Monday, 25 January 2016

What's in a van? ............ stories yet to be discovered

Now this is one of those stories which will be fun to dig into.

At present I know nothing about it other than the date may be the 1930s, and that  the picture comes from the collection of Andy Robertson who says “the older young man is my great grandfather's brother's son.”

And I am making this harder for myself by deliberately not asking Andy for any more information.

Instead in the quiet moments I shall regularly revisit the picture and see what the records reveal.

The van offers up the name of the company, the date it was established and a place in London.

So that will open up a trawl of the census returns and street directories and of course the telephone directories and maps of the period.

The local archive centre might just have some records on the company with pictures and even details of the people who worked for them.

And then there is that simple wild card where you type in the name on Google and wait to see what pops up.

These hit and miss searches always amaze me more because often they do turn something up.

In the case of Thomas E Carwardine & Co. Ltd the search provided a typed street directory for 1921 which listed the firm at 138 Kingsland Road amongst a mix of small business stretching along the east side of the road from 120 Shoreditch High Street to Kinglsand High Street and comprising 65 businesses three pubs and Cotton Gardens.

Now for someone who does not know east London here is an anchor from which to move out and look for the other stores or branches of Thomas E Carwardine & Co. Ltd.

It may be that they only had the one premises but they were operating at least 39 vehicles, some of which would be motor vans and others perhaps horse drawn or hand pulled carts and that is an impressive fleet.

And I am fascinated by the hand painted sign.  All things Egyptian had been given a real boost by the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.

Likewise it may just be possible to draw some conclusions from the buildings behind the van so while the house looks solid and residential enough there is that building next door which might have been a stables but equally could be commercial.

There will be plenty of more clues and of course once you finds the first set of records they usually send you off on a whole set of different paths.

At which point I recognise that this will be read by many who mutter that in looking into the story of an east London firm I am well out of my usual haunts.

But not so and especially because the methodology in picking through the clues can be used any where, and that seems a sensible point to stop for the time being.

Location; London

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Pub History in the UK,

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