The earliest unwritten evidence of settlement in West Drayton & Yiewsley comes from archaeological digs in local gravel pits revealing Stone Age and Iron Age pottery in West Drayton and Palaeolithic stone tools in Yiewsley. West Drayton was originally referred to as Draegtun, which means a place where boats can be dragged over land, in all likelihood to avoid a bend in a river. The earliest written record of West Drayton was in the 1086 Doomsday Book, where it was assessed at ten hides with land suitable for six ploughs and with 17 land owners, suggesting a population of less than 100 people. Yiewsley receives no mention in the Doomsday book but was originally known as Wiueslag (meaning wife’s wood) and formed part of the Manor of Colham.
The Dean’s Manor (c.925 – 1546)
In the 10th Century King Athelstan (925 – 940) granted the Manor to the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls and this remained the case until 1546, producing corn, barley and oats for the cathedral clergy and their staff. The manor included most of the Parish of West Drayton with the exception of the part lying between Swan Road and Colham Mill Road. The latter was a separate and smaller manor known as Drayton and Colham Garden. Its manor house was known originally as the Burroughs and later as Drayton House, but was demolished in 1923. It is on part of this land that our present day offices stand.
The Paget Era (1546 – 1786)
During the Reformation, on April 1st 1546 the Dean and Chapter surrendered their interest in the manor to the Crown. Fourteen days later Henry VIII granted the Lordship of the Manor to William Paget who was one of the most influential men of the Tudor Period holding prominent positions in the service of Henry VIII as well as Edward VI and Mary I. West Drayton was ideally located for a man connected with the royal household, being within comfortable distance of London, Windsor and Hampton Court. Paget however felt that the existing manorial buildings were inadequate for a man of his position and so he decided to re-build them in his vision. His new manor house occupied much of the western end of the present St Matthews churchyard, continuing southwards into what is now Beaudesert Mews. The grounds extended westwards to the bottom of Church Road and were enclosed by a high Tudor brick wall, much of which still remains today. The Gate House leading into the courtyard also survives. For the next two and a half centuries the appearance of West Drayton remained the same until the Pagets moved to Dawley and the manor house became derelict and was demolished circa 1750. In 1786 The Paget’s sold their interest in the manor ending West Drayton’s connection with the Paget family after 240 years.
The De Burgh Era (1786 – 1918)
The De Burgh family purchased the interest in the Manor of West Drayton in 1782 for £12,000. As the manor house had been demolished, the family made Drayton Hall their home and it is here that they later entertained their family friend Napoleon III. The De Burghs also owned the Manor of Colham, which Yiewsley was of course part of, and so through their shared Lord of the Manors, West Drayton and Yiewsley had a common interest whch started the process of bringing the two villages closer together. Despite this however, West Drayton & Yiewsley were still isolated and lightly populated agricultural parishes in the 1780’s. In 1811 West Drayton had a population of 555 (unfortunately no figures are available for Yiewsley) and by the 1860’s population had risen to 948. At the end of the 18th Century the first of many major transport link enhancements came to the area in the form of the Grand Union Canal. It cut through the district and formed a visible boundary between the two villages, opening up the area for trade by providing a cheap means of transport. In 1838 came the opening of the Great Western Railway with West Drayton as its first station out of Paddington. The original station was in Tavistock Road but was moved to its present site in 1879. The two main industries in the district during the 19th Century were agriculture and brickmaking. Yiewsley in particular was rich in brick earth and much of 19th century London was built of bricks made in Yiewsley, Stockley and West Drayton carried to the capital by barges on the canal. The growth of the brickfields resulted in an increase in the population of Yiewsley, which was very much a development of the 19th Century. By 1895 Yiewsley’s population was nearly 3,000. The last of the brickfields closed in 1935 but whilst these were in decline, other industries were being established such as the Power Plant Co., the Rotary Photographic Co., Wilkins Campbell Ltd and Johnson’s Wax Factory. By this time Yiewsley and West Drayton were developing into a London suburb mainly fuelled by the arrival of the Great Western Railway.
Inter War Period
The outbreak of The Great War led to many locals serving either as volunteers or conscripts. Yiewsley for example provided 535 men to the army and navy. The district did not suffer air raids (as in the Second World War) and therefore was not damaged physically by the conflict although 162 men were sadly lost to the war. Following the end of The Great War a large amount of housing was built both by the local authority and private sector to meet demand. This included local authority housing in St Martins Road in West Drayton and the Falling Lane area of Yiewsley during the 1920’s. The 1930’s also saw the Bell Farm Estate built. Additionally much private housing was constructed including West Drayton Garden City (including Fairway Avenue), Ferrers Avenue, Bagley Close, Drayton Gardens, Cherry Orchard and West Drayton Park Avenue. The railway line combined with the builder’s enticing brochures attracted many commuters to West Drayton as it allowed London workers the benefits of living in rural surroundings. Local employment moved away from the brickfields which were nearly worked out whilst much of the agricultural land was now being sold for development. Industry moved into the area resulting in the building of factories, perhaps the most important being the Anglo-Swiss Screw Co. In 1929 the Urban District of Yiewsley & West Drayton was formed and this further cemented the bringing together of Yiewsley and West Drayton. The outbreak of the Second World War put a hold on the development of the area with all energies diverted to the war effort and most able bodied men were called up for military service. 1940 saw the first bombs fall in the area damaging or destroying a number of buildings including a tobacconists shop on Swan Road. As peace returned a preliminary announcement was made in June 1944 of plans to build an airport at Heathrow.
Post War Era
Heathrow Airport opened in 1946 – an event that was to have a momentous effect on the future of West Drayton and Yiewsley. The airport and its hotels provided work for many thousands of people but demand could not be met from the surrounding area. As a result many employees had to come from other districts and there was a great demand for houses in West Drayton. The result was that most available pieces of land were built on both by the private builders and the local authority. The council built the Stockley, Phillpots Farm, Wise Lane and Glebe Estates. Private building was on a smaller scale including extensions to West Drayton Park Avenue and Fairway Avenue as well as new roads such as Caroline Close, Catherines Close, Frays Close, Copse Close, Mill Road, Roseary Close, Church Close and Beaudesert Mews. The continued expansion of Heathrow airport, the opening of the M4 in 1965 and the M25 in 1986 elevated West Drayton into a major transport hub and commuter town. Fast forwarding to recent times, and in an echo to the many previous transportation improvements acting as a catalyst to development in the area, the Crossrail Act received Royal Assent on 22 July 2008. This high frequency, high capacity railway will link West Drayton via central London, to Essex and South East London and has once again set in motion further demand for housing and development in the run up to the commencement of its full operation in 2019.
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