|St Mary's Churchyard, Ealing||Ealing|
Ealing dates back to a Saxon settlement, and there was a church in the centre of the old village from at least 1130. The medieval church was rebuilt in 1735-40, after the old church collapsed having suffered damage in the Civil War. It was remodelled in the 1860s when a more significant church was needed to reflect the growing importance of the district, now that Ealing was a town. The church and its immediate churchyard are reached through a picturesque lych-gate, with the area at the front laid out as a garden with grave slabs and a number of chest tombs, and the area behind having numerous monuments. The graveyard is in two parts, separated by a footpath with a roughly triangular area with a few tombstones to the east.
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Ealing originated as a Saxon settlement, and was part of the Manor of Fulham owned by Bishop of London, mentioned in C12th as part of his estate. At that time Ealing parish extended from the River Brent in the north to the Thames, and took in Brentford. There was a church in the centre of the old village since at least 1130, the core of the present building dating from 1735-40 after the old church finally collapsed in 1729. The steeple and tower had been demolished in c.1719 and from 1725 a timber building was being used in its place due to the dangerous state of the church. The medieval building had been damaged by Cromwell's army in the Civil War of 1642, and in a parliamentary survey of 1650 the structure was described as 'ruinated and lying open since the plundering'. Plans for a new church were instigated by the vestry in 1731 and it opened on Trinity Sunday 1740, having required an Act of Parliament to enable the vestry to raise the necessary funds from the ratepayers, and the accounts for the re-building were only completed in 1789. A number of monuments from the old church came to the new building, including that of Richard Amandesham dated c.1490.
Among the ruins of the old church were its abandoned old bells, one of which was stolen and converted into a punchbowl, used 'at the revels which took place at the marriage of Frederick, Prince of Wales' (Jones).
By the C18th Ealing had become fashionable and there were country mansions in the vicinity, such as Pitshanger Park (later becoming Walpole Park q.v.) on Ealing Green and houses on Castle Bar Hill, although the area remained agricultural well into the mid C19th. The church had an important role in the community and up until 1863 the Vestry and then the first Ealing Local Board had met at Cross House north of the church. Ealing Workhouse, which the church oversaw, used to be opposite the western entrance of the church.
The C18th church was remodelled in the 1860s when it was felt that the parish needed a grander building to reflect the change in status of the district. Ealing was now a town rather than a village and had grown in importance largely as a result of the arrival of the railway. Haven Green Station had opened in 1838 and by the 1870s and '80s Ealing had earned the sobriquet 'The Queen of the Suburbs'. Rather than demolish the Georgian church, it was instead transformed by architect S S Teulon, who enlarged and lavishly decorated the existing building, which was consecrated by Bishop Tait on 30 May 1866. It was referred to by Ealing Borough Surveyor Charles Jones as the 'conversion of a Georgian monstrosity into a Constantinopolitan basilica'. Further works were carried out in subsequent years, including extension of the vestry on the north side in 1887, rebuilding the organ in 1927, extensive interior refurbishment in the 1950s, a lounge added to the south in 1959 was later extended as The Polygon in 1978, and most recently major restoration of both exterior and interior has taken place from 1988-2003.
Among famous people commemorated in the church are Prime Minster Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), his nephew and son-in-law Home Secretary Spencer Horatio Walpole (1806-1898), and radical politician John Horne Tooke (1736-1812).
The church and its immediate churchyard are reached through a picturesque lych-gate with patterned slates and decorative ridge tiles, with the area at the front laid out as a garden with grave slabs and a number of chest tombs, and the area behind having numerous monuments. The graveyard is in two parts, separated by a footpath with a roughly triangular wooded area with a few tombstones to the east. A project has been set up in 2010 to redevelop this area, with community consultation to determine priorities; options discussed included an educational resource, a place for quiet reflection, a Garden of Remembrance and a space to grow food.
Meg Game, John Archer, Mathew Frith, 'Nature Conservation in Ealing', Ecology Handbook 16 (London Ecology Unit), 1991; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed), p165; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p254; LB Ealing Conservation Area Appraisal (April 1999); Charles Jones, 'Ealing from Village to Corporate Life, or 40 Years of Municipal Life', nd, (c1903?); Peter Hounsell, 'Ealing and Hanwell Past' (Historical Publications, 1991); Peter Hounsell, 'The Ealing Book' (Historical Publications, 2005)