New Faces


The time shall come, when, free as seas or wind,

Unbounded Thames shall flow for all mankind,

Whole nations enter with each swelling tide,

And seas but join the regions they divide.

Earth’s distant ends our glory shall behold

Relaxed about immigration: Alexander Pope of Twickenham, Middx 1688-1744

And the new world launch forth to seek the old.

Then ships of uncouth form shall stem the tide,

And feather’d people crowd my wealthy side:

And naked youths and painted chiefs admire

Our speech, our colour, and our strange attire !

O stretch thy reign, fair Peace! from shore to shore

Till conquest cease, and slavery be no more.

                     Alexander Pope from ‘Windsor-Forest’ (1713)

In  ‘The Unofficial Countryside’ (1973), Richard Mabey describes thrown-out spice seeds in East London germinating and taking root.  The Indian subcontinent’s most colourful arrivals have to be the flocks of Rose Ringed Parakeets on Hampstead Heath, as well as south of the river. Human immigration has brought Punjabis, Bengalis and Gujaratis, who in the Indian subcontinent live many hundreds of miles apart into close proximity, each group now associated with its own ancient village (Southall, the Tower Hamlets, Kingsbury).  It’s also one of the main centres for Britain’s Jewish communities — first settling in the East End, finding it impossible to move directly West because of house prices, and so driven north and west in a circling motion,  but settling in Stamford Hill (for the Haredim),  Golders Green, Edgware etc.

The big change this has brought is that Metro-Land is no longer necessarily commuter-land. People live in what were built as dormitory suburbs but now work there in far greater numbers than envisaged.

But the whole history of Middlesex is one of inward migration, given that the population of the old villages and towns was swamped long ago by incomers, whether from London, elsewhere in Britain or abroad. One early wave of foreign immigration from abroad brought the settlement of the Danes west of the pre-Norman conquest walled city (hence St Clement Danes church); another was that of Dutch printers in the 16th century, who felt more secure in Westminster and Clerkenwell, outside London itself at a time of anti-foreigner riots in the city.

Here Southall's Sikhs, who use the Punjabi alphabet, seem to have put down a marker rather than their Muslim Punjabi neighbours, who use the Urdu Arabic-derived script.

 But it was not till after World War I that the population of Middlesex exploded — from 1,254,300 in 1921 to 2,059,000 in 1938.  Builders flooded onto fields previously used to grow horse fodder and vegetables. Their market was supplied by people who had already lived in a suburbs of an older vintage — the Victorian and Edwardian districts where the landlords hadn’t an incentive to put in electricity and which were blighted by the smoke of countless coal fire. Alan A. Jackson, the author of Semi-Detatched London (George Allen and Unwin, 1973), says that ‘when choosing a new house, Londoners tended to look along the transport routes long familiar from Sunday and Bank Holiday excursions … Tottenham, Edmonton and Wood Green would tend to move out to Enfield, Cheshunt or Broxbourne…’ According to the Hendon Times of 21 Setpember 1931, of about a hundred members of one Camden Town firm, over half had by the summer of 1934 moved to new houses at Watling (Burnt Oak), Hendon, Colindale, Kingsbury, Edware Road and Mill Hill.

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