Hackney London People Slideshow

Goodbye to W.H.Clark

W H Clark originally opened as H.M.Presland & Sons in 1797. It became W H Clark in the 1890s and has traded as Daniel Lewis & Sons Ltd – The One Stop Metal Shop since 2002. The shop will be leaving Hackney Road this summer and I wanted to photograph the premises before that event.
W H Clark was originally opened as ‘H.M.Presland & Sons’ in 1797. it became W H Clark in the 1890’s and has traded as ‘Daniel Lewis & Sons Ltd – The One Stop Metal Shop’ since 2002. This picture shows the premises as it now stands at 493-497 Hackney Road. If you want to visit this shop, do it quickly, it will be closing this summer.
Part of the original shop-front sign that would have stretched across the whole frontage.
The colourful sight that greets you on entering the premises. I love the ordered way that so many varied items are presented. You can tell the shop has grown organically over the years, changing to suit the needs of the stock presentation. David told me that up until the 60’s, it was commonplace that a driver would turn up on a bare-chassis lorry, then proceed to order doors, seats, rear panels, windows, everything he needed to drive off and complete the build to his custom requirements. Amazing.
This Queens Royal Crest was hanging outside Garrard’s (Crown Jewellers) in Regent st. London and when Garrard’s closed, David purchased several of them. This is the largest of the selection and it’s made of fibreglass.
Going down the hallway you get an odd sense of daylight. The space seems to be ready to open out again. Here you enter a covered courtyard. A new modern roof covers an area where before there was an open street. Some of the larger metal-cutting jobs are done here.
Some of the large cutting blades from a circular saw.
This part of the premises holds the longer lengths of metal. Sheet and tubular metal has now taken over as the main business. The racks on the left of the picture date back earlier and would have held lots of wooden ‘fellowes’, (quadrant parts of the main circular part of a cart wheel) and also wooden spoke parts. W H Clark specialised in producing wooden wheels for carts and carriages, and this area would have been stacked high with wheels at various stages of production.
Turning left and entering that part of the former street, you are greeted with an amazing sight. A wonderful old road topped with cobblestones and further in, granite sets over bricks. This is a street that dates back to Roman times. You have to imagine this part of the premises without the roof and shelves. This was an open street, with carts and horses trundling in and out, delivering all sorts of cargo, to and from the address. It’s worth noting that horses were always used by the company and last used to do deliveries around London until 1918, just after the war. W H Clark started using commercial motor vehicles then, and coincidentally those also had wooden wheels with rubber tyres, until about 1929. David pointed out depressions in the granite sets on the floor. Over years and years, where the horses had been rested and tied, their hooves had worn shallow craters as they scraped back and forth.
Turning and looking right into the corner. A beautiful disorganised mess. Underneath this pile are some large flagstones, one of which David said he lifted one day and revealed a small stream which continues to run under the street.
Here David showed me one of the many wonderful remnants. A sack of turned spindles, which to me look like the sort of spindles that would have supported a plinth around the top of a piece of period furniture. There must be thousands in the sack and some guy stood there, turning them by hand on his lathe.
Part of the original metal sign from the shopfront. This is the ‘493’, from ‘493-497 Hackney Road’.
Into the bowels of the place. I can’t even tell you how many small rooms there are like this. Stuffed to the rafters with screws, nails, hinges, every type of hardware you’ve ever seen.
On a shelf, original paper packs of nails, never even opened.
I like the fact that someone bothered to paint some decent typography for these stock shelf numbers.
Back in the central space, we’re looking up at the first floor.
You enter the first floor space via a wooden ladder. This is pretty amazing. I already felt like I was in some Dickensian world, but heading up here, I can almost feel the guys running around with orders.
The view back down the steps.
A lot of these shelves have already started to be emptied for the move, but they still show the diversity of the stock that W H Clark held. A lot of these components are for horse carriages. Special bolts, window hinges, a lot of other items I don’t recognise.
Another corner of this first room. On the lower right is a threading machine. This would cut a thread on a bolt, such as the one held in it now. The power for the machines would have come via pulleys, which would have in turn been powered via a steam furnace. Behind this room, there was a Vulcanized Rubber Tyre fitting machine for placing solid rubber tyres on ash and elm carriage & cart wheels.
A ‘Mustad’ horse nails box, now containing small rivets. When I asked David about his stocks of nails, he replied he had ‘some sizes of Cut Nails, Horse Shoe Nails, Wagon Wheel Nails & Carriage Rivets… Mustad Nails, Clasp Nails, Twisted Bright Wire Nails and the usual everyday Round Wire Nails, Ovals, Floor Brads, Annular Ring Nails, Panel Pins, Blued Tacks…’. And I suspect that was just the start!
I gingerly walked out over the modern roof, (with David’s guidance) and took a shot looking back at the first floor doors from the outside. Where I am standing now, would have meant I would have been hovering 15ft in the air over a street, if we went back 150 years.
Looking from the outside into the second, farthest room.
And looking back toward the main courtyard space. If you look at the doors, you can see the swingarm that would have swung out and allowed people to lift goods up from the street and in through the doors.
Inside the second room.
Another shot of the stock shelves. Pretty much all these shelves in the premises have been built as needed. A lot are made of ply, sandwiched in galvanised panels, so they are incredibly strong and well-made.
Walking back down the steps, we go through the modern shop area and go up some wooden steps into the office area.
‘You can’t make a craquelure finish like on those panels’, said David. This comes from burning coal and the earlier years when everyone smoked in the office.
An old pencil sharpener from the 50’s sits on the wall. It works superbly of course, unlike a lot of the plastic crap we are sold these days.
A wonderful photograph hangs on the wall of the office, circa 1880-1890, and shows W H Clark as it looked back then. The railway bridge is still there today, but it doesn’t have steam trains puffing across it any more. Next to W H Clark you can see the Chandler & Wiltshire Brewery, now no longer there.
Another view into a corner of the office. W H Clark used to supply the GWR (Great Western Railway), and in turn the GWR supplied W H Clark with wooden panels which they lined their train carriages with. These panels now line the main office.
Looking out from the next door room over the roof toward the workshop rooms.
The sight gladdened my heart. This is a presentation case made by ‘GKN’- Guest Keen & Nettlefolds, a leading manufacturer in the Midlands, of fasteners such as screws, bolts and the like. This case was built to show their products for the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. Funnily enough, my father worked as a sales manager for that firm. He died when he was much too young, but he would have chuckled to see me poring over this case, whilst visiting this wonderful Hackney business, W H Clark.