Introduction

Brentford is an ANCIENT place. This isn’t someone’s North Field or South Wood. Here, has been a settlement since prehistoric times: certainly, since the Mesolithic period since before Stonehenge, since before the pyramids were built.  Ancient flint tools and axes have been washed up on the foreshore and even an ancient human thigh bone recently.

The river Brent meets the Thames here – both rivers were wider and shallower when the romans arrived to conquer the land 2000 years ago. Shallow enough to be forded- or crossed.  And that’s where the name brent-ford came from: The place where the river Brent and the Thames met and could be forded.

Archaeological digs have shown that underneath Brentford’s present day high street, and the buildings along its route, ran Roman Britain’s main road from London to the west. And it continued as a major route for nearly 2,000 years, making Brentford an important  trading post along the routes to Bath and the West of England.

In the 1740s Brentford was one continuous line of buildings from Kew Ferry (on the site of Kew Bridge) to the west of Brentford Bridge- it was described in the Universal Directory of Trade (1790s) as “a place of great trade being one of the greatest thoroughfares in the kingdom”.  
Hundreds of people worked in Brentford’s industries including the flourmill, the pottery, the tile and brick works and the malt distillery. This was very much a working place. The Brentford area also became known as the place where many of London’s fruit and vegetables were grown.

In 1807 Land Surveyor John Middleton suggested a by-pass to take some of the huge amount of traffic away from Brentford’s narrow high street.

Brentford residents and traders resisted the idea, thinking that a by-pass would take away passing trade- which of course it did! Though this wasn’t to happen for nearly 120 years: with the recommended road not built until 1925. This was the adaptation of the Great West Road, becoming known as the Golden Mile in Brentford because of all the factories that moved there which provided employment and growth to the local economy.

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

  • Ask your older relatives what their earliest memories are of the places they grew up in. You could also ask them if they remember memories told to them by their own older relatives. Perhaps you could even consider recording their memories (with their permission). History has to be shared so that we remember, so that we note the changes in our lives over the years and, perhaps, even to learn from them.
  • READ some recollections gathered by Brentford High Street Project about life in Brentford in times past entitled Brentford High Street Project.
  • Find out about the BBC 5000 year old human bone found in the Thames.