What is now the London Borough of Ealing was once forest and countryside.
There were Stone Age people here, but no evidence of fixed settlements until the
Saxons arrived in, perhaps, the sixth and seventh centuries and the county of
Middlesex was formed. At the time of the Domesday Book, in 1086, the first
written evidence appears for the manors of Greenford and Hanwell. Southall,
Acton and Ealing were parts of larger manors and so not recorded
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the basic unit of local
government was the parish. Ealing, Hanwell, Acton and Southall all lay on the
main road from London to Oxford, and travellers passed through these villages
frequently. Greenford, Perivale and Northolt, were rather off the beaten track
and remained small villages until after the First World War. But even Ealing
was small, with only 428 residents in 1598.
Life for most people revolved around agriculture. There were also a few
craftsmen and traders, but little industry. Commerce was stimulated by the Grand
Junction Canal, which cut through Southall, Greenford and Perivale at the end of
the eighteenth century. The coming of the railways in 1838 had little initial
impact, as the small villages grew into small towns as population slowly
However, by the end of the nineteenth century, improved communications, in
the form of trams, buses and trains had made access to and from London so much
easier. Many residents worked in London, travelling there and back each day.
Ealing became a desirable residential centre, whilst Acton and Southall became
hives of large-scale industry. Greenford, Perivale and Northolt remained small
agriculture villages. Less than 100 people lived in Perivale in 1901.
After the First World War, Ealing, which became a borough in 1901 (the first
in Middlesex) began to expand. In 1926, Hanwell, Greenford and Perivale became
incorporated into Ealing and these were joined by Northolt in 1928. Acton and
Southall became boroughs in their own right in 1921 and 1936, respectively. The
expansion of industry in Greenford and Perivale was spectacular in the 1920s and
1930s, helped by the building of the Western Avenue in the 1930s, and more
industries came to Acton and Southall.
Fortunately the bombing of World War Two was less severe here than elsewhere
in London. After the War, the remaining rural portion of Ealing and Northolt was
built upon as council houses were built in order to house people. Another key
feature of the post War period was the large-scale immigration of people from
India, Pakistan, Poland, the Caribbean and many other countries. In 1965, the
old boroughs of Ealing, Acton and Southall were abolished and they were merged
into one new local authority the London Borough of Ealing.