Brentford Chamber History
In the late 19th and early 20th century there are references in the press to the Brentford Tradesmen and Ratepayers Association. In 1903 it was reported that they were discussing the possibility of widening the High Street but after the First World War interest and support of the group had waned. This led in February 1920 to a Mr Edwin J Clarke, a bootmaker, of 202, High Street calling a meeting of interested parties with a view to setting up a local Chamber of Commerce.
The County of Middlesex Independent newspaper reported on 25th February that it had been a 'very enthusiastic' meeting and that over 100 tradesmen had agreed to join. These represented the trades of butchers, provision merchants, electricians, wines and spirits, tailors, gentlemen's outfitters, chemists, hairdressers, fishmongers, tobacconists, greengrocers, jewellers and watchmakers, boot dealers, drapers and others. Mr Griffith of Griffiths Bros, Clothiers, 125, High Street agreed to become the honorary secretary and the first meeting was held at the Red Lion, New Brentford on Tuesday 9th March 1920.
Mr Clarke, presiding over this meeting said that the formation of a Chamber of Commerce marked 'a new era for Brentford and a most pleasing sign was the unity and good feeling that prevailed amongst the traders'. He continue by saying that in the past they had not been treated any too kindly by the local governing body, and had generally been much misrepresented to the public. The aim of the Chamber would be to establish a close confidence between the shopper and the trader, to endeavour to enhance the prestige of the town, and to firmly insist that the Council give more assistance in the work of reconstruction.
After a talk by Mr Charlton E Morgan about the advantages of a Chamber of Commerce a provisional committee was appointed with instructions to draw up standing orders and draft rules for the future conduct of the Chamber and an annual subscription of 10/6d was agreed.
The monthly meetings at the Red Lion, New Brentford were regularly reported in the local newspapers. The Chiswick Times on 23 April 1920 had the headline BRENTFORD AND THE TRAMS and goes on to say 'The newly formed Brentford Chamber of Commerce opened its career with a zeal which promises that it will be a vital force'. There had been complaints about the state of disrepair of the tram tracks and the newspaper pointed out that the District Council had got nowhere with their complaints but thought that the Chamber would be putting added pressure on the tramway company.
On 14 May 1920 it was reported that the Chamber was in disagreement with the District Council who had bought Carville Hall Park as a War Memorial. They thought that a hospital would be a better memorial but it was pointed out that this this would only be used by a minority of people but that a recreation ground could be used by everyone. The Chamber pointed out that they had been formed since the park scheme had been launched but the newspaper reports that the District Council only made up its mind after the views of the 'leading folk' in the town had been heard. It would seem they assumed that the Chamber was made up of 'leading folk' of the town. It was also thought that by that point the Middlesex County Council would be unlikely to release it from its contract.
The correspondence on this subject continued for many months in the Middlesex Independent through 1920 and 1921.
The report of the Works Committee of the District Council the following week shows the start of a subject that seems to have featured regularly in Chamber business ever since - the state of the High Street.
A letter from the Chamber to the District Council who met at Clifden House had complained about 'the lax method of the police in dealing with the traffic in the High Street; the manner in which the repairs to the tramway track are undertaken; the lighting in the street; and the cleaning of the street'.
The Council's reply pointed out that they had no jurisdiction over the police methods of dealing with the traffic; that the repairs to the tramway track had been subject to repeated negotiation with the company; that the lighting had been restored to the normal pre-war lighting and that the Council did not see their way clear to make any addition. Regarding street cleaning this apparently was normally completed by 9am but due to delays in the tram crossover repairs the re-paving could not be finished so that in bad weather further cleaning had had to be done after 9am. Once all the repairs were complete this would not be necessary.