Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …
Uxbridge was first recorded in c. 1145 as Wixebrug, from the name of an Anglo-Saxon tribe, the Wixan, and the Old English brycg, meaning bridge, and referring to a bridge over the River Colne (a tributary of the Thames lying some distance to the west of London).
During the course of the Medieval and post-Medieval periods, it developed into an important market-town, and later, into a local communications hub. One John Leland described Uxbridge during Henry VIII’s reign as: “one longe streete; but … well buildyd”, with a “Chapel of Ease” (the church of St Margaret); a “paroche Church … almoste a mile out of the towne in the very High Waye to London, called Great Hellindon” (the church of St John the Baptist); and a “Market ons a weke”. (The original Market House was built in Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I’s reign, in 1561, and demolished, to allow for road-widening, in 1785 – the replacement being built in 1788). Three Protestant heretics were burnt at the stake in Lynch Green in the town during the short reign of the Catholic Queen “Bloody” Mary in 1555. And in 1576, in the middle of Elizabeth I’s long reign, a number of men were punished here for playing football, “by reason of which unlawfull game there arose amongst them a great affray”. Later, in Stuart rather than Tudor times, 176 people died in Uxbridge of the plague in 1603. During the Civil War of 1642-51 the town was occupied by Parliamentarian forces, nearby Oxford by Royalists.
In the eighteenth century, the existing – London to – Oxford Road was widened, to facilitate the passage of stage-coach traffic. The Grand Junction canal arrived at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the now-disused branch line of the Great Western railway at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth, and the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines of the London Underground railway in the early twentieth.
Church of St Margaret
The surviving church of St Margaret was originally built, as a chapel-of-ease to the church of St John the Baptist, in the Medieval period, around the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and it was subsequently rebuilt around the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth. The oldest surviving part is the north tower, which dates to the late fourteenth century. The north aisle, arcade and nave date to the early fifteenth century, the font to the late fifteenth, c. 1480. The oldest memorial is that to Dame Leonora Bennet, who died in 1638. Dame Leonora’s third husband, Sir John Bennet, was sometime Chancellor to James I’s Queen Anne (of Denmark).
Church of St John the Baptist
The church of St John the Baptist was originally built on Hillingdon Hill in the early Medieval period, around the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and extended in the later Medieval, and subsequently substantially rebuilt in the post-Medieval, in 1629, the earlier buildings having by then become structurally unsound. The rebuilt church was in turn extended in the nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth, and also twice restored in the twentieth (once after having been bomb-damaged during the Second World War). The oldest surviving parts of the present church are the chancel arch, which dates to the late thirteenth century, and the aisles and nave, which date to the mid-fourteenth. The tower dates to the seventeenth-century rebuild. The best of the many surviving brass memorials in the church, highly regarded by no less a judge than Pevsner, is the Le Strange, which dates to 1509. This commemorates John, the eighth Lord Le Strange, and his first wife Jacquetta, who was the daughter of Richard Woodville. Jacquetta’s sister, Elizabeth, was Queen to King Edward IV (and mother of the “Princes in the Tower”, among others).
“Crown and Treaty”
The surviving “Crown and Treaty” public house, formerly part of “Place House”, was probably originally built in the post-Medieval period, sometime in the sixteenth century. In 1645, in the midst of the Civil War, delegations from the occupying Parliamentarian and opposing Royalist forces met here under a temporary truce to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty (sadly, the negotiations were to break down, apparently on account of the king’s – Charles I’s – intransigence, and the war was to go on for several more years, and to claim the lives of many more combatants and civilians). In the 1920s, some of the sumptuous wood-panelling from the house was sent to New York to adorn an office in the Empire State Building, which was still under construction at the time. In 1953, it was returned, as a gift to the queen on her coronation.