Ealing derives its name from Gillingas, meaning the people of Gilla, who may have been an Anglo-Saxon settler. Over the centuries, the name has changed, and has been known as Yealing, Zelling and Eling, until Ealing became the standard spelling in the nineteenth century.
The Church of St. Mary's, Ealing, the parish church, dates back to at least the early twelfth century. The parish of Ealing was divided into manors, such as those of Gunnersbury and Pitshanger. These were farmed, the crops being mostly rye, but also wheat and maslin. There were also animals, such as cows, sheep and chickens.
The first maps of Ealing were made in the eighteenth century and give an impression of what the parish looked like. It was mostly made up of open countryside and fields, where, as in previous centuries, the main occupation was farming. However, there was an important road running from west to east through the centre of the parish. This road was to be later known as the Uxbridge Road, and it ran eastwards towards London and westwards to Oxford Along this route were many inns, where horses could be changed and travellers refresh themselves. Those in Ealing were The Feathers, The Bell, The Green Man and The Old Hats.
Settlements were scattered throughout the parish. Many of them were along what we would now call St. Mary's Road, near to the church, which was in the centre of the parish. There were also houses at Little Ealing, Ealing Dean, Haven Green, Drayton Green and Castle Bear Hill.
The most important changes to Ealing happened in the nineteenth century. The building of the Great Western Railway in the 1830s, part of which passed through the centre of Ealing led to the opening of a railway station on Ealing Broadway in 1838. In the next few decades, there was a large amount of speculative building throughout Ealing. These were mostly semi-detached houses, designed for the rising middle class. Better transport links, including horse buses as well as trains, meant that people could more easily travel to work in London but live in what was still considered to be the countryside. Of course, the countryside was rapidly disappearing. Fortunately, parts of it were preserved as public parks, such as Lammas Park and Walpole Park.
It was during the Victorian period that Ealing became a town. This meant that roads had to be built, drainage provided, schools and public buildings erected. The man responsible for much of all this was Charles Jones, Borough Surveyor from 1863-1913. He also designed the Town Hall, both the present one and the older one that is now a bank, on the Mall. Ealing Broadway became a major shopping centre.
1901 was a great year for Ealing. It saw the opening of Walpole Park, the first electric trams running along the Uxbridge Road, and the incorporation of Ealing. Ealing was the first borough in Middlesex to receive a charter and to have a mayor. Ealing became known as the Queen of the suburbs.
Ealing's claim to fame was the film Studios which produced the Ealing comedies of the 1950s, including The Lavender Hill Mob. The building of the new shopping centre, opened in 1985, however, drastically altered part of the centre of Ealing.