The building of the Paddington Canal in 1801 certainly introduced Yeading to the rest of the country with links not only to the growing metropolis of London, but also to the Midlands, the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.
Willowtree Marina stands on the site of Willowtree Wharf, one of many docks, wharves and inlets which were once found along the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal.
For nearly 200 years the wharf was used to tranship bricks locally made from clay extracted from the surrounding land. It is said that some of the bricks were used to build Buckingham Palace. During the Great War the wharf was used for the transhipment of explosives as the site was remote from housing, yet easily accessible from London by canal and rail. During World War Two the site was further used by the GPO as a communications centre.
In the mid-1980s the site was redeveloped by a public-private partnership between British Waterways, Laing Homes Ltd, Hillingdon Borough Council and Willowtree Marine Ltd.
Willowtree Marina covers approximately five acres and is recognised as a good example of a successful mixed-use brownfield development. Because of this, Willowtree Marina was chosen in June 2000 as the location for the launch by the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott of Waterways for Tomorrow, the British Waterways vision for the future of the canals of Britain.
The Marina complex itself comprises businesses, leisure facilities, houses, and boats -a combination of uses which works well for the local area. Close community involvement has meant that the marina is associated with the local special needs school. Local community self-help groups based at Willowtree Marina are also springing up, resulting in a nature reserve and wildlife walk, and improvements to a local section of the long-distance Hillingdon Trail footpath.