1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brentford

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BRENTFORD, a market town in the Brentford parliamentary division of Middlesex, England, 101/2 m. W. of Waterloo terminus, London, by the London & South-Western railway, at the junction of the river Brent with the Thames. Pop. of urban district (1901) 15,171. The Grand Junction Canal joins the Brent, affording ample water-communications to the town, which has considerable industries in brewing, soap-making, saw-milling, market-gardening, &c. The Grand Junction waterworks are situated here. Brentford has been the county-town for elections since 1701.

In 1016 Brentford, or, as it was often called Braynford, was the scene of a great defeat inflicted on the Danes by Edmund Ironside. In 1280 a toll was granted by Edward I., who granted the town a market, for the construction of a bridge across the river, and in the reign of Henry VI. a hospital of the Nine Orders of Angels was founded near its western side. In 1642 a battle was fought here in which the royalists defeated the parliamentary forces. For his services on this occasion the Scotsman Ruthven, earl of Forth, was made earl of Brentford, a title afterwards conferred by William III. on Marshal Schomberg. Brentford was during the 16th and 17th centuries a favourite resort of London citizens; and its inn of the Three Pigeons, which was kept for a time by John Lowin, one of the first actors of Shakespeare’s plays, is frequently alluded to by the dramatists of the period. Falstaff is disguised as the “Fat Woman of Brentford” in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, and numerous other references to the town in literature point, in most cases, to its reputation for excessive dirt. The “two kings of Brentford” mentioned in Cowper’s Task, and elsewhere, seem to owe their mythical existence to the play, The Rehearsal, by George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, produced in 1671.

South of Brentford, towards Isleworth, is Sion House, a mansion founded by Lord Protector Somerset in 1547, and rebuilt and enlarged by the 10th earl of Northumberland and Sir Hugh Smithson, afterwards duke of Northumberland, the architects being Inigo Jones and Robert Adam. The gardens are very beautiful. The site of Sion or Syon House was previously occupied by a convent of Bridgetine nuns established at Twickenham by Henry V. in 1415 and removed here in 1431.