UXBRIDGE  (Metropolitan and District) a LONDON TUBE RAMBLES short walk round Uxbridge (can be extended to follow the London Loop for 4 miles along the Grand Union canal to Harefield)

Uxbridge is a thriving town with a mixture of old buildings and large shiny office blocks. It has been a commercial centre since the twelfth century. Until Victorian times the main wealth of the town came from the corn market and the mills powered by the rivers Fray and Colne. The improved transport link provided by the construction of the Middlesex section of the Grand Union Canal in 1796 also increased the town’s prosperity. Gradually milling ceased to be the main business and the areas previously concerned with growing corn began to be used for market-gardening, brick-making and  hay production. Even today there is farmland just beyond the town centre, to the west of the rivers. 

The Tube station itself is a good place to start the Uxbridge trail. When you reach the large ticket hall look up to see a colourful stained glass window containing elements from the arms of Middlesex and Buckinghamshire (Uxbridge lies on the border between the two counties). A 1930’s working destination board, complete with clock, still stands at the entrance to the platforms. The station was designed by Charles Holden in 1938 and because it is a terminus is a bit grander than most. Directly over the road is the colonnaded Market Hall (1789). Its open trading space has now been filled in with glazed shop-fronts.  By the eighteenth century commerce was already dictating the shape of the town. The market hall we see today was built to replace the one demolished in 1785 when the High Street was widened to solve the traffic problems caused by the great number of coaches using Uxbridge as a staging post. Now much of the High Street has been pedestrianised and is an excellent shopping centre with two shopping malls, the Chimes (to the left of the station) and the less formal Pavilions, which has separate stalls and an internal lift shaft fancifully disguised as a Venetian palazzo.  

Section one: To discover more of old Uxbridge, turn right from the Tube and walk along the High Street, passing The Pavilions. The imposing Old Bank House at No. 142 is dated 1791. This refers not to the building itself but to the foundation of the Uxbridge Old Bank. (The original premises of the same name are further down the High Street.) Soon after going past an eighteenth-century house with projecting white windows (No. 132) you will come upon one of the many Uxbridge ‘yards’. Look out for more of these on your way round.  Beasley’s Yard come next.  As can be seen from a memorial stone let into the wall on the left, this was named after the Rev Thomas Ebenezer Beasley 1763-1824. In the yard itself is Watts Hall, formerly the Old Meeting House, a nonconformist church. Originally erected in 1716, it was rebuilt in 1883. Return to the High Street. No.120 has two delicately carved porches and next door is a four-hundred-year-old cottage currently the Nonna  Rosa restaurant. Hill House (No. 118) is a large Georgian House occupied by an estate agent. Cross Harefield Road and continue to a little bridge (Fray’s River), look to the left for Fountains Flour Mill, now a youth centre. 

Opposite the mill, across a large road junction, you can see the Crown and Treaty. This building was part of Place House which in 1645 was a meeting place for Royalists and Parliamentarians to forge a treaty (unsuccessful) to end the Civil War. By 1816 the house had become a pub.  Cross Braybourne Close and shortly after that Sanderson Road to get to Oxford Road. Soon you will see the 1991 Parexel offices in art deco liner style at the bridge over the Grand Union Canal and the River Colne. 

Walk across the bridge as far as Willow Avenue (temporarily ignoring the inviting canal side pub). The flour mill that once stood here was called Kings Mill - a popular brand of bread is named after it.  Now most of the modern buildings have been demolished and the site redeveloped as housing. You can still see the mill race on the left, though a concierge will want to know your business if you try to enter the private area of the complex. He sits in a small glazed hut that was originally the weighbridge office when it was situated further along the yard.  Return to Oxford Road to reach the Swan and Bottle pub passed earlier. It dates back to the seventeenth century and owes its strange name to the fact that there were two pubs here – the Olde Swan and the Leather Bottle. Should you wish to do a canal trek, go through the pub car park and down a slope to the waterside. At Uxbridge Lock cross over the hump-backed bridge and follow the towpath. In Harefield (about 4 miles) there are buses back to Uxbridge or other Tube stations. (See note below.)  To skip the walk, take the route below to continue exploring the town. 

Section Two
Retrace your steps as far as the Market Hall. Here turn right for the medieval St.Margaret’s church, which has become squashed into a corner site at Windsor Street as the town has grown. Although the west end has been modernized to act as a coffee shop,  the rest of the church is intact, with a fine fifteenth-century hammer beam roof in the nave. On the north side look for the tomb of one Dame Leonora Bennet (d1638) which has an unusually gruesome depiction of what might be found inside a charnel house. On leaving the church, turn left . The Town Pump is nearby. Over the road is the Queen’s Head (1544). The board outside makes fascinating reading. It is thought that at one time the pub may have been the rectory, as there is an underground passage which leads to the church.  The Fig Tree wine bar housed the Police Station and was previously known as The Old Bill. Seems a shame to change such a good and historically relevant name. The street is full of attractive small-scale shops and at No.46 is another ‘yard’ - have a look at the intriguing wooden structure occupied by a mini cab firm.
At the end of Windsor Street is a free-standing arch which leads into Lynch Green. To get to it, cross at the lights - be careful, they can be confusing. This green was waste ground and in 1555 several Protestant Martyrs were burnt here for their beliefs. In 1576 the land was given by the Lord of the Manor (The Earl of Derby) to the people of Uxbridge for a burial ground. From the inscription on the arch you will learn that it continued to be used for this purpose until 1855. It is now a shady park. Go back up Windsor Street, but before catching your train home wander through the colonnade of the Market Hall. As you reach the end you will catch a glimpse of a large white building (c1850) with a balustrade on the roof. Now owned by a bank, it was for many years the premises of a corn dealer.Have a closer look and you will spot an unusually handsome decoration on the corner and quaint figures on the window cornices. These were added when the frontage was remodelled in the 1920’s. 

Beyond this is one of the traditional coaching inns of old Uxbridge, The Three Tuns, which still advertises its beer by displaying three large barrels or ‘tuns’. A few steps away is the former Kings Arms where the Licensing Court used to meet. Parts of both these buildings date back to at least the sixteenth century.  Those wishing to delve more deeply into the fascinating history of the town might like to visit the website  British History On Line.

Canal  Walk 
My town trail is planned as a circular route, so you might miss out if not returning to Uxbridge after doing the long canal walk. To avoid this, instead of going past The Pavilions after leaving the Tube, turn left towards the church in Windsor Street and follow section two of the above route before proceeding down the High Street to get to the canal.       
Buses from Harefield: U9    331 


Photos: (Click to enlarge)
Market Hall/Grand Union Canal
Station clock

Watts Hall/Hill House
Fountain Mill/Crown &Treaty pub
River Colne/Swan & Bottle pub
Old Mill House
St. Margaret's church/Queen's Head pub
Tomb of Dame Leonora Bennet
Cab office, Windsor Street
The Three Tuns pub

Uxbridge is just one route from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to click on the above link  to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR