The Layton Trail

1) 22 Kew Bridge Road was the site of Thomas Layton’s home at the north-west corner of Kew Bridge. It has recently been redeveloped with a complex of flats.

The photo shows the busy Kew Bridge Road junction on a market day in 1892, when Layton lived there. His house is hidden behind the trees on the left.

2) St George’s Church was built as George’s Chapel in 1766. It was a proprietary chapel, supported by subscribers and only became part of the Church of England in 1828. Layton was a churchwarden here in his youth. The post card shows the larger church built on the same site in 1886-7.  Layton’s bequest  enabled a bell tower to be added in 1913. The church closed its doors to worshippers in 1959 and re-opened in 1963 as the Musical Museum; now that the museum has purpose-built premises along the road, the church is likely to be converted into flats.

3) Brentford Fire Station, on the High Street, opened on 22 February 1898 with much pomp and celebration; ticket-holders were able to see inside. It was designed by Nowell Parr, surveyor to Brentford Urban District Council, and cost about £3,000. Parr’s watercolour shows his proposed design with terracotta details.

A horse-drawn steam pump, shown in the photo, was purchased by the Urban District Council in 1890, and was housed in the new fire station. The firemen used  an escape, an extended ladder system, which they had to drag to the site of a fire, leaving them exhausted and unable to perform a rescue. A horse-drawn escape replaced it in 1906 and the first motor fire engine was bought in 1924.

The Fire Station was altered and refitted many times between the 1920s and 1950s until it closed in 1965; then it was used by the ambulance service until the 1980s. In 1990 it was Listed and it became a restaurant soon afterwards.

4) Brentford Sewage Pumping Station was built in 1883, in Pump Alley. The building has been restored for use by small businesses, though only the base of its substantial chimney survives.

The inscribed stone records all the members of the Local Board with Layton as Chairman.

5) The Brentford Monument in the High Street was originally in Ferry Lanenear the Thames. It was unveiled in 1909 by the Duke of Northumberland, of Syon House, as shown in the photo. Sir Montagu Sharpe, a friend and colleague of Layton and a member of the Society of Antiquaries, was the driving force behind the project.

The inscription on the monument records historical events that took place nearby which Sharpe and his circle thought were significant. The monument was created by recycling two granite cylinders which formerly supported the street lamps on the old Brentford Bridge.

The monument was neglected and slowly became buried under a heap of coal, but it was rediscovered in 1955 and moved further up Ferry Lane. In 1992 it was moved again to a site in front of the county court in the High Street. During the move the top and bottom stones became misaligned from their original placement!

6) Brentford’s Public Library in Boston Manor Road opened in  2004.  Fred Turner had been  appointed as the town’s Librarian in September 1889, and opened the first  library at Clifden House, already the home of Brentford Local Board, in 1890. He is standing in the porch of the 1904 library in the photo.

In 1902 American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave £5,000 to build a new library which was designed by Nowell Parr. The foundation stone was laid in 1903 by the Countess of Jersey, a ceremony recorded in this photograph.  A “time capsule” – a sealed glass bottle containing newspapers of the time – was hidden underneath. Carnegie himself opened the building on 9 May 1904.

Layton was the Chairman of the Library Committee and though very elderly by this time, attended both events. An inscription survives to the left of the door recording Layton as Chairman of the Library Committee.

7) The Brentford Public Baths  in Clifden Road were also designed by Nowell Parr. The foundation stone ceremony was attended by Layton (in top hat to the right of the stone), Mr Bigwood MP and other local dignitaries. The inscribed stone recorded Layton as Chairman of the Council and Justice of the Peace, but the inscription has been defaced and is now hard to read.

This photo shows the baths during construction in 1896. There was a large swimming bath (6’ 6” at the deep end and 3’ 3” at the shallow end), ankle deep slipper baths in individual cubicles for those who did not have baths at home, a wash-house and laundry. At the opening ceremony in April 1896 acrobatic swimming displays were given by Miss Agnes Beckford and her troupe. In the winter the pool was floored over to be used for dancing and other social events.

The baths were closed in 1990 amid much local protest. After lying empty for a while the Grade II listed building has been converted into homes and offices.

8) West Middlesex Hospital, Twickenham Road, Isleworth

The  1834 Poor Law Reform Act permitted parishes to combine in unions to provide poor relied. Local parishes formed the Brentford Poor Law Union which built a large work-house in Isleworth and the Brentford Union Infirmary, later the West Middlesex Hospital. From 1837, still in his twenties, Layton was a member of the Board of Guardians who were in charge of poor relief and by 1841 one of the three Guardians of the Brentford Union.

These pages from 26 April 1848, in one of Layton’s diaries, are full of his criticism of his fellow Guardians.  He wrote,  Mr Allen exhibited his usual talents for fencing with any question connected with his duty.

Later Layton was concerned about his hearing. Having lost it following an illness, he was worried that he would not be able to do his job properly.

Layton’s business partner and friend, Benjamin Hardy (seen in this photo) served as Chairman of the Board of Guardians for many years.

9) Ealing and Old Brentford Cemetery in South Ealing Road contains the grave of Thomas Layton, who died in 1911 and his wife, Alice, who died in 1888.

10) Gunnersbury Park Museum houses some of Layton’s collection as well as artefacts donated by other local collectors

Gunnersbury Park, Popes Lane, London W3 8LQ, phone:  0203 9610280. Tube: Acton Town.  Admission is free

Local Studies Library

11) Feltham Library houses and cares for  Layton’s collection of thousands of books and prints. Access is by appointment with the Local Studies Librarian, on +44 (0)20 8583 5497 or at

Feltham Library, The Centre, High Street, Feltham TW3 4GU.   Train: Feltham

London Before London – river finds

12) The Museum of London’s London before London gallery displays many of Layton’s early treasures, especially Thames finds

Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN, phone +44 (0)870 444 3852.  Nearest tube: St Pauls. Admission is free

The Fulham Sword

13) The British Museum has the fine Roman sword and scabbard, known as the Fulham Sword (P&EE 1883 4-7 1). This is one of few items which Layton gave away in his lifetime – it can be seen in Room 49, the gallery on Roman Britain

Great Russell Street, London WC1, phone +44 (0)20 7323 8299. Nearest tube: Russell Square. Admission is free