The history of the building at 53 Kingsland Road cannot be seen separately from the neighbouring property at numbers 41-49, now the premises of a motorcycle shop. An advertisement of 1928 (see below) gives the address of 41-53 Kingsland Road for Eaton, Parr & Gibson, “plate, sheet & ornamental glass merchants”. This would certainly explain the word ‘GLASS’ above the bay window, but that is not the whole story. Number 53 has always been a separate building with Caroline Place in between number 53 and the other property. Google Maps calls it Caroline Gardens, but as the little alleyway shows no streetname sign, I do not know if that is correct. Although it now looks like a dead end, reaching no further than the back of the shops on Kingsland Road, Caroline Place used to run much further back with houses on both sides. These are now gone and Google Earth shows that back section to be just a parking lot.
Before the large firm of Eaton, Parr & Gibson took over number 53, it had been a separate business and in 1878, one William Henry Tilley, “a lamp contractor” had his business there. One of his employees stole various bits of glass from his master and was caught. One day, he left the warehouse where the lamp-glass was stored with 11 panes of glass and a ladder to restore some lamps. After mending two lamps, he deposited some of the other pieces of glass with an accomplish, not knowing that he had been under suspicion and that the glass had been marked. The thief was found guilty and sentenced to three months hard labour.(1)
Tilley continued his business in Kingsland Road and in 1902 we find him, now as a gas fitter, in the Post Office Directory. Please note that number 41 is still a baker’s and also note that number 51 is mentioned as being on the same side of Caroline Place as 41-49 and part of Eaton & Co’s business. In Hughes’ Business Directory of London for 1921, Tilley Bros, gas engineers, are still listed for number 53. The London Street Directory for 1921, helpfully transcribed by pubhistory.com (see here) shows Eaton & Co. at nos. 41-49, then Caroline Place and then at no. 51 the Cheap Glass & Mirror Co. Ltd with Tilley Brothers, gas engineers and the Tilley High Pressure Syndicate at no. 53. It seems unlikely that number 51 suddenly jumped to the other side of Caroline Place, and more likely that it was a mistake in the directory. At least we know that the Tilleys are still at number 53, and although no more glass is mentioned in the directory, an advertisement in the Gas Journal of 1911 shows they still sold lamps and an 1920 advertisement in Building tells us that they undertook “repairs, cleaning, repolishing and relacquering” of bronzing and that fittings could be removed or refixed by experienced workmen.
The 1928 advertisement shown below already had Eaton & Co. at number 53 and the 1934 Post Office Directory confirms that that firm had taken over all properties from numbers 41 to 53. The question remains of course who added the ‘glass’ decoration to the front of the building? I am afraid I have to remain silent on that point as I have not been able to find out and my architectural knowledge is not good enough to determine whether it was done before 1925 and hence by Tilley, or after that year and by Eaton, Parr & Gibson, but I lean towards the later date as Tilley was not so much a glass dealer as someone who used glass in his business, while Eaton & Co. were ‘proper’ glass merchants. Suggestions welcome, however.
(1) The Times, 13 september 1878.