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Feltham, Middlesex, UK


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Feltham is situated at the western boundary of Greater London with Surrey, and is a part of the London Borough of Hounslow. The northern edge of the town crosses the historic Roman trunk route from Central London to Exeter and South-West England, the local name of which is now Staines Road. The town is roughly 15 miles from central London by road or rail.

Topography and Geology
Although the River Thames does not flow directly through the town (though it does at nearby Sunbury and Twickenham), this area shares much of the character of the Thames Valley and is sometimes regarded as part of it. The local soil is predominantly fertile London clay which was ideal for the market gardening the area once supported on a large scale. This part of the Thames Valley has also been used for gravel extraction for many decades, and some parts of the town currently lie dormant to allow settlement of land after gravel working finished in the 1980s and 1990s. The town is very low-lying, though confusingly part of the lowest elevation of the town became known as "Feltham Hill". While the distance from the Thames rarely causes serious problems with flooding, there is a very high water table in the area which occasionally causes difficulties for local homes, businesses and schools after heavy rain.


Feltham once possessed a number of quaint buildings including a manor house known to date from the sixteenth century, though a devastating fire took much of the original village in late medieval times. Most of the remaining buildings of earlier centuries were lost in planning policies of the 1960s before a more enlightened listing policy had developed; the manor house was one casualty. The modern town's housing and amenities stock is mostly 20th and 21st Century and the shopping area now contains only a few 1930s remnants of the earlier shopping parades on the High Street. The parish church of St Dunstan can be traced on its present site to Norman times, but most of the current building was constructed in the early 1800s. A later chapel-of-ease, dedicated to St Catherine, was built in the 1880s adjacent to the railway station, where the town had started to develop a mile or so north of its origins. All but the now listed spire of this Kentish ragstone building was demolished in 1976 when the church became redundant, and a late 1970s office block is now built around the spire. The oldest secular building in the current Feltham High Street is the Red Lion public house, opposite The Green, which was saved from demolition by a determined campaign in the 1970s. Some of the original High Street remains in what is now St Dunstan's Road, though all the former shops and a pub have been converted to housing.

Feltham is part of the London Borough of Hounslow, which itself is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in London. However, the percentage of the population from ethnic or "non-white" backgrounds in Feltham is one of the lowest in the borough. There was a considerable growth in the population of the area following the second world war, many moving from the centre and East of London following bomb damage. Several large housing estates, such as the "Poets Estate", the "Allied Estate" and the "Sparrow Farm Estate" were built in the inter-war years and immediately afterwards to help house this large influx into the local community.

Historically this was a market gardening area, specialising in a number of fruit and vegetable crops but notably salad items and peas; there is a variety of pea called the "Feltham First" which was first grown in the area. The market gardens are now gone, though some fields of arable crops such as oil seed rape can still be seen surrounding the town, particularly on the border with Sunbury. The other major industry for many centuries was the manufacture of gunpowder, from mills alongside the River Crane. Despite efforts to limit the danger of explosions, these were the scene of many tragic, and noisy accidents during their years of operation. Swords were also produced locally and are commemorated in the coat of arms of the former urban district. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the most notable feature of the local economy was Feltham's links with land and air transport in its various forms. This continues in the early 21st Century, and much of the recent growth and re-generation in the town has been spurred by developments at nearby Heathrow Airport, especially the construction of Terminal 5 which is expected to bring many more jobs and residents to the area. Indeed, estate agents have started to market this as part of the "Heathrow Quarter".

Transport manufacturing in the area included the construction of tram cars for municipal operators, especially the body type known as the "Feltham Tramcar". There were also aircraft manufacturing facilities in the area from the earliest days of powered flight. With the low-lying nature of the terrain this was perfect ground for building and testing aircraft and this history is now commemorated with a sculpture of an aircraft propeller outside the Leisure West development on the former site of an aircraft factory.

The engineering skills in the area became increasingly important during the second world war, when aircraft manufacture turned to military requirements. Also crucial was the railway marshalling yard, located on part of the vast Hounslow Heath, which at one time was the second biggest such facility in the country.

The North Feltham Trading Estate is one of the many properties of Slough Estates plc. At one time, this was home to a number of major international manufacturers, such as Timex watches, and Del Monte the food canning company. Most of these larger manufacturers have now left Feltham but in their place have come numerous successful small businesses, particularly those providing ancillary facilities to Heathrow such as air freight, and IT and service companies.

Military Connections
Like neighbouring Hounslow with its historic cavalry barracks, there has long been a presence in the town supporting the British army. There was formerly an RAOC depot located in Elmwood Avenue, and a railway spur ran across the High Street to serve this. Today, Feltham is home to a mapping and charting establishment, which carries on the historic links of the town with the earliest days of military mapmaking. General Roy, whose work was the origins of the present day Ordnance Survey, is commemorated in a local pub, and his original "base line" ran through Feltham.

Sport and Leisure
Feltham has until recently been something of a poor relation to neighbouring areas such as Kingston for leisure facilities. However, the re-generation of the town centre and the re-development of the former industrial sites at Leisure West have provided more commercial facilities to complement the local authority provision. The area's main leisure centre, Feltham Airparcs, is located on part of the site of the former Hanworth Air Park where the Graf Zeppelin was a visitor in the early 1930s. Feltham Airparcs developed from the original 1960s swimming baths built here, and now includes multi-gym and fitness facilities as well as saunas and tennis courts. Feltham Community College, one of the town's two secondary schools, has extensive indoor and all-weather sports surfaces and has recently been recognised as a specialist sports college. Feltham Arenas, built in the 1960s was suffering from neglect, but is now due for re-development and should bring much-needed football and athletics tracks back to the town. Feltham lost its original cinemas during the 1950s, but a Cineworld multiplex complex is now part of the Leisure West development, which also includes a Tenpin bowling and laser game site and a Gala Bingo club. There are no night clubs or theatres in Feltham, but the Feltham Assembly Hall, located in Feltham Park a few hundred metres from the town centre is regularly used for pop and rock concerts as well as shows by local groups and trade exhibitions.

Parks and Open Spaces
Surprisingly to some, Feltham is one of the greenest areas of Greater London. Major open spaces in the town include Feltham Park and the adjacent Glebelands, alongside the Longford River, a stretch of "royal park" which crosses the centre of the town as it forms the watercourse from the River Colne to the North of Heathrow, to the fountains of Bushy Park and Hampton Court to the east. The town still possesses a "village" green in the High Street, part of a conservation area with the Roman Catholic church of St Lawrence at its corner. Swans, geese and even the occasional heron are happy to make this their home and the green is still used for several fun fairs and local events each year. Other parks include St Dunstan's and Grosvenor Parks, as well as part of Crane Park alongside the river, and "Donkey Wood" in North Feltham. Bedfont Lakes Country Park was constructed from the remains of old gravel pits on the border of the town with the neighbouring village of Bedfont, and has become a very popular amenity. Hanworth Park, site of the former Air Park, has received less attention but forms another green lung on the edge of the town.

Redevelopment and the future
A major redevelopment of the town centre is due for completion in 2007, with the first phase of new shops including the major superstore Asda and many other big high street names, a new public library and medical centre now open. The project has been described as one of the largest urban regeneration project in the UK, costing in excess of £100 million. Including over 800 new apartments, most of them built above the new retail units, 'The Centre, Feltham' replaces 'Home Court', two rather characterless 1960s high-rise tower blocks, and the retail precinct of the same period. This precinct had become very unpopular due to its "wind tunnel" effect, though there still seems to be a problem with this even in the new centre.

Local opinion about the re-generation of the area is mixed. London's mayor Ken Livingstone held it up as an example of urban re-generation at its best, and it certainly attempts to combine all the elements of modern urban living in a compact space within easy reach of public transport links. The developers, Thornfield Properties plc, and the new owners, Morley Fund Management, promote "The Centre, Feltham" (sometimes described in early pre-completion advertising as "The Longford Centre") as an urban village. However, while the slogan has been "Feltham reborn", some see the type of housing provided as turning the centre into more of a dormitory town for those wanting convenient connections with work in Central London, but who live elsewhere at weekends.

Certainly, the new shopping facilities after many years of retail decline in the area have been welcomed by long-established residents generally. The development has added to the general trend of regeneration in Feltham, with its close proximity to other affluent areas such as Twickenham or Richmond becoming an advantage. Coupled with the now wide selection of new flats and transport links from the train station, it is fair to say that Feltham has improved considerably.

Local Government
Feltham became an Urban District in the early 1900s. In the 1930s, the neighbouring villages of Hanworth and East Bedfont also came within the responsibility of the Feltham UDC. These were part of the historic county of Middlesex. In 1963, the London Government Act paved the way for the abolition of Middlesex as an administrative county, and the formation of a Greater London Council. This was itself later abolished, although certain cross-London functions have now been restored to the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London. In Feltham, these responsibilities include the major trunk roads that pass through the area, including the north-south A312. The London Borough of Hounslow was formally established in 1965 when the Urban District of Feltham was consigned to history. For many years, the borough was Labour-controlled, but passed to No Overall Control at the most recent elections. In the year 2006-07, the Deputy Mayor of the London Borough is Feltham North councillor Alan Wilson, while the deputy leader of the council is Mark Bowen who has been the Conservative councillor for the ward since 2002.

Localities in Feltham

Lower Feltham
Lower Feltham is an area of Feltham that covers approximately 0.25 sq. km. It is more widely known as being home to Feltham Young Offenders Institution. Some local people however still refer to this as the "Borstal", it's former name as for all youth prisons in England, named after the site of the first one in Borstal, Kent. In 2000–2001 the institution suffered damning criticism for its poor practices and management, following the death in custody of Zahid Mubarak.

Bedfont Gate
Bedfont Gate is a small and relatively new residential district, built between 1995-1997, on the southwest extremity of the town on the road towards Bedfont Lakes Country Park. It has become known as 'Heathrow Villas' due to the large number of residents from this district who work at Heathrow Airport, which is only 6 km (3.75 miles) away. It is regarded as one of the more pleasant areas of the town, but is less convenient for shops and other facilities in the centre of the town.

North Feltham
North Feltham is a rather vaguely-defined area that forms the boundary between the town and the borough centre of Hounslow, and the neighbouring village of Bedfont. Both the natural River Crane and the man-made Duke of Northumberland's River pass through North Feltham.

It was referred to as Felteha in the Doomsday Book, subsequently as Feltesham, Felten, and by 1800, Feltham. From Norman times the Manor of Feltham was closely linked with that of Kempton. Feltham remained a farming community until the end of the 18th century when many farms converted to market gardens driven by demand from the growing population of London. The Longford River that flows from the north of the town was constructed in 1638, built to supply water to Hampton Court to the south.

A flax mill was one of the earliest industrial sites, situated on the bank of the River Crane that forms Feltham's north-eastern border with Hounslow. This became a snuff mill and finally a cartridge mill, presumably associated with the nearby gunpowder mills in East Bedfont until the end of the 19th century.

The railway station opened in 1848 and gravel for the adjacent bridge was extracted from a pit on the opposite side of the Hounslow road to form a pond.

The earliest factory buildings built in Feltham were for the Whitehead Aircraft Company in 1915. Nearby Hanworth Park became the test airfield until the company was liquidated in 1919. The factory was used as motor car store, then for the construction of trams and underground railway carriages. A class of tram developed there during 1930 was known as the Feltham. The site was sold to the General Aircraft Company in 1935 and was used for aircraft construction throughout the war until 1948. The park is still known as the "Air Park". Since then, many industrial developments in Feltham have continued to be associated with aviation, due to the proximity of Heathrow Airport.

Apart from St Dunstan's, Feltham has a number of places of worship, including Christ Church in Hanworth Road. Originally built in 1909 as a Wesleyan Methodist Church, the extensive premises are now home to the United Free Church of Feltham (Methodist/URC) as well as being used by other Christian congregations and a number of community groups.

Cultural references
Feltham may gain new infamy by featuring on the HARD-Fi album, Stars of CCTV. The song gives a lovely description of life in Feltham, with appropriate references to above-mentioned institution. Inmates of the Young Offenders Institution achieved acclaim some years ago after taking part in an award-winning programme on Channel 4 based on a musical produced there, called "Feltham Sings".

The music video for 2000 single "Deep Deep Down" by girl group Hepburn, featuring the lyric "this is a sad old town" was filmed in Feltham Town Centre, although it is not clear whether the song is in fact written about Feltham.

Another music video filmed in Feltham was "Stand by Me" by Oasis, in which several clips of the town centre were used. Reasons for the use of Feltham are unknown but it is rumoured to have links with front man Liam Gallagher's ex-wife, Patsy Kensit who grew up locally in neighbouring Hounslow and lived on Sparrow Farm, which is one of Feltham's many housing estates.

The music video for "Broken Silence" by So Solid Crew was filmed in front of the Home Court flats in Feltham, the town where, ironically, one member of the crew was imprisoned in the Young Offenders institution.

Feltham railway station is served by South West Trains from Waterloo station. The area is served by several London Bus routes. The town is very close to a number of motorways including the M3, M4 & the M25. The nearest London Underground station is Hatton Cross, now just across the borough boundary in the London Borough of Hillingdon at the entrance to Heathrow Airport. This is approximately 1 3/4 miles from the centre of Feltham.

ARMS: Per fesse wavy Argent and Azure in chief two Palets Sable between a Tudor Rose stalked slipped and leaved proper and a Peacock in his pride Vert and in base in front of two Wings conjoined of the first a Sword erect Or.
CREST: On a Wreath of the Colours within a Chaplet of Hawthorn fructed proper a Mount of Pellets thereon an Eagle wings expanded Or.

Granted 19th June 1945
Motto 'IN UNITATEM COEAMUS'-Let us go forward together.

The wavy line and the silver and blue field indicate the Duke of Northumberland's River which takes the headwaters of the River Colne to Syon House, and the Longford River (also called the Queen's or Cardinal's River) which takes the Colne Waters to serve, the fountain and lakes of Hampton Court. The two black palets represent railway lines and indicate Feltham's importance in the southern portion of the British Railways system. The rose stands for the Tudor associations of Hanworth, particularly the claim that Elizabeth I spent much of her early childhood at Hanworth Manor. The peacock represents the topiary peacocks in the grounds of St Mary's Church, Bedfont, which are accepted as local emblems. The winged sword stands for the London Airport and the district's close association with the aircraft industry. The sword also refers to the Royal Army Ordnance Depot, and to the ancient sword-mill marked on a 17th century map.
The gunstones also allude to the R.A.O.C. Depot, and to the powder mills which formerly existed in the Crane Valley. The hawthorn refers to the Spelthorne Hundred, and the eagle is a reference not only of air traffic, but also of the old Roman road to the west which passed through the district.

Nearest places
East Bedfont


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