More For Your Money: St Mary's, Ealing W5

Park life in a regal suburb
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The Independent Online

Nicknamed the "Queen of the Suburbs" a century ago, Ealing's many large houses on spacious plots catered for the comfortably off commuting middle classes. Currently for sale in the Montpelier Conservation Area north of Uxbridge Road is a house on a half-acre plot with a 225ft garden and a £2.99m price tag.

South of Uxbridge Road, the area centred around the Georgian-cum-Byzantine St Mary's Church has older houses that are more modest in size and price. "St Mary's is the old core of the parish of Ealing, with some residences dating back to the 17th century," says borough archivist and local history librarian Dr Jonathan Oates. "In Ealing generally a big period of expansion started in the late 19th century, and the area lost its rural character."

When Ealing became urban, it also became urbane. Kind Hearts and Coronets, Passport to Pimlico, The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers and other popular films were produced in the Ealing Studios.

"Ealing Studios was owned by the BBC before the present owners, and the Red Lion pub is often still referred to as the BBC pub," explains Greg Birdseye, a member of the Ealing Civic Society. "Thames Valley University is nearby, and this area has always attracted people with artistic or academic backgrounds."

This part of west London is in the crosshairs of two major transport infrastructure projects. "The proposed tram is very controversial in Ealing," Birdseye adds. "There is even more discussion about Crossrail, which will make east London more accessible from Ealing. The tram needs major funding and a parliamentary act, but I think it should benefit this part of Ealing and I think it is quite likely to happen."

Not if locals such as Anne Chapman of the Walpole Residents Association have their way. "I moved here 13 years ago, attracted by the style and age of the housing and the green spaces, the lovely parks. I am not against trams per se, but this project is excessive, is not the solution for this area and, most importantly, the business case doesn't stack up."

Chapman dreads the impact that an Uxbridge Road tram line will have on St Mary's: "It will push more traffic down the residential streets and will inhibit north-south movement, which will cause congestion in St Mary's," she predicts. "It is not sensitive to the surroundings."

What is the property mix?

Quite a few houses have been converted, although whole period houses predominate, some with cellars and many with original features as well as modern extensions. Beware total number of bedrooms: some houses boast six bedrooms but three of them can be loft conversions. Gardens with side entrances can also be smaller than their raw measurements might suggest.

What about prices?

On St Mary's Road, a three-bed maisonette in a converted semi is on the first and second (loft) storeys and has a private garden; £379,950 at Townends. At the other extreme, a Grade II-listed late-Georgian villa on The Park has a heated indoor pool in its nearly 5,000 square feet; offers above £2m to Sinton Andrews.

What about standard family homes?

A four-bedroom Victorian semi on three storeys with 24ft conservatory and 35ft garden on Sunnyside Road is £675,000; a six-bed house with 25ft garden and "great potential for refurbishment" on Kenilworth Road is £749,950; both at Grimshaw. A four-storey six-bed house on Lammas Park Road is £750,000 at Winkworth.

Prices are generally in the low £700,000s on Ranelagh Road, the high £700,000s in Kenilworth Road, and in the £900,000s for double-fronted detached houses in Culmington Road.

How's the transport?

It's Ealing Broadway Tube station for the District and Central Lines into central London (and National Rail into Paddington), and South Ealing station for the Piccadilly Line (zone three). (Ealing Common station is actually on the Acton side of Gunnersbury Lane.) In a poll of the six boroughs directly affected by the West London Tram, Ealing (39 per cent) had the lowest approval rating, and Southall and Uxbridge were the most favourable (59 and 54 per cent).

What about the parks?

Just west of St Mary's Road are two large parks, Lammas and Walpole, with numerous tennis courts, bowling greens and children's play areas. The northern end of Walpole Park is home to the Grade I-listed Pitshanger Manor House and art gallery, once owned and refurbished by Sir John Soane (1753-1837), the architect better known for his house-museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Among Pitshanger's later occupiers were the daughters of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval.

What about the local schools?

Grange Primary, on Church Gardens off St Mary's Road, was five, seven and six points below the national average in English, maths and science in 2004. England Independent College on New Broadway was nine points behind for GCSEs.

And one for the pub quiz.

Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister from 1809 to 1812, holds what unfortunate historical distinction?

He was Britain's only Prime Minister to be assassinated.

Grimshaw, 020-8992 5661; Sinton Andrews, 020-8840 5151; Townends, 020-8579 9282; Winkworth, 020-8896 0123