The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

19 London Road: Plan Personnel

7 June 2013

19 London Road is currently a branch of Plan Personnel, an employment agency with several branches around London and the South East.

Plan Personnel, 19 London Road, June 2013. Photo: author’s own.

1860s: Construction of the building, and John Wood, draper

The building was constructed around 1863 as part of a block with numbers 13–17,[1] and the first recorded occupier is listed in Simpson’s 1864 street directory as John Wood, draper.

The owner of numbers 13–19 at this point was Benjamin Culpeck, proprietor of the coach building business at 13–15.[2] As I’ve mentioned before, it’s possible that this block of buildings was actually constructed to Mr Culpeck’s specifications; the back gardens of numbers 17 and 19 as shown on the 1868 Town Plans are noticeably truncated, allowing space for the large yard necessary for coach building and repairs.[3]

1860s–1870s: Watchmaking, jewellery, stationery, and music

John Wood remained here until the mid-to-late 1860s, before moving his business to North End.[4] He was replaced in quick succession by Samuel Church, watchmaker and jeweller; J Linsey, stationer; and William Thomas Crook, music and stationery warehouse. None of these businesses lasted long at the address.[5]

1870s–1890s: Drapers and milliners

By 1876 the building was once more being used for clothing retail, first by Miss M S Probert, milliner, and then from around 1882 by Mary C Bodkin and William E Douglas, fancy drapers and milliners. Half a decade or so later, Bodkin and Douglas gave way in turn to the expansion of T & W French, another firm of drapers who already had a shop just across the road at number 32.[6]

1890s–1900s: T & W French turn their hand to bookselling

Around 1895, T & W French expanded again, taking over the discount booksellers at number 34, next to their original premises. However, they almost immediately moved the bookselling business across to number 19, thus allowing them to consolidate their drapery at numbers 32–34. One might suspect that their main reason for taking over this bookshop was to increase the size of their drapery shop, rather than being due to a yearning for the book trade, but nevertheless they continued to trade as booksellers at 19 London Road until around 1908.[7]

1900s–1920s: Stationery, costumery, and a brief residency by John Bennett coaches

From around 1908 to around 1925, the occupant of number 19 was A Foster, stationer and fancy dealer. A brief return to clothing came next — Madam Julie, costumes and mantles, listed in Ward’s 1926 street directory and then vanishing from sight. This was followed by a similarly brief occupancy by John Bennett, motor coach proprietor, who took possession around 1927 but shortly afterwards moved a few doors up to number 23 (where he remained for a good few decades).[8]

1930s–1940s: Same Day Cleaners Ltd

The next occupant of the building was Same Day Cleaners Ltd, Valeting Craftsmen. This business was set up around 1932, with the first branch being here at 19 London Road. It swiftly expanded; by May 1933 it had a second branch at 126 George Street, and by May 1935 it had a third at 44 High Street. Further expansion followed, to Selsdon, Sanderstead, Mitcham, and Morden.[9]

Coat hanger from Same Day Cleaners Ltd, showing the addresses of the company’s first three branches: 44 High Street, 19 London Road, and 126 George Street. Photo © The Vintage Wall, used by permission.

After nearly two decades at London Road, Same Day Cleaners moved out around 1950. However, the company continued to trade elsewhere in the area until the 1970s.[10]

A paper bag with “Ghinns Wools” printed near the bottom. “Ghinns” is in light pink capital letters with a light blue dot over the “i”, and “wools” is in the same light blue in a cursive lowercase font.  Two small price tags are stuck to the bag, one reading “GHINNS 95p” and the other reading “GHINNS 65p”.
Paper bag with Ghinns Wools branding, from the collection at the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service. Photo: author’s own.

1950s: Ghinns wools

I’m not sure what the building was used for in the first half of the 1950s, but in the latter half it was home to a branch of Ghinns Ltd, listed in Kent’s 1955 directory as selling “wools and ladies wear”. This company, which also had premises in Sutton and Redhill, opened its London Road branch around 1955 and closed it again around 1960.[11]

Kent’s directory doesn’t make it clear whether the “wools” it mentions were knitting wools or woollen clothing. However, the 1974 phone book lists Ghinns Wools (Kent) Ltd, Knitting Wools, at 32 Church Street, Croydon, suggesting that the Ghinns on London Road may well have sold knitting wool too.

The next occupant of 19 London Road was Kingsway Wallpaper Stores Ltd, from around 1960 to around 1980.[12] Next came Fiorella Shoes, offering retail and wholesale footwear; this opened around 1981 and remained on London Road for at least three years.[13]

Plan Personnel moved into 19 London Road around 1986.[14] This business is the trading name of Taylor Gordon & Co Ltd, a family-run firm established in 1970 which now has several branches in London and elsewhere.[15] A quarter of a century later, it's still on London Road, offering employment to the people of West Croydon in various trades from catering to skip driving.

A neon-yellow poster with a printed “Plan Personnel” header and writing in black pen: “Kitchen Porters Required. Must have food hygiene certificate + previous experience. Will need to apply for a CRB. Please see Georgie.”
A neon-yellow poster with a printed “Plan Personnel” header and writing in black pen: “Skip Drivers Required. Previous experience. Roll on, roll off. Please see Shaun [or possibly Sharon].”
Posters in window of Plan Personnel, 19 London Road, June 2013. Photos: author’s own.

Thanks to: Plan Personnel; The Vintage Wall; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-readers bob, Kat, and Shuri.

Footnotes and references

  1. See my article on 13–15 London Road.
  2. The Poor Rate Book for December 1864 lists a building on London Road as being occupied by “Jno Wood” and owned by “Culpeck”. “Jno” is an old abbreviation for “John”. Street numbers are not given, but cross-referencing with street directories confirms that the London Road entries in this book are given in order from south to north, and this is clearly the same John Wood found in the street directories.
  3. Again, see my article on 13–15 London Road.
  4. John Wood is listed at 19 London Road (10 in the numbering of the time) in Simpson’s 1864 and Warren’s 1865–66. In Warren’s 1869 he’s listed at 95 & 96 North End, along with Frank Wood. Ward’s 1874 lists Frank Wood alone at this address, and the classified section doesn’t list any drapers called John Wood. Directories earlier than 1869 make no mention of Frank Wood. I suspect Frank may have been John’s son, brought in to continue the business so John could retire, though I have no documentary evidence of this.
  5. Samuel Church is listed in Warren’s 1869, J Linsey in Wilkins’ 1872–3, and William Thomas Crook in Ward’s 1874. None of these three is listed elsewhere in Croydon before or after these years, so I don’t know what happened to them.
  6. Miss Probert is listed in Ward’s 1876, Wilkins’ 1876–7, Worth’s 1878, Atwood’s 1878, and Ward’s 1880. Bodkin and Douglas are in Ward’s 1882, Purnell’s 1882, Ward’s 1884, and Ward’s 1885, while Bodkin is listed alone in Ward’s 1886 and Ward’s 1887. T & W French are listed in Ward’s 1888 and onwards.
  7. Information drawn from Ward’s and Kelly’s street directories. I’ll cover 32 and 34 London Road at greater length later in this series.
  8. Information drawn from Ward’s street directories. I’ll discuss John Bennett further when I reach number 23.
  9. Ward’s 1932 directory lists 19 London Road as unoccupied; the next edition I have access to is the 1934 one, which lists Same Day Cleaners Ltd. The May 1932 London phone book doesn’t mention Same Day Cleaners, but the November 1932 edition has it at 19 London Road. The next edition of this phone book is May 1933, which adds the George Street branch. The High Street branch appears for the first time in the May 1935 edition. Another branch at 166A Addington Road, Selsdon, arrives between the May 1938 and May 1939 editions. (See footnote [10] for the other branches mentioned in this paragraph.) All phone books consulted via at the Croydon Local Studies Library.
  10. The only central Croydon branch remaining by the time of the June 1959 phone book is the one at 44 High Street, but the Selsdon one is still there, and branches are also listed at 12 Crown Lane, Morden; 89 Thornton Heath High Street; 205 Streatham Road, Mitcham; and 132 Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead. By February 1963 the head office has moved from the High Street to 50 Surrey Street, and in the 1973 edition the only remaining branch is the Surrey Street one. The 1979 edition doesn’t list Same Day Cleaners at all. (I haven’t checked intermediate editions not mentioned above, aside from those between May 1933 and May 1935.)
  11. Kent’s 1955 directory lists H Ghinn at 19 London Road and 103 Church Street. The 1954 Surrey phone book lists Ghinns Ltd, Wool Merchants, at 243 Sutton High Street. The 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1959 Kent/Surrey phone books list branches at 243 Sutton High Street, 19 London Road, and 17 Redhill High Street. The 1960 edition lists Ghinns at Sutton and Redhill only.
  12. The 1959 Kent/Surrey phone book lists Kingsway Wallpaper Stores Ltd in Carshalton and Sutton; the next year’s edition adds 19 London Road. The London Road address continues to appear until 1980, but the 1981 edition lists only addresses in Carshalton, New Addington, Coulsdon, Penge, and Wallington.
  13. The 1981 North-East Surrey phone book lists “Fiorella Shoes, Ret & Whsle” [retail and wholesale] at 19 London Road. The latest phone book I have access to via Ancestry is from 1984; this confirms that Fiorella was still at 19 London Road then.
  14. According to Plan Personnel’s MD, the company opened their branch at 19 London Road around 1986 (information provided in June 2013 by Lee Ward, MD’s secretary, via email). This rough timing is confirmed by a planning application from Taylor Gordon & Co Ltd for change of use from a shoe shop to an employment agency, submitted on 18 April 1988 and granted on 2 June 1988 (viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices, ref 88/1331/P). It’s possible that the date of 1986 is correct, and the planning application was a retrospective one; I couldn’t find anything in the application to either confirm or deny this.
  15. As of June 2013, the front page of the Plan Personnel website stated that: “Plan Personnel, founded in 1970, is the trading name of Taylor Gordon and Company Limited, a privately owned family company.” Its Autumn 2012 News Bulletin (which as of June 2013 was downloadable as a PDF from the abovementioned website) stated that it had other branches in Acton, Aylesbury, Brighton, Crawley, Deptford, Eastbourne, King’s Cross, Marylebone, Putney, Stratford, Uxbridge, Welwyn Garden City, Wood Green, and Worthing. Its head office is at Stonemead House, 95 London Road (next to Lidl). Unfortunately as of January 2017 the Plan Personnel website is no longer available on the internet, and I neglected to archive it at the time.
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