A-Z of Ealing

Ealing is best known as the Queen of the Suburbs, but there is far more to its rich history that that. A-Z of Ealing tells the fascinating story of the London borough and its seven constituent towns – Acton, Ealing, Greenford, Hanwell, Northolt, Perivale and Southall – through nuggets about its remarkable people and places.

   I have lived in Ealing for nearly 40 years, but am still learning new things about my home town.

   Among the things I discovered as I researched this book are that the soft toy which inspired A. A. Milne to write Winnie the Pooh was made in Acton, and that Billy Smart’s circus originated in Greenford.

   It was in Ealing that Pete Townshend of The Who decided smashing his guitar on stage would add to his art, and where the members of what would become the Rolling Stones met.

   The borough was a favourite hideaway for the royal mistresses of Edward III, George IV and Queen Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, and it is where bricks to rebuild Buckingham Palace were quarried.

   Charlie Chaplin went to school in Hanwell, and the first man to carry an umbrella in London is buried there. Charles Blondin, who became world famous for his daring tightrope walks high above Niagara Falls, retired to the borough.

   The Sixties singer Dusty Springfield, the prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and Charles Richards, author of the Billy Bunter books, all spent their childhoods in Ealing, and the man who invented Daylight Saving Time lived in Acton.

   Lady Byron – wife of the poet – and the novelist Henry Fielding owned the same house on the eastern side of Ealing Common, and Spencer Perceval, the only British prime minister to be assassinated, lived on the western side, where a church was erected in his memory.

   All in all, Ealing is a good deal more interesting than its cosy suburban image suggests.