Enjoy the wildlife in Lammas Park
South and west of Walpole Park, and almost adjoining it, is the slightly smaller Lammas Park.
The name derives from the term “Lammas lands”, which were used for grazing cattle in mediaeval times. Much of the park consists of large areas of grass, dotted with some lovely mature trees. You can play ball games (though the ground is uneven and sloping in places), enjoy a picnic or relax with a good book. The path that encircles the park is popular with joggers – the loop is about one mile. Other recreational facilities here include a bowling green, croquet pitch, and tennis courts – and there are more tennis courts and a nature area in a sort of off-shoot of the park across Culmington Road. There is also a good-sized children's playground and a play-centre. On the southern side is a beautiful avenue of chestnut trees, and some flower beds that are usually colourfully planted.
You’ll almost certainly see squirrels in the park, and many birds – the usual species such as blackbird, wood pigeon, starling, magpie (increasingly populating our cities), robin and more. Look out too for the flock of parakeets that has lived around here for the last few years, bringing a touch of exoticism to this typical suburban park.
Relax on Haven Green
If you arrive in Ealing by train, the first sight that will greet you on exiting the station is Haven Green, one of two such spots in the town centre (the other is Ealing Green, a little to the south). This is a bit of a transport hub, with most of the buses arriving and departing from here, but it is also a lovely patch of green in the middle of the shopping centre and helps to substantiate Ealing’s claim to be one of the greenest and leafiest of London’s 33 boroughs. In the summer it’s a popular spot to relax for a short while – shoppers pause for a break, office and shop workers eat their lunches, children run around or play ball games (the latter is not really recommended though because of the roads that cross the Green).
Visit Pitzhanger Manor
Pitzhanger Manor is easily the grandest of the old houses that still remain in Ealing from its pre London suburb days. It was originally the home of the architect John Soane. He demolished the original manor house on this site and set about building his own home, which he saw as a sort of portrait or advertisement for his own idiosyncratic architectural style with its stripped classical detail, radical colour schemes and inventive use of space and light. Soane used Pitzhanger Manor as a weekend retreat and a place of entertainment, and as a home for his collection of paintings, books, architectural drawings and fragments, which can now be seen at Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London (near Holborn tube).
In 1810 Soane sold the house and it passed through a succession of owners, with remarkably little alteration. In 1843 it became home to the daughters of Britain's only assassinated Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, and in 1899 was sold by the then owner, Spencer Horatio Walpole (three times Home Secretary), to Ealing District Council for £40,000, with the proviso that the last of the Perceval sisters, Frederika, should be allowed to remain there until her death. When she died in 1900 the house was extended to become a Public Library, with a Reading Room on its south side and a Lending Library on the north. This northern extension was demolished and replaced by a larger library building in 1940. At the same time Soane's ornamental gardens and parkland, including his bridge, entrance arch and lodge, became Walpole Park, opening to the public in 1901 and still a favourite green space for Ealing’s residents today – see other tip.
The library moved to the Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre in 1985, and the 1940s extension is now an art gallery, with a programme of contemporary art exhibitions – the website below has information about current ones.
Meanwhile the interiors of the main part of the house are being restored to the style of décor that they would have had during Sir John Soane’s time (some are already done, others remain to be worked on. It is intended that the rooms will then be furnished with items similar to those acquired by the Soanes.
The house and gallery are open Tuesday to Friday 1.00-5.00pm, Saturday 11.00am-5.00pm, and on Sundays in summer only.
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Enjoy Walpole Park
This lovely park is laid out on land that once belonged to Pitzhanger Manor (see my separate tip). Its association with the manor house, and its former owner Sir John Soane, means that today the park is on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. In its north eastern part Soane’s ornamental garden still forms the basis, with a pretty pond surrounded by flowering shrubs (and home to cute ducklings every Spring), an old stone bridge and some beautiful old cedars on the lawns next to the house. The pond is designed to look like a stream and has been here since before the time of Sir John Soane. It is thought that when he owned the property this pond was much deeper, as he is known to have fished here with his friend William Turner (the artist).
The rest of the park is given over mainly to large expanses of green grass, popular with ball and Frisbee players, kite flyers and picnickers. The paths are edged with shady trees, many of them large and quite old, but others new (replacing ones that were lost in the so-called Great Storm of October 1987). There is a well-equipped children’s play area, and a small animal rescue centre, the London Wildcare Field Centre, which rehabilitates injured urban animals such as foxes and birds. There’s a small entrance fee for this (50p last time I checked) which goes towards the care of the animals.
Every summer Walpole Park hosts a festival of jazz and comedy. We have lived in Ealing for 27 years, and every summer we say “We must go to the Comedy Festival” and have never yet done so! I’ll make a special effort to go this year and update this tip when I have.
Explore Ealing Green
This is the more southerly of Ealing’s two remaining Greens, and is a relic of the old village that once straddled St Mary’s Road between the Uxbridge Road (now the Broadway) and St Mary’s Church about a mile to the south. It’s a long thin Green with a number of lovely old chestnut trees, though several more were lost in the so-called Great Storm of October 1987.
On its western side are a number of beautiful brick houses of the 18th and early 19th century – if I had the money this is probably where I would choose to live in Ealing! These include the 18th century St. Mary's, the 19th century pair formed by Pine Cottage and Thorpe Lodge, and a group of around 1800 formed by St. Aidan and the neighbouring terrace of Morgan House, Wrexham Lodge and the Willow House.
From time to time the Green hosts events such as a French Farmers’ or Continental Food Market. At its northern end is the entrance to Pitzhanger Manor, and beyond it to Walpole Park (see separate tips). Across the road from here is a large Irish pub, The Grove, in case you’re in need of liquid refreshment, and there are several others in the very near vicinity. To the south lie the Ealing Film Studios, again the subject of another tip.
Pay homage at the Ealing Film Studios
Mention Ealing to most English people of a certain age, and they will think of the Ealing Film Studios. These claim to be the oldest in the world, having been established in 1902, but they are best known for the incredible period of success from the late 1930s to the end of the 1950s. This golden age, with Michael Balcon as Head of Production, produced what became known collectively as the “Ealing comedies” including Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob.
The BBC bought the Studios in 1959 and they spent the next 20 years creating television productions from Ealing Studios such as Colditz, The Singing Detective and Fortunes of War. Many Ealing locations were used for BBC productions, ranging from Doctor Who to Monty Python's Flying Circus. In 2000 the studios reverted to private ownership and are again being used for movie production, including Notting Hill, The Importance of Being Earnest and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The latest film to be made here is St Trinian's in which some locations in Ealing can apparently be spotted. I haven’t seen this but it’s a remake of a classic film that I loved as a teenager, so I plan to catch it on DVD and play “spot the location”!
Unfortunately the studios aren’t open to the public but they’re a must-see for any film buff even if you can only look at the outside and the famous sign.
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Walpole Picture House
The Odeon cinema is currently closed for a major refurbishment. The building has been totally demolished apart from the frontage and a modern multiplex will be built in its place.
Meanwhile you could check out this little remnant of the first cinema in Ealing, the Forum, which opened in 1934 and later changed its name to the Walpole Picture House. This was demolished in 1981, but its entrance arch survives on the side of the first house in Mattock Lane, just south of the Broadway and the present-day Odeon.
The architect was John Stanley Beard and the classical style of the frontage was a reaction to the modernistic style often associated with Odeon cinemas of the period. The first film ever shown here was appropriately one made at the nearby Ealing Film Studios – “Love, Life & Laughter” starring Gracie Fields.
There are apparently plans to incorporate this facade into the design of the new multiplex now being built on the Odeon’s site – I’m not sure how that will work but it seems a great idea if they can manage it.
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This building was once the house of the English architect John Soane(1753-1837) that had built a lot of buildings in Neo-Classical style (the most famous among them is the Bank of England).
Soane owned the building at the beginning of 19th century when he demolished the existing building and made several changes on different style and he stayed there for 10 years. I was expecting to see a museum because he had a big collection of books and paintings but at the door they told me that his collection can be seen at John Soane’s museum in London.
The Pitzhanger Manor became a public library at the beginning of 20th century when also the gardens of the house opened to the public (see next tip for Walpole Park). A larger library building was added in 1940 and in our days it houses an art gallery(pics 2-3-4-5) and that was the reason we visited the building anyway.
On spring 2011 there was an enhibition called “Under the Radar ” with paintings by Serban Savu. He focuses on usual daily moments of anonymous people during the post-socialist era in Romania, workers at job, women bathing, men fishing etc
It’s open daily 13.00-17.00 (on Saturdays from 11.00am) and there’s no entrance fee.
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Walpole park is a beautiful park where people go for picnic, playing football, jogging etc It used to be the gardens of Pitzhanger Manor but it’s open to the public since 1901.
We spend some time watching many squirrels passing by. There is also a lovely pond and a cute children’s play area but most of the park are spacious green areas where people play football. We loved the paths that are lined with trees, by the way the trees inside the park are a combination of many generations of planting with only 6 trees that predate Soane, 10 trees from early 19th century, 36 trees from 1843-1901 and 218 trees from 1901-1950. They plan new tree planting while at the same time some old ones will be replaced because they are at the end of their natural life.
By the way every july the park hosts the Ealing Jazz festival that must be great (and almost free!) with hundreds of people going there and enjoy the events (there are also theatrical plays, opera etc)
The park opens daily at 7.30am and closed from 17.30 to 22.00 depending on the season so check times to ensure you exit the park before it is locked.
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The local council have recently published a useful leaflet describing a self-guided historic walk around Ealing. You can pick it up in many of the local shops (I spotted it at my hairdresser’s). The walk should take about one and a half hours to complete (more of course if you stop for refreshments at one of the several good hostelries passed en route) and takes in several of the sights I’ve described in my Things to Do tips, including Haven Green, the Ealing Film Studios, and Walpole and Lammas Parks. There are brief descriptions of all the sights and some interesting old photos of many of them. There is also an overview of the Borough’s history, from the first Stone and Iron Age settlements through the major expansion of Victorian times, to redevelopments in the late twentieth century and plans for more change in the immediate future. Well worth picking up if you’re in the area for a few days.
- Historical Travel
To the east of Ealing Broadway is the leafy green space of Ealing Common. Although bounded to the north and east by very busy roads, the common is large enough to offer a popular and peaceful spot for family picnics, ball games, dog walking and other outdoor activities. It has several avenues of large trees, and is particularly attractive in the late Spring, when the many horse chestnut trees are in bloom, and again in the autumn when the leaves are often very colourful.
A fun fair usually visits here a couple of times a year but for the rest of the time it is peaceful and uneventful. There is a good pub (the Grange) in the south west corner, and the local council website describes a walk around the perimeter of the common.
Go to a spa – Life Spa
Ealing has a spa, albeit not (from the outside) a very glamorous one! Located in South Ealing, and sharing its site with a Sainsbury supermarket and Shell petrol station, you would be forgiven for assuming that this was unlikely to deliver the restful spa experience you’re looking for. But once inside it is surprisingly successful in its attempt to create the appropriate atmosphere. Windowless treatment rooms are caverns of warmth. Scented candles, Far Eastern looking fabrics and gentle music welcome you and set the tone for a relaxing treatment. Shower facilities are also well thought-out, with plenty of space, thick white towels and lovely products. After your treatment you can enjoy a complimentary cup of herbal tea in a room set aside for winding down, although this is a little small if several customers are using it at once.
I have been here several times as it is just at the end of our road and their gift vouchers are a great answer to the “what would you like for your birthday?” question. My favourite treatment is a ginger and lime salt scrub, which is a perfect preparation for summer. But all the usual spa offerings are available such as facials, massage, body wraps, tanning etc. Prices aren’t low, but represent good value compared with elsewhere, perhaps reflecting the slightly odd location.
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Great War Memorial
In front of the Pitzhanger Manor (it is actually a gateway to the house grounds) you can see the Great War Memorial.
It was erected in 1921 as a memorial for the men and women of Ealing that died in the Western Front during WWI. Memorials like this were erected all over the world after the useless loss of so many people…
The two walls of the memorial host more than 1000 names carved in stone while the inscription read: “In Proud and Grateful Memory of the men of this borough who laid down their lives in the Great War of 1914-1918”
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Outside the train station you can see a lot of shopping malls, restaurants and cafes but if you walk a bit further inside the picture changes to some roads with rows of Victorian houses. I’ve been told that these houses are one of the most expensive in the Greater London area.
Most of the houses were built after the Great Western Railway company decided to open a railway station at Ealing Broadway so the city started to grow around, it was then when the Victorians called it Queen of the Suburbs. You can notice some big ones, obviously villas that converted into flats although we wonder if some of them include 2-3 different flats inside.
Some other side streets are also nice with rows of trees making it look like a postcard but unfortunately the numerous cars will spoil the picture (pic 4)
Ealing’s main Town Hall is a classic example of Victorian Gothic architecture. It is a Grade II listed building that dates back to 1887 when Ealing was fast becoming the “Queen of the Suburbs”, and has a 1930s extension. In recent years the local council has outgrown the premises, and most departments are located in the modern Perceval House just next-door, but council and committee meetings are still held here, and it is a popular venue for weddings, with several characterful rooms. But there’s no need to get married to see inside, as other local events also take place here, including concerts, photography exhibitions and meetings of local societies.
Like most Victorian town halls, this building is a statement. It says, “Ealing is a strong, growing place with important, influential residents”. It was designed in 1888 by Charles Jones, the town surveyor who left his mark all over Victorian Ealing (you can see his name on a commemorative plaque in Walpole Park, marling the purchase of that park by the council). One room was named the Victoria Hall, in honour of Queen Victoria who had celebrated her Golden Jubilee the previous year. That room was designated for the use of local clubs and societies, and is still available to them today. The Town Hall was opened on 15th December 1888 by the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
As seen from the street, it has changed very little over the years (the 1930s extension is thankfully hidden behind it) and its prominence on the Broadway is a good reminder of Ealing’s glory days as the Victorian “Queen of the Suburbs”.
- Historical Travel