By Celia Cotton, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 15, 2006
A new website, set up in August 2005, is going to prove an invaluable resource for people researching local history or family history in Brentford. Called http://www.bhsproject.co.uk it aims to list every building along Brentford High Street with brief details and names of occupants from 1840 to 1940 initially. The webmistress is Celia Cotton and here she tells us about her website.
My reason for setting up the website was because I wanted to find out more about my paternal grandparents’ families, all of whom lived in Brentford, some on the High Street. I had one specific address, No 237; however, this was demolished by the time of my first visit in the late 1970s. Whilst I managed to find my kin in each census return I had little sense of the whereabouts of their homes on the High Street, and realised that I was not the only person with High Street ancestors who could not be ‘placed’. I particularly wanted to record the ‘invisible’ properties, those that never made it into the local history books, as well as better-known buildings such as the Three Pigeons, Red Lion, and Rattenburys, the pawnbrokers.
In the mid 19th century Brentford High Street was a continuous stretch of houses, shops and inns. When it was numbered in 1876, 1 to 158 formed the southern side, running westwards from Kew Bridge Road to the canal bridge, 159 to 411 the return stretch on the northern side. The High Street was split for exercises such as the census into two sections, the eastern part being in Ealing parish, the western part in New Brentford parish. In terms of house numbers, 1 to 85 and 225 to 411 are in Ealing parish (Old Brentford) and 86 to 224 in New Brentford. This split is reflected in many of the sources I have used. To ‘place’ people I have tried to get information for every ten years and have included from each census the name of the head of household, his/her occupation, age, birthplace and also the number of people in the household.
The sources I consulted were the Tithe Return 1838 for New Brentford and the Tithe Return for Ealing 1840/1 (for Old Brentford); the censuses 1841-1901; trade directories for various years from 1839 to 1940; the Poor Rate Return 1844, and Valuation Records 1909/10 and later.
I also scoured the Internet, local history books and eBay. Recommended is the searchable database A2A (Access to Archives) http://www.a2a.org.uk/. Through this I found the following nugget for No 376 High Street:
1835 27 Feb.
1. Mary Burbidge of Old Brentford, widow.
2. John Vaughan of same place, butcher. Premises: messuage and butcher’s shop with slaughterhouse, bullock house, tripe house, stable, pigs stye and premises in High Street, Old Brentford, with yard and right of way, formerly in occupation of (1), now of (2). Rent: £28 yearly.
Data from the sources listed above is incorporated into a large master spreadsheet with offshoots – fine as a personal reference but not ‘user-friendly’. Fortunately, preparing material for the Brentford History Day in May 2005 prompted me to structure information so people could ‘browse’ it in a paper form and it was then possible to turn each document into a web page.
The web site
The arrangement is as follows:
Home: includes a brief overview of the site and recent additions.
History: Janet McNamara’s detailed account of the development of the High Street from Roman times to the present day, including the adding of the first pavements in New Brentford in the 1730s, the coming of the High Street trams in 1901 and the 1959 building scheme (resulting in the demolition of a number of houses on the northern side).
Families: I advertised in Family Tree magazine and the West Middlesex Family History Society journal during 2003 requesting information about people who had lived on the High Street and received over 25 replies. To date, 12 pages describing High Street families have been included in ‘Families’ and four pages in ‘Memories’. Here is an example of a ‘Families’ piece from Maurice Lockyer:
…my maternal grandparents Harry Underhill [1868-1950] and Emily [nee Chelton] had 12 children . . . They lived at 44 High Street in a two bedroom cottage house with a large coal cellar … small rear garden with a brick wall at the rear . . . views across Lots Ait to Kew gardens .. .no front garden and access via two stone steps from the pavement. .. No 45 next door to the police station was a workshop housing engineering lathes which could be heard humming through the structure into the Dining room . . .
And one from ‘Memories’ sent in by Len Cox:
Rattenburys at nos 288 & 289: I could never pass the shop without stopping and looking at the Aladdin’s Cave contained within the shop windows. For a young boy there were so many fascinating things displayed which one ‘must have’ but with a between the wars weekly pocket money of exactly tuppence, everything was well beyond my reach.
PCC Wills Index: Over 340 PCC wills were left by Brentford people between 1800 and 1858; on the website those known to have lived on Brentford High Street are indicated with an *.
1841-1881 Names Index: a surname index of household heads taken from the five earliest censuses before the High Street was numbered is currently under construction and will include (estimated) house numbers.
Properties: I divided the High Street into 33 sections, demarcated by a marker (usually a road off or public house) and containing anything from six to 30+ adjacent properties. To date, 23 sections have been put on to the site. To show the type of information the site contains here is a sample entry for 295 Brentford High Street, a house on the northern side to the east of Albany Place.
No 295 was used by members of the medical profession for over 100 years. The earliest record is from the Ealing tithe map, dated 21 July 1841. This shows property refs 321 and 320 with front gardens and thus set back from the High Street. The tithe apportionment records Henry Richards owned and occupied property ref 321. In the 1841 census Henry Richards, aged 35, a surgeon, is recorded here. Next door to Henry lived Elizabeth Hazell. By 1851 Henry and Elizabeth were married. Henry had retired to his birthplace of Epsom by 1861 and No. 295 is occupied by Edward Davis, Kings College London GP, who headed a household of seven including a nurse. He remained here for at least another 10 years.
Henry Bott, aged 28, widower, a surgeon born Bourne, Lincolnshire with a 10 month old daughter had moved in by 1881 . . .’Dr Bott had a chimney fire put out at his home on the High Street, 1888 (N)’ is an example of a snippet picked up from a local history book, (N) being Fire! 300 years of Fire Fighting in Brentford by Diana Willment.
The 1890 directory records Henry Bott as ‘surgeon, medical officer of health to local board’ and in the 1891 and 1901 censuses he remained at No. 295, a widower in 1901. The 1909/10 valuation records provide a description of the property: ‘295 High Street (property ref 1281). House & premises, stables & garage. Rateable value: buildings: £44, stabling £8. Owner: Henry Bott, in occupation. Freehold. Former sales: 1902, freehold, £820; subsequent expenditure: £40. Terraced house of 4 storeys. Top floor: 3 rooms, bathroom, WC. 1st floor: large drawing room, bedroom. Upper ground floor: double dining room, library, consulting rooms & surgery. Opening on to High Street: half-basement: kitchen, larder, scullery. Washhouse; conservatory, WC & fountain in large garden at rear. Front garden. Premises in excellent repair. At the side of the back garden is an old brick built garage & 2-stall stable. Gross value: £830’
A 1913 trade directory records: ‘Henry Bott, MRCS, LRCP Lond., surgeon, & medical officer to Brentford urban district council & hospital superintendent’ at No. 295. By 1928, Reginald Cavan Neil and Alan Dakers Gowans, physicians were using the premises. A 1933 trade directory shows Richard Malam Moore had joined the practice and by 1940 Reginald Cavan Neil had left.
A couple of people have written with memories of the doctors: ‘Dr Moore was my doctor from 1933 . . . Dr Gowans was a surgeon at Brentford Cottage Hospital… Dr Moore served in the army during the war and at that time Dr Gowans became our doctor’, ‘they were the company doctors for employees and families of the Gas Light & Coke Co’ (Pauline Chidwick); Len Cox remembers ‘the waiting room furniture was all Victorian’.
Photos: I have permission to include a set of 1945 photos held at the NMR, Swindon.
Maps: The site already includes some sections from the tithe maps, 1865 and 1894 OS maps, the latter annotated with house numbers.
Source Lists: the books, websites etc which are referred to on the site and a guide to references used, eg (Q22): Brentford Past page 22.
Web Links: I have included a list of links, split into those specific to Brentford, such as the Brentford Community web site, http://www.brentfordtw8.com/ and those which cover a wider area, such as Access to Archives (A2A) see above. Site Development: Three pages covering what is planned next, and how and why the site was constructed.
This is a project that will never come to an end and contributions are always welcome. I must add a thank you to those who have helped by providing material directly, or through writing the local history books that encouraged me to start this project. I would particularly like to thank Janet McNamara who sent me regular letters with enclosures about Brentford High Street.
If you do not have Internet access or are interested in a property that I have not included please contact Celia Cotton, 38 Ashfield Road, Leicester, LE2 1LA or, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Celia Cotton has lived in Leicester for over 30 years, works as a systems analyst for Leicestershire County Council and the web site is her first, made possible through enrolling on Open University web design modules.