Great day out in Brentford

Brentford offers a wealth of places to explore for all the family, with a cluster of museums and cultural venues, Waterman’s independent cinema, sporting venues and interesting architecture.  Growing as a market town where the River Brent meets the Thames the town is steeped in Tudor and Jacobean history.  Significant regeneration is now underway re-modelling and opening up access to the waterfront to provide a better visitor offer, as well as more townhouses and apartments

Visit 1: Brentford Water & Music –  half day

From the centre of Brentford visit the Grand Union Canal, taking in the many colourful barges/canal boats and of course the varied wildlife, to the old Market Place, adjacent to which is the historic Butts, housing a number of Georgian and earlier residences – you might well recognise a number of houses from historical dramas and films.  Looking for a linger walk? Up the Grand Union there is pedestrian access form the Canal to Boston Manor Park, next to GSK global headquarters, a stunning park with a Jacobean mansion house. 

Brentford High Street is an ideal place for lunch, with many coffee shops serving light bites and also Brentford’s longest established Italian restaurant, La Rosetta, family owned and run since 1985.

Two museums are a must: The Musical Museum https://www.musicalmuseum.co.uk/ and the London Museum of Water and Steam https://waterandsteam.org.uk/events/

They are virtually adjacent and close to Kew Bridge.  

The Musical Museum is an independent charity housing self-playing instruments and domestic pipe organs, the forerunners to the record player!  This home entertainment instruments date from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.  The highlight of the Museum has to be the Art Deco Wurlitzer organ, which is housed in the cinema room, where silent films are regularly shown, and tea dances take place.  Seeing the Wurlitzer in action, with flashing lights, rise through the floor to the raised platform is well worth witnessing.  The volunteer guides are incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the exhibits.

The London Museum of Water and Steam is set in a temple-like Victorian gothic building, housing several nineteenth-century Cornish beam engines, including the largest working example in the world.  Volunteer engineers are on hand to explain all things steam.  There is also a pretty little garden and an interactive children’s play area, with a water theme, of course.  The café is pretty good too.

Visit 2: A day out in Brentford

Brentford Sunday Market: Brentford Market is a regular food market where you can purchase locally sourced and affordable produce. It takes place on regular Sundays 10.00 am – 2.00 pm, Market Place, High Street, Brentford TW8 8AH.  Please check dates on https://www.facebook.com/brentfordmarket 

Whilst there, check out the Blue Road, leading to the marketing suite of the new development: the Brentford Project https://www.thebrentfordproject.com/ A delightful spot is a café/restaurant Rye by the Water.  

Down the road, you reach Duke of London, https://www.dukeoflondon.co.uk/  a family-run classic and supercar hub in West London – founded in 2015 by Merlin McCormack – offering sales, restoration, storage, servicing, detailing, and everything in between. They are also home to The Brewery Tap Pub and Santa Maria Pizzeria, and host regular events throughout the year, including our renowned ‘Classics & Cake’ monthly classic and supercar meet and drive in movies.

Feeling active? Active360 provides paddleboarding at Brentford lock with family, group, childrens offer – who knows you might get to see the local Thames seal. 

Visit 3: Brentford’s industrial past – half day

Brentford is on three waterways: the Thames, the River Brent, and the Grand Union Canal, which goes to Birmingham and has a spur leading to Maida Vale and Little Venice. Brentford Gauging Lock was once one of the busiest places on the Grand Union Canal / River Brent. Today, Brentford Lock is a great place for a walk and cycle.  Just a 10-minute jaunt around the towpath is the Thames Lock the final lock on the Grand Union Canal and the gateway to the River Thames.  Or if you prefer the 15-minute walk the other way, you’ll find Syon House and Park. 

Syon is one of the last great houses of London and has been in the family of the present owners for more than 400 years.  Profoundly historic, the House holds a wealth of art within its grand classical interiors, while the Park and Gardens feel like deep countryside, although barely nine miles from central London.   

Look out for the welcome station at Brentford – a place to stop for a chat with friendly volunteers from the Canal & River Trust https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/  and pick up some information about the local area.  One of London’s smallest museums, based in the Grade II Listed Toll House, is open every Friday (pre Covid times) by volunteers . It offers a fascinating and intimate slice of waterways history for children and adults alike.  The basin here provides some tranquil waterspace in the town. You’ll get a chance to see waterbirds, including herons, moorhens and flotillas of ducks so sit back and reflect.

The canal path from Brentford Lock is delightful, combining canal history including locks and sluices, and light industrial areas with much wildlife.  There are links from the Canal to various waterside parks, including Boston Manor Park and House.  In the Butts is the building (now a dwelling) which used to house a school for children of the bargees.  Boston Manor House is one of West London’s lesser-known gems, London’s only Jacobean manor house still set in a part of the original estate.  Built in 1623 it is an incredible three-story building is situated in Boston Manor Park, which contains a historic lake and ancient cedar trees as well as woods, meadowlands, formal gardens, and play areas.

Going down Dock Road (opposite Morrisons) you are heading onto the riverside promenade leading to one of the UK’s oldest, and west London’s biggest, working boatyard.  Dating from the mid-1800s and presently managed by MSO Marine, the site was formerly a key trading trans-shipment junction linking to the Grand Union Canal and the Great Western Railway.  There is a narrow path from Rye by the Water, running through Johnson’s Island, an enclave of artist’s studios to the Thames Lock.  This will lead you to Catherine Wheel Road, where artist studios and boutique businesses, set in a vibrant creative hub that has organically taken over the previous industrial spaces, including the Loft art studio, and pop-up galleries in vast industrial spaces.

Visit 4: Brentford/Strand on the Green, Chiswick  – half day

Starting at Waterman’s Park, taking in the children’s playground, and maybe an art exhibition or even film at Watermans Art Centre, walk along the Hollows, possibly spotting herons, egrets and other wading birds, you pass One over the Ait. Then walking From Kew Bridge towards Chiswick to Lionel Road South, to find the new Brentford FC Stadium. The Stadium, with a capacity for 17,500 spectators is home to Brentford FC, now in the Premier League and London Irish, also in the premier Rugby league.  Transport links: Brentford and Kew Bridge railway stations

Your journey continues along Strand on the Green, with three historic pubs lining the footpath, which is part of the Thames Path.  The Bell & Crown was licensed in 1751.  The City Barge, licensed in 1786 was heavily bombed in WWII and featured in the Beatles film ‘Help!’ The Bulls Head, licensed in 1722 has been the location of a pub for 400 years. Oliver Cromwell was reputed to hold military councils in the pub during the English Civil War (1642-1651).  The path and pubs have good views across the Thames, especially when the tide is high and the path has good information boards.

Transport links: Brentford & Kew Bridge railway station, and many buses: E8, E2, 235, 267, 65

Visit 5: Step into historic Brentford

Step back in time when west London was the fashionable area for country retreats for the rich and powerful: https://www.hounslow.gov.uk/info/20174/heritage_and_arts/1855/historic_houses our stately homes across the borough include:

Boston Manor House: a Jacobean manor house dating back to 1623.  The three-storey building is under renovation at present and due to re-open in …  It is set in parkland, featuring a lake and ancient cedar trees.  The parkland is also being opened up at present, creating vistas of the Grand Union Canal.  The grounds also include an excellent children’s playground and a waymarked nature trail.

Osterley House and Park https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/osterley-park-and-house  owned and run by the National Trust is another day out.  First stop has to be the NT café in the old stable block, complete with stalls and hay feeders.  Osterley has been the site for many films, the latest being Vanity Fair.  The original house was Elizabethan and Robert Adams remodelled it in the 1760s, with his trademark of unity of exterior and interior.  The main hall features an ornate plasterwork ceiling, with the pattern being mirrored on the floor.  The gardens have been extensively transformed, including the Robert Adams summer house.  There is an impressive vegetable garden.  Away from the formal National Trust run gardens, there is a large parkland, which is open to all, with all terrain paths, ideal for disabled.  There is a herd of cattle and a large lake.

Syon House https://www.syonpark.co.uk/  The Robert Adam theme continues at Syon House, privately owned by the Duke of Northumberland.  It was built in the sixteenth century, over the foundations of a huge abbey church.  King Henry VIII’s coffin lay here in 1547 on its way to Windsor for burial.  Unfortunately, it burst open, much to the delight of a pack of hounds, who lapped up some of the contents.  Whilst Robert Adam was working on the house, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was laying out the park in the English landscape style.  The highlight of the gardens is a crescent shaped Conservatory, which is said to have inspired the design of Crystal Palace.  Syon House Gardens is just across the river from Kew Gardens and can be less frenetic and without the queues.

Syon House has seen much filming recently, including Poldark and Bridgerton.  If the House and Gardens are not enough, the Garden Centre has just re-opened and is now run by Hilliers.  The site also houses the London Park Syon Hilton hotel, which is an oasis of opulence.

The list

London Museum of Water & Steam

London Museum of Water & Steam, Green Dragon Lane, Brentford, London TW8 0EN

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The Musical Museum

399 High St, Brentford TW8 0DU

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Active360

Units 4-5 Kew Bridge Arches Strand on the Green london W43NG

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Strand-on-the-Green

Strand-on-the-Green, London W4 3NS

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Osterley House and Park

Osterley Park and House, Jersey Rd, Isleworth TW7 4RB

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Syon House and Gardens

Syon Park, Brentford, TW8 8JF

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