Point 6: Market Square

In 1306 the nuns of St Helen’s in Bishopsgate, were given a charter to hold a weekly market in Brentford. They were also allowed a fair for six days from the eve of St Lawrence’s Day on August 10th. Both the market and the fair were in existence in the town for more than 600 years.

New Brentford was first described as the county town of Middlesex in 1789, on the basis that people from all over the county came to vote for their parliamentary MPs from 1701. In 1768 the strong opposing opinions during the elections resulted in riots and the locals, fearing for their homes and businesses, had to run the rioters out of town.

1910 approx. Young and Co postcard Howard Webb Collection.

1768 election satirical print depicting the riot that took place that year.

1800s early. Brentford old market house permission of ©The Trustees of the British Museum.

1848 Stables-market-place, view from front door of Turner’s uncle’s house, The old market hall is on the left with the stables behind the Three Pigeons pub right.

Circa 1900 Market Place & Three Pigeons Pub. Though rebuilt as a town hall, around 1850, it was never used as one. by John Walker of Harlesden Howard Webb collection.

1905 Postcard of the Marketplace and Fair, known to be a noisy event in late summer.

Circa 1909 – Looking East down the high street was the Red Lion pub and close by the Castle Hotel of New Brentford. They were both ancient coaching houses on the north side of the street just east of the market place, Howard Webb collection.

1950s 196 High Street, the North Eastern corner of Market Place Brentford, Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

‘Brentford, High Street 1961’ from Francis Frith.

‘Brentford, High Street c.1960’ from Francis Frith.

Market Place, Brentford, High Street c.1960′ from Francis Frith.

In the market square on fair days people were put into the stocks as punishment for profaning or swearing or drunkenness among other misdemeanours.
The fairs, though unpopular with some people living nearby, continued until 1933.

Despite being a thriving settlement in Medieval Britain, Brentford doesn’t appear in the Domesday book because the town was divided into 3 places: Old Brentford (from Kew Bridge to the east side of Half Acre),  New Brentford (west side of Half Acre to Brentford Bridge)  and Brentford End, which lay to the west of Brentford Bridge.  – each was in a different parish: Ealing, Hanwell and Isleworth. It wasn’t considered to be a single town until the 19th century.

In Tudor times Brentford was ideally situated for traders from the west to avoid the strict regulations of the London markets, to store their goods, feed up their livestock and transfer goods into the capital by road or river.

The market was set back from the road to avoid the traffic congestion on the road.

Through the 1600s pubs and coaching houses sprung up including the White Horse, behind the market place, now called the Weir.  The White Horse had a licence since around 1603. Next door lived the celebrated painter Joseph William Mallord Turner. He went to school in Brentford after being sent to stay with his uncle, a Butcher, in around 1785.

There was also the Castle on the East side of the high street which had large stables and a yard that extended out back- right into the butts. The Three Pigeons on the west corner of Market Place was a very old public house which Shakespeare is said to have drunk in, it may even have played host to his company’s production of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, Brentford is mentioned in the play too.

Through the 17th and 18th centuries many orchards were planted and land was cultivated in the area. By the beginning of the 19th c there were about 3,000 acres of market gardens in and around Brentford which led to Brentford being described as ‘the great fruit and vegetable garden of London’. Seasonal workers would travel to Brentford to work on the harvests in Summer- many from Wales and Shropshire.

The Market House was demolished in 1850 to make way for the current building. Built as a town hall it was never used as one and opened instead as the magistrates court. The market found its next official home in 1893 when the new market opened down near Kew Bridge .

And in the 1950s and 1960s the majority of the old high street was replaced with the new parades which you can see in the images. Across the road from the Market Place is The Magpie and Crown.  The “Pye” may have been built in 1614. By 1722 it had been named The Magpie and Crown. Rebuilt in about 1923, it may be another building by Nowell Parr who designed so many Brentford buildings – at that time it was set back from the building line.

1950s-60s 196 High Street, new buildings in foreground, Market Place and old buildings on North side Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

Circa 1905 High St near Market place Trees of St Lawrence’s church on the left of the image, Howard Webb collection.

1907 This Wakefields Postcard calls the high street a disgrace to the country! Looking East the market place is out of sight on the left between buildings. Howard Webb collection.

The Castle Hotel reproduced by permission of English Heritage NMR.

1954 circa. 196+ High Street, with County Parade added, view from West, Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

1950s 193-194 High Street, former Three Pigeons Pub, Market place is out of sight on right of image Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

1950s 60s Thanet House, replaced the old buildings on the High Street, Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

Circa 1951 112-118 High Street, view from Northwest (market place side of the road), Holman, Hounslow local studies archive.

By the early 1960s the view East shows both new parades, Hounslow local studies archive.


If you have time, walk behind the big old Magistrates court building into The Butts- there are lots of grand 18th century houses here, it used to be used as an overspill for the Market in the 17th century.

  • Look for the Boatman’s Institute. This was built as a Mission to provide education for canal boat children and a lying-in room where canal women could give birth.
  • In another sad episode: Protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here in 1558 .

1911 The Butts Pre 1911 Howard Webb Collection.

1904 Boatmens Institute built to provide assistance to Canal Families who lived and worked in the area. Howard Webb Collection.

1600s print made by Thomas Bowles II of the burning of heretic protestants © The Trustees of the British Museum.