At the end of the thirteenth century the Manor of Boston was given to the Priory of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate by King Edward I. It’s thought that the Priory may have used the Manor as a country retreat and as a place to grow food. Later they were granted a charter to hold a weekly market and an annual six day fair around St Lawrence’s Day in August.
The stalls would originally have been along the High Street – at that time little more than a wide track – but the market flourished due to easy access by river and locally grown produce for sale. By about 1587 it expanded in to an orchard on the north side of the High Street still called Market Place and expanded in to the Butts.
Locally grown produce was sold to merchants from London. Transport links by road and river were good and the carts and boats carrying fruit and vegetables returned filled with what was politely called ‘night soil’ which was used as fertiliser. Baskets for carrying the fruit and vegetables were made locally from the osiers cut from the willow trees grown on the aits or islands in the Thames.
By the early 17th century New Brentford was one of the most important settlements in Middlesex due to the existence of the market. The lease was held by a Mr Hawley who stopped paying his rent to the Crown leading to the abolition of the market by King James I. This created such a great uproar as there were so many people whose livelihoods were dependant on the market and associated activities that it was reinstated and flourished leading to a Market House being built in 1666 that stood until 1850.
In its heyday there were 3,000 acres of market gardens around the town and the area was the ‘great fruit and vegetable garden’ of London. Thirty people were employed on every acre at harvest time, most of them women who travelled from Wales and Shropshire for the season. To increase yields low crops and flowers were grown underneath the fruit trees. One market gardener with nurseries in The Ham, The Butts, Isleworth and Northfields was famous for growing 300 different types of apples.
By 1877 the growers had stopped using the original market place where a building had been erected for use as a Town Hall. This eventually became the Magistrates Court and the growers were trading around the drinking fountain at the foot of Kew Bridge. This eventually caused considerable traffic congestion and many complaints so land was purchased from the Gunnersbury Estate and an enclosed market created that opened in 1893. This was extended and a large section was roofed in 1905. Brentford Market then became the largest fruit and vegetable market outside Covent Garden, (remembering that Covent Garden was originally a fruit and vegetable market).
A market and fair continued on the traditional site until the 1930s when they were closed down by the Middlesex County Council but as traffic increased east of Kew Bridge and traders were joining rush hour traffic trying to get round Chiswick Roundabout and refrigerated lorries were trying to get around a market built for porters with barrows and traders using horses and carts Brentford Market was closed and moved to North Hyde in 1974 becoming Western International Market.
Brentford Market taken in 1959 by Stephen Bowles
They have since moved again to give more space for trading and quicker access to main roads and motorway,s but have the fountain that was moved from Kew Bridge outside the main gate in Hayes Road, Southall.
The fountain is commemorated in the name of the Leisure Centre and the market covered all the area of land behind it.
Thanks to @djstevie_b and his father for the above video.
5 thoughts on “The Markets and Growers of Brentford”
Mr Ronalds, the gardener above with 300 types of apples was in fact a nursery gardener who sold plants, not a market gardener who sold fruit. Val Bott (see nurserygardeners.com)
it is with sadness I report the death of my father Roy Bowles at the age of 84 in January 2015. He made this film.
I’m very sorry to hear that. Please accept our condolences.
I’m sorry to hear of your fathers passing. RIP Sir
Fantastic footage of historical importance. Thank you