«EALING QUEEN OF THE SUBURBS A guided walk by John Foster White Saturday, 3 May 1986 Preface to the 2009 edition These walking notes around the centre ...»
QUEEN OF THE SUBURBS
A guided walk
John Foster White
Saturday, 3 May 1986
Preface to the 2009 edition
These walking notes around the centre of Ealing were originally compiled by John
Foster White in 1970 (based partly on the research notes of the late HGD Holt held in
Ealing Library). In 1976 he updated his notes to reflect the rapidly changing face of
Ealing as it entered the last quarter of the 20th century, and again in 1986, the date of the guided walk. Originally typed (and from appearances, reproduced using many sheets of carbon paper) Ealing Civic Society has now decided to make the notes available to a wider audience via the very 21st century medium of its website.
John Foster White had long standing connections with Ealing and the Civic Society.
He was remembered by Joy Anthony – herself one of the original members of the Society’s Executive Committee – as someone “who seemed to know every church in the country, and its history”. She also remembers him as being “very witty”. He was well known in the literary world as a director of the publishers MacDonald & Co. and was, for example, closely associated with the success of the work of the author Catherine Cookson. He contributed an epilogue to her 1986 pictorial memoir Catherine Cookson Country, a quote from which was used in an obituary for the author in the Independent when she died in 1998.
The notes start with a brief history of Ealing, from Saxon times through to the Victorian railway age and onwards to its current status as the London Borough of Ealing. The walk itself starts at Haven Green, moving northwards up Haven Lane and eventually to the top of Castlebar Hill via Brentham Garden Estate. Additional notes on St Peter’s Church, on the corner of Mount Park Road, are provided by the Reverend Richard Hayes, vicar of St Peter’s from 1982 to 1991. The walk then takes participants south again, past Ealing Abbey to the Town Hall and Christ the Saviour Church on New Broadway, before heading down through Walpole Park, onto Ealing Green and finally to St Mary’s Church in South Ealing.
John Foster White included a number of footnotes and references at the end of his walking notes. Inevitably, there has been further change since they were first published, and in some places we have appended additional footnotes where there are modern points of contrast. We have also added a number of illustrations of buildings of interest along the route.
The author ends with a fitting quote from John Betjeman, with the hope that… “….some of you have been able in the course of our progress through the Queen of the
…Regain your boyhood feeling
Of uninvaded calm:
For there the leafy avenues Of lime and chestnut mix’d Do
Ealing Civic Society in its turn hopes that these notes will once again be of interest to Ealing residents, whether those who recognise the Ealing of 30 or 40 years ago, or as newer arrivals who would like to know more about our local history and heritage.
Ealing is one of the ancient parishes of Middlesex and its origins Saxon or even earlier.
Considering its “genteel” image during the past century, there is some irony in the most likely derivation of its name being from the people of Gilla (one with a loud voice) with Yelling as one of its recorded medieval spellings. For a long time it was called Great Ealing, as distinct from the nearby hamlet of Little Ealing (still identifiable south of the present Northfields Station). The modern centre is the stretch of the London-Uxbridge road known successively as The Mall, The Broadway, New Broadway and more recently the award winning Ealing Broadway Centre, designed by Keith Scott of Building Design Partnership. The old village (conservation area) lies to the south and extends approximately from Ealing Green to the Parish Church, on the road to Middlesex’s somewhat woebegone county town of Brentford.
Ealing, like many another Middlesex parish, was already developing by the 16th century as a centre for market gardening and dairy produce to supply the needs of an expanding metropolis 6 miles to the east. In the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries it became increasingly a place of fashionable residence: agreeably rural but conveniently near to town. Amongst the worthies who lived here at various times were the Princess Amelia (at Gunnersbury, later a Rothschild property, now a museum); Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent (at Castle Hill Lodge: we pass the site on Castle Bar Hill); Henry Fielding and, later, Lady Byron (at Fordhook, which stood NW of Ealing Common Station);
Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister assassinated in 1812 (at Elm Grove – its site, SW of Ealing Common marked approximately by the Perceval Memorial Church, All Saints, by WA Pite 1903-5).
Successful private schools were established, the most famous being Great Ealing School (1698-1908) whose famous pupils included Cardinal Newman, WM Thackeray, Captain Marryat, R. Westmacott and WS Gilbert. Both the future King Louis Philippe of France and TH Huxley’s father were assistant masters there; and Huxley himself was born in Ealing in 1825. And so indeed, on 8 August 1876, was Charles Hamilton, better remembered as “Frank Richards” and the creator of Billy Bunter.
The suburban growth of Ealing really began, however, after the coming of Brunel’s Great Western Railway in 1833. The old village spread northwards to meet the trains. From the 1870s (and especially after the arrival on July 1st 1879, of the District Railway with a commuter line right through to the City) growth was even more rapid, and Ealing swarmed affluently up to the northern ridge of Castle Bar and Hanger Hill. In 1801 the population was 2,500, but when Ealing became an Urban District in 1894 it was 30,000. In 1901 Ealing was the first Middlesex town to be incorporated as a Borough. By 1911 the population was 61,000 and by 1965 it had reached 183,000. At this point the Middlesex Borough became a London Borough, and as this brought within its boundaries the former neighbouring Boroughs of Acton and Southall, the total population of Municipal Ealing is now around 300,000.
It was during those last decades of the 19th Century that Ealing came to be known as the “Queen of the Suburbs”, a description still used on the Official Guide in the 1940s and on which Robbins1 comments: “it is, in fact, the Queen Victoria”. With two World Wars and a changing social scene, it has gradually ceased to be the retreat of retired ICS and other colonial administrators. Their children and grandchildren have followed the usual pattern of moving further out (or in), but it remains inherently respectable and is still possessed of considerable charm and a creditable degree of local awareness as reflected in the work of the Ealing Civic Society and many other local associations. At the present time property values are reckoned among the highest throughout suburban London.
******** We start opposite the station on HAVEN GREEN, formerly The Haven which was also the name of a house replaced by the dominant flats (N) Haven Green Court (1937-8).
Adjoining these, some altered early 19th C survivals (Nos.20-4) with recessed bays. This is an old open space. Many of the fine trees here and throughout the town we owe to a remarkable man, Charles Jones (1830-1913), architect, Local Surveyor for 50 years, whose memorial we shall visit in Walpole Park. Now up HAVEN LANE with reconstructed Victorian cottages, The Haven Arms, The Wheatsheaf (one of many still extant Ealing pubs listed in Mason’s 1853 Directory), Avenue Cottages (1873). Turning into WOODVILLE ROAD we enter a residential area developed in the 1880s (Kelly2), extending well to the N and still retaining a lot of its original character. At junction of ASTON ROAD, iron ELB Transformer (1895), preserved and converted to a light standard. On corner of MOUNT PARK ROAD, St Andrew’s United Reform Church (1886-7; enlarged 1892).
ST PETER’S CHURCH (begun 1892) by Sedding and Wilson. Sedding prepared the plans in 1889, but died before Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein laid the foundation stone on May 31st 1892. The work was therefore implemented by his pupil and successor in practice, H Wilson.
The West Front of St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s is a striking, highly original Perpendicular design of Box Ground stone and cream coloured brick. The roof slopes up from the aisle walls, broken only by arcaded turrets, the latter an extension of the bulky nave piers. Its greatest feature is the huge recessed West Window, and to get its full effect you should walk to the chancel steps before looking back. Stained glass by Kempe in the south aisle and south chapel and in the S transept. Animal carvings in the choir include an elephant, giraffe and lion. S chapel altar reredos and wings by Leonard Shuffrey, a local resident who we shall meet again.
1898 painting in S transept (Jesus before Pilate) hung in memory of the artist Edward Fellows Prynne (1854-1921). Twin spirelets at W end, but E tower never built; the recent erection of flats (St Peter’s Way) would seem to make this, all other factors apart, a finally lost dream. Patronal symbols, keys and fisherman, on porch of adjoining vicarage (see also Pevsner3 and Robbins4).
Across to MONTPELIER PARK on the site of the Princess Helena College. (Founded in 1820, it moved here from Regents Park in 1832, and then again to Hertfordshire in the 1930s). So into MOUNT AVENUE. Nos 33-37 a pleasant reminder that Mount Avenue was a pre-suburban country lane linking Castle Bar and Hanger Hill. “Devon Cottage” (no 33) of 1796 once used as officers’ quarters when the Duke of Kent held Castle Hill. Its neighbours basically the same, but altered over the years. There used to be a block of wooden barracks to the rear.
We pass the top of WOODFIELD ROAD, which has one pleasant group (nos 2-14) suggesting the early 1900s and leads down to the BRENTHAM GARDEN ESTATE (conservation area).
This co-partnership venture of 1901-13 contains over 500 houses, mostly of the “cottage” type, and the latter part of the estate laid out by Parker and Unwin who designed nos 1-7 Winscombe Crescent. We, however, continue along upper Mount Avenue, now with houses on the left suggesting the 1860s and 1870s (Can it be Dante who gazes down from a medallion on nos 18-20?). So to the road junction at the summit of….
CASTLEBAR HILL, which we follow W past the site of the Castle Hill Lodge estate where Edward, Duke of Kent, lived for some time before his marriage (and in succession to Mrs Fitzherbert). Later he tried unsuccessfully to promote a bill in Parliament for its disposal by lottery, and then died (January 23rd 1820) the day after it was finally offered for sale by more orthodox means. The actual house, by Wyatt according to a contemporary writer, stood where St David’s Home for disabled ex servicemen is now. Opposite, Wyke House (probably late 1880s) is faced with York stone, and has a balconied, cone capped, octagonal turret to make one think of Mr Charles Addam’s well known family in The New Yorker. KENT GARDENS (NW) marks a boundary of the “high class residential area” planned by Henry de Bruno Austin, in 1860. Only twenty houses were built before he went bankrupt in 1872. All have gone now. We turn left up….
EDGEHILL ROAD where “Thorncote”, surely the most attractive Victorian house in North Ealing, suggests a flight from Bedford Park while TA Greeves wasn’t looking! It was built in 1888 by Leonard Shuffrey, sometime President of the Incorporated Institute of British Decorators and an early member of the Architectural Association (in 1871 he was a fellow student there of Aston Webb). Shuffrey lived at “Thorncote” till his death in 1926, and the house stayed in the family till the 1950s. “Ingleside” next door (much altered) and The Coach House opposite are also by Shuffrey, the latter converted into a private house.
ST STEPHEN’S ROAD. We look W to St Stephen’s Churcha (J Ashdown, 1875, with prominent spire by Sir A Blomfield, 1891) but turn E past the “Lakeside” development by Messrs Wates, largely on the site and grounds of “The Grange”, which was itself the successor to an earlier house once lived in by General Elliott (later Lord Heathfield) the hero of the Siege of Gibraltar, 1779-1783.
We cross CASTLEBAR ROAD into CHARLBURY GROVE, with Edwardian houses, and so approach EALING ABBEY. The Benedictines came here from Downside in 1896 and purchased Castle Hill House (now demolished), a property earlier associated with the military Wetherall family and Scott’s publisher, Archibald Constable. The new monastery also served as a parish. In 1916 it was made into a Priory, and in 1955 it became the first Abbey in Greater London since the Reformation. The church (St Benedict) begun in 1897 by FA Walters, architect of Buckfast Abbey (Little5). Work continued until 1935 but never included the “five-bay choir with flanking towers as at Exeter” shown in Walters’ plans. Turreted W front added by his son EJ Walters. The E part of the nave bombed during the Second World War; then rebuilt, lengthened, a crossing, transepts, central tower base added by Stanley Kerr Bate who had succeeded to the Walters practice.
The style is Perpendicular with an East Anglian flavour. The tower and choir have yet to be builtb. Inside, the nave is agreeably spacious with lofty arcades but no clerestory. W window by Burlison and Grylls; war memorial window by Bucknall and Comper.
(Further details in Abbey Guide). In 1902 the Benedictines founded the adjoining St Benedict’s School for boys, now an independent day school with some 800 pupils, its variegated buildings extending N and E.
a Now converted into flats b Now built