Acton, London

Last updated

Acton Town Hall, built for Acton Urban District and opened 10 March 1910
Greater London UK location map 2.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within Greater London
Area9.20 km2 (3.55 sq mi)
Population62,480  [1]
  Density 6,791/km2 (17,590/sq mi)
OS grid reference TQ205805
  Charing Cross 6.1 mi (9.8 km)  W
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Historic county
Post town LONDON
Postcode district W3,W4,W12
Postcode district NW10
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°30′49″N0°16′14″W / 51.513519°N 0.270661°W / 51.513519; -0.270661 Coordinates: 51°30′49″N0°16′14″W / 51.513519°N 0.270661°W / 51.513519; -0.270661

Acton ( /ˈæktən/ ) is an area of West London, England, within the London Borough of Ealing. It is 6.1 miles (10 km) west of Charing Cross. It lies within the Historic County of Middlesex.


At the 2011 census, its four wards, East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 62,480, a ten-year increase of 8,791 people. [2] North Acton, West Acton, East Acton, South Acton, Acton Green, Acton Town, Acton Vale and Acton Central are all parts of Acton.

Acton means "oak farm" or "farm by oak trees", and is derived from the Old English āc (oak) and tūn (farm). [3] [4] Originally an ancient village, as London expanded, Acton was absorbed into the city. Since 1965, Acton equates to the east of the London Borough of Ealing, though some of East Acton is in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and a small portion of South Acton is in the London Borough of Hounslow.

Central Acton is synonymous with the hub of commerce and retail on the former main road between London and Oxford (the Uxbridge Road); a reminder of its history is in its inns, which date back in cases to the late Tudor period as stopping places for travellers. Nowadays, the principal route linking London and Oxford (the A40 dual carriageway) bypasses central Acton, but passes through East Acton and North Acton.


Acton's name derives from the Old English words āc (oak) and tūn (enclosed garden, enclosure), meaning "a garden or a field enclosed by oaks". Later, in the Middle Ages tūn became a synonym for "farm" or "farm by oak trees". For several centuries, its name bore the prefix Church (hence Chirche Acton, Churche Acton, etc.) to distinguish it from the separate hamlet of East Acton. [3]



St Mary's Church, King Street, Acton Central Stmarysacton2.jpg
St Mary's Church, King Street, Acton Central

Different phases of prehistoric settlement are marked by a range of finds. It begins with a cluster of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic flint cores, [5] flakes [5] and artefacts [5] mainly to the north of Churchfield Road. Around the Mill Hill Park area, a Neolithic axe, [5] and a group of Bronze Age Deverel-Rimbury urns and cremated bone [5] were found, along with an Iron Age pot shard. [5] Iron Age coins were also found near near Bollo Lane. The Roman period is represented by a ditch [5] in the same area, and a hoard [5] north of Springfield Gardens. In the Middle Ages the northern half of the parish was heavily wooded. Oaks and elms still stood along roads and hedgerows and in private grounds in the early 20th century, but most of the woodland had been cleared by the 17th century, even on the extensive Old Oak common. [4]

Medieval era

Landholders figuring in county records were resident by 1222 and houses were recorded from the late 13th century. The main settlement, Church Acton or Acton town, lay slightly west of the centre of the parish along the highway to Oxford (Uxbridge Road) at the 5-mile post out of London. By 1380 some of the tenements, such as The Tabard and The Cock, along the south side of the road, were inns. The hamlet of East Acton, mentioned in 1294, consisted of farmhouses and cottages north and south of common land known as East Acton green by 1474. [4]

Medieval settlement was mainly around the two hamlets. At Church Acton most of the farmhouses lay along the Oxford road or Horn Lane, with only a few outlying farms. Friars Place Farm at the north end of Horn Lane and the moated site to the west, occupied until the 15th century, were early farms. East of Friars Place farm were commons: Worton or Watton Green and Rush green in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Friars Place in the 18th century, where there was some settlement by 1664. To the north-west were Acton or Old Oak wells, known by 1613. In the parish's extreme south, a few farmhouses on the northern side of Acton common or Acton Green were mentioned as in Turnham Green until the 19th century and were linked more closely with that village than with Acton. Gregories, mentioned in 1551 as a copyhold tenement with 30 a. near Bollo Lane and the Brentford high road, probably lay in Acton. [4]

Londoners were increasingly involved in land sales from the early 14th century but apparently did not live in Acton until the late 15th. The manor, part of Fulham, had no resident (demesne) lord, and apart from a brief period before c. 1735, when a branch of the landed Somerset (Duke of Beaufort's) family lived in Acton, there were no large resident landowners. Many of the tenements without land, including most of the inns, frequently changed hands. [4]

Early modern period

By the 17th century Acton's proximity to London had made it a summer retreat for courtiers and lawyers. Sir Richard Sutton bought the seat at East Acton known later as Manor House in 1610 and Sir Henry Garraway probably rebuilt Acton House in 1638. Sir John Trevor MP bought several Acton properties in the mid 17th century, including Berrymead/Berrymede, improving it with a lake and stream, home of George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax and his second son after him, and afterwards of the Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, with a much-praised landscape. [4]

The parish had 158 communicants in 1548. In 1664 it had 72 chargeable households and 59 exempt, with 6 empty houses. Six houses had 10 or more hearths, 16 had from 5 to 9, 33 had 3 or 4, 23 had 2, and 53 had 1. Acton had about 160 families resident in the mid 18th century. [4]

Acton was lauded as "blessed with very sweet air" in 1706 by rector urging a friend in verse to move there. The fashion for medicinal waters brought a brief period of fame, with the exploitation of the wells at Old Oak common, when East Acton and Friars Place were said to be thronged with summer visitors, who had brought about improvement in the houses there. Although high society had left Acton by the mid 18th century, many professional and military men bought houses there, sometimes including a small park, until well into the 19th century. The break-up of the 800 acres (3.2 km2) Fetherstonhaugh estate, which had had no resident owner, produced four or five small estates whose owners, professional men such as Samuel Wegg, John Winter, and Richard White, were active in parish affairs. Grand early homes included: Heathfield Lodge, West Lodge, and East Lodge by Winter c. 1800, Mill Hill House by White, and Woodlands at Acton Hill soon afterwards. Acton Green also became increasingly popular, being near Chiswick High Road (the Great West Road). Fairlawn, substantial, on west side of the green, was the home of the botanist John Lindley (1797–1865) as was the house to the north and Bedford House, another home of Lindley, and Melbourne House further east. A short row of houses had been built on the south side of the green by 1800. [4]

19th Century development

Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths' Alms Houses, Acton, 1812. Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths' Alms Houses, Acton.jpg
Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths' Alms Houses, Acton, 1812.

In 1812, twenty almshouses were built by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths on the former Perryn estate, on land which had been left to the company by John Perryn in 1657. [6]

There were 241 inhabited houses in 1801 and 426 by 1831. Growth took place mainly in the established residential neighbourhoods of Acton town and East Acton, but Acton Green also had acquired a cluster of cottages and houses at the bottom of Acton Lane by 1842. Acton was mostly rural in 1831. The few mansions contrasted sharply with most of the houses, which were described as 'beneath mediocrity of character'. Despite an overall rise in the number of houses, poor rates had to be increased in the 1820s because of a growing number of empty dwellings. [4]

More widespread building was planned and took place in the 1850s. As a result of its soft water sources, Acton became famous for its laundries and at the end of the 19th century there were around 170 establishments in South Acton. These laundries would serve hotels and the rich in London's West End, leading to the nickname "Soapsuds Island" or "Soap Sud City". At least 600 different laundries operated within South Acton; [7] the last laundry closed in the late 1970s and is now a low redbrick block of flats.[ citation needed ]

The parish of Acton formed a local board of health in 1865 and became an urban district in 1894.

20th century

The town was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Acton in 1921. This authority combined with the municipal boroughs of Ealing and Southall to form the London Borough of Ealing, within Greater London, in 1965. [4] An Acton Golf Club was founded in 1896, which closed in 1920 and the area was redeveloped for housing. [8]

Acton formed an urban district and, later, municipal borough of Middlesex from 1894 to 1965. Its former area was used to form part of the London Borough of Ealing in 1965. During the 20th century Acton was a major industrial centre employing tens of thousands of people, particularly in the motor vehicles and components industries. The industries of North Acton merged with the great industrial concentrations of Park Royal and Harlesden. One of the most important firms was Renault of France, which made cars, including the 4CV and the Renault Dauphine, at a factory in North Acton from 1926 until 1960. [9] Renault has remained on the site continuously since the 1920s and still has its main London showroom on the Park Royal site.

Further south Acton Vale had famous names including D. Napier & Son (engines), H. Bronnley & Co (Soaps), Evershed & Vignoles (electrical equipment), Lucas CAV (automotive electrical), Vandervell Products (bearings), and Wilkinson Sword (swords and razors).

Acton Today

Acton is now principally residential, though it maintains some light industry, particularly in the northeast Park Royal area, and the south near the border with Chiswick. Waitrose started in Acton, as Waite, Rose and Taylor - on the High Street near the police station - with its second branch opening in Churchfield Road in 1913. [10]

The South Acton estate South acton harlech corfe beumaris.JPG
The South Acton estate

Acton is home to the largest housing estate in West London, the South Acton estate, with approximately 2,000 homes and 5,800 residents. [11]

This area is currently in the Phase 2 of a major 15-year phased regeneration which includes near-total demolition of the existing residential units, and the construction of new and more numerous residential units. Since World War II, Acton has had a small but notable population of Polish immigrants. In recent years, a number of Antipodean immigrants have settled there; there are several Australian and South African pubs concentrated in a small area. A Japanese school has also attracted a Japanese community to West Acton. East Acton's King Fahd Academy also attracting Arab and mainly Saudi immigrants to the area. The Somali community is concentrated around Church Road, and there are two mosques near the High Street. The Irish community has diminished somewhat in recent years, but there are still a number of Irish pubs in the area.[ citation needed ]

Acton will host the starting point of the 25 kilometre Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known as the "Super Sewer") at the Acton Storm Tanks [12] in Canham Road. This will be built to avoid the discharge of sewage from Combined Sewer Overflow into the River Thames. [13]


The Acton High Street has a range of pubs which vary in theme and clientele.

Pilot of Acton Farmers' Market, December 2006 Acton Farmers Market.JPG
Pilot of Acton Farmers' Market, December 2006

The recently refurbished 'Mount' on Acton High Street hosts a Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Visitors can shop at stalls selling a range of produce. Acton's library, swimming baths (built in 1904) and Town Hall are examples of tall Victorian municipal buildings that can be found along the High Street. Acton Swimming Baths closed in December 2011 for a three-year development project, replacing the existing pools with a 25m 8-lane pool and a smaller teaching pool. The site reopened in April 2014 [14] An indoor climbing wall has recently opened on the high street, housed in a building originally constructed in the 1920s as an Art Deco cinema. The building was later used as a bingo hall before being refurbished into the bouldering centre there today. [15]

On the east end of Acton High Street is Acton Park, which features mini golf, bar and pizza restaurant operated by Putt in the Park. [16] The South Eastern corner of the park includes tennis courts, outdoor fitness equipment and a multi-purpose basketball and 5-a-side football court. The park also features a large children's play area including an adventure playground partially created from local trees felled during a storm, a pond, an art block and Acton Skate Park, run by the Ealing Skatepark Association, [17] which opened in April 2019. [18]


Acton High School, 2008 Acton High School, Middlesex, London, AHS.jpg
Acton High School, 2008

Primary schools

There are six state-funded primary schools in Acton, Berrymede Junior School, Derwentwater Primary School, East Acton Primary School, St Vincent's RC Primary School, West Acton Primary School, West Twyford Primary School. The Ark (charity) has opened two primary academies in Acton, Ark Priory Primary Academy in 2013 and Ark Byron Primary Academy in 2015, the latter is based in Acton Park.

Secondary schools

Acton has three state-funded secondary high schools, Ark Acton Academy, Twyford Church of England High School and The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, and an independent school, the Barbara Speake Stage School. Acton was once home to another independent school, Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls before it changed its site to Elstree, the Acton site becoming the Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic High School. Acton also hosts the King Fahad Academy, an independent Muslim school.[ citation needed ]

International schools

Japanese School in London Japanese School in London-000.jpg
Japanese School in London

The Japanese School in London is in Acton. [19]

Notable people



Stations in the area are:

Acton has seven railway stations bearing its name, more than any other place in the United Kingdom other than London itself. Acton is also the only place in London to have stations named after all four of its cardinal points, north, south, east, and west. [37] The widespread provision of train services reflects a long railway history, particularly associated (historically) with London Transport and the Great Western Railway.

North Acton has a large Great Western Railway housing estate (now privately owned), [38] and the Old Oak Common TMD railway depot is within the usual boundary, as is the London Transport Museum Depot which houses an extensive collection of historic and heritage rolling stock. Acton Main Line station has a busy freight yard (operating ballast and container trains).


London Buses routes 7, 70, 72, 94, 95, 207, 218, 228, 260, 266, 272, 283, 306, 427, 440, 487, 607, E3, N7, N11 and N207 serve Acton. [39] [40]

Shelved tram proposals

Transport for London, led by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, proposed to build a West London Tram between Shepherd's Bush and Uxbridge town centre. [41] It would have run along the A4020, the Uxbridge Road, through Acton, Ealing, West Ealing, Hanwell, Southall and Hayes End. This proposed scheme was highly controversial and resulted in strong differences in opinion between TfL, who supported the scheme, and local councils throughout the proposed route, who all took a 'no tram' stance. [42]

The West London Tram was finally scrapped when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed that the long-awaited Crossrail would go ahead in October 2007. Acton Main Line railway station is to be part of the Crossrail network once it is completed, with 4 trains an hour servicing each route. [43]

Neighbouring places

Related Research Articles

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London Borough of Hounslow London borough in United Kingdom

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Gunnersbury Human settlement in England

Gunnersbury is an area of West London, England.

London Borough of Ealing Borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Ealing is a London borough in West London. It comprises seven major towns: Acton (W3), Ealing, Greenford (UB6), Hanwell (W7), Northolt (UB5), Perivale (UB6) and Southall. With a population of 341,806 inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous London borough.

Perivale Human settlement in England

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Acton Town tube station London Underground station

Acton Town is a London Underground station in the south-west corner of Acton, West London, in the London Borough of Ealing, close to the border with the London Borough of Hounslow. The station is served by the District and Piccadilly lines and is in Travelcard Zone 3. On the District line, it is between Chiswick Park and Ealing Common stations, and on the Piccadilly line it is between Hammersmith and Ealing Common on the Uxbridge branch & South Ealing on the Heathrow branch. This was one of the oldest-running train stations in the world. Acton Town station was opened as Mill Hill Park on 1 July 1879 by the District Railway. It remained as a terminus until on 1 May 1883 and 23 June 1903 the DR opened two branches from Acton Town to Hounslow Town and Park Royal & Twyford Abbey respectively. On 4 July 1932 the Piccadilly line was extended to Acton Town. District line services to both the Hounslow and Uxbridge branches were withdrawn completely on 9 and 10 October 1964 after which operations were provided by the Piccadilly line alone.

West Ealing Human settlement in England

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Turnham Green tube station London Underground station

Turnham Green is a London Underground station in Chiswick of the London Borough of Hounslow, west London. The station is served by the District and Piccadilly lines although currently Piccadilly line trains normally stop at the station only at the beginning and end of the day, running through non-stop at other times. To the east, District line trains stop at Stamford Brook and Piccadilly line trains stop at Hammersmith. To the west, District line trains run to either Chiswick Park or Gunnersbury and Piccadilly line trains stop at Acton Town. The station is in both Travelcard Zone 2 and Zone 3.

North Acton tube station London Underground station

North Acton is a London Underground station in North Acton, west London in the London Borough of Ealing. The station is on the Central line between East Acton and Hanger Lane on the West Ruislip Branch and West Acton on the Ealing Broadway Branch. It is on the boundary of Travelcard Zone 2 and Zone 3.

Stamford Brook

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Chiswick Park tube station London Underground station

Chiswick Park is a London Underground station in Chiswick in West London. The station is served by the District line and is between Turnham Green and Acton Town stations. It is located at the junction of Bollo Lane and Acton Lane about 150 m north of Chiswick High Road (A315) and is in Travelcard Zone 3. It is the only station on the Ealing Broadway branch to be served exclusively by the District line. The station is located in the west of Chiswick, near Acton Green common.

Gunnersbury Park Human settlement in England

Gunnersbury Park is a park in the London Borough of Hounslow between Acton, Brentford, Chiswick and Ealing, West London, England. Purchased for the nation from the Rothschild family, it was opened to the public by Neville Chamberlain, then Minister of Health, on 21 May 1926. The park is currently jointly managed by Hounslow and Ealing borough councils. A major restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund was completed in 2018. The park and garden is Grade II listed.

Ealing Common

Ealing Common is a large open space in Ealing, West London.

North Acton Human settlement in England

North Acton is a part of Acton in west London, and is within the London Borough of Ealing. It runs adjacent to the industrial district of Park Royal. Historically part of the Municipal Borough of Acton in the county of Middlesex, it has formed part of the London Borough of Ealing since 1965.

West Twyford Human settlement in England

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South Acton, London Human settlement in England

South Acton in Acton, West London, is 6.4 miles (10.3 km) west of Charing Cross. At the 2001 census, Acton, comprising the wards of East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 53,689 people.

Acton–Northolt line Railway line in West London

The Acton–Northolt line (ANL), historically known as the New North main line (NNML), is a railway line in West London, England. Built between 1903 and 1906, it runs from the Great Western Main Line at Old Oak Common TMD to the Chiltern Main Line at South Ruislip, alongside the West Ruislip branch of the London Underground Central line, for a distance of around 11 miles (18 km).

Acton Green, London Human settlement in England

Acton Green is a neighbourhood in Chiswick and the London Borough of Ealing, in West London, England. It is named for the nearby Acton Green common.

Grove Park, Chiswick Human settlement in England

Grove Park is an area in the south of Chiswick, now in the borough of Hounslow, West London. It lies in the meander of the Thames occupied by Duke's Meadows park. Historically, the area belonged to one of the four historic villages in modern Chiswick, Little Sutton.


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