Friday, 1 March 2013

River Crane - Baber Bridge

River Crane, Duke of Northumberland’s River
The Crane and the Duke of Northumberland’s River meet at Baber Bridge and flow south. The Millstream leaves at the same point and flows south with some interchange streams.

A pleasant area to the south east of Heathrow Airport. Here parkland follows the Crane and the Duke of Northumberlands River. This was once an industrial area and there are several mill sites on the river including an important gunpowder works still in operation in the 1920s.  The main, and originally Roman,  Staines Road intersections the area and there are housing estates from the 1930s to the west and some large ex-industrial sites here. Hidden infrastructure includes the water main to Kempton Park.

Post to the north Beavers
Post to the west North Feltham
Post to the south Feltham

Brazil Mill Wood
This wood lies between the River Crane and the Mill Stream and is named after one of the activities carried out at North Feltham Mill
North Feltham Mill. A bridge plus weir, sluices and mill race remain of the mill. A water turbine is also said to survive It is said to have been used for making paper in 1671. However from 1668 it was a powder mill under same ownership as the Bedfont Mills. . By 1721 it was a dye works, making pigment from Brazil wood, but in 1810 it was a flax mill and before 1834 it was used for snuff. It became part of Curtis & Harvey in the 1870s and at some time before 1894 it became a cartridge factory and closed in 1920.

Donkey Wood
This is part of Crane Valley Park. The donkeys could have been those used within the gunpowder works. It is a nature conservation area but one which is many relics of the gunpowder industry.

Duke of Northumberland's River,
An artificial watercourse which flows from West Drayton to join the River Crane at North Feltham.

Green Lane
Parkway Trading Estate
Central Park Trading Estate

Gunpowder works
There was a complex of mill buildings in and around the confluence of the Crane and the Duke of Northumberland’s river at Baber Bridge. The original date is not clear – they are said to have been ‘owned by the Templars’.  An archaeological investigation has concluded that this was a very complex site. It is thought that originally two pairs of mills stood on either side of the Duke’s River. They were at the head of the weir and each powered by a breast shot wheel with a central pier in the middle of the stream.  The manufacture of gunpowder would have required many ancillary buildings scattered over a wide, and often wooded, area to reduce the impact of blast – hence the many remains in surrounding woodland.  From the 1820s the mills were part of Curtis and Harveys who bought them from the Duke of Northumberland in the 1870s. They specialised here in small arms powder. By the end of the Great War the mills were part of Nobels and they were closed and demolished in 1926 by which time they were part of ICI.
The earliest mill was also the highest up the Duke’s river just above the confluence with the Crane. This was known to be a corn mill concerted to a sword-mill in 1635, converted to gunpowder by the 1650s.
A lower Bedfont mill was just above Baber Bridge but below the junction of the rivers. In the early 17th it was a paper mill but was later joined to the upper mill and converted to gunpowder manufacture.
A mill below Baber Bridge on the Crane which could have been a sword-mill in 1675

Staines Road
Earlier called ‘Stones way’ in 1438 and later ‘Brentford Great Road’ in 1652
Baber Bridge. Recorded with this name on a map of 1593. May mean 'the fenced farm settlement of Babba'.  The bridge carries the old road to the west over the River Crane
Hounslow Heath Golf Centre. The clubhouse is in a couple of portacabins. Site of refuse tip which was itself in an old gravel pit. Describes itself as ‘much improved’.  The Water Main from Kempton Park crosses the golf course and the heath following a direct south east/north west trajectory
Eaton House  - Heston Mills. After the enclosure of 1818 a windmill was built here to grind corn. A steam-engine was installed on site by 1891 but there was a subsequent fire. At that time it was used by Ashby, flour millers and bakers based at Shalford and with premises in Brentford and Uxbridge. The Heston site was taken over by American pharmaceutical company, Parke Davis & Co. Ltd, makers of products like Benylin and Euthymol toothpaste. They greatly extend ended the premises with a large manufacturing complex and an imposing block on the Staines Road. They were taken over by Warner Lambert in 1970 who closed the Staines Road works. The works was subsequently taken over by the American Eaton Corporation who based there a reorganisation of their truck components businesses for an international market. Eaton moved to Amsterdam on 1998 as an area with more commitment to the European market and the front block, Eaton House, was taken over by the Home Office as part of their operations in regard to immigration and asylum seekers.
Baber Bridge Caravan Site
St Albans farm. This is now a scrap metal site.

Viola Avenue
The name reflects Viola House which stood near here in Hounslow Road.

Water Main
The Water Main from Kempton Park crosses the area, following a direct south east/north west trajectory
Valve House. There is a valve house and other buildings near where water main crosses the River Crane and the Mill Stream

Sources
British History. Feltham. On line.
Eaton Corporation. Web site.
Field. London place names,
GLIAS Newsletter
Cocroft. Dangerous Energy
Crocker. Gunpowder Gazetteer
Gunpowder Mills Study Group. Newsletter
Kingston Zodiac
London Gardens Online. Web site
Middlesex County Council. History of Middlesex
Stevenson, Middlesex
Walford Village London.

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