Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Jane Montgomrey née Ronalds

A plaque marking the location of Montgomrey's Wharf in Brentford. Part of the site was later the home of the Gas Accumulator Company, which manufactured gas lighting equipment

Plaque commemorating the purchase of the Cottage Hospital building in 1901. It is now on display at the Brentford Health Centre

Foundation stone for the former Boatmen's Institute in Brentford Butts, laid by Archie Montgomrey in 1904

Sir Francis Ronalds' oldest sister Jane (1786-1826) lived her married life in Brentford, West London, just up the road from the Ronalds nursery.

Her husband James Montgomrey Snr (1782-1841) ran a large timberyard on the Brentford High Street, between what is now Dock Road and Pump Alley, that stretched south past the Grand Union Canal. For many years the area was known as Montgomrey's Wharf. In its prime, it was the largest sawmill in Middlesex and supplied timber products to the surrounding counties. Through their son James Jnr (1811-1883), grandson Archibald Sim Montgomrey (1843-1922) - called Archie - and great-grandson Carey (1870-1919), the firm continued into the 20th century. Sir Francis would have assisted in some of the technological innovations introduced there.

A high priority for the family was to enhance the town of their business success and they helped fund, build and run numerous facilities in Brentford for education, health, worship and community amenity. These included the Cottage Hospital, Boatmen's Institute, fire station, town hall, public library, Mechanics' Institution, St Paul's church, and both Church of England and non-sectarian schools. They also assisted in the establishment of Brentford Dock. James Jnr's widow Henrietta officially opened a Recreation Ground for the town in 1889 - a fountain at its centre honoured her late husband and his many contributions. It has been restored recently by the Heritage of London Trust.

James (Snr and Jnr) and Archie in addition acted as executors for many members of the Ronalds family. Together they were trustees for 75 years of the complex US and Canadian estates inherited by Dr Henry Ronalds' wife and passing finally to Dr Henry's granddaughter Lucy. Archie also found time for scientific pursuits and, like his nurserymen cousins, created a herbarium that survives today. Archie's sister married shipbuilder Sir Charles Palmer.


Further Information

The Montgomrey Family of Brentford:
Timber Merchants and Benefactors (2018)

- published in London's Industrial Archaeology

Archibald Sim Montgomrey and his Herbarium (2020)
- published in BSBI News, No. 143

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016)
- published by Imperial College Press

Jane and James Montgomrey Snr's Family Tree

Obituaries for James Montgomrey Snr and Archie

The Brentford High Street Project has uploaded interesting data on the Montgomrey family, including a detailed description of their sawmill in 1910.

James Snr's forebears are introduced in The Hatbox Letters