Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” (for further details of which, the reader is referred to the “deep topographer” Nick Papadimitriou’s “Scarp”, an extraordinary journey of exploration of the landscape, of the self, and of imagined others) …
Northolt was first recorded in a Saxon charter of 960, as Northhealum, meaning northern (north) nooks of land (h(e)alh-um), and at this time was a small agricultural settlement lorded over by one Wulfgar. It was later recorded in the Norman “Domesday Book” of 1086 as Northala (*), and by this time had come into the ownership of Geoffrey de Mandeville. The church of St Mary and a moated manor house were built here later in the Medieval period.
For much of its history, Northolt remained rural, and even after the arrival of the canal in 1801 and the railway in 1907, semi-rural. It finally became suburbanised only around a hundred years ago, in the 1920s to 1930s.
(*) This name lives on in that of the recently-opened Northala Fields Country Park, which features four artificial hills built out of rubble from the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium.
Church of St Mary
The present tiny church of St Mary, measuring only 44’ by 25’, was built here from around the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and into the sixteenth, when the chancel was added, the seventeenth, when the spired bell tower was added, and the eighteenth, when the gallery and supporting buttresses at the west end were added.
From the late thirteenth century to as recently as the nineteenth, the Rector of Northolt traditionally served as Bishop of London. The Rev. Pamela Walker became the first female Rector in all England on her recent appointment.
Moated Manor House
A moated manor house was built here in the mid-1200s by the Boteler family. It was rebuilt in the 1340s by the Frauncis family, again in 1370 by the Brembre family, both families believed to be wealthy London merchants, and yet again in the 1530s by Westminster Abbey (which had been presented with it by Richard II in 1399). After the Dissolution of the Monasteries later in the 1530s, it passed from the Abbey into private ownership, becoming Northolt Court, and the new Lords of the Manor continued to live in it for over a hundred years, before eventually abandoning it in the 1670s. It then lay derelict for nearly three hundred years, before being archaeologically excavated by John Hurst and Charles Keene between 1950-74, and scheduled as an ancient monument in 1983. Earthworks associated with the manor house can still be seen.
“A low parched-grass mound
surrounded by buttercups
all else long-since gone”.