Friday, 21 May 2010

The Greenwich Burton Bags A Brace

Some time ago I came across the phenomena of the Burton's commemorative granite plaque. This item was to be found wherever Montague Burton opened a branch of his gentleman's Tailor's and for some reason always seemed to be laid by a member of his direct family. I was so intrigued by this I even wrote about the practice on this blog . I had originally found plaques laid by Lady Montague Burton and her sons Arnold & Stanley and ended it with the prophetic words
I hope to find some inscriptions from Barbara and Raymond as well as from Montague himself in order to complete the set and with over 600 potential sites I'm sure it won't take too long.
Well last week, on the way back from the Greenwich Observatory, I hit the jackpot. Not quite the full house but getting there as I bagged both Barbara and Raymond to add to the tally. *

Of course it was pure luck, as these things often are and it was only when the distinctive Scottish granite caught my eye that I realised the coffee shop on the corner was actually an ex-Burton's. I was pleased to spot first one, then a second plaque but also had the bonus of a very attractive floor mosaic as well.
That seemed to be good enough but after crossing the road and heading toward the railway station I realised that the old shop had extended around the corner and that there was yet another plaque and mosaic needing recording. Over I went for another quick look and another photo...

For those in the area the shop lies on the corner of Nelson Road and Greenwich High Road and it's nice to see that these particular memorials have been left undisturbed and in place. With Barbara and Raymond I think all I need is one from Montague himself and I'll have the full set!

Raymond was one of the Burton twins, along with brother Arnold
Barbara was the only Burton daughter
 The two entrance mosaics, one in each street. I suppose these would be regarded as late examples of the shop mosaic art but I find them quite attractive in their own way. I particularly like the design of the  'O' in 'Tailor Of Taste' - but then I'm easily pleased...

*Of course having checked back on my original post I now notice that Sebastien Ardouin actually mentions these mosaics and plaques in the comments section. Still, they don't really count in the 'Faded London' universe until I spot them myself and as I came across them unintentionally I can put this down to fate and a happy coincidence rather than the chasing up of a kind lead!

While I had the camera out this old painted street sign also caught my eye. There are quite a few of these about but they still seem worthy of recording. I might well collect enough to make a posting about them but until then here is the Prince of Orange Lane acting as a trailer for the main event...

Monday, 17 May 2010

The' Ghost Sign' Bakery of South Wimbledon

As they are usually there in an advertising capacity, it's not often that you come across ghost signs in back streets as the number of passers-by doesn't really warrant the expense. However every now and then one does pop up, not as an advert but as a company name. I think this is the case with this frustratingly incomplete ghost sign I spotted the other week. Kirkley Road is a small residential street in the south of Wimbledon that leads onto the busy Kingston Road and pretty much the last thing I expected to see as I turned into it from Shelton Road was an intriguing old building with the remains of its signage still visible.

It's set just back off of the road and the address gives a bit of a clue as to what it might have been used for, namely The Bakery, 2A Kirkley Road. With that in mind you can just make out the word Bakers or Bakery in the top right. The other words are beyond me though: I thought The first word might have ended  -ing and that the presumed name of the Bakers might start with  KIT or even KING. It also looks as though there might be several layers of paint involved which doesn't help trying to work it out

I couldn't find much in the way to help on line for bakeries in Kirkley Road so I visited the local library to have a look at a few of the trade directories. Again not much luck until I started looking for bakeries on Kingston Road. It occurred to me that it was more than likely that the bakery was the 'behind the scenes' section of a high street shop, and as soon as I worked out roughly what number on the Kingston Road the premises would occupy then I had a few results.

92 Kingston Road seems to have been a bakery for many years, with several changes in ownership. The ones I spotted in the local Kelly's Directories were

1926             George Harrington,                     Baker
1938             Fred[eric]k, H[enr]y Martin          Baker
1940             A. H. Edwards (Caterers Ltd.)   Bakers

None of these names fit easily with the ghost sign, although I am sure that a bit more research would through up some other, later owners.It does however suggest Catering might be the first word though, making a top line of Catering Bakers a possibility. Not being too old a sign may help in the search of its origins as well so fingers crossed that someone might have some more thoughts on this one. The shop at the front is no longer a bakers but now deals with staffing for social care workers but that also looks a fairly recent transformation. So, who were the mystery bakers of South Wimbledon???

And whilst on the subject of Kirkley Road...

"Graphic Stories of Heroism & Narrow Escapes" - Wimbledon & Merton News August 23  1940
As a slight digression, one thing that came up when looking for information on the bakery was the actual position where I had stood to take some pictures! This was basically at the junction of Kirkley Road and Shelton Road and would definitely NOT have been a good place to stand on 16th August 1940 as it was the exact site where a German bomb fell in the early days of the blitz. 
According to Norman Plastow's book Safe As Houses - Wimbledon at War 1939-45 the bombs were relatively small 50kg High Explosive bombs but they caused a great deal of damage and the loss of 14 killed and 59 injured in the surrounding streets. I had a look in the local papers of the time to find the headline 'Suburbs Bombed in Nazi Attempt to Raid London - Crowd Caught In Streets During Rush Hour' . Not surprisingly no specific streets or individuals are mentioned in the newspaper coverage but it does make for interesting reading. Whether or not anyone was hurt by the Kirkley Road bomb I couldn't say but I've no doubt  the bakery would have been badly shaken up by it.

(ADDENDUM: Some interesting comments on this one and thanks for those that made them. Sebastien Ardouin has identified the top line of text as being 'Hygienic Bakery' and he certainly looks to be spot on with that one. He has an interesting article on them as well.

With regard to the August 16th raid, Duncan has pointed out that there was a picture on flicker of the bomb damage in a neighbouring street taken after the raid which is also very interesting.)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tooting's Well

If you were to take a stroll up Mitcham Road from Tooting it wouldn't be long before you saw an intriguing item on the pavement on the corner with Church Road. It's not a statue, or an obvious piece of sculpture - in fact it looks a little like a drain stink-pipe crossed with a broken village clock tower - but it is, in fact a commemorative marker. What it marks is the position of Tooting's very first publicly owned artesian well!
I don't really know much about wells and, interesting as it might be, I wasn't really all that sure why having a well was worthy of such a memorial.  If it came to that I wasn't really sure what the difference was between an artesian and any other sort of well*, so I thought I'd see what I could find out about the subject in general and Tooting's wells in particular.

First off there was the question of geology - how deep did the well have to go and what did they have to drill through? I found the answer in a most unexpected place, the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume 71 which seemed to have quite a lot of information about the geology of Tooting. This describes the process of boring a well just up the road but I assume it's a pretty good indicator of the task faced by the locals at that time.

Edinburgh medical and surgical journal, Volume 71 1849

To put this into some sort of perspective Richmond Bridge over the Thames is 280ft long, so stand that on end and that's how far down the residents of Tooting had to go to get some fresh water!
That Tooting was short of water must have been bad enough, but the fact that the neighbouring village of Streatham had water in abundance must have rubbed salt in the wound somewhat as they seemed to have more than enough for their needs, even becoming something of a tourist attraction as a result. Wikipedia notes that

The village [of Streatham] remained largely unchanged until the 18th century, when the village's natural springs, known as Streatham Wells, were first celebrated for their health giving properties. The reputation of the spa, and improved turnpike roads, attracted wealthy City of London merchants and others to lay out their country residences in Streatham.

Streatham's spa supply actually failed in 1792 but faced with ruin a new source was 'discovered' near by and seems to have slowed down the decline for some time after, even into the 20th century. According to some reports you could still get a bottle of Streatham water pretty much up to the First World War                                                    It is curious to note that while several spas near London have disappeared, that at Streatham still exists at the end of Wells Lane, now Well-Field Road, and the water is sold in bottles on the spot and delivered to town daily.
                                                                          Memorials of old Surrey John Charles Cox - 1911
Even as late as 1885 with both Tooting and Streatham beginning to grow appreciably in size and population the issue of water could be a source of friction between them, as seemed to be the case when a
... meeting [was] held in reference to the Southwark and  Vauxhall Water Company who are sinking a great well at Streatham which has had the effect of abstracting the water from upwards of one hundred private springs and wells in the parish of Tooting...
Journal of Forestry - 1885

I'm not sure what the final outcome was but I suspect the Streatham pump would have had to be limited in some way. Shades of a South London Manon des Sources!

However in the early 19th century, back in the small village of Tooting, it was obviously bad news that such a significant  resource as water was in the hand of a few individuals, and so the decision was made to break the monopoly, even if one of these wells, the property of a local apothecary, seems to have been an object of some wonder... Apparently it came up with such force that it gushed like a fountain to the height of a couple of storeys and presumably provided a very useful alternative source of income for the lucky owner!

Without looking through musty old documents and contracts of the period, you might never think it possible to find out much about the individual who actually dug the bore, but through the marvels of the internet I soon came across an important clue                                                                                                                    

The Mechanics Magazine of 1824 published an indignant letter from the very man who had dug the well at the 'coach-road side at Tooting'. This is significant as the memorial to the well is opposite The Mitre Hotel, a famous coaching inn that still has its stable block to the rear. It also ties in very nicely with the date given for the construction of the monument, 1823. He was apparently rather miffed that someone else was trying to pass off his work as their own...             
 John Goode was a professional well-borer with several patents to his name. He specialised in the London area but also went out at least as far as to Chelmsford in Essex. He obviously did a good job in Tooting and was presumably well-paid for his efforts.

There was also a helpful diagram  showing the rough strata of the London area that John Goode had to deal with and this was pretty much a clay basin with a chalk sub-strata. This chalk was the source of the purest and softest water and it was its sponge-like characteristic that was able to provide sufficient pressure to force water up the lucky apothecaries bore pipe.  Now however, thanks to their finance and John Goode's efforts the good people of Tooting were able to drink their fill at their own Parish Pump well. They were independent with a high quality water source filtered by huge chalk beds, and an occasion definitely worth raising a monument !

(*An artesian well is apparently one that does not require pumping, but which forces water up the bore tube on its own. Mostly this happens when the water level is suppressed by something like a layer of clay. When that 'cap' is pierced the water shoots up to find its natural level. So now we know...)