What’s it all about?
It may have more stations than any other place in the Capital, but Acton has long played second fiddle to its more well known neighbours, Chiswick and Ealing. Now it’s stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight, with regeneration projects galore set to transform the area into a real destination of choice. Acton means ‘oak farm’ in Anglo Saxon and the motif is everywhere, from the Oaks Shopping Centre to a huge mural of oak trees in the high street. It was also where most of the Capital’s laundries were based in the 17th century, earning Acton the nickname ‘Soapsuds Island’. Now it has fantastic transport links, with four Tube and three railway stations, and the prospect of a link to the Crossrail and HS2 networks at Old Oak Common. The area retains much of its Victorian terraced housing which, along with newly refurbished leisure facilities, diverse shops and a good choice of schools, makes Acton a magnet for families and young professionals alike.
- By the 1700s Acton was a favoured country retreat for the rich, with many hoping to boost their health by drinking the mineral water from Acton Wells. As a result of its soft water, Acton became famous for its laundries, which would serve the West End and at one point there were at least 600 of them. The last one closed in the late 1970s.
- Waitrose started in Acton, as Waite, Rose and Taylor, in 1904.
- Harlech Tower in South Acton is the site of the housing estate where the sitcom Only Fools And Horses was filmed, although the script described the Trotters as living in Peckham.
Architecture and property
Once considered a country retreat for the rich, in 1859 land in Acton was released for building to house London's rapidly growing population. Consequently many Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses and flat conversions can be found in Acton. There are also pockets of classic 20th century suburbia, most notable of which is Hanger Hill Garden Village. Now a conservation area, the mock Tudor houses and flats were built between 1928 and 1936, and the area includes ornamental gardens and open spaces. Additionally there are some interesting 1930s apartment blocks in Ealing Village. During the last century Acton was also a major industrial centre employing tens of thousands of people in the motor vehicle industries, although much of this history was erased by post war redevelopment. The terraced houses and factories were replaced with large tower blocks, and this continued throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in a variety of styles. Today there is a wide variety of property available in Acton, including these ex-local authority homes and some stunning modern developments made available through a £560 million scheme to regenerate South Acton.
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Eating: There are lots of restaurants clustered around the Acton High Street and Churchfield Road area. Locals flock to North China for its shin of beef and dumplings, and Ting Tong Thai for some spicy noodles. Towards Ealing is Persian Nights offering live music and belly dancing, or those with a craving for spice could head for Anokha. If a freshly cooked kebab is what you hanker after, then Woody Grill is the place to seek out.
Drinking: The Rocket is a classic British pub that has earned a good reputation for food, with the nearby Station House also popular with locals. The Aeronaut Pub is anything but traditional, with a circus themed garden, its own brewery, swing dance lessons, and aerial acrobatic shows at the weekends. The Belvedere caters for sports fans, and The Dragonfly at the beautifully refurbished George & Dragon pub should hit the spot for beer lovers with its own microbrewery.
Culture: Five minutes away on the Tube in Turnham Green is the Tabard Theatre, which produces theatre of all types, as well as being a regular comedy venue for some of the biggest names on the circuit. Or, if you’re thinking of being more hands on, head over to Questors Theatre, five minutes away in the other direction in Ealing, the biggest amateur theatre company in the country. For movies, head to the nine screen Vue Cinema in Park Royal.
Events: The London Mela takes place in nearby Gunnersbury Park each summer and in 2014 attracted more than 90,000 visitors. This free Asian festival features music, dance, theatre, children’s events and a huge food market. The Acton Carnival takes place in July and celebrates blues and jazz. The London Transport Museum uses its depot in Acton for storage, but guided tours of the historic vehicles are available. The W3 Gallery supports local artists and regularly holds affordable art exhibitions.
- There is a good local butcher in La Viande, a bakery at Laveli, and for something more unusual, visit the Japanese fishmonger at Atari-Ya.
- Currently, there are two Sainsbury’s Locals, and a larger store in Chiswick, as well as an Asda in Park Royal, and a large Morrisons nearby.
- The Village Trading Store is a quaint boutique selling gifts, homewares and vintage items, owned by Laura Forsyth (daughter of TV legend Bruce).
- Gentlemen after a little grooming should head for Arthur Razor, while ladies can indulge themselves at Nara Health & Beauty.
- Acton Town Hall has been redeveloped to the tune of £14 million, creating the Everyone Active centre, which has a 100 station gym, two pools, two dance studios and a library.
- Twyford Sports Centre offers a four court sports hall, floodlit tennis courts, netball and football areas and two group exercise studios.
Acton Park offers a playground, ponds, bowling green, tennis courts and a cafe. Gunnersbury Park has two play areas, a cricket square, 20 football pitches and 15 tennis courts. Between East and North Action Tube stations lies Wormwood Scrubs, more famous as the site of a prison perhaps, but home to more than 200 acres of common land, including nature reserves, a sports stadium and a pony centre.
Between North and East Action Tube stations, the 155 hectare Old Oak Common is one of the biggest regeneration projects since the Olympics. There are plans to build ‘the Canary Wharf of West London’, creating 24,000 homes, 55,000 jobs and a Crossrail/HS2 railway hub. A redevelopment of the South Acton Estate is ongoing, with many of the old tower blocks already demolished and new housing constructed. The project will take 10 years to complete and eventually provide 2,500 new homes. There are also plans to redevelop the Oaks Shopping Centre, bringing a Waitrose store.
Rail: Acton Central and South Acton are on the Overground and trains from either will drop you at Highbury & Islington in about half an hour. Acton main line station has trains to Paddington that take just 10 minutes.
Tube: East Acton, North Acton and West Acton stations are all on the Central Line, with journey times to the West End of about 20 minutes and to the City in half an hour. Acton Town is on the District and Piccadilly Lines, serving the City, Holborn and Victoria.
Bus: Routes 95 (Southall), 260 (White City), 266 (24 hour Brent Cross), 440 (Stonebridge Park) and 487 (Willesdon Junction) all run through Acton.
Road: Ease of access to the M4 means that Bristol is only two hours away and getting to the M25 is simple.
Cycle: TfL has proposed a continuous, segregated cycle superhighway between Acton and Tower Hill.
Getting away: At just 20 minutes to Heathrow Airport by car, or half an hour by public transport, it’s easy to escape by plane.
Of the many primary schools in the area, Acton CofE Primary, John Perryn Primary and St Vincent’s Catholic Primary are popular choices. At secondary level, Twyford CofE High School, Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls (specialising in science and maths) and Acton High School all have good reputations. There is also the Barbara Speake Stage School, which takes children from nursery up to 16.
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