The blue plaques scheme, run by British Heritage, celebrates the link between successes and historic contributions made to society by notable figures and the buildings where they lived or worked. There are 900 blue plaques across the capital with six in Ealing; here we take a look at two of our favourites which proudly mark the impact these individuals made to the arts, culture, fashion and sport.
Sir Michael Balcon (1896 – 1977)
Sir Michael Balcon began his prosperous film career with an unlikely start. Whilst holding the position of Managing Director at a rubber factory just outside the city, an offer from a friend to start up a film distribution company led him to settle in London and form Gainsborough Pictures. Balcon gave Sir Alfred Hitchcock, “The Master of Suspense”, his first directing opportunity and the company quickly developed a reputation for producing high-quality films. In 1938 Balcon was invited to head Ealing Studios.
Under Balcon’s leadership and with a team of talented directors, writers, technicians and actors, Ealing Studios became the most famous British studio in the world. As well as Hitchcock, Balcon worked with other significant figures of British film including Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. In his 1969 autobiography, Balcon wrote that his years at Ealing Studios were “the most rewarding years in [his] personal career, and perhaps one of the most fruitful periods in history of British film production.” Balcon was knighted in 1948 and passed away peacefully in 1977. But the legacy lives on – his grandson is Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Balcon’s blue plaque can be found on the front wall of the White Lodge at Ealing Studios.
Fred Perry (1909 – 1995)
Son to a cotton spinner from Greater Manchester, Fred Perry moved to Ealing after his father gained importance in the Cooperative Party after World War II. At 19 Perry was crowned world table tennis champion and went on to win Wimbledon three times consecutively from 1934 – 1936, a triumph no British player has since achieved. Perry was propelled to international stardom and became a lothario on the Hollywood circuit, dating models and actresses before settling down with his fourth wife, Barbara Rise Friedman.
The first chapter of the Fred Perry brand started with a simple concept – the sweat band – then followed the iconic polo shirt. The line became hugely popular in the 1960s and inspired a generation of rebels, musicians, film-makers and sports stars. In 2016 whether you’re in a restaurant, at a football match or on a dance floor, the Laurel Wreath logo still stands out from the crowd and epitomises British heritage and style. Perry is now recognised by many as one of the greatest men’s tennis players of all time and his blue plaque hangs at his childhood home at 223 Pitshanger Lane.