139 Half Moon Lane

This shop is currently home to Splash (Dry Cleaners).

The first mention of this shop is in 1910, when it was a bakery run by James Swan.

Born in Scotland in 1875, James Swan lived above the shop with his wife Christina, their children and Christina’s brother, William Steen, also a baker. James had been a cook and confectioner (confectioner seems to have been synonymous with baker at this time) in Deptford before moving to Half Moon Lane.

The shop was taken over in 1913 by Robert Charles Slade, also a baker, in business as Slade Brothers, who lived and/or worked here for 20 years. Robert was born in Hampshire in 1872, the second of 11 children of Frank Slade, a bricklayer, and Elizabeth Wort. In 1898 he married Lillian Nicklen, also from Hampshire, and they moved to London. At first they settled in Hackney where they had the first of their eight children but by 1913 they were at No. 139 Half Moon Lane. By 1921 many of their children were either helping in their father’s bakery, like their daughter Hilda, or were working for other bakers, like Marjorie who was a clerk in a bakery on Acre Lane. Daughter Eleanor was a clerk with Holt 7 Co, the military bank on Whitehall that is now part of NatWest. Their sons Clifford and Norval moved to Tulse Hill and both worked as confectioners and bakers at Slade Bros, 25 Tulse Hill. As well as Half Moon Lane and Tulse Hill they had shops in Roman Road, Coldharbour Lane, Walworth Road and Mare Street. By 1933 Robert and Lilian had moved to Hackney. Robert was still a baker but was also running a post office.

The Attrees were the next family to take over the bakery. Cecil Owen Attree was born in Catford in 1897, the eldest of six children of Cecil and Harriet Attree. In 1911 he was a baker’s errand boy in Croydon at his father’s bakery. He married Harriet Saunders in 1922. They did not have children. They moved here in 1933 and were resident until at least 1946.

Robert and Barbara Truckle were the next people to live here, but it is unclear whether they just lived upstairs or ran the shop as well. Harold Truckle was born in 1926 in Bermondsey, the son of a labourer. He married Barbara Joyce Green in 1949. Joyce died in 1981 and Robert married Eileen Whitfield in 1984.

Edward and Pamela Vassie came next, in 1957. Edward Vassie was born in Lambeth in 1924, the son of George and Kitty Vassie, who had a shop in Lewisham selling radios and electrical goods. Edward married Pamela Reynolds and they moved to No. 139. They had two sons, Edward (born 1955) and Paul (born 1956).

In 1957 Edward Vassie was fined £20 with £4 costs for driving the van while drunk. He had given the workers the day off to attend a colleague’s wedding and said that he had been so busy working on his own that he did not have time to eat. He joined the wedding reception at the end if the working day. He was stopped by police for driving erratically on Peckham Rye without lights.

In 1962 tragedy struck. Their six-year-old son Paul died after inhaling carbon tetrachloride, a very toxic chemical with a sweet smell that was used in cleaning fluids but is now banned. He had been using a rag to clean his model railway’s tracks and had inhaled the fumes. At that time then the bottle did not have a warning label. Mr Vassie told the newspapers that Paul had taken the rag to bed with him and had died during the seven minutes his mother had left him alone while putting the children to bed. Ironically, the shop is now a dry cleaner’s.

This article forms part of the “History of Shops” project, created and researched by the Herne Hill Society. Copyright line?



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