Brentford Market

brentford market

Historical Context

Throughout the 19th century, the economy of Middlesex was dominated by the need to feed London’s booming population. Parishes along the river, and those within easy walking distance of the hungry markets of London, became centres for commercial agriculture. Over time the rapid expansion of London’s urban area forced out market gardeners from central London into the southwest suburbs, and a number of Enclosure Acts allowed common grazing land to become market gardens. Farmers became horticulturalists, and farms became market gardens and orchards. The arrival of the railway to Twickenham, Teddington and Whitton in the middle of the-century allowed market gardeners to move away from the river, deeper into Middlesex. In many areas, employment in agriculture exceeded that in trade, manufacturing, and handicrafts. Gradually, however, as London continued to grow, house-building for the new ‘commuter classes’ began, and orchards began to give way to houses. The industry peaked in the 1870s, and then moved to the Hampton area, where large glasshouses allowed growers to produce fruit and vegetables more efficiently. Several of the Hampton nurseries continued to thrive through the Second World War and after, until their land was finally built upon to become Nurserylands housing estate.

Brentford Market

The town of Brentford was already known as a trading centre by the 13th Century. The nuns of St Helen’s in Bishopsgate were granted the Manor of Boston by Edward I in 1280 and given a charter for a market in 1306. Brentford was strategically placed on the banks of the Thames and on the road from the southwest into central London. Traders would bring their goods to Brentford market rather than to the capital’s markets, which had much stricter regulations. Produce could be stored locally then taken to London by road or river. In addition to produce brought up from the West Country, the market was full of a wide variety of locally grown fruit and vegetables.


1845  According to Thomas Faulkner in his book ‘The History and Antiquities of Brentford Ealing and Chiswick’, the original market site in the High Street (where the Magistrates’ Court is today) catered for all kinds of goods. Writing in 1845, he tells of the Tuesday market where meat, poultry, butter, cheese, eggs, fruit, vegetables, green house plants, hardware and brushes, earthenware and glass, fish, geese and pigs, books and paints were sold and so, it was said, ‘looked more like a fair than a market’.

1880s  At some point in the 1880s an informal market for the sale of fruit and vegetables grew up around the water fountain at the foot of Kew Bridge (opposite the Express Tavern). The story is that a grower on the way to London stopped for refreshment – hopefully for his horse as well as himself – at the Express Tavern and was surrounded by people wanting to buy his cabbages off the back of his cart. Having sold his produce and saved a journey into London, he approached the Express Tavern landlord and arranged to sell from the pub forecourt on his next trip.

1890  Other traders saw the economic sense in this, and by 1890 some 60 carts were employed in a chaotic and illegal trade around the fountain. Traffic coming over Kew Bridge from the south and east from Brentford Town became tangled in huge jams as it tried to negotiate buyers, sellers, horses and carts – all in the middle of a very important junction!

1893  Brentford Local Board, the responsible body of the time, received many complaints about the inconveniences created by the ‘Kew Bridge Market’. They decided to buy a two acre site about half a mile to the east of the bridge in order to establish a purpose built market. The local traders were involved in the planning process, so there was no shortage of takers for the stalls and all pitches were taken by the opening in 1893. One trader, also a Board member, was Robert Addey whose family was still working the market in 1948. (A company called Addey and Son Ltd trades out of Western International Market today).

End 1890s  it is estimated that some 3,000 acres around Brentford and South Ealing were under cultivation with apples, pears, cherries, plums, walnuts, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, shrubs and herbs being grown. The expanding market gardens around Isleworth and Twickenham were also sending produce to Brentford Market. William Poupart of Marsh Farm in Twickenham was one such grower. His son TJ Poupart traded from the market until the 1960s. The two acre site soon outgrew the needs of the growers and plans were drawn up for expansion.

1906  When the new facilities opened in 1906 the market spanned 11 acres with three covered avenues, space for wagons in the centre, and ordinary stands at the sides. There were five auction spaces, a large refreshment area, and l4 shops fronting the High Road.

1929  A report on markets, published in 1929, recorded that ‘there were 62 lock up stalls rented at 6d per square yard per week, 110 pitching stands where goods were pitched off wagons to be sold on the stand, and 20 wooden shops on the outskirts of the enclosure.’ By this time, most of the transport was motorised but there was still stabling for 200 horses. At that time there were 260 growers regularly bringing produce from Middlesex, east Surrey, east Buckinghamshire, east Berkshire and beyond. See the advertisement for R A Phillips Ltd: ‘Fruit, pea and potato salesmen’ – their produce came from farms around Potton, in Bedfordshire.

Post WW2  Trade continued to flourish after World War Two and Brentford Market’s importance was second only to Covent Garden in supplying the needs of an ever growing population in and around London.

1960s  The area around the market, always important for its transport links, was at the junction of the North and South Circular Roads, alongside the A4 and – by 1960’s – almost underneath the elevated section of the M4. Traffic congestion – just as in 1890 – played a crucial part in the future of Brentford Market. In 1927 22,200 retailers’ two-wheeled vehicles (mostly hand‑barrows) entered the market and 135,600 four-wheeled vehicles. By 1967 this had changed to 449 two-wheeled and 252,115 four- wheeled. The site also needed to cope with refrigerated containers up to 45 feet long which were 8 feet high and 8 feet wide and were unable to manoeuvre in the restricted spaces built for horses and carts.

1974  A decision was taken to move the market to a new site at North Hyde, to the west of Southall, and in 1974 the new Western International Market opened, ending nearly 700 years of market trading in Brentford. Capital Interchange Way and the Fountain Leisure Centre to the west of Chiswick Roundabout are now sited where the market once stood. The Leisure Centre was named to commemorate the drinking fountain that stood for many years at the foot of Kew Bridge. It was moved to Western International Market in 1974 and, after a rebuild of the market in 2008, the fountain was repaired and refurbished and marks the present entrance to the market.

Drinking Fountain at the New Western International Market - - 1178140

 The Brentford Market fountain relocated to Western International Market. J Taylor, Commons Wikimedia

Find out more


Brentford Market – blog by Stephen Bowles with film by his father Roy Bowles

Brentford Market – history by Janet McNamara

This factsheet was researched and written by David Lawrie, Research and Oral History Volunteer, for the Environment Trust.

© Environment Trust 2014-2019

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