The early settlement in Ealing is evidenced by finds of Palaeolithic (late stone age) articles, chiefly around Ealing Common.
The social and historical significance of Ealing Common is the common itself – a green open space, always resisting encroachment. In the 17th century there were some 70 acres for common grazing and the land could only be enclosed with the consent of both the tenants and the lord of the manor – the Bishop of London. Ealing bought the manorial rights for £500 in 1886 but stil compensation was due to the lord and copyright tenants for the use of 'wastes' created by new road and rail developments.
Ealing Common was surveyed and recorded under the Metropoltan Commons Act 1886. In 1901 Ealing became the first municipal borough in Middlesex and by then the common had reduced to 47 acres. Road widening and house building continued to infringe and reduce the acreage. In the last century it was registered under the Commons Registation Act 1965. The roads that surround the common have comprised the Ealing Common conservation area since 1982.
In the summer of 2008 this newest piece of common was designated as exchange land for the common that was to be taken to permit the replacement of the adjacent bridge over the GWR and Central Line. For some years the provision of suitable (no less in area and equally advantageous to the publc) exchange land has been one of the factors delaying the renewal of the Hanger Lane bridges.
Hanger Lane Farmhouse
Situated on the eastern perimeter of the common. It is the original farm of The Elms estate. The mansion of the Wegg and subsequently the Round family now forms part of Twyford High School. Miss Wegg had enclosed 'waste' up to the railway lines from 1828. Numbers 1 to 8 Hanger Lane were built by the 1870s and later used as rooming houses until they were demolished in 1972 for a new hotel. The farmhouse is listed locally by Ealing Council as of great historic interest. In the 1861 census it was described as Mary Cotching's 'model' dairy farm with a shop in The Mall selling fresh milk, delivered twice daily. It was sold to United Dairies in 1928 and finally closed in 1992.
North Common Road
There was open countryside to the north of the common until the 1880s where the Wood family of Hanger Hill House farmed some 900 acres. They built The Mall and the large detached villas we see along North Common Road. These houses with decorated gables, turrets and balconies have an architectural coherence, given the high pitched roof of clay tiles and patterned brickwork. Important features are the recessed front doors behind a moulded portico or elaborate pillared porch and large windows characteristically ornamented and chamfered. This 'gothic style' is repeated in the the more modest houses built to the east of the North Common Road eg in Creffield and Inglis roads and so it is appropriate that the Ealing Common Conservation Area should have been enlarged in 1993 to cover this larger area.
St Matthew's Church
Funded by public subscription and built on land donated by the Wood family. It has a north/south orientation as opposed to the more usual east/west orientation of Christian churches. This does not pose a problem for worshippers and is economical in terms of land take. The architect, Alfred Jowers, designed this 'red brick basilica' in 1884; the decorative tracery of the brickwork is repeated in nearby properties.
Of particular interest inside the church are the fine oak reredos carved by John Robertson in 1891 and the 'Arts and Grants' stained glass windows completed later by Reginald Hallward between 1919 and 1924. In the 1980s St Matthew's was shared with Ealing's Polish [Catholic] community before it acquired its own church in nearby Windsor Road.
A blue plaque is on the adjacent vicarage, to commemorate Dorothea Chambers. The vicar's daughter, in the early 1900s she won the Ladies' Singles at Wimbledon seven times plus runner up four times, which is more times than any other British player.
A walk towards the centre of the common best reveals the intrinsic quality of this green open space that has dictated the organic growth of the urban environment that now surrounds it. As heath scrub was cleared trees were planted, the elms and then poplars, for drainage. Finally, in the 1880s, the magnificent avenues of horse chestnuts were laid out by Charles Jones, Ealing's first architect, engineer and surveyor. The air was said to be the finest in Middlesex and by 1904 Ealing was praised as the Queen of the Suburbs.
As we look west from the centre of the common we can better appreciate the unplanned mix of architectural styles.
Numbers 1 to 16 The Common form a unique terrace: four low stuccoed Regency villas with Corinthian-style decorated pilasters (Grade ll listed) are flanked by larger Victorian houses built by Robert Colley, the local saddler who was a prominent member of the tenants committee. An interesting building is Number 19 Greystoke Court. This was built in 1903 as five flats, possibly to accommodate residents retiring from a colonial life. Unusually it is built of artificial bricks made from hard clinker of Ealing's 'fume extractor' – an early experiment in recycling refuse.
The surface of the common tells another story. Cement blocks marked the entrance to underground air raid shelters used in World War ll. During that time there were search lights and anti-aircraft guns in the central section of the common and allotments to the south.
The Grange Hotel
Situated on the boundary of the Rothschild estate as they were opposed to licensed premises on their lands. The adjacent cottages were built in the 1860s and the residents took advantage of their right as commoners to hang out washing and keep donkeys. The fine houses of Warwick Dene were planned and leased by the Rothschild estate in 1904.
In the 18th century when George lll held court at Kew, many of the nobility had country houses around Ealing. In 1808 Spencer Perceval, later to become Prime Minister, bought Elm Grove House on the southern verge of the common. After his assassination his family lived there until 1860 and it was then used as a private 'asylum' for former employees of the Easdt India Company, until bought and demolished by the Rothschilds who owned Gunnersbury from 1835 to 1925.
This memorial church to Spencer Perceval, paid for by his youngest daughter, Frederica, was built in 1905 on land donated by the Rothschilds.
Spencer Perceval was born on November 1, 1762 – the feast day of All Saints. The architect, W A Pite, had already built alms houses near St Mary's to replace those maintained by the commoners' committee in The Mall and he later designed churches in Acton and Alperton. Here the interior reveals Art Nouveau influences in the fine metal mouldings of the lectern and pulpit (Nelson Dawson and his wife from Chiswick). An unusual feature is the arched reredos, allowing glimpses of lancet windows to the east.
So called because of the triple line of elms, fringing from the south side of the common from the late 1650s. The remaining trees were blown down in the gale of 1987. Houses built here followed thed opening of the North Circular Road in 1920. Of particular interest is the house in Cape Dutch style designed in 1928 for Sir Michael Balcon (of Ealing Studios) because his wife was South African.