Situated in West London, the borough of Ealing, which includes Acton, Greenford, Northolt and Southall is the 3rd largest in London. Over the centuries the area has been called home by a variety of people from farmers to famous bankers, to people who like the convience of city living without the noise and bustle of the inner city.
Ealing as a Settlement
The name "Ealing" is derived from Gillingas, meaning the people of Gilla, who is believed to be a Anglo-Saxon settler. In the centuries since then, the name has been Yealing, Zelling and Eling, until Ealing was adopted as the standard spelling in the nineteenth century.
The Church of St. Mary dates from the early 12th century and the surrounding parish was made up of manors and the surrounding land, for example Gunnersbury and Pitshanger. The area was mainly agricultural land, growing crops like rye and wheat as well as keeping animals, for example cows, sheep and chickens.
When the first maps were made in the eighteenth century, the area was still mainly agricultural, with small villages amongst open countryside and fields. However, the parish now had a road running from east to west across the parish, which would be later known as the Uxbirdge road. This road running towards Oxford had many inns along side it, including The Green Man, The Feathers, The Bell and The Old Hats where travellers could rest and change the horses pulling their carriages.
The Development of Ealing
The area known today as Ealing was infact several villages surrounded by fields and orchards, until the coming of the Great Western Railway in the 1830's. The railway brought development, and the villages were gradually swallowed up by buildings and old country lanes became busy roads, as developers took advantage of the improved transport links. Many of the areas however have maintained the use of their old village names, for example Little Ealing, Northfields, Perivale, Pitshanger, West Ealing (which was previously known as Ealing Dean) and Hanwell.
The Uxbridge Road was widened and became much busier, with many more shops and buildings being built along it. For many years trams and trolley buses ran on various routes stretching out from the road, now replaced by buses. Ealing Broadway became Ealing's main shopping centre, though there are other parades of shops throughout the borough, many of the smaller shopping areas, for example, West Ealing and Hanwell have suffered in recent years due to the rise of bigger high street chains and superstores.
Pitshanger and Northfields have suffered to a lesser extent as they have managed to maintain some of the local stores such as butchers and green grocers, as well as attracting more upmarket shops, cafes and restaurants as the houses and therefore the residents of these areas are now generally of middle class backgrounds
Today, even the main shopping centre in Ealing Broadway is suffering as consumers travel to larger shopping centres further away, though there is hope that Ealing will not lose out too much due to a possible development of one of the local council's car parks into a new shopping centre, but this is still in the planning stages.
Parks and Open Spaces
For many people, one of the best things about Ealing is the parks and open spaces. Ealing is lucky in many respects as there are quite a few dotted about and while some are simply areas of grass with a small children's playground, others have bowling greens and tennis courts, or historic features left over from the time when they were gardens to a country house.
Walpole Park is a good example, being the gardens to Pitshanger Manor , which presently hosts art exhibitions and local events. The park still has many features from its time as the Manor's gardens, including fountains and ornamental ponds. More recent additions since it became a public park are childrens play area, tennis courts, a cafe open in the summer and a wildlife area which has been home to many animals over the years and has recently been saved by local residents who campaigned against the council after they closed the area saying it was too expensive to look after the animals and maintain the enclosures.
Gunnersbury Park is another good example, being part of the old Gunnersbury estate owned by the Rothschilds a well known banking family from 1835. Gunnersbury house has been run as a museum since 1929, displying various exhibitions about the history of Ealing and Hounslow. The park has a boating lake, nine-hole golf course, football and cricket pitches, children's play area and a cafe open in the summer months.
One of Ealing's most famous buildings is Ealing Studios. Since 1904 when William George Parker bought the site known as West lodge, many films have been made in Ealing including Battle of Waterloo and Jane Shore. However, the most well known Ealing films are its post war comedies after the Studios were taken over by a production company which became Ealing Studios Ltd. These include Passport to Pimlico (1949), Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and the Ladykillers (1955). In the mid-fifties the studios were sold to the BBC, where a number of BBC programmes were made, for example Colditz and Fortunes of War. The site is now run by Fragile Films, who planned to make feature films again at this site, the first being a remake of The Importance of being Ernest in 2001. The studios have also been rented out for films such as Star Wars - episode 2, and Notting Hill, as well as TV productions such as The Royle Family.
Since 1910 films have been shown in Ealing, and at one point had eight cinemas dotted about the area. Today, only one remains opposite the town hall currently run by the Empire chain. This cinema was originally built with one screen opening in 1934 as the Forum. Was divided into three screens in the 1970's due to demand to show a larger number of films in smaller screens.
Both cinemas in Northfield Avenue, the Elite and the Avenue are used as religious centres, though much of the exterior and interior of the Avenue still remains today.
All the other cinemas have been demolished, including the Walpole (though its facade was left) and in 2005 the cinema at the junction of Northfields Avenue and The Uxbridge road, which has made way for a block of apartments which unfortunately are not in keeping with the local area. This cinema was first opened as the Kinema and then was rebuilt as the Lido in 1928. Although most recently had been used for bingo and snooker and Asian films, the building had fallen into disrepair. The corner it still affectionately known by locals as The Lido and the developers named the new building Lido Court after local pressure caused them to rethink the proposed Galloway Court.
Unfortunately, arguably one of the ugliest buildings in Ealing is its hospital. Recently appearing on an under cover documentary about "filthy hospitals" it is in the bottom third of hospitals in the UK, and its standard of care leaves a lot to be desired, though on the good side many of the staff go out of their way to help as much as possible.
Once known as the "Queen of the Suburbs" mainly due to its large open spaces and better-than-the-average development due to the good transport links, Ealing has certainly changed over the last 200 years from a cluster of villages with orchards and farms to a highly populated suburb of London.