Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Matland, Whitechapel

Several ghost signs can still be seen on the façades of Commercial Road in East London but most of them can be easily overlooked as they lay hidden under coats of paint. The ones for the Matland family of dental surgeons are actually amongst the easiest ones to spot!

Issues of The Dentists Register published between the late 1870s and the early 1890s show George Read Matland, born in 1858, and Thomas Collier Matland (I did find his date of birth) registered as dentists at 180, Commercial Road in 1878. Actually the fact their sign was written across the façades of both 180 and 182 suggests they also occupied the house next door. In 1889 they were joined by their sister Martha Elizabeth Matland, born in 1860. In 1902, George Read Matland and Thomas Collier Matland published The Teeth in Health and Disease. By then the Matlands had moved to 1, 3, and 5, Finsbury Pavement, the address given at the end of the preface. A later edition of the Register shows at least Thomas and Martha were still practicing dentistry in 1923 at 1, Finsbury Pavement.

Before the Matlands opened their dental surgery, 180, Commercial Road was home to George Matland & Co., their father's photography business. The name appears in a 1871 photography journal, and in an issue from 1878 The British Journal of Photography informed its readers it had received the firm's new catalogue of photographic apparatus, chemicals, and materials, "which is replete with everything that photographers can require." In another issue from the same year, readers learnt that George Matland & Co was relocating temporarily to 163, Cannon Street Road, while their original premises were being rebuilt. However there is no more mention after that date of the photography firm. Instead, it is the name of George's children that is associated from 1878 onward with 180, Commercial Road.

As previously mentioned, these ghost signs, which appear above and below the second floor windows, are barely visible and before most of them were painted over, it seems the successors of the Matlands at 180, Commercial Road also left their mark, making it even harder to decipher them.

G... G. S... [*]Matland
Dental... s [Surgeons?]

*: there are rather wide capital letters, so there isn't enough space for the other letters necessary to spell 'Georges.' My guess is the first couple at least were just initials.

On the picture below I have tried to make the signs come out.

Location: Commercial Road / Pictures taken in March 2012

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