Diana Willment, A life in Brentford



Diana Willment (1936-2012)

A tribute by
Connie Martyn

During my years in academia I realised that Brentford, where I had settled, had a long and fascinating history. Some of this had not been very closely researched and offered an opportunity to indulge a long-felt interest in industrial history and the Victorians
The triggers were the discovery of the Brentford Monument abandoned and neglected in Ferry Lane and learning that Brentford probably pre-dated London (which has now swallowed it whole) by some thousands of years. The discovery of the Local Studies Department at Chiswick Library, where most of the Brentford material is kept, opened up exciting possibilities
The result has been a series of publications and monographs on some neglected elements of Brentford’s story
In the early 1990s I was asked to collaborate with Elizabeth Wood on the writing of two walks in Brentford which were published in 1993 by GLIAS, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. I updated them in the early 21st century


Photo John C Gillham.
For more information see
Brentford Dock & Railway

2001 * Brentford Walks

Walk A, the River Thames and Old Brentford
ISBN 0-9540590-0-X
Walk B, the Grand Junction Canal and New Brentford
ISBN 0-9540590-1-8

Combining history with exercise

Since the redevelopment of industrial Brentford got under way in the late 20th century there have been many changes in the town. These walks from 2001 are getting out of date, but much is still of historical interest. The walks ought to be updated — perhaps some day I shall find the time. The fascination of doing this and their success encouraged me to continue researching and publishing

Price £1:00 each, 65p each for 5 copies or more, post free in UK. Available through email below and local outlets

2001 Brentford Bridge 
Article in Watermark, Issue 12 October 2001

Article in the Newsletter of the Thames Landscape Strategy (Hampton to Kew), reprinted in the Journal of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society 2002. The Bridge was probably modified in 1899-1900 ready for the first tram in 1901, not 1909 as stated In response to two correspondents who assured us that there was no such thing as Brentford Bridge

2002 * Fire ! 300 Years of Fire Fighting in Brentford
ISBN 0-9540590-2-6

My interest in this was based partly on the Nowell Parr’s splendid little Fire Station and partly on some chance discoveries in Parish records and elsewhere. I was also concerned that the inscription on the front of the Fire Station was becoming difficult to read. The building had become far too small for its original purpose and its story needed to be told

Price £6:00 each, £4:00 each for 5 copies or more, post free in UK. Available through email below

Fire in Brentford
2002 Brentford’s Public InscriptionsISBN 0-9540590-3-4

The disappearing inscription on the Fire Station was also responsible for my roaming round Brentford and collecting what public inscriptions I could find. I already had a good number and it seemed worth completing the collection as far as possible. This document was properly published although self-printed. Copies were sent to the local Planning Department, English Heritage and other similar bodies. There is plenty of local interest in Brentford’s past and a surprising number of copies were actually sold

Out of print, copies in Reference Departments at local libraries etc

2003 Brentford Fountain Kew BridgeMonograph

This was part of an unsuccessful effort to stir up interest in regaining custody of Brentford’s Fountain. This had been given to the town by Mrs Samuel Wheeler in memory of her late husband in 1877 and had been accepted as a “sacred trust”. It was given away by the Local Authority to the Western International Market in 1974. The inscription has been erased but luckily Brentford’s Public Inscriptions was already published. So much for Local Authorities, so much for noble gifts and sacred trusts

Out of print

2004 Brentford Library and the First LibrarianMonograph

This was produced to mark the centenary of Brentford Public Library, opened in person by Andrew Carnegie in 1904. It features Fred Turner, Brentford’s popular Librarian. Ironically the centenary celebrations were held in 2003. In 2004, on the actual hundredth anniversary of its opening, a Saturday, the Library was closed as the key had been mislaid !

Out of print, copies at Brentford Library

2004 The Boatmen’s Institute BrentfordMonograph

This was produced to mark the centenary of the Institute, set up by the London City Mission in 1904. It had been important for its work with canal families until 1978, and is now a private residence. The London City Mission has a comprehensive archive which was difficult to access because the records were not well indexed and were bound by the year instead of the location. Otherwise this work might have been longer

Out of print but a few copies at Kew Bridge Steam Museum

2007 * Sir Montagu Sharpe Forgotten Man of Middlesex
ISBN 978-0-9540590-4-0

This was the only time I was let down by Chiswick’s Local Studies Department. Sir Montagu’s name is inscribed on Brentford Monument, Kew Bridge, the Middlesex Guildhall and elsewhere, but the Local Studies Department could tell me nothing about him. Fortunately his own copies of his books left to Brentford Library gave his address, Brent Lodge in Hanwell, Ealing. Initially the Local History Centre at Ealing Library was unhelpful, but changes there brought a sudden break-through. What would Sir Montagu have thought of this investigation into details of his life and subsequent publication ? Sir Montagu was called to the Bar, was a Brentford Magistrate and a keen lifelong historian of Brentford and Middlesex. An excuse for yet another work largely about Brentford, produced to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth in 1856. This book ventures to trace some of the history of the traditions about Julius Caesar’s Thames crossing in 54 BC. Sir Montagu’s researches had led him to the conclusion that Brentford was the place. He was a leader in an impressive number of activities, enterprises and campaigns in the public interest, including early support for the RSPB. He was responsible for a change to the Middlesex Coat of Arms and for the Brentford Monument. He vigorously opposed the proposal to site a new sewage works in Syon Park; the existing one at Mogden was enlarged instead. He was Chairman of Middlesex County Council for many years

p 39 : Archaeological excavations in Syon Park in 2008 revealed the course of a river between the Hotel and House in former times. Possibly part of the Brent but probably part of the Thames

Price £6:00 per copy, £4:00 per copy for 5 copies or more, post free in UK. Available through email below and local libraries

2009 * Brentford Dock and Railway
ISBN 978-0-9540590-5-7

I have lived at Brentford Dock for many years and for much of this time have wondered to what extent Isambard Kingdom Brunel was responsible for the Dock. Why did so many people tell me he built it ? What and where was the evidence ? Did Brunel have anything to do with it at all, and if not him, then who ? Why hadn’t someone written a book about it ? Clearly someone ought to — and if possible before the 150th anniversary of its opening on 15th July 1859. It became obvious that it would have to be me Having learned something of how to write, how to self-publish and done much research, the book was completed in time. I am most grateful to the many who kindly helped. It was soon clear that such a book was long overdue. My most successful enterprise with 100+ pages and 45 illustrations. The second edition is selling steadily. The best (the only) book on Brentford Dock ! p 44 There were three steam engines in the hydraulic engine house p 63 The Grand Union Canal Co was formed in 1929 by the amalgamation of 8 canal companies operating in London and the Midlands, including the Grand Junction Canal Co. The canal system was nationalised in 1948 and the British Waterways Board formed in 1963. These errors have been corrected in Edition II pp 68 and 83 : Underwoods was demolished in November 2010

Price £7:50 per copy, £5:00 per copy for 5 copies or more, post free in UK. Available through email below and at local outlets including Libraries

2002 Seven Mysteries of Brentford.

Can you help solve them ? "Mystery 3" The Musical Museum has moved from St George's Church to a new purpose-designed building at 399 High Street Brentford

(Download PDF file)

* These items can be ordered through bookshops and are available from Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society

Connie Martyn remembers Diana Willment (1936-2012)

Further information

Further information on the titles above can be found through the Local Studies Dept at Chiswick Public Library, Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society, Kew Bridge Steam Museum (links below)

Links to places, people and organisations


Brentford area

Societies and organisations


Brentford on Wikipedia

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society

Brentford Dock(Official site)

Chiswick Public Library (Local Studies Dept)

Brentford Dock(150th anniversary website)

Kew Bridge Steam Museum

Brentford High Street History Project

Hounslow Heritage Guides


The Thomas Layton Collection

Syon Park

Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society

Brentford figures

Local History Centre at Ealing Library

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Thames Landscape Strategy (Hampton to Kew)

Julius Caesar

London City Mission

English Heritage

Diana Willment, B.A., B.Sc., M.Phil March 2010
Updated November 2012
Website: adam.watson@stradivari.net