As many Readers may know, I was born and brought up in Ealing, London. I consider myself a Londoner. I left Ealing, to go to Swansea University, and never really returned, ending up in the Midlands. While my parents were alive, I returned to visit them on a regular basis. All that ended in 1990. I now have no family living in Ealing, nor any friends. I have never had a tea towel of Ealing, no matter how hard I tried.
In 2017, I stayed in my caravan at the Crystal Palace site. I did lots of touristy things, saw all the changes that have taken place in London. I loved it. One day, I suggested to Liz that we visit Ealing. I could show her where I lived, the schools I went to…… and maybe we could find a tea towel. We did it all, except for finding a tea towel. Couldn’t believe it so instead I created a tea towel from some photos I had (see picture below).
In 2018, we decided to ‘down-size’ and move to Nottingham. This meant getting rid of, or maybe relocating is a better word, a lot of stuff. There were two significant boxes of things: one was the big box of cups and medals that my Dad won, for a variety of different sports (bowls, darts, cricket, snooker, cribbage, football and even tennis). What do you do with such things? On the off chance, I asked Brentham Club (where he was a member) whether they would want them. Nobody would remember him, since he had died 35 years previously. In fact, they were delighted to accept them and, yes, they did remember him. The second box was scrap books and memorabilia from my mother’s time as Mayoress, and then as a Councillor for 20 years. If Brentham Club were going to accept Dad’s cups, why not try the Council for Mum’s stuff‽ And yes, they too remembered her and, yes, they wanted the stuff. So in 2018, I went down to Ealing with a car-load of what other people might call ‘junk’. I was welcomed like royalty. There was a formal ceremony of ‘handing-over’ of mum’s memorabilia. This was a very emotional day. Unbeknown to me, Liz googled ‘Tea Towels of Ealing’ and up came Charlotte Berridge’s name and the address of where this might be bought. I had bought my first tea towel of Ealing!! I was so excited. Obviously, I have already Blogged about it (04/05/2018).
I am a great fan of Charlotte’s work; she does prints and tea towels and mugs of areas in West London. On 26 June 2020, at 1.46pm, I received a message from Charlotte “Hi Barbara, I’ve got a present for you! Yes it is a tea towel (but not of Walpole Park)….I’ll pop it in the post before revealing it on my Instagram next week!” My response was very eloquent “Wow”.
While I have suggested many times that Walpole Park would make an excellent subject for a tea towel, actually ‘Queen of the Suburbs’ is a wonderful subject. You can’t imagine the excitement, the day before yesterday, opening the package that just had to contain a tea towel. In recognition of this wonderful present, the wind didn’t blow when I was trying to take the photograph. Oh joy!! This is a very different design from her previous Ealing one. Now I have two.
I have always known Ealing as ‘Queen of the Suburbs’. I remember my mother telling me it was because it was the greenest suburb of London, with the most trees and parks. I have no idea if she knew this, as a fact, but what she didn’t know was that Ealing, is as it is, thanks to a man called Charles Jones, not a famous man, but Ealing’s first Borough architect and surveyor, who worked for the Borough between 1863 and his retirement in 1913. He was responsible for the design of Ealing’s first Town Hall (which subsequently became the NatWest bank) and the second one, on this tea towel. I’ve always thought it was a magnificent building from the outside, imposing and stately but not old and crabby. It stands on Uxbridge Road, a bit further up from the repurposed first Town Hall, both of which are Grade II Listed. It was built in 1888 in Gothic Revival style. The reception for my wedding in 1976 was in the Queeen’s Hall at the top of the stairs. My first interview for a job in social care, in 1969, was in the office of the Head of Social Services, in the Town Hall. I have watched my mother from the balcony above the Council Chamber take up the Leadership of the Council, way back when. The Town Hall sits on the corner of Longfield Road. It was on Longfield Road that G. Ward Ltd was based, the building firm owned by my grandfather and where my mother worked. Further along on Uxbridge Road, called New Broadway, towards the centre, on the left hand side was my grandmother’s School Outfitters Shop, charging exorbitant prices for school clothing.
Charles Jones did more than build the Town Halls; he acquired the land for Walpole Park and created a magnificent leisure park. He also set aside the land for Ealing Common, planting horse chestnut trees, along the side and across the centre. Ealing Common is ‘common land’. In a book, that Charles Jones wrote in 1902, he described Ealing as ‘Queen of the Suburbs’, the best of all worlds, being near to London with excellent rail links and close to the countryside. ‘A country town near London with houses of all sizes, prices to fit all pockets, good schools, sports clubs and facilities and no nuisances’ (asylums, prisons and Magistrate Courts).
Having acquired Walpole Gardens for Ealing (later to become Walpole Park), this tea towel shows Pitzhanger Manor. Pitzhnager Manor is in Walpole Park and has been recently refurbished as a art gallery and venue. All that time that I used to spend in Walpole Park and I never took any notice at all of Pitzhanger Manor, mainly because it wasn’t a place open to the public. I would love to go back and see it now. Walpole Park is dear to my heart because it is the place where the Mayoral Walk is, a line of oak trees planted by each Mayor with a plaque noting their year of service. My Grandfather’s Tree (planted by the Mayoress, my mother. I always ask myself why should the woman plant the tree for the man’s name to be on it‽) The tree still has it’s label of 1958/59. I found it once again in 2017 (see tea towel at the bottom of the page created by me, the second photo is of me under the tree in 2018 holding my first Ealing tea towel). I have no idea when this tradition stopped. When I met Town Council officials in 2018, I asked them about the Mayoral Walk. They knew nothing of it; they had no record of where each tree was, had no means of replacing some of the labels which had been destroyed and no idea when the this process stopped. Such a shame.
The third building on the tea towel is the Ealing Studios; this is where the famous Ealing Comedies were filmed. The Lavender Hill Mob, the Ladykillers, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Whisky Galore! (one of my favourite films) and many more. The White Lodge was bought in 1902 as a base for film making and is the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world. I’ve never been inside but between 1970 and 1973 I worked as a staff member in a local pub; I think it was called the Queen Victoria (but maybe not). They were filming ‘Colditz’ there and David McCallum used to come in for a drink at lunchtime, in costume, together with actors dressed in full Nazi Officer uniform. A bit creepy!
No matter how long I have lived in the Midlands, I will always regard Ealing as my roots. I feel privileged to have been born in a small flat on Hanger Lane, Hanger Lane being the road that leads from MI to the centre of London, probably the busiest road in London. It was noisy then, it’s certainly noisy today. Even in my childhood, before the MI was built, it was virtually impossible to cross the road because of the traffic. But one of my great memories, when I was 4 years old, was my Dad crossing Hanger Lane, getting to the island in the middle of the road and waving to me. I waved back. He waved more frantically. I waved back energetically. It was then my mother joined me at the window and realised my Dad was in BIG trouble. He had displaced his knee-cap and couldn’t move. She called the ambulance. To this day, I can still laugh at his 4 year old daughter waving enthusiastically, while he was in agony. Sorry Dad.
So I want to thank Charles Jones for creating an Ealing I was privileged to grow up in and to Charlotte Berridge for designing a wonderful tea towel and for giving it to me.