Ealing – Gunnersbury Park Walk – 11.08.2012

Our walk was to take us through roads and parks of Ealing, it had a few surprises in store. The town of “Ealing” has had many spellings over the years such as ‘Yealing’, ‘Zelling’ and ‘Eling’. “Ealing” became the standard spelling of the are during the C19th, although I think I rather like “Zelling” myself :-). The area derives its name from “Gillingas”, meaning the people of Gilla, who may have been an Anglo-Saxon settler.

We started out in Ealing Broadway and walked past the Ealing Shopping centres. The Arcadia Shopping Centre is blessed with a great clock with some beautiful bells to ring in each hour. Directly opposite the shopping arcade, is the grand parish Church “Christ The Saviour”. When this Church was built in 1852 and consecrated by the Bishop of London it was originally known as “Christ Church”. Sir Gilbert Scott, who was known for much grander buildings such as Westminister Abbey, was the Architect of this lovely Church. “Christ the Saviour” Church was a nearby and very active, but was sadly destroyed by incendiary bombs during the Second World War. Despite a temporary church being set up afterwards a decision was made for the church not to be rebuilt and for the church to be joined with Christ Church, and from 1951 onwards “Christ Church” was known as “Christ the Saviour”

We turned away from this beautiful Gothic church to continue our journey to explore Ealing. It took us away from the Broadway and along the High Street and past yet more shops. It was not long before we came across a small green, which was rather pleasant. I was rather taken with a signpost, which pointed all the way to “Marq En Baroeul” which would was only 180 miles (~290km) away! Why was there a signpost to this French Town? This is because these two towns have been twinned officially since 1991, or unofficially since 1978. It seems the two towns have been actively been involved in educational and social visits amongst other things.

From 11.08.2012 – Ealing – Gunnersbury Park Walk

As I turned away from the signpost, was an impressive Manor House. Something that I was not expecting in such the Urban area of Ealing! “Pitzhanger Manor House” in it’s current guise was built in the early 1800’s by the Architect Sir John Soane, when he bought the property and decided to rebuild and redesign it. Sir John Soane was an Architect and Surveyor to the Bank of England and other Public Buildings in during this time, so it was his chance to redesign a home of his own for his family. The buildings was completed by 1804 and the Soanes lived in there until 1810. The entire estate was eventually sold to Ealing Borough Council in 1901 when the home became a library and the gardens were transformed into parkland. This beautiful manor house has been used as a film and tv location for “The Importance of being Earnest” and “Kavanagh QC”.

Unfortunately, we were unable to explore “Walpole Park” which surrounds the house as the parkland seemed to be undergoing some kind of maintenance, so we decided to carry on. Leaving Pitzhanger Manor, we walked along the high street to find “Ealing Studios”. The famous “Ealing Studios” is the oldest continuously working studios in the world. It most memorable and talked about films are no doubt the “Ealing Comedies” of the 1950’s. Ealing Comedies included “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, “Lavender Hill Mob” and “Passport to Pimilco” – the list could go on! The studios were changed hands in 1955 and were bought out by the BBC, only to have TV programmes such as Monty Python filmed there. Fortunes changed once again for the studios and by 2000 after being in the hands of the National TV and Film School, the studios was once again ready to make films. Recent films include Star Wars – Episode 2, St Trinians and Notting Hill. Despite all these great films that have been made here, in my mind the studio entrance seems very tiny and without really seeing the backlot cannot see how big the studios really are!

From 11.08.2012 – Ealing – Gunnersbury Park Walk

Our walk then took us onto Ealing Common. Ealing Common is approximately 47 acres and is surrounded by beautiful horse chestnut trees and has been designated common land since 1866. Apparently there is an Annual Fair, but obviously this was the wrong time of year for us to visit as this is at the beginning of May! Despite that it seems to be quite a popular park, I am sure we spotted some people playing there own version of the Olympics (allbeit a scaled down version of it 🙂 ). Our walk continued across the common and on down Gunnersbury Avenue. For a very long road, I will admit I did begin to wonder where the name “Gunnersbury” originated from. I have would have presumed some kind of Armory would have been located here? The name it actually derives from Gunylda, the niece of King Canute who lived there until her banishment from England in 1044!

We finally reached Popes Lane, where we turned off to go to “Gunnersbury Park”. Just opposite the park, I noticed a “Barons Pond”. I am a little unsure of the history behind the name of the pond, but I am presuming that it has something to do with Baron Lionel de Rothschild who owned the land in the C19th and early C20th. As we entered the park, we found another Manor House, which I was not really expecting at all. A Mansion has been here since Mid C16th when Gunnersbury was acquired by Sir John Maynard a politician during the time of Cromwell. When Daniel Defoe visited the area in 1742 and wrote

“…(The Mansion) stands on an eminence, the ground falling gradually from it to the Brentford Road; from the Portico you have an exceeding fine prospect of the County of Surrey, the river Thames ¦and a good prospect of London in clear weather

Princess Amelia, favourite daughter of George II, purchased the estate in 1760 and continued to develop the formal gardens. After Amelia’s death the mansion had a number of owners until 1835 when the Rothschild family purchased part of the area, by 1889 they had reunited the entire Gunnersbury estate and Baron de Rothschild continued to extend the land and enhance the gardens. However, the whole estate was sold to the Ealing and Acton councils in the early C20th and the gardens are now used for recreational facilities. The Mansion is now a museum and is well worth a visit, I particularly enjoyed the carriages and the museum even had an original tube map of how to negotiate the 1948 Olympics!

After our short stop in the museum, we ate our lunch in the park, which was still reminiscent of a C18th landscape. The boating lake had a small temple which had been built at the end of the lake. It reminded me very much of Canons Park which has a similar architecture. It is not certain as to who actually built and designed the temple, as Historians do not seem to agree. Works on the land had been done by one owner the MP Henry Furnesse, during 1743 onwards and then Princess Amelia from 1761. Either way there legacy has been some beautiful gardens and a great boating lake! Once we had rested and just relaxed for a while, we decided to explore the park a bit more. As we passed by the Pitch and Putt, the path led us out in a large open space, which was rather nice to discover! We walked on by a small cricket match and further on down the park, where the path became overcome by trees. As we followed the path around we discovered an amazing Gothic tower.

Silhouetted against the sunlight the tower felt very domineering and despite the sunshine I almost expected some Vampire bats to emerge! This lovely tower was originally an Old Tile Kiln which used to be next to an Old Clay Pit. Baron De Rothschild when he was extending his land, bought the clay pit from the Bishop of London and converted the pit into a Boating Lake and the adjoining Kiln into this magnificent Tower. The Tower and Pond were named “Potomac”, the theory which lays behind this name, is that they were named after a river in America. This was due to the works taking place during the American Civil War when a Ceasefire took place and a popular saying “All quiet on the Potomac” became a popular saying in England.

It was at this lovely lake that we finished our walk through the park and back up to Acton Town. For all the days walk, please feel free to browse through the photos, by clicking on the photo below

11.08.2012 – Ealing – Gunnersbury Park Walk

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One response to “Ealing – Gunnersbury Park Walk – 11.08.2012

  1. Pingback: Bleadon – Weston Super Mare Walk – 08.09.2012 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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