Meet ‘Local History’

The Local History Department based in Ealing Central Library is run by two permanent full-time members of staff, Dr Jonathan Oates, and Dr Piotr Stolarski.  

You can learn more information about our staff below as well more about the work Local History Department does by clicking on one of the links below:


Who Are We?

Dr. Jonathan Oates
Ealing Borough Archivist & Local History Librarian

Ealing local history - Dr. Jonathan OatesDr Oates has worked in Ealing Libraries for over 15 years as the Ealing Borough Archivist. He has put his doctorate in History to good use, having published many books including: the Jacobite Rebellions, local and family history, local crimes, and serial killers. Some of his books are available to buy in Ealing Library or can be found online via Amazon.

Jonathan also gives many of the local history talks that are held throught out the year and publishes regular articles in the local newspaper and the Ealing Council magazine 'Around Ealing'.

Selected relevant works:

  • Chesney: The Middle Class Murderer (2016) [concerns double murder in 1950s Ealing]
  • Ealing: A Concise History (2014)
  • Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Ealing (2006)
  • Southall and Hanwell: History and Guide (2003)
  • Acton: A History (2003)
  • Images of London: Acton (2002)
  • Images of England: Southall (2001)

Co-authored with Paul Lang:

  • Ealing Through Time (2013)
  • Ealing Then and Now (2012)

Dr. Piotr Stolarski
Local History Assistant            

Dr Stolarski became Local History Assistant in 2012. He holds a BA in War Studies and History, and an MA in Early Modern History, from King’s College London. He completed a PhD in History at Aberdeeen University in 2008, with a thesis on the Dominican Order in the Polish Counter-Reformation (1596-1648). 
Piotr writes many of the monthly Local History blog posts published on this site, and has written many books, articles, book reviews, besides writing multiple blogs. He has published many books relating to Ealing's history.

Selected relevant works:

  • Ethnic Ealing (2016)
  • Polish Ealing (2016)
  • Christian Ealing (2015)
  • The Schools of Ealing (2015)
  • Ealing Church History Notes (2014)
  • Ealing in the 1960s (2013)

Our Work

Ealing local history - our work
The Local History enquiry desk. When not working here, we are usually in the Summer Store (through the door) or at a microfilm machine. Closure notices are posted on the back of the computer monitor.

There’s a great deal of overlapping in what we do.

Jonathan says: The web site lists some of the major sources we hold concerning family and local history, so an overview as to what we hold is already available. We also give a number of local history talks throughout the year and these are also listed online. Some of our working days are involved in dealing directly with enquirers, whether in person or by telephone or by email; very rarely by post. Often the face to face enquiries are a result of previous contact, which is always recommended.

The enquiries are as varied as the enquirers, though some are similar. The electoral registers, past and present, are one of our most popular items. Contrary to popular belief these are organised by address not name, so searching for the latter whilst being unaware of the former is time consuming indeed. Newspapers on microfilm are another popular resource. Some of these are indexed, which helps because unless a date is known, searching can be lengthy. Even with a date of an event that you’re interested in, other interesting articles often take the reader’s interest. When reading through 1920s newspapers to find information about a once well-known politician, I was side tracked by articles about the Armenian genocide, a local case of bigamy and the local implications of railway strikes. 

School visits are another part of the role. I have given talks to primary age school children about the local impact of World War Two and evacuation in particular. As well as speaking, relevant photographs (another popular resource held here) were passed around and questions asked. I soon learnt that the three most popular ones were whether parents were evacuated with children, were evacuees bombed in transit and whether there would be another world war.

The local history talks for adults are held on Tuesday evenings, usually at Ealing Central Library. Since 2005 there has been a great variety. These include talks about Ealing’s architectural gems, the history of Northfields, sex and death in eighteenth century Hanwell, Mrs Fountain’s Victorian diary and the more interactive discussion as to whether Linford Derrick was guilty of Arthur Wheeler’s death in Ealing in 1936.

Student and academic researchers are other enquirers and often make several visits to sift through all our material. The disturbances in Southall in 1979 are a popular topic, as is another aspect of Southall’s history, the Martin Brothers and their pottery.

People also come in, often from outside the borough, to trace their family history. Some residents want to trace their house history. Both these enquiries can be assisted by published directories from the late nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries. Nineteenth and twentieth century maps are of use to house historians, as are the twentieth century building inspections books.

Apart from this we also work to improve access to our holdings. Unlike library books local history material does not arrive already catalogued and indexed and so readily accessible to the reader.  Photographs must be indexed and added to the collection; archives must be arranged in a logical order and a list of its contents drawn up.

The creation of databases of material held is another useful way to locate material that an enquirer is seeking. As noted below, Piotr has been especially active in this respect and in his part of this contribution he will expand on this. My main input here has been to work on a yet incomplete database of men who served in the armed forces in the First World War, though I have also included three local women who were killed as well.  

Piotr says: My job entails working with Jonathan to assist researchers; developing research tools such as databases and indexes; conducting research for talks or other projects; supervising volunteers; and helping to organise and run the talks programme. Examples of work I have done include: the Places of Worship Database (and related book: Ealing Church History Notes); the Schools Database (ongoing); the Photography Database (covering our photograph collection); indexing newspaper stories (1960s, 1988-2007); databases of Archives; and the Polish Community Folder. All have helped locate information faster and more accurately for internal or customer use. Additionally, I have delivered a talk on Ealing in the 1960s (for which I produced a book), two talks for children, and a couple of Local History workshops with Jonathan – though none of these activities is part of my official job description.

Working in Local History allows me to use my historical training to help the general public as well as specialist researchers. It is a grass-roots role, in that I keep in touch with many aspects of Ealing’s past and present, and get to know people who live and work locally. Our focus here is on making Ealing’s past more readily available and understandable to people in the present. The job is challenging in that there is always more to learn, with considerable emphasis on working independently within a small team. I particularly enjoy conducting research, learning new things about Ealing’s past, and helping the wide range of enquirers: e.g. children, students, family researchers, private companies, history enthusiasts, and overseas researchers – of all ages and backgrounds. 

Ealing Local History - Volunteer using a microfilm reader

Sheila, one of our volunteers, using a microfilm reader to index newspaper stories.

We also have three volunteers who put in two hours a week. They have created indexes to immigration in the 1950s, local suffragette activity, World War One on the Home Front and are currently tackling political extremism in the 1920s and 1930s. It should also be noted that some of the local history talks are researched and given by local historians and other enthusiasts and experts in specific local history topics.

In the meantime, here are some more photos of the Local History Centre:

In the public area:

Ealing Local History - map cabinetsForeground: map cabinets. Background: glass cabinets containing mainly books and pamphlets about local subjects, arranged by locality. These are reference-only, but may be photocopied and photographed by researchers.





Ealing-Local-History-Electoral-RegistersForeground: Electoral Registers on open-access shelves. Background: a map cabinet




In the staff area:

Ealing-Local-History-Photograph cabinetsPhotograph cabinets. Our collection has over 20,000 pictures of local scenes and individuals. As yet they remain undigitised, but we now have a comprehensive Photograph Database for the topographical section.




Ealing local history Newspapers on microfilmNewspapers on microfilm are a core source for local studies. Each year’s papers are microfilmed and added to our archive.







Ealing Local History Newspaper Card IndexThe Newspaper Card Index. One of the most important tools for finding local information. It is regularly updated from newspaper stories held on microfilm.




Ealing Local History -  view inside the Summer StoreA view inside the Summer Store. The three bays contain, left to right, Building Inspection Books and Electoral Registers, Censuses and current newspapers, and local and regional Street Directories.