Not a bad Open House. We got to London Fire Brigade Museum; Ealing Town Hall; Chiswick Town Hall; Boston Manor; and Osterley House (magnificent, but too gloomy! put some lights on, National Trust!). William Kent’s Horse Guards, as expected, was way over-subscribed, no help to being featured on the One Show Friday evening. But for me the highlight of all was a genuine, difficult-to-get-to-except-by-car, hidden treasure: St Mary’s Perivale.
This ancient little 12C church has claim to being the oldest in Middlesex. Surrounded by swanky Ealing Golf Course and a less-swanky Premier Inn, it sits south west of the Hoover Building, separated from the Art Deco masterpiece by the Western Avenue. Before reaching the church you see its pretty lych gate (sponsored by the widow of John Boosey of Boosey & Hawkes, who is buried outside the church).
Unless you knew it were here, you would never see it. I was unaware it existed until someone told me a few months ago. Although used for classical music concerts, it has not held services since the early 1970s, although it remains consecrated.
The nave is the oldest part of the church, believed to have been built around 1135, the chancel in about 1250 with the vestry and wooden tower being added early in the 16th Century. Before the 20th Century, the Perivale area never had more than several dozen parishioners. These numbers shot up to over 10,000 with the coming of the railway and the building of light industrial estates, shops and suburban streets. Unfortunately, St Mary’s found itself on the “wrong” side of the greatly expanded and extended Western Avenue, becoming more isolated than ever. Following its closure in the early 1970s it suffered several years of neglect and extreme vandalism.
The Friends of St Mary’s was set up and given a 99 year lease by the Church Commissioners to repair the building and look after it. The organisation is still going strong, holding frequent classical music concerts in the venerable old church. Attending one of these is the best way of accessing the Grade I-listed building. Unless you travel by car, the best way to reach St Mary’s is via Perivale tube station on the Central Line. Looking at the map, I’d guess it’s a 15 minute walk from there.