People Who Made Hillingdon Famous
Welcome to the gateway to the UK, known as Hillingdon - the second largest of London’s 33 boroughs. We don’t know if this is the reason why Hillingdon is linked with so many notable people, still, their names deserve to be remembered, which is why this list was formed. The London borough has a lot to offer but as we all know, the people are always that what matters the most, so no matter if you live in Hillingdon or anywhere else here are some names that shouldn’t be forgotten.
There are 8 Blue plaques in the borough of Hillingdon. Each of the people they remind us of is impressive on its own and deserves to be immortalized for various reasons. Still, we’ll only briefly mark their names, and the reasons why you should check them out proudly state, that once upon a time they’ve walked the same streets as you.
We’re starting with Cecil Kinross VC, who was born in Harefield in 1896. He was a First World War hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honour a country can bestow on a citizen, for "most conspicuous bravery in action during prolonged and severe operations".
Kinross survived both World Wars and died on 21 June 1957, in Lougheed, Canada. He was buried with full military honours, and the Mount in the Rocky Mountains near Jasper, Alberta was named Kinross in his honour.
The Olympic champion Chris Finnegan was born in Uxbridge in 1944. He grew up at Cowley Road with his eight siblings. The world might have never heard his name if it wasn’t for his elder brother who introduced him to boxing. The rest is history. During his career, Chris fought 38 times in the light-heavyweight division and won three Lonsdale belts as British Champion. He also claimed the Commonwealth and European titles, which he successfully defended twice. At the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games on 26 October 1968, he won a gold medal in the middleweight division making Great Britain proud. You can find his plaque at Hayes Boxing Club in Judge Heath Lane.
Lord Bernard James Miles
English movie fans know that name. Lord Bernard James Miles, awarded with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his contribution to the arts, was born in Uxbridge on 27 September 1907. He was an English character actor, writer and director. Miles did some significant roles that will forever stay in the cinema’s history with his rich filmographic legacy. He is the one who opened the Mermaid Theatre in London in 1959, in other words, the first new theatre in the City of London since the 17th century. In 1953, Miles was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), 16 years later he was knighted and became a life peer as Baron Miles, of Blackfriars in the City of London on 7 February 1979. Miles was only the second British actor to be given a peerage (the first was Laurence Olivier).
Michael John Stears
While we’re still in the movie salon, it’s time to pay tribute to Michael John Stears as well. The man known as “the Dean of Special Effects” was born in Uxbridge and grew up in Hoylake Crescent, Ickenham. Many of his innovations are incorporated into the work of today's film-makers. His imagination was tremendous and his work iconic. The winner of two Academy Awards, for his work on Thunderball and Star Wars, is one of the few who managed to recreate a whole new universe before the CGI even existed. Stears served as the real-life incarnation of the ingenious 'Q' in the early James Bond films, creating gadgets and vehicles including the Aston Martin featured in Goldfinger, which has been described as "the most famous car in the world".
Robert Edward Ryder
Another war hero was born in present Hillingdon on 17th December 1895. His name was Robert Edward Ryder. He was awarded the Victoria Cross when he was just 20 years old. Ryder received this honour for “most conspicuous bravery and initiative during an attack” at the village of Thiepval, France, during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916, turning what could have been a failure into a success.
Sir Alexander Fleming
The man whose legacy continues to save thousands of lives across the globe, Sir Alexander Fleming, is also linked to the borough of Hillingdon. According to BBC’s television poll, he was among the 100 Greatest Britons of all time and was featured in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. We’re pretty sure that his name definitely rings a bell, because of his most famous contribution to modern medicine – the finding of the world's first antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin (Penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928. This invention, without which we couldn’t imagine our existence today, continues to save lives every day. The synthesis of this cure is the reason why Fleming shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain.
The discovery of the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 is another notable invention of the third “greatest Scot” (in an opinion poll conducted by STV – behind only Robert Burns and William Wallace). Fleming is a part of Harefield Hospital’s history – he used to be appointed regional pathologist there, during the Second World War in 1939 and devoted most of his time to Harefield's pathology department to study the effects of his discovery on a wide variety of infections, including tuberculosis. In 1944 Fleming was knighted as a Knight Bachelor for his scientific achievements by King George VI
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis
The English scientist, engineer and inventor Sir Barnes Neville Wallis is remembered as the aeronautical engineer, who invented the water-skipping mine that was used by No. 617 Squadron RAF to break the Möhne and Eder Dams on the night of 16/17 May 1943. A Hillingdon Council memorial is located in Moor Lane, Harmondsworth, at the site where the Road Research Laboratory conducted tests on model dams to assist Barnes Wallis in his development of the bouncing bomb. His many achievements include the first use of geodetic design in engineering and in the gasbag wiring of Vickers' R100 in 1930, which, at the time, was the largest airship ever designed.
The last notable Blue plaque in the borough of Hillingdon memorizes the name of William Wilberforce. The human right activist was a politician, a philanthropist, and a leading campaigner in Parliament for the abolition of slavery. Wilberforce was convinced in the importance of religion, morality and education. He championed causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, the British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Fortunately, he managed to witness how his hard work was finally paid off on 25 March 1807 when a bill abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire received Royal Assent. This lead to the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire.
Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the passage of the Act by the Parliament was assured. From 1824 to 1826 he lived at The Chestnuts, Honeycroft Hill, Uxbridge, where you can find the plaque with his name. We strongly advise you to spend just 2 hours of your time and watch the Christopher Award winning movie from 2006 “Amazing Grace”, dedicated to the idealist William Wilberforce.
Other Notable Names
The blue plaques may have come to an end but the notable names are far from over. If you want to live in the borough like these celebrities did, Royal Cleaning has a staff in Hillingdon that can help you around. Before we put an end to the article, we’d like to mention a few more individuals. Did you know that:
- Among the noticeable historical residents of Hayes is the Renaissance composer known as the "father of English music", William Byrd, whose musical legacy is nearly impossible to be overrated.
- Eric Arthur Blair, the pre-eminent figure of twentieth-century English literature, who made dystopia a well-known genre, also used to live in Hayes. Inimitable George Orwell used to walk this very street… Maybe he still does, looking for another way to interpret the reality. If not, at least his works definitely continue to shape our views.
- During the 1960s, the young Reginald Dwight, presently world-known as Elton John, lived at 30 Frome Court on Pinner Road with his mother and stepfather-to-be. At the age of 16, he began performing at the Northwood Hills Hotel every weekend, for more than the humble salary of £1 a night, plus the proceeds of a whip-round. You can still visit the place today, although the establishment is now an Indian restaurant.
- If you’ve lived in the area of Ruislip, the chances are that you know at least one Breakspear. Actually, the Breakspear name is so widely used hereabouts, that this has given rise to unconfirmed speculation that Nicholas Breakspear, the only English pope, once lived nearby.