Memories of J.Preedy & Sons and Chiltern Street. By Stanley Preedy.
Joseph Preedy my father started his glass business in 1913 in either Weymouth Street or Beaumont Street, but the firm only remained there for about six months : so profuse were the complaints about the sound of smashing glass that they moved on . The new address was 58 East Street ( now Chiltern Street), where work continued on the production of lead lights, mirrors and windows, including the popular stained glass windows of the time, when possibly a local artist was called in to design the galleon, seagulls and flowers, which were favourite domestic designs of the time.
One particular large job Preedys were called upon to do during the First World War was sited away from Marylebone. It concerned Silver Street in the East End of London, where the windows of houses and businesses had been shattered by a German Zepplin bomb. Helped by other members of the family, Joseph Preedy worked for weeks repairing and replacing the lead light, and plain glass windows.
At the end of the war Joseph Preedy acquired a lease on 60, East Street where he created a showroom for the firms' products with an office. At that time suppliers included James Hetley (of Soho Square) who provided antique glass, whilst plate glass was ordered from a company in Charing Cross Road. Mirrors came from a company in Old Street in the City, and sheet glass and obscured glass was ordered, via an importer, from the Continent. ( It was many years before Preedys were able to open an account with Pilkingtons).
In 1921 at the age of 14 1/2 I joined my father and brother Alfred in the family firm. Born in Kensal Rise in 1907, I was considered a delicate child and suffered from asthma so my parents were advised to move into the country, and duly they moved to Wembley, which was then mainly meadows and fields. Here I attended Parkland School (now a school for infants)
To get to work each morning , I would travel with my brother via Great Central Station Wembley to Marylebone Station. The journey lasted 12 minutes and cost 10pence return.
My hours were 8am until 6pm with a half day on Saturday from 8am to 1pm. Until I was 21, I did not receive any salary, but would be given 5 shillings pocket money by my parents. My mother bought my clothes (I wore overalls at work) and small items such as sweets I would pay for out of my pocket money, and I would manage always to save a little each week.
When I first started in the family firm my first job was as delivery boy, and I pushed a barrow - rather like a costermonger's barrow, which was kept in Blandford Mews at night. Each morning I would stack it up with layers of glass, with a blanket covering each layer, and deliver my supplies all over London.
At that time we were doing a lot of glazing work at the House of Commons, so each day I would push my barrow from Marylebone to Parliament Square. At other times I would walk as far as Shepherdess Walk in Islington and Upper Street in the City. I continued this work for about a year.
As time passed I enrolled at Regent Street Polytechnic, where two nights a week I took a course in shorthand/typing , commerce, and book-keeping and accounts. This continued for about two years during which time I would go straight to the Polytechnic from work at 6 o'clock, not arriving back home until after10pm at night , becoming very tired.
As a glass merchant we dealt with almost all the builders to be found in Marylebone. I clearly remember there were about 50 local builders. These were mostly small, local firms , although J.Simpson on the corner of Paddington Street and Chiltern Street were very large. They had their own saw mill and their joinery works were on the premises. If you went down into a tunnel below their building ( where Kellogg House now stands) you would see complete trees such as oaks, pines and cherry. Eventually the directors of "Simpson's" grew old and the firm closed down.
Of the shops on Chiltern Street around the early twenties, I particularly remember Mr Haddock the undertaker who could be seen making coffins in his shop. He would saw away on his trestle table with timber standing up against the walls all around him. His oak coffins with brass handles were beautiful. His funeral parlour was opposite the fire station, and when a funeral took place he would hire a horse or horses to pull the hearse and he would lead the cortege in front with his black top hat tucked into the crook of his arm. As he passed each shop he would quietly wink at the shop owners and their assistants who had crowded to the front doors. He was quite a character.
To pay for their funerals many local people belonged to a "Slate Club" into which they put certain weekly, or monthly, sum of money to cover the cost of their burial. I particularly remember one family living next door to our shop. This family comprised of a son, wife and mother-in-law, and the swearing and rowing that went on in there was terrible, yet when the old lady died she had one of the greatest turn-outs ever, with several horses wearing plumes of purple. So in the end the family gave her a great send off!
Among the shopkeepers in Chiltern Street, I saw a lot of was Mrs Creaton our neighbour at No 54. Mrs Creaton's shop sold sweets and tobacco. Her husband was blind, but was marvellous in the shop, as by feel he knew every item of stock on sale , and so was able to serve selling sweets and tobacco.
Next to us on the opposite side was "Flowers the Plumbers". They had a most beautiful little boy, an only child who reminded us of the child in the "Pears Soap" advertisements. Sadly he died of consumption at the age of about six. Like many other people he lived with his parents in the basement below the shop. I remember their son was always very delicate and never seemed to play with the other children in the street.
Opposite us was the Artisans Labour Dwelling Company's building (now Wendover Court). These buildings were very poor and run-down with communal bathrooms and toilets. The tenants used to send their rubbish down a chute to the ground floor where it rotted until the dustmen came and shovelled it into open carts and took it away. No doubt this created a great deal of diseases in the area.
At no.56 Chiltern Street was a locksmith run by a Mr Brown. Next door to him was "Jones the Dairy", where I used to buy "Mazawattee Tea" - a nice strong brew. Mr Jones was a bachelor and he had a niece to help him in the shop, but I believe he got into some sort of personal trouble and after that we did not see much of him.
Other shops in Chiltern Street I remember were " Frost the Removers", "Gill the Boot and Shoe Repairs", "Gamble the Fruiterers", "Lords the Tailors", in Dorset Street "Mr Long" a chemist. There was also "Ottles the Bakers" from whom the nuns regularly collected the stale bead to help feed the "down and out"â€ their charitable work. We also had two doctors in Chiltern Street, Dr Blake and Dr Colwell who made up their own medicines in their surgeries.
On the corner of Dorset Street and Chiltern Street in the twenties was the office of the "The War Graves Commission". When they vacated the building it was taken over by "Marks and Spencers Ltd" who stayed their before moving to their purpose built building in Baker Street. It was at this time that we started working for "Marks and Spencers Ltd.".
Perhaps of all the shopkeepers in Chiltern Street I best remember was "Arnold Wiggins" a picture restorer, framer and gilder. Mr Wiggins was a real cockney and tended to put his "aitches" in the wrong place. He was a very strict employer, very tough and would frequently shout at his 5 or 6 young apprentices, but that was his manner and they stayed with him. In those days you had to "knuckle" down or you lost your job. Mr Wiggins did some marvellous work for the Queen, and when on one occasion the Queen visited his shop in Chiltern Street, she was surrounded by a "swarm" of police. When Mr Wiggins died his sons took over the business, and later moved to Harrow Road.
I also clearly remember the Head Porter at St. Andrews Mansion in Dorset Street. He was always very smartly dressed in an "Oxford Blue" uniform with trimmed gold braid and a matching peak cap. He was very grumpy and would spend most of the day blowing a whistle to summon taxies for his tenants from a nearby rank.
The houses in Montagu and Bryanston square were both smart - very "Upstairs Downstairs" with butlers, footmen, maids and cooks. When ever I delivered table tops or mirrors to any of these addresses I would always afterwards go down the stone steps to the basement where cook always gave me a nice cup of cocoa.
During the "Second World War" Preedys did a lot of re-glazing work (replacing glass cracked or broken by bombs) for Marylebone Council and Wandsworth Borough Council. We also worked on repairing and replacing stained glass windows to the Grocers Hall in the City, and polished plate glass windows at the Savoy Hotel in the Strand. At one time we had 30 glaziers working for us, including some women glaziers. Eventually after the war we moved from Chiltern Street to where we are now, Ashland Place off Paddington Street. We bought the freehold of what was then three cabinet makers shops, one was called "Hudsons", which also did some glass work.
In Preedy all the directors are members of the family spanning the second and third generation of the family. We now buy our glass from Pilkingtons ,and cut and process it.. We now have two delivery vans and three glazing vans. At present we are doing a lot of work for Interior Decorators, whose customers are mostly middles eastern companies and individuals with properties in London, and the home counties.