It is situated 10.7 mi (17.2 km) west of Charing Cross and had a population of 69,857 as of 2011. It is generally divided in three parts: the mostly residential area around Lady Margaret Road (Dormers Wells); the main commercial centre at High Street and Southall Broadway (part of the greater Uxbridge Road); and Old Southall/Southall Green to the south consisting of Southall railway station, industries and Norwood Green bounded by the M4.
From the 1950s the town's local factories and proximity to Heathrow Airport attracted large numbers of Asian immigrants; the town eventually became home to the largest Punjabi community outside the Indian subcontinent and is today a major centre of South Asian culture, having gained the nickname Little India.
It appears as Suhaull in 1198, and Sudhale in 1204, and as Southold on the Oxfordshire Sheldon tapestry from the late 1580s.
The district of Southall has many other Anglo-Saxon place names such as Elthorne and Waxlow. Its earliest record, from ad 830, is of Warberdus bequeathing Norwood Manor and Southall Manor to the archbishops of Charles House.
The southern part of Southall (roughly south of the railway) used to be known as either Old Southall or Southall Green (and a section of the main north-south road in the area is still called The Green) and was centered on the historic Grade II*listed Tudor-styled Manor House which dates back to at least 1587. A building survey has shown much of the building is original, dating back to the days when Southall Green was becoming a quiet rural village. Minor 19th and 20th-century additions exist in some areas. It is currently used as serviced offices.
The extreme southernmost part of Southall is known as Norwood Green. It has few industries and is mainly a residential area, having remained for many years mainly agricultural whilst the rest of Southall developed industrially. Norwood Green borders, and part is inside, the London Borough of Hounslow.
The main east west road through the town is Uxbridge Road (A4020), though the name changes in the main shopping area to The Broadway and for an even shorter section to High Street. Uxbridge Road was part of the main London to Oxfordstagecoach route for many years and remained the main route to Oxford until the building of the Western Avenue highway to the north of Southall in the first half of the 20th century. First horse drawn, then electric trams (until 1936) and, then, electric trolleybuses, gave Southall residents and workers quick and convenient transport along Uxbridge Road in the first half of the 20th century before they were replaced by standard diesel-engined buses in 1960.
The opening of the Grand Junction Canal (later renamed Grand Union Canal) as the major freight transport route between London and Birmingham in 1796 began a commercial boom, intensified by the arrival of Brunel'sGreat Western Railway in 1839, leading to the establishment and growth of brick factories, flour mills and chemical plants which formed the town's commercial base. In 1877, the Martin Brothers set up a ceramics factory in an old soap works next to the canal and until 1923, produced distinctive ceramics now known and collected as Martinware.
A branch railway line from Southall railway station to the Brentford Dock on the Thames was also built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1856. It features one of his (impressive for the period) engineering works, the Three Bridges (although it is still often referred to on maps by the original canal crossing name of Windmill Bridge). where Windmill Lane, the railway and the Grand Union Canal all intersect – the canal being carried over the railway line cutting below in a cast-iron trough and a new cast-iron road-bridge going over both. Brunel died shortly after its completion. Sections of his bell-section rail can still be seen on the southern side being used as both fencing posts and a rope rail directly under the road bridge itself. It is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The other notable local construction by Brunel is the Wharncliffe Viaduct which carries the Great Western Railway across the River Brent towards London and which was Brunel's first major structural design.
Otto Monsted, a Danish margarine manufacturer, built a large factory at Southall in 1894. The factory was called the Maypole Dairy, and eventually grew to become one of the largest margarine manufacturing plants in the world, occupying a 28 ha (69 acres) site at its peak. The factory also had its own railway sidings and branch canal. The Maypole Dairy Company site was later acquired by Lever Brothers who, as part of the multinational Unilever company, converted the site to a Wall's Sausages factory which produced sausages and other meat products through until the late 1980s.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the old parish church of Southall, St John's, which had been rebuilt in 1837–8, was found to be too small for its congregation and, as a result, emigrated to a new building in Church Avenue, which was completed in 1910. The original church building, in Western Road, is now a youth centre.
In the 1920s and 1930s Southall was the destination of many Welsh migrants escaping from the harsh economic conditions in that part of the country. For many years, Welsh accents were very commonplace in the area.
On the eastern boundary of Southall was the Hanwell Asylum, which was once the world's largest asylum for the mentally ill. It was considered in its day to be a progressive institution with a good success rate for treatment. As attitudes to and treatment for mental illness improved, the site was renamed St. Bernard's Hospital. In the late 1970s, the site was extensively redeveloped, with most of the area now taken up by the Ealing Hospital. St. Bernard's still operates a large facility on part of the site under the West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust.
During World War II Southall was the target of enemy bombing on a number of occasions. A German V-1 flying bomb destroyed a number of houses in Regina Road, killing the occupants. Bomb shelters and bunkers were built during the war, close to or under most schools and public buildings, and in gardens of numerous private homes. The bunkers at Hamborough Primary School were expanded during the Cold War, to become the North West Group War HQ for the London area Civil Defence organisation and the London Borough of Ealing Emergency Control Centre. This facility is now disused.
In 1950, the first group of South Asians arrived in Southall, reputedly recruited to work in a local factory owned by a former British IndianArmy officer. This South Asian population grew, due to the closeness of expanding employment opportunities such as Heathrow Airport. The most significant cultural group to settle in Southall are Asians. According to the Commission for Racial Equality, over 55% of Southall's population of 70,000 is Indian/Pakistani. By 1976 two-thirds of children in Southall were non-white, and in 1982 it was reported 65% of Southall's 83,000 residents were of Asian origin.
Accidents and racial tensions
On 2 September 1958 at 7:10 am, a pilot of a Vickers VC.1 Viking V624 (G-AIJE), which had just taken off from Heathrow Airport, reported that he had engine trouble. Some minutes later it crashed into a row of houses in Kelvin Gardens. It was on a cargo flight carrying aero engines to Tel Aviv and carried no passengers; however, the three crew members and four people on the ground were killed. One of the surviving occupants, 14-year-old Brian Gibbons, was later awarded the George Medal for bravery, as well as the Carnegie Award. The accident was due to poor maintenance, and caused the company, Independent Air Travel, to fail in October 1959.
The 1970s saw racial tensions in the area; in 1976 Sikh teenager Gurdip Singh Chaggar was killed in a racist attack. On 23 April 1979, Blair Peach, a teacher and anti-racist activist, was killed after being knocked unconscious during a protest against the National Front (NF). Another demonstrator, Clarence Baker – a singer of the reggae band Misty in Roots, remained in a coma for five months. More than 40 others – including 21 police – were injured, and 300 were arrested.
On 4 July 1981, a race riot was sparked at the Hambrough Tavern on the Broadway. Local Asian youths mistakenly believed that a concert featuring the Oi! bands The Business, The Last Resort and The 4-Skins was a white power event. Additionally, the venue had recently been sued for barring non-white customers, and local youths had heard that skinheads arriving for the concert had harassed other youths and women. More than 200 skinheads had travelled by bus from East London, and a few of them smashed shop windows,[page needed] wrote NF slogans around the area, and shouted neo-Nazi slogans while using bricks and clubs to attack Asian youths who had gathered in opposition to the gig. This was one of several high-profile riots in Britain that year. Although some of the skinheads were NF or British Movement supporters, among the 500 or so concert-goers were also left-wing skinheads, black skinheads, punk rockers, rockabillies and non-affiliated youths. Some of the approximately 400 Asians threw petrol bombs and other objects, and five hours of rioting left 120 people injured – including 60 police officers – and the tavern burnt down.
The Quaker Oats Company built a factory in Southall in 1936. Part of the operation that made pet foods was sold to Spiller's in 1994, and the remainder to Big Bear Group in 2006. The site continues to produce brands such as Honey Monster Puffs. Other engineering, paint and food processing factories prospered for many years, mostly alongside the railway and/or canal.
A collection of Martinware – salt-glazed stoneware, and birds – is on display at Southall Library.
Southall was the home of Southall Studios, one of the earliest British film studios. It played a historic role in film-making from its creation in 1924 to its closure in 1959. In 1936, a fire destroyed the studio but it was rebuilt and enlarged. Numerous feature films (many featuring famous or later-to-be-famous actors) and the early TV series Colonel March of Scotland Yard were made at the studios, as were TV and cinema adverts.
Bus and commercial vehicle manufacturer Associated Equipment Company (AEC) was based in Southall, on a 25 ha (62 acres) triangular site between Windmill Lane, the Great Western Main Line and the branch to Brentford Dock. The company moved there from Walthamstow in 1926 and closed in 1979 after losing market share whilst part of the giant but inefficient British Leyland group. The site was noticeable to railway passengers and to motorists on Uxbridge Road due to large signs proclaiming "AEC – Builders of London's Buses for 50 years".
A major gas works manufacturing town gas was located between the railway and the canal. In 1932 a large gasholder was built, becoming a local landmark until its demolition in 2019. Painted on the north east side of the gasholder are the large letters 'LH' and an arrow to assist pilots locate Heathrow Airport's (now closed) runway 23 when making visual approaches. The letters were painted in the mid 1960s after a number of pilots became confused between Heathrow and the nearby RAF Northolt (which has a similar, though smaller, gasholder under its approach at Harrow). Northolt has a much shorter runway and is not suitable for very large aircraft although one Boeing 707 did land at Northolt by mistake and a number of other aircraft had to be warned off by air traffic control at the last minute. Since town gas production ceased in the 1970s with the arrival of natural gas piped from the North Sea, much of the 36 ha (89 acres) site has been vacant, due to limited road access and remaining gas infrastructure.
In addition, the signs on the main railway station are bilingual in English and Gurmukhi, which is one of the written scripts of Punjabi. The main street in Southall is called The Broadway, while a smaller commercial area exists in Old Southall on King Street. Southall contains one of the largest South Asian shopping area in the region, comparable to Green Street, East London or Ealing Road, Wembley.
Southall is home to London's largest Sikh community There are ten SikhGurdwaras in Southall. The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, which opened in 2003, is one of the largest Sikh gurdwaras outside India, and it won the Ealing Civic Society Architectural Award in 2003. There are two large Hindu 'Mandir' temples, the Vishnu Hindu Mandir on Lady Margaret Road and the Ram Mandir in Old Southall. There are more than ten Christian churches including 5 Anglican, one Roman Catholic (St Anselm's Church), Baptist, Methodist and several Pentecostal or Independent. There are six Mosques 'Masjids' in Southall, the Abubakr Mosque situated on Southall broadway, the Central Jamia Masjid Mosque, which is the oldest, the Jamia Masjid Islamic Centre, the Red Sea Mosque on the Green, and Dar al Salam on Norwood Road and also the Baithul Mukaram mosque near Lidl.
There are two local community radio stations servicing Southall; Westside 89.6 FM, licensed by Ofcom as part of their drive towards community-based radio services, broadcasts urban music and was formerly based in Southall (now in Hanwell), and Desi Radio which predominantly broadcasts in Punjabi and is available throughout West London on 1602 AM and on DAB across Greater London. Sunrise Radio, broadcasting for the wider Asian community nationally, was until recently based in Southall now having moved to nearby Hounslow.
Some non-English newspapers for the community in Southall are also in circulation including Des Pardes, a Punjabi-language paper. A writer of Des Pardes, Tarsem Singh Purewal was killed in Southall in 1995.
Southall was also the location of a Glassy Junctionpublic house, which was the first pub in the UK to accept Indian Rupees as payment. The Glassy Junction closed down in 2011 and has since been replaced by an international South Indian restaurant chain.
Southall has also appeared in other Bollywood films as well, including Patiala House and Goal!.
In the 2011 census, Southall was recorded as having a resident population of 28,018 across the Southall Broadway and Southall Green wards.
Of these 76.1% are Asian or Asian British, 9.6% are Black or Black British and 7.5% are White or White British, with the remaining 6.8% of the population divided between Arabs, Mixed/multiple ethnic groups, and other ethnic groups. 60.1% of the population were born outside of the UK and the EU. At the 2011 Census, Southall Broadway ward had the lowest proportion of White British residents of anywhere in the UK – at 472 out of 13,439 or 3.5%. 93.7% of Southall Broadway's population was BAME (Black, Asian and minority Ethnic) and it was 91.4% in Southall Green.
In terms of religion, the most common religious affiliation in 2011 was Sikhism, with 29.7% of the population. This is followed by Islam at 23.0%, Christianity at 20.0%, and Hinduism at 17.3%. Only 2% of residents profess no faith, the lowest figure anywhere in London.
9.8% of the population are students and 7.8% are retired. 7% are self-employed.
53.2% are male and 46.8% are female.
Syd Bidwell represented Southall in parliament from 1966 to 1992, succeeded by Piara Khabra from 1992 to 2007 and Virendra Sharma from 2007 onwards. Radio station owner Avtar Lit stood as a parliamentary candidate; his son Tony Lit followed in his footsteps, standing in the 2007 by-election.
^'Norwood, including Southall: Manors', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 4: Harmondsworth, Hayes, Norwood with Southall, Hillingdon With Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Perivale, Ruislip, Edgware, Harrow with Pinner (1971), pp. 43–45. Archived 19 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine Date accessed: 25 May 2010.