Staines-upon-Thames

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Staines-upon-Thames, often referred to by its former name Staines (/steɪnz/), is a town on the north bank of the River Thames in the borough of Spelthorne in Surrey, England (historically in Middlesex). The town changed its official name from Staines to Staines-upon-Thames on 20 May 2012.

The town is within the western bounds of the M25 motorway and located 17 miles (27 km) west south-west of Charing Cross in London. It is within the London Commuter Belt of South East England and the built-up Greater London Urban Area. It is located on the Thames Path National Trail.

Evidence of neolithoic settlement has been found at Yeoveney, on Staines Moor. There has been a crossing of the River Thames at Staines since Roman times. The emperor Claudius sent the Romans into Britain in 43 A.D and they settled in Staines the same year. Soon after this invasion the first Staines Bridge was constructed to provide an important Thames crossing point on main road from Londinium (London) to Calleva Atrebatum, near the present-day village of Silchester. The name Staines comes from the Old English, meaning “[the place at the] stone[s]”. The equivalent Roman name was “ad Pontes” (plural “at the bridges”) implying that there was more than one bridge and it is believed that these bridges traversed Church Island.

Staines, albeit spelt Stanes, appears in the Middlesex section of the Domesday Book of 1086, as a property held by Westminster Abbey. It was stated to occupy 19 hides of land, and had 6 mills worth £3 4s 0d, 2 weirs worth 6s 8d, 24 ploughs, meadows for 24 ploughs, and some cattle. It rendered £35.

A border stana, or stone, on the bank of the River Thames, dated 1280, still remains, indicating the western limit of the City of London jurisdiction over the Thames. (Although familiarly known as the ‘London Stone’, it is not to be confused with the more famous (and probably more ancient) London Stone in Cannon Street in the City of London).

The situation of the town as a major crossing point over the River Thames, its position on the main road from London to the southwest, and its proximity to Windsor has led to the town being involved in national affairs. The barons assembled there before they met King John at Runnymede in 1215, and Stephen Langton held a consecration there shortly after the issue of Magna Carta. Sir Thomas More was tried in 1535 in a Staines public house, to avoid the outbreak of plague in London at that time. Kings and other important people must have passed through the town on many occasions: the church bells were rung several times in 1670, for instance, when the king and queen went through Staines.

During the period 1642–48 there were skirmishes on Staines Moor and numerous troop movements over Staines Bridge during the Civil War.

Staines was a site for a horse change on The Trafalgar Way in 1805, announcing the victory over the combined French and Spanish fleet and the death of Nelson. This is commemorated on a plaque on Staines town hall.

The town was the major producer of linoleum, a type of floor covering, after the formation of the Linoleum Manufacturing Company in 1864 by its inventor, Frederick Walton. Linoleum became the main industry of the town and was a major employer in the area up until the 1960s. In 1876 about 220 and in 1911 about 350 people worked in the plant. By 1957 it employed some 300 people and in 1956 the factory produced about 2675 m2 of linoleum each week. The term ‘Staines Lino’ became a worldwide name but the factory was closed around 1970 and is now the site of the Two Rivers shopping centre completed circa 2000. A bronze statue of two lino workers in Staines High Street commemorates the Staines Lino Factory. The Spelthorne Museum has a display dedicated to the Linoleum Manufacturing Company.

The Lagonda Car factory manufactured Lagonda cars from the site where Sainsbury’s is today. The town was the site of the Staines air disaster in 1972, at the time the worst air crash in Britain until the Lockerbie disaster of 1988. (Since the Lockerbie crash was a terrorist act in Scotland, the Staines crash remains England’s worst air disaster, and Britain’s worst air accident). The crash was commemorated in June 2004, with the opening of a dedicated garden near the crash site, created at the request of relatives, and the unveiling of a stained glass window at St. Mary’s Church, where a memorial service was held.

In 1894, the Local Government Act 1894 created the Staines Urban District of Middlesex. In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, most of the rest of Middlesex became part of Greater London while Staines Urban District was transferred to Surrey. In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, the Staines Urban District was abolished and its area combined with that of the former Sunbury-on-Thames Urban District to form the present-day borough of Spelthorne. Colloquially, Staines remains associated with the former, historical, or geographic county of Middlesex, through its cultural and sporting affiliations, and the form of mail addressing preferred by the Post Office(officially the use of a county on postal addresses was phased out over the period 1996 – 2000, but is still widely used in practice).

On 15 December 2011 the Spelthorne Borough Council voted 25 – 4, with 6 abstentions (including all of those from Staines ward itself), to change the name of the town to Staines-upon-Thames with the aim of promoting its riverside location so boosting the local economy and, reportedly, to attempt to discourage association with the fictional character Ali G.

The name change proposal originated with the Spelthorne Business Forum. A public consultation resulted in two to one approval, but there were some public objections, including from the Staines football team which attempted to present 134 signatures to the council but they were not received. Adopting the name change, the council resolved to call on residents, businesses and public organisations to use the name Staines-upon-Thames, and to call on the Surrey County Council and Runnymede Borough Council to use Staines-upon-Thames for all official business. Following a day of celebrations in the town including a regatta on the river, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad DCVO, formally changed the name on 20 May 2012 at 2pm.

The proximity to London and Heathrow have attracted a number of companies: Bupa (healthcare), J P Kenny (Oil&Gas), Logica (telecommunications and IT consultants) have major offices, NDS (conditional access DRM provider), Siemens Building Automation Division and British Gas (part of Centrica) have their national headquarters here. Samsung Electronics Research Institute (SERI), Samsung’s U.K R&D Division, is based in Staines-upon-Thames.

The town centre is fairly compact and mainly focused on a wide pedestrianised High Street, housing most familiar names such as Waterstones, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, T.K. Maxx, JD Sports, Sony, McDonald’sx2, Argos, PC World, Tesco, Waitrose, Monsoon, HMV and H&M. Smaller independent units can be found in Church Street including Iris Bloomfield Florists and Refresh Juice Cafe, Clarence Street and the eastern end of the High Street. A market in the pedestrianised High Street is held every Wednesday and Saturday. It is one of the largest and busiest street markets in Surrey. A moderately-sized shopping centre (Elmsleigh) is directly behind the High Street. A retail park was opened in 2002 called Two Rivers which is bisected by the confluence of the rivers Wraysbury and Colne. Retailers include Waitrose as well as a Vue cinema, gym and cafes. Outside the High street there are also many other parades of shops like Stainash and Edinburgh Drive.

The administrative offices of Spelthorne Borough Council are located at Knowle Green. The town has recently unveiled a revitalised Thames-side with landscaping and sculptures. The Town Hall (converted first to an arts centre, then a bar, and now empty) is a Victorian blend of Italian and Flemish influences set in a small market square. Several Georgian town houses line Clarence Street (named after the Duke of Clarence). Church Street and The Lammas house some Georgian and Victorian properties clustered around the parish church of St Mary. Most housing in the town is middle class in nature with plenty of green spaces (Staines Moor, Shortwood Common, Knowle Green, Leacroft, The Lammas and Laleham Abbey to the immediate south). Staines Bridge spans the Thames with a three arch structure completed in 1832. Until the 14th century Staines was the tidal limit, now downstream at Teddington.

The town is the home of the fictional character Ali G, and indie rock band Hard-Fi.

The nearest station is Staines railway station serving London Waterloo, Weybridge, Windsor and Eton Riverside and Reading. Taxis are available from the station. The bus station is a five-minute walk from the railway station. Staines-upon-Thames is also a short ride south of Heathrow Airport. Buses also connect Staines-upon-Thames to Thorpe Park.

There are proposals to build a new line, called Heathrow Airtrack, from Staines-upon-Thames to Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 station. As part of these proposals a new station, to be called Staines High Street railway station was due to be built between the existing Staines station, and Wraysbury railway station although planners have now decided that this will not go ahead and the existing station would have an additional platform built instead.

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