Dear Dad, I thought you might enjoy these old postcards of our local High Street which arrived in yesterday’s post. The picture at the bottom shows my attempt to take a photograph from the same stop as the later of the two postcards. I didn’t get it quite right and I think the original photographer must have used a wider angle lens than the one I had to hand but nevertheless the comparison is telling. Setting aside the differences in traffic, one of the first things I noticed was the increase in street furniture – road signs, lampposts and the like – which seem to serve to make the place look cluttered, uncared for and untidy.
The top photograph is the earliest. The name given to the bank shown in the foreground on each photograph gives some clue as to the date. The first is likely to have been taken at some point between 1909, when the London, County and Westminster Bank was created as the result of a merger between the London and Westminster Bank and the London and County Bank, and 1918 when the Bank’s name became London, County, Westminster and Parr’s Bank. The Bank changed its name to the Westminster Bank – as shown in the second postcard – in 1923, although of course there’s no guarantee that the sign writers kept up-to-date with the name changes. My photograph – taken in May 2009 – shows the premises occupied by the Natwest Bank therefore indicating that, taking account of mergers and buy-outs, the same bank has traded on the site for the last 100 years or so.
All three photos show a cattle trough in front of the bank: in the 2009 shot it is being used as a flower planter. The inscription on the side of the trough reads “Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association”. Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, it was established in 1859 by Member of Parliament Samuel Gurney and a barrister, Edward Thomas Wakefield, to provide clean water for Londoners. Its first fountain was installed on Holborn Hill, close to St Sepulchre church on Snow Hill, in 1859. Richard Milward records in his excellent Historic Wimbledon that this particular trough was installed in 1893.