Brentford is a town in west London, England and part of the London Borough of Hounslow, at the confluence of the River Brent and the Thames, 8 miles (13 km) west-by-southwest of Charing Cross. It was historically part of the ancient parishes of Ealing and Hanwell in the county of Middlesex. After being administratively united with Chiswick in 1927 at a lower level than the overarching county body, it was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1932. It has formed part of Greater London since 1965.
Its economy has diverse company headquarters buildings which mark the start of the M4 corridor; in transport it also has two railway stations and the Boston Manor tube station on its north-east border with Little Ealing. Brentford has a convenience shopping and dining venue grid of streets at its centre. Brentford at the start of its 21st century attracted regeneration of its little-used warehouse premises and docks including the re-modelling of the waterfront to provide more economically active shops, townhouses and apartments, some of which comprises Brentford Dock. A 19th and 20th centuries mixed social and private housing locality: New Brentford is contiguous with the Osterley neighbourhood of Isleworth and Syon Park and the Great West Road which has most of the largest business premises.
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 jewelery.
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.
The building of Brentford Dock was started in 1855, and it was formally opened in 1859. The dock yard is now a Marina and housing estate.
The Hardwick Family
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 the 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 (birth name: Matoaka), Pamunkey 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.
The Syon Estate
Syon House, the London residence of the Duke of Northumberland is a large mansion and park in Syon ward, described above that has long been shared with Isleworth. Some of its seasonally marshy land is now a public nature reserve. The estate has a hotel, visitor centre and garden centre.
Syon Abbey, razed to the ground, with reworked gatehouses by the newer mansion had the largest abbey church in England in the Middle Ages.
The location of Syon Abbey in the park was unknown until archeological investigations in the grounds 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. There were complex reasons for its destruction.
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.
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.
On the Periphery
Gunnersbury Park Museum is in Gunnersbury House, narrowly in Gunnersbury (the north-west of Chiswick) containing artifacts and former furnishings of the Rothschild family, who were culturally and financially pre-eminent across France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and North America.
Kew Gardens is visible from the scattering of high rise buildings towering over the town and some of the mid rise ones.
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 he lived in Isleworth and Twickenham.
Brentford Dock came to single use and engineered enlargement as 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 from 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 as part of the Grand Union Canal.
The 1000 Great West Road Building, of office use in Brentford on the M4 motorway featured in the music video for Hard-Fi’s “Living for the Weekend.”
Brentford Baths (1896), also by the architect Nowell Parr, are a listed example of late Victorian architecture, in the starting category of Grade II, thus below two of the town’s churches, for example.
Kew Bridge Steam Museum houses the world’s largest working beam engine and its narrow cuboid tower is an emblem of the town.
The Musical Museum houses a large collection of mechanical musical instruments, such as player pianos and a Wurlitzer organ.
Griffin Park is home to Brentford Football Club and Chelsea Football Club Reserves (from 2002 until 23 September 2005 it was the home of the London Broncos rugby league club – subsequently they were renamed Harlequins Rugby League and transferred to The Stoop).
Brentford F.C. are a professional English football club based in Brentford in the London Borough of Hounslow. They are currently playing in Football League One. They were founded in 1889 by members of the defunct Brentford Rowing Club and play their home games at Griffin Park, their home stadium since 1904. The club has a long-standing rivalry with near neighbours, Fulham.