Uxbridge is a large town located in west London, England and is the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Hillingdon. It forms part of the ceremonial county of Greater London. It is located west-northwest of Charing Cross and is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. It historically formed part of the parish of Hillingdon in the county of Middlesex and was a significant local commercial centre from an early time. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century it expanded and increased in population, becoming a municipal borough in 1955 and has formed part of Greater London since 1965. Uxbridge is a significant retail and commercial centre, and is the location of Brunel University and the Uxbridge campus of Buckinghamshire New University. The town is close to the boundary with Buckinghamshire, which is locally the River Colne.
Several historical events have taken place in and around the town, including attempted negotiations between King Charles I and the Parliamentary Army. The location of these events, a public house, still stands and is named The Crown and Treaty in recognition of the event. Uxbridge also houses the Battle of Britain Bunker, from where the air defence of the south-east of England was coordinated during the Battle of Britain. Situated in RAF Uxbridge, the No. 11 Group Operations Room within the bunker took on a crucial rule during the battle and was later used during the D-Day landings.
The wards of Uxbridge North and Uxbridge South are used for election of councillors to Hillingdon Council and for statistical purposes. The Office of National Statistics recorded an approximate population figure for Uxbridge North of 12,357 in 2008, with 12,967 in Uxbridge South.
The name of the town is derived from "Wixan's Bridge" which was sited near the bottom of Oxford Road where a modern road bridge now stands, beside the Swan and Bottle public house. The Wixan were a 7th-century Saxon tribe from Lincolnshire who also began to settle in what became Middlesex. Anglo-Saxons began to settle and farm in the area of Uxbridge in the 5th century, clearing the dense woodland and remaining there for around 500 years.
Archaeologists found Bronze Age remains (before 700 BC) and medieval remains during the construction of The Chimes shopping centre. Two miles away at Denham, Upper Paleolithic remains have been found. Uxbridge is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of the 11th century, but a hundred years later the existing church, St Margaret's, was built. The town appears in records from 1107 as "Woxbrigge", and became part of the Elthorne Hundred with other settlements in the area.
The Parliamentary Army garrisoned the town upon the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 and later established their headquarters there in June 1647 on a line from Staines to Watford, although the King passed through Uxbridge in April 1946, resting at the Red Lion public house for several hours. Charles I met with representatives of Parliament at the Crown Inn in Uxbridge in 1645, though negotiations for the end of hostilities were unsuccessful due in part to the king's stubborn attitude. The town had been chosen as it was located between the Royal headquarters of Oxford and the Parliamentary stronghold of London.
The covered market was built in 1788 replacing a building constructed in 1561. In the early 19th century, Uxbridge had an unsavoury reputation. The jurist William Arabin said of its residents "They will steal the very teeth out of your mouth as you walk through the streets. I know it from experience." For about 200 years most of London's flour was produced in the Uxbridge area.
The Grand Junction Canal opened in 1794 linking Uxbridge with Birmingham. By 1800, Uxbridge had become one of the most important market towns in Middlesex, helped by its status as the first stopping point for stagecoaches travelling from London to Oxford. The development of Uxbridge declined after the opening of the Great Western Railway passing through West Drayton in 1838. A branch line to Uxbridge was later built in 1904.
Harman's Brewery was established in Uxbridge by George Harman in 1763 and moved into its new headquarters in Uxbridge High Street in 1875. The eventual owners of the brewery, Courage, closed the headquarters in 1964. It was demolished and replaced by a Budgen's supermarket which in turn was demolished with the construction of The Chimes shopping centre. The brewery building in George Street remained in place until it was demolished in 1967. The office building Harman House was built on the site in 1985, named after the brewery.
The Inclosure of Hillingdon Parish in 1819 saw the reduction in size of Uxbridge Common, which at its largest had been in circumference. The common originally covered both sides of Park Road to the north of the town centre but now covers .
In 1871, the town's first purpose-built police station was built in Windsor Street. The building included three cells and stables. The Metropolitan Police continued to use the building until 1988, when operations moved to a new site in Harefield Road. The building subesquently became The Old Bill public house in 1996, though was renamed The Fig Tree in 2006.
In the early 1900s, the Uxbridge and District Electricity Supply Company was established in Waterloo Road, much of the town was connected by 1902. By 1912, some houses still had gas lighting. A water tower on Uxbridge Common was built in 1906, resembling a church tower, to improve the supply to the town.
Wood panelling from a room in the Crown and Treaty public house was sold in 1924 to an American businessman, who installed them in his office in the Empire State Building in New York. It was returned in 1953 as a gift to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II and returned to the house, though the monarch retained ownership.
On 31 August 1935, Uxbridge Lido, an outdoor swimming pool built in the "Moderne" or Art Deco style, was officially opened. Before the opening, many residents swam in a section of the Frays River near Harefield Road, and the Colne. The pool, pavilion building, entrance building and both fountains were granted Grade II listed status in 1998. Despite the listing and the pool becoming closed to the public, the buildings were subjected to heavy vandalism.
During the Second World War, Uxbridge adopted the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Intrepid in 1942 to help towards the ship's costs. Intrepid was later lost in 1943 to enemy action. The town and surrounding areas suffered bombing by the Luftwaffe. V1 flying bombs fell on the town between June 1944 and March 1945. The first recorded bombing using a V1 was on 22 June 1944 at 07:00, when the bomb passed over the top of a bus and hit four houses nearby. Seven people were killed and 25 injured, leaving 46 houses in the area uninhabitable.
Uxbridge Cricket Club moved from Cricketfield Road in 1971 to make way for the new Civic Centre. The club had been at Cricketfield Road since 1858, but moved to a new site on part of Uxbridge Common on Park Road. The Market Square shopping precinct in the town centre was built in the late 1970s, though the lack of shelter meant it became unpopular and did not attract the levels of custom hoped for. Many buildings along the High Street and Windsor Street had been demolished to make way for the new precinct. It was eventually sold to the Prudential Assurance Company and was redeveloped with a roof to become the Pavilions Shopping Centre. The new roof was built during the early 1980s and as part of the redevelopment, The Peacock public house in one of the two main squares was demolished and replaced with a cafe named The Chequers which remains. The Rayner's pharmacy shop was also demolished during the Market Square development, although the shopfront was saved by the Museum of London and is held in storage.
In 2002, the dry ski slope situated near Park Road and the Uxbridge Lido was closed, and the remaining buildings and structures removed. The Hillingdon Ski Centre had been subject to several arson attacks during 2001 and the company operating it became bankrupt. The slope, which had been built in 1977, was left to return to nature.
Work began in 2008 to extensively refurbish and extend Uxbridge Lido. The lido reopened in 2010 as the Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Complex.
Uxbridge is a town in Middlesex that in the twentieth century was absorbed into the urban area of London, now lying on the western edge of the metropolis. It was historically a hamlet and chapelry of the parish of Hillingdon, becoming a separate parish in its own right in 1866. From 1894 to 1938 it was part of Uxbridge Urban District. In 1938 all the other parishes within Uxbridge Urban District were merged into the parish of Uxbridge. Since 1965 the former territory of Uxbridge has been part of the London Borough of Hillingdon.