl of Derby, then Lord of the Manor. This was enlarged in 1776 and finally closed in 1855.
Until the nineteenth century the prosperity of Uxbridge depended on its market. It was the major corn market for west Middlesex and south Buckinghamshire and was a very important flour milling centre, with about thirteen mills along the Colne and Frays rivers. In 1561 the importance of the market was recognised by the erection of a market house, replacing an earlier one, close to the present site. During this time the town grew, fine houses were built around the town. In 1555 five men, not from Uxbridge, were burned at the stake on Lynch Green for their Protestant beliefs.
The seventeenth century was marked by conflict. From 1630 to 1633 the townsfolk were in dispute with the Countess of Derby over the payment of market tolls. This was finally resolved and the occasion marked with a banquet. A painting of this can be seen in the Central Library. During the Civil War Uxbridge was an important garrison for Parliamentary troops. In 1644 an attempt at a peace treaty was negotiated in Uxbridge. The negotiations were held in Place House, now the Crown and Treaty public house.
Throughout the eighteenth century the market and town prospered. Equally important was the coaching trade. At the end of the century up to forty stage coaches a day passed through the town, all stopping to change horses, plus all the private traffic. There were over fifty inns and alehouses to cater for this traffic and four breweries to supply them. The town was so congested that in 1785 the High Street was widened and improved. The Market House was demolished and rebuilt in 1789. Between 1798 and 1805 the Grand Junction Canal was opened, which greatly increased the trade through Uxbridge.
During the nineteenth century the importance of the agricultural market declined and other industries replaced it. Brickmaking around Cowley was especially important. Other industries also increased and led to building development around the town. The coaching trade declined rapidly after the opening of the Great Western Railway station at West Drayton in 1838. Uxbridge was not connected to the main line until 1854, and then only by a branch line. During this century Uxbridge itself was slow to change; it remained a sleepy market town.
The century saw rapid change. The Metropolitan Railway reached Uxbridge in 1904 as did the trams. High Street Station, a branch to the Great Central Railway opened in 1907 but closed to passenger transport in 1939. In 1918 the Royal Flying Corps (soon to be the Royal Air Force) moved into Hillingdon House. Initially the gunnery school, it soon became the main recruitment base. From here the Battle of Britain was directed in 1940. In 1948 the camp was used to house many of the athletes for the London Olympic Games. In 1908 the Olympic marathon race came through Uxbridge as did the torch in 1948. Many houses, schools, cinemas and churches were built, particularly between 1920 and 1939. In the early 1960's plans were made to modernise the old town centre. Parts of this were completed in 1973 with the opening of the shopping centre. This was refurbished in 1985 as the Pavilions Shopping Centre (since renamed the Mall). In 1955 the Uxbridge Urban District Council was granted Borough status; the charter was presented by the Duchess of Kent. In 1965 the Borough of Uxbridge joined with three neighbouring councils (Ruislip-Northwood, Hayes and Harlington and Yiewsley and West Drayton Urban Districts) to form the London Borough of Hillingdon. The first students arrived at Brunel University in 1965. Formed by an amalgamation of several colleges it was built on the site of Lowe and Shawyer's nursery in Kingston Lane. The Civic Centre opened in 1979.
The early years of the century have seen the town continue to change. The Chimes Shopping Centre (renamed intu in 2013) opened in 2001. Bakers Road and the bus station were remodelled, with a Travelodge replacing the government offices of Colham House. In 2002, as part of her Golden Jubilee tour, HM the Queen visited Uxbridge and unveiled the statue "Anticipation" outside the station. She visited again in 2012 for her diamond Jubilee. Also in 2012 the Olympic torch came through the town. In 2010 the RAF camp was closed with many of its functions transferring to Northolt aerodrome. The site is being redeveloped with housing, a new school and other amenities. Uxbridge continues to change but remains a vibrant town for working, shopping and entertainment.
- COTTON, C Uxbridge Past. 1995
- HEARMON, C Uxbridge; a concise history. 1982
- PEARCE, K.R. A short history of the Town of Uxbridge. 1970
- REDFORD & RICHES History of Uxbridge. 1818, reprinted 1885
- VICTORIA COUNTY HISTORY; Middlesex, vol. 4, pp 55-100
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