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Not Brentford

Crystal Fountain, Brentford

Vic Rosewarne has researched the histories of several local pubs and beerhouses including the Crystal Fountain.

175 High Street, New Brentford

This house takes its name from the Crystal Fountain which was a major feature of the Great Exhibition of 1851, it was displayed in the central court of the Crystal Palace. One writer described it as “perhaps the most striking object in the exhibition; the lightness and beauty, as well as the perfect novelty of the design, have rendered it the theme of admiration with all visitors.” It stood 27 feet high and was made of 4 tons of glass. The Fountain was moved to Sydenham when the Crystal Palace was rebuilt there in 1854. It was destroyed in the fire which destroyed the building in 1936.

The following report describes its time at Sydenham.

CRYSTAL PALACE -- This day – the grounds never more delightful. The luxuriant foliage and ferns around the Crystal Fountain now most beautiful.

(London Evening Standard – Monday 9 May 1870)

There is no indication that the house was named the Crystal Fountain until 1866. One possibility is that it was known as “The Ram,” as there is evidence for a house of that name in the approximate area at this time. It was not unusual for public houses to change their name, the Poplars at Kew Bridge changed its name to the Oxford and Cambridge in 1867, and there are other cases, especially with beer houses.

This was a short lived beer house, opened in the late 1850s, the first evidence for the house is an entry in the Post Office Directory for 1860 :

William Parsons – Beer Retailer & Brewer, High Street, New Brentford


William Parsons – c. 1859 to 1866

William Parsons was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire and had lived at Richmond from around 1840, working as a shoemaker. His first wife Hannah died in 1853 and was buried at St. Mary Magdalene, Richmond. He subsequently remarried and was living in Brentford by 1858 with his second wife, Sarah, where a daughter, Jane, was born that year.

The 1861 census shows him living with his second wife and two daughters, one by each of his marriages.

RG 9 / 777 , fo. 43v, p. 10, Sch. 51

High Street, New Brentford

William Parsons. Head, Married, aged 52, a Brewer & Beer House Keeper, born – Wilts., Salisbury
Sarah Parsons, Wife, Married, aged 43, - born Middx., Strand London
Louisa Parsons, Daughter, Unmarried, aged 15 born – Surrey, Richmond
Jane Parsons, Daughter, aged 2, born – Middx., New Brentford
Plus 5 Lodgers



The only incident recorded during William Parsons time in the house was this dispute with a another beer Seller.

Brentford Petty Sessions – Saturday, October 10 – AN EXCITING SQUABBLE – PARSONS v. ANDREWS

In this case there were cross summons, both men being beerhouse keepers, living within a few doors of each other.

William Andrews was summoned for having assaulted William Parsons, under the following circumstances : -

Complainant said : I live in New Brentford, and keep a beer house, just opposite the church. On Monday night, about half past ten, I was sitting at my supper with my wife and lodgers, when my wife called my attention to someone looking in at the door. I said, “Oh, somebody is a little curious perhaps.” Presently there came a knock, and I went to the door, when I saw defendant and said “What do you want ?” He replied, “Come out, and I’ll let you know.” He was in the street and I was at my door. I told him if he did not leave I would send for the police and give him in custody. Finding his abuse continued I went to look for a policeman, and he came up and sparred at me, saying “You old vagabond, I’ll give it you.” I replied, “I want nothing to do with you.” As he continued his annoyance I told him I would summons him. I could not see a policeman, and went in to finish my supper. After a little time he came up again and kicked at the door; on which I went to him and asked him what he meant by such conduct. He then recommenced his abuse, and called me an old ram; on which I said I could stand it no longer, and again went to look for a constable, declaring I would give him in custody. He then came up and struck me, and grasped hold of me, and while he had hold of me his heel caught in the pavement, and he fell on his back. He was neither drunk nor sober.

On being asked to define his meaning, complainant said he was “three parts sprung.” Complainant called a lodger of his named Charles Austin, who said : I was sitting at supper with complainant on the night in question, when Mrs. Parsons said there was someone looking in at the door; after a few minutes there was a knock, and Mr. Parsons went to the door. On hearing high words I went to the door, and saw defendant in threatening attitude towards Parsons.

James Hill was next called, and said that he was also a lodger with Mr. Parsons, and that about half past 10 on the night in question he heard a knock at the window, and after that a sound as of someone kicking at the door; on which complainant went to the door, and on opening it, witness heard high words, after which he saw defendant strike Parsons; he caught complaint by the arm, and in the struggle between them defendant appeared to catch his foot against a stone, and both fell together. The language made use of by Andrews was fearful.

Defendant denied the statement made and as it appeared that the summons taken out by Andrews against Parsons arose out of the same transaction, the parties now changed places, and Andrews made his statement.

He said : On Monday night, as I was passing defendant’s door to go to a neighbour about some beer, defendant rushed out and commenced bullying me; he followed me and said he had a good mind to do for me; he afterwards struck me three times, and I fell down, and been ill ever since. I told him I would summons him, and I suppose he thought he would be beforehand with me : I deny that that I assaulted him, and have got respectable witnesses to prove that he assaulted me.

Complainant then called Maria Rich, who said : I live in New Brentford, near the place described where the disturbance took place. On Monday night I had been to my father’s stable to call my brother, and on my return from there I saw Parsons run at Andrews, and strike him severely against shop front. Andrews appeared to be going towards his own house, and Parsons ran after him, and I afterwards heard Parsons say to someone that he had given him (meaning Andrews) two or three hot ones. I did not hear Andrews say anything, but I distinctly saw Parsons strike him two or three times.

Defendant cross-examined the witness as to whether she was quite certain of the truth of her statement, and whether it being a dark night, she could see who gave the blows.

Witness replied that she had made a truthful statement, the complaint then called Mrs. Rich, the mother of the last witness, who stated : I was standing at my door on Monday night last, waiting for my daughter, who had been to the stables, when I saw Parsons come from the direction of Andrew’s house, and heard him say to his wife “I have given him two or three hot ones for himself.” I am quite certain that the person I heard make this observation was Parsons.

Defendant denied that Mrs. Rich or her daughter were present during the time of the occurrence, and expressed a wish that his witnesses should be recalled and asked if they saw either of them at the time.

Hill, on being recalled, denied that anyone else than Parsons and Andrews was in the street at the time.

The Chairman observed that the two tales were so different that it was difficult matter for the Bench to come to a decision, but thought the best way under the circumstances would be to bind each over to keep the peace towards each other.

Parsons objected to this decision, and said he should carry it to another court; but eventually the required recognizances were entered into.

(Middlesex Chronicle – 17 October 1863)


William Andrews is last listed at the house in the 1865 Post Office Directory. He then probably moved to Richmond, as his death is recorded there in 1868, and his burial on 8 December 1868 – St. Mary Magdalene, Richmond Surrey, aged 58, presumably with his first wife Hannah. His second wife was living in Mortlake in 1871, with their daughter Jane.


The first mention of the name Crystal Fountain is from this report of an inquest in 1866. The inquest was held at the Two Black Boys, which was opposite the Crystal Fountain. Inquests were sometimes held at beerhouses, but in this case the body would have been removed to the other house, as there may not have been a room large enough for the jury and others who attended.


On Saturday week James Bird, Esq., held an Inquest at the Two Black Boys, New Brentford, touching the death of Patrick O’Callaghan, aged thirteen years.

Catherine Woolridge deposed that she was the wife of Martin Woolridge, and resided at New Brentford. Deceased, who was the son of a labourer, was witness’s brother.

Richard Christmas stated that on Thursday last he was standing on the steps by the side of the river Brent. Saw deceased get into a boat; he wanted witness to join him, but would not. He commenced rocking the boat, when he suddenly fell over.

Thos. Shackel deposed that he was a labourer residing at New Brentford. On the previous Thursday morning, about eleven o’clock, witness was called to the River Brent; procured the drags, and brought deceased ashore. He breathed, but before witness removed him to the Crystal Fountain he expired.

Verdict of “Accidental Drowning.”

(West London Observer – Saturday 31 March 1866)


Thomas Parsons – c. 1867 to 1870

The next landlord known for the house was Thomas Parsons, possibly relation of William‘s, but there is no evidence to prove this. He was there by October 1867 and had only recently taken over the house according to the following newspaper report.


Thomas Parsons, New Brentford, for keeping his beerhouse open later than the fixed hour, was summoned at the instance of the police; but Inspector Tarling spoke very highly of the man’s general character, and thought it might have been occasioned by his only having recently taken the house. The case was dismissed.

(Windsor and Eton Express 2 November 1867)



The confirmation that Thomas Parsons was the landlord of the Crystal Fountain is from the next case where he was summoned at Magistrates Court. The naming of the defendant as John Parsons was an error by the reporter, as the case in the following December, when it was said the defendant in all three cases below was the same, Thomas Parsons

Brentford Petty Sessions – Saturday 20 June – CAUTION TO PUBLICANS – ANOTHER CASE

John Parsons of the Crystal Fountain beer-shop, New Brentford, was summoned for having his house open for the sale of beer on a Sunday morning.

Police-constable Broughton said he was passing the house when he saw a little girl go in with a jug. She was let in, and he was about to follow her when the landlady shut the door in his face. Witness opened the door, and saw the landlord and several men and women in the kitchen, and on looking round, found some beer in a pot under one of the seats. The landlord said they were lodgers.

In reply to Mr. Philp, who appeared for the defence, the witness said he did not hear the little girl ask for milk.

Mr. Philp, addressing their worships, said the people found in the house belonged in barges. They had been out all night and had merely gone there to have some little refreshment, and with regard to the girl and her jug, He (Mr. Philp) was instructed that she went for milk, and Broughton followed her in.

Fined £1.

(Buckinghamshire Advertiser 27 June 1868)


Brentford Petty Sessions – Saturday 19 December – A CONFLICTORY BEER-HOUSE CASE

Thomas Parsons, a beer-shop keeper of New Brentford, was summoned for selling beer this day fortnight after eleven o’clock at night. Mr. Philp being instructed for the defence.

According to the statement of police-constable G. Broughton, 210 T, he visited the house on the 5th inst., at twenty five minutes to twelve at night. It was known as the Crystal Fountain; he heard voices talking in the tap-room, and saw the landlady look cautiously from out of the side door. On entering, he found two men smoking, and a pint pot measure half full in front of them. The daughter was sweeping the room, and snatched up the beer, saying that it was for her supper.

Sarah Parsons deposed to the men being lodgers, and that her mother went out to fetch in a pail of water for cleaning, when the constable, who was intoxicated, rushed past her, stumbled up the steps, and fell against a table, clutching it for support. The lodgers were preparing for bed, and she had in her hand a jug of mixed gin and beer for her individual refreshment.

A coal-heaver, named Thatcher, employed by the Great Western Railway Company, said he was one of the lodgers, the other was a tailor. No beer was drawn after ten o’clock.

The Chairman thought this was extraordinary; as a rule, coal-heavers would not sit so long in a beer-house without drinking.

Witness said he was unwell at the time; otherwise he did not object to beer; should like to have some more now (laughter). Some warm beverage stood before the fire.

The Chairman said this was a case of water being brought into a house, and not beer being taken out; there was always some ingenious excuse; but this was the first time that had been set up. It was improbable; they must consider the witnesses demeanour, and balance the evidence, to see whether there was some contradiction. The witnesses flatly contradicted each other; one said the liquor was in her hand; the other that it was placed by the fire. An immaculate coal-heaver sat in the house two hours without a drink. (Laughter) A summons had once been dismissed against defendant, and he had once been fined 20s. and costs; he would now be amerced in a similar amount; it was not the maximum penalty. Defendant had made his case worse by the counter-charge against the constable; supposing it were true, it would justify his keeping his house open for the sale of beer in prohibited hours.

As it had been publicly stated that the policeman was drunk, Inspector Tarling wished to mention that the man had been a total abstainer for five or six weeks, and had refused to taste intoxicating liquors. Parsons had written to the Commissioners of Police complaining of the constables drunkenness, but, on an inquiry being made, it was ascertained there was no foundation for the complainant.

Defendant’s licence was endorsed.

(Buckinghamshire Advertiser 26 December 1868)



The following year Thomas Parsons was still there, though in April the house was up for sale.

Brentford, Middlesex -- Three Freehold Houses in the High Street, opposite the Church.

Mr. PEISLEY will SELL by AUCTION, at the RED LION INN, New Brentford, on TUESDAY, April 20,
at two, a desirable FREEHOLD ESTATE, comprising the beer house, known as the Crystal Fountain,
well situate in the High Street, and the passage leading to the canal, and now occupied by Mr. Parsons, with
a plot of ground, stabling, &c., in the rear. Also a house adjoining, with coach maker’s shop, yard, and
premises to Mr. Dowden: house adjoining, with yard, &c., for many years known as the Dispensary,
possession of which may now be had. -- Particulars had of Messrs. Woodbridge and Sons, 8 Clifford’s Inn,
and Brentford : of Messrs. King and Son, Brentford; and of Mr. Peisley, Auctioneer, Hounslow.

(Daily Telegraph & Courier – Thursday 8 April 1869)


A year later the house was to be let as the tenant, presumably Thomas Parsons, was ill.

BEER, General Shop, Coffee, and LUNCHEON BAR, to be LET, at £85, furniture and fittings.
A snug little business. A fortune to be made in a little time. Cause of leaving through illness.
Licence under new Act. Part of the money can remain as required. -- Inquire on the premises,
the Crystal Fountain, High Street, New Brentford, Middlesex.

(Daily Telegraph & Courier – Friday 22 April 1870)


Thomas Basing – October 1870 – March 1871

In October Thomas Basing took over the house, he was to be the last licensee of the Crystal Fountain

Brentford Petty Sessions Saturday, 1 October : Transfer – To Thomas Basing, of the Crystal Fountain, New Brentford

(Morning Advertiser 3 October 1870)


The licence of the Crystal Fountain was renewed at the Licensing Sessions in 1871 to Thomas Basing. However, the house was closed by the end of March as it was uninhabited at the time of the 1871 Census. There is no further evidence that it was again operating as a beer house.


Page published December 2017