Heathrow Villages – History on your doorstep

With the sun shining brightly this morning, I decided to show my wife around some of the landmarks in Heathrow Villages

With the ongoing fight against the new runway and the rubbish and pothole issues that are frequently highlighted by our representatives in The Villages, it is good to highlight some of the positive aspects of life in the area and to take some time to look around the sites of historic interest that Heathrow Expansion would blight

The Great Barn, Harmondsworth

Great Barn internal shotReferred to as ‘The Cathedral of Middlesex’, the Barn was constructed in the 16th century and was still a working building up until the late 1970’s.

Restored by English Heritage in conjunction with The Friends of the Great Barn, it was re-opened to the public in April and can now be viewed on the second and fourth Sunday of each month between April and October.

Situated behind the historic St Mary’s Church, my wife and I were treated to a tour by local expert Justine Bayley, who pointed out a number of facts about both the building and it’s reconstruction that highlighted the level of craftsmanship that has enabled the structure to survive for centuries with hopefully many more to come.

For more details on The Barn please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The next days available to view are 14th and 28th June



The Barnes Wallis memorial

Barnes Wallis memorial

Just around the corner from The Great Barn is the relatively recent memorial to the famous inventor Barnes Wallis, who developed the revolutionary ‘bouncing bomb’ that RAF Lancasters of 617 squadron used to destroy the Ruhr dams in 1943. The leader of the raid, Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, was one of my boyhood heroes so it was good to see the architect of the raid remembered in this way. Barnes Wallis had previously designed the Wellington bomber, the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command in the early years of World War 2 and went on to play a key role in the development of the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons that were used to sink the battleship Tirpitz and wreck well fortified underground weapons factories in Germany respectively.

The immaculate state of the memorial is a tribute to local resident Armelle Thomas, who was instrumental in its construction and spends time making sure it is always well kept.

Cranford Park

Cranford Country park sign

Cranford Park is a haven for wildlife and one of the prettiest walks in Hillingdon. Amongst the numerous plant and insect life, the park is also home to such birds as the Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Nuthatch along with birds of prey such as the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

We kept to the pathways whilst visiting in order to not disturb the nests of the Skylarks, which they build on the ground and are very busy at this time of year.

A number of them were noticeable in the air with their distinctive calls, drowned out only by the noise of the Greater Airbus and Boeing that were in evidence on the flightpath in to Heathrow on a regular basis!

Heathrow Villages have been local communities for centuries, with settlements at the ground where the park now sits dating back to The Bronze Age. Seeing the beauty and the history today makes me more convinced than ever that a Third Runway at Heathrow must be stopped to preserve the area for many generations yet to come.


Local History to be proud of

Seventy years ago this week, The Battle of Britain reached it’s height. On 15th September 1940, in one last attempt to break the resistance of the RAF in the fight against the might of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force), massive formations of German bombers launched a huge aerial attack against targets in London.

They found the valiant Spitfires and Hurricanes waiting for them in numbers, and Hitler’s plans for invasion were scrapped.

Key to the victory was the famous planning room, where women from the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) pushed counters around a board to show the positions of enemy formations coming in, based on information from the radar stations on the coast and reports from the Observer Corps. Watching the board from above were the commanders of the RAF, Air Chief Marshall Dowding and commander 11 group, Keith Park – Plus, on 15th September, Churchill himself, as immortalised in the film ‘Battle of Britain’. Strategies were hatched, squadrons guided to target, and the campaign won from this room, housed at RAF Uxbridge in the centre of the borough.

On the 15th, I will be lighting a candle and raising a glass to all those who worked and protected our liberty at the centre at Uxbridge, and also to the valiant airmen from our local RAF base at Northolt from No 609,257,303 (Polish),43, 1 and 401 (RCAF) squadrons.

We owe them all a great debt .