Between 1874 and 1894 Brentford was an independent town run by a Local Board responsible for public health matters by supplying clean drinking water and sewers, clearing slums and cleaning the streets. Provision of a Fire Brigade was later added and by 1894 it was an Urban District Council (UDC) whose responsibilities included town planning, parks and cemeteries. This operated until 1927 when it amalgamated with Chiswick to become the Brentford & Chiswick UDC that met in the Town Hall in Chiswick.
One man who was involved from 1894 was James Clements.
The story goes that his father died on the day he was born and by the time he was 9 years old he was working with his widowed mother at the sewing machines at Pennington’s outfitters near Brentford Bridge. He was reputed to still have the sewing machine when he died.
Aged 13 he walked up the canal to Birmingham and worked on the canal.
When he returned to Brentford he worked as a lighterman, became captain of a sailing barge then skipper of a tug aged 17. In partnership with Mr Knowling he formed a tug, barge and haulage business at Goat Wharf.
As well as serving as a Councillor he was a Justice of the Peace, a member of the Philanthropic Society and the local Liberal Club and President of the British Legion. He was a member of nine Masonic Lodges and founder of five of them and was twice Master of the Waterman’s Company.
He lived at Sidney House in Boston Road which he’d named after his son who had been killed at Ypres in 1915. Sidney Gardens near Brentford Station must have taken over the name.
He retired from the Council at the amalgamation with Chiswick but was created the first Freeman of the Borough of Brentford and Chiswick and was the Charter Mayor in 1932 when the borough was raised from being an urban district to borough.
The picture of him in his mayoral robes by William Ramsden Brearley was painted that year and hangs in Chiswick Town Hall.
He died in 1934 and his funeral at St Paul’s Church was attended by the great and the good of all of west Middlesex. He was very highly thought of in the area and his obituary in the Middlesex Independent described him as ‘Jim Clements – Brentford’s Grand Old Man’.