Sunday, 6 September 2009

One short stop in Hampton Wick

Well it's been a slightly frustrating August here in the Faded London international conglomerate publishing offices. Apart from summer holidays, which are always welcome this time of the year, the whole of the production team were struck down with a malfunctioning camera. Or malfunctioning battery to be precise. Still, having traipsed around various shops the Research department eventually ended up with a replacement from eBay which - so far- seems to have done the job. The resulting flurry of pictures have now overwhelmed the Post -Production team, so best start off September with a short one, to ease our way back into things again...

This particular stop happened last Sunday evening. I'd noticed an old drinking fountain on an external wall of Bushey Park and had decided to make a stop on the way back, which I did and very pleased I was to have done so. It was by a gate into the park and nicely visible on google maps
View Larger Map

Getting a bit closer shows it to be a marble drinking trough with some white stone plaque behind it. I don't think it's concrete as I would have thought it would have weathered too quickly. The tap has long since gone but the message is still there.
"August 1889 Erected by Mrs Mary Wilkins of Manor House, Hampton Wick in memory of her son Edward Stanley Wilkins"
The Twickenham Museum has a nice picture of the Manor House and notes that although the house was demolished in 1937 it was selling off land around it from 1897. No doubt there is a story to be told of how losing her eldest son led to the crumbling of the estate as there was no-one left to take over the reins etc. etc. Well that may be a bit fanciful but it'll do me until a more prosaic explanation turns up.
Manor House (pre 1937!)

That was that I thought, but then a strange object caught the corner of my eye. A magnificent and highly ornate tiled memorial of some sort - tucked behind metal railings and on a patch of scrub. You can see it to the right of the Google image.
In fact the monument is to Timothy Bennet, the Shoemaker of Hampton Wick and commemorates a classic case of the 'little man' taking on the big man and winning! Without wishing to spoil the story for you (you can read it all below) Timothy took exception to the local lord enclosing the park and forcing huge detours on the locals so decided to raise the money to take the Lord to law. Realising he was on a looser the Lord gave in and a public right of way was established across the park known as 'Cobblers Walk'. About 150 years later the locals decided this act was worth commemorating with a suitable monument. Presumable the lord and his descendants being long gone it was considered safe to do so by this point...Of course a snappy catch phrase or slogan never goes amiss and "I am unwilling to leave the world worse than I found it" was the phrase associated with Timothy. All credit to him for what he did but I can't help but feel it's not the snappiest or most appropriate epitaph he could have had
Interestingly the Twickenham Museum has some more information (and what a good site it is), this time about Timothy, not least that he wrote a play commemorating the whole episode. In fact their article concludes with the last scene of his play where he gets back his money and his son can marry after all. Huzzah!
Ben. Well, Deborah! The good cause has triumphed!
Mrs. Ben. Thank God! Dear husband.
Mary. Oh, Uncle Timothy, I'm so glad!
Ben. The justices cut short the trial, and declared the Ranger had no case; so the greater part of the hundred pounds has been returned to me.
Mary. Then Jack and Martha can marry after all! And their wedding procession ought to go the very path that you've opened Uncle.
Ben. No, Mary - no unseemly triumph. And say not that I have opened the path: the laws of England did that for us.
The information plaque says he was willing to spend £700 but the play only mentions £100 so I wonder if his munificence was slightly overstated? £100 is a lot for those days but £700 must have been a fortune for a shoemaker!

Still, for a single brief stop that's a fair bit of history.


Anonymous said...

David Kennedy & Diana Kennedy, “A Malodorous Business”. Tanners and Shoemakers of Kingston upon Thames, Surbiton and Hampton Wick, 1841-1891. (October, 2001). Summary edit by Neal Hattersley.

The Importance of Shoemaking in Hampton Wick
Bennett, Wild & Cock

The Hampton Wick shoe business was tied to the existence of a Tannery in Kingston and involved traffic across and on The Thames.

In late medieval times, there was a Kingston street called Souters Row. Souters were shoemakers. Shoemaking was one of Kingston’s four trading companies (Quasi Trade Associations). A trader who was not a Freeman of one of these companies had to pay a fee for a “Toleration” which allowed him to trade in the Saturday market. For example we know that in 1623, a shoemaker from Hounslow was granted a Toleration for a fee of 20 shillings.

Timothy Bennet and Cobblers Way
In 1752, Timothy Bennet, a Hampton Wick shoemaker, instigated a legal challenge, at his own personal financial risk, against Lord Halifax, who had bought the title/role ‘Ranger of Bushy Park’, over the noble Earl’s closure of a pathway across the park. This had the effect of securing the right-of-way that is nowadays called Cobbler’s Walk. At his death Bennet was comfortably off, owning 4 houses on Bridge Street as well as his own living accommodation.
Timothy’s memorial, situated near the gate to Bushy Park at the end of Park Road in Hampton Wick, says that he was “unwilling to leave the world worse
than he found it”. However, the modern explanatory notice next to the memorial indicates that the path was used by people travelling from Hampton to Kingston Market and it can be conjectured that enclosure led to a reduction in the numbers of potential customers passing his shop. Shoemakers were literate before most craftsmen were and often had a strong interest in politics.

Shoemaking appears to have reached its peak, in terms of employment, in Hampton Wick around 1840. (The new toll bridge had been built in 1828). After 1870 Hampton Wick became a residential location for the (wealthy) owners of the Kingston Tannery reflecting their rise up the social scale and the growth of Hampton Wick.

Tanning was an important British industry in the 19th century. Boot and shoemakers, saddlers, book-binders, glovers, coach and trunk makers, upholsterers and others
required an immense supply of leather of every variety. In 1841 there were 6,601tanners in Great Britain, of whom 1,877 were in Surrey, and one third of all British leather was manufactured and dressed in the old county of Surrey, which then included Bermondsey where there was a high concentration of leather producers.

In terms of Tanneries, 55 were in what is now London and 11 were in present day Surrey. This includes the Kingston Tannery located where the pub, ‘The Bishop Out of Residence’, now stands. In 1841 tanning was ranked 5th largest trade in Surrey, in terms of people employed, much higher than in Britain as a whole.
Available Census returns indicate that the Kingston Tannery employed 10 people in 1851, rising to 18 in 1861.

Kingston had a prosperous tanning industry by the 15th century. The tannery on the Bishop’s Hall site had its origins in the 17th century. Horner’s ‘Plan of The Town and Parish of Kingston upon Thames’, published in 1813, shows a “Tan Yard” roughly in the Bishop’s Hall area close to the river and the market. The tithe map of 1840 records that the land in the Bishop’s Hall area, with a cottage, tan yard and
building was owned by Richard Fortnum and was occupied by William Phillipson. The Census of 1841 shows James Smithers, a tanner, living with his wife and two children in Bishop’s Hall. The Census gives no clue as to the role that James played in the running of the tannery but he was probably an employee, possibly the foreman, living in tied accommodation.

Ray Elmitt said...

Manor House was - sadly - not THE Manor House illustrated here but much more mundanely "Manor House" 35 Glamorgan Road where Mary Wilkins lived from 1895 - 1910.

Letting Agent in Hampton said...

£100 is a lot for those days but £700 must have been a fortune for a shoemaker!