By Andrea Cameron
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 1 (1980)
It may come as a surprise to a modern occupant of the London Borough of Hounslow to discover that Hounslow itself had no official existence until the formation of the Parish of Holy Trinity, Hounslow, in 1856.
We do not know whether there were any prehistoric settlers at Hounslow, though the presence of forest in the area makes it unlikely. The road built by the Romans from London to Silchester goes through the centre of today’s town, though if there was any Roman occupation it remains to be discovered.
The name Hounslow first appeared in the Domesday Book as Honeslauu, a combination of the Old English words for hounds and hill. A year before the signing of the Magna Carta the Friars founded the Priory of Holy Trinity in Hounslow, their first permanent home in England. They built a hospice for travellers and the sick, and a chapel. The chapel survived the transition to lay ownership at the Dissolution until it was replaced by the new Holy Trinity Church in the 19th century. The ownership of the manor and the estate passed through many hands, though from 1704 till 1820 it was held by the Bulstrode family.
By 1650 there were 120 houses in the town and many of them were either inns or alehouses catering for travellers. The development of regular coach services in the 18th century benefitted the town – it was usually the first stop from, or the last stop to, London. At the turn of the 19th century there were stables for 800 horses and 150 coaches passed through the town each day. In a town so dependant on coach traffic the opening of the railways in the 1830s and 1840s caused a depression, though the arrival of the suburban line in 1850 encouraged the development of South Hounslow as a high-class residential area.
For most of its history the town has been divided between the parishes of Isleworth and Heston – the parish boundary was the middle of the main road. The two vestries found it hard to agree on improvements to the town so in the 19th century a body of local philanthropists – including Dr Frogley the surgeon, Dr Benson the curate of the chapel, Mr Henry Pownall, Mr Farnell of the Isleworth Brewery, Dr Joseph Banks and James Clitherow – took it upon themselves to raise money for a new chapel, the town school and the town hall.
Since Heston and Isleworth united in an Urban Sanitary District in 1875 with Hounslow as its centre the area has developed through an Urban District Council and Borough Council to the present London Borough of Hounslow.