Brentford & Chiswick
Brentford & Chiswick both grew up along a major coaching route out of London.
In the 18th & 19th centuries Brentford was a busy market town with more than a hundred small shops along a very narrow street. Most of the old buildings were demolished when the road was widened to accommodate 20th century traffic.
Chiswick was still a series of villages with large houses, coaching inns and market gardens. As it expanded in the later 19th century, new parades of shops were built along the wide main road. Many of them survive today behind modern shop fronts.
Shopping before 1875
The late-Victorian and Edwardian era saw a revolution in retailing take place.
In the mid-19th century, before the railways revolutionised the distribution of manufactured goods, shops were small, family concerns.
They were often run by craftsmen who sold the goods they made themselves, in workshops behind the store.
Grocery was a skilled trade with a long apprenticeship. Grocers had to know how to grind sugar, blend tea and how best to store and package their stock.
Apprentices often ‘lived-in’ and provided an inexpensive source of young shop-assistants.
Shopping after 1875
In the years between 1875 and 1914 branded goods took over the shelves of shops, replacing locally produced foodstuffs and medicines that the chemist would once have made up himself.
Shopkeepers no longer bargained with their customers. Manufacturers producing high volumes at low cost could dictate the retail price to the shopkeeper and they advertised their products as available everywhere, at the same price.
New department stores profited from high turnover instead of high mark up; and they encouraged browsing and impulse purchases by providing a wide variety of goods to buy.
Brentford High Street looking towards the Beehive
The area near the Half Acre was more or less the centre of the Victorian town. The shops shown here in about 1960 were demolished in 1968 when the road was widened.
Goddards furniture shop now occupies this site.
A pawnbroker & jeweller, Brentford High Street
This pawnbroker’s shop was in business by 1839. After well over 50 years as Raper’s, it traded as Rattenbury & Co from about 1902 until 1968.
The advertisement is from 1896.
The old shop front is now on display in the Museum of London. Photo courtesy of Museum of London.
Small shopkeepers in Brentford
Some typical advertisements from 1877 and 1890.
Brentford in 1910
Brentford was a fashionable place to shop, but it began to decline after the First World War and did not attract many well-known chains.
Trams, cars and delivery vehicles struggled to share the narrow High Street, but plans were postponed for widening it, and no new modern stores were built until many years later.
A typical traffic jam, c.1910.
Window shopping, c.1905. Wakefield’s had photographic studios in Brentford and Chiswick.
High resolution versions of the images used on these pages are available to purchase from Local Studies, Hounslow.
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