By Paul Fitzmaurice, 22 January 2011
Mention the name Perceval to anyone in the context of Ealing and the responses are varied: the Council offices on the Uxbridge Road? an assassination lost in time? All Saints’ Church on Ealing Common? Pitzhanger Manor?
All of these answers are partly correct, and 2009 is now perhaps an opportune time to consider the relevance of Spencer Perceval, the only British prime minister to have lived in Ealing.
Spencer Perceval was Prime Minister from 1809 until his death in 1812 at the age of 49. He has the unenviable record of being the only British prime minister to have been assassinated: he was fatally shot in the House of Commons on 11th May 1812, by a John Bellingham who held a grudge against the government for a failed business venture in Russia. The fact that Bellingham was probably insane, and also mistook Perceval for another government minister, counted for little in his defence – he was tried and hanged within seven days of the shooting.
In 1808, Perceval and his family (he had 12 children) had moved to a large mansion called Elm Grove, on the south side of Ealing Common, and it was from here that he made his final, fateful trip to the House of Commons. After his death, the Government provided a very substantial pension and lump sum for the benefit of his family, and they continued to live at Elm Grove. His widow, Jane, later married Colonel Henry Carr, the son of the vicar of Ealing.
Upon Jane Carr’s death, her four unmarried daughters moved to Pitzhanger Manor to live next door to their sister Isabella who had married Spencer Walpole. All the sisters lived on until well into their eighties. They were known as ‘the ladies of the manor house’ and were treated almost like royalty in Ealing.
The last Perceval daughter, Frederica, died in 1900 at the age of 95, and her will made provision for a church to be erected in memory of her father. The Rothschild family of Gunnersbury donated the land on which Elm Grove had been standing, and in 1905 All Saints’ Church (sometimes known as the Spencer Perceval Memorial Church) was built on the site - Perceval had been born on 1st November, All Saints Day, 1762.
Although Perceval’s tenure as Prime Minister was unexpectedly short, he and his family had a significant influence on 19th century Ealing. Their memory lives on in the name of the Council’s main office block, and also in the church itself which is well worth a visit and contains various memorials and artefacts to Perceval.
In October 2009 Liz Perceval, the great great great great grand-daughter of Spencer Perceval, unveiled a commemorative plaque at All Saints Church, the Spencer Perceval Memorial Church and the site of Elm Grove, Perceval's home.