Great Ealing School

100 years ago…

In 1908 the local newspaper was reporting the closure of ‘the Owls’ school in St Mary’s Road [opposite what is now TVU]. Better known as Great Ealing School, it had had a long and distinguished history: under the headmasterships of Dr George Nicholas and his two sons, the school produced such Victorian luminaries as Cardinal Newman, Thomas Huxley and W S Gilbert.

Great Ealing School

In its heyday the school was said to rival Harrow, but any sentiment for the past was ignored in the 1908 newspaper editorial, which had a surprisingly contemporary ring to it:

"We hope the county and local education authority will give careful and immediate attention to the question of acquiring it. There is a large house which might be used for administrative offices and classrooms and there are between 5 and 6 acres of land – enough to provide for the needs of Ealing in secondary and technical education for many years to come. As a matter of fact we believe it would pay the local authorities to acquire the estate. This sounds startling, but consider this, the alternative to public ownership is building development. Small property would be developed – there is no demand for any other – there is room for 120 single or 200 double tenements."

What actually happened also has a familiar ring. The envisaged new secondary school was actually built next to Pitzhanger Manor, on the site of a property called the Red House (formerly the home of Spencer Walpole) which was demolished. The new school opened in 1913 as Ealing County School for Boys and is now Ealing & West London College.

The Owls property was sold (for £8,000) and was also demolished. Almost inevitably, it was developed for housing, albeit that only some sixty houses were built in what is today’s Cairn Avenue and Nicholas Gardens, a reminder of the old school’s family succession of headmasters. The name is the only surviving memory of a very different Ealing from 100 years ago, but one where concerns as to land use were seemingly very much the same as today’s.