In Good Company: Victoria Williams

In Good Company: Victoria Williams

Victoria Williams is an award-winning writer of internationally-published reference books and the founder of FoxMarketW7. Her most recently published book, London: Geography, History, and Culture,  includes many mentions of Ealing and uses information she gathered while writing the biographies for the Famous Names of Ealing "walk of fame" project.

As Wilde and Sinclair, Victoria is a wildlife illustrator with my products having been stocked in Ealing shops such as Mooch and Pitshanger Bookshop on Pitshanger Lane and LoveHandmade and Back2Wellbeing on Northfield Avenue, as well as Open Ealing in Ealing Broadway.

At what stage in your life did you first move to Ealing?
I was born in Perivale and spent my earliest years in Northolt before my family moved to Hanwell, where I have lived ever since. I went to school at St Augustine’s Priory near Hanger Lane and I continued to live in Ealing when I was a student.

If you were telling someone about Ealing who had never visited, how would you describe it?
I think of Ealing as a bridge between town and country – if you hop on the Tube you can be in Central London quickly but if you wander down to the canal in Hanwell or St Mary’s Church near the Bunny Park then it feels like being somewhere rural. Ealing is also full of creativity – from the film studios to the artists and makers that sell at my market.

Do you have a favourite Ealing watering hole?
I have been going to The Fox in Hanwell for as long as I can remember (according to my mum I even went there before I was born). The staff are great and it hosts Ealing’s best pub quiz. It goes without saying that I’m extremely grateful that the pub’s owners allow me to use the garden for FoxMarketW7 (which isn’t named after the pub – it’s so-called because I like drawing foxes and live in W7). I love the atmosphere at The Dodo too – last year my birthday coincided with The Dodo’s Christmas gingerbread decorating night and I can honestly say it was one of my best birthdays. My mum and I go for lunch sometimes at The Village Inn on Pitshanger Lane – the staff are very friendly, and the food is good. It’s kind of ironic that I go to all these pubs yet can’t drink alcohol (for medical reasons).

Where have you had your best Ealing meal?
I have had good meals at Tapelia, Sikulo and Mediterranean Kitchen on Northfield Avenue and I like the breakfasts at Grilleville on Pitshanger Lane. Lina’s Grill on the Uxbridge Road in Hanwell does a good Lebanese take-away. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line it is now much quicker to get to my favourite London restaurant, Quo Vadis in Soho, because it’s a five-minute walk from Tottenham Court Road station. I used to love The Walpole, Lisa’s, Clock and the Pasta Lab but sadly they have all closed. I wish Ealing had a fine dining restaurant like the old Glasshouse in Kew.

Do you have a favourite Ealing independent store?
For independent shopping I head to Pitshanger Lane as I love Charlie’s Fruit Bowl, the bakery and Oscar's, which does good coffee and cake. Talking of cake, my sister and I always get our birthday cake from Pan’s Bakery in Hanwell, which does *the* best Black Forest gateau. Papillon café on Northfield Avenue is lovely – last time I visited, I had an excellent vegetarian strudel and cappuccino. Element café on Northfield Avenue does excellent coffee too. I’ve started shopping at Earthical, the eco supermarket on Northfield Avenue. I studied Environmental Geography as an undergraduate and always wondered why shoppers couldn’t just take their own tubs to buy refills – now we can thanks to shops like Earthical…

Is there a part of Ealing that you find particularly inspirational or where you find peace?
I spend hours wandering around Warren Farm rewilded site that is home to endangered birds, insects and plants. I photograph the things I see and record them on the iNaturalist app so there’s a log of the area’s wildlife. The artistic side of me finds inspiration for my illustrations there, not just in the wildlife, but also in the colour combinations like yellow toadflax against a blue sky. I was delighted that when Katie from the campaign to save Warren Farm visited the House of Lords recently, she presented Dame Jenny Jones with a copy of the illustrated map of Warren Farm that I drew. I really hope the campaign to protect Warren Farm succeeds and that the site is not developed.

On a completely different note, I am a huge vintage film fan (both sides of my family worked on the craft side of the early British film industry) and I'm so pleased there is now a cinema in Ealing Broadway. Last winter I virtually lived at the Ealing Project as they showed loads of old Christmas films. I really enjoyed holding The Wandering Fox Market (a spin-off of FoxMarketW7) at the Ealing Project earlier this year and hope to do so again.

Tell us what you're up to & what's next for you.
I’m excited that my new book, on British food, will be published by Bloomsbury soon - I am fascinated by food so writing this book was right up my street. After that I should start work on another book that will be food-related, while also contributing to two books on film history. I will be busy organising FoxMarketW7 too with the next market at The Fox on 30th September. At the moment, I am designing a new Christmas card featuring the beavers that will be reintroduced to Greenford this autumn. If the design prints ok, I will sell the cards to raise money for Ealing Wildlife Group. Several of the shops that stocked my cards and prints have closed down recently so I’ll continue to contact shops in the hope of finding new stockists.