#138: West Drayton 17/05/2022

West Drayton Station 

The station first opened in 1838 to coincide with the Great Western Railway (GWR) opening. The current station relocated slightly to the west of the original when GWR opened a branch line to Staines in 1884.

The station serves both GWR and London’s newest service – the Elizabeth Line, and historically the station once had services running to Uxbridge and Windsor. However, in recent years, the station has been TfL’d. By that, I mean, in preparation for the Elizabeth Line, it has step-free access from the station entrance to some of the platforms, of which there are five.

High-speed, non-stop services pass through Platforms 1 & 2. However, they are used when other platforms are out of service for engineering work and accessed through an underpass from the station entrance.

Platforms 3 & 4 are the station’s workhorses where all GWR and Elizabeth Line services stop en route to Paddington, taking only 22 minutes.

Platform 5 is used for goods services, although looking at the Elizabeth Line sign, it may also be used for its service too.

GWR uses the classic 387/1 Class Bombardier EMU (electric multiple unit) on their routes to Reading and Didcot Parkway. Here’s an eight coach service headed towards London Paddington as it departs platform 4. 

Externally, the station still has many of its original Victorian features as it welcomes travellers by bus to and from Ruislip, Hayes and Uxbridge, but the new Elizabeth Line roundel now features as a modern-day interloper.

West Drayton

The area now known as West Drayton was originally farm and agricultural land with a tiny population until the 20th century when its population and housing stock grew. I like the description from British History Online that cites:

‘The social composition of this new population was summarized by the vicar in 1927, in terms which might equally serve for a general description of modern West Drayton, as comprising ‘labourers, artizans, commercial, railway, and bank clerks, a few professional persons but no gentry or people of substantial means.’

West Drayton and Yiewsley are synonymous with each other, as Station Road in West Drayton becomes High Street in Yiewsley. The railway lines and the Grand Union Canal act as geographical delineators, with West Drayton to the south and Yiewsley to the north. There are signs by the railway bridge to direct you. 

I think I’d class West Drayton as a pass-through destination as it sits in the corner between the M25 and M4. Local traders, beauty salons and fast food eateries dominate the main street and onwards into Yiewsley,  and there’s easy road access to the M4 in the south and M40 to the north via Uxbridge.

My lasting impression is that of a tired location serving its itinerant population. Nevertheless, the area has a rich history that evolved following the opening of the Grand Union Canal in the 18th century. The Yiewsley and West Drayton Town Centre Action Group have recorded some memories on the walls under the railway bridge. Here are a couple of snippets:

Rolling Stones: If you’ve read my Dartford blog, you’ll have seen that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met on platform two on the 17th of October 1961. West Drayton is Ronnie Wood’s birthplace, and he grew up and was schooled in Yiewsley.

London Bricks: ‘Cowley stock bricks’ were made in Yiewsley and were used to supply the demand for building materials in Victorian London. From the sale of a mere one million bricks in 1809, the local brick industry peaked at over 100 million bricks a year by the 1890s. But, alas, there’s a limit like all natural resources, and by 1935, the last brickworks closed.

Some random shots

For no other reason, I like these images from around West Drayton, and I wanted to share them with you:

Wines and Spirits – next door to the station is how this convenience store advertises its products. Convenience by name but inconvenience by price as a small purchase made me question ‘how much?’. But that’s the price of convenience, I guess.

Bird of prey – as I wandered along the station platforms, I heard a high-pitched whistle and saw this bird of prey hovering above. I thought the bird might be undergoing training as the whistle was similar to a sound I’ve heard when birds are being handled and fed on the wing. I thought no more until later in the day, and I saw the bird again. Now I’m assuming it’s the same one, but it was hovering in a different part of the area this time, and I realised the high-pitched whistle was the bird screeching. Its tail feathers make it recognisably that of a Red Kite.

Thingamies Beetles – there’s no second-guessing what this company does, and the bright orange livery makes it unmissable. So if you fancy a makeover for your VW, here’s one place you might want to try.

The Grand Union Canal

The building of the canal enabled the delivery of coal from the Midlands to the brickwork kilns and the onward transportation of bricks into the heart of London along the Paddington Basin and Regent’s Canal. Today, the canal is more sedate, providing moorings for boat dwellers and a slow-paced route for light commercial traffic and leisure. 

You can also walk the 138 miles from Birmingham to the Thames if you’re so inclined. However, I only walked one mile – from and to bridge No 192 on the High Street to bridge No 190b, where the Slough Cut joins the main canal. Along the way, I passed and greeted many ramblers, cyclists and dog walkers stepping aside where the path narrows. Everyone was appreciative and expressed their thanks as I did so.

The canalside is awash with houseboats and narrowboats. Narrowboats typically have a beamwidth of between 6ft 10in and 7 ft, whereas a barge can typically be around twice the width. Each is licensed. 

This photo is of Brightwater, licence number 512588, described as 61 feet long with a beam of 6 feet eight inches. The colours of the curtains stood out against the faded, varnished window frames, but I have no doubt this is a much-loved boat inside. If you’re interested in looking up details of other registered boats, have a look here.

A little further up the canal, I reach Cowley Peachey Junction and bridge no.190b. The  Slough Cut was built in the 1880s, opening in 1882, enabling more brickworks to be built in Slough to meet London’s growing demand for bricks. This arm supported the industry until the 1940s, when their clay deposits were depleted too.

This is a view looking upstream towards the Packet Boat and Waterside Marina.

Paddington Basin and Marylebone’s hidden secrets

My day’s not done yet as I decide to revisit Paddington Basin and its surroundings on returning to London. The Basin is at the end of the Grand Union Canal, and it’s always an attractive and lively destination where I still manage to discover new sights. This view is, I believe, of the former wharf buildings and warehouse that now house The Bays, part of Imperial College’s Faculty of Medicine and NHS Trust.

I meander along Edgware Road and its backstreets through Church Street Market, where I discover some historical references. Here’s a couple:

Theatre Royal, Marylebone – the site at 67 Church Street is now an inconspicuous low rise block of flats above retail outlets. But a quick search reveals the theatre’s history from its early beginnings as a ‘penny gaffe’, to Shakespeare and Dickens, to Pantomime and melodrama, then a music hall and finally a cinema before its demolition in 1962.

The Palmer Tyre Factory: There are mixed internet descriptions (The Modern House, Knowledge of London) of when the Palmer Tyre company moved into this building in Hatton Street. The building was built in the 1920s. Some say for the Palmer Tyre company, but it seems more likely for Bovis.

The Palmer Tyre company worked in the docklands but moved into this building during WWII as part of the war effort as their factory was bombed. They were requisitioned to make Spitfire and tank parts as well as tyres. Their legacy lives on, albeit in a remodelled fashionable residential block.
And finally, The Show Room on the corner of Boscobel Street and Penfold Street. You can’t miss this contemporary art space which focuses on ‘collaborative approaches to cultural production within its locality and beyond’. Quite a striking corner piece, don’t you think?

Picture of the Day – Barge Deliveries by two men and their dog.

I hadn’t realised there were two narrowboats until they passed me. Their boats were laden with sacks of coal and gas canisters for delivery downstream. Here they are passing through bridge 191 – Trout Road. 

The footpath under the bridge has inlaid cobblestones dated 1910. So I wonder if this is the date the bridge was built or perhaps when the towpath was opened.

The one in the front is number 332 and is named ‘Pictor’, and it appears to work as a pair with boat number 294 named ‘Indus’, operated by Mike Mountain (Facebook name). Mike takes his bulldog with him everywhere, and I believe his name is Alfie.

I have to say all three seemed very content with their lot, and it’s that air of calmness that attracts me to make this my picture of the day. The colours are also framed nicely within the arch of the bridge.

  • Location: Trout Road bridge No 191, Grand Union Canal, West Drayton
  • Date/Time: Tuesday 17th May 2022 12:54 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture -f/5; Shutter Speed – 1/16th; Focal Length – 46mm; Film Speed – ISO160

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