West Ealing has a surprisingly long and interesting history. Ealing is derived from the Saxon “Gillingas” and is recorded as a settlement in the 12th century. It was originally in the middle of a great forest to the west of London. Iron-age pots have been found near Horsenden Hill.
In 1234 there was a hamlet called West Ealing. This name though appears to have been replaced by the name Ealing Dean at some time. West Ealing station, for example, began life in 1871 being called something else – Castle Hill & Ealing Dean Station. The Ealing Dean name is possibly derived from ‘valley’ or ‘denu’ and the earliest reference to it goes back to 1456. It appears on a Parish map of Ealing dated 1777. Most of what is now West Ealing at this time was open countryside and fields. Houses in the area were only to be found at Ealing Dean, Drayton Green and Castle Bear Hill (now called Castlebar Hill). In 1387 Drayton Green was called Drayton and later Drayton in Ealing. The late 19th century saw Drayton develop as a hamlet with eight householders.
The “Green Man” 18th century inn (demolished in 1981) stood near a tollgate and was a carters`stopping place with stabling for over a hundred horses. Replaced with a newly built W.H.Smith`s, it`s now occupied by an Iceland supermarket (April 2007). Its name lives on in Green Man Lane.
Alas, long since rebuilt, the “Old Hat” reputed to have been in existence over 400 years ago was the first stage-post out of London for the Oxford mail coach during the 18th century. Another coaching inn, closely situated was the “Old Hatte” built during the early 1700`s, since renamed three times and again rebuilt, from “Halfway House” to Broadwalk Hotel” (pictured below) and in January 2008 to ”142 Bar and Grill”.
Horse-drawn coaches and omnibuses were still popular after the introduction of rail services as they were more convenient for shorter journeys. In 1845 three coaches passed through Ealing to Uxbridge and High Wycombe and the `Prince of Wales` coach which ran to Oxford and Banbury still called at the “Halfway House”.
The original name of Halfway House is still visible in the semi-circle above the top floor windows
In the 19th Century much of the land from the Uxbridge Road south to Windmill Road, east to Northfield Avenue and west to Boston Road was given over to market gardens and orchards. Along with a few streets named after varieties of apples, almost the last remaining evidence of this is old Steel’s Fruit Packing Warehouse (below) on the corner of Northfield Road and Northcroft Road.
The basic look of this old fruit warehouse has changed surprisingly little over time
On the eastern boundary of these market gardens and orchards were allotments which date back to the year of the Poor Relief Act of 1834, when the area called Ealing Dean Common (then both sides of Northfield Avenue) was given to the poor of West Ealing by the Bishop of London. There are still allotments on the eastern side of Northfield Avenue, but the ones to the west were built on in the early 1980s.
Ealing Dean’s major claim to fame in the 1800s was as the site of regular pony/donkey races. These races, on what was then called Jackass Common and now Dean Gardens, ceased in 1880 when the local Council stopped them because of complaints about the ‘evil they encouraged’.
Where the current Green Man Lane Estate exists was an area known as Stevens Town in the mid 1850s. It was a notorious slum. In 1877 it was said that one sixth of the houses were unfit for habitation.
In 1882, Ealing Lawn Tennis Club began life on land which abounded St. Leonards Road and the Great Western Railway (GWR). The club quickly became the most successful ladies lawn tennis club in the world. Three Ealing-born club members – Blanche Bingley, Charlotte Cooper and Dorothea Douglass – between them won 13 Wimbledon Singles titles between 1886 and 1906. In 1906 the club relocated to Creffield Road in Ealing Common.
In 1894 The Drayton Court Hotel opened in The Avenue. The hotel had 60 rooms, offering family and batchelor accommodation. Access to the stabling was via Gordon Road. Behind the hotel were ornamental gardens, lawn tennis courts, a bowling green and skittle courts. The building was converted into just a pub in the 1940s but in 2010 the current owners Fuller’s converted it back to a hotel.
In 1900 GWR opened its Sports and Social Club on 18 acres of the 100 acres of meadow it owned in the northwest of West Ealing. West Ealing Sports and Athletics Club was formed in 1909 off Mervyn Road. It still survives there as a bowls and social club.
In the 1890s the community’s centre had shops that were less pretentious and more informal than those in the centre of Ealing. There was no regular street market in central Ealing, but there were then, as now, fruit and vegetable stalls in West Ealing. If there was a golden age for West Ealing centre it was in the mid-20th Century when draper, house furnisher, clothier and outfitters FH Rowse and draper and fashion house WJ Daniel & Co together with tailors and mens outfitters Abernethies were all flourishing, along with Wheatlands (furniture and pianos), Marks and Spencer, British Home Stores, FW Woolworth, and WH Smith. In later years more heavyweights arrived in the shape of Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, McDonalds, Iceland and latterly Blockbuster Video and Richer Sounds.
West Ealing boasted its own large cinema at the Uxbridge Road end of Northfield Avenue, which started life as the Kinema in 1913 – replacing Ealing Dean Cottage Hospital. The cinema was rebuilt in 1928 and became the Lido. It ceased life as a cinema in the early 21st Century and was demolished in 2005, and Lido House – with offices and flats – now graces the site.
Some of the spurts in residential building booms in the area can be attributed to the GWR railway station opening in 1871 and called Castle Hill Station. In 1878 it was renamed Castle Hill and Ealing Dean Station and in 1899 West Ealing Station. A later extension from the station to Greenford was added and later still Castlebar Park and Drayton Green Stations introduced on that line. The London United Tramway Company line opening between Ealing and Southall in 1901. The Metropolitan District Railway ‘halt’ opened at Northfields in 1907.
West Ealing shared in the golden age of Victorian/Edwardian Christian church building. In 1876 both St Stephen’s Church (The Avenue) and St John’s Church ((Mattock Lane) were built. In 1920 St John’s suffered a fire and lost its steeple which has never been replaced. St Stephens’s was converted into flats in 1985-7. The foundation stone of St Paul’s Church on the corner of Northcroft Road and Ridley Avenue was laid in 1906. St James Church in St James Avenue was built in 1909
In the 1920s many houses were built on the Argyle Park Estate (stretching from the Argyle Road to the Greenford GWR railway line), and along Kent Avenue. Later housing developments replaced the allotments to the west of Northfield Avenue in the 1980s, others created flats in Langham Gardens off Gordon Road in 1970 and another in 1971-75 created the Green Man Lane Estate. In the early 1980s the Berners Drive/Coleridge Square estate was built alongside a rebuilt West Middlesex Lawn Tennis club immediately west of Drayton Green.
Since World War II there has been rebuilding in West Ealing and many Victorian houses have been converted into flats. FH Rowse’s has now gone and so has WHSmith, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare and McDonalds. Daniel’s has been demolished and replaced with a block of flats and the long promised – but not delivered – retail development. Waitrose knocked down its store after a short 16 year life and replaced it with a much bigger one in 2007.
Recent history has been a story of a gentle decline in West Ealing shopping and cultural facilities. This can perhaps be traced back to 1966 and the formation of the Greater London Council (GLC). The GLC wanted to support a number of Strategic Centres, and to qualify areas had to be of sufficient size. Ealing desperately wanted Ealing centre to qualify as one of these centres, but it was not big enough. In order to ‘make up the numbers’ West Ealing centre was tagged onto Ealing Centre and in this way became one of only six GLC Strategic Centres. W13 has been playing second fiddle to W5 ever since. This ‘false’ notion that Ealing centre and West Ealing centre are one contiguous area was perpetuated in the Mayor of London’s ten Metropolitan Centres – of which Ealing centre is one. Many involved residents cannot see the merit of this ‘Metropolitan’ status with regards to Ealing centre – never mind West Ealing centre.
In 1980 Gurnell Swimming Pool was built on Ruislip Road East to replace Ealing Town Centre Baths.
One recent bright spot was the establishment in 2001 of London’s only street market dedicated to farm produce. Called Ealing Farmer’s Market, it operates every Saturday morning in Leeland Road.
In 1997, the Mike Gooley Trailfinders Charity bought the freehold of the GWR Sports and Social Club and invested £13 million in Trailfinders Sports Club. The club hosts Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club, GWR Tralfinders Cricket Club, The London School of Tennis, five and seven-a-side football pitches, 11 changing rooms and two modern, large pavilions. Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club began life as Ealing Football Club (Rugby Union) in 1869 and is one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world. The club has never owned its own ground and for a time played its matches on Drayton Green. It moved to its current West Ealing home at Trailfinders in Vallis Way in 1999. GWR Trailfinders Cricket Club was formed as GWRCC in 1869 and actually predates Ealing Cricket Club which was founded in 1871.
Since 2004, we have seen lots of residential tower blocks sprout in W13 and its immediate environs. By October 2008 the number of new flats built over the four period numbered 736. The most prominent (and controversial) of these high rise blocks is the one which towers over The Drayton Court pub just by West Ealing Station. In 2009 the blocks acquired the names of Dominion House and Sinclair House. Of no little coincidence will be the possible opening of the new Crossrail West Ealing Station in nearby Manor Road in 2019.
Research began in late 2006 on how the 11.5 acre Council-owned Green Man Lane Estate might be re-developed. Planning Applications were submitted in February 2010 and Planning Permission was granted. The 464 homes will be demolished and 716 new homes will be built in a mixed tenure private estate on what was public land. This development when it is completed in 2022 will be the single biggest residential development in West Ealing in living memory.
Throughout 2009/2010 Will to Win built and opened 12 new tennis courts and a five-a-side football pitch on either side of Culmington Road.
* Some of this information has been extracted from Peter Hounsell’s excellent 1991 books entitled ‘Ealing and Hanwell Past’ – ISBN 0 948667 13 3 and ‘The Ealing Book’ – ISBN 1-905286-03-1
Also have a look at British History Online which has a detailed history of the Ealing area
Updated by Eric Leach
19th August 2013