Ealing and Brentford: Social and cultural activities

Pages 120-123

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.

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Inns (fn. 1) in Old and New Brentford greatly outnumbered those in Ealing village or elsewhere in the parish, both before and after the decline of the coaching trade. Some were variously described as being in either Ealing or Old Brentford, while some in New Brentford were listed with those in Hanwell.

At Brentford there were taverns in 1304. (fn. 2) The Bell was recorded in 1384 (fn. 3) and the Crown, the Angel, and the Horseshoe in 1436. (fn. 4) Henry VI in 1446 held a chapter of the Garter at the Lion, (fn. 5) presumably the later Red Lion. Other inns included the White Horse, by 1603, and the Three Pigeons, (fn. 6) which was mentioned in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist of 1610 and had a loose reputation. (fn. 7) The Three Pigeons was later kept by the actor John Lowin (1576-1659) (fn. 8) and noted by the 'water poet' John Taylor in 1636, as were the Half Moon, the Lion, the Goat, the George, and the Swan. (fn. 9) Samuel Pepys in 1665 stopped at a waterside inn, perhaps the Wagon and Horses. (fn. 10) There were at least 10 inns in New Brentford alone in 1614. (fn. 11) By 1722 probably 12 of Hanwell's inns were in New Brentford and at least 12 of Ealing's were in Old Brentford. The maximum number for the whole township may have been c. 40 in 1770, when New Brentford alone had 17 inns; it had 13 in 1800 and 9 in 1815, when Old Brentford had 25 and 21 respectively. There were 28 inns listed at Brentford in 1832-4 and, despite closures reported in 1843, (fn. 12) as many as 36 in 1890, most of them in High Street.

Ealing apparently had 2 victualling houses in 1599. (fn. 13) Apart from Old Brentford, the parish as a whole may have had as many as 19 inns in 1722, most of them presumably in Ealing village but some of them in the hamlets, such as the Plough at Little Ealing, or along Uxbridge Road, such as the Old Hat. (fn. 14) Apart from Old Brentford, Ealing had 15 inns in 1800, 13 in 1815, 14 in 1832-4, and 12 in 1890. A coffee house existed at Brentford in 1717 and 1733, the first being associated with the Harrow, later the Castle, inn and the second being opposite the Magpie and Crown and so presumably in High Street. (fn. 15)

An armed association for Ealing and Brentford was formed in 1798 (fn. 16) and was succeeded in 1803 by a volunteer corps, organized by committees for Upper Side, Lower Side, and New Brentford, which was disbanded in 1806. Another volunteer corps, the 30th Middlesex, drawn from Acton, Hanwell, and Ealing, was formed in 1857-8. (fn. 17) A company of the 8th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers drilled at Churchfield Road, Ealing, in 1887, as did its successor, belonging to the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment in 1890. There was also a drill hall in Ealing Road, Brentford, by 1901. (fn. 18)

Philanthropic societies were formed comparatively early in Brentford, where in 1657 contributions were made to a watermen's chest, (fn. 19) a body which held some property in 1728. (fn. 20) Freemasons met by 1799 at the Castle inn. (fn. 21) Brentford and Ealing savings bank, intended also to serve Acton, Hanwell, and Heston, was founded in 1818, as was the dispensary, and used Brentford town hall in 1856. (fn. 22) A visiting society for the sick and lying-in poor of Old Brentford was founded in 1832, a mechanics' institution, with lectures and a library, in 1835, and a visiting society for New Brentford in 1838. A branch of the S.P.C.K. opened in 1842. (fn. 23) Brentford Philanthropic Society was established in 1867, surviving in 1978, (fn. 24) and St. George's had a clothing and coal club by 1876. (fn. 25)

Ealing had a mechanics' institution, with a library, by 1845. (fn. 26) The vicar of St. Mary's, E. W. Relton, in 1853-4 administered a society for the sick, besides a district visiting society and a lyingin society. The first two had apparently merged by 1854-5, when the society was responsible for a soup kitchen, a coal fund, a provident fund, and a children's shoe club, and when the Sunday school opened a lending library. (fn. 27) Ealing Philanthropic Institution, presumably inspired by Brentford's example, was started in 1868, apparently dissolved after 1870 but refounded in 1881; it met for many years in a hall behind the King's Arms and survived in 1978. (fn. 28) The vicar of Christ Church formed a friendly society and working men's club in 1868 and several churchmen helped to sponsor the St. Mary's coffee tavern, with a reading room and youth room at the corner of Warwick Road, in 1880. (fn. 29)

In 1621 the people of New Brentford had long been accustomed to feast in the church house at Whitsun and 'liberally to spend their moneys' in aid of a common fund. There was a maypole in 1623 and sums were also raised from hocking, 'risling', and 'pigeon holes', games which continued to be held until 1642. (fn. 30) There was an enclosed bowling alley by the Ham at New Brentford in 1635. (fn. 31) Ealing in 1774 was the scene of a cricket match against Norwood and Southall, (fn. 32) and in 1776 it had a toxophilite society, which met weekly during the summer in 1795, (fn. 33) and in 1792 a bowling green opposite the Old Hat inn, (fn. 34) which was also a meeting place for pigeon shooters. (fn. 35) There were horse races at Brentford in 1736 (fn. 36) and pony races at Ealing in 1819 and steeplechases there in 1851. (fn. 37) More races near Ealing village, started in 1865, continued against local opposition in 1882. (fn. 38) In the 1860s an inn called the Cricketer stood near the south-west corner of Ealing common. (fn. 39) Ealing village cricket club was founded in 1864 (fn. 40) and perhaps used a ground near the Green Man in 1866. (fn. 41) It amalgamated in 1874 with Ealing cricket club, which from 1871 leased land near the Royal India asylum in Corfton Road, where the existing two-storeyed pavilion was opened in 1900. (fn. 42) Ealing Dean cricket club played at Uxbridge Road by 1907. (fn. 43) At Brentford the police and the gasworks' employees ran their own cricket clubs in 1888, when Boston Park club had its ground in Ealing Road. (fn. 44)

Brentford football club was formed in 1888 as a sports club of the Wesleyan chapel and opened its existing ground at Griffin Park in 1905, where the main stands were built in 1927-8. The club, champion of the 2nd division of the Southern League in 1901, played in the 1st division before joining the new 3rd division of the Football League in 1920. It was promoted to the 2nd division in 1933 and later to the 1st division, from which it was relegated in 1947. (fn. 45)

In the 1860s there were several bathing ponds in the fields east of St. Mary's Road and Ealing Road, the largest being south of Elm Grove. (fn. 46) Presumably they were superseded by the public baths, opened in 1884. (fn. 47) Swimming clubs for Ealing and Ealing Dean were among the oldest sports clubs in 1925, together with those for cricket, rugby, and association football. Badminton was played in the winter at the public baths and in 1926 there were croquet and bowling clubs. (fn. 48) Ealing lawn tennis club, with courts off Madeley Road, was founded in 1882 (fn. 49) and the Magpie club, at Castlebar Hill, by 1896. Tennis later gave rise to several local clubs: six were listed in 1926, in addition to one founded by St. John's church in 1923, hard courts in Uxbridge Road, and courts at the private West Side Country Club in Eaton Rise. (fn. 50) Brentford had a lawn tennis club, apparently short lived, and a gymnastic society which met at the Star and Garter in 1888, and a rowing club for the gasworks' employees in 1907. (fn. 51)

Golf was provided in 1908 by the Castlebar and Hanger Hill clubs, the first of which had been founded in 1898 and was later called Ealing golf club. Hanger Hill golf club closed in 1933 and its clubhouse, formerly Hanger Hill House, was later demolished. (fn. 52)

Societies at Ealing included a literary and scientific institution by 1855 (fn. 53) and St. Mary's association for literary and social recreation in 1884. (fn. 54) From 1888 there were varied meetings at the new Victoria hall behind the municipal buildings or at the smaller Prince's room or lecture room beneath. Choral, orchestral, philharmonic, photographic, and scientific societies existed by 1907, an arts club was founded in 1910, and by 1925 there was a debating society, besides a literary society at Ealing Green. (fn. 55) Political groups included a Liberal association by 1880, (fn. 56) with premises on the Green in 1890, a Conservative association in Uxbridge Road by 1890, and a constitutional club, also in Uxbridge Road, by 1908. (fn. 57) Among more recent groups is Ealing Civic Society, a conservation and amenity society formed in 1967. (fn. 58) Brentford lacked Ealing's artistic societies, although in 1853 a literary and scientific institution met at the town hall. (fn. 59) There was a Conservative association in 1882 (fn. 60) and a Liberal and Radical club at no. 334 High Street, also used by the Irish National League of Great Britain, by 1888. (fn. 61)

Both sporting and cultural activities were planned for the Brentham estate, where 12 a. were reserved as playing fields. (fn. 62) A cricket pavilion was opened there in 1908, followed in 1911 by the Institute, (fn. 63) with a lending library and lecture rooms, in Meadvale Road. Social interests later predominated and in 1947 the building and grounds were bought by members from Bradford Property Trust as a private club.

An amphitheatre at Brentford was advertised in 1826. (fn. 64) A hall in Walnut Tree Road was leased in 1886 by T. W. Beach and soon known as Brentford theatre, later being used as a cinema and surviving until 1930. (fn. 65) The Q theatre was opened in 1924 by Jack De Leon in the former Prince's hall and was the scene of early works by several well known playwrights before its closure in 1956. (fn. 66) In 1980 the St. Lawrence, Brentford, Trust, consisting of the Brentford Community Association and the New Hope Theatre Co., was converting the former church into a theatre and communal centre. (fn. 67) Cinemas at Brentford included the Queen's hall in the Half Acre from 1913 to 1957, the Prince's hall in the garden of the Star and Garter, and the Brentford, later the Coronet, at no. 275 High Street from 1912 to c. 1930. The former Coronet was a garage in 1934 and used by the Press Plating Co. in 1964. (fn. 68)

A hall of variety was Ealing's sole place of entertainment in 1832. It stood next to the New inn in St. Mary's Road and may have been the Royal Standard theatre of 1850 and the assembly rooms of the 1860s. A concert hall in the Broadway, adjoining an older building, was opened in 1881. Known as the Lyric hall by 1883, it was replaced in 1899 by the Lyric restaurant and the New or Ealing theatre, (fn. 69) later called Ealing Hippodrome. (fn. 70) The Questors theatre originated in a group founded in 1929, which used a former chapel in Mattock Lane from 1933, formed a limited company in 1949, and opened a new theatre in 1964. (fn. 71)

Films were shown in 1910 at an electric theatre in the Broadway and at the Hippodrome, (fn. 72) which was called the Palladium from 1922 and closed in 1957, being replaced by shops. (fn. 73) The Walpole picture palace in Bond Street was converted from a former skating rink in 1912 and, having closed in 1972, was under threat of demolition in 1980. (fn. 74) The Kinema, West Ealing, opened in 1913 on the site of Ealing cottage hospital at the corner of Northfield Avenue and Uxbridge Road, was rebuilt in 1928, and called the Lido from 1931; it was used partly for bingo from c. 1969 but survived as a double cinema, Studios 1 and 2, in 1980. (fn. 75) The Northfield cinema, on the east side of Northfield Avenue, was open by 1914 and renamed the Elite in 1924. The Avenue theatre, on the opposite side of the road, replaced it in 1932; popularly known as Spanish City, because of its architecture, it became an Odeon cinema c. 1938 and survived in 1980. (fn. 76) The Forum, Uxbridge Road, was built in 1934 in a quasi-Egyptian style; later part of the ABC chain, it was divided into three auditoria in the 1970s and survived in 1980. The Ritz, at the junction of Hanger Lane and Western Avenue, opened in 1938 and later belonged to the Odeon and then the Classic chains. In 1980 it had for some years been a cinema club, the Paradise. (fn. 77)

Numerous antiquities collected by Thomas Layton (1819-1911) (fn. 78) were left to Brentford library, with his house, no. 22 Kew Bridge Road, to form a Layton museum. The collection included objects of the Stone Age and later from the Thames (fn. 79) and c. 11,000 volumes and 3,000 prints, which after a Chancery ruling of 1913, were kept at Brentford library and St. George's church. Since the endowment proved inadequate, the archaeological finds were transferred in 1963 to the London Museum while the books were temporarily stored, from 1968, at the former Chiswick town hall. (fn. 80) The Musical museum was founded by F. W. Holland in 1963 as the British Piano museum, a charitable trust, in the former St. George's church. Its collection, including a library of rolls, was formed around reproducing pianos, to which were added other large automatic musical instruments. (fn. 81) A museum of steam engines connected with water supply, maintained by the Kew Bridge Engines Trust, in 1980 occupied part of the old Grand Junction Waterworks Co.'s premises in Kew Bridge Road. (fn. 82)

The weekly Ealing Post and General Advertiser was first published in 1863 by J. E. Acworth, subpostmaster and owner of a circulating library, who from 1857 had printed the parish magazine. Intended also to serve Brentford, Acton, and Hanwell, his newspaper was renamed the Middlesex County Times in 1868 and moved from its original offices at no. 63 Broadway to no. 61 in 1878. After it had bought the more recent Acton Gazette, its local monopoly was briefly challenged by the Conservative West Middlesex Standard, which it took over in 1889, and, in the north part of the parish, by the Ealing Advertiser of 1882, published from Southall. Middlesex County Times Ltd. was formed in 1892 and later acquired the Chiswick Gazette. Meanwhile the Ealing Gazette and Ealing Guardian were both founded in 1898, although the second proved short lived. In 1923 the Ealing Gazette combined with Southall and Hanwell editions of John King's Uxbridge Gazette to form the West Middlesex Gazette, which in 1941 merged with the Middlesex County Times, whose Ealing edition from 1974 was published as the Ealing Gazette. In 1980 the Middlesex County Times group also published the Mid-Week Gazette, started in 1969. The Ealing and District Weekly Post, previously the Ealing Weekly Post, appeared for a few years until 1974. At Brentford, where Chiswick newspapers circulated, the Brentford Independent was published in 1883-4 and continued as the County of Middlesex Independent from 1885 until 1942 and then as the Middlesex Independent until 1964. Its successor, the Hounslow, Brentford, Chiswick Post, closed in 1971. (fn. 83)


  • 1. Following 3 paras. based on M.R.O., MR/LV3/95, LV8/65-6, LV10/90-1, LV1 5/4-5; Pigot, Com. Dir. (1832-4); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 2. P.R.O., C 260/15/21.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1381-5, 400, 478.
  • 4. Cal. Close, 1435-41, 62; P.R.O., C 143/450/30.
  • 5. J. Anstis, Reg. of Order of Garter, i (1724), 129.
  • 6. Jackson, Ealing, 109, 133-5.
  • 7. Alchemist, ed. H. C. Hart (1903), 225.
  • 8. D.N.B.
  • 9. Mdx. & Herts. N. & Q. iv. 78.
  • 10. Jackson, Ealing, 134; Diary of Sam. Pepys, vi. 199.
  • 11. A. J. Howard, 'Boston Manor and the Clitherow family' (TS. thesis, 1969, in Chiswick libr.), 59-64.
  • 12. Jnl. Statistical Soc. of Lond. vi. 126.
  • 13. Allison, Elizabethan Census, 10.
  • 14. Jackson, Ealing, 158-9, 163.
  • 15. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842), ff. 21, 44.
  • 16. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2/1; T. Rowlandson, Loyal Volunteers of Lond. (1799), no. 26.
  • 17. Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 223-4, 228; C. Jones, Ealing, from Village to Corporate Town (1902), 129-33.
  • 18. Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1887-8, 1901-2); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908).
  • 19. Guildhall MS. 10312/38, rot. 10d.
  • 20. M.L.R. 1728/1/353.
  • 21. M.R.O., MR/SF/1799/56.
  • 22. Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 80 (rules in grangerized copy in Chiswick libr.); Brentford and Chiswick Bank for Savings (1866).
  • 23. Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 78-9, 132, 136.
  • 24. Ann. Reps. in Chiswick libr.
  • 25. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/2.
  • 26. P.O. Dir. Six Home Counties (1845).
  • 27. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/1.
  • 28. Holt's local hist. notes (TS.).
  • 29. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/1.
  • 30. Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 81-4; Brentford libr., New Brentford MS. 17512.
  • 31. V.C.H. Mdx. iii, plate facing p. 90.
  • 32. Robbins, Mdx. 145.
  • 33. Jones, Ealing, 128-9; Ealing Local Historian (1966), 1-3.
  • 34. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/D1/2.
  • 35. Robbins, Mdx. 144.
  • 36. Newspaper cutting at Chiswick libr.
  • 37. Posters at Ealing libr.
  • 38. E. Walford, Gtr. Lond. i [1882], 23.
  • 39. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XVI. SW. (1873 edn.).
  • 40. Ealing Cricket Club, 1970 (centenary handbk.), 28.
  • 41. P.R.O., MAF 9/167/7185.
  • 42. Ealing Cricket Club, 1970, 24-5, 33-4.
  • 43. Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1907).
  • 44. County of Mdx. Independent Dir. Brentford (1888).
  • 45. Brentford F.C. Handbk. (1951-2).
  • 46. O.S. Map 6", Mdx. XVI. SW. (1873 edn.).
  • 47. Below, publ. svces.
  • 48. Ealing (1925); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908, 1926).
  • 49. Notice on pavilion.
  • 50. Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1896-7); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1926); St. John's, W. Ealing (centenary booklet 1976), 19.
  • 51. County of Mdx. Independent Dir. Brentford (1888); Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1907).
  • 52. Golf in Ealing L.B. (TS. in Ealing libr.); V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 123; below, manors.
  • 53. P.O. Dir. Six Home Counties (1855).
  • 54. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/2.
  • 55. Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1907); Ealing (1925); Ealing, 1901-51, ed. Scouse, 85.
  • 56. The Times, 22 July 1880.
  • 57. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908).
  • 58. Char. Com. files.
  • 59. Mason's Dir. Brentford (1853).
  • 60. The Times, 4 May 1882.
  • 61. County of Mdx. Independent Dir. Brentford (1888).
  • 62. Para. based on Ealing Local Hist. Soc. Local Historian (1964), 42; Brentham, 13, 24.
  • 63. Jones, Decade of Progress, 80.
  • 64. M.R.O., Acc. 880/5, p. 289.
  • 65. 'Cinemas in Brentford and Chiswick' (TS. in Chiswick libr.).
  • 66. Newspaper cuttings in Chiswick libr.
  • 67. Inf. from the chairman, St. Lawr., Brentford, Trust.
  • 68. 'Cinemas in Brentford and Chiswick'; Brentford and Chiswick Times, 27 Oct. 1977; Mdx. Local Hist. Council Bull. xviii. 5.
  • 69. Ealing libr., Holt's local hist. notes (cutting, ? from Mdx. County Times, 1957); Ealing As It Was, illus. 36.
  • 70. Mdx. Local Hist. Council Bull. xviiii. 21.
  • 71. B. D. Steam, 'Urban Leisure: Study of a Lond. suburb' (TS. thesis 1966 in Ealing libr.), 8; Questors (40th anniv. booklet, 1969).
  • 72. Mdx. Local Hist. Council Bull. xviii. 21.
  • 73. Holt's local hist. notes.
  • 74. D. Atwell, Cathedrals of the Movies (1980), 9-10.
  • 75. Mdx. County Times, 28 June 1913; 30 Oct. 1928; 3 Oct. 1931; Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1969-70).
  • 76. Kelly's Dir. Ealing (1914, 1924, 1938); Mdx. County Times and Gaz. 5 Sept. 1932; Atwell, Movies, 135-7.
  • 77. Atwell, Movies, 109; Mdx. County Times, 16 April 1938.
  • 78. Proc. Soc. Antiq. (2nd ser.), xxiv. 232; rest of para. based on R. J. Jones, 'Thos. Layton and Layton Colln.' (TS. at Chiswick libr.) and Lond. Archaeologist, iii (4), 90-6.
  • 79. Archaeologia, lxix. 1-30.
  • 80. Inf. from Hounslow L.B. ref. libr.
  • 81. Leaflet and newspaper cuttings at Chiswick libr.; inf. from Mr. F. W. Holland.
  • 82. Inf. on bldg.
  • 83. Mdx. County Times and Gaz. 16 Mar. 1963 (centenary issue); B.L. Newspaper Cat.; Willing's Press Guide (1980).