The ancient village of Acton, which is mentioned in Domesday Book, had three large common fields, the Church or Lammas field, and the East and South Fields. To the east of the South Field and bordering on Acton Vale, the London-Oxford Road, to the north, lay the lands of the Oldfields estate, which in time passed by marriage to the Cowper family, later Cowper-Essex. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Major Thomas Cowper-Essex, a major in the third (Militia) Battalion of Her Majesty's North Lancashire Regiment, residing in Fulham Road, and lately returned from the Boer War, signed a number of leases with a builder called Joseph Hall, who lived in Blandford Road, on the northern edge of Bedford Park. The area north of Bedford Park, once open fields, had been filling up rapidly, and Hall had obtained permission from Acton Council to build 36 houses in Alexandra Road in August 1903, and 48 houses in Hatfield Road in 1904. He subsequently added a further 33 houses, 21 in St George's Road, and 12 on Southfield Road, along the north side, from the park to Rugby Road. The houses are easily identifiable by the identical pier mouldings on their square bay windows, but many also have decorative front paths and striking tiles in the porches.
Over time, and as the amenities of the area began to develop, other houses and streets grew up to the east of the original group. Rugby Road had been a thoroughfare for a long time and appears by name in 1903, though its houses were built later. Greenend Road was approved by the Council 1907 and became a highway in 1909, but it is obvious from the different house styles that it was built up at different times. Saltcoats and Hamilton Roads were also approved in 1907, but Saltcoats only became a highway in 1915. Hamilton Road, which became a highway in 1909, was originally called Latterbarrow Road, but its name was changed at its residents' request on 1 February 1911. Hawkshead makes its first appearance in Kelly's London Directory in 1931. and Worcester Drive is a very recent addition. In the 1911 Census, the latest to be made available, Greenend Road had only seven houses listed, numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 15, though 2 and 3 both contained two households. Hamilton Road had 27 houses listed, Saltcoats, Rugby, and Hawkshead none. Two of the names come from the original Cowper estate, based on the village of Hawkshead, in the southern Lake District, between Windermere and Coniston Water, whose church, St Michael and All Angels has a number of family graves and memorials. Latterbarrow, the original name of Hamilton Road, is a place nearby. Greenend and Saltcoats are also Cumbrian place names, though whether they have any direct connection with the estate...
Our area was purely residential, but there was plenty of industry close by. The Wilkinson Sword Factory (which made swords, razors and vehicles and during World War 1 manufactured over 2 million bayonets on site) is commemorated today by Wilkinson Way. The factory stood at the opposite side of Southfield Park, which was created on land which Acton Council bought from Wilkinsons in 1908. On the other side of the railway line, on the present industrial estate, the motor trade was particularly well represented - Napiers, Du Cros, CAV, and Vanderell and Co., manufacturing electricians and motor ignition specialists, but also Eastman (dye) and Evershed and Vignoles (electrical test equipment). The railway line which separated them from the houses was the Hammersmith Branch of NSWJR (the North and South West Junction Railway). The branch line ran from Stamford Brook, just behind King Street, to join the main line of the railway, now the North London Line, but the branch was very short-lived as a passenger line, from 1909 to 1917, though it survived as a goods line until 3 May 1965, supporting the Acton Coal Depot and an asphalt works.
A website has been set up on the original group of houses, in Alexandra, St George's and Hatfield Roads, and their history. It holds information drawn from the 1911 census on the households, occupations and birthplaces of those living there, but also covers other topics like the neighbourhood, the shops, school, church, and park, the local transport facilities, which once included our own station, Rugby Road Halt. It also looks at the area in wartime, and welcomes contributions. More information about the history of Acton in general can be found on the website of the Acton History Group.