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Vic Rosewarne has researched the histories of several local pubs and beerhouses including the Barleycorn. There is a fine postcard view of the Barleycorn taken in 1907.

98 High Street, Brentford

The Beer House Act of 1830 allowed a householder who paid the local poor rate to obtain a licence, costing 2 guineas, from the Customs and Excise, for his or her house for the sale of beer or cider but not wine or spirits. It is almost impossible to ascertain exactly when a beer house opened. Many of these early houses were run by men who had other work, and the house would be often run by their wives whilst they were working, and in the census returns they would list their day job as their occupation.

The Barleycorn could have opened anytime from 1830 onwards. William Burrows is always listed as a carpenter in the census returns from 1841 to 1861, and his successor John Plastine is a described as a Lighterman in the 1861 census, it is not until 1871 that John Plastine is recorded as a publican.

1841 Census – HO 107 / 655 / 1, fo. 32, p. 18

Catherine Wheel Yard, New Brentford

William Burrows, aged 45, a Carpenter, born Middlesex
Elizabeth Burrows, aged 45, born Middlesex
Rosenia Burrows, aged 20, born Middlesex
William Burrows, aged 19, born Middlesex
George Burrows, aged 15, born Middlesex
Fo. 33, p. 19
Thomas Burrows, aged 12, born Middlesex
Henry Burrows, aged 10, born Middlesex
James Burrows, 8, born Middlesex
Frederick Burrows, 1, born Middlesex

In 1841 John Plastine, aged 20, a Waterman, was living with his parents Edward and Susannah Plastine and 8 siblings in Catherine Wheel Yard, close to the Burrows family.

William Burrows – By 1845 – c. 1860

William Burrows is first recorded as a Beer Retailer, in New Brentford, in the 1845 Post Office Directory. The house was then to continue for the next sixty years and for most of that time it was run be members of his family.

1851 Census – HO 107 1699, fo. 33v, p. 15, sch. 64.

Catherine Wheel Yard, New Brentford

William Burrows, Head, married, aged 58, a Carpenter employing one man, born ,Middlesex, Brentford
Elizabeth Burrows, wife, married, aged 54, born Middlesex, Greenford
Henry Burrows, son, unmarried, aged 21, a Carpenter, born Middlesex, Brentford
Frances Pearce, servant, unmarried, aged 14, a Servant, born Middlesex, Hounslow


The first mention of the name of the House is the entry from the 1853 Mason’s Directory: Barleycorn, High Street – William Burrows

The name of the house derives from the mythical figure of John Barleycorn in Celtic Mythology, appearing in traditional ballads from at least the 16th Century. In these ballads the figure of John Barleycorn is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the whiskey and beer made from it. Robbie Burns immortalised him in a poem of 1782.

“Let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland.”

Thus over time the name “John Barleycorn” became connected with drinking, and was thus became used as a pub sign.


William Burrows is last recorded as publican in the 1855 Post Office Directory, by 1861 the house had been taken on by his son-in-law John Plastine, who had married William’s daughter Rosena, with his father in law still at the house.

John Plastine – c. 1860 – October 1892

1861 Census – RG 9 777, fo. 30, p. 13, Sch. 68.

(The Barleycorn) Catherine Wheel Yard

John Plastine, Head, married, aged 40, a Lighterman, born Middlesex, Brentford
Rosene Plastine, wife, married, aged 41, born Middlesex, Brentford
John Plastine, son, aged 15, born Middlesex, Brentford
Eliza Plastine, daughter, aged 13, born Middlesex, Brentford
Henry Plastine, son, aged 6, born Middlesex, Brentford
James Burrows, Lodger, unmarried, aged 25, a Lighterman, born Middlesex, Brentford
James Slater, Lodger, unmarried, aged 36, a Brick Labourer, born Middlesex, Brentford

The following Schedule no. 69, is part of the same house, but a separate household.
William Burrows, Head, widower, aged 67, a Carpenter, born Middlesex, Brentford




Mary Ann Hancock, the wife of a bargeman, was fined 40s., for creating a disturbance at the John Barleycorn beerhouse, New Brentford, on the previous night.

Prisoner said she would sooner go to gaol than pay the fine, but her husband asserted his right and paid it, much to her apparent dissatisfaction.

(Windsor and Eton Express 28 December 1866)

[Note the naming of the house as the John Barleycorn.]


The above report is the only time that the house or its landlord were recorded at the Brentford Magistrates Court for anything other than the usual licensing matters. One of these was in 1873, when there was an attempt to close some beer houses where the rateable value did not come up to the required amount. The renewal of John Plastine’s licence at these sessions was adjourned along with nearly 30 others that year. The licence was renewed, but, unlike for many other houses, no comment was made by the Magistrates Bench about the house. In the report made when the house was chosen for closure in 1908, it states that no offences had been committed by licensees at the house since 1872.

It appears to have been one of the best conducted houses in Brentford, unlike many other beerhouses, and some public houses, in Brentford, where there a numerous summons by the Magistrates for serving during prohibited hours on a Sunday or outside the stipulated hours during the week, for allowing drunkenness, gambling or other violations of the Licensing Acts.


1871 Census - - RG 10 1319, fo. 161v, p. 14, Sch. 61

(The Barleycorn) High Street, New Brentford.

John Plastine, Head, married, 51, a Publican, born Middlesex, Brentford
Rosena Plastine, Wife, married, 52, born Middlesex, Brentford
Henry A Plastine, Son, aged 16, a Blacksmiths Apprentice, born Middlesex, Brentford


1881 Census – RG 11 1349, fo. 79, p. 3

The Barley Corn, 98 High Street, New Brentford

John Plastine ,Head, married, 60, a Licensed Victualler, born Middlesex, Brentford
Rosina Plastine, Wife, married, 61, born Middlesex, Brentford
William J. Small, Grandson, aged 13, a Scholar, born Middlesex, Poplar


1891 Census RG 12 / 1032, fo. 134v, p. 2, sch. 13

The Barley Corn, 98 High Street, New Brentford

John Plastine, Head, married, 70, a Beer House Keeper, born Middlesex, Brentford Rossina Plastine, Wife, married, 71, born Middlesex, Brentford

It is interesting to note that John Plastine gives three different versions of his occupation in the above census returns. Technically he was not a “Licensed Victualler,” as this was a term applied for the landlords or landladies of fully licensed houses.

John Plastine died in 1892 and his wife, Rosina carried on as landlady for the next three years.

Probate Calendar

John Plastine, of New Brentford, Middlesex, Retail beer seller, died 2 September 1892. Administration (with Will) London, 14 October to Rosina Plastine, Widow. - Effects £534 9s. 6d.

Brentford Petty Sessions 26 November, Beerhouse transfer The Barleycorn, New Brentford, John Plasstine (deceased) to Rosina Plastine.

(Middlesex Chronicle 3 December 1892)


Rosina Plastine – September 1892 to August 1895

In 1895 Rosina Plastine finally retired, she was then about 75, and transferred the licence to her grandson William Thomas Small the son of her eldest daughter Ann, who had married John Small.

Brentford Petty Sessions Saturday, 3 August, transfer – The Barley Mow Public-house, from Rosina Plastine to William Thomas Small


(Middlesex Chronicle 10 August 1895)

[The naming the house the Barley Mow, it was just an error in recording the name by the Court reporter.]

Rosina Plastine died two years later, on the 20 June 1897, aged about 77.

Probate Calendar

Rosina Plastine, of 11 Westbury Place, Hamilton Road, Brentford, Middlesex, widow, died 20 June 1897. Probate London 12 July 1897, to James Prince, Solicitor’s Clerk and William Thomas Small, beerhouse keeper. Effects £751 17s. 4d.

Her youngest son Henry Alfred Plastine died 13 August 1897, less than 2 months after his mother’s death. (His probate was listed above hers.)


William Thomas Small – August 1895 – c. 1899

By 1901 the house had been transferred to William Small’s younger brother Joseph John Small. The only record of him at the house is in the 1901 census.

Joseph John Small – late 1900 to 1902

1901 Census – RG 13 1196, fo. 26v, p. 2, Sch. 12

(The Barleycorn) 98 High Street, New Brentford

Joseph J. Small, Head, married, aged 29, a Publican – Own Account, born London, Poplar
Sarah Small, Wife, married, aged 26, born Bucks., Stoney Stratford
Bertie J. Small, Son, aged 3, born Middlesex, Brentford
Ethel Clarke, Boarder, aged 13, born Suffolk, Ailsworth

Joseph Small’s time at the house was brief, as by 1902 Elijah Britton was the licensee.


Elijah Britton – November 1902 to around 1905

Brentford Petty Sessions, Thursday, 21 November. - Transfer - The Barley Corn, Brentford, from J. J. Small to Eliza Britton. (as printed)(br)

(Middlesex Chronicle 23 November 1902)

It was actually Elijah Britton, but it can easily be seen how the Court report made the error, as Eliza and Elijah sound so similar. That it was Elijah is confirmed by the 1902 Directory entry and the following cases heard at the Brentford Sessions.

Brentford Petty Sessions, Thursday 28 July – DRUNK ON LICENSED PREMISES

Samuel Edward Boulfield, of Harlesden, was charge with having been found drunk on licensed premises at High Street, Brentford.

Prisoner pleaded guilty.

P. S. Holland said at 11.30 on the previous morning whilst in company with another officer, he was sent for by the landlady of the Barleycorn beerhouse, who said the prisoner refused to leave. He found the prisoner at the house. He was very drunk, and nothing could be got out of him. The bottle of whisky (produced) was found in his possession.

Mrs. Emily Britton, the landlady, said the prisoner came into the house and called for a glass of bitter. He appeared to be sober, and she drew the beer. She then noticed he seemed strange in his conduct and she refused to serve him. He talked to witness about the war and asked how the Russians were getting on, and kept witness from having her dinner. He then drew a bottle of whisky from his pocket and drank from it, and witness told him if he went on like that he would get drunk. He refused to leave and she sent for the police. She did not serve hm with any drink.

In defence prisoner said he had a toothache and he supposed he took too much.

A fine of 10s. was imposed or 7 days’ imprisonment in default.

[The mention of “The War” was a reference to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-6, which began in February 1904.]

The following week the landlord was back in court, this time on the wrong side of the law.

BPS Thursday 4 August


Elijah Britton, of the Barleycorn beer house, High Street, Brentford, was summoned for serving a drunken person on July 27th.

Mr. Maitland, who defended, pleaded no guilty.

P. S. Holland 48 T said at 11.30 a.m. on July 27th he was sent for by the defendant’s wife to the Barleycorn beer house to eject a man who she said had refused to leave. Witness went there and found the man sitting on a seat in the bar in a drunken state. In reply to him Mrs. Britton said he had been in the house about three quarters of an hour, and she had served him with a glass of beer. She also said he had been drinking out of a bottle of whisky. The man was helplessly drunk and was taken to the station on the ambulance. A half pint bottle half full of whiskey was found on him.

Cross-examined : Witness was sent for by Mrs. Britton. She was a little excited. He did not notice a glass of beer on the shelf at the back of the counter, and he did not notice Mrs. Britton point to this glass.

P. C. 37 TR who was with the sergeant, corroborated.

Cross-examined : He did not see Mrs. Britton point to a glass of beer on the shelf.

Mr. Maitland said the man who was in house was odd in his behaviour. When he came in he appeared to be sober, and Mrs. Britton drew him a glass of beer and put it on the counter, but did not take her hand from it. The man then threw a handful of money on the counter and also drew from his pocket a bottle of whiskey. Thinking something was wrong she then drew the glass of beer back. He was requested to leave several times. He refused, and drank some of the whiskey from the bottle. She then sent for the police.

The Chairman said he did not see that it was necessary to proceed any further. He could see how it happened. The police, however, had acted quite right in bringing up the matter. Both summonses would be dismissed.

(Middlesex Chronicle 6 August 1904)


Other tenants 1905 - 1907

Percy G. Libby was at the house by 1905. Percy Libby’s tenure was also brief as it was transferred to Cornelius Pearce on 11 April 1907, who was to be the last landlord of the Barleycorn. In the 13 years since Rosina Plastine had retired, after over thirty years as landlady, the subsequent five tenants averaged only 2½ years each at the house.

This brief description of the Barleycorn is from the report of the closure of the Waterman’s Hall in 1907:

This is a distinct difference between this house and the “Barley Corn” - The “Barley Corn” is a large house 61 yards away at the corner of the covered way on the main road. There is a considerably larger area attached to the “Barley Corn” and it is much larger house. The condition of the “Barley Corn” it far from what it should be, but it is a more important house than the Waterman’s Hall.

The following year it was the turn of the Barleycorn to be chosen for closure as being redundant.


In 1904 an Act of Parliament was passed that allowed for the closure of Public Houses and Beer Houses, with compensation to the licensee and owners, where it was considered there were too many licensed houses in one area. There was a twist to this closure procedure, as the money for the compensation paid was raised by a levy on the licensees, the publicans were paying for their own demise.

At the Annual Licensing Sessions in 1908 the Barleycorn was deemed redundant and was chosen to be referred to the County Licensing Committee for closure, with compensation.


Mr. Maitland applied that the Barleycorn, Brentford, and the Lamb, Brentford, should be postponed to the adjourned sessions, these being houses which had been offered as surrenders, and with regard to which negotiations were still in abeyance. - This was agreed to.

(Middlesex Chronicle 23 February 1908)

At the Adjourned Sessions on Tuesday 4 March 1908, the case of the Barleycorn was considered and the Magistrates then decided on sending it up for closure.

THE BARLEYCORN, High-street, Brentford

The Barleycorn, High-street, Brentford, was also considered as a redundant. Mr. Forrest Fulton said this was a house which had been offered with surrender of license for a new house at Greenford. He did not propose to offer any opposition to the premises being reported as redundant. Evidence similar to that in the foregoing case was given, and the house was duly reported as being redundant.

(Middlesex Chronicle 7 March 1908)



The following is the report of the Brentford Justices on the Barleycorn, sent to the County Licensing Committee for consideration for closure.


High Street, New Brentford


In connection with the question so referred, we report as follows : --

Mr. Forrest Fulton applied for the renewal of the licence upon the terms that it would be surrendered with the Lord Nelson, Hounslow, if the removal of the White Hart, Greenford, was confirmed. .

Evidence was given on oath by Alfred Henry Pittard, Assistant Clerk to the Justices.

The population of New Brentford, 2,006; estimated public house user population, 1240; acreage 217

Licences in New Brentford:-- 8 Ale; 4 Beer on; 1 Beer off; 2 Grocers; Total 15; No Clubs.

This is a beerhouse the licence of which was transferred to Cornelius Pearce on 11 April 1907. The house is tied to Messrs. Sich & Co., Brewers of Chiswick. Six persons have held the licence since 1872, from which date no conviction has been recorded. The net assessment to the poor rate is £20. The tenant holds under a monthly or quarterly agreement. It has never been offered in exchange. The two nearest licensed houses are the Catherine Wheel, 26 yards, and the Castle Hotel, 44 yards.

Sidney Walter John Barnes, Surveyor. This house is situate on the south side of the High Street, at the north-west corner of Catherine Wheel Yard. It has a frontage of about 12 ft. 6 in.

Public Bar. -- There is only one bar which has entrance through lobby 4 ft. 0 in. wide from the High Street (two steps up). It is approximately 12 ft. 3 in. x 17 ft. 6 in. x 8 ft. 2 in. high, and lighted by a large semi-circular projecting bay window, but has no proper means of ventilation. The walls are wood panelled and painted, and ceiling whitened but very dirty. The serving bar is in the south-west corner of the bar and is not connected with any part of the living accommodation. Length of serving counter 12 ft. 10 in. The stairs to basement and also to first floor start from the bar. The bar is fitted with seats and tables.

Tap Room. -- 11 ft. 0 in. x 9 ft. 8 in. x 8 ft. 0 in. high. At rear of public bar. Walls wood panelled and painted. Ceiling whitened. Two windows, 4 ft. 5 in. x 2 ft. 10 in., opening on to yard at rear. Fireplace. Cupboard, fitted with sink and draw-off taps.

Yard at rear. -- 14 ft. 3 in. x 15 ft. 0 in. Entrance from Catherine Wheel Yard, and roughly paved with granite setts, with wide open joints, broken paving and bricks, and drained to gullies. Part of yard roofed over.

Sanitary Accommodation. -- There are two W.C.s in south-west corner of the yard, side by side, one for public use and one for private use. They are formed in woodwork, are old and without light, except from small cuts in door.

Urinal. -- A length of about 6 ft. 6 in. of the west boundary wall is used as a urinal, with wood screen, 6 ft. 0 in. high, opposite kitchen door. Is quite open to yard, and is badly paved and without any means of flushing. The cisterns for water supply is in yard adjoining w.c.s and only supply of water (except draw-off in the tap room) is from a draw-off tap in the yard. The dustbin is under the cistern.

Generally. -- This is an old house and the trade and domestic accommodation are bad. Communication between the upper floors of the house and the kitchen and the yard can only be obtained by passing through the public bar. The sanitary accommodation is about as bad as could be. The back windows have no projecting sills, so that water from windows runs down the walls. The front wall is also damp.

Within a quarter mile radius of the house the following licensed premises are situate :--


Catherine Wheel---26
Red Lion---107
Three Pigeons---157
Magpie and Crown---173
White Horse---212
Six Bells---332
Black Boy and Still---51


Junction Arms---350
Brewery Tap---145
Duke of Cambridge---173
Rising Sun---313
The Harp---356
120 High Street---137
185 High Street---213
269 High Street---416
________--- __
Total Licences---19

The two nearest licensed premises are :--

Catherine Wheel --- 26 yards Castle --- 44 yards

Henry Eyres (Sub-Divisional Inspector of Metropolitan Police).

The house is well conducted and fairly clean. Only one entrance, and that is in the High Street, opening directly onto the footway. No draw-up. No jug and bottle compartment or snug. Easy of supervision. Frequented by working classes. District stationary. No special holiday or summer traffic affecting the trade.


Catherine Wheel (P.H.) Fully licensed house on the south side of High Street, but generally, the arrangements of this house are not satisfactory.

Castle Hotel (P.H.) A modern house on the north side of the High Street, in every way superior to the Barleycorn.

Signed on behalf of the Renewal Authority – Geo. Brodie Clark – Clerk to the Renewal Authority. 2nd April 1908.

(Published in the Minutes, Middlesex Licensing Committee 29 May 1908 (Ref. LMA MX/D/01/01/003)

The house was then referred to the County Licensing Committee as redundant and to be closed with compensation to the owners and tenant. At the preliminary meeting on 29 May 1908 the closure of the house was not proceeded with as the house had been offered as a surrender for the rebuilding the White Hart, Windmill Lane, Greenford, in a new location. The Barleycorn was then closed later in 1908, when the new house at Greenford had been completed.

Between the years 1880 and 1930 over twenty licensed houses were surrendered in Brentford, for the building of new houses in newly developed areas, usually in Greenford, Ealing and Norwood. Also for the rebuilding of many old houses, some in Brentford, to modern standards.


William Burrows---c. 1850 – c. 1860
John Plastine---c. 1860 to September 1892
Rosina Plastine---September 1892 – August 1895
William Small---August 1895 – c. 1898
Joseph Small---c 1899 - 1901
Elijah Britton---c. 1902 – c. 1904
Percy G. Libby---c. 1905 – April 1907
Cornelius Pearce---11 April 1907 – late 1908

The Barleycorn does not feature in any photos found to date but its sign can be glimpsed in a postcard dating from the early 1900s.


Page published December2017