Friday, 2 July 2010

En Tout Cas, Southfields

For about seven years I lived five minutes away from this sign, I passed there pretty much every morning on my way to the local French bakery, and still I only noticed it when I went back one day a few months after I had moved away from the eastern part of 'Nappy Valley' (that's Putney, Southfields, and Wimbledon).

This is an amazing palimpsest: at least four signs, all in a different colour. Still that doesn't necessarily make it any easier to decipher what's written. Of course the fact that part of the wall on the upper right corner was knocked down when a new roof was put doesn't help...

Here is what I have been able to read so far. I have kept the order and used different colours to differentiate the signs. A '/' indicates the words are -roughly- on the same line:
...dsworth [Wandsworth ?]
Highest / ...ala...
Th... ...out
The World
En Tout
Hard Lawn Tennis


It took me quite a while to realise the red sign was advertising En Tout Cas (also spellt with hyphens), a hard red surface originally developed for tennis courts, that requires less attention than grass and is longer lasting.
The En-Tout-Cas company, from Leicestershire, was founded in 1909. It experienced a rapid growth as a tennis craze engulfed the upper and middle classes in the early twentieth century. Everywhere, in the country and suburbia, wherever space was available, tennis courts proliferated. However given the vagaries of the British climate, maintaining and playing on a traditional lawn could be quite frustrating. Grass easily became slippery, and heavy rain made chalky boundary lines disappear. The solution to these problems was a hard tennis court. As the author of The House and its Equipment published in 1911 by Country Life wrote, a hard court would allow year-round matches and "more men of promise [would] be discovered to graduate eventually at Wimbledon and represent us against Colonial cousins." The demand was there and En-Tout-Cas provided a rapid, easy solution and the possibility to play 'In Any Case.' Such was the success of its tennis courts that in 1919 it was awarded its first Royal Warrant as tennis court manufacturers by George V.
Over the following years En-Tout-Cas began producing dependable hard surfaces for other sports as well as for gardens, parks, and recreation grounds. In 1948 they were commission to build a running track for the Olympic Games. However their pre-Second World War involvement in the construction of several municipal and RAF aerodromes seems to have been only temporary.
Nowadays En-Tout-Cas is one of the largest sports surfacing companies in the world, with subsidiaries in many countries.

For a company involved in tennis courts, the location of this sign was pretty much perfect as it would have been seen by crowds coming out of Southfields station on their way to the Wimbledon Tennis Championship..., provided of course they were not thinking of a French baguette!

Location: Wimbledon Park Road / Picture taken on: 11/04/2008


Jane said...

Brilliant... as ever!

Anonymous said...

Great detective work.

It's now being encroached upon by creeper, and is likely to become completely unreadable rather quickly.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks. This creeper has been growing rather quickly indeed. At least it loses its leaves in winter.