Ealing, or Ealing St Mary, is one of the ancient parishes of Middlesex. In 1894 it became an Urban District and in 1901 it became a Municipal Borough. In 1926 it was enlarged, absorbing the neighbouring parishes of Greenford, Hanwell, Perivale and West Twyford. It was enlarged again two years later to incorporate Northolt. In 1965 Ealing merged with neighbouring Acton and Southall to form the London Borough of Ealing.
Ealing is an area of west London, England and the administrative centre of the London Borough of Ealing. It is located west of Charing Cross and around from the City of London. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically a rural village in the county of Middlesex and formed an ancient parish. Improvement in communications with London, culminating with the opening of the railway station in 1838, shifted the local economy to market garden supply and eventually to suburban development. As part of the growth of London in the 20th century, Ealing significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming a municipal borough in 1901 and has formed part of Greater London since 1965. It now forms a significant commercial and retail centre with a developed night time economy.
The Saxon name for Ealing was recorded c.700 as 'Gillingas', meaning 'place of the people associated with Gilla', from the personal name Gilla and the Old English suffix '-ingas', meaning 'people of'. Over the centuries, the name has changed, and has been known as 'Illing', 1130; 'Gilling', 1243; and 'Ylling', 1254, until 'Ealing' became the standard spelling in the 19th century.
Archaeological evidence shows that parts of Ealing have been occupied for more than 7,000 years Iron Age pots have been discovered in the vicinity on Horsenden Hill. A settlement is recorded here in the 12th century amid a great forest that carpeted the area to the west of London. The earliest surviving English census is that for Ealing in 1599. This list was a tally of all 85 households in Ealing village giving the names of the inhabitants, together with their ages, relationships and occupations. It survives in manuscript form at The National Archives (piece E 163/24/35), and was transcribed and printed by K J Allison for the Ealing Historical Society in 1961.
Settlements were scattered throughout the parish. Many of them were along what is now called St. Mary's Road, near to the church in the centre of the parish. There were also houses at Little Ealing, Ealing Dean, Haven Green, Drayton Green and Castlebar Hill.
The Church of St. Mary's, the parish church, dates back to the early 12th century. The parish of Ealing was divided into manors, such as those of Gunnersbury and Pitshanger. These were farmed; the crops being mostly wheat, but also barley and rye. There were also animals such as cows, sheep and chickens.
Great Ealing School was founded in 1698 by the Church of St Mary's. This subsequently became the "finest private school in England" and had many famous pupils in the 19th century such as William S. Gilbert and Cardinal Newman. As the area became built-up, it declined and closed in 1908. The first known maps of Ealing were made in the 18th century.
Ealing as a suburb of London
With the exception of driving animals into London on foot, the transport of heavy goods tended be restricted to those times when the non-metalled roads were passable due to dry weather. However, with the passing of the Toll Road Act, this highway was gravelled and so the old Oxford Road became an increasingly busy and important thoroughfare running from east to west through the centre of the parish. This road was later to be known as the Uxbridge Road. The well-to-do of London began to see Ealing as a place to escape from the smoke and smells. In 1800 the architect John Soane bought Payton Place and renamed it Pitzhanger Manor, not to live but just for somewhere green and pleasant, where he could entertain his friends and guests. Soon after (1801) the Duke of Kent bought a house at Castlebar. Soon, more affluent Londoners followed but with the intention of taking up a permanent residence which was conveniently close to London. A one time prime minister, Spencer Perceval made his home at Elm House. Up until that point, Ealing was mostly made up of open countryside and fields where, as in previous centuries, the main occupation was farming.
Old inns and public houses
As London grew in size, more food and materials went in and more finished goods came out. Since dray horses can only haul loads a few miles per day, frequent overnight stops were needed. To satisfy this demand a large number of inns were situated along the Uxbridge Road, where horses could be changed and travellers refresh themselves, prompting its favour by highwaymen. Stops in Ealing included The Feathers, The Bell, The Green Man and The Old Hats. At one point in history there were two pubs called the Old Hat(s) either side of one of the many toll gates on the Uxbridge Road in West Ealing. Following the removal of the toll gate the more Westernmost pub was renamed The Halfway House.
The expansion of Ealing
As London developed, the area became predominantly market gardens which required a greater proportion of workers as it was more labour-intensive. In the 1850s, with improved travel (the Great Western Railway and two branches of the Grand Union Canal), villages began to grow into towns and merged into unbroken residential areas. At this time Ealing began to be called the "Queen of the Suburbs".
Mount Castle Tower, an Elizabethan structure which stood at the top of Hanger Hill, was used as a tea-stop in the 19th century. It was demolished to make way for Fox's Reservoir in 1881. This reservoir, with a capacity of , was erected north of Hill Crest Road, Hanger Hill, in 1888 and a neighbouring reservoir for was constructed c. 1889. This supply of good water helped to make Ealing more attractive than ever.
Ealing as a modern Victorian suburb
The most important changes to Ealing occurred in the 19th century. The building of the Great Western Railway in the 1830s, part of which passed through the centre of Ealing, led to the opening of a railway station on the Broadway in 1879, originally called Haven Green. In the next few decades, much of Ealing was rebuilt, predominantly semi-detached housing designed for the rising middle-class. Gas mains were laid and an electricity generating station was built. Better transport links, including horse buses as well as trains, enabled people to more easily travel to work in London. All this, whilst living in what was still considered to be the countryside. Although much of the countryside was rapidly disappearing during this period of rapid expansion, parts of it were preserved as public parks, such as Lammas Park and Ealing Common. Pitzhanger Manor and the extensive grounds on which it stands, was sold to the council in 1901 by Sir Spencer Walpole, which had been bought by his father the Rt. Hon. Spencer Horatio Walpole and thus became Walpole Park.
It was during the Victorian period that Ealing became a town. This meant that good, well-metalled roads had to be built, and schools and public buildings erected. To protect public health, the newly created Board of Health for Ealing commissioned London's first modern drainage and sewage systems here. Just as importantly, drinking fountains providing wholesome and safe water were erected by public prescription. Ealing Broadway became a major shopping centre. The man responsible for much of all this was Charles Jones, Borough Surveyor from 1863–1913. He directed the planting of the horse chestnut trees on Ealing Common and designed the Town Hall, both the present one and the older structure which is now a bank (on the Mall). He even oversaw the purchase of the Walpole estate grounds and its conversion into a leisure garden for the general public to enjoy and promenade around on Sundays.
Queen of the Suburbs
It was in 1901 that Ealing Urban District was incorporated as a municipal borough, Walpole Park was opened and the first electric trams ran along the Uxbridge Road. As part of its permit to operate, the electric tram company was required to incorporate the latest in modern street lighting into its overhead catenary supply, along the Ealing section of the Uxbridge Road. A municipally-built generating station near Clayponds Avenue supplied power to more street lighting that ran northwards, up and along Mount Park Road and the surrounding streets.
It was of this area centred around Mount Park Road that Nikolaus Pevsner remarks as ”epitomising Ealing’s reputation as 'Queen of the Suburbs'..” In a very short time, Ealing had become a modern and fashionable country town, free of the grime, soot and smells of industrialised London, and yet only minutes away from it by modern transport.
Who first coined the term Queen of the Suburbs is not known, but the name sticks to the present day. The Mount Park Road area still retains much of its original character and is still dominated by grand family homes. For the most part, it has resisted the conversion into dormitory bed-sitters, an effect which has over taken so many of the other London suburbs.
With the amalgamation of the surrounding municipal boroughs in 1965, Ealing Town Hall became the administrative centre for the new London Borough of Ealing. Today, this also includes its offices at Perceval House just next to it.