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Not Brentford

Ferry Lane


Ferry Lane survives (as at 2023), a road that runs south from the High Street, between numbers 52 and 53, down to Ferry Wharf.

OS map published 1894This OS town plan, published in 1894 from revisions made in 1893, is freely available on the National Library of Scotland website.

'Brentford ferry is first recorded in 1536, but is thought to have operated at the eastern end of the town until the first Kew Bridge was built in 1759, and some time after that date operated from Ferry Lane, over to the Brentford Gate of Kew Gardens.' (C21)


The 1836 Poor Rate shows Thomas B and Laurence Rowe owned most of the properties: a soap making factory and associated warehouses, also 18 small houses (including some on Ferry Square). The only other properties identifiable as Ferry Lane are the Waterman's Arms (William Butler, owner and occupier) and the Ferry House (Sarah Thomas, owner/occupier).

A few years later, the tithe record of 1840 records owners as the parish of Ealing (7 almshouses and The Cage), Sir Felix Booth, Henry Haverfield, Thomas Harrington, Henry Sich (three houses and yards, one of which was occupied by William Butler - the Waterman's Arms) and Thomas B & L Rowe.

The number of households recorded in censuses on Findmypast varies rather, but this could be down to how Ferry Square, the Ferry House and the Almshouses were recorded and indexed. The figures give a rough idea: 1841: 17 households; 1861: 28 (including seven almshouses); 1881: 19 (including seven almshouses); 1891: 15 (including the almshouses).

A couple of sale adverts follow, found in the British Newspaper Archive on Findmypast.

Morning Advertiser 23 April 1838:
Votes for Middlesex.- by Mr. GRIMAULT, at the Red Lion Inn, Old Brentford, TO-MORROW, April 24, at Three, in Two Lots,
FIVE Copyhold Houses, with yards and outbuildings, nearly equal to freehold eligibly situated in Ferry Lane, Old Brentford, Middlesex, within a few yards of the principal street. May be viewed, and particulars had of the Auctioneer, Brentford End.
John Grimault crops up several times on this website, try a search by name. He was an auctioneer of Brentford End and owned several properties in Old Brentford.

Middlesex Independent 5 March 1884 advertised a sale by auction run by Samuel Goddard:
Re James Moles, deceased.
(Brentford Ferry)

A list of furniture followed, plus these boaty items:
15 well-built rowing boats, outriggers, canoe, fishing punt, about 20 pairs of oars and sculls, anchors, sails, small stock of seasoned timber, varnishes and useful outdoor effects.

In the late 1800s, walking down Ferry Lane from the High Street, you would pass the Ferry Lane Almshouses on the left corner and The Cage to your right in Ferry Square. The Waterman's Arms followed shortly on your left, then malthouses (left) and the soapworks (right). To the right, before reaching the Thames, were osier beds, left the Bunch of Grapes PH, later named Ferry House', and across a narrow channel Lot's Ait to your left.

Later businesses on Ferry Lane include Clement Knowling, Lockharts and Varley FMC (Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation), reflected in links below.

Occupants in 1861

This note looks at the occupants in 1861 in more detail. There were two public houses on Ferry Lane but neither was named in this census.

The first entry is for the seven almshouses, most having one widowed occupant age over 60. Unlike the Salutation or St George's Almshouses, whose residents were women, the Ferry Lane Almshouses had some male residents.

The next property after the almshouses was occupied by three families, surnames Naraway, Smith and Hoare: ten in total, occupations ag lab (two couples) and a maltster.

William Butler, 37, licensed victualler, ran the Waterman's Arms with his wife Leah, 36. Six children aged 1 to 13 and Martha Church, 17, general servant, born Isleworth, completed the household. Only the one-year-old, Mary Ann Butler, was born in Brentford, her elder siblings were born in nearby Fulham, Marylebone and Hammersmith.

Occupants in the next stretch of the eastern side of Ferry Lane (five properties) included a coachman (Cross), groom (Brown), lighterman (Franklin), sailor Royal Navy (Cross), pensioner sailor (Eaton) and three maltsters (Richardson, Lane, Smith); none of the maltsters was born locally (Dullingham, Cambridgeshire, Safford Walden, Essex and a not known)

The Bunch of Grapes was occupied by the Thomas family: Sarah Thomas, 71, widow, lessee of Brentford Ferry, was born in Colchester, Essex. Her grandson, Alfred Thomas, 9, lived with her. In the same building were Henry Thomas, 43, lighterman, and wife Mary A, 39 plus six children ages 1 to 16 (with a gap where Alfred, could fit); all were born in Old Brentford.

Recorded next were John Cunnington, 54, soap maker, born Kingscliff Northamptonshire, his wife Elizabeth C, 53, born Shepshed, Leicestershire, their four daughters (ages 14 to 25) and son John R 9, all born Old Brentford.

The Cunnington family had two visitors: George Hough, 48, 'In her Majestys Civil Service', born in the United States but a British Subject; and Ann Astridge, 42, ag lab wife born Basing, Hampshire. An unlikely couple. Next, three female servants, two housemaids and a cook; the latter was Emily Astridge, 20, born Chiddenden, Hants: presumably her mother was the visitor, and unrelated to George the civil servant. Finally Edward Chuter, 71, watchman, born Old Brentford. He was married, but his wife was not recorded with him.

By this point the enumerator was heading back up Ferry Lane recording four households on the western side up to Ferry Square, with occupations fitting their location: a dock labourer (Weatherly), two soap maker's labourers (Dean and Pelton) and a scalesman for the soap works (Pelton); also Harriet M Pelton, teacher age 12 - presumably a pupil teacher.

Eleven households were recorded in Ferry Square: simply 'The Square' in this census.



Postcard showing the Bunch of Grapes, early 1900s (Roger Williams)

The Brentford Monument was originally sited near Ferry Wharf, this postcard (Howard Webb) has more information about the monument and links to other interesting stuff.

Postcard view with a glimpse of the Ferry Lane Almshouses, around 1907/10 (Roger Davis)

Float outside Clements Knowling offices, 1932, perhaps for Empire Day? (Simon Holloway)

Same event, different view (Hugh Hughes)

Varley FMC around 1957/8, includes interior view of the Waterman's Arms (Brenda Bostock nee Mortlock)


We used to walk down Boston Manor Lane to the Half Acre. We would then cross the High Street, go down Ferry Lane and get on the penny ferry boat, cross the river for the gate into Kew Gardens. (Philip Bixley remembers life in Brentford in the 1920s: read more.

'I worked for the company that was on the Ferry Lane premises before Varley FMC, the name of which was Lockhart's' remembers George Thorne: read more.

Stan Prince also worked for Lockharts, probably around the same time as George Thorne; he remembers a Buzz bomb dropping on Ferry Lane in 1944: search the page (ctrl-f) for 'ferry' or 'buzz'.


Ferry Lane is at the left edge of this tithe map image, 1840. When I get round to it I will add a map section that shows it in full.

Jim Storrar sent the 1893 OS map annotated with pub names, the bottom map on this page shows the Waterman's Arms and Bunch of Grapes.

More about the National Library of Scotland website, includes link.


Poor rate records for Ferry Lane, 1836.

1890 Kelly's Directory entries, including Ferry Lane, thanks to David Shailes.


Published February 2023