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Posts Tagged ‘brentford’

Forgive me for train geekery of late! Thanks to a tip-off via IanVisits, about half an hour ago I raced down the road to Brentford station to witness this 1947 Battle of Britain class steam train pass through on its way to Euston. The loco wasn’t particularly noisy and it smelled lovely. The passengers, steam enthusuasts and nostalgia seekers presumeably,  appeared to be enjoying a swanky luncheon.

steam train brentford locomotive

steam train brentford locomotive

steam train brentford locomotive

steam train brentford locomotive

steam train brentford locomotive

steam train brentford locomotive

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It’s taken me over 20 years to get around to shooting the magnificent art deco industrial buildings on my own doorstep. But I had to wait until the light was just so. Like this afternoon.

The stretch of the Great West Road which they flank is known as the Golden Mile and we Brentfordians are rightly proud of them. They were built more or less in the decade from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. The legendary Art Deco specialists Wallis, Gilbert and Partners loom large. Many of the buildings were erected by American manufacturers who needed to establish UK bases to get around trade tariffs. On the north side of the road we have the brick Gillette building which dominated the area until the massive Glaxo SmithKline steel and glass complex was raised in recent years. Gillette moved their manufacturing to Poland in 2006. The building is currently disused.

On the south, partially opposite GSK we have three classic units along a stretch of several hundred yards, all cream/white. These were at one time counterbalanced by the legendary Firestone factory opposite, on the north side. Tragically, this building was hurredly demolished by developers over a weekend in 1980 before the authorities could get it listed. All that remains are some forlorn Art Deco lamposts at the west gate. Unbelievably, the rather fetching central gate was torn down in 2004 to make way for extra parking.

If you’d like to visit these lovely structures, I recommend you park in PC World car park (in West Cross complex, where Firestone was), or take a short walk from Brentford or Syon Lane mainline stations.

I have omitted Wallis House (old Beechams building), further to the east next to the M4 flyover. Also Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, c1940. Picture here.

Brentford Golden Mile

Gillette Building, Sir Bannister Flight Fletcher, 1936-37.

Brentford Golden Mile

Gillette Building

Brentford Golden Mile

Westlink House, former Pyrene (fire extinguishers) Building, Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, 1930

Brentford Golden Mile

Westlink House

Brentford Golden Mile

Art Decaux! JC Decaux building, formerly HQ of Currys, 1936.

Brentford Golden Mile

JC Decaux building

Brentford Golden Mile

Former HQ of Coty Cosmetics, Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, 1932

Brentford Golden Mile

Old Coty Cosmetics building

Brentford Golden Mile

This lamp post is a surviving reminder of the Firestone factory, destroyed in 1980.

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A good day for West London. First, the 157th Boat Race showing off our beloved neck of the woods to the world at large. Helicopter’s eye view of wonderful bridges and Thameside sites. It’s surprising how much greenery still exists in these built up areas. The Boat Race organisers no doubt kindly arranged the start for 17:00 hours so many of us could get home sharpish in time from the 31st West London Local History Conference.

The conference is sponsored by local history societies:
Acton
Barnes & Mortlake
Brentford & Chiswick
Fulham & Hammersmith
Hounslow
Richmond
Twickenham
Wandsworth
West Middlesex Family History Society

This year’s theme was Scientists & Innovators in West London History. The near sell-out audience were treated to talks on a variety of absorbing topics: Dr John Dee, an Elizabethan scientist from Mortlake, the remnants of whose library give us one of the biggest bodies of source evidence for Western natural philosophy in the late 16C;  George III’s scientific instruments from Kew (now in the Science Museum); the history of Price’s, the biggest candle manufacturer in the world during the Victorian era, which finally shut down as recently as 2000, although its brand name lives on; the potions, powders, pharmaceuticals and popular grooming products of McLeans and Beechams of the Great West Road (now part of GlaxoSmithKline); innovative 18C nursery gardeners in West London who nurtured pineapples, pears and elm trees.

west london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conference

My favourite was Price’s candles. We take candles for granted, today they are fripperies. But not so long ago, except for open hearth fires, they were our only source of artificial light. Beeswax candles we all know about. But it was interesting to discover how the 19C chemists at Price’s went to enormous lengths to find alternatives to the stinky and cheaper tallow-based models. Now I feel educated on the topic.

At just £8 for a full day’s worth of fascinating local history, this is terrific value. We congratulate the organisers for a fabulous conference and look forward to next year.

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Photo of Hogarth's House, which is on the A4 r...

Image via Wikipedia

This evening I attended my first meeting of my local society, the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society. They very kindly and unexpectedly invited me to talk briefly about London Historians. This was rather unnerving, public speaking not being my strong suit, but I think I survived on sheer enthusiasm and the pint of London Pride I had just consumed.

Turnout was strong, at least 50 I estimate, lovely people all. Tonight the talk was by John Collins, Hogarth’s House Outreach Officer, who told us how the renovation was coming along and that this building – dear to the heart of many local denizens – would be reopening late next Spring, with a following wind. I have visited the house several times over the years and would recommend it to all Londoners with the slightest interest in British art and the 18th century generally. Chiswick House is right next door, as is the famous Griffin Brewery of Fullers. What’s not to like?

All in all, a thoroughly positive experience, and I only regret not joining my local society earlier. I’d encourage you to do likewise. Check out our local groups page here. London Historians will give a discount on our membership equivalent to your local society subscription up to a value of £10. That’s right, we’ll pay for your local society sub!

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