Ealing was historically a rural village in the county of Middlesex and formed an ancient parish. Improvement in communications with London, culminating with the opening of the railway station in 1838, shifted the local economy to market garden supply and eventually to suburban development.
As part of the growth of London in the 20th century, Ealing significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming a municipal borough in 1901 and has formed part of Greater London since 1965. It now forms a significant commercial and retail centre with a developed night time economy. Ealing has the characteristics of both suburban and inner-city developments. Ealing's town centre is often colloquial with Ealing Broadway, the name of both a rail interchange & a shopping centre.
Most of Ealing, including the commercial district, South Ealing, Ealing Common, Montpelier, Pitshanger and most of Hanger Hill fall under the W5 postcode. Areas to the north-west of the town centre such as Argyle Road and West Ealing fall under W13 instead. A small section north-east of the town centre, near Hanger Hill, falls under the NW10 postcode area. The population of Ealing (not including Hanwell and Northfields), comprising the Ealing Broadway, Ealing Common, Cleveland, Walpole and Hanger Hill wards, was 71,492 in the 2011 census. The area of Hanwell is strongly associated with Ealing; however, it is a separate district with its own postcode. Northfields on the other hand, despite sharing postcodes with Ealing is generally considered to be a separate area in its own right.
The Saxon name for Ealing was recorded c.700 as 'Gillingas', meaning 'place of the people associated with Gilla', from the personal name Gilla and the Old English suffix '-ingas', meaning 'people of'. Over the centuries, the name has changed, and has been known as 'Illing', 1130; 'Gilling', 1243; and 'Ylling', 1254, until 'Ealing' became the standard spelling in the 19th century.
Archaeological evidence shows that parts of Ealing have been occupied for more than 7,000 years Iron Age pots have been discovered in the vicinity on Horsenden Hill. A settlement is recorded here in the 12th century amid a great forest that carpeted the area to the west of London. The earliest surviving English census is that for Ealing in 1599. This list was a tally of all 85 households in Ealing village giving the names of the inhabitants, together with their ages, relationships and occupations. It survives in manuscript form at The National Archives (piece E 163/24/35), and was transcribed and printed by K J Allison for the Ealing Historical Society in 1961.
Settlements were scattered throughout the parish. Many of them were along what is now called St. Mary's Road, near to the church in the centre of the parish. There were also houses at Little Ealing, Ealing Dean, Haven Green, Drayton Green and Castlebar Hill.
The Church of St. Mary's, the parish church, dates back to the early 12th century. The parish of Ealing was divided into manors, such as those of Gunnersbury and Pitshanger. These were farmed; the crops being mostly wheat, but also barley and rye. There were also animals such as cows, sheep and chickens.
Great Ealing School was founded in 1698 by the Church of St Mary's. This subsequently became the "finest private school in England" and had many famous pupils in the 19th century such as William S. Gilbert and Cardinal Newman. As the area became built-up, it declined and closed in 1908. The first known maps of Ealing were made in the 18th century.
With the exception of driving animals into London on foot, the transport of heavy goods tended be restricted to those times when the non-metalled roads were passable due to dry weather. However, with the passing of the Toll Road Act, this highway was gravelled and so the old Oxford Road became an increasingly busy and important thoroughfare running from east to west through the centre of the parish. This road was later renamed as the Uxbridge Road. The well-to-do of London began to see Ealing as a place to escape from the smoke and smells. In 1800 the architect John Soane bought Payton Place and renamed it Pitzhanger Manor, not to live but just for somewhere green and pleasant, where he could entertain his friends and guests. Soon after (1801) the Duke of Kent bought a house at Castlebar. Soon, more affluent Londoners followed but with the intention of taking up a permanent residence which was conveniently close to London. The only British prime minister to be assassinated, Spencer Perceval, made his home at Elm House. Up until that point, Ealing was mostly made up of open countryside and fields where, as in previous centuries, the main occupation was farming.
As London grew in size, more food and materials went in and more finished goods came out. Since dray horses can only haul loads a few miles per day, frequent overnight stops were needed. To satisfy this demand a large number of inns were situated along the Uxbridge Road, where horses could be changed and travellers refresh themselves, prompting its favour by highwaymen. Stops in Ealing included The Feathers, The Bell, The Green Man and The Old Hats. At one point in history there were two pubs called the Old Hat(s) either side of one of the many toll gates on the Uxbridge Road in West Ealing. Following the removal of the toll gate the more Westernmost pub was renamed The Halfway House.
As London developed, the area became predominantly market gardens which required a greater proportion of workers as it was more labour-intensive. In the 1850s, with improved travel (the Great Western Railway and two branches of the Grand Union Canal), villages began to grow into towns and merged into unbroken residential areas. At this time Ealing began to be called the "Queen of the Suburbs".
Mount Castle Tower, an Elizabethan structure which stood at the top of Hanger Hill, was used as a tea-stop in the 19th century. It was demolished to make way for Fox's Reservoir in 1881. This reservoir, with a capacity of 3 million imperial gallons (14,000 m3), was erected north of Hill Crest Road, Hanger Hill, in 1888 and a neighbouring reservoir for 50 million imperial gallons (230,000 m3) was constructed c. 1889. This supply of good water helped to make Ealing more attractive than ever.
Mount Castle Tower was also known as Hanger Hill Tower, and as such it was a vital viewing point for the Anglo-French Survey (1784–1790), which linked the Royal Greenwich Observatory with the Paris Observatory via a chain of trigonometric readings. This survey was led in England by General William Roy. Hanger Hill Tower was its northernmost observation point, and from it sightings were made to places such as St Ann's Hill in Chertsey, Banstead, Upper Norwood, and the Greenwich Observatory itself.
The most important changes to Ealing occurred in the 19th century. The building of the Great Western Railway in the 1830s, part of which passed through the centre of Ealing, led to the opening of a railway station on the Broadway in 1879, originally called Haven Green. In the next few decades, much of Ealing was rebuilt, predominantly semi-detached housing designed for the rising middle-class. Gas mains were laid and an electricity generating station was built. Better transport links, including horse buses as well as trains, enabled people to more easily travel to work in London. All this, whilst living in what was still considered to be the countryside. Although much of the countryside was rapidly disappearing during this period of rapid expansion, parts of it were preserved as public parks, such as Lammas Park and Ealing Common. Pitzhanger Manor and the extensive 28 acres (110,000 m2) grounds on which it stands, was sold to the council in 1901 by Sir Spencer Walpole, which had been bought by his father the Rt. Hon. Spencer Horatio Walpole and thus became Walpole Park.
It was during the Victorian period that Ealing became a town. This meant that good, well-metalled roads had to be built, and schools and public buildings erected. To protect public health, the newly created Board of Health for Ealing commissioned London's first modern drainage and sewage systems here. Just as importantly, drinking fountains providing wholesome and safe water were erected by public prescription. Ealing Broadway became a major shopping centre. The man responsible for much of all this was Charles Jones, Borough Surveyor from 1863–1913. He directed the planting of the horse chestnut trees on Ealing Common and designed the Town Hall, both the present one and the older structure which is now a bank (on the Mall). He even oversaw the purchase of the Walpole estate grounds and its conversion into a leisure garden for the general public to enjoy and promenade around on Sundays.
It was in 1901 that Ealing Urban District was incorporated as a municipal borough, Walpole Park was opened and the first electric trams ran along the Uxbridge Road. As part of its permit to operate, the electric tram company was required to incorporate the latest in modern street lighting into its overhead catenary supply, along the Ealing section of the Uxbridge Road. A municipally-built generating station near Clayponds Avenue supplied power to more street lighting that ran northwards, up and along Mount Park Road and the surrounding streets.
It was of this area centred around Mount Park Road that Nikolaus Pevsner remarks as ”epitomising Ealing's reputation as 'Queen of the Suburbs'..” In a very short time, Ealing had become a modern and fashionable country town, free of the grime, soot and smells of industrialised London, and yet only minutes away from it by modern transport.
Who first coined the term Queen of the Suburbs is not known, but the name sticks to the present day. The Mount Park Road area still retains much of its original character and is still dominated by grand family homes. For the most part, it has resisted the conversion into dormitory bed-sitters, an effect which has over taken so many of the other London suburbs.
With the amalgamation of the surrounding municipal boroughs in 1965, Ealing Town Hall became the administrative centre for the new London Borough of Ealing. Today, this also includes its offices at Perceval House just next to it.
The largest ethnic group in the 2011 census for the Ealing Broadway ward was White British, at 45%. The second largest was Other White, at 21%. In a speech to mark the 70th anniversary of the Indian Journalists' Association and of Indian independence on 15 August, 1947 North Ealing MP Stephen Pound said: " There is North Ealing, South Ealing and Darjeeling" referring to the relatively large Asian population.
Ealing is best known for its film studios, which are the oldest in the world and are known especially for the Ealing comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob. The studios were taken over by the BBC in 1955, with one consequence being that Ealing locations appeared in television programmes including Doctor Who (notably within an iconic 1970 sequence in which deadly shop mannequins menaced local residents) to Monty Python's Flying Circus. Most recently, these studios have again been used for making films, including Notting Hill and The Importance of Being Earnest. Most recently, St Trinian's, a remake of the classic film, was produced by Ealing Studios; some locations in Ealing can be seen in this film.
Quite remarkably, Ealing now lacks any cinema houses in which to show these films; the Ealing Empire cinema has now been closed since 2008. Although renovation has now begun on the New Broadway street cinema in late 2012; with plans for a 20 screen Cineplex and a Film museum. Work is due to be complete in 2018. Local group Pitshanger Pictures shows classic movies in St Barnabas Millennium Hall on Pitshanger Lane.
Ealing has a theatre on Mattock Lane, The Questors Theatre.
Ealing is served by Ealing Broadway station on the Great Western Main Line and the London Underground in London fare zone 3. It is also served by four other tube stations at North Ealing, South Ealing, Hanger Lane, Northfields and Ealing Common. The Piccadilly line operates at North Ealing, Ealing Common, South Ealing and Northfields; the Central line at Ealing Broadway and Hanger Lane; and the District line at Ealing Broadway and Ealing Common. The stations at Ealing Broadway and West Ealing are served by National Rail operators First Great Western and Heathrow Connect. Early in the 21st century Transport for London (TFL) planned to reintroduce an electric tram line along the Uxbridge Road (the West London Tram scheme), but this was abandoned in August 2007 in the face of fierce local opposition and a switch in priorities and funding to Crossrail. A total of 18 buses (including night buses) serve Ealing Broadway.
Regarded as Ealing's premier architectural work, St Peter's Church, Ealing is located on Mount Park Road north of Ealing Broadway. The ancient parish church of Ealing is St Mary's, in St Mary's Road. Standing near Charlbury Grove, Ealing Abbey was founded by a community of Roman Catholic Benedictine monks in 1897. Twinned with the convent of St. Augustine's Priory, the giant abbey is an example of a traditional, working monastery. There are over fifteen churches in the suburb of Ealing, including Our Lady Mother of the Church, a Polish Roman Catholic church in the Mall, near Ealing Broadway. There are two well-established synagogues, the Ealing United Synagogue (Orthodox), which celebrated its 90th anniversary in November 2009, and the Ealing Liberal Synagogue, which was founded in 1943. In surrounding suburbs, there are two mosques in Acton, one in West Ealing, and two in Southall. Southall also has a large Sikh and Muslim community and is famous for being a focal point of London's diverse society.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones famously first met Brian Jones in 1962 at the Ealing Jazz Club, opposite Ealing Broadway station. Other artists who performed at the club include Rod Stewart and Manfred Mann. The Jazz Club is now a nightclub called the Red Room.
The Who also met their drummer Keith Moon at the Railway public house in Greenford.
Brand New Heavies core members (drummer Jan Kincaid, guitarist Simon Bartholomew and bassist Andrew Levy) all hail from Ealing, where they formed the group in 1985.
An August 2013 article in the Huffington Post claimed that Ealing could claim to be the home of rock music because of the catalyst effect of the Ealing Club on British musicians.
Two members of the punk band Zatopeks grew up in Ealing, and the group frequently makes nostalgic or ironic references to the borough in its lyrics.
Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born there in 1947.
White Lies are also from Ealing.
Ealing is home to Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club & London Broncos Rugby League Club. Due to the nearby football teams, Brentford Football Club and Queens Park Rangers, Ealing has previously not had its own football team, despite its size. However, in late 2008 a team by the name of 'Ealing Town Football Club' had been registered with the Football Association and will therefore start playing competitive matches in the 2008/09 football season.
Gaelic Games have a prominent role in the Irish community in Ealing with successful clubs such as St. Joseph's GAA and Tir Chonaill GAA in neighbouring Perivale and Greenford. Despite not having its own football team, many youth football clubs such Old Actonians FC, Pitshanger FC (www.pitchero.com/clubs/pitshangerfc) and Hanwell Town FC play in local leagues and are popular among the children of the borough. Most of these teams compete in the Harrow League or the Hayes and District Sunday Youth League, although some teams compete in other leagues based further away from Ealing itself.
Ealing also boasts a successful local running club in Ealing, Southall & Middlesex AC, founded in 1920. The club counted double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes among its members and she has several club records to her name.
Ealing is home to a very successful cricket club, Ealing Cricket Club, whose home ground is the Ealing Cricket Club Ground and which has been the leading club in London for a number of years.
ESC D3 Triathlon Club is also based in Ealing. D3 Triathletes compete in triathlons both locally and internationally across all distances and formats including Olympic Distance and Ironman. Though an independent club it is supported by the Ealing Swimming Club based at Gurnell Leisure Centre.
Ealing is the host to several annual festivals. The first festival to be regularly staged was the Jazz Festival which is held in Walpole Park. An annual Beer Festival was then started and organised by the Campaign for Real Ale and originally held in the Ealing Town Hall. Due to its popularity, it had outgrown the space available at the Town Hall after a few years, so it too then transferred to the park, where they now have room to offer over 200 real ales. Each cask is supplied with individual cooling jackets to maintain the beer at exactly the right temperature. This event is run by keen volunteers. The success of these events encouraged the local council to license a broader range of festivals.Ealing Music and Film Valentine Festival
Opera in the Park
Ealing was the setting for children's comedy show Rentaghost.
A blue plaque commemorating the birthplace of Charles Hamilton, creator of Billy Bunter, is located in the Ealing Broadway Centre.
In James Hilton's novel Goodbye, Mr Chips (1934), Katherine, the lovely young wife of the shy schoolmaster protagonist Mr Chipping, is said to have been living with an aunt in Ealing following the death of her parents.
Ealing and the surrounding area is mentioned in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). Lenina observes a Delta gymnastic display in the Ealing stadium as she flies overhead in a helicopter with Henry Foster.
In Doctor Who and related media:
The John Sanders department store (now a branch of Marks & Spencer) was the location for the scenes of the Autons breaking through the shop window and beginning their killing rampage in the 1970 story Spearhead from Space.
Upon returning Ace McShane home to the adjoining village of Perivale in Survival (the final serial of the 1963–1989 series), she and the Seventh Doctor ventured into Ealing and visited The Drayton Court.
In the Doctor Who spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane and the other regular characters lived in Ealing, and the majority of the stories were set there (although actually filmed in and around Cardiff, Wales). The series' settings made cross-over appearances in Doctor Who.
Companion Clara Oswald and the Maitland family live in South Ealing.
The main character Kendra Tamale of the book Marshmallows for Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson, was said to have grown up or lived in Ealing or nearby.
George Bowling, the main character in Coming Up for Air by George Orwell, lived in Ealing before moving to West Bletchley.
The police station featured in the opening titles of Dixon of Dock Green was the previous Ealing police station, located at number 5 High Street, just north of Ealing Green.
H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds Ch. 16: The exodus from London. The author describing the alien deployment of poisonous, ground hugging, black vapour: “Another bank drove over Ealing, and surrounded a little island of survivors on Castle Hill, alive, but unable to escape.” 'Castle Hill' was the name given in the author's time to the Victorian housing estate that sits upon Castlebar Hill and the original name of West Ealing railway station.
Thomas Merton, in his autobiography Seven Story Mountain, tells of living in Ealing for a time with his Aunt and Uncle.
Hugh Grant's character in the film Bridget Jones's Diary recites a limerick about Ealing.
Keith Stewart, the main character in Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom, lives in West Ealing.
Jenni Fortune, a character in Sebastian Faulks' A week in December, lives in Drayton Green, West Ealing.
Robin Ellacott character from Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) lives with her fiancé in West Ealing
Ealing has been described by the Guardian as "the nation's hotspot for Polish speaking."
Westside 89.6FM is a local community station covering the area from studios based in neighbouring Hanwell, there is also Blast Radio the student station for University of West London based at Ealing Studios they broadcast across the area on (RSL) in May. There is also a digital local newspaper for the area.