No.10 Brentford: New Brentford and the Grand Union Canal
In 1993 GLIAS produced this walks leaflet, compiled by Diana Willment with help from Elizabeth Wood and other GLIAS members.
We have reproduced it here for historical interest. Links to entries in the GLIAS Database are given.
This walk is about 2½ miles long and may take up to 2½ hours. It starts at the Beehive pub in the centre of Brentford, at the junction of the High Street and Half Acre, and ends at Brentford BR Station, about five minutes' walk away up Half Acre. It may be treated as a continuation of GLIAS Walk 9, Old Brentford and the River Thames, which starts at Kew Bridge and ends at the Beehive.
New Brentford is actually older than old Brentford and the parish boundary between them running down Half Acre past the Beehive, then southwards past the boundary marker at Thames Locks and on to the River Thames. The Grand Union Canal, which starts at Brentford, forms a waterway link between the Thames and the Midlands and North.
① Starting at the Beehive, cross the High Street, turn right and then left down Catherine Wheel Road.
Once a narrow alley known as Catherine Wheel Yard, this road leads past the Brewery Tap Pub and down to the canal. To the right, along Brent Way, a shuttered brick building adjoining the plain building labelled Twickenham Plating Group is just visible. Until 1981 this was Band's Parchment Works (GTL03453), by then one of only two producers of parchment in the country.
Continue as far as the first footbridge.
The footbridge crosses the remains of Dr Johnson's Lock (named after a local landowner) and from it, to the left, Town Wharf can be seen.
Follow the footpath to the next footbridge.
This footbridge, which crosses the lock spillway, is by Westwood, Baillie & Co of London.
② Continue to Thames Locks and cross over to the far side by the lock-keeper's house.
Just beyond the lock-keeper's premises is the base of an engine house, once housing an engine providing hydraulic power for Brentford Dock (See GLIAS Walk 9). The two weather-boarded buildings across the canal are probably the oldest canal-side buildings to survive in the area.
The southern end of the Grand Junction Canal was opened as far as Uxbridge in 1794 and a single lock was added here in the early 19th century. This improved navigation from the Thames to the next lock at Brentford, originally the first lock on the system. Thames Locks were doubled and mechanised in 1962. The Grand Junction Canal Company was incorporated into the Grand Union Canal Company in 1929 and nationalised in 1948. The canal came under what is now British Waterways in 1963.
Walk along the towing path, climb the steps and turn sharp right onto the footbridge.
③ This bridge replaced the original bridge here which took the towing path across the canal. From the bridge can be seen, on the far side of the canal, a small dock and to the right of this dock is another view of Band's Parchment Works. To the left is the Augustus Close road bridge, originally built by the Great Western & Brentford Railway Company to carry their broad-gauge line from Southall to Brentford Dock. It was opened for goods traffic in 1859 and converted to standard gauge in 1876.
Return across the footbridge and turn right into Augustus Close. Follow the road onto the former railway bridge.
Plates on the bridge are marked 'The Horsehay Co Ld Shropshire 1932'. The brick building on the left, now part of Albion Timber Merchants, was used to repair traditional wooden craft until the early 1980s. The small dock beyond this building, only just visible from Augustus Close, was Ham Weight-dock; here craft were weighed to assess cargo capacity.
Continue down to the High Street and turn right.
The 15th-century tower of St Lawrence's church on the right is the oldest building in Brentford. A few yards along the High Street to the right in the church boundary wall is a plaque recording the supply of 'pure filtered' water to the former drinking fountain above (GTL01490).
Turn back along the High Street, past Augustus Close to Brentford Bridge.
To the left can be seen parts of the old railway to Brentford Dock. Brentford Bridge is at an ancient crossing of the River Brent on the route between London and the West. The present bridge was built in 1824 and downstream the canal follows the river.
Continue along the High Street to the island refuge, cross over and turn back towards Brentford.
Here are the remains of Brentford Town Station used by passengers on the Brentford Dock line from 1860. Passing the station you are once more directly above the new London water ring main, 45 metres below ground (see GLIAS Walk 9). Just past the station was the terminus for trams from London. In Commerce Road is a small industrial estate with four Odeon-style factories of the late 1930s. At the corner of Commerce Road, near the canal, were the premises of the Palm Toffee Company.
Take the signposted footpath on the left, alongside the canal.
④ From here the canal makes use of the River Brent for the next two miles, then swings away west via the Hanwell Locks to Bull's Bridge, the junction with the Paddington Arm, and eventually to the Midlands. Canal engineers were able to take advantage of river loops for lock spillways and to take floodwater. Brentford gauging locks (GTL00462), with their own small spillway, are on a straight cut section, the River Brent at this point looping from behind Brentford Depot on the opposite side of the canal. To the right you can see the Brent backwater flowing from under the 1930s concrete bridge. This has a weir used to regulate the flow of water down the Brent, the two channels diverging just beyond the Depot. The Depot was developed largely in the 1930s, offering warehousing with access to road and canal. Commercial canal carrying northwards virtually ceased in the early 1980s with the end of the lime-juice run to Rose's factory in Hemel Hempstead.
⑤ The small building with the chimney on the lock-side is the toll office, dating from 1911 and still with its measuring gauge and high office desk. Here traffic entering the canal paid tolls according to the type and weight of cargo. Next, the towing path crosses a swing bridge across the entrance to a small dock once used by Fellows, Morton & Clayton, canal carriers. The warehouses on the left just before the covered dock have rat guards and were used as a government food store. Continue, passing under the covered dock, the Hounslow Loop line (1849) and the Golden Mile of the Great West Road (1925, widened 1986), to Clitheroe's Lock, named after a local family. The tall vaned chimneys visible along this stretch belong to a modern refuse destructor. About ½ mile from Brentford, shortly before the M4 (1965) crosses the canal, is Gallows Bridge. It is marked on the far side 'Horseley Ironworks near Birmingham 1820', and was renovated in 1986 by Marsh Bros. At this iron roving bridge a draught horse could pass under the bridge as well as across the canal so need not be unhitched from a boat. From it can be seen further on at the Brentford boundary, a railway bridge now used by the Piccadilly Line. The original bridge there was opened in 1883 and the line completed to serve Hounslow Barracks in 1884.
Return by the same route to the High Street, turn left across Brentford Bridge and continue to the Market Place.
To the left of the High Street is Durham Wharf and the low concrete wall alongside the pavement is part of the flood defences. Notice on the left the road access to the Depot with the concrete bridge crossing the Brent backwater.
At the Market Place turn left immediately beyond the Magistrates' Court and walk straight ahead into the Butts.
⑥ The White Horse behind the Court has a river-side garden with views of the Brent backwater. In The Butts the first building on the left was the Boatmen's Institute, built by the London City Mission in 1904 on canal company land at the site of a watermill. The Institute offered medical care, schooling and a meeting place for canal families and is now a private residence. The Butts is a square of mainly 18th-century houses and was once the site of the hustings for the Middlesex County elections.
Cross the square diagonally leaving by the broad road that leads to Half Acre. At Half Acre cross the road and turn left, this is now Boston Manor Road.
Brentford Public Library on the right was opened personally by Andrew Carnegie in 1904 and has inside a fine set of cast-iron radiators. A short diversion past the War Memorial up Windmill Road and right into Clifden Road leads to Brentford Public Baths on the right, opened in 1896. The holes in the soft brickwork were gouged by swimmers queuing here with the coinage of a former era. Both Library and Baths are by Nowell Parr, District Surveyor.
Return to Boston Manor Road and turn right to the station.
⑦ Most of the old station buildings were demolished in 1989 but the Station House survives. There is an early brick-built goods shed beyond the platform on the far side.
There is a choice of return routes from here:
Trains from Brentford call at Kew Bridge and Waterloo.
Five minutes' walk back down Boston Manor Road and Half Acre returns you to the Beehive and bus routes 237 and 267 to Kew Bridge.
To walk back to Kew Bridge, take the footpath to the right of Station House then follow Hamilton Road, New Road and Burford Road, turn right down Clayponds Lane passing the Pottery Arms, left past the North Star and on through the former filter beds to Green Dragon Lane. Turn left into Kew Bridge Road.
© GLIAS, 1993