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Memories of Eddie Menday, late 1930s / early 1940s

Author

Eddie Menday is a local historian who writes a weekly column 'Looking Back' for the 'Middlesex Chronicle'. He lives in Feltham.

War time memories

I do remember Brentford High Street very well, as my brother (now in Australia) and myself were in "reserved occupations" ie work considered to be of national importance at the Sperry Gyroscope Company on the Great West Road.

We often explored the High Street area, with its little back alleys and old buildings. Incidentally, I went through Brentford yesterday on the top of a bus, and still wonder whether all the new buildings have made it a better place to live.

Starting at the canal bridge, some of the buildings that come to mind are Pennington's (nos. 161 - 163), outfitters and drapers, which stood on a site where tanning took place. The pits were discovered when the site was excavated before the present luxury flats were built.

On the other side of the road was Band's, makers of drum skins and vellum. The skins could be seen weathering on stretchers, laid out on the ground at the back. I went into the workshops once, and found one of the most dusty and dirty workplaces there could have been. Today's health and safety laws would not permit such conditions.

A little further on was Stone's (no. 111), gentlemen's outfitters, who used to sell the most wonderful satin ties, which I used to buy when I could afford to do so, with the occasional shirt. The manager was always perfectly turned out in black coat and striped trousers, a wonderful example of elegance in the dark days of war.

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Just before the Half Acre was Mr. and Mrs. Woods Pie and Eel shop (no. 218). There were two, Spinks was the other one, near to the Gas Works. Mrs. Woods rather took a shine to my brother and me, as she had a son about our age who was called up. She always ushered us into her private room at the back of the shop for pie and mash covered with wonderful thick vegetable soup as a gravy.

Further on was another cafe called the Eatwell, where the proprietor was always blaming the lack of gas, if the meals took a little time to serve up.

Down on the canal, at one time, Italian prisoners of war were set to work painting the metal work of the bridges. They could not speak much English, but we would pass the time of day with them.

Further on was a Working Mans Club (possibly the Brent House Club at no. 334?) and of course Rattenbury's the Pawn Shop (no. 288/289) with its three brass balls, outside. The frontage is still preserved in the London Museum. I bought my first camera there, which cost me 5 just after the war.

I remember a bakers which was close to post war Norman's Cycle Stores and an Undertakers. I remember we bought the odd cake or two there when they were available.

Well! there are a few of my memories of war time Brentford High Street, not to mention the Gas Works and its "perfume" and the trolley buses whizzing by. I do hope that these notes may be of interest to you.

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Want to find out more about any of the properties or people mentioned?

To find out more about the properties mentioned, try the Properties section. To find out more about the people mentioned, the Families section includes details of families being researched, or you may find further relevant references within the Memories section.

Published February 2008