W13 is West Ealing. This is a fairly small postcode which nestles between Ealing and Hanwell and many people seem unaware West Ealing has a separate postcode from Ealing.
Although you might not guess it now, West Ealing was once an important shopping centre, with a full range of shops including large branches of Woolworth’s and Marks and Spencer’s plus a couple of independent department stores. But you can see why it has not survived as the go-to shopping centre of west London. It was all strung out along a main road with no dedicated car parking or a pedestrian precinct. Plus it was just down the road from Ealing itself, which in its heyday also had two department stores.
We start our walk at the Post Office sorting office on Manor Road at the corner of Drayton Road – just north of West Ealing station. From here, go up Manor Road to the main road (Argyle Road) and turn right crossing the road at the zebra crossing. Take the first left into The Avenue and almost immediately ahead across is our first stop.
Stop 1: The Drayton Court Hotel
This was built as a hotel in around 1898 and carried on as a hotel until the 1940s when it became a full time pub and off licence. Since 2011 it has returned to be a hotel or rather (as it calls itself) “A great pub with superb rooms”. It is said to have one of the largest pub gardens in London.
The hotel’s website also has this fascinating little paragraph:
“The Drayton Court Hotel is one of the oldest pubs in Ealing, and probably the only establishment in London to have one of their cleaners go on to become a world leader. The Former Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, toiled in the kitchens of the Drayton Court Hotel in 1914, before going on to change his country’s history, driving out forces from Japan, France and the United States.”
Bit of an odd way of putting it, wouldn’t you say? Ho Chi Minh is credited as the founder of the modern day Vietnam and the city formerly known as Saigon has been called Ho Chi Minh City since 1976.
Ho Chi Minh does have a blue plaque in London but it is not here. It is at the 1960s New Zealand House at the bottom of Haymarket. It is there because he worked at a hotel called the Carlton which used to be on that site. I guess the West End trumps West Ealing when it comes to blue plaque locations. Shame because West Ealing is a bit short on celebs and as far as I can discover there is not a single blue plaque or indeed any similar type plaque in the whole of W13!
Return to the main road and here on the bridge is our next stop
Stop 2: West Ealing station
Although the section of the Great Western Railway passing here opened in 1838, the first station dates only from 1871. Initially it was called Castle Hill Station. In 1878 it was renamed Castle Hill and Ealing Dean Station, only finally becoming West Ealing in 1899.
Today it is rather a sad affair. Maybe there was a decent station here once but now all you have is this little brick box with an occasionally open ticket office.
Behind looms a modern block with a new quite large Waitrose below, accessed from the side street on the south side of the station. The block contains flats and has the delightful name of “Luminosity Court”. Sounds like something out of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Sadly the building does not live up to its name.
When you go in the station, there are covered stairs down to the platforms, but the platforms themselves have no canopies – just a couple of small bus shelter type structures. The two platforms are eccentrically numbered 3 and 4. There were once platform numbers 1 and 2 on the fast lines and you can just make out the ghost of platform 2 on the other side of the fence of platform 3.
It has two services which each run every half hour thus providing a 15 minute service to Paddington. One of these is the stopping service to Heathrow (Heathrow Connect) provided by electric trains at least four coaches long. The other is the local service to Greenford, which is operated with two coach diesel trains. I did actually venture on this line to discover that the local stations towards Greenford can only handle two car trains, which is a bit of a surprise on a service so close in the central London.
Things will change when Crossrail arrives. I believe that the through service between Paddington and Greenford will cease and there will be a shuttle service between West Ealing and Greenford. But there will be more trains on the main line which will go right into central London, so West Ealing should get a better service.
Amazingly this station has no sunday service, but no doubt that will also change when Crossrail comes along.
Keep walking down the main road, which has become Drayton Green Road. Our next stop is ahead on the corner of Alexandria Road.
Stop 3: Sanders Depository
This must have belonged to the J Sanders department store – the one we saw in Ealing (which was featured in a Dr Who episode and whose former building is now Marks and Spencer’s)
Many of the big department stores had depositories. Harrods famously had one by the river in Barnes. I kind of assumed these were the predecessors of those big yellow storage facilities. But perhaps not. It seems these were in effect warehouses for the shop and used also to house furniture too large to display in the store.
Keep walking along Drayton Green Road and turn left at the main cross roads. Our next stop is soon on the left
Stop 4: Numbers 140 -144 Uxbridge Road (former Abernethie & Son store)
Abernethie & Son Ltd was what I seen described as “a drapery department store” but I have also seen it referred to as a men’s clothing store.
In 1944 the store was destroyed by a bomb and so I guess what we see today is a 1950s rebuild. The company celebrated 75 years of business from 1879-1954 with a commemorative catalogue.
The shop finally closed in the early 1980s. Half the ground floor is now a Tesco Metro.
Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.
Stop 4: Numbers 96-122 Uxbridge Road (site of Daniel’s store)
Today you will see there is a shop called Daniel at 132 – 138 Uxbridge Road. It is a furniture and household goods store, but actually Daniel used to be a department store just a little further along the street at Numbers 96 – 122.
There is a curious tale – as explained on this link.
This says that Walter James Daniel first rented 96 Uxbridge Road West Ealing to sell drapery and fashions in 1901. It was still in the Daniels family in the new millennium and in September 2003 they obtained planning permission to demolish the old Department Store and replace it with a new one. As part of the permission they were also allowed to build 137 flats in a tower block immediately. The 137 flats were built in 2006/7 with the ground and first floor left for the ‘Department Store’. But this was boarded up in 2007.
Today there is a gym on what would have been the upper floor and part of the ground floor is a mini Morrison’s. Ealing Today says “Rumours trickled out in 2007 that the Daniels family never had any intentions of building, occupying or running a new Department Store on the site. “
Daniel also has a store in Chiswick and claims to have the largest department store in Windsor, not that there is much competition for that title. So no doubt they had a pretty good idea West Ealing would not a great location for a new department store.
Now return back to the cross roads and keep walking (the road is now called “the Broadway”, until you reach the corner of Green Man Lane, where you will see a 97p Store (how low rent is that).
Stop 6: Site of F H Rowse store
This corner was the location of F. H. Rowse department store which originally opened in 1913.
It was used as a backdrop in the 1960 film Carry On Constable (some fascinating now and then pictures of here and other bits of West Ealing on this link: http://www.thewhippitinn.com/carry_on_film_locations/carry_on_constable/
This link suggests the old store was demolished in the 1970s. However the store survived until January 1983, so maybe they were responsible for this ugly building.
Keep walking along Uxbridge Road.
Stop 7a: site of Marks & Spencer store
Just a little further along on the right is a new built – part of which is occupied by Wilkinson’s. This was apparently the site of the Marks and Spencer store here in West Ealing. I guess it was inevitable that M & S would pull out of here given the decline in the street as a shopping area and the fact they had a sizable store just down the road in Ealing proper.
Stop 7b: site of Woolworth’s store
And just next door is a handsome deco-ish building which was the old Woodworth’s store. It dates from 1926 and here is a fascinating article about the shop:
Strangely you then come to a BHS store here – really this seems an odd survivor given all its rivals seem to have left.
Now return back to the junction of Northfields Avenue. As you do, watch out for the 99p bakery on the right hand side of the road. First time I have seen this concept!
Back at the cross roads, turn right down Northfields Avenue
Stop 8: Former Lido cinema
Just along Northfields Avenue from the corner of Uxbridge Road is a modern block of flats and offices called Lido House. This is the site of a cinema.
The first cinema building dated from 1913 and was called the West Ealing Kinema. This was rebuilt as the Lido Cinema in 1928 . It retained the Lido name until it was taken over by the Star Cinemas group in the 1970s. The stalls were converted into a bingo club, and two small cinemas known as Studio 1 and Studio 2 were fitted into the circle area. It was taken over by the Cannon Group in the 1980s and became known as the Cannon.
The bingo hall eventually closed, and the space was converted into a snooker hall. The cinema became known as the ABC but closed in March 1997. It then became a ‘Bollywood’ cinema first known as the Belle Vue and then as the Gosai Cinema. It finally closed as a cinema in the spring of 2001. The building sat empty for a while and was demolished in September 2004 and replaced by what we see today.
Now go down the side street here on the left. By St John’s Church take the road which veers off ahead to the right. This is Churchfield Road. Almost immediately on the right is Somerset Road. Go down here.
Stop 9: Number 16 Somerset Road
In 1890, the tall thin house at Number 16 was the birthplace of the writer Nevil Shute. He is perhaps best remembered as a novelist but he was also a successful aeronautical engineer. His full name was Nevil Shute Norway and he used this in his engineering career. “Nevil Shute” was his pen name, apparently to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. A number of his novels have been turned in to films, notably “A Town called Alice” and “On the Beach”
Continue to the end and then turn right into Rathgar Avenue. This is a handsome street, probably dating from just before the First War.
The houses are quite close to the street so apart from in a couple of places it has not been possible to pave over their front gardens, so the street scene has not been transformed with forecourt parking. Whereas the road you get to at the end (Loveday Road), the houses are set further back and so lots have lost their front gardens.
Take a left into Loveday Road and then at the end a right into Dudley Gardens. At the end go right again (into Northfields Avenue), crossing over at the zebra crossing. With an estate agents on one corner and a wine shop on the other take a left into Northfield Road. Our next stop is at the end on the right.
Stop 10 Former Fruit Warehouse (Charles Steel and Company)
In the 19th Century much of the land to east of Northfields was market gardens and orchards. The building at the corner with Northcroft Road is a little reminder of this as it was a Fruit Packing Warehouse, built by a company called Charles Steel. Now it has been turned into apartments.
Return to Northfields Avenue and turn right. Our next stop is just a little further down on the right.
Stop 11: Parkers Bakery, Number 64 Northfields Avenue
This shop opened in the 1950s and is the last surviving shop of a small chain of family bakers which was first established in 1913.
Their first shop was in 276 Uxbridge Road and they expanded over time with another 4 shops. The others were closed in 1989.
This has a villagey feel to it. There are some other interesting looking shops along this stretch of road including a butchers, a fish shop, a deli and a Polish shop, somewhat classier than they usually look. (NB these pictures are not in the order you see them on the ground and the fish shop is actually after our next stop)
So whilst W13 has lost its “big” shops, there still seems to be a range of more interesting independents along here.
Stop 12: Lammas Park
Now just a little further on from Parkers Bakery on the left is an entrance to a park, with the unusual name of Lammas Park.
This nice looking green space was originally laid out in the 1880s for the benefit of the local population. The name derives from “Loafmas Day” which was a harvest festival celebrated on 1 August. This marked the start of when the locals could graze their animals on the common land known as Lammas lands. This grazing period ran until Candlemas which was 2 February. Not too sure what they did with their animals from March to July.
Keep walking along Northfields Avenue and soon you reach Northfields station which is right on the border with W5.
Northfields station is another of the Charles Holden stations which were built when the Piccadilly line was extended west. The line here was opened by the District railway in 1883 but there was no station here until a little halt was opened in 1908. This was rebuilt in 1932 at the same time as the Piccadilly line depot was built here. District line services continued to run here until 1964 since when it has only been served by the Piccadilly line.
So we are now right at the edge of W13 here, and before we leave this area, I have to mention an old cinema which is just a little further on in Northfields Avenue, even though it is in W5.
This was built in 1932 as the Avenue Cinema, although it was taken over and became an Odeon in 1936. It traded as an Odeon for most of its cinema life, but in its last few years from 1981 to 1985 it was known as the Coronet. It was converted to a night club which lasted from 1988 to 1994 and then it was taken over by the Elim Pentecostal Church
This is a most unusual cinema for the UK. It was an atmospheric cinema with a Spanish theme. It had little villas along the side walls and draped fabric overhead to mimic a tented “ceiling” to provide shade from the “sun”, rather than the more usual painted sky with lights for twinkling stars. The fabric has been replaced but it appears to be still fairly intact as a building.
That brings us to the end of W13. A place that in many ways has seen better days, in particular in terms of the shopping centre. Yet there are still some good little local independent shops along Northfields Avenue, so it is not all doom and gloom. We are now at Northfields station for onward travel.