Brentford

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Brentford is a suburban town in west London, England, and part of the London Borough of Hounslow. It is located at the confluence of the River Thames and the River Brent, 8 miles (13 km) west-southwest of Charing Cross. Its former ceremonial county was Middlesex.

The name is recorded as Breguntford in 705 in an Anglo-Saxon charter and means ‘ford over the River Brent’. The name of the river is Celtic and means ‘holy one’ and the ‘-ford’ suffix is Old English. The ford was most likely located where the main road crossed the river. New Brentford is recorded as Newe Braynford in 1521 and was previously known as Westbraynford. Old Brentford is recorded as Old Braynford in 1476 and was previously known as Estbraynford.

The settlement pre-dates the Roman occupation of Britain, and thus pre-dates the founding of London itself. Many pre-Roman artifacts have been excavated in and around the area in Brentford known as ‘Old England’. Bronze Age pottery and burnt flints have been found in separate sites in Brentford. The quality and quantity of the artefacts suggests that Brentford was a meeting point for pre-Romanic tribes. One well known Iron Age piece from about 100 BC – AD 50 is the Brentford horn-cap – a ceremonial chariot fitting that formed part of local antiquarian Thomas Layton’s collection, now held by the Museum of London. The Celtic knot pattern (the ‘Brentford Knot’) on this item has been copied for use on modern jewellery.

Brentford is the first point which was easily fordable by foot on the tidal portion of the River Thames (this was before dredging took place). Partly for this reason it has been suggested that Julius Cæsar crossed the Thames here during his invasion of Britain in 54 BC. In his own account, he writes that he crossed the river 80 miles (130 km) from the sea and Brentford is also this distance from his supposed landing beach. He further states that the river bank was protected by sharp stakes. During the building of Brentford Dock many such oak stakes were discovered. Dredging the river uncovered so many more that they had to be removed, for they were a hazard to navigation. Although his descriptions are compelling, there is as yet, no archaeological proof that this was indeed the spot where he and his army had to fight to cross. It must also be kept in mind that Julius Cæsar’s own accounts suffered in some part, to his embellishment of the facts. Nevertheless, outside the local County Courts there now stands the Brentford Monument, hewn from solid pink granite, whereupon it is asserted, that a documented battle took place here at this time between Cæsar’s forces and Cassivellaunus. There are, however, two other historically accredited battles of Brentford in 1016 and 1642.

A local town fair, called the Brentford Festival, has been held in Brentford every September since 1900.

A notable family from Brentford was the 18th/19th century architectural father and son partnership, the Hardwicks. Thomas Hardwick Senior (1725–1798) and Thomas Hardwick Junior (1752–1829) were both from Brentford and are buried in the old church of St Laurence. Hardwick Senior was the master mason for the Adam Brothers during the construction of Syon House. Hardwick Junior assisted in the building of Somerset House and was known for his designs of churches in the capital. He was also a tutor of J.M.W Turner whom he helped start Turner’s illustrious career in art. Both father and son did a great deal of remodelling and rebuilding on the church of St Laurence.

  • 54 BC Brentford is a likely site of a battle recorded by Julius Cæsar between Julius Cæsar and local king, Cassivellaunus.
  • 781 Council of Brentford recording settlement of a dispute between King Offa of Mercia, and the Bishop of Worcester
  • 1016 Battle of Brentford between the invading Canute and Edmund Ironside
  • 1431 Relocation of Syon Abbey to Brentford from Twickenham
  • 1539 Destruction of Syon Abbey by King Henry VIII
  • 1616 – 1617 Pocahontas, the Native American ‘Princess’, lived in Brentford
  • 1642 Battle of Brentford during the English Civil War
  • 1682 A very violent storm of rain, accompanied with thunder and lightning, caused a sudden flood, which did great damage to the town of Brentford. The whole place was overflown ; boats rowed up and down the streets, and several houses and other buildings were carried away by the force of the waters.
  • 1717 Brentford Turnpike Trust founded to maintain the road between Kensington and Hounslow
  • 1805 Start of operations of the Grand Junction Canal (later the Grand Union Canal)
  • 1815 – 1817 John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the USA, lived in Brentford
  • 1828 William Corder was arrested on Wednesday April 23 at Everley Grove House, Ealing Lane in Brentford, for the notorious Red Barn Murder.
  • 1841 Brentford was flooded, caused by the Brent Reservoir becoming overfull so that the overflow cut a breach in the earth dam. Several lives lost.
  • 1849 Start of operations of the Hounslow Loop line, providing service to Kew Bridge, Brentford Central and Syon Lane stations in the Brentford area.
  • 1859 Start of operations of the Great Western & Brentford Railway company linking Brentford Dock to the Great Western Railway main line at Southall. Additional passenger station named ‘Brentford Town’ later constructed just north of Brentford High Street.
  • 1884 Start of operations of Boston Manor Underground station (then known as Boston Road).
  • 1889 Brentford Football Club founded by a rowing club seeking a winter sport.
  • 30 May 1925 – Great West Road officially opened by King George V. Later the Brentford section became known as the Golden Mile due to the large number of factories that relocated there to take advantage of the good communications. The factories provided high employment and stimulation to the local economy.
  • 1 January 1929 – Grand Junction Canal bought by the Regent’s Canal and amalgamated with other canals to form the Grand Union Canal.
  • 1965 Opening of elevated section of M4 motorway

The road which is now Brentford High Street served as the main road to the South West of Britain for many centuries, and even now, the M4 motorway and the Great West Road pass approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the original main road through Brentford.

Brentford developed around the ancient boundary between the parishes of Ealing and Hanwell. It was divided between the chapelry of Old Brentford to the east in Ealing and the chapelry of New Brentford in Hanwell to the west. Of the two areas, Old Brentford was significantly larger.

New Brentford was first described as the county town of Middlesex in 1789, on the basis that it was the location of elections of knights for the shire (or Members of Parliament) from 1701. In 1795 New Brentford (as it was then) was “considered as the county-town; but there is no town-hall or other public building” causing confusion that remains to this day.

The borough of Hounslow was formed in 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, by the merger of the area of the former Brentford and Chiswick Urban District, Feltham Urban District and the Heston and Isleworth Urban District (which held borough status as did Brentford and Chiswick) of Middlesex.

  • Allianz Cornhill Animal Health
  • Audi is currently building its European headquarters in Brentford on the site of the old Lucozade building.
  • Best Foods, food importer and distributor
  • Barratt Homes
  • Brompton Bicycle (Headquarters), manufacturer of folding bicycles
  • Carillion
  • Datapoint (Headquarters)
  • GlaxoSmithKline (Headquarters)
  • Global Blue (previously Global Refund) Global Blue
  • EMC (London offices)
  • E.M.Tool Designs (Ltd) (Headquarters)
  • Heidelberg Graphic Equipment Ltd (subsidiary of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG)
  • JCDecaux UK
  • Kraft Foods International (European Union)
  • MapMechanics – GIS firm
  • Miniweb
  • Sega Europe has its head office in Brentford
  • Sky
  • Tie Rack Corporate Neckwear
  • Waterstone’s Booksellers Ltd (A division of HMV Group plc)
  • WorleyParsons (London offices)

Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland.

Syon Abbey, now razed to the ground, was the largest abbey church in England.

Syon House is built upon part of the site of Syon Abbey. The exact location of Syon Abbey was unknown until archeological investigations in the grounds of Syon House (Syon Park) in 2003 (by Time Team) and 2004 revealed the foundations of the abbey church. It was larger than Westminster Abbey is now, but no above-ground structure remains. For more details on the abbey and the reasons for its destruction, see its own entry – Syon Abbey.

The London Butterfly House in Syon Park was an insectarium like a large glasshouse containing a butterfly zoo. Visitors could see butterflies and moths flying about, feeding, and emerging from Chrysalises. There was also a colony of large ants (kept with the butterflies), a small tropical bird aviary, and a small gallery of reptiles, amphibians, insects and spiders. The lease on the current site expired in Oct 07 and the Butterfly House closed on 28 October 2007.

Boston Manor House, built in 1622, is a Jacobean manor house, noted for its fine plasterwork ceilings.

Gunnersbury Park Museum is the local museum for the Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow and situated in Gunnersbury House. It contains many archaeological finds including hundreds of flints, plus Roman and Viking weapons found in Brentford. It also has displays of costumes and changing displays on other subjects of local interest. The house was formerly occupied by the Rothschild family and although they did not leave any contemporary furniture or fittings, some of the decorative schemes have been well preserved.

The Weir, public house, formerly ‘The White Horse’ was where the artist J. M. W. Turner lived for one year at the age of ten. He is regarded as having started his interest in painting while living there. Later on in life, he lived nearby in Isleworth and Twickenham.

Syon Park House (demolished in 1953), not to be confused with Syon House, housed the ‘Syon Park Academy’ where the poet Shelley was educated between the ages of 10 and 12 before moving on to Eton. A Royal Mail depot stands on the site now. This may also be the site of the dwelling where Pocahontas lived in Brentford End between 1616 and 1617.

Brentford Dock, a freight terminus of the Great Western Railway, built at the confluence of the River Thames and River Brent, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and built between 1855 and 1859. A spur line from the GWR at Southall was constructed to the Brentford Dock railway station to facilitate easy transferral of freight from lighters and barges on the Thames to GWR-served destinations in the west of the United Kingdom. The dock was redeveloped as residential accommodation in the early 1970s, and little industrial archeology remains. However, Dock Road still retains some of its original fan pattern cobblestone road bed and examples of Brunel’s broad-gauge ‘bridge section’ rail can be seen there.

The Brentford Dock flats (Originally named the Tiber Estate)were built alongside formerly important transport infrastructure as Brentford is the terminus of the Grand Union Canal, originally the Grand Junction Canal. This waterway is still in use for leisure traffic.

The 1000 Great West Road Building, an office building located in Brentford on the M4 motorway featured in Hard-Fi’s Living for the Weekend Music Video

Brentford Public Library is a Carnegie library.

Brentford Public Baths (1896) are a Grade II listed example of late Victorian architecture.

Kew Bridge Steam Museum houses the world’s largest working beam engine.

The Musical Museum houses a large collection of mechanical musical instruments, such as player pianos and a Wurlitzer organ.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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