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10 Things you might not know about Brentford's Golden Mile

Links to BBC hit The Apprentice and a very royal barge revealed in our fun facts compilation.

The Golden Mile

Following on from our story about ambitious plans for the regeneration of the Golden Mile we thought we would publish 10 bits of trivia about the famous stretch of the A4 which links Chiswick and Brentford:

1) It was opened in 1925 as a bypass for Brentford High Street and quickly became the centre for industry and the focal point for the popular art-deco style of architecture.

Buildings were only allowed to be put up as far as Syon Lane junction (now famously called Gillette Corner) as the land west of this area was owned by the church.

2) The Sperry Gyroscope Company (1931-1967) which once stood beside the Grand Union Canal on the site of what is now Great West Plaza was where getwestlondon historian Eddie Menday worked for eight years.

He helped make guidance systems which were tested on apparatus which swung back and forth to simulate a ship sailing across the sea.

The Sperry Gyroscope Company. Copyright English Heritage. http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw034930

3) Until as recently as the 1990s the factories and businesses which lined both sides of the road all used to decorate the fronts of their premises with trees, lights and decorations for Christmas.

Children would regularly pester their parents to drive along the dual carriageway - even if the journey did not require it - so they could spot the different displays, with the old Firestone Tyre Factory (1928-1980 - gatehouse 2004) a particular favourite.

4) Many of the companies believed in social networking of the day, with staff encouraged to interact with each other and those from neighbouring businesses on a regular basis.

Inter-factory football matches were popular, as was Sperry’s boxing club with bouts being held at the Firestone Club House and a particular star fighter was Charlie Osgood, a relative of the famous Chelsea footballer Peter.

Gillette factory, Gillette Corner, Great West Road, Osterley TW7

5) One of the most iconic of all the buildings must be the Gillette Factory (1937-2006) which was built on the former 17th Century Syon Farm owned by the Duke of Northumberland who still owns nearby Syon House and Park.

Sir George Broadbridge, Lord Mayor of London, officially opened the razor-blade producing factory which to this day features a 150ft high clock tower with hands and digits that glow purple at night making it stand-out for miles around. Getwestlondon gets a lot of calls whenever it is left switched off for any length of time - so current owners take note!

6) One of the most eye-catching of all the buildings still in operation is the glass-dominated headquarters of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline which stands at the junction with Boston Manor Road.

It took over the site formerly occupied by the Trico-Folberth Windscreen Wiper factory (1928-1992) which still holds an annual reunion of staff in Brentford. During the London Olympics the building carried a giant advert for the games as it was official drug tester of the athletes and competitors involved.

GlaxoSmithKleine (official drugs tester) and its new advert on the side of its HQ in Great West Road, Brentford. Picture by Chris Longhurst

7) Lost some of your energy? Try driving past the famous kinetically animated Lucozade sign which was created in 1954 before being removed to Gunnersbury Musuem in 2004 and replaced with a replica on York House in 2010.

We reported earlier this year how Japanese firm Suntory had brought the Lucozade brand from GSK and were looking to modernise the sign - to howls of derision from locals and politicians and a swift rejection of planning permission from Hounslow Council.

8) Fancy saying ‘Audi’ to the company which took over the Lucozade factory site? Well that would be the West London Audi Centre - a seven floored glass and metal structure (two of which are below ground) which opened in 2009.

The centre was designed by Wilkinson Eyre and took six years of planning and building. On the second floor is a sculpture of a 1930s racing car by Gerry Judah.

One floor houses a number of vintage and special cars, including the racing car that won the Le Mans 24-hour event.

The Lucozade sign by the A4 in Brentford on January 30, 2014.

9) ‘You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, you’re fired!’ Last year Lord Sugar chose Leah Totton (who had local girl Uzma Yakoob on her team) over Luisa Zissman to go into business with at the end of Series 9 of The Apprentice.

The young doctor from Northern Ireland created a cosmetic surgery chain called NIKS and as part of her final project filmed a promotional video at the Riverside Hospital, which is based on Brentside Executive Park, and part of the Golden Mile.

Could we yet see one of 2014 candidates doing something similar? Perhaps they could all tell Lord Sugar how they would transform the fortunes of the derelict Carillion factory which used to be Pyrene Fire Extinguisher company.

Brentside Executive Park
 

10) The royal barge Gloriana as used in the flotilla for the Queen’s Diamond jubilee in 2012 was built in secret at a warehouse on the West Cross Centre, Almalgamated Drive, which is located within the Golden Mile.

Currently a plan by Richmond Council to house the flagship vessel within its boundaries was dropped after a public backlash which could yet pave the way for it to return to the borough where it was created.

Gloriana starting its twilight journey by lorry from West Cross Way in Brentford to Church Street in Isleworth
 

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