Northfields, Ealing

The south-western corner of Ealing, with a history of fruit-growing and tightrope-walking – and street names that reflect this

Ealing Christian Centre, Northfields

From the 14th cen­tu­ry this area was part of the manor of Cold­hall, or West Eal­ing. Great and Lit­tle North­fields were two large fields in the late Mid­dle Ages, lying in the extreme west of Eal­ing parish.

By the mid-17th cen­tu­ry North­field Lane (lat­er Avenue) linked Lit­tle Eal­ing with the road to Uxbridge. The manor house of Cold­hall prob­a­bly stood near the south­ern end of the lane at that time. The Plough inn was in exis­tence by 1722 but has since been rebuilt more than once.

An orchard had been plant­ed in Lit­tle North­field by 1738 and in the 19th cen­tu­ry the Steel fam­i­ly of mar­ket gar­den­ers grew apples across the entire area on an almost indus­tri­al scale. In the 1870s the fam­i­ly built a fruit-pack­ing ware­house, which sur­vived until recent­ly at the cor­ner of Northcroft Road and North­field Road.

The great French acro­bat and tightrope walk­er Charles Blondin lived in North­fields from 1886 until his death in 1897 in a vil­la he called Nia­gara House, a name that com­mem­o­rat­ed his numer­ous cross­ings of Nia­gara Falls on a tightrope, once stop­ping mid­way to cook an omelette and once car­ry­ing his man­ag­er on his back. Nia­gara House stood oppo­site the Plough, prob­a­bly on the site of Cold­hall manor house.

Hidden London: Blondin Park Nature Area, the pond
Blondin Park nature area

With the com­ing of elec­tric trams to Uxbridge Road in 1901, the Steels turned prop­er­ty devel­op­ers and began to grub up the fruit trees and lay out streets, ini­tial­ly between Uxbridge Road and Leighton Road. Julien Road, Welling­ton Road and Bram­ley Road, south of North­fields sta­tion, are named after cook­ing apples that the fam­i­ly cul­ti­vat­ed.

North­field halt opened after the Dis­trict Rail­way was elec­tri­fied in 1908 and was rebuilt as North­fields and Lit­tle Eal­ing sta­tion in 1911. When Pic­cadil­ly line ser­vices began the sta­tion was rebuilt again and giv­en its present name, while a main­te­nance depot opened to the west.

Nia­gara House was demol­ished in the ear­ly 1930s and part of its grounds became North­fields recre­ation ground, now renamed Blondin Park. The adja­cent Blondin nature area has a com­mu­ni­ty orchard, wild­flower mead­ow and pond – but no water­fall.

The Avenue cin­e­ma was built in 1932 on North­field Avenue and nick­named the ‘Span­ish City’ for its Moor­ish inte­ri­or. Lat­er an Odeon and then a Coro­net, the cin­e­ma was res­cued from dis­use by its con­ver­sion to a night­club in 1981. It has since become the Eal­ing Chris­t­ian Cen­tre, which is shown in the pho­to at the top of this arti­cle.*

The North­field ward is the most pros­per­ous in the bor­ough, with high lev­els of employ­ment, edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment and home own­er­ship. At the 2011 cen­sus, just over half the ward’s res­i­dents were of white British her­itage, a pro­por­tion close­ly reflect­ed at Field­ing pri­ma­ry school on Wyn­d­ham Road.

Postal districts: W5 and W13
Population: 13,517 (Northfield ward, 2011 census)
Station: Piccadilly line (zone 3)
Further reading: Richard Essen, Ealing and Northfields, Sutton, 1996
* The picture of Ealing Christian Centre, Northfields, on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Howard, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.