It is partly Southall’s enviable location that has, over time, shaped its history. With the Grand Union Canal nearby and excellent transport connections to London and other parts of the country, Southall became a key place for industry with many businesses choosing to build factories here.
In the 1830s, the Brunel-designed Great Western Railway helped fuel this commercial growth. Of the many factories built during this time, one of the most well-known was the Martin Brothers’ ceramic factory. Built in 1877, the brothers produced their distinctive stoneware pottery up until 1923. Their Martinware ceramics are now highly collectable. A large margarine works followed in 1894, later owned by the Maypole Dairy, at its peak it was the largest producer of margarine in the world. The Quaker Oats Company set up a factory in 1936, which is still in operation today albeit under different ownership, and known locally as the Sugar Puff Factory on account of the well-loved cereal produced here.
It is also Southall’s location that attracted the first South Asians to settle here in the 1950s. With expanding employment opportunities in the local factories and also at nearby Heathrow Airport Southall was an appealing place to live. Over the years, as more Asians chose to make Southall their home, the area’s distinctive multicultural character, for which it is renowned, began to develop.
Southall is famously the backdrop for the well-known film Bend it Like Beckham, which launched actress, Keira Knightley’s career. It was also home to Southall Studios, one of the earliest British film studios. Opened in 1924 it produced dozens of feature films up until its closure in 1958.