Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path) walk …
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”. 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. And in 1645, in the midst of the Civil War, delegations from the occupying Parliamentarian and opposing Royalist forces met under a temporary truce in the surviving “Crown and Treaty” public house 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 eighteenth century, the existing – London to – Oxford Road was widened, to facilitate the passage of stage-coach traffic, and the old Market House was demolished and replaced with a new one. 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).