Victorian West Ealing’s market gardens and nurseries – a short history

Over the years we’ve published a wide range of articles on local history in our newsletters.  I keep saying to myself that I must collect them together on our website and make them easily accessible as they are a bit hard to find. In the meantime, I thought I’d publish some of them on our blog as not everyone will have had the chance to read them. This one gives a glimpse in to West Ealing’s history as a market garden for the ever-growing population of London.

In Victorian times much of the land of West Ealing south of the Uxbridge Road was used for agriculture and, in particular, market gardens, nurseries and orchards. Local historian David Shailes has researched the history of West Ealing in considerable detail and this short extract from his work gives a fascinating insight into an important part of our local history and has helped inspire West Ealing Neighbours’ Abundance project.

On the 6th February 1832 the Bishop of London transferred what was then known as ‘Jackass Common’ to the Parish for use as allotments. At the north end of Northfield Avenue there remains one set of allotments. Similar allotments existed on the other side until the early 1980’s when the western allotment site was compulsorily purchased and developed for housing with the Sherwood Close Estate along with sheltered accommodation belonging to what is now the Pathways charity – the owner of the two allotment sites. These two allotments together with Dean Gardens(created in 1911) formed part of ‘Jackass Common’ which was described at the time as being covered in rough furze. The Jackass referred to the annual donkey races held until they were deemed too unruly (what we would now call anti-social behaviour!).

Lido and Dean Gardens 003

Poster for the annual ‘Jackass Races’ from the early 1800s

The next field along the Uxbridge Road stretched from what is now Dean Gardens to Coldershaw Road and in the 1839/40 Tithe survey was owned by the Loveday Estates and known as ‘Green Man Field’ being used as arable land by Elizabeth Humphreys. Directly beneath this was a field which stretched down to what is now Leighton Road, from appoximately Leeland Terrace in the north to Coldershaw Road in the west. This was farmed by John Meacock of Little Ealing.


Entry from a Victorian trade directory

The first nursery on part of the site which stretched all the way to what is now Leighton Road in the south, was bordered by the allotments in the east, the Uxbridge Road in the north to what is Westfield Road in the west was run by Charles Lee & Sons.  This is first mentioned in an advertisement the Kelly’s Directory of 1895/6:

‘Close to Castle Hill Station(West Ealing) on the Great Western Main Line and a mile to Ealing Station there is an avenue of conifers, fruit trees and roses  half a mile long – 30,000 fruit trees, 20,000 Standard & dwarf roses. Shrubs of various kinds and also a collection of herbaceous plants.’

They left the site in about 1902 when the Loveday Estates sold their land for housing development. They moved for a few years to a site on the Uxbridge Road at Ealing Common, before disappearing. But they left us with the street names Leeland Road/Terrace.

From what is now Melbourne Avenue to St James Avenue was occupied by Charles Steel & Sons. The Steel family had a market garden business in Ealing from about 1837, but the first entry in a trade directory is in Mason’s (1853) on land at Boston Gardens, Boston Road. This was tucked behind Boston Farm and was on part of the land which forms the allotments to west end of Northfields Recreation Grounds. They were still here in the 1860 directory. Charles Steel Jnr is shown as having a market garden in Gunnersbury in the 1877 directory and by 1878 has a further garden at Castle Bar Hill.


The Steel Fruit Warehouse

By 1886 the first street of houses has appeared in Northfields and this was Northfield Road and at the western end Charles Steel & Sons had premises on the northside. These premises are still extant and have always looked out of place with the rest of the area, as they are a three-storey warehouse type building which incorporates Ivy Cottage.

In the 1891 census this was occupied by G.A.Simmonds – Agricultural Foreman and an additional location known as Steel’s Farm was occupied by H.Hallet – Gardeners Foreman. Quite a few of the inhabitants of Northfield Road were connected with gardening or were described as agricultural labourers.

Lido Junction 1905 v2

Lido Junction circa 1905

By 1894/5 Charles Steel is living at 228 Uxbridge Road, which was virtually opposite the northern end of his market garden. In his obituary in the Middlesex County Times in July 1911 it states that he had a market garden which stretched from the Uxbridge Road in the north to the District Railway in the south.  This is more or less confirmed by the Ealing General Rate book in the GLO dated 4/4/1889. He died on 19th July 1911 at the age of 74 and had lived all his life (bar the first 3mths) in Ealing – initially at Boston Gardens.

In the pursuit of his profession he had visited Australia, which in the days of no aviation was no mean feat. He served for the first year of the new Borough as a Councillor (1902) and stood down, as in those days the Council was not re-elected en-masse every 4 years, but a proportion of ward councillors stood for re-election each year. He did not stand for re-election.


Adelaide Road is one of the ‘Australian- named’ roads on land developed by the Steel family

The ordnance survey map for 1894/5 clearly shows trees to the west of Steel’s warehouse, which I have presumed were orchards as Charles Steel’s business is described as a Fruit Grower. As his market garden shrank in size he retained these premises and appeared to have moved out by 1912 the year after his death.

He had let space to Albert Harris a Horticultural builder from 1907. Initially after Steel’s death only Harris is shown as the occupant. In 1926  the occupants are Sanders who are using them as a Furniture Depository.

When Charles Steel died his Estate was worth £59,706 17s 6d (Somerset House). Charles had a brother Richard J. who was an Auctioneer and Land Agent who initially had an office in Hanwell (Kelly’s Directory 1887/8)and is also shown as a Market Gardener at Boston Gardens. By 1894/5 he had given up his Hanwell offices to establish his Auctioneering business at Southall market. He was still living at Boston Gardens when he died on 12/8/1916. His Estate on his death was worth £26,115 5s 1d (Somerset House).

(Our newletters have three articles about the origins of local street names. This link is to the first of these articles. The July and September newsletters have the two subsequent articles on street names.)

One shop closes and another one opens – noodle bar coming to West Ealing


Sad to see the end of Blockbuster. It’s now closed down and we await to see what comes in its place.  The betting seems to be on Morrisons. I’m trying to get this confirmed but no luck so far. A few streets away in Leeland Road I saw a sign on an empty cafe announcing the arrival of a noodle bar. It’s taking over Joey’s cafe next to the Salvation Army hall. I can’t remember a previous noodle bar in West Ealing so it will be intertesting to see how it does. I wish it well.

More doctors needed for West Ealing

Sitting in the Grosvenor House Surgery in West Ealing yesterday morning I was struck by just how busy it was.  I’m not there all that often but often enough to know this was a very busy morning. Yes, maybe a Monday morning is always busy, but it felt more than that. The surgery was packed with people of all ages and more kept coming in and we had to shuffle round for new arivals to find anywhere to sit. If it’s as busy as this now what will it be like in a few years time when the Green Man Lane Estate development is complete and the population on it has increased from around 800 to some 2,000? Grosvenor House is the nearest surgery so surely most residents will look to register with it?

I looked up the 95-page document on the Green Man Lane Estate development that went to the planning committee on 1st September 2010 and it had this to say about healthcare provision:

  1. Education and Health There are currently 41 GPs working within 800m of the Site and it has been confirmed that all are registering new patients.  The development scheme will introduce 242 new households (approximately 1,250+ people) with a mix of age groups, which will require a range of medical facilities. The PCT’s preference for addressing the impacts of the development is to secure a monetary contribution for improved equipment/ facilities; and consequently the applicant has agreed to a clause within the S106 agreement contributing towards the borough’s health facilities.

Further on I found this:

a)    A contribution of £190,000 by the developer towards the improvement of healthcare provision in the local area;

So, if I’ve got it right, the developers pay £190,00 to the Primary Care Trust to address the impact on primary healthcare of some 1200 new residents. Since then, of course, PCT’s are soon to be abolished and replaced by the Clinical Commissioning Groups – in our case, a group of Ealing GPs will be responsible for designing and provisioning local health and care services (more details on this here).

Residents will soon start moving in to Phase 1 of the development and the whole development will take about 8 years to complete. That sounds like there’s lots of time but in a few years there will probably be hundreds of new residents already living there and needing a GP.  So it feels like planning needs to be underway now to increase the number of GPs and other healthcare services.  My next step is going to be to contact the Ealing Clinical Commissioning Group to find out what’s happening with the planning. I’ll post my findings as soon as I hear back.







Tackling crime in West Ealing – update from the police

Following our article in the January newsletter about law and order concerns in West Ealing, we invited Inspector Susan Hayward, Ealing Safer Neighbourhoods Manager, to respond. She  writes:
‘Ealing Borough Police are aware of the impact of these recent incidents of violence on the local community. Immediately after these incidents additional patrols by local officers and PCSOs were arranged to provide reassurance to both the residential and business communities. In addition to this, a number of residential and business properties in the area have been visited by members of their local safer neighbourhoods team.

Whilst several of these investigations are still ongoing, we have made a number of arrests which have resulted in individuals being charged and sentenced at court. We are making every effort to bring these offenders to justice.

We will continue to meet with the WEN to listen and to respond to any concerns. In order to co-ordinate a long term response to some issues raised, meetings have been arranged with representatives from the local Safer Neighbourhoods Teams, Local Authority Community Safety Unit, Local Ward Panel, Local Councillor, Local Church, Residents Association and Eric Leach (WEN) . This will allow Ealing Police to work closely with partners and the local community to address these concerns and develop plans to help in the future.’

WEN is interested to find out how West Ealing stacks up in the ‘crime stakes’ – in other words are we more crime ridden than other comparable areas, and if so, what can we do about it, if anything? One of our committee has been looking at recent figures and collating some preliminary thoughts – which we’ll include in the next newsletter. If anyone would like to contribute to this task, please email us –

Find out what’s new on the West Ealing high street

This information that follows is taken from our March newsletter and is based on Eric Leach’s work for the West Ealing Centre Neighbourhood Forum. It lists some of the major changes and developments in and around our high street. Not yet visible but likely to also have an impact is the £300,000 Council fund to help regenerate the high street. The Business Improvement District study (details below)  is the first major project to be funded from this source. Others will follow over the next 15 months.

Morrisons and InHealth

After being empty for some years the ground floor of Lovelace House is about to be fully occupied by Morrisons and a private healthcare provider called InHealth.

Morrisons opened a competitor to Tesco Express on 25 February 2013 with barely 150 yards separating them! Morrisons is occupying about one third of the Lovelace House ground floor flat /gym development at 96-122 Uxbridge Road.

InHealth will be providing clinically managed diagnostic services  on behalf of  the NHS. The company claims to be the UK leader in its field and is best known for providing diagnostic and imaging services including MRI, Ultrasaound, MSK, Echo, DXA, X-Ray and CT scans. The company sells its services privately as well as to the NHS.



After encouraging noises about the West Ealing outlet of this ailing chain staying open, we now know it is to close.  It will be interesting to see what site owner Catalyst Housing decides to do with the building at 101- 103 The Broadway. Rumour amongst nearby traders is that it will be a Morrisons supermarket. Morrisons has bought 49 Blockbuster stores. Arts centre OPEN Ealing have had designs on the vacant top two floors of the building for many months.

NHS West London Mental Health Trust (WLMHT)

Recovery Hub

WLMHT has secured a five year lease on the double fronted shop and Singapore Road accessible back yard at 134/136 The Broadway. The ‘debra’ charity shop was the most recent occupier these premises but it’s been empty for quite some time. It’s just next door to the Paddy Power betting shop at the western end of The Broadway.

The NHS plans to create a ‘Recovery Hub’ here and offer a range of activities including picture framing. The goods created will be sold in the Accession Community Shop at 56 Boston Road, Hanwell.

Bet Fred

Planning permission has been granted for this betting shop at 75 The Broadway (corner of Melbourne Avenue and The Broadway). However this may not get off the ground if the recent hotel Planning Application is successful (see next item).

New 60 Bed Hotel in West Ealing Centre?

Planned new hotel for West Ealing

A Planning Application has been submitted to build a 60 bed hotel on the corner of Melbourne Avenue and The Broadway. Some local traders are in favour of the plan but residents are concerned about lack of car parking, disruption, access, and health and safety issues. WECNF, West Ealing Neighbours, 100+ O’Grady Court elderly residents, Ealing Civic Society and others have submitted objections. The two street traders at the location have been told that if the hotel is built they will lose their pitches, which they have occupied for decades. Over 800 people signed a petition complaining about this.

New Traffic and Car Parking Proposals

Ealing Council is proposing to make traffic and public realm changes along The Broadway/Uxbridge Road, St James Avenue, Leeland Road and Green Man Passage. See previous post for details.

New Mosque

New mosque

Aerial view of proposed new mosque looking south with the front on Singapore Road

On 30 January 2013 Ealing Council Planning Committee granted permission to the West London Islamic Centre (WLIC) to build a new mosque, on five levels on the corner of Brownlow Road and Singapore Road. According to the WLIC web site the new mosque will be able to expand its visitor/worshipper capacity from 1,000 to 3,000. WLIC estimates that the new building will cost £6 million to build. Currently they have raised just over £1 million.

Business Improvement

Ealing Council has agreed to spend £17,000 to research the feasibility of setting up a Business Improvement District (BID) in central West Ealing. BID companies collect financial contributions from all the traders in that district and the money is spent – according to the traders’ wishes – to improve the trading environment. A successful BID company already operates in Ealing Broadway, and has done so now for over five years.

Green Man Lane Redevelopment

Rydon are clearly making good progress on completing Phase One of the new development. Along with new homes, Phase One includes a Community Café, Enterprise Units and Gym as specified in the 2010 Planning Application. The Gym Company pulled out of occupying the gym space many months ago and there have been discussions with the Council about the best use of this space but there are, as yet, still no definite plans.

With the café, discussions have been taking place between OPEN Ealing, the developers and the Residents Steering Group on a proposal for OPEN Ealing to take on this space and run it is a café theatre. More discussions are to take place on this proposal. The café site is due to open in October this year.

A key factor in OPEN Ealing taking on this venture will be a ‘repurposing’ of the so-called Section 106 development tax of £125,000 which was originally designated to pay for a national competition to produce a single work of art to go on the new development. The idea now being explored is for this sum to be used by OPEN Ealing for a range of community-related arts activities.

Sherwood Close Redevelopment

The selected new owner of this site Affinity Sutton (AS) have made a good start in engaging with the local community with regard to their aspirations for developing the site. They have conducted two open days at the site and presented their plans to the West Ealing Centre Neighbourhood Forum on 18 February 2013. Relocating existing residents, demolition and building work on the Affordable Homes is likely to begin in 2014. The homes for private ownership will be built in the final stage of the development. Affinity Sutton now occupy a ground floor flat in the Target House block of flats.

Anti-social behaviour is sadly a current feature of life on the estate. However led by Met Police Ealing, Ealing Council, Sherwood Close Residents Association and other local stakeholders a task force was formed on 29 January 2013 to address these problems.

Eric Leach

Changes planned for Uxbridge Road in West Ealing – plans on show at St James Church on Thurs 14th March

The Council wants to hear your views on its plans for changes along the West Ealing to Hanwell stretch of the Uxbridge Road. Key proposals include:

  • New 20 mph zones in Hanwell town centre and West Ealing town centre to improve road safety
  • Replacing the traffic lights at Hanwell Clock Tower (Boston Road junction) with a mini-roundabout to smooth traffic flow through Hanwell town centre. A zebra crossing and courtesy crossings would be introduced to help pedestrians. The one-way flow on Cherrington Road would be reversed to flow towards Church Road under this proposal
  • Creating a mini-roundabout and pedestrian crossings at the Church Road/St George’s Road Junction
  • Significant streetscape improvements which include a better defined town square at Hanwell Clock Tower, wider footways, new trees, removal of street clutter, re-energising underused public spaces in West Ealing
  • Additional pedestrian crossings by Westminster Road and at Eccleston Road, Hanwell
  • Removal of the westbound bus lane between Church Road and Eccleston Road to provide cycle lanes on both sides of the road
  • More pay and display bays in West Ealing.

Work should start in summer 2013 and take place in phases over the next two years.

Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for environment and transport said: “This stretch of Uxbridge Road can be difficult for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. Our proposals will make it safer for while also making it easier to travel through Hanwell and West Ealing.

“The proposed changes are the result of listening to residents over recent years and we are keen to hear the views of as many people as possible so we’re putting on a public exhibition as part of this consultation.”

For more information on the proposals visit the exhibitions at:

  • Our Lady & St Joseph’s Parish Church, 52 Uxbridge Road in Hanwell on Tuesday, 12 March, 4-8pm
  • St James Church, St James Avenue, West Ealing on Thursday, 14 March 3-7pm

Some of these ideas  caused quite a stir at a recent Elthorne Ward Forum meeting and the West Ealing Centre Neighbourhood Forum has done a lot of work on transport and movement issues in West Ealing. I hope we will be able to hear the Forum’s thoughts on this blog.

You can find out more and comment online