The site was still part of the Common at the time of the 1866 Metropolitan Commons Act. Land for the first railway line was purchased prior to this Act, but when the line was expanded and the Hounslow Loop added in the 1870’s, provision was also made for a goods’ shunting yard and the land for this was subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order on condition that should land ever cease to be used for railway purposes it would be returned to the Common.
Soil History: originally, as throughout the rest of the Common, soil consisted of free draining acid sand and gravels overlaying Thames clays. The introduction of concrete and cement over time meant that at sale, existing topsoil was alkaline and supported a markedly different flora from the rest of the Common, as surveys in the 1990’s show.
Throughout years as a Goods Yard, the soil became heavily contaminated with oil, bitumen, and heavy metals. Today, some remains at levels only acceptable in substrates and some is covered with a considerable depth of topsoil from other sites.
Although the continuity of pH was not achieved, imported soils provided a rich habitat for different flowering species, and support a higher quantity and diversity of butterflies, dragonflies, and invertebrates than most other areas of the Common a whole.
Where orchard trees were planted, cubic metre pits were dug and uncontaminated soils imported to reduce further the risk of contamination in the trees’ fruits – which will also be tested to confirm our understanding that soil contamination is not absorbed to unacceptable levels, if at all, by fruits.
Banner photo taken 1954 as in Barnes & Mortlake Past 1997. Maisie Brown.