Historical towns and rivers

In this section:
Ruislip and Ruislip Manor

Ruislip, the River Pinn and Ruislip Lido

The name Ruislip first appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 and it is thought that the name derives from the Old English words for 'rush' and 'leap', meaning a place where the river Pinn was narrow enough to jump across.


  • Stone hand axes, a Bronze Age spearhead and traces of Roman dwellings have all been found in Ruislip.
  • The manor of Ruislip had been owned by a Saxon named Wlward Wit but after the Conquest he lost it to a Norman knight, Ernulf de Hesdin.
  • There was a Norman castle - probably wooden - on the site of the Manor Farm House. The remains of the castle mound and moat can still be seen.
  • Ernulf de Hesdin gave the manor to the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy. The monks established a small priory at Ruislip. In 1404, the manor became crown property. The last lord of the manor was Kings College, Cambridge whose term lasted from 1451 to 1932.
  • Ruislip was described as a manor; however, as one of the inhabitants in the survey was listed as a priest, it was most likely already a parish. The majority of the inhabitants in Ruislip through to the 13th century were bondsmen of the lord of the manor. They were tied to the land and could take up work and residence elsewhere with his consent. Surveys show that in 1248, there were only 112 tenants of the manor.
  • For centuries, Ruislip was a quiet village surrounded by farmland. In 1801, there were still only 1,012 inhabitants. The Metropolitan Railway did not arrive at Ruislip until 1904.
  • Fast forward to the 20th century and by the end of June 1905, the population of Ruislip-Northwood was estimated to be 4,515; by 1911, this had risen to 6,217, including Eastcote. Despite the construction of the Grand Junction Canal, as well as the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th century, which severely affected the acres of land across Ruislip, at the turn of the 20th century, Ruislip still had its fair amount of rural villages.
  • Nonetheless, change waits for no one and by 1965 Ruislip looked vastly different to its recent past.
  • Ruislip became part of 'Metroland' - the area of suburban London along the railway line where thousands of homes were built in the 1930s. Metroland was advertised as a rural retreat for those who worked in central London.
  • Housing redevelopment meant more people migrated into Ruislip, especially with the spread of the railway tracks across west London and easier commuting methods, such as buses and trams.
  • Today, several medieval buildings survive. Near Bury Street is the Great Barn, built about 1280 and less altered than the other farm buildings in the complex. The 16th century Little Barn became a library in 1937.
  • By 1939, the population of Ruislip-Northwood was 47,760. Despite this mushroom growth, Ruislip has managed to retain much of its old character and charm.
  • Manor Farm House was built by Kings College around 1500.
  • St Martin's Church in the High Street is a 13th century building much remodelled and extended during the years. Inside are traces of medieval wall paintings. Amongst those buried in the churchyard are Jessie Matthews, the stage and film actress, Elizabeth Schumann, the soprano singer, and the cellist, Reginald Kilbey.

River Pinn

  • The Pinn is an ancient rivulet, which is one of the feeders of the Colne. It was, at one time, also known as Ruislip Brook and is nearly 12 miles long.
  • It rises on Harrow Weald Common and flows down through Headstone into Pinner. From there, it runs into Old Eastcote, past Haydon Hall Lodge - from where it flows into Ruislip - through the golf course into Ickenham.
  • It then crosses Uxbridge Common into Uxbridge, and on through the RAF base to Brunel University. It runs through Pield Heath to join the Frays at Yiewsley. The Frays joins the Colne southwest of Drayton Mill. The Colne in turn flows into the Thames near Isleworth.
  • The River Pinn was once a good fishing stream. In 1804, at the time of the Ruislip enclosure, there was a right of way 3 feet wide along the banks of the Pinn, so that the lord of the manor and his lessees and servants could enjoy the fishing, despite the allotments nearby. In those days, there was far more water in the Pinn.
  • During the Second World War, the Pinn was dammed at the bottom of Pinner High Street as a reserve water supply in case of fire from air-raids.
  • Work has been done in recent times to prevent the Pinn from flooding surrounding areas.

Ruislip Lido

At the beginning of the 19th century, there was no Ruislip Lido.

Where it is now was a small shallow valley with a stream and some dwellings along its length, forming the Hamlet of Park Hearne. This hamlet remained until the Ruislip Enclosure of 1804 to 1814. At that time, large areas of land in the old parish of Ruislip, which until then had been open fields and common grazing, were divided up and fenced by Act of Parliament.

To pay the cost of organising these enclosures, certain portions were sold and one such lot was purchased by the Grand Junction Canal Company. At this time, the company had built the canal and were seeking supplies of water to feed it. A dam was constructed across the valley (on which the boathouse now sits) to form a reservoir filled by the small streams from Copse Wood and what is now Northwood Golf Course. At the end of 1811, it was reported as filling with water. 

There is a story that the militia had to be brought out from Windsor to evict them. During the period 1950 to 1980, the lido was in its heyday as a water-based recreation facility. The reservoir became a popular area for water skiing. Water was plentiful, the lake covered a much larger area than now and it received thousands of visitors each summer. At peak times, London Transport ran three different routes, employing double decker buses at 20-minute intervals, to bring visitors from all over north west London. On the west shore stood the original 1930's building, which housed catering facilities, bathers changing rooms, managers office and chlorination plant.

There were turnstiles at each entrance, and charging for entry and car parking raised considerable revenue. During this period, the lido was used as a set for major films, including 'The Young Ones' with Cliff Richard and the Titanic sank in the lido in the film 'A Night to Remember'.

In 1994, this building was destroyed by fire and was later replaced with the Waters Edge public house.

The lido, surrounded by London's first National Nature Reserve, Ruislip Woods, remains a pleasant place to walk.

Ruislip Manor

  • The area we now know as Ruislip Manor was covered with open fields at the beginning of the last century. It was part of the Manor of Ruislip, which was owned at that time by King's College, Cambridge.
  • The Metropolitan Railway opened a small halt there in 1912 on the Harrow to Uxbridge line, but there was no housing development until George Ball bought 186 acres south of the railway from King's College. His Manor Homes estate was built between 1933 and 1939.
  • They were mainly small houses aimed at the working man who wanted to become a homeowner. A substantial number were occupied by men from Tyneside and other parts of the north who had come down to London to seek work. A great deal of effort was put into advertising them by holding firework displays and providing entertainment by famous people, such as Elsie and Doris Waters.
  • With this influx of people into the area, the small railway halt was no longer adequate and a new station was constructed in 1938. Other facilities were also needed on the estate and space was provided for Lady Bankes School and St Paul's Church. A new shopping centre was built near the station and in 1937 land near the Yeading Brook was set aside as a public open space. It took only six years to transform a quiet country area into a busy part of London suburbia.
    Page last updated: 22 May 2023