A brief history of Askew Road
by Caroline MacMillan
It is hard to imagine when enjoying a coffee at one of Askew Road’s cafes that in 1745 this area was farmland with just a few houses alongside the delightfully named Gaggle Goose Green, a track running between the two main routes into London which subsequently became the Uxbridge and Goldhawk Roads.
Several country landowners wishing to live within easy reach of London settled in the area, one being the Askew family who owned substantial land in the north and west of England and their legacy lives on not only in the name of the main shopping road but some residential streets as well.
By 1830 the area was covered in orchards and market gardens which supplied fresh produce to the ever-expanding City of London some four miles to the east. As London continued to spread westward, the growing demand for building materials encouraged the farmers to supplement their income with brick making using the clay lying under the topsoil. Between 1870 and 1890 over 17 million bricks were produced and one of the major producers, the Stamford Brook Brickfield, covered an area of more than 50 acres and employed 250 men and boys.
The arrival of trains to the area made the area attractive to City workers so by 1893 affordable housing was rapidly covering the orchards and brickfields whilst shops and tradesmen’s premises were established in Askew Road. Schools and churches were built, pubs opened their doors and small businesses flourished in side streets. Dairies provided fresh daily milk and many households earned extra money by taking in laundry from the more affluent Kensington residents. In 1900 there were 62 laundries listed in and around Becklow Road alone so it is hardly surprising that the area north west of Askew Road was nicknamed ‘Soapsud Island’.
The First World War saw the municipal kitchen in Becklow Road’s Victoria Hall providing up to 2,000 meals a day whilst during the Second World War residents built Anderson shelters in their back gardens and there was a large one for public use in Wendell Park.
The trolley buses have long gone and the pond at Starch Green is now a neatly mowed green lawn. Shops in Askew Road which once provided fresh milk from cows tethered nearby or live rabbits bred in adjacent fields have been replaced with modern delicatessens, butchers and bakers and families continue to enjoy living in this area with its easy access to central London, its green spaces and fascinating history.
© Caroline MacMillan
West London Walks