Ealing and Brentford: Public services

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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Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. M A Hicks, 'Ealing and Brentford: Public services', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982) pp. 147-149. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp147-149 [accessed 28 May 2024].

Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. M A Hicks. "Ealing and Brentford: Public services", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982) 147-149. British History Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp147-149.

Bolton, Diane K. Croot, Patricia E C. Hicks, M A. "Ealing and Brentford: Public services", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982). 147-149. British History Online. Web. 28 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp147-149.


There was a common well at Ealing in 1506. (fn. 1) Water was piped to Richard Meux's house from a pond in the early 19th century (fn. 2) and, although the Grand Junction Waterworks Co. had laid pipes to Ealing by 1850, (fn. 3) most households still depended on shallow wells in 1863. (fn. 4) The Grand Junction Waterworks Co. had been authorized in 1835 to build a pumping station near Kew bridge, (fn. 5) where the works included a 150-ft. chimney by 1845. (fn. 6) Its water, drawn from the Thames at Hampton from the 1850s, (fn. 7) supplied Acton, Chiswick, and the south part of Ealing parish under an Act of 1861 (fn. 8) and the whole of Ealing by 1890. (fn. 9) Fox reservoir, with a capacity of 3 million gallons, was erected north of Hill Crest Road, Hanger Hill, in 1888 and a neighbouring reservoir for 50 million gallons was constructed c. 1889. (fn. 10) The company was superseded by the Metropolitan Water Board under an Act of 1902 and Fox reservoir, disused by 1946, was filled in during the 1970s. (fn. 11)

Ealing's ditches were so offensive in 1809 that the copyholders voted £300 for improvements to be effected by the highway trustees. (fn. 12) Several schemes were debated from 1854 and a sewer rate was levied by the vestry for the metropolitan commissioners of sewers from 1857 to 1860 but probably no work was done before the establishment of Ealing local board. (fn. 13) A sewage farm for the southern district was opened at South Ealing Road in 1863 and extended in 1868, 1874, and 1881, and a 22-a. farm for the northern district was constructed beside the Brent in 1872. (fn. 14) Under Brentford's drainage and sewerage works, completed in 1884, sewage was collected in the Town meadow and pumped to South Ealing Road. There the sewage was treated, the sludge being dried in filter presses and the effluent discharged into the Thames through a culvert along Clayponds Lane. (fn. 15) Although the northern works were sometimes flooded, (fn. 16) Ealing was credited with the first efficient scheme in the Thames Valley that prevented pollution of the Thames. (fn. 17) In 1936 the West Middlesex Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Scheme was inaugurated, with central works at Mogden in Isleworth, and the Ealing works were superseded. (fn. 18)

Ealing had an engine house in 1781 and parish fire engines in 1782 and 1784. (fn. 19) An engine was acquired for Upper Side in 1835 (fn. 20) and kept near St. Mary's church in 1853, (fn. 21) but was obsolete c. 1863. A volunteer fire brigade used two manual engines in 1870 (fn. 22) and a house in Broadway was thereafter manned by professional firemen. (fn. 23) A fire station was built at Longfield Avenue in 1888 and extended in 1901-2, when, as in 1908, another station near St. Mary's church was manned by volunteers. (fn. 24) In 1933 a central station was built on the corner of Uxbridge and St. Leonard's roads, (fn. 25) where it survived in 1979. At New Brentford two engines, kept under the chapel belfry, had suffered from inexpert handling in 1738. (fn. 26) There was an engine house in the Ham by 1853, (fn. 27) a volunteer fire brigade from 1868, (fn. 28) and a fire station in High Street in 1908 and 1926. (fn. 29)

Land at New Brentford for a cage, stocks, and whipping post was sought in 1720. (fn. 30) A cage was to be built or rebuilt in 1753; a watch box for the beadle was to be set up near the market house and a new stocks provided in 1787. (fn. 31) There was a cage at Ealing in 1781 (fn. 32) and the copyholders built a watch house in 1804. (fn. 33) Both Ealing and Brentford had cages in 1813. (fn. 34) Ealing, with the township of New Brentford, lay within the Metropolitan Police Area from 1829. (fn. 35) The Ealing cage adjoined the engine house near the church. (fn. 36) Premises in Uxbridge Road were to be leased for the police in 1836 and were replaced by a new station in 1875 at no. 5 High Street, itself superseded in 1965 by one at nos. 67-9 Uxbridge Road. (fn. 37) At Brentford the cage stood on the corner of Ferry Lane and High Street in 1839 (fn. 38) and there was a police station at no. 42 High Street by 1890. (fn. 39) A new station on the site of the vestry hall was opened in 1966. (fn. 40)

Lighting in Brentford High Street was to be provided in 1767. (fn. 41) Gas (fn. 42) was first supplied in 1821 by J. and E. Barlow, who built a works on the north side of the street, in Old Brentford, and were to light the turnpike road to Kensington. They were superseded later in 1821 by Felix Booth's new Brentford Gas Co., which was to serve Brentford, Chiswick, and neighbouring parishes to east and west. (fn. 43) Brentford itself was 'well lighted' in 1832 (fn. 44) but it was not until demand rose after 1840 that daytime supplies were available and that the company extended its area northward to Ealing, in 1846, and Acton, in 1850. The lighting provisions of the Lighting and Watching Act, 1833, were adopted in 1851 for Ealing village, from the boys' National school northward to the Feathers in Uxbridge Road, (fn. 45) and were extended in 1857 as far south as Gunnersbury Lane and Little Ealing. (fn. 46) Brentford gasworks, supplemented by another at Southall from 1869, (fn. 47) often drew adverse comment for polluting both the river and the air. (fn. 48) After taking over neighbouring concerns, Brentford Gas Co. was itself taken over in 1926 by the Gas Light and Coke Co., which on nationalization in 1949 was succeeded by the North Thames Gas Board. (fn. 49) Production ceased at the works, which had been gradually extended on both sides of High Street, in 1963. (fn. 50)

Applications by two companies in 1888 to supply electricity to Ealing were opposed by the local board, which itself obtained powers in 1891. (fn. 51) A works by Messrs. Bramwell & Harris was opened off South Ealing Road in 1894. Built to a new design, to use waste heat and effluent from the adjoining sewage farm, it was extended in 1897 (fn. 52) and 1923. (fn. 53) From 1950, after nationalization and the closure of the works, electricity was supplied by the Southern Electricity Board. (fn. 54) Under an Act of 1905 Brentford was served by the Brentford Electricity Supply Co. (fn. 55)

A burial board appointed for Ealing and Old Brentford in 1858 acquired 8 a. east of South Ealing Road (fn. 56) in 1860, which were laid out as a cemetery in 1861. Chapels for Anglicans and dissenters, forming a single building, had been built by 1873 and the area had been extended to 21 a. by 1890. (fn. 57)

A parish nurse was employed for Ealing in 1727-8 and a surgeon or apothecary from 1760. (fn. 58) Ealing Provident dispensary was opened in 1869 at Minton Lodge, Ealing Dean, and had a branch dispensary at Ealing Green between 1888 and 1906. Ealing cottage hospital opened at Minton Lodge in 1871 and was enlarged in 1873 and, to 16 beds, in 1886. It was rebuilt in 1893 with 19 beds and a dispensary and replaced in 1911 by the new King Edward Memorial hospital, Mattock Lane, itself enlarged from 40 to 70 beds by 1915. Extensions between 1927 and 1937 increased the beds to 145 and nearby houses raised the total to 160 by 1945. (fn. 59) King Edward's was included in the National Health Service from 1948, was managed by the North-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board in 1950, (fn. 60) and lay within the Ealing, Hammersmith, and Hounslow area of the North-West Thames Regional Health Authority in 1978, when it had 128 beds. (fn. 61) It was superseded by a new hospital in Hanwell in 1979. (fn. 62)

Ealing isolation hospital, South Ealing Road, opened in 1884 and was extended to provide 12 permanent beds and 12 in a temporary wing by 1902 and 55 beds by 1911. (fn. 63) In 1921, following the formation of the Ealing and Chiswick joint hospital committee, it became the isolation hospital for both Ealing and Chiswick, to which Brentford isolation hospital was also annexed; from c. 1937 it included the former Clayponds maternity hospital, (fn. 64) which had been established in 1904 as an isolation hospital for Chiswick in Clayponds Lane, close to Ealing's isolation hospital, and became the maternity hospital for both Ealing and Chiswick in 1921. After its replacement by Perivale maternity hospital the buildings were annexed to Chiswick and Ealing isolation hospital, (fn. 65) which in 1978, with 128 beds, formed a branch of King Edward Memorial hospital. (fn. 66)

In 1932 no. 10 Castlebar Hill was given by Sir John Smith Young to the Central London Throat hospital, later the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear hospital, and was named the Dame Gertrude Young Memorial convalescent home. It had 26 beds for post-operative patients in 1961, was used by the North-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board as a geriatric hospital in 1964, and became a hostel for patients awaiting operation in 1976-7. No. 8 Castlebar Hill, acquired in 1953, contained 10 parents and 7 deaf children in 1978. No. 6, acquired in 1960 for infants with hearing and speech defects, accommodated 12 children in 1978. (fn. 67)

The East India Co.'s asylum for insane employees was moved by the India Office in 1870 from Hackney to Elm Grove, Ealing, which was renamed the Royal India Asylum. The asylum was closed in 1892 and its 75 inmates were transferred elsewhere. (fn. 68)

The Sisters of Charity opened Kent House, Castlebar Hill, in 1920 as St. David's Home for disabled ex-servicemen, which was substantially extended between 1925 and 1929. (fn. 69)

At New Brentford a doctor's bill was paid by the overseers in 1714. (fn. 70) Attendance for accidents was considered too costly in 1822 and tenders for treating the poor were sought in 1835. (fn. 71) A dispensary was established in 1818 opposite St. Lawrence's church in High Street. A house at the entrance to the Butts was acquired in 1891 as a dispensary, cottage hospital, and nurses' home, and was so used until the opening of Brentford hospital in Boston Manor Road in 1928. Brentford hospital closed in 1977, when it was to be converted into an old people's home. (fn. 72)

Brentford isolation hospital, Pottery Road, Clayponds Lane, was opened between 1890 and 1908 and later annexed to Chiswick and Ealing isolation hospital. (fn. 73)

Ealing adopted the Public Libraries Act, 1855, and opened a library at Ashton Villa, the Green, in 1883. (fn. 74) The library moved in 1888 to premises near the town hall and in 1902 to Pitzhanger manor house, (fn. 75) which had been adapted as the central library and which was extended in 1940. West Ealing branch library opened in 1903 at Melbourne Avenue, Pitshanger library in 1948 in shops in Pitshanger Lane, Hanger Hill library in 1955 in a shop at no. 11 Abbey Parade, (fn. 76) moving in 1963 to Fernlea House, Hanger Lane, and Northfields library in 1960 in Northfield Avenue. Hanger Hill library closed in 1980. (fn. 77)

Brentford adopted the Public Libraries Act in 1889. (fn. 78) A library opened at Clifden House in 1890 and moved to its existing premises next door, opened by Andrew Carnegie, in 1904. (fn. 79)

Public baths for Ealing were built in Longfield Avenue in 1884 and had been enlarged by 1908, when there were also slipper baths in Williams Road. (fn. 80) There were swimming baths at both sites and at Murray Road in 1965. (fn. 81) Baths by the Brent, to replace those in Longfield Avenue, were being built in 1980. (fn. 82) Brentford public baths, Clifden Road, were opened in 1896 (fn. 83) and still used in 1965. (fn. 84)

Open spaces administered by Ealing M.B. in 1904 totalled c. 117 a. They consisted of Ealing common of 47 a., Haven Green of 7 a., Lammas park, bought by the local board in 1881, of 25 a., Walpole park, opened in 1901, of 30 a., and Drayton Green and Ealing Green commons, each of 4 a. In the north Pitshanger park of c. 26 a. and Hanger Hill park of 5 a. had been added by 1911, as had Dean gardens, 3 a. converted from allotments at West Ealing. (fn. 85) By 1960 Ealing M.B., after its absorption of Greenford and neighbouring parishes, contained more than 1,100 a. of open space, excluding the 186 a. of Gunnersbury park which Ealing controlled jointly with Acton and with Brentford and Chiswick. (fn. 86) At Brentford 38 a. around Boston House were bought by Brentford U.D.C. and opened in 1924 as Boston Manor park. (fn. 87)


  • 1. P.R.O., SC 2/189/15, m. 1d.
  • 2. M.R.O., Acc. 1028/89.
  • 3. Mdx. County Times, 4 Aug. 1888.
  • 4. Jackson, Ealing, 291.
  • 5. H. W. Dickinson, Water Supply of Gtr. Lond. (1954), 100.
  • 6. P. O. Dir. Six Home Counties (1845).
  • 7. Dickinson, Water Supply, 100.
  • 8. 24 & 25 Vic. c. 151.
  • 9. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 10. W. Lond. Sketcher, 1 Apr. 1889.
  • 11. Cuttings and photos. at Ealing libr.
  • 12. M.R.O., Acc. 538/1/46/1.
  • 13. Allison and Holt, Ealing in 18th and 19th Cent. 9; vestry min. bk. (1832-60), pp. 316, 319.
  • 14. C. Jones, 20 Years Devel. of a Lond. Suburb (1884), 4-8; Jones, Ealing, 181-2.
  • 15. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 16. e.g. Ealing U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1903).
  • 17. Jackson, Ealing, 291; Mdx. County Times, 4 Aug. 1883.
  • 18. C. Radcliffe, Mdx. (2nd edn. c. 1951), 148-9; Mdx. C.C. West Mdx. Main Drainage Scheme Inauguration (1936).
  • 19. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2, 3.
  • 20. Allison and Holt, Ealing in 18th and 19th Cent. 10, 30.
  • 21. Mason's Dir. Brentford (1853).
  • 22. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/5.
  • 23. Jones, Ealing, 126.
  • 24. Ibid. 127, 180; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 25. The Times, 24 Oct. 1933.
  • 26. New Brentford MS. 17516.
  • 27. Mason's Dir. Brentford (1853).
  • 28. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/5.
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908, 1926).
  • 30. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842), f. 34.
  • 31. New Brentford MSS. 17516-17.
  • 32. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2.
  • 33. Ibid. Acc. 538/1/46/1.
  • 34. Allison and Holt, Ealing in 18th and 19th Cent. 10.
  • 35. 10 Geo. IV, c. 44.
  • 36. M.R.O., TA/EAL.
  • 37. Inf. from P. C. Jephcote; Ealing As It Was, illus. 43.
  • 38. M.R.O., TA/EAL.
  • 39. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 40. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 9.
  • 41. 7 Geo. III, c. 75.
  • 42. Para. based on M.R.O., Acc. 880 and inf. from Mr. E. Kenward.
  • 43. 1 & 2 Geo. IV, c. 69 (Local and Personal).
  • 44. Pigot, Com. Dir. (1832-4).
  • 45. Allison and Holt, Ealing in 18th and 19th Cent. 35.
  • 46. Vestry min. bk. (1832-60), pp. 285, 314.
  • 47. V.C.H. Mdx. iv. 47.
  • 48. e.g. Thorne, Environs, 58.
  • 49. M.R.O., Acc. 638; Acc. 880/114-21.
  • 50. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 1, 24.
  • 51. Jackson, Ealing, 296-7; 54 & 55 Vic. c. 50 (Local).
  • 52. Jones, Ealing, 123-4; Jackson, Ealing, 296-7; Electrical Engineer, 28 Sept. 1894.
  • 53. The Times, 15 Apr. 1924.
  • 54. Ealing Boro. Official Guide (1950 and later edns.).
  • 55. 5 Edw. VII, c. 192 (Local).
  • 56. Allison and Holt, Ealing in 18th and 19th Cent. 38; Jackson, Ealing, 298; Ealing par. New Burial Ground: Letter from Vicar (1860); Guildhall MS. 12337.
  • 57. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890); O.S. Map 6", XV. SE. (1873 edn.).
  • 58. MS. agreement at Ealing libr.
  • 59. 67th Ann. Rep. of K. Edw. Hosp. (1937); C. M. Tippett, Short Hist. of K. Edw. Mem. Hosp., Ealing (1976).
  • 60. Ealing 1901-51, ed. Scouse, 79.
  • 61. Hospitals Year Bk. (1978).
  • 62. Inf. from Mr. P. Hounsell.
  • 63. Jones, Ealing, 54-5; Jones, Decade of Progress, 52.
  • 64. Brentford, Chiswick and Ealing hosp. cttee. Official Opening of Clayponds Isolation Hosp. (1937).
  • 65. Ibid.
  • 66. Hospitals Year Bk. (1978).
  • 67. Inf. from the hosp. sec.
  • 68. A. Faringdon, Rec. of E. India Coll., Haileybury (1976), 127-8.
  • 69. Inf. from the matron; L. Water, Story of St. David's (1977).
  • 70. New Brentford MS. 17609.
  • 71. Ibid. 17825.
  • 72. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 10.
  • 73. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908); above.
  • 74. Mdx. County Times, 4 Aug. 1883; Jackson, Ealing, 295. Para. based on 'Ealing L.B. Pub. Librs.' (TS. at Ealing libr.).
  • 75. Above, manors.
  • 76. Ealing libr. Selborne Soc. Libr. (1958).
  • 77. Inf. from Mr. P. Hounsell.
  • 78. Turner, Brentford, 154.
  • 79. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890); Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 13.
  • 80. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 81. P.O. Dir. Lond. (1965).
  • 82. Inf. from Mr. P. Hounsell.
  • 83. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 15.
  • 84. P.O. Dir. Lond. (1965).
  • 85. Ealing: Country Town Near Lond. 7-9; Jones, Decade of Progress, 41.
  • 86. Ealing Boro. Official Guide [c. 1960].
  • 87. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1926); Chiswick libr., grangerized copy of Turner, Brentford, facing p. 104.