Acton is a district of west London, England, located in the London Borough of Ealing. It is situated 6.1 miles (10 km) west of Charing Cross.
At the time of the 2001 census, Acton, comprising the wards of East Acton, Acton Central, South Acton and Southfield, had a population of 53,689 people. North Acton, West Acton, East Acton, South Acton, Acton Green, Acton Town, Acton Vale and Acton Central are all parts of Acton.
Acton means “oak farm” or “farm by oak trees”, and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon ac (oak) and tun (farm). Originally an ancient village, as London expanded, Acton became absorbed into the city. Nowadays, Acton lies predominantly in the London Borough of Ealing, although some of East Acton lies within the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, and a small portion of South Acton within the London Borough of Hounslow. Acton is home to more railway stations than any other area of London; seven stations in the locality feature Acton in their name.
Central Acton lies on the former main road between London and Oxford (the Uxbridge Road) and several inns along it date back several centuries as stopping places for travellers. Nowadays, the principal route linking London and Oxford (the A40 dual carriageway) bypasses central Acton, but passes through East Acton and North Acton.
Towards the end of the 17th century several springs were found on the north-east side of Acton and, for a time, they became health spas. As a result of the local soft water Acton became famous for its laundries and at the end of the 19th century there were around 170 establishments in South Acton. These laundries would serve hotels and the rich in London’s West End, leading to the nickname “Soapsuds Island” or “Soap Sud City”. At least 600 different laundries operated within South Acton; the last laundry closed in the late 1970s and is now a low redbrick block of flats.
The parish of Acton formed a local board of health in 1865 and became an urban district in 1894. The town was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Acton in 1921. This authority combined with the municipal boroughs of Ealing and Southall to form the London Borough of Ealing, within Greater London, in 1965.
Acton formed an urban district and, later, municipal borough of Middlesex from 1894 to 1965. Its former area was used to form part of the London Borough of Ealing in 1965.
During the 20th century Acton was a major industrial centre employing tens of thousands of people, particularly in the motor vehicles and components industries. The industries of North Acton merged with the great industrial concentrations of Park Royal and Harlesden. Further south Acton Vale had famous names including Napier & Son (engines), H. Bronnley & Co (Soaps), Evershed & Vignoles (electrical equipment), Lucas CAV (automotive electrical), Vandervell Products (bearings), T. Wall & Son (Wall’s Sausages and Wall’s Ice Cream) and Wilkinson Sword (swords and razors). Acton is now principally residential, though it maintains some light industry, particularly in the northeast Park Royal area, and the south near the border with Chiswick. Waitrose started in Acton, as Waite, Rose and Taylor – on the High Street near the police station – with its second branch opening in Churchfield Road in 1913.
Acton is home to the largest housing estate in West London, the South Acton estate, with approximately 2,000 homes and 5,800 residents. This area is currently in the Phase 2 of a major 15-year phased regeneration which includes near-total demolition of the existing residential units, and the construction of new and more numerous residential units.
Since World War II, Acton has had a small but notable population of Polish immigrants. In recent years, a number of Antipodean immigrants have settled there; there are several Australian and South African pubs concentrated in a small area. A Japanese school has also attracted a Japanese community to West Acton. The Somali community is concentrated around Church Road, and there are two mosques near the High Street. In addition, the Irish community has diminished somewhat in recent years, but there are still a number of well-supported Irish pubs in the area.
Acton will host the starting point of the 25 kilometre Thames Tideway Tunnel (also known as the “Super Sewer”) at the Acton Storm Tanks in Canham Road. This will be built to avoid the discharge of sewage from Combined Sewer Overflow into the River Thames.
The Acton High Street has a range of pubs which vary in theme and clientele.
The recently refurbished ‘Mount’ on Acton High Street hosts a Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Visitors can shop at stalls selling a range of produce, many stalls offering food to eat there or take away and many offering fruit, clothes, books and gifts.
Acton’s library, swimming baths (built in 1904) and Town Hall are examples of tall Victorian municipal buildings that can be found along the High Street. Acton Swimming Baths closed in December 2011 for a three year development project, replacing the existing pools with a 25m 8-lane pool and a smaller teaching pool. The site will reopen in spring 2014.
On the east end of Acton High Street is Acton Park, which features bowls facilities, a children’s play area, tennis courts, a basket/football court, a pond and an art block. There is a cafe next to the bowling green selling meals as well as tea/coffee and cakes and ice cream.