Ealing was largely agricultural until the mid-C19th with villages clustered along Uxbridge Road and from Norman times commoners had rights to graze cattle and fowl on Ealing Common. By the 1840s much of the other common land in the region had been enclosed. In 1878, as a result of the 1866 Metropolitan Commons Act, Ealing Local Board purchased c.47 acres of Ealing Common from the landowner, the Bishop of London. Horse chestnuts were planted on the boundaries and white metal posts and rails were installed in 1887, many of which remain. In 1904 the road across the Common was widened and a new footpath created; during WWII the common was dug up for allotments. The common was used for grazing and donkey rides into the C20th.
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Ealing was largely agricultural until the mid-C19th with villages clustered around churches along Uxbridge Road; from Norman times commoners had rights to graze cattle and fowl on Ealing Common. By the 1840s, when most of the common land in the region had been enclosed, Ealing Common remained as one of a few small remnants, although Ealing Dene Common in West Ealing was given for allotments, a small portion of which became Dean Gardens (q.v.) As a result of the 1866 Metropolitan Commons Act, in 1878 Ealing Local Board was able to purchase c.47 acres of Ealing Common from the landowner, the Bishop of London. It was later registered as an ancient common under the Commons Registration Act 1965.
The area around Ealing Common had been gradually built over from the C19th onwards, with some fine houses and eminent residents, including Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister who was assassinated, and Spencer Walpole, the cabinet minister, both of whom lived at Elm Grove. Only a few houses dating from 1820-1840 survive; most of the development around the common took place in the late C19th after the railways reached Ealing.
The design element of Ealing Common principally resides in the profuse perimeter planting of horse chestnuts most of which were planted by Ealing Local Board following their purchase of the Common, which includes a notable walk on the west side of Hanger Lane north of the junction with Uxbridge Road. In the north-west corner of the junction is a group of beech trees. Near Warwick Road 2 drinking fountains were erected by local subscription in 1878 by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association (trough now gone); whole cross-roads planted up. There are remnants of the 1887 white metal rail and posts on some areas of the boundary.
In 1908 400 yards of the road across the common was widened by 10 feet, providing work for the unemployed as well as public improvement; at the same time a footpath was formed along the south eastern side of the road. In 1935 an oak was planted towards the north-east corner of the common by the Mayor, Cllr E H Brooks JP, for the Silver Jubilee of King George V. During WWII much of the common was dug up for allotments. There has been minor encroachment to form parking spaces, and stretches of the original boundary rails have been lost. The roads are noticeably raised above the level of the open space. In the south corner of the Common a hay meadow has been created and during May and September a local farmer takes cuttings. The common was used for grazing and for donkey rides into the C20th.
Victoria County History; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); LB Ealing Conservation Area Appraisal (April 1999); Middlesex County Times 4/1/1908; The Parks Agency 'Commons, Heaths and Greens in Greater London. A short report for English Heritage', 2005; Peter Hounsell, 'The Ealing Book' (Historical Publications, 2005)