The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

10a London Road: Davis of Croydon and N Tapper Shoe Repairs

15 March 2013

Alongside the Greggs branch at West Croydon Station, just around the corner from London Road, sit a couple of small kiosks, firmly attached to the concrete side wall of the building.

Davis of Croydon Car Hire and N Tapper Shoe Repairs, March 2013. Photo: author’s own.

1960s–present: Davis of Croydon Car Hire

The first definite evidence of kiosks on this site comes from a 1969 planning application for the replacement of an existing kiosk.[1] Although this application relates to the kiosk currently occupied by N Tapper, the accompanying diagrams show that the car hire kiosk was already in place at this date, and was already being used for the same purpose it is today.

Davis of Croydon Car Hire was established in the early 1960s, and has retained the same name despite a change of ownership.[2] The kiosk from which the business is run is tiny; little more than a couple of metres along its largest dimension. However, planning records indicate that it used to be even smaller! A 1988 planning application for the erection of a new kiosk includes a diagram comparing the old to the new, showing that the old kiosk was only three-quarters as wide as the current one.[3]

The current owner took over in 1971, and during the decades since has run the business single-handedly — driving, booking, and manning the kiosk. However, as of early 2013 he’s selling up because he’d like to retire. He’s already had a few expressions of interest, so hopefully the business will continue.[4]

While it seems likely that the abovementioned kiosk has only ever housed a minicab business, its neighbour on the corner has a rather more varied history involving tobacco, photo development, and fresh fruit.

Sketch of a 1969 proposal[5] for a new Finlays kiosk at the side of West Croydon Station, replacing the existing one. The view is from the north. I don’t know if this proposal was ever put into place.
A small paper bag with a yellowish striped background and dark blue text in a cursive font: “Finlays / Candies / Gifts / Cigarettes / Tobaccos [sic] / Branches throughout the country”.
Paper bag with Finlays branding, from the collection at the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service. Photo: author’s own.

1930s–1960s/1970s: Finlays

The first occupant of the corner kiosk — possibly as early as the 1930s — was probably a branch of Finlays tobacconists. As noted in an earlier article in this series, Finlay & Co, tobacconist, is listed at 10 London Road in Ward’s 1934 street directory along with Anne the milliner and a branch of the National Provincial Bank; this is the first appearance of any businesses at this site following the 1930s redevelopment of West Croydon Station. It’s possible however that at this point Finlays was actually housed within the station ticket hall rather than in an external kiosk — I have no evidence indicating that this was the case, but I can’t exclude the possibility.[6]

Finlays was a chain of tobacconists which originated in Scotland[7] and later expanded to England; by the late 1970s it had become the largest group of retail tobacconists in the country.[8] The branches were often, though not always, sited in kiosks at railway stations,[9] and the signage for these is sometimes still visible today, for example at Maida Vale Station in North London.[10]

Finlays signage at Maida Vale Station, July 2013. Photo: author’s own.

Finlays remained at their London Road site until at least the late 1960s, and the kiosk continued to sell tobacco and confectionery until at least 1975, though I don’t know if it remained under the control of Finlays all this time.[11]

1980s: Kwikfoto Ltd and Carols Fruit Box

By 1985 the kiosk was in use by Kwikfoto Ltd, a film development company; it may have had a brief stint as a greengrocers before this, but the evidence is unclear.[12] In any case, by 1989 Kwikfoto had been replaced by a fruit & veg stall called Carols [sic] Fruit Box (just visible at the edge of a photo taken by Brian Gittings in that year).

2000s: All-In-One locksmiths

By the end of the 1990s, the churn of businesses had settled down to something akin to the current-day business. The first and second editions of Shop ‘Til You Drop (probably published around 1998 and 2002, respectively[13]) list All-In-One locksmiths at 10a London Road, and Google Street View confirms that N Tapper, Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting, was in place by July 2008.

2000s–present: N Tapper shoe repairs and key cutting

Today, the kiosk continues to offer shoe repairs and key cutting, as well as a few small related items such as Dylon shoe dye, shoe polish, shoelaces, and key fobs. I’ve been unable to uncover any information about the recent history of the business, aside from the fact that the gentleman currently working at the kiosk is not N Tapper himself.[14]

Shoelaces and key fob, bought from N Tapper Shoe Repairs in March 2013. Photo: author’s own.

Thanks to: Davis of Croydon Car Hire; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-readers bob, Flash, and Kat.

Footnotes and references

  1. Planning application viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices, ref 69-20-455. The diagrams included in the application are dated February 1969. Although this is the first unambiguous evidence of kiosks on the site, the application is for replacement of an existing kiosk, and the diagrams of the proposed replacement include “Davies [sic] of Croydon car hire kiosk” to one side, so there must have been two kiosks in place before that date, in the same places as today.
  2. The “firms” filing cabinet at the Croydon Local Studies Library contains a cutting of an advert for “Davis Car Hire. Proprietor: Herbert S Davis [...] booking office in car park entrance [...] adjoining West Croydon Station”. An unknown person has labelled this “1963”. The current owner of the business told me in a phone conversation on 22 February 2013 that the business was established in the early 1960s, and he decided to keep the old name when he bought it in 1971.
  3. Planning application viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices, ref 88/766/P. The applicant is Davis of Croydon Car Hire, and the application was received on 8 March 1988.
  4. All information in this paragraph comes from a phone conversation with the current owner on 22 February 2013.
  5. This is a sketched copy (by me) of a diagram included in the planning application mentioned in footnote [1]. I haven’t attempted to reproduce the lettering of the signs precisely, but everything else is as close to scale as possible given that I was taking measurements by holding up a ruler to the screen of a microfiche viewer.
  6. If Finlays was in the ticket hall rather than the kiosk, it was probably where the newsagent is now. Kent’s 1955 street directory lists Finlays at 10a London Road and H Purchen and the National Provincial Bank at number 10. As discussed in an earlier article, I suspect that H Purchen may have been accessed from the station ticket hall, so this different numbering suggests that Finlays was in the kiosk at this point. In addition, the abovementioned 1969 planning application makes it clear that Finlays was definitely in the kiosk by February 1969.
  7. The John Menzies history page describes the chain as “Finlay’s, the Scottish tobacconists whose kiosks often stood cheek-by-jowl with a station bookstall”.
  8. The Imperial Tobacco history page states that “By the late 1970s Finlays was the largest group of retail tobacconists in the country”. Given the Scottish origins of the chain and the later expansion into England, “the country” here probably refers to the United Kingdom, or possibly to Great Britain. A poster on the Britmovie forums confirms their ubiquity, noting that “Finlay’s Tobacconists were everywhere”.
  9. See footnote [7] above. The only vintage photos of Finlays I’ve found online are of non-station branches in Swindon, in Middlesbrough, in Newcastle, and in Purley — many thanks to Friends of Park Hill Recreation Ground for telling me about the Purley branch!
  10. In addition to the Maida Vale photo in the main text, which I added some time after this article was originally written, see photo showing Finlays signage in July 2008 and a close-up taken the previous year.
  11. See the 1969 planning application mentioned in footnote [1]. Information on use as of 1975 comes from a map included in a planning application deposited on 4 April 1975 (ref 75-20-581, viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices); this map was “based upon the Ordnance Survey Map with the sanction of the Controller of H M Stationery Office” and shows a small kiosk protruding from the side of 10 London Road, numbered “10A”, and labelled “TOB + CONF”. I don’t know how long Finlays lasted as a chain; according to nebusiness.co.uk there was still a small chain of confectioners/tobacconists/newsagents known as Finlays and active in North-East England in 2012, but this may have no connection to the older Finlays.
  12. A planning application was granted on 22 August 1985 (ref 85/1562/P, viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices) to supply and fit a new shopfront and signs; the applicant is Kwikfoto Ltd, 44–58 Lancaster Street, London SE1. The application seems to state that the previous use was as a greengrocers, but the microfiche copy is unclear and hard to read.
  13. Shop ‘Til You Drop was a shopping guide published by Burrows Communications. The guides don’t include the publication date, but the copy of the first edition at the Croydon Local Studies Library has an acquisition date of February 1999, and an unknown person has written “1998” on it; the second edition has an acquisition date of February 2002.
  14. Said gentleman has only been working there for a couple of months, and is an employee rather than the owner.
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« 10 London Road: Greggs
The breezeblock building of West Croydon Station's London Road entrance also houses a branch of Greggs, the UK-wide bakery and pasty-seller. The building was constructed in the early 1930s as part of the redevelopment of West Croydon Station, and one of the first businesses to move into the premises was a branch of the National Provincial Bank, a predecessor of today’s NatWest Bank.
12–14 London Road: H & T Pawnbrokers and Ladbrokes »
As of 2013, 12 London Road is a branch of H&T Pawnbrokers, the pawnbroker and payday loan shop chain, and 14 London Road is a Ladbrokes betting shop. Although now occupied by separate businesses, the premises were constructed as a single building, and the ground floors of both were initially used by a single business.