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Ruislip has a long and interesting history with links to Saxon England and some of the earliest kings in the country. It also has ties to some of the most important buildings in London. All of this from a place that remained a small village in rural Middlesex right up until the 19th century.
While Edward the Confessor may not have ever visited Ruislip, the first records showing Ruislip are dated to be within his reign over Wessex. Edward was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings and is typically considered the final king of the House of Wessex before England was ruled over by one monarch. His reign from 1042 to 1066 was one of the most important and most documented in English history. Edward was very much known for his religious faith, and he is known as ‘the Confessor’ due to his faith.
The records from Edward’s reign show that Ruislip was owned by a Saxon called Wlward Wit. He was a thane of the king. A thane is a person of special importance to the king, basically, one of the king’s closest friends. It is very likely that Edward gifted Wlward with the lands of Ruislip, perhaps after a victorious battle or war.
Wlward Wit lost most of his lands during the Norman Conquest, probably because of his ties to Edward. In the Domesday Book in 1086, the lands of Ruislip were noted to belong to Arnulf de Hesdin, a French knight who took part in the Norman Conquest. He was likely rewarded the lands for his role in the successful conquest and was probably in a similar position as Wlward Wit with the new king.
During the 14th century, Ruislip had masses of woodland, and this woodland would become some of the most important buildings in England. The woods around Ruislip were harvested, and the timber was used in the building of the Tower of London in 1339, in Windsor Castle in 1344 and in the old Palace of Westminster in 1346. Three of the most powerful places in England and in the world at that time.
There are still timbers from Ruislip in the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, and the timbers that were once used in the Palace of Westminster have likely been repurposed and used in other buildings in London.
For most of the history of Ruislip, it was a rural village just outside London, and for a lot of this history, it was owned by King’s College, Cambridge. However, in the late 19th century, the Metropolitan line was built right on the doorstep of Ruislip. Once Ruislip had a railway station, large new housing estates were built, as well as the shopping streets of Ruislip Manor’s Victoria Road and Ruislip High Street. This gave us the modern Ruislip we know today.
Thankfully Ruislip has an excellent local history society that is keeping the amazing story of Ruislip alive. If it weren’t for them, Ruislip would be considered a sleepy little rural hamlet until the railway showed up. But with links to kings, Saxon and Norman knights and ties to some of the most important buildings in England, Ruislip is anything but sleepy.