History of Ruislip
The Duck House in Ruislip is located on the corner of the high street next to the delightful duck pond, near the park.
The building has been part of the high street scenery in Ruislip for many centuries. Ruislip was mentioned in the Doomsday book as ‘Rislepe’, a name thought to originally mean ‘The wet place where rushes grow’ which is likely to refer to a spot on the river suitable for a crossing point. The name had various spellings over the succeeding centuries until it was recorded in 1527 as Ruislip, as it remains today.
The population recorded in 1086 comprised a priest, twenty nine villeins, seven bordars each on four acres, eight cottars, four serfs, four Frenchmen, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Among the customary tenants in 1324 were four men employed in carrying goods between Ruislip and London, a swineherd, cowherd, and hayward, as well as a woodward and a tile-counter. By the 1430s there were two shopkeepers, a joiner and a smith working a smithy near the Manorhouse gate. Until the 19th century, the economic history of Ruislip was predominantly agrarian - almost one-half of the total population in 1801 was employed in agriculture.
It may surprise you to know that the first description of a football match was written by a William FitzStephen in 1170. He recorded that in London "after dinner all the youths of the city goes out into the fields for the very popular game of ball." He noticed that every trade had their own football team. "The elders, the fathers, and the men of wealth come on horseback to view the contests of their juniors, and in their fashion sport with the young men; and there seems to be aroused in these elders a stirring of natural heat by viewing so much activity and by participation in the joys of unrestrained youth."
By the early 16th century, however, a movement gained pace to ban the game of football. In 1531 the Puritan preacher, Thomas Eliot, argued that football caused "beastly fury and extreme violence", and Philip Stubbs wrote "football playing and other devilish pastimes.. withdraweth us from godliness, either upon the Sabbath or any other day."
So it was that football was banned, but young men throughout the land flouted the ban. In 1576 it was recorded that in Ruislip around a hundred people "assembled themselves unlawfully and played a certain unlawful game, called football", which caused a considerable stir and which led to further tightening of the ordinances.
Cricket was played at Moor Park, just over the Hertfordshire boundary with Northwood, as early as 1854 when an eleven led by Lord Ebury entertained visiting teams.
The presence of Northolt airfield and attendant air force installations has had some effect on the social life of the parish. The airfield at RAF Northolt is older than the RAF itself. Located in the London Borough of Hillingdon, the military airfield became operational in June 1915 when BE2c aircraft flew defensive patrols against Zeppelin raids over London. Russian cadets trained at the airfield during the First World War, and during the Second World War units manning the R.A.F. station included Polish, Belgian, and Canadian contingents.
After 1945 the number of R.A.F. personnel living in the area was considerably reduced, but in 1949 the United States Air Force set up a command headquarters at South Ruislip and this was further augmented in 1951. By 1962 there were 1,733 people employed at the base. Of these 487 were United Kingdom civilians, and the remainder United States air force and civilian personnel. In addition United States nationals working at South Ruislip had 2,339 dependants living in and around Ruislip parish who were largely integrated into the social life of the parish.
No 303 Polish Squadron clocked up the highest allied scores during the Battle of Britain, with Sergeant Josef Frantisek, a maverick Czech national and 'honorary Pole' becoming the highest scorer of the battle. In 1943, RAF Northolt's Spitfire Mk IX Squadrons became the first Spitfire Wing as a unit to operate over Germany.
Ruislip has been home to many famous faces over the years, including actresses Jessie Matthews (The Good Companions, First a Girl, Edward and Mrs Simpson etc), and Lana Morris (The Forsyte Saga, The Saint, I Start Counting etc).
More recently, another famous child of Ruislip is Michael Bogdanov, television director and co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company.
Ruislip Lido is a Reservoir that featured in Cliff Richards' ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘Summer Holiday’ films. It was once a very famous water sports park.
The Lido was a great success locally. Attractions in its heyday include rowing boats, motor boats, paddle boats, a children's playground, a beach and miniature railway, all built by the Grand Union Canal Company.
Ruislip Lido also became famous for water skiing, once being used as a venue for the world championships.
Charlotte Rampling once starred in “The Knack”, filmed at the Lido in 1965.
She later wrote, "Here I am at the lido in Middlesex, of all places - yes, they have a lido in Middlesex - during the filming of my first film, 'The Knack'. It was me, Jacqueline Bissett and Jane Birkin - we were the fantasy ladies doing things to Michael Crawford's mind. I wafted in on water-skis, which was something of a fraud. I had always been a good athlete, but I had no idea how to water-ski. They asked me when they were casting the movie if I knew what I was doing, 'Of course!' I lied. Ah, the pluckiness of youth." In 1993 the main Lido building was damaged by fire, and it was demolished in 1994.
Sadly, Ruislip "Lido" is now just a reservoir, although the miniature railway is still running. Swimming has not been permitted there for many years and all the facilities have been removed.