West Ealing Centre Neighbourhood Forum
With thanks to local historians David Shailes, Peter Hounsell and Jonathan Oates.
The earliest geographical reference in the area is a hamlet called Drayton in 1387. Drayton Green survives as a green lung just north of the centre of West Ealing. However the name Elthorne goes back further to the Domesday Book with reference to the Elthorne hundred (an ancient subdivision of Middlesex) in 1086 which actually included Hanwell. Elthorne Ward is one of our Electoral Wards with parks and playing fields abutting the Grand Union Canal.
In 1234 there was a hamlet called West Ealing. The name though appears to have been replaced by the name Ealing Dean for some time. The Ealing Dean name is possibly derived from ‘valley’ or ‘denu’ and the earliest reference to it goes back to 1456. When Brunel brought the train to stop at West Ealing in 1871 the local station was named Castle Hill and only became West Ealing Station in 1899. (Castle Hill Lodge on Castlebar Hill was the home of Queen Victoria’s father and has for many decades been the site of St David’s Home for ex-service men and women).
The commercial life blood of West Ealing over the centuries has probably always been around it being situated on an east/west route of importance linking London to Uxbridge, High Wycombe, Oxford and Bristol. People travelled on foot, by horse, cart, stagecoach, tram, bicycle, train, tube or trolleybus.
The Great Road from Tyburn (Marble Arch) to Uxbridge was ‘turnpiked’ in 1715. This clearly follows the path of the current Uxbridge Road linking Shepherds Bush and Uxbridge. The naming of the Uxbridge Road seems to have been sometime after 1777.
Old coaching inns along the Uxbridge Road in West Ealing included The Old Hats and The Green Man, with references to both in 1750. The Old Hats was the first stage-post out of London for the Oxford mail coach. It was also called Halfway House until recent years and it survives as a bar and apartment hotel. The Green Man Inn once stabled 100 horses and stood near a toll gate. The pub was demolished in 1981 and in its place is an Iceland supermarket.
In the 19th Century much of the land from the Uxbridge Road south to Windmill Road, east of Northfield Avenue and west to Boston Road was given over to market gardens and orchards. A few streets are named after varieties of fruits (eg Bramley, Julien and Wellington Apples and Hessel Pears). Two family businesses seem to have dominated the West Ealing market gardening/fruit operations – the Steel and Lee families. James Lee took over an existing local nursery business in 1745. The Lee family gained complete control in 1818. They introduced 135 different plants from overseas, were celebrated for roses and were first to put fucshias on sale in Britain.The business ran locally until 1903. The Lee name survives in Leeland Road and Leeland Terrace. There were lots of shops selling market garden vegetables and fruit.
Pony/donkey racing on Dean Gardens was a great attraction in the 19th Century. The open space was called Jackass Common in those days and they must have been lively gatherings as in 1880 they were closed down because of complaints about the ‘evil they encouraged’.
Where Green Man Lane Estate currently exists was an area called 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. High tech photographic printing came to this site in 1870 when the Autotype Fine Art Company built a factory there. By the late 1870s over 70 staff were employed and the factory was a leading photogravure specialist. The factory moved to Wantage in the 1970s.
Between 1876 and 1909 St Stephen’s, St John’s, St Paul’s and St James’ Churches were all built in West Ealing.
Some of the residential building booms in the area can be attributed to the GWR railway station opening in 1871, and the later extension to Greenford via Drayton Green and Castlebar Park stations; the London United Tramway Company line operating between Ealing and Southall in 1901; and the Metropolitan District Railway ‘halt’ opening in Northfields in 1907.
The High Street flourished in late Victorian and Edwardian times. By the 1950s it rivaled Ealing Broadway. Two popular department stores – Daniels and Rowse’s – Marks & Spencer, C&A, WH Smith, Mothercare, BHS, Woolworths and Wheatlands (furniture and pianos) made it a thriving retail strip. However cafés and restaurants were thin on the ground.
We never had a Police Station in West Ealing and our only hospitals – Ealing Dean Cottage and King Edward Memorial Hospitals were demolished in 1912 and in early 1980. No State secondary school has existed in West Ealing, but primaries were built over the years as Fielding, Ealing Green and St John’s Primary Schools.
Sporting history in West Ealing is surprising. In 1882 Ealing Lawn Tennis and Archery club set up at St Leonards Road. Archery was dropped in 1903, but tennis flourished. Ladies’ tennis became stellar and between 1884 and 1914 Ealing club members won 18 Ladies Wimbledon Singles titles. The real star and Britain’s most successful tennis player ever – Dorothea Lambert Chambers (nee Douglass) – won seven Ladies Wimbledon Singles titles between 1903 and 1914. The other two stars were Blanche Bingley and Charlotte Cooper. The tennis club moved to Ealing Common in 1906, where Ealing Ladies have dominated Middlesex.Ladies tennis in recent years.
Ealing Rugby Club is one of the oldest Rugby Union clubs in the world and played its first match on Ealing Common in 1869.Never owning its own ground the club once played matches on Drayton Green. The club began playing its matches at what had been the Great Western Railways sports ground at Vallis Way in 1999. The land is now owned and has been substantially developed by the Trailfinders travel company. With constant investment by the Trailfinders’ owner the club will now be playing its rugby in the second to top national league in 2014.