Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Batten & Davies and a mystery sign, Clapham

While some painted signs advertise well-known products, others promote local businesses few of us would have heard of and are an invitation to look into the history of the area. Such is the case with the top sign painted on this wall found in a little street near Clapham Common.
It seems the origins of Batten & Davies, a printer located at 23, The Pavement, Clapham, go back to the 1740s. Indeed a printed advert published in 1907 mentions the company has "a record and reputation extending over a century and a half". That would give a date of around the mid-eighteenth century or slightly earlier. This is confirmed by Martin P. Lam in his comment (see below). Indeed it appears David Batten published a History of Clapham as early as 1841, and that he was running a library on Clapham Common. A few decades later, John Batten, possibly the son of David, was in charge. Contemporary documents show he had a circulating library in Clapham Common between 1785 and 1805. The business remained in the family and in 1851, David Batten, stationer, bookseller and bookbinder, of Clapham Common, exhibited in the printing, paper, and bookbinding section of the Great Exhibition. There, his binding of Sir Digby Wyatt's Industrial Arts of the nineteenth century: a Series of Illustrations of the Choicest Specimens Produced by Every Nation at the Great Exhibition of Works of Industry, 1851 earned him an Honourable Mention by the jury, which described Batten’s bindings as "elaborately worked, although requiring more careful attention in finishing". That particular copy of Wyatt's work is now in the Royal Collection.
In 1865, following the death of David Batten, his eldest son formed a partnership with Mr Davies, of Maida Hill, and the name of the company was changed to Batten & Davies. The works printed by the firm included religious publications, local history books, as well as forms and registers for hospitals, asylums and homes for children.
It looks like Batten & Davies's output diminished steadily during the first decades of the twentieth century, and in the early 1930s it was bought by John Battley Rose, the printer and future MP for Clapham, who had founded the Westminster City Publishing Company. That's when the name of Batten & Davies must have disappeared, although their press may still have been used. As for the Westminster City Publishing Company it could either have been bought or gone bankrupt after 1949, as they don't seem to have published anything after that date.

Batten & Davies
In the Year
The Si... [Sign?] of the
Oldest Printers in
South ... [London?]
Telephone Macaulay 2505

Some of the books printed by Batten & Davies can still be found. I spotted recently one published in 1904: Leytonstone and its History.
The space just below the Batten & Davies sign was used to advertise two successive businesses, but whatever was written there has faded too much for me to be able to identify any of them.

The most recent sign was written in green on a white background:


What is left of the older sign are just a few black letters in bottom half:
... & ... Quality

Location: Bromell's Road / Pictures taken on: 09/04/2008 (top) and 05/03/2010 (bottom)


Martin P Lam said...

I have a History of clapham published by David Batten in 1841,
[also D.Batten, Printer, Clapham]

inscribed on inside front cover
"from Battens Library Clapham Common"

On p 189 it says
The Library...has been established nearly 60 years.......printed at Batten's office, Clapham.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks for the information. I've amended the post accordingly.

Adrian Beckham said...

Just come across a 2 volume set: Hudibras, By Samuel Butler; With Variorum Notes, Selected Principally from Grey And Nash. Edited By Henry G. Bohn with Sixty-Two Additional Portraits, 1859. Each half leather binding has a small cream coloured binders label to the recto of the rear board: "Batten & Davies, Bookbinders, Clapham, S."