Early History

There has been a church building on this site for nearly a thousand years; excavations during the 19th century unearthed solid blocks of stone and ornamental work suggesting that a Norman building stood here. No pictures of that original structure survive.

This was the only church in a large parish that stretched from the Thames at Brentford, north towards Wembley, west beyond Southall, and east to Acton and Bedford Park. Richard Smart, who was the vicar of St Mary’s at the end of the 16th century, compiled a census which recorded a total of 427 inhabitants in this whole area. Through the parish passed the only two roads from London to the West. They were the trade routes, and it was not uncommon for travellers to stop for refreshment at the parsonage and rest their horses.

During the Civil War of 1642, the building suffered so badly at the hands of Cromwell’s troops that in 1650 a parliamentary survey described St Mary’s as ‘ruinated and lying open since the plundering’. Soon afterwards came the Plague, with great loss of life. After years of neglect and deterioration, the medieval church was pulled down in the late 1720s and a plain and simple Georgian building erected, complete with a new peal of bells. It is that new building, opened on Trinity Sunday in 1740, which forms the core of what still stands here today.

However Ealing’s population grew rapidly with the arrival of the railway in 1838. The village became a respectable town. St Mary’s still had an important role in the community, which included overseeing the workhouse, providing schools, maintaining law and order, improving roads and street lighting, distributing alms, and collecting taxes. Brentford became separated from Ealing, and parishes became smaller.

By 1860, Ealing’s community believed the time had come to create a much more imposing church. The congregation at St Mary’s were all too well aware that the newly erected Christ Church was attracting many worshippers, and that the existing church building ‘did not call forth feelings of reverence’. It was also too small for the growing population.