Acton History

Acton Churches

A church dedicated to St. Mary existed as early as 1231, when Walter, rector of Acton, is first recorded. The church served the whole parish until 1872, and also acted as the seat of local government. The rapid increase in population of Acton in the mid 19th century brought about the rebuilding of St. Mary's and new parish churches  for South Acton (All Saints) in 1873, East Acton (St. Dunstan's) in 1880, and Acton Green (St Alban’s) in 1888. The original church was extended, developed, and added to until the whole church, except the tower, was demolished in 1865, because it could seat only 500 and was considered completely unsuitable. The present church, consisting of a chancel, nave with aisles, and south-east chapel, was built of red brick with stone dressings to the design of H. Francis in a Decorated style. The tower was rebuilt in 1876 and the vestry was extended over part of the churchyard in 1906.

 

St Mary's Acton

St. Mary's Church Acton before the paving of the town square.

 The town of Acton and the Church of St. Mary's, have a long history. A settlement at Acton is mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086, and the Church is first recorded in the early 13th Century. The original medieval chapel was enlarged by the building of a nave, and much later a tower. In the 18th Century, the building was faced with brick in the style of the time. The present building dates from 1866, when the town outgrew the existing building.

In 1642, the church was damaged by Roundhead soldiers returning from the Battle of Turnham Green, in protest at Rector Featley, a writer of religious tracts, who was believed to support the Royalists.

The Church was the focus of Charitable giving from 1601, when money and property were left in the care of the church for the giving of alms and for the maintenance of a clean water supply. The Church continues to play a key role in administering the funds that still remain from these donations so long ago. The town was governed by the Church Vestry up until 1865, when the growth was so great that it required a Local Board to be formed. The Church Vestry was responsible for the building of alms houses and for the care of the sick and elderly, for the opening of the first formal school facilities in the town, and for the maintaining of the highways and the water supplies.

The town began as a farming settlement, but soon developed into an important refreshment stop on the long road from London to Oxford. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, Acton found favour as a Spa and as a country retreat for the wealthy from the City. The coming of the canal and the railways brought rapid growth in suburban housing, with easy access to the City of London. Industry and car manufacture was attracted to Acton in the early years of the 20th century, giving Acton the heaviest concentration of industry in the south of England.

The heavy industry has moved away from Acton since the 1950's and the recent changes in shopping habits have caused a decline in the trade of the town. Acton is now changing, with media and lighter industry taking over from the heavy industry. With easy access to Central London, Acton remains a popular place to live, with new housing being built at many sites.

Few in the town can fail to be affected by the Church, even if not regular members of the congregation. The Church Clock marks the passing of time with it's chimes, and many in the town will have been christened or married in the church. When the bells are being rung, and the birds are singing it is easy to imagine that you are in a country village. The Rector and her colleagues take an active part in all aspects of the community, performing an extremely valuable service to us all. With such a long history, the Church represents one of the few enduring links, and must not be allowed to fall into disrepair.

The Parish Church has been enlarged, and rebuilt to reflect the prosperity of the town. The Church remains a focal point in the centre of the town, and the award of a grant for the repairs and improvements to the Church will be seen as a significant contribution the regeneration of the town of Acton.

Visit St Mary's own website

Looking up Mill Hill Grove to the church on the hill

St Mary’s Church with, on the right, the London and South Western Bank and to the left, King Street. The area in front of the Church, formerly dense housing and shops was cleared in the late 1900’s and is laid out as a garden.

St Mary’s Church with, on the right, the London and South Western Bank.

The church from Churchfield Road, looking South West. (DK)

A similar view today.

The interior of the St Mary's Church. Note the Gallery on the left (north side) that has now been removed.

A description, and pictures of many of the memorials in the church can be seen by visiting the middlesex-heraldry web site, which is based upon T & A Harper Smith, Memorials in St Mary's Acton (Acton Past and Present No.12, 1987).

Acton Baptist Church

Acton Baptist Church website

Our Lady of Lourdes

 

This church building was opened for public worship Sunday, 28 September 1902.

Visit Our Lady of Lourdes' own website

St Dunstan's - The Goldsmith's Church 

Acton Hill Church

 

Wesleyan Church, Acton Hill, now the Acton Hill Methodist Church.

View from Woodlands Park.

In 1907 this church replaced the earlier chapel, still existing in Gunnersbury Lane. It was built on site of  “The Oaks”.  Acton Hill Methodist Church, was designed by  Gordon & Gordon, and built of Kentish rag-stone with dressings of Bath stone, with tower and Gothic detail. Originally seated 780 on ground floor, 181 in gallery, 39 in choir. When the Congregational Church in Churchfield Road closed in  1976 an agreement was made with the Acton United Reformed church  for joint use of the church. The church was modernised and made more flexible in use in 1978.

The Congregational Church, Churchfield Road.

The former Wesleyan Chapel.

St Albans Church, Acton Green

St Alban’s Church, Acton Green built in 1887/78 in Edwardian times, and (below) about 2000.

Foundation Stone.

The former All Saints Church, South Acton.

South Acton was an area of dense housing and many small businesses, the most predominant of which were laundries. This church was founded by Andrew Hunter Dunn, who raised the funds to build the main church, a school, and a number of mission churches and parish rooms in South Action. He went on to be the Bishop of Quebec in Canada.

All Saints' Church, Bollo Bridge Road.

All Saints' Church, Interior.

Parish Hall, South Acton.

Old Wells Discovered – June 2006

The photographs below were provided by the Revd Preb. Jackie Fox, former Rector of St Mary’s Church. They show two old wells adjacent to the church tower exposed by building work on the Town Square.

The area to the west of the church tower was full of buildings until 1894 and there was an alley called Church Passage in front of the tower, only 2-3 metres wide from the face of the tower. The passage was level with the pavement in the high street, but the levels must have changed since then as the road was improved. The passage was gated with a central lantern over the gate. See Acton by J Oates page 105. The wells would have been under a building on the high street (or the yard behind), but which was set back level with what is now the office and halls. A map of the area in the 19th century can be seen on old-maps.co.uk (Search  for Acton, Middlesex)

Most of the postcard images on this page have been provided courtesy of Mr Paul Lang. it is believed that all the images of old postcards on this page are out of copyright.

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