The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

29 London Road: Snow Nails & Beauty

6 December 2013

29 London Road is currently occupied by Snow Nails & Beauty, a specialist manicurist and pedicurist.

Snow Nails & Beauty, 29 London Road, September 2013. Photo: author’s own.

1860s–1910s: Construction of the building, and a series of drapers

The building was constructed around 1869–1872,[1] and for the next half-century was occupied by a series of drapers and costumiers. The first of these was William Creak, draper, who appears in street directories from 1872 to 1880. He also briefly expanded into number 23 a few doors down, but shortly after doing this he vanished from London Road altogether and was replaced at number 29 by another draper, Charles William Chapman.[2]

Charles Chapman had a much longer tenure, lasting until around 1912 before giving way to Madame Waller, costumier, who remained in residence for the next decade.[3]

1920s–1930s: Davies baby carriages

In 1922, D L Davies opened a new shop at 29 London Road specialising in baby carriages[4] — or prams, as we’d call them today. By 1926 this had been joined by branches at 96 High Street and 247 Lower Addiscombe Road.[5] A wide range of prices was on offer, with a 1928 advertisement stating that “Whether you want a Pram at 45/- or £4 15 0 or £15, it pays to go to Davies”.[6] There was the option of hire purchase, too; for example, an advertisement in the Croydon Times of 16 June 1928 includes a drawing and description of a pram called “The Competitor” with a “beautifully coach built body” and “resilient side springs”, priced at £3 19 6 or 10/- down and 2/6 weekly.

Davies advertisement in the Croydon Times of 20 June 1928, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.

The company also sold high chairs, playpens, cots, and toy prams.[7] An advertisement in the Croydon Advertiser of 16 July 1932 states confidently that “Toy prams are best when they are bought at a pram shop”, and notes that “Davies Toy Prams are perfect Models made in the same factories as our Prams”. Other items on offer included invalid chairs[8] (a type of wheelchair) and mangles[9] (a device for pressing water out of wet laundry).

1930s: J Jones & Sons, florists and fruiterers

Davies departed from 29 London Road in the early 1930s, though it still had branches in Croydon and elsewhere[10] (and by the early 1960s it was back again at number 5, where it remained until the 1980s). Next to move in was J Jones & Sons, in place by 1934 but gone again by 1939. J Jones operated as a florist at 29 London Road and a fruiterer at number 27 next door.[11]

1950s–1960s: F Meyers

I’m unsure what went on at number 29 during the 1940s, but by 1950 both 27 and 29 were in the possession of F Meyers Ltd, a large chain of greengrocers and florists which also had a branch at 95A South End.[12]

There is a curious anomaly here in that London phone books during the 1950s list two companies sharing the same addresses at both 27 London Road and 95A South End: F Meyers as above, and Mayles Ltd, another greengrocery chain which had been at 27 London Road since 1938. It’s possible that Meyers and Mayles were in some kind of partnership, though as far as I can tell from phone books, they didn’t share any addresses outside Croydon.

South End, 1970. Meyers at 95A South End is the fifth shopfront from the left, though it isn’t clear whether it’s still open at this point. Cropped by permission from a photo © Roger Perriss. (See also my photo of a similar view from October 2013.)

Meyers was an extensive chain, much larger than Mayles. Roger Hooton, whose father worked for Fred Meyers from the late 1940s to the 1960s, recalls that the company had around 300 greengrocer shops throughout London, Middlesex, and the South East. Roger also told me that Fred’s brother Gerrard had another chain of greengrocers called Gerrards, and that although F Meyers and Gerrards were run as two separate companies, the brothers had an agreement not to have their shops in the same areas. Roger’s father would sometimes help out at Gerrards when they were setting up new shops. Roger added: “Meyers and Gerrards used to have their annual staff party and dance at Seymour Hall, Royal Oak (Paddington area) and it was a big family affair with kids given special gifts. Fred and Gerrard always looked after their staff. The dance band was always Victor Sylvester who was Britain's top dance band.”[13]

1970s: Brian Laker Typewriters

By 1964, Meyers had divested itself of the London Road branch, keeping only the florists at 95A South End.[14] Here there appears another gap in the record, as the next occupant I’m aware of is Brian Laker Typewriters. This company was at 29 London Road by 1974, but by 1977 it had moved to 85 Station Road, around the other side of West Croydon Station.[15]

Fingertips, 29 London Road, c.1980. Cropped by permission from a photo © Brian Gittings.

1970s–1980s: Fingertips nail salon

Brian Laker’s replacement at 29 London Road was Fingertips nail salon, which remained here until around 1982 before moving to the upper floor of 181 North End (on the corner of Derby Road, currently occupied by Zam Call).[16]

Fingertips, 181 North End, c.1988. Photo © Brian Gittings, used by permission.

1980s–1990s: Insurance brokers and travel agencies

Following the departure of Fingertips, it would be another 20 years before manicure services returned to 29 London Road. First came insurance brokers — Anthony Gover Ltd from 1982 to 1986,[17] and the Swinton Insurance Group from around 1986 to around 1989[18] — and next came travel agencies. Sky Travel was the first of these, but had a very brief tenure as by 1992 it had been replaced by Riz Travel Centre. Riz lasted until the end of the 1990s, when it was briefly replaced by Trinity Travel & Tours Ltd.[19]

2000s–present: Silky Nails, Snow Nails & Beauty

By 2002, Silky Nails manicurist was in place, and by 2005 this had become Snow Nails & Beauty, which remains there today.[20] As well as manicure stations, it has four comfortable-looking pedicure stations, and a selection of nail polishes and nailcare products for sale. By mid-2012, it had opened a second branch on Wellesley Road, which again remains there today.[21]

The author’s nails after a manicure and polish at Snow Nails & Beauty, October 2013. Photo © bob walker.

Thanks to: bob walker; Brian Gittings; Roger Hooton; Roger Perriss; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-reader Shuri. Pre-1968 phone books consulted via Ancestry.co.uk.

Footnotes and references

  1. See my article on 23 London Road.
  2. William Creak is listed at 29 London Road as a “draper” or “general draper” in Wilkins’ 1872–3 and 1876–7 directories; Ward’s 1874, 1876, 1878, and 1880 directories; Worth’s 1878 directory; and Atwood’s 1878 directory. He’s also listed at 23 London Road in Ward’s 1880 directory. Ward’s 1882 directory lists W Woolston, tobacconist, at number 23 and C W Chapman, draper, at number 29. (All these are in current numbering; before 1890, number 23 was numbered as 12 and number 29 as 15.) Note that the 1874 Directory of Surrey spells William’s surname as “Creek”.
  3. Charles Chapman is listed as a “draper”, “fancy draper”, or “linen draper” in Ward’s directories from 1882 to 1911 inclusive. His full name isn’t given (he’s “C W” or “Charles W”) but Kelly’s 1889 and 1891 directories list him as “Charles Wm.”, with “Wm.” being short for “William”. Madame Waller, costumier, is listed in Ward’s directories from 1912 to 1922 inclusive. Ward’s 1923 directory instead lists “Davies, The Baby Carriage Specialists”.
  4. See footnote 14 in my article on 5 London Road.
  5. All three branches are listed in an advert in the Croydon Advertiser of 15 May 1926. (All Davies advertisements referred to in this article, aside from the October 1932 one, were viewed as clippings in the “Davies” firms file at Croydon Local Studies Library).
  6. Advert in the Croydon Times, 14 July 1928.
  7. The Croydon Times advert mentioned in footnote [6] states “You must also see our fine range of Low-Priced Cots, High Chairs, Playpens, and also our wide range of HOLIDAY FOLDING CARS OF ALL MAKES. Prams for Hire, Invalid Chairs, Repairs, Sundries, Canopies, Toy Prams, etc.”
  8. An advert in the Croydon Times of 9 June 1928 states that Davies was the sole local agent for the Allwin Invalid Chair, described as a “wonderful adaptation of the child’s push chair to the needs of the invalid” which “does away with the clumsy, cumbersome bathchair, and when indoors can be folded flat to store in a small space. It will carry the heaviest person and is delightfully easy to wheel.” The accompanying drawing however makes it clear that despite its many described advantages, this chair was intended to be pushed by a carer rather than to offer independent locomotion; all four wheels are the same size and close to the ground.
  9. An advert in the Croydon Times of 31 October 1928, headlined “Davies for Mangles”, claims that “WET WASHING-DAYS WON’T WORRY YOU if you buy a DAVIES Mangle! DAVIES have a fine range of all styles of Mangles and Wringers [...] NO HOUSEHOLD IS COMPLETE WITHOUT ONE!”
  10. Davies is listed at 29 London Road in Ward’s street directories from 1923 to 1932 inclusive. In addition, an advert on p6 of the Croydon Advertiser of 1 October 1932 (viewed on microfiche at Croydon Local Studies Library) gives addresses at 29 London Road and 96 High Street. The “Davies” firms file at the Croydon Local Studies Library contains a clipped advert from The Croydon Health Magazine, with “1936” written on it in pen, that lists branches at 96 High Street, 174 North End, 153 Mitcham Road SW16, and 168 Kensington High Street W8.
  11. Ward’s street directories list J Jones & Sons as a florists at 29 London Road in 1934 and in 1937; the 1939 edition lists number 29 as unoccupied. London phone books list it from August 1934 to February 1936 inclusive, but the August 1936 edition has it only at other addresses, with the head office having moved from 29 London Road to 148 Penge High Street. See my article on 27 London Road for details of Jones’ tenure there.
  12. On 1 November 1950, “Messrs Meyers Ltd, Gipsy Corner, Acton, W3” were granted planning permission for “the display of advertisements at Nos. 27–29 London Road, West Croydon”. A plan included in the application clearly shows that this applied to the double shopfront.
  13. Conversation via Flickr Mail, 29–30 September 2013.
  14. F Meyers Ltd appears at 29 London Road and 95A South End in Outer London Kent/Surrey phone books until February 1963. From the May 1964 edition onwards, its only Croydon branch listed is at 95A South End.
  15. Brian Laker Typewriters is shown at 29 London Road in the August 1974 Goad plan. I can’t find it at this address in any contemporary Croydon phone books, but Brian Laker & Co is listed in these phone books (sometimes under B, sometimes under L) at 26 Purley Road, South Croydon, in 1970; at 1563 London Road SW16 in 1971, 1972, and 1973; at 407 Purley Way in 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1981; and at 85 Station Road in 1977 and 1981 (I didn’t look beyond 1981). The 1977 Croydon phone book lists Fingertips nail care studio at 29 London Road. Note that 85 Station Road no longer exists, having been demolished along with several of its neighbours in the 1980s or early 1990s to make room for the Prospect West office building (now refurbished and renamed to Interchange Croydon). (See PDF of Prospect West Site Design and Access Statement for date of Prospect West construction: “the former Prospect West office building [...] was built between 1991 and 1992”.) The ever-reliable Brian Gittings has a photo of some of the buildings that were demolished, though not, I think number 85 itself.
  16. Fingertips is listed at 29 London Road in the 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1982 Croydon phone books, initially as “nail care studio” and then as “semi-permanent fingernails”. The 1984 edition lists Fingertips at 181 North End and Anthony Gover Ltd at 29 London Road. It’s clear from Brian Gittings’ photograph (included in this article) that Fingertips was on the upper floor of the North End premises. A planning application deposited on 12 November 1982 (ref 82/2360/A, viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices) includes a plan showing an existing Anthony Gover sign on the north side of the building, so Anthony Gover must have been in there by the end of 1982.
  17. As noted in footnote [16], Anthony Gover was in place by the end of 1982. This company is listed as insurance brokers at 29 London Road in the 1984 and 1985 Croydon phone books and the March 1984, March 1985, and April 1986 Goad plans. The planning application mentioned in footnote [16] states that the company was based in Southend-on-Sea. Note that a property services company called Anthony Gover was at 28 London Road in the mid-1990s; I don’t know if these companies were related or if the names are just coincidental.
  18. Swinton Insurance is listed at 29 London Road in the 1987 and 1988 Croydon phone books and the April 1987 Goad plan. A planning application deposited by the Swinton Insurance Group on 8 May 1986 (ref 86/1245/A, viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices) includes a plan showing a projecting sign with “Swinton Motor Insurance” on it. Another planning application (ref 89/1797/D), deposited on 7 June 1989, asks permission to use the ground floor of the building as a travel agency, suggesting that Swinton had departed by then.
  19. Sky Travel is listed in the March 1990 Goad plan and the 1990 Croydon phone book. Riz Travel Centre is listed in the June 1991, June 1992, April 1993, April 1994, June 1995, May 1996, May 1997, June 1998, and September 1999 Goad plans, as well as the 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, January 1998, and July 1999 Croydon phone books. Trinity Travel is listed in the May 2000 and June 2001 Goad plans and the January 2001 Croydon phone book.
  20. Silky Nails is listed in the May 2002 and May 2004 Goad plans, and the 2002, 2003–04, and 2004–05 Croydon phone books. Snow Nails & Beauty is listed in the June 2005, May 2006, July 2007, August 2008, August 2009, and May 2011 Goad plans (though it doesn’t seem to appear in any Croydon phone books).
  21. Existence of Snow Nails & Beauty on Wellesley Road in mid-2012 is from personal observation (see photo from July 2012).
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