Ealing’s eventful history

Old picture of the Ealing Broadway High Street

Ealing’s eventful history

  • April 28, 2017

The London borough of Ealing, a leafy suburb nine miles west of the centre of the capital, has a rich and colourful history. It was, until the mid-nineteenth century, merely one of the hundreds of small villages scattered around London, primarily used as by agricultural travellers as a stop-off point on the journey into the city. In 1879, however, Ealing was linked by the Great Western Railway to the centre of London and to destinations in the South West of England, vastly increasing ease of access to the capital and stimulating trade.

The arrival of the railway, and also a branch of the Grand Union canal connecting London with Birmingham, transformed Ealing into a desirable place to live. As more people flocked to the borough in search of somewhere clean and accessible, Ealing was given gas and electricity supplies and additional trains and horse buses into London.

Situated directly between the industrial centres of Acton and Southall, as Ealing became a town in its own right in 1901, the borough began to encompass other villages in the surrounding area. At this point Ealing was connected to London by electric trams for the first time, strengthening commuter links into the capital. 1901 was also the year that Sir Spencer Walpole, a historian and civil servant, opened Walpole Park, an open, grassy expanse that heightened Ealing’s appeal as an attractive place for the middle classes to live.

The jewel in Ealing’s crown, however, is Ealing Studios, the oldest film studios in the world and home to such major titles as The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob and, more recently, Notting Hill. The BBC’s purchase of Ealing Studios in the 1950s led to a number of Ealing locations appearing in both Dr Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, notably a scene in which mannequins chased bystanders through Ealing’s streets. Ealing also played a role in the music scene of the 1960s; the now defunct Ealing Jazz Club was, famously, the location in which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first met Brian Groom – the three of whom then went on to form the Rolling Stones.

1965 saw Ealing merge with the capital to become the London Borough of Ealing, officially becoming part of Greater London, and the beginning of the transformation into the area we know today.

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