Step back in history and take a self-guided tour of Ruislip – it makes a great day trip from London. If you’re a history buff and find yourself with a free morning or afternoon to spare, hop on the tube (underground) and take the Metropolitan or Piccadilly line to the charming little town of Ruislip – about 45 minutes from the heart of London. What makes Ruislip so unique is its historical significance – it dates back to 1086. (It’s also very special to us – it’s my hometown, my family lives there and it’s where Barry and I were married).
A little Ruislip history:
- Prior to 1066 – legend has it that Ruislip belonged to a Saxon landowner
- 1066 – following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the land was seized and given to the Lord of the Manor
- 1087-1404 – Ruislip was granted to the Abbey of Bec
- 1085 – William the Conqueror ordered a survey be put together featuring an inventory of the land in England
- 1086 – Information recorded in the Domesday Book provided the first written reference to Ruislip
- The original name of Ruislip (pronounced Rice-lip) comes from two Old English words: “ryse” (rush) and “hlype” (leap), meaning “leaping place across a river where rushes grow.”
Manor Farm, Ruislip – Historic 13th Century Farm Buildings
Visit Manor Farm, located at the far end of Ruislip High Street. Set within 22 acres of grounds, the special site contains a collection of historic farm buildings dating back to the 13th century.
The 11th century Norman Motte and Bailey (classified as an ancient monument) was part of an earthwork believed to be the remains of an early medieval motte (grassy mound) and bailey (a flat raised lawn area containing a cluster of huts), both surrounded by a fence and moat. Motte and Bailey Castles were first introduced into England by the Normans in the 11th century. Archaeological remains of this site are of national importance and are protected. Finds such as 14th-16th century pottery, fragments of window glass, brick, tile and animal teeth have been discovered.
Geological tests found the remains of a building which is likely to have been a Priory dating back to the 12th century. Today, the 16th century Manor Farm House sits on that site. Restored in 2007-08, the building features the Manor Farm House Heritage and Education Centre. See exhibit displays (including patterned wallpaper that was discovered behind the 18th century paneling in the entrance hall – it’s the earliest surviving in situ in England), historical video footage, artifacts and old photographs. Outdoor plaques, giving a historic overview, are dotted around the Manor Farm site.
13th Century Great Barn – Oldest Timber-Framed Barn in Greater London
One of the most historic buildings in Ruislip includes the 13th century Great Barn, the oldest timber-framed barn in Greater London. Built during the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307), and constructed with huge timbers grown in Ruislip Woods, the barn stored crops and other produce (including wheat, peas, beans, barley and wool) of Ruislip Manor and its farmland.
Today, The Great Barn is home to Ruislip Duck Pond Markets that take place throughout the year on select Sundays, alternating between Artisan Food & Craft Markets (with livestock and kids play area) and traditional Farmers Markets – both worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Other historic buildings include a 16th century Little Barn (Manor Farm Library), 18th and 19th century farm buildings (the Guide Hut and the Stables), Cart Sheds (now Craft Workshops where local artists and craftspeople display their work) and a 19th century Cow Byre that forms part of the farm courtyard – it houses an Art Gallery (exhibits change weekly) and a small Tea Room.
Duck Pond and Winston Churchill Hall
Ruislip’s tranquil Duck Pond (formerly known at The Horse Pond) dates back to the mid-16th century. Surrounded by Weeping Willows and filled with ducks, it is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I’m back in town. Winston Churchill Hall, built in 1965 on Parker’s Field (next to the historic Manor Farm site), is a popular venue for cultural, corporate and sporting events… and wedding receptions – we had our reception there. Happy memories 🙂
A memorial to the fallen soldiers of the First World War stands nears the entrance to Manor Farm. It’s inscribed with the names of the 71 Ruislip men and those of the Royal Air Corps and the Royal Air Force (RAF) who died in the First World War (plus 132 names of those who died in the Second World War).
St. Martin’s Church and 15th Century Wall Paintings
St. Martin’s Church (located at the end of Ruislip High Street near Manor Farm) dates back to the mid-13th century.
Fifteenth-century wall paintings, used for devotional and teaching purposes, are visible inside the church. On the north side, the most prominent wall painting (it was recently restored) features the Seven Deadly Sins, represented by a dragon-like creature with wings folded across its back emerging from a cauldron in the mouth of Hell below and bearing in its jaws Pride, the deadliest sin, seated on a throne. Death, Anger, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony and Lust make up the other six deadly sins.
Beautiful Victorian stained glass arched windows adorn the outer walls of St. Martin’s and a marble font (for baptisms) dates back to Norman times. A peal of eight bells, dating from 1878, are rung inside the church every week.
Timber Grown at Ruislip Woods used in building The Mayflower
In 1086, Ruislip was mentioned in the Domesday Book as having “a 300-acre park for woodland beasts” – the park, featuring wild boar and deer, was one of only two of its kind in Middlesex. Today, Ruislip has more than 600 acres of woodlands in three woods: Park Wood, Copse Wood and Mad Bess Wood – all great places to hike or take your dog for a walk. The timber grown in Ruislip Woods also has historical significance – besides being used in building The Mayflower, Ruislip Woods provided oak to help build Royal Palaces, including Windsor Castle in 1344, Westminster Palace in 1346… even the Tower of London in 1939.
Ruislip High Street – Shops & Restaurants
Walk down Ruislip High Street and check out the little shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants. You won’t find any pubs directly on the High Street, but there are plenty in the area. It’s amazing how Americanized Ruislip has become over the years – no Starbucks yet, but there is a McDonald’s, Subway, and a Kentucky Fried Chicken! (My two food cravings whenever I’m back in Ruislip – Fish ‘n Chips and a sausage roll).
If you have the time, take a bus to Ruislip Lido (about a 15-minutes ride from Ruislip High Street). Walk around the scenic swan-and-duck-filled lake and through the woods – it’s a beautiful area. Enjoy an traditional English roast lunch and pint of ale at the Water’s Edge Carvery.
Historic Barn Hotel – Sherleys Farm dates back to 1528
If you plan on spending the night in Ruislip, check into the historic Barn Hotel (also mentioned in the Domesday Book), located just minutes away from Ruislip Station. The farmhouse, Sherleys Farm, dates back to 1528 – parts of the building may be 100+ years older. Some people believe it may even be haunted (there are regular reports of guests seeing and hearing ghosts at night), but that’s another story!
The historic part of the Barn Hotel houses luxury period rooms, including two four poster-bedrooms (we stayed in one of them on our wedding night), which are named after King Henry VIII’s six wives. The two barns (now part of the public area) date back to the late 1590s. The Leaning Barn (between the reception and the bar; pictured below) got its name because it leans at 16 degrees. In 2003, the hotel’s public areas were renovated and now include a new reception area and restaurant. Dean’s Lodge is the hotel’s most recent addition, housing 18 rooms and suites.
Afternoon Tea at Barn Hotel
Afternoon Tea is served daily between 11am and 6pm in the Barn Hotel’s bar area. Enjoy a selection of tea sandwiches, little cakes, warm scones with clotted cream and jam preserves, and a choice of teas. Champagne or Cocktail Teas are also available.
There’s nothing like a good ol’ English cuppa tea — you can take the girl out of London, but you can’t take London out of the girl!