The Great West Quarter
The Great West Quarter is a modern development of apartments, built between 2005 and 2013 on a 12.5 acre urban brownfield site on the Great West Road in Brentford. Around 1000 apartments were built in 14 blocks with underground parking, a residents' gym, offices, hotel and retail units. With the exception of two newer blocks, Westgate House and Kew Eye Apartments, the rest of GWQ's blocks are named after the factories and company headquarters that used to line the Great West Road in Brentford in the 1930s.
Golden Mile House
The Great West Road was built in 1925 on this site of farmland as a bypass for Brentford High Street which could no longer cope with the volume of traffic travelling in and out of central London from Berkshire and Surrey. The stretch of the Great West Road between Clayponds Lane and Syon Lane became known as the Golden Mile because of the prevalence of exciting new industry housed in beautiful architect-designed buildings. It was a ground-breaking hub of industry and a unique showcase of Art Deco architecture. The Great West Road was unusually broad which made it surprisingly future proof as traffic levels increased over the following ninety years. The boulevard was lined with grand wide frontages that were actually very shallow; just behind the main buildings were large warehouses which extended backwards. In the winter, factories used to decorate their frontages and grounds with Christmas trees, lights and decorations, which made the road a popular festive attraction for local families. As one can imagine, there were many thousands of local people employed in the various factories and offices along the Golden Mile. Many social events were organised between the various factories including inter-factory football matches, dances and children's parties. Isleworth grew rapidly to accommodate the nearby workforce, which explains the extent of 1930s semi-detached housing in the area.
The modern residential block of Gilbert House is named after Gilbert of Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, although it is not actually known who was Gilbert in this partnership. It is widely thought that Thomas Wallis wanted to set up an architectural practice and used the grander title of Wallis, Gilbert and Partners to sound more established than he really was. The firm became famous for designing many of the Golden Mile factories as well as the Hoover Building, Abbey Road studios, Victoria bus station and many more.
The Sperry Gyroscope Company Limited Factory, opened in 1931 and made navigation equipment, radar systems, automated take-off and landing systems. Somewhat unfortunately, the company's founder, Lawrence Sperry, sadly died in an air crash in 1923. Whilst the factory in Brentford closed in 1967, the company survives to this day in Virginia, USA, supplying navigation, communication and automation systems to commercial marine and naval markets. Staff at the Brentford Sperry factory had a boxing club which was well-respected in the area. The canal-side site is now occupied by Great West Plaza office park.
Jantzen Knitting Mills Factory opened in 1931 at the south-western corner of the junction of Boston Manor Road and the Great West Road. Jantzen produced swimwear and beachwear during the time that outdoor swimming lidos became commonplace and foreign travel was a real luxury. The brand survives to this day but the building was demolished in 1962 and has been replaced by Great West House, an office block.
The Trico factory opened in 1928 on the western side of the current GSK site and made car windscreen wipers. Trico were the pioneers of the mass-produced wiper blade, electric wipers, dual wipers, screen wash, rear wipers. Trico still produces hundreds of thousands of windscreen wipers every year from its factory in Pontypool, South Wales, where it has based its operations since 1992. The site of the factory, together with the old Macleans buildings next door, was earmarked for Samsung's UK headquarters. The Asian financial crisis of 1997 put a halt to this, and the site then became GSK's headquarters.
Lincoln Cars had its UK base on the Great West Road, exactly where the BMW dealership is today. Lincoln Cars was owned by the Ford Motor Co. Ltd., who were based in Dagenham, and was the arm of the Ford company that imported Ford-owned brands from the USA and Canada to the UK. The building also housed a wide range of spare parts for all the cars it sold and employed mechanics who had been specially trained in the USA to work on these cars, which were comparatively much more expensive than their British equivalents because they had been shipped over.
Alfa Laval manufacture industrial equipment for fluid handling (including milking machines) and heat transfer equipment (for pasteurising and yeast manufacturing). The UK operation moved to Brentford in 1934 but the factory was closed around 1994. The new build apartments and houses in Baltic Avenue are built on the site of Alfa Laval's factory.
Pyrene made fire extinguishers from their factory in Brentford between 1930 and 1950, and supplied them for use on public transport and commercial and private vehicles all over the world. An interesting side-line developed in the business in the 1930s, where they diversified their chromed fire extinguisher production to create car bumpers, many of which were used by car factories on the Great West Road. By 1960, Pyrene made a third of the UK motor industry's car bumpers! Later, the company also produced smoke detection systems, safety goggles and breathing apparatus. Pyrene was taken over by Chubb, the fire safety and security firm, in 1967. The Pyrene building was, like much of the Golden Mile, designed by Wallis, Gilbert & Partners, is still standing and is has been refurbished by new owner Lower Richmond Properties and is available to rent through Thorgills as serviced offices and commercial space with prices starting from £300 per month.
Sir Oliver Simmonds was an aircraft engineer who pioneered various advances in aviation technology, including a nut that stayed on a bolt even during heavy vibration, and a fuel gauge that worked even when aircraft was at an angle or travelling so fast that G-forces were present. Simmonds Aerocessories headquarters were built on the Great West Road, a building which is now known as Wallis House. The factory itself was built on the land between the main building and the railway line, a space in which numerous residential blocks now stand. Like many other 1930s buildings on the Golden Mile, Simmonds Aerocessories' building was wide and shallow with a prominent tower, so as to have the greatest impact on those driving by. Administration and management offices were located in the front buildings whilst manufacturing and production took place behind in large low-rise warehouses.
Brentford Park House
Park Baptist Church was located at the south-eastern corner of the Boston Manor Road and Great west Road junction. Novomatic House, home to the computer games company Novomatic, now stands on the site, following demolition of the church in 1990.
The Firestone Tyre Company's headquarters was designed in the style of an Egyptian temple by Wallis, Gilbert and Partners and built in 1928. It was constructed for the US company to have a UK manufacturing base which would save shipping the tyres over the Atlantic. In August 1980, amid fears that the building might be demolished, a preservation order was prepared. However, on the day before the preservation order was due to be served developers took advantage of the planning authorities' absence on the August bank holiday and demolished the entire building. There was public outcry at the demolition and 150 inter-war buildings, including the Hoover Building and Battersea Power Station, were swiftly listed to ensure that no more of Britain's architectural heritage was lost to developers. The site was then redeveloped as the West Cross Industrial Park, but the gates, railings and pillars along the roadside are now Grade II listed. If you look closely you can still see the Firestone logo on the original entrance gates. The site is now home to the West Cross Industrial Park.
Beecham was originally a company specialising in herbal remedies and laxatives, before later growing after the acquisition of the Macleans, Ribena and Lucozade brands in 1938 and Brylcreem in 1939. After WWII, Beecham moved into what is now Wallis House and focused on research, producing the first synthetic penicillin in 1959. Following mergers Beecham became SmithKline Beecham in 1989 and then GlaxoSmithKline in 2000, now employing 100,000 people around the world. The sixteen-storey, 1,000,000 square feet GSK House in Brentford was opened in 2002 at a cost �300 million as the company's global headquarters and houses 3,000 staff.
The Grade II listed building that we now know as Wallis House was originally built between 1936 and 1942 for Simmonds Aerocessories. The building was designed by the architects Wallis, Gilbert and Partners, who included at the very top of the tower a small statue of a winged aviator. In 1955 the building was taken over by Beecham as their new headquarters, who later became GSK, now based nearby. The name Wallis House comes from one of the architects, Thomas Wallis, who would be pleased to see that the original building has been carefully restored on the outside whilst the interior has been sensitively repurposed for residential use.
Burgoynes Wireless factory opened in 1935 and was eventually demolished in 1996 following the decline in popularity for stand-alone radio units.