LONDON’S WEST END includes the part of the city that contains areas such as Chinatown, Theatreland, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Oxford Street, Mayfair, Soho, Fitrovia, and Bond Street. Before the 19th century, the western boundary of London was Park Lane, which runs along the west edge of the West End.
Until the end of the 18th century and even during the early years of the 19th, west of Park Lane and the West End was the Middlesex countryside, which was dotted with villages such as (for example) Paddington, Kensington, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Fulham, Acton, Ealing, and Southall. In between these then separated places there were farms, heathlands, parks, stately homes (such as Chiswick House and Osterley Park), and highwaymen.
During the 19th century, several things happened. London expanded in all directions and spread into what had been countryside. The small villages in Middlesex grew in size. Some of them coalesced. Canals and railways were built, and along with them, building in areas that had previously been rural, caused them to become urban. In brief, London spread relentlessly westward. What was called the West End, and is still so-called today, was no longer the west end of the city of London.
Although many previously rustic settlements (such as Paddington and other places mentioned above) became engulfed in the metropolis, most of them have retained at least a few reminders of their pre-urban past. Currently, I am putting the finishing touches on a book about London west of the West End. In it, I hope to help readers discover more about London’s western spread and what has survived it (despite being surrounded by the city’s western expansion).