Ealing and Brentford: Growth of Brentford

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.

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Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. M A Hicks, 'Ealing and Brentford: Growth of Brentford', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982) pp. 113-120. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp113-120 [accessed 30 May 2024].

Diane K Bolton. Patricia E C Croot. M A Hicks. "Ealing and Brentford: Growth of Brentford", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982) 113-120. British History Online, accessed May 30, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp113-120.

Bolton, Diane K. Croot, Patricia E C. Hicks, M A. "Ealing and Brentford: Growth of Brentford", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, (London, 1982). 113-120. British History Online. Web. 30 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp113-120.


The town grew up as Old Brentford in Ealing parish and New Brentford in Hanwell. It was united under a local board of health in 1874 and from 1894 lay within Brentford U.D., later said to consist of 1,091 a. from Old Brentford and 217 a. from New Brentford. (fn. 1) Despite Brentford's antiquity, there were no substantial grounds for the claim that it was the county town, first made in 1789: the county court had sometimes sat there, as in 1378 and 1608, and Middlesex's parliamentary elections took place there in the 18th and 19th centuries. (fn. 2)

The name Brentford was recorded from 705 and has generally been assumed to refer to the ford over the Brent or 'holy water', although it may have referred to the crossing of the Thames. The Ham was an Anglo-Saxon name, denoting a hamm or piece of flat land beside the river. The parts of the settlement in Ealing and Hanwell respectively were distinguished as East Brentford and West Brentford by 1294 and as Old and New Brentford by c. 1500. (fn. 3) New Brentford, whose buildings met those of Old Brentford at the Borough, (fn. 4) c. 1170 was called Bordwadestone, presumably Bord's tun or farm, (fn. 5) and some early 13th-century references to Brentford were to Old Brentford alone. (fn. 6) Bordwadestone or Bordestone came to be the name of a manor, from the 16th century called Boston, whose boundary in 1749 was taken as that of St. Lawrence's or New Brentford parish. Brentford End was the name of a settlement on the west bank of the Brent, in Isleworth. (fn. 7)

A Neolithic site, perhaps of a flint workshop, has been identified at New Brentford. (fn. 8) The hypothesis that an important Roman north-south route forded the Thames at Brentford is unproven: (fn. 9) stakes along the foreshore at Old England, which later was largely covered by a rail head dock, and to the west at Brentford End were perhaps used to defend the ford. They are the only material evidence that Julius Caesar's crossing in 54 B.C. was at Brentford. (fn. 10)

From the late 1st century A.D. Brentford was a settlement on the road from London to the west. Habitations, mainly on the high ground north of the modern High Street, stretched from Old Brentford for 400 to 600 m. to a point west of St. Lawrence's church, close to the Brent. (fn. 11) There was Roman settlement also on the west bank of the Brent (fn. 12) and Romano-British huts, presumably of fishermen, existed at Old England and on the Thames foreshore in front of Syon House, Isleworth. (fn. 13) Agriculture was practised but apparently there was little material wealth and in late Roman times all the sites that have been excavated, except one west of the church, were deserted. (fn. 14) A single site, at Old Brentford, revealed Saxon occupation. Since the line of the Roman road did not survive, (fn. 15) Brentford seems to have been abandoned soon after the Romans left.

The kings of Wessex and Essex met at Brentford in 705, (fn. 16) Offa, king of Mercia, held a council there in 780, (fn. 17) and Archbishop Jaenbeorth held a synod there in 781. (fn. 18) The strategic importance of the ford over the Thames was shown by the battle of Brentford, fought on the south bank between King Edmund Ironside and King Canute, in 1016. (fn. 19) No trace of late Saxon occupation, however, has been found. (fn. 20)

Old Brentford was probably included with Ealing in the grant of Fulham c. 704 to the bishop of London (fn. 21) and New Brentford was part of the abbot of Westminster's manor of Hanwell by 1157. (fn. 22) Both Old and New Brentford were probably included with their parent manors in Domesday Book, (fn. 23) and the fact that neither became a parish suggests that they were not populous in the 11th and 12th centuries. In addition to the royal fishery in the Thames recorded from 996 and an episcopal fishery from 1257, three other fisheries were held by tenants by 1423. (fn. 24) Gervase of Brentford in 1220 held 5 virgates of villein land at Old Brentford. (fn. 25) In 1383 open fields stretched north and south of the highway. Besides Sergeaunts free tenement there were between 9 and 13 villein holdings along the road. Several lay to the east, near London Style on the Chiswick boundary, and others near the Borough, where there was a gravel pit. (fn. 26) Although the original holdings had been broken up by 1383, no new dwellings were recorded in the early 15th century. Tenants then held less land than those elsewhere in Ealing manor, (fn. 27) but apparently not because of any urban activities. (fn. 28)

At New Brentford the estate which later became the manor of Boston had been subinfeudated by c. 1170, when the lord founded St. Lawrence's hospital and chapel near his house south of High Street. (fn. 29) To the north some land was kept in demesne; also to the north and to the west lay commons, while to the south there were probably marshy meadows, leaving little space for tenants' holdings. (fn. 30) Thirteenth-century settlement has been uncovered on only one site, immediately west of the church. (fn. 31) Increasing traffic, however, was indicated by grants of pontage in 1224 on merchandise and in 1280 towards Brentford bridge, (fn. 32) and may also have prompted the grant of a market and fairs in 1306. (fn. 33) Dealings in property, sometimes by craftsmen, became more common from c. 1300 (fn. 34) and several sites south of High Street were occupied during the 14th century. (fn. 35) Pavage was repeatedly levied for the highway from 1360 (fn. 36) and another hospital, serving poor wayfarers, existed by 1393. (fn. 37) The first named inns occurred in 1384 and 1436. (fn. 38) The foundation of Syon abbey in 1415 and of a third hospital immediately west of the rebuilt bridge in 1446 (fn. 39) contributed to the emergence of Brentford End by the early 16th century (fn. 40) and perhaps also to neighbouring New Brentford; in 1502 Syon abbey gave a Brentford brickmaker a large order. (fn. 41) About 1528 New Brentford, an urban area almost entirely dependent on imported food, (fn. 42) was rich enough to support its own priest by subscription. (fn. 43)

There were side streets and still some gaps in the roadside settlement c. 1530. (fn. 44) High Street and its buildings ran across the Ham, a common recorded from 1436. (fn. 45) Part of the Ham north of High Street was the site of the butts required by Henry VIII (fn. 46) and was usually known as the Butts from 1596. (fn. 47) Common continued to surround New Brentford on three sides until a neck of waste between High Street and the Brent was occupied in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 48) Building apparently then severed the Ham from the Butts, and in 1635 the George and other buildings occupied sites stretching from High Street to the river. (fn. 49)

Behind two leading inns, the Three Pigeons or Three Doves, formerly the Crown, and the Red Lion, an orchard was converted c. 1560 into a market place. Several times extended, (fn. 50) Market Place was surrounded by inns: the Three Pigeons, which ultimately stretched to the Brent, was at the south-west corner, (fn. 51) the White Horse by 1603 at the north-west, the White Hart to the east, and the Red Lion at the south-east. (fn. 52) Immediately to the east the Harrow, later the Castle, occupied a site reaching from High Street to the Butts. (fn. 53) Market Place was shown as the first departure from the linear plan in 1635, when building extended along both sides of High Street as far as the Hollows, Kew Bridge Road. (fn. 54) While busy road traffic was suggested by the large number of inns, (fn. 55) wharfs and a timber yard (fn. 56) and references to watermen (fn. 57) also pointed to growing traffic on the Thames. In the Civil War, fishing and the expanding market gardens at Brentford suffered depredation. (fn. 58)

In 1664 there were 136 houses at New Brentford, most of them small: 73 had 2 hearths or less, of which 29 were not chargeable for hearth tax, 19 had 3 hearths, 15 had 4, 9 had 5, and 7 had 6 hearths. The 6 with 10 or more hearths included the manor house, at least one inn, and an unoccupied house. (fn. 59) New Brentford was hard hit by the plague in 1665, when 103 burials took place, (fn. 60) but recovered quickly and grew, perhaps partly because of the uncertificated paupers recorded from 1676. (fn. 61) In 1672 there were 153 houses, those of all sizes having increased in number. Most of the humbler ones lay south of High Street, where the 105 houses included 55 with 2 hearths or less and another 38 with less than 5. The largest houses stood north of High Street, (fn. 62) as they still did after the total number had risen to c. 237 houses in 1764 and c. 270 in 1795. (fn. 63)

The survival of common to the west and north helped to concentrate early growth south of High Street, although the land there was more often flooded, as in 1682. (fn. 64) Houses later encroached on the Ham, until they lined the whole approach road to the bridge in 1777, (fn. 65) while existing plots fronting High Street were divided and cottages were built in yards behind, forming narrow alleys. By 1688 a gateway with a dwelling overhead gave access to Catherine Wheel Yard, later Road, with four cottages and access to the river. (fn. 66) By 1719 an inn called the Boar's Head had been divided into 4, with at least 8 other cottages extending to the Ham; another 5 stood in Reindeer Yard, another 4 behind 4 houses in High Street, and a further 10 behind 2 others. By 1720 inns called the Three Tuns and the Plough had been divided. Jack of Newbury's Alley existed west of the church, with 5 and later 6 houses. (fn. 67) Such infilling continued in spite of the spread of warehouses and malthouses associated with the busy corn market. Cottages in the alleys were smaller than the shops in High Street, where 60 branches of trade catered for travellers and the hinterland by 1720. (fn. 68) New Brentford won praise for its shops and pavements, little inferior to those of London, in 1774, (fn. 69) when the back alleys passed unremarked. There were then three large coaching inns: the Harrow, the Red Lion, and the Three Pigeons, which in 1787 had stabling for 100 horses. (fn. 70)

North of High Street and Market Place, the Butts extended from the Half Acre in the east to the Brent in the west and was bounded to the north by Butts closes, part of the Boston manorial demesne. The Butts was relatively narrow at the eastern end, where a large garden limited building on the western side of the Half Acre to three houses as late as 1786 (fn. 71) and where there were long plots behind the premises fronting High Street. (fn. 72) Farther west, the Butts widened southward into a large square beside the Brent and was thus Lshaped. A house in the angle of the L was alienated by the lord of Boston in 1663, (fn. 73) and by 1713 there were five neighbouring houses, two facing west and three north. (fn. 74) Butts closes were granted by Goldsmith in 1663 to William Parish, innkeeper of New Brentford, (fn. 75) who leased the eastern part as market gardens (fn. 76) and divided the rest into large plots. The most westerly plot fronting the Butts was let in 1685 (fn. 77) and built on by 1691; (fn. 78) two plots to the east were let in 1688, (fn. 79) when five adjacent plots had been leased. (fn. 80) Some of them were probably sites for the new houses at the Butts recorded in 1690. (fn. 81) At the rear the westernmost plot was let in 1688 (fn. 82) and Brent House was built c. 1694. (fn. 83) Presentments of a gravel pit, sawpits, and heaps of timber suggest continued building on the Butts c. 1700, (fn. 84) where other houses were erected between 1714 and 1719. (fn. 85) The soil was granted to Parish in 1663, perhaps with the intention of preserving an open space, (fn. 86) as ultimately happened. Boston manorial court resisted encroachments by residents but in 1700 permitted the planting of ornamental lime trees. (fn. 87) The Butts was a 'pleasant airy place' in 1746, (fn. 88) despite its regular use for markets by 1679 (fn. 89) and parliamentary elections from 1701, (fn. 90) and increasing traffic between the Half Acre and Market Place, which was cutting up the surface by 1797. (fn. 91)

The select character of the area around the Butts, with Brentford's proximity to Kew Palace, explain the erection at the corner of the Half Acre and the later Clifden Road of Clifden House. A three-storeyed brick mansion with seven bays and a central pediment, containing fine ceilings and woodwork, it was built in the mid 18th century and occupied from 1799 by Henry Agar, Viscount Clifden. (fn. 92) New Grove Mansions, in the style of the Greek Revival, was built immediately to the south c. 1800. (fn. 93) The Butts backed on orchards, which resembled the 'seat of paradise' in 1774, (fn. 94) and Brentford itself was considered 'almost a garden' in 1794. (fn. 95)

By 1635 building lined both sides of High Street as far east as the modern Kew bridge. (fn. 96) Old Brentford, with 259 houses, was far more populous than New Brentford in 1664 and, with 135 not chargeable for hearth tax, was also much poorer. (fn. 97) Houses continued to multiply, while the linear pattern persisted, with increasing emphasis on the waterfront. To the north a back lane skirted the fields by 1575: (fn. 98) many tenements in High Street extended back to it (fn. 99) and there may already have been some infilling. South of High Street the whole riverside was taken for wharfs, reached by passages such as Smith Hill, a public way by 1581, (fn. 100) Ferry Lane, and Spring Gardens. The passages were lined with cottages and inns, among them the Goat and the Salutation in Ferry Lane, recorded in 1636 (fn. 101) and 1751. (fn. 102) Where road and river lay close together, tenements often had access to both, such as the One Tun and the Half Moon and Seven Stars. (fn. 103) The fields south of High Street, like those near Ferry Lane, were inclosed and built on piecemeal. (fn. 104) Old Brentford was said in 1769 to be populated chiefly by poor fishermen and watermen (fn. 105) and in 1774 to have more trade than New Brentford because the river came up to everyone's doors. (fn. 106) Many small alehouses presumably catered for such inhabitants, among them the Mermaid, recorded from 1651, (fn. 107) the Anchor from 1674, (fn. 108) the Barge from 1751, (fn. 109) the Tackle Block from 1758, (fn. 110) and the Waterman's Arms from 1790. (fn. 111) Travellers were served by the larger coaching inns at New Brentford and from c. 1750 by those at the east end of Old Brentford in Kew Bridge Road, including the Star and Garter and the Wagon and Horses. (fn. 112) Old Brentford's growth stimulated the opening in 1762 of George chapel, built by local subscribers led by the Trimmer family. (fn. 113) Chronic poverty led to Mrs. Sarah Trimmer's successive schemes for educating the poor from 1786. (fn. 114) Many 18th-century travellers saw only the handsome shops, Market Place, the Butts, orchards and market gardens, and a few aristocratic houses at Old Brentford. (fn. 115) Heavy traffic on the highway, however, (fn. 116) churning up mud or creating dust, (fn. 117) had already given much of Brentford a reputation for dirtiness. (fn. 118) Most inhabitants lived in weatherboarded cottages, crammed into yards and alleys such as Spring Gardens and sometimes constituting districts such as Troy Town. Many cottages were ramshackle huts in 1765 (fn. 119) and not liable for rates in 1786. (fn. 120) From the Surrey side of the Thames they were an eyesore: hence the remarks that Brentford in 1765 was the 'ugliest and filthiest place in England' (fn. 121) and that in 1807 Kew Palace looked on to the worst part of Old Brentford. (fn. 122) That was before industrial growth had added to Brentford's unsavoury character.

The late 18th century saw the expansion of the older extractive and corn-based industries, notably the potteries, brickworks, and breweries. The construction of the Grand Junction canal attracted a new flour mill to Catherine Wheel Yard and a turpentine factory to the Ham. (fn. 123) At New Brentford, still constricted to north and south, new housing was provided on the Ham (fn. 124) and by further infilling: there were 272 houses in 1801 and 389 by 1851, when there was little further room. (fn. 125) At Old Brentford the potter Daniel Turner had put up 14 cottages between High Street and the back lane by 1778, presumably the Pot House Row of 1786, (fn. 126) and the first 9 cottages of Union Court had been built on a similar site by 1813. (fn. 127) There were 13 cottages at Troy Town, 22 at Smith Hill, and 4 in Spring Gardens, Old Brentford, in 1786. (fn. 128)

Although some businesses failed, the distillery, breweries, maltings, soap works, and timber yard expanded along the waterfront, and waterworks and gasworks were built at the east end of the town. Displacing housing and shops on both sides of High Street, (fn. 129) such industries demanded labour and so led to more house building: 18 cottages were built by Thomas Shackle between 1818 and 1825 at Running Horse Yard, between High Street and the back lane, (fn. 130) 5 more were built at Union Court before 1840, (fn. 131) and 17 to the north of two High Street houses between 1824 and 1837. (fn. 132) Building included work on 25 plots west of Ealing Road and 19 east of the new North Road by 1840, (fn. 133) besides the 8 cottages of Bridge Terrace at the northern approach to Kew bridge by c. 1826. (fn. 134) Nonetheless there was a shortage of housing in 1849. (fn. 135)

Drinking, swearing, and gambling were commonplace by 1819 (fn. 136) and were attacked by the new nonconformist chapels and by the established church: a new infants' school advocated in 1831 was found in 1834 to be making it easier for mothers to work and hence neglect their children. (fn. 137) Later industrial expansion coincided with the decline of coaching traffic, when the victualling and retail trades were depressed, causing some closures and further accentuating Brentford's working-class character. In 1843 the rapidly growing population was overwhelmingly one of labourers in industry, fishing, and market gardening, liable to intermittent unemployment. (fn. 138)

Brentford town, dignified by a new magistrates' courthouse in Market Place c. 1850, (fn. 139) was treated as a distinct entity in the census of 1851. (fn. 140) It then contained a total of 1,750 houses, a figure which had nearly doubled by 1921, when the U.D. contained 3,261 dwellings and when further building was in train. New Brentford, with 389 houses in 1851 and 408 in 1891, grew very little until the 1920s, building being confined to the High Street area by industries along the waterfront and by Boston Manor to the north. Meanwhile at Old Brentford, where at first there was more space and where much land came on the market in 1872 and c. 1885, the houses increased from 1,361 in 1851 to 2,224 in 1891, by which date its population was three times that of New Brentford. Small brick terraces were erected, much superior to the flimsy dwellings crowded into the yards behind High Street, and from 1892 systematic slum clearance accompanied new building. The building of the Great West Road in the 1920s brought more estates on to the market and further industrial growth north of the town. Much parkland remained but most of the area was built over and middle-class districts emerged near the parks in the north-east and north-west corners of Brentford.

Until c. 1883 there was little building in the St. George's district of Old Brentford east of Ealing Road than in the St. Paul's district farther west. Infilling continued, as at Hales Yard, (fn. 141) until 1913 or later, when terraces were built in Catherine Place, parallel to Paradise Place and north of Albany Road. (fn. 142) More dwellings, however, were in new streets. Plots in Orchard Road, Old Brentford, were being offered in 1851 by the National Freehold Land Society. (fn. 143) Brook Road was laid out northward from behind High Street and, with the older Distillery, Pottery, and North roads to the east, was partly built up by 1872. (fn. 144) All four were linked by cross roads, of which only New Road near the L. & S.W.R. line, with 53 dwellings in 15 blocks, had been largely built up in 1872, when surrounding land was sold in lots. (fn. 145) There was still space to the south in 1883, when it was secured for St. Paul's recreation ground. In 1883 25 a. were laid out for building between Ealing and Pottery roads and the British Land Co. was laying out c. 77 a. between Ealing and Windmill roads. (fn. 146) Market gardens on the Hope-Edwardes estate between the waterworks and the L. & S.W.R. line were leased for workingclass housing by 1885, when construction was under way. (fn. 147)

The town's working-class character was confirmed in the late 19th century. The gasworks, stretching along both sides of High Street, Old Brentford, for c. 400 m., were reputed the largest and most repulsive concern, likened to the fabled Cyclops and dubbed 'king of Brentford'. (fn. 148) In 1867 no town in England was thought to have more poverty in relation to its size and in 1882 it was considered as wretched as any place, not excluding London's east end. Limited space kept rents high and the worst slums overcrowded, (fn. 149) many weatherboarded cottages in the yards being dilapidated and none having proper sanitation. (fn. 150) After the 18 hovels of Canon Alley had at last been condemned in 1878, they needed almost complete reconstruction to bring them up to standard. (fn. 151) In 1877 Bailey's Row, Old Brentford, and the 18 Prospect Cottages behind the King's Arms were nearly as bad. (fn. 152) In 1853 Brentford was considered a byword for immorality among both sexes (fn. 153) and in 1867 the worst vice was seen as drunkenness, encouraged by the large number of inns. (fn. 154) Many working mothers neglected their children (fn. 155) and a high infant mortality was attributed to malnutrition. (fn. 156)

Lack of a sewerage system was condemned in the national press in 1873, when Brentford was associated with everything 'stagnant and disgraceful' and again labelled the filthiest place in England. (fn. 157) That mortality was no worse was ascribed in 1878 to the natural healthiness of the site. (fn. 158) With the spread of new housing around St. Paul's and the blighting influence of the gasworks farther east, St. George's had become the poorest area in Old Brentford by 1865. (fn. 159) It probably remained superior to parts of New Brentford, such as the Ham, inhabited by the very poorest and often flooded. (fn. 160) At New Brentford there was also a fluctuating population of barge dwellers. (fn. 161)

Social problems were first tackled by the churches and the Ragged School Union. After the foundation of Brentford local board a sewerage system was constructed and some of the worst slums were condemned. (fn. 162) Municipal activity increased in the 1890s, when the public baths and isolation hospital were opened. An imposing vestry hall, later a county courthouse, was built in the Half Acre in 1899. (fn. 163) High mortality, especially infant mortality of 197 per 1,000 and rather more in New Brentford, prompted a regular attack on slums from 1892. (fn. 164) Infant mortality had scarcely changed by 1901 but by 1912 had dropped to 74 per 1,000; meanwhile mortality overall fell from 21 to 8. (fn. 165) Slum clearance was impeded by lack of alternative accommodation, (fn. 166) until in 1899 the U.D.C. started four schemes for 762 council houses east of Ealing Road on either side of the L. & S.W.R. line. (fn. 167)

At the eastern end of the town a drinking fountain was set up in 1877 near Kew bridge, where open markets caused much traffic congestion before an enclosed site was provided in 1893. The area became still busier with the opening of the L.U.T.'s terminus in 1901 and of the rebuilt Kew bridge in 1903, soon followed by the building of a covered market. (fn. 168)

Widening of High Street and the Half Acre, before the arrival of tramways in 1905, swept away many old buildings, including ancient inns. Although the yards behind changed less than had been hoped, (fn. 169) some progress was made there, in particular with the demolition of all of Running Horse Yard, Moore's Alley, Eaton Court, and Eaton Buildings in 1911-12. Some of the worst slums in Troy Town were cleared in 1910. (fn. 170) A further 465 houses had been cleared by 1914 (fn. 171) and still more by 1927, when labyrinths of tenements were a mere memory and Brentford was no more unhealthy than its neighbours. (fn. 172) Much housing, however, remained untouched.

After the First World War slum clearance was again delayed by lack of accommodation for those displaced. An influx of workers for the new factories along the Great West Road exacerbated the housing problem. Brentford U.D.C.'s 146 houses in Ealing and Whitestile roads comprised almost all the building between 1920 and 1924, (fn. 173) but thereafter private activity resumed. Much of northern New Brentford was built up by A. J. A. Taylor's Boston Land and Investment Co. (fn. 174) Messrs. Steele planned 40 houses in Boston Manor Road and the Ride in 1924, a further 430 were planned for the Gunnersbury Park estate farther east in 1925, and in 1925-6 private builders were responsible for all the 277 new houses. (fn. 175)

Expansion was made possible by the Clitherow, Rothschild, and Hope-Edwardes families, who sold up as the Great West Road neared completion. Widely spaced factories along the road were later seen, nostalgically, as symbols of economic self-confidence, forming an industrial Arcadia. (fn. 176) Some of the land was secured for middle-class housing near Gunnersbury Park and Boston Manor, and much remained open, notably Boston Manor park (407 a.), Gunnersbury park (183 a.), and Carville Hall park (161 a.). (fn. 177) Brentford U.D.C., which had wanted to build on Gunnersbury park, erected 118 houses in Lionel Road in 1928-9 (fn. 178) and 428 on the Syon estate at Brentford End. (fn. 179) In 1930 Brentford and Chiswick U.D.C. owned 1,520 houses and flats, when 600 more were needed if the remaining alleys and courts were to be cleared. Only 261 more dwellings had been demolished by 1938 and there were 1,548 council houses in the borough in 1937, when land was in short supply. (fn. 180) A few small blocks of flats were erected in the late 1930s. (fn. 181)

Growth continued until the Second World War, by which time Brentford was completely built up. The old market declined, however, finally closing in 1933, (fn. 182) and by 1929 the town had clearly been supplanted as a shopping centre by neighbouring suburbs. (fn. 183) After the Second World War many factories in the Great West Road were turned into warehouses or offices, while by 1954 Brentford's shops were described as squalid and there was almost no public entertainment. (fn. 184) Among older industries the waterworks, the soap factory, Brentford dock, and the huge gasworks all closed in the 1950s and 1960s, before the large market was moved from its covered site near Kew bridge in 1974. (fn. 185) Falling employment reduced the demand for housing and gave opportunities for large-scale rebuilding.

In 1954 Brentford formed three distinct districts. In the north were modern houses, municipal and private, and factories in the Great West Road. Immediately south of the railway were streets of terraces dating from c. 1870-1920. Farther south lay the old town, comprising the docks area, High Street and the yards behind, and St. George's district, which included many slums. (fn. 186) Buildings south of High Street were in very bad repair; those north of High Street included many awaiting demolition, among them some tall weatherboarded 18th-century shops. (fn. 187) Even the late 19th-century terraces near High Street had become slums. (fn. 188)

Piecemeal demolition continued, Troy Town finally being cleared in 1958. (fn. 189) A plan for the wholesale rebuilding of High Street in 1947 proved too costly but in 1959 a phased scheme was started along the northern side from St. Paul's Road to North Road, also taking in Albany, Ealing, Pottery, Distillery, North and Walnut Tree roads. By 1959 118 families had already been rehoused (fn. 190) and by 1978 the whole northern frontage of High Street had been rebuilt, with clusters of small shops, and the terraced streets behind replaced by council houses and flats on new alignments. Work was still in progress east of Ealing Road and there were empty plots in St. Paul's Road. Modern buildings included a county courthouse west of Alexandra Road, used from 1963 in place of the former vestry hall in the Half Acre, which itself was replaced by a police station in 1966. (fn. 191)

The decline of large industries made more land available. A plan of 1959 for comprehensive rebuilding on the waterworks site (fn. 192) came to nothing, but land was appropriated from 1966 by Hounslow L.B. for tower blocks containing 528 flats. (fn. 193) In 1978 the north side of Green Dragon Lane had been cleared and Brentford dock replaced by a housing estate of the G.L.C., where the building of flats was far advanced. Although the closure of the gasworks had stimulated plans to make use of the waterfront, the long narrow strip between road and river was still vacant. Brentford was called depressed and depressing in 1975. (fn. 194) Much remained to be done in western and southern New Brentford and at Kew bridge in 1978, when the town had ceased to be a centre of industry or trade and was inhabited mainly by council tenants, who worked elsewhere and often shopped in Ealing or Chiswick.

The scene in 1978 was of decaying slums and empty sites, juxtaposed with the select Butts and new municipal housing. Near Brentford bridge little weatherboarded houses awaited clearance; to the south the Ham was a wasteland beside car-repair workshops and the redundant St. Lawrence's church. There was little activity along the banks of the Brent or most of the Thames waterfront. The alleys, no longer lined with cottages and sometimes overgrown, led to wharfs that were often deserted, the few exceptions including DRG's new warehousing in Ferry Lane and the Thames & General Lighterage Co.'s barge repair yards. High walls and factories lined the southern side of High Street. On the northern side older properties survived west of Market Place, while chiefly modern building stretched as far east as North Road. Beyond, Mrs. Trimmer's school and the former St. George's church, the gasholders, and the waterworks buildings were all undisturbed, as were the shabby Kew Bridge Road and the disused Brentford Market.

Behind Market Place the elegance of the Butts was marred by the use of its central space as a car park. Large Victorian houses to the north looked less well kept than those in the Butts, and Clifden House, pulled down in 1954, had made way for flats. Brentford football ground was still surrounded by terraced streets but many similar terraces had disappeared with rebuilding. Near High Street St. Paul's recreation ground, amid terraced housing and school buildings, was an isolated open space. Carville Hall, a low brick 19th-century house in a deserted park, adjoined the Great West Road to the south. The road itself, with its flyover on stilts, lined by factories and generally noisy and windy, formed a barrier between northern and southern Brentford. The northern part had large open spaces and less dense housing: to the west middle-class houses in Boston Manor Road resembled those of Hanwell; in the centre council houses and dingy shops in Ealing Road were hardly distinguishable from those of South Ealing; and to the east tree-lined avenues and large houses near Gunnersbury park extended northward towards those nearer Ealing common. While southern Brentford was still distinct, northern Brentford thus merged with its neighbours.

Notable buildings survive mainly in the Butts. (fn. 195) On the south side at the eastern end is St. Raphael's convent, a three-storeyed 18th-century house of yellow brick, much extended. To the west are four 18th-century cottages, nos. 16 to 22, of which the first two have been refaced. Other houses date from c. 1690 or later, are of brown brick with red-brick dressings, and mainly consist of two storeys with attics. They include, in the angle of the L, the double fronted nos. 24 and 26, formerly the cottage hospital, which also have basements. The three-storeyed no. 40 and the row formed by nos. 42 to 46, also on the south side, are 18th-century. The north side of the Butts includes pairs formed by Chatham House and Beaufort House (nos. 15 and 17) and the partly refaced Cobden House and Linden House (nos. 21 and 23). In Upper Butts, leading northward to Church Walk, are the early 18th-century Llan Helen (no. 1) and the Cedars, which is slightly later and has been rendered and reroofed.

A three-storeyed 18th-century house of brown brick, converted into flats by 1948, survives as no. 80 on the south side of High Street. Farther west near the Brent are the shells of the 18thcentury nos. 154-6 and the early 19th-century nos. 157-8, apparently awaiting demolition. On the east side of Boston Manor Road, overshadowed by the flyover, some restored 18thcentury houses serve as offices. All are of brown brick with red-brick dressings, no. 67 being three-storeyed, nos. 69 and 71 representing a divided house of two storeys with attics, and nos. 73 and 75 forming a three-storeyed pair with basements.

Six Protestants were burned at Brentford in 1558. (fn. 196) At the battle of Brentford in 1642 Lord Ruthven's royalists drove two parliamentary divisions out of the town and then plundered it, before withdrawing in the face of larger forces at Turnham Green. (fn. 197) From 1701 the Butts was the scene of the county's elections, of which the most tumultuous were those contested in 1768 and 1769 by John Wilkes, giving rise to inns being called the Number 45 and the Wilkes's Head, and in 1802 by Sir Francis Burdett, when large profits were made by innkeepers. Additional polling stations were provided in 1832, although declarations of the poll were still made at the Butts until 1885. (fn. 198)

Lord Ruthven, who was also earl of Forth, was created earl of Brentford in 1644 and died without male heirs in 1651. William III's general Frederick Schomberg (1615-90) in 1689 was created duke of Schomberg and earl of Brentford, which titles became extinct in 1719. The barony of Brentford, with the earldom of Darlington, was conferred for life on George I's mistress Baroness von Kielmansegge (d. 1725) in 1722. The statesman William Joynson-Hicks (1865-1932) was created Viscount Brentford in 1929. (fn. 199)

The population of New Brentford was 1,443 in 1801 and 2,063 in 1851, when that of Old Brentford was 6,057. Brentford town, including some houses in Isleworth parish, was estimated to have 8,870 inhabitants in 1851 and 11,091 in 1871. Brentford U.D. had 15,171 inhabitants in 1901 and 17,032 in 1921 and the three Brentford wards of Brentford and Chiswick U.D. had 20,372 in 1931. (fn. 200)


  • 1. Census, 1921; below, local govt.
  • 2. P.R.O., C 88/50; C 88/225; Canham, Brentford, 8; below.
  • 3. P.N. Mdx. (E.P.N.S.), 1, 31-2, 200.
  • 4. Guildhall MSS. 11765, 11766.
  • 5. Letters and Charters of Gilb. Foliot, ed. A. Morey and C. N. L. Brooke (1967), 492; P.N. Mdx. (E.P.N.S.), 32.
  • 6. e.g. Cur. Reg. R. ix. 185-6, 190.
  • 7. Canham, Brentford, 3, 5.
  • 8. Canham, Brentford, 20, 24, 36-40, 147.
  • 9. Sharpe, Bygone Hanwell, 4-5; Canham, Brentford, 3.
  • 10. Canham, Brentford, 9, 147-8; V.C.H. Mdx. i. 65.
  • 11. Canham, Brentford, passim, esp. 148.
  • 12. T.L.M.A.S. xxvii. 179-205.
  • 13. Canham, Brentford, 14, 32.
  • 14. Ibid. 29, 148-50.
  • 15. Ibid. 30-1, 150.
  • 16. Cart. Sax. ed. Birch, i, pp. 169-70.
  • 17. Cod. Dipl. ed. Kemble, i, p. 172.
  • 18. Ibid. pp. 173-4.
  • 19. F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon Eng. (1971), 391.
  • 20. Canham, Brentford, passim, esp. 17.
  • 21. Below, manors.
  • 22. V.C.H. Mdx. iii. 224.
  • 23. Below, manors; V.C.H. Mdx. iii. 224.
  • 24. Below, econ., fishing.
  • 25. Cur. Reg. R. ix. 185-6, 190, 323.
  • 26. Guildhall MSS. 11765, 11766; Canham, Brentford, 30.
  • 27. Guildhall MSS. 11765, 11766.
  • 28. Below, econ., trade and industry.
  • 29. Letters of Gilb. Foliot, 492.
  • 30. There were no open fields: below, econ., agrarian.
  • 31. Canham, Brentford, 18,22.
  • 32. Above, communications.
  • 33. Below, econ., markets and fairs.
  • 34. e.g. P.R.O., CP 25(1)/149/49/261; CP 25(1)/150/59/151; CP 25(1)/150/54/47; CP 25(1)/150/55/74; Cal. Close, 1330-9, 399.
  • 35. Canham, Brentford, 22.
  • 36. Above, communications.
  • 37. T.L.M.A.S. xxi. 60.
  • 38. Below, social.
  • 39. V.C.H. Mdx. i. 182, 204.
  • 40. Ibid. iii. 90.
  • 41. Below, econ., trade and industry.
  • 42. Below, econ., agrarian.
  • 43. Below, churches.
  • 44. Canham, Brentford, 19.
  • 45. P.R.O., C 260/23/105.
  • 46. Ibid. E 134/26 Eliz. I East./6.
  • 47. Ibid. REQ 2/168/53; ibid. C 7/324/54(1611).
  • 48. Canham, Brentford, 19.
  • 49. Canham, Brentford, 6-7 and fig. 2.
  • 50. Below, econ., markets and fairs.
  • 51. See M.R.O., Acc. 891/2/9/4 (plan, 1838); Brentford and Chiswick As It Was (1978), illus. 6.
  • 52. Chiswick libr., cuttings; Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 7.
  • 53. Chiswick libr., letter (1747).
  • 54. Canham, Brentford, fig. 2.
  • 55. Below, social.
  • 56. Canham, Brentford, fig. 2.
  • 57. Below, econ., trade and industry.
  • 58. Below, econ., nurseries, fishing.
  • 59. M.R.O., MR/TH/6, mm. 9d.-10.
  • 60. Lysons, Environs, ii. 52.
  • 61. M.R.O., Acc. 890, pp. 232, 334 sqq.
  • 62. Ibid. MR/TH/25; Canham, Brentford, 7, 152.
  • 63. Lysons, Environs, ii. 52.
  • 64. Canham, Brentford, 152; Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 147-8.
  • 65. M.R.O., Acc. 649/6.
  • 66. P.R.O., PROB 11/393 (P.C.C. 145 Exton, will of Hen. Bright).
  • 67. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842).
  • 68. Below, ecón., trade and industry.
  • 69. Diary of John Yeoman, ed. M. Yearsley (1934), 47.
  • 70. Chiswick libr., sales cat.
  • 71. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842).
  • 72. M.R.O., Acc. 257/3.
  • 73. P.R.O., C 93/30/18.
  • 74. M.L.R. 1713/5/167-9.
  • 75. P.R.O., C 93/30/18.
  • 76. M.R.O., Acc. 257/10.
  • 77. Ibid. 12; ibid Acc. 309/1.
  • 78. Ibid. Acc. 309/1.
  • 79. Ibid. Acc. 257/13-15.
  • 80. Ibid. 20.
  • 81. P.R.O., PROB 11/404 (P.C.C. 49 Vere, will of Wm. Baldwin).
  • 82. M.R.O., Acc. 257/20.
  • 83. Ibid. 21.
  • 84. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842), f. 10.
  • 85. Ibid. ff. 16-17 sqq.
  • 86. Chiswick libr., letter of James Clitherow (1797).
  • 87. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842), f. 11; Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 141.
  • 88. Simpson, Agreeable Historian, ii. 613.
  • 89. Brentford libr., New Brentford MS. 17513, f. 49v.
  • 90. Faulkner, Brentford, Ealing and Chiswick, 121-3; below.
  • 91. Chiswick libr., letter of James Clitherow.
  • 92. Pevsner, Mdx. 29; Briggs, Mdx. Old and New, 253; Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 13.
  • 93. Pevsner, Mdx. 29; Min. of Town and Country Planning, List of Bldgs. (1949).
  • 94. Diary of John Yeoman, 41.
  • 95. Foot, Agric. of Mdx. 16.
  • 96. Canham, Brentford, fig. 2.
  • 97. M.R.O., MR/TH/3.
  • 98. Guildhall MS. 10312/92, rot. 34d.; see also ibid. rot. 40.
  • 99. M.R.O., Acc. 891/2/1/1.
  • 100. Guildhall MS. 10312/92, rot. 43.
  • 101. Mdx. & Herts. N. & Q. iv. 78.
  • 102. M.R.O., Acc. 891/2/3/120.
  • 103. Ibid. 143.
  • 104. P.R.O., C 7/501/39.
  • 105. M.R.O., Hist. Notes N/D4.
  • 106. Diary of John Yeoman, 47; see also New Present State of Eng. (1750), i. 158.
  • 107. M.R.O., Acc. 891/2/5/519.
  • 108. P.R.O., C 6/232/6.
  • 109. M.R.O., MR/LV7/15.
  • 110. Ibid. Acc. 891/2/8/1.
  • 111. Ibid. MR/LV9/189.
  • 112. M.R.O., MR/LV7/15.
  • 113. Below, churches.
  • 114. Below, educ.
  • 115. e.g. those inhabited by Edward Leigh, Lord Leigh, 1769-74, the ctss. of Glasgow 1777-9, and Lady St. John 1781: M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B2/5.
  • 116. Above, communications; W. Camden, Britannia, ed. R. Gough (1789), ii. 14.
  • 117. Diary of John Yeoman, 47.
  • 118. I. Doddridge, Like Will to Like (1728); James Thomson, Castle of Indolence, ed. A. D. McKillop (1961), 119; Boswell, Life of Johnson (O.U.P. 1953), 1210.
  • 119. Chiswick libr., Brentford survey (photos.); cutting (1765); Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 7.
  • 120. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2.
  • 121. Chiswick libr., cutting (1765).
  • 122. Ambulator (1807).
  • 123. Below, trade and industry.
  • 124. Boston man. ct. bk. (1692-1842).
  • 125. Census, 1801-51; below.
  • 126. Cf. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2; Guildhall MS. 10465/93, pp. 88-90.
  • 127. Guildhall MS. 10465/55, pp. 72-4.
  • 128. M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/B1/2.
  • 129. Below, trade and industry.
  • 130. M.R.O., Acc. 638/159-61.
  • 131. Guildhall MS. 10465/155, pp. 72-4.
  • 132. Ibid. 150, pp. 105-6.
  • 133. M.R.O., Acc. 634/6, 7, 8A; Acc. 891/1/5/298.
  • 134. Ibid. Acc. 891/2/12/2; ibid. Acc. 891/2/5/681, 684, 686-8.
  • 135. Ibid. Acc. 880/10, p. 330.
  • 136. J. Smith, Marvellous Mercy Displayed in Life of Author (1862), esp. pp. 11, 16.
  • 137. F. E. Thompson, Two Sermons in St. George's Chapel, Old Brentford (1831); Rep. of Sel. Cttee. for Educ. of Poor, H.C. 572, pp. 217, 219 (1834), ix.
  • 138. Jnl. Statistical Soc. of Lond. vi. 126-7.
  • 139. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 6.
  • 140. Para. based on following paras. and Census, 1851-1931.
  • 141. M.R.O., Acc. 638/267.
  • 142. Chiswick libr., council papers.
  • 143. M.R.O., Acc. 1285/1; Chiswick libr., deed.
  • 144. Chiswick libr., sales cat.; Brentford, Kew, Isleworth and Spring Grove Dir. (1872).
  • 145. Brentford, Kew Dir. (1872); Chiswick libr., sales cat.
  • 146. Chiswick libr., council papers; The Independent, 28 Mar. 1883.
  • 147. Mdx. Independent, 25 Apr. 1885; Mdx. County Times, 16 May 1885; see also 'Archimedes', Rep. on Drainage to Brentford local bd. (1881).
  • 148. F. Watt, 'Brentford Old Town' (cutting in Chiswick libr.); R. Henrey, The King of Brentford (1946); see also D. Maxwell, Pilgrimage of the Thames (1932), 88.
  • 149. Brentford cent. ragged schs. and town mission, Rep. (1867); M.R.O., D.R.O. 37/A12/2.
  • 150. Brentford local bd. min. bk. (1874-8), pp. 124, 365, 397.
  • 151. Ibid. p. 150; see also The Times, 22 Sept. 1873.
  • 152. Brentford local bd. min. bk. (1874-8).
  • 153. J. A. Emerton, Sermon on Educ. of Poor (1853). See also Brentford cent. ragged schs. and town mission, Rep. (1867); Brentford U.D. Reps. of M.O.H. (1901, 1903).
  • 154. Brentford cent. ragged schs. and town mission, Rep. (1867).
  • 155. Ibid.; see also Brentford U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1898); Brentford local bd. Rep. of M.O.H. (1893).
  • 156. Brentford U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1901).
  • 157. Brentford Advertiser, 4 Oct. 1873.
  • 158. Brentford local bd. min. bk. (1874-8), pp. 515-16.
  • 159. Ealing Post, 3 June 1865; St. Mary's Ealing Monthly Church Paper, May 1884.
  • 160. Chiswick libr., cuttings (1928, 1930).
  • 161. C. G. Harper, Thames Valley Villages (1910), ii. 231; Henrey, King of Brentford, 13.
  • 162. Below, pub. svces.
  • 163. Below, local govt., pub. svces.
  • 164. Brentford local bd. Rep. of M.O.H. (1892).
  • 165. Ibid. (1892-4); Brentford U.D. Reps. of M.O.H. (1895- 1912).
  • 166. Brentford U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1896).
  • 167. Brentford U.D. Surveyor's Rep. to Artizans' Dwellings Cttee. (1899).
  • 168. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 27, 30.
  • 169. Above, communications; photos. in Chiswick libr.; Brentford U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1905); cutting (Dec. 1907).
  • 170. Brentford U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1911-12); Chiswick libr., plans (1907) and sales cat. (1910); M.R.O., Acc. 638/ 192; Harper, Thames Valley Villages, ii. 233.
  • 171. Brentford U.D. Reps. of M.O.H. (1912-14).
  • 172. Chiswick libr., cutting in scrapbk.
  • 173. e.g. Brentford U.D. Reps. of M.O.H. (1921-5).
  • 174. D. M. Yarde, 'Manor of Boston' (TS. in Chiswick libr.), 18.
  • 175. Brentford U.D. Reps. of M.O.H. (1925-6); Rep. of Housing and Town Planning Cttee. 4 Nov. 1924, 1 Dec. 1925.
  • 176. Observer, 31 Aug. 1980.
  • 177. Brentford and Chiswick U.D. Petition for Incorp. (1931).
  • 178. Ibid. Abs. of Accts. (1928-9).
  • 179. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 8 Apr. 1938; Brentford and Chiswick boro. Rep. of M.O.H. (1935).
  • 180. Brentford and Chiswick U.D. Rep. of M.O.H. (1930); Brentford and Chiswick boro. Reps. of M.O.H. (1937-8).
  • 181. Brentford and Chiswick boro. Statement of Housing Estates (1946).
  • 182. Below, econ.
  • 183. Chiswick libr., cutting; see also Brentford and Chiswick Times, 3 Dec. 1937.
  • 184. K. F. Dalton, 'Brentford: County Town' (TS. at Chiswick libr.); Watt, 'Old Brentford Town'.
  • 185. Below, econ.
  • 186. Dalton, 'Brentford'; see also M.R.O., MCC/E correspondence file 168 (H.M.I. reps.).
  • 187. M.R.O., PR 247/14-15, 17, 28, 30-2 (photographic survey); the shop front of 1798 of Rattenbury & Co. is in the Mus. of Lond.
  • 188. Dalton, 'Brentford'.
  • 189. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 28 Dec. 1962.
  • 190. Brentford Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Exhib. (1959).
  • 191. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 9.
  • 192. Brentford Yesterday (1959).
  • 193. Hounslow L.B. Ann. Reps. of Housing Dir. (1965-8).
  • 194. P. Howard, London's River (1975), 46.
  • 195. Following 2 paras. based on Pevsner, Mdx. 28-9; Min. of Town and Country Planning, List of Bldgs. (1949); Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 6.
  • 196. J. Strype, Eccl. Memorials, iii (2) (1822), 556.
  • 197. Robbins, Mdx. 94-5, 225-6.
  • 198. Ibid. 226; Lysons, Environs, ii. 40; Canham, Brentford, 8; Annual Reg. (1802), 425.
  • 199. D.N.B.; Complete Peerage, ii. 299; iv. 81; xi. 525-9.
  • 200. Census, 1801-1931.