diamond geezer

 Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Long straight lines on a map can turn fields and villages into tarmac and duty-free.

Take Heath Row, for example.

1410: The first known mention of "La Hetherewe" (meaning a row of houses on or by a heath, which'd be Hounslow Heath). Over the forthcoming years it'll also be known as Hithero, Hetherow, Hetherowfeyld, Hitherowe and Heath Row.
1530s: Labourers dig the Duke of Northumberland's River through farmland to the south of the village. It takes water from the River Colne and delivers it to the River Crane, feeding mills along the way.
1568: There are 12 houses in Heath Row. That's more than there are today.
1784: General William Roy picks Heath Row as one end of the base line of the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (which will eventually become the Ordnance Survey). This is a great story, which you can read about here. The Heathrow base point still exists and is marked by a cannon (as is the other end in Hampton).
1790s: Heathrow Hall farmhouse is built.
1819: The fields around Heathrow are enclosed, and further farms grow up along new country lanes.
1879: Heathrow School opens. It's located on the north side of the Bath Road, now the A4, almost precisely where the motorway spur roundabout is today.

1925: RAF officer Norman Macmillan makes a forced landing amid the market gardens of Heathrow. He notices that the ground is rather flat, and then takes off again.
1929: Fairey Aviation, one of the great aircraft companies of the day, are asked to leave their original HQ at Northolt. Their chief test pilot is Norman Macmillan. "Hey," he says, "I know this large expanse of flat land..." The company buys up 150 acres of farmland to the southeast of Heathrow village to create the Great West Aerodrome.
1934: Having bought up Perry Oaks Farm to the west of Heathrow, Middlesex County Council promptly turn the orchards into the Perry Oaks sewage works.
1935: The Royal Aeronautical Society hold their first airshow at the Great West Aerodrome. At least 200 people turn up. Many fly in.
1937: The Middlesex Farmers' and Growers' Society hold their 99th annual horsedrawn ploughing contest at Heathrow Hall farm. In 1938 the 100th contest is cancelled due to drought conditions. The 100th is cancelled again in 1939 due to the outbreak of war. By the end of the war there are no more fields to plough.

January 1944: Under wartime legislation, the Air Ministry announce plans to requisition Heathrow for long-range bombers. They're lying. They actually have secret plans to develop London's first international airport here, part of the Abercrombie Plan.
May 1944: 1300 acres of market gardens and other land around Heathrow are compulsory purchased. All existing tenants are evicted, including Fairey Aviation and the villagers. Domestic and farm buildings are demolished, trees and hedges removed, and airport construction begins. The Plough and Harrow pub is among the casualties.
May 1945: They're still building Heathrow Airport when the war ends. A lengthy and expensive public enquiry has been avoided.

1946: The new civil airport opens. There are three runways, arranged in a triangle, with plans to extend across the Bath Road obliterating the villages of Sipson and Harmondsworth.
1953: The northern expansion is cancelled, and the villages are saved. This is going to be a familiar pattern over the years.
1961: Terminal 3 opens, approximately on the site of Heathrow village.
1966: Heathrow School relocates to Harmondsworth Lane in Sipson to get away from the road and aircraft noise.
1980: Terminal 4 is built on the site of Mayfields Farm.
2008: Terminal 5 opens on the site of Perry Oaks sewage works.
2010: Plans for definitely building a third runway to the north of Heathrow airport are definitely cancelled.
2013: ...or not.

Today is the 110th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first ever flight. The perfect day, then, to line up further sacrifices to the gods of aviation.

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