Music at ST MARY'S Perivale
The Ellen Nicholas memorial (1)
By Paul Fitzmaurice
Any visitor entering St Mary's Perivale cannot help but notice the large impressive sculpture and memorial to Ellen Nicholas on the north wall of the nave. It reads:
To the cherished memory of ELLEN FRANCIS NICHOLAS Daughter of the Rev. Dr GEORGE NICHOLAS and his wife ELIZABETH Lovely accomplished most affectionate and most affectionately beloved After a severe struggle of twelve weeks with a painful illness she was released from suffering on the 22 nd October 1818 in the 21 st year of her age leaving her sorrowing relatives no consolation but the hope of meeting with her in a better world never to part again
It was designed and carved by Sir Richard Westmacott, one of the leading sculptors of the early 19 th century. But who was Ellen Nicholas? And why is there such a large memorial, produced by such an eminent sculptor, for someone who died at a relatively young age?
The Nicholas family
Ellen Nicholas was the daughter of the Rev Dr George Nicholas (1763–1829), the headmaster of Great Ealing School. This at the time was considered to be one of the leading schools in the country, with a roll of famous pupils that included Cardinal Newman, Thomas Huxley and W S Gilbert. The school was then situated in the old rectory, which stood by the side of St Mary's church in the old village of Ealing. George Nicholas had been head of the school since 1791 and was one of the leading figures in Ealing society at that time. Ellen had four sisters, Caroline, Laura, Charlotte and Sophia, and three brothers, George Frederick, Francis and Thomas. George Frederick and Francis would successively succeed their father as heads of the school.
Great Ealing School – from a painting of 1809