We recently discovered a poster in our collections for the Volker Gas Mantle Works. It doesn’t date from this week in 1916, instead it is probably from earlier in the year or possibly even 1915, but as it was a recent find and this week was otherwise fairly quiet in the borough, we thought we would look at this company and what we can find about them.
The Voelker Lighting Corporation opened a factory on Garratt Lane in 1895, making incandescent mantles. Records at the National Archives suggest that the firm was dissolved before 1916, although this presumably just refers to the change of name. Volker are listed in the street directories until 1925, then became Lighting Trades Ltd – although still gas mantle manufacturers. The name change took place between the 1914/15 and the 1916/17 directories.
In search of more information about the company, we checked our drainage plans for their building at 57 Garratt Lane and found one from September 1914, where issues over their German name had clearly already arisen as there is a note – presumably requested during the application process, as it is dated October 1914 – at the end of the plans listing shareholders. It lists the directors, (Messrs: Asten of Surbiton; Mardon of Shaftesbury Avenue; Bowden of 121 The Grove, Wandsworth; Garland of 93 Pulborough Road, Wandsworth), and goes on to be explicit that all bar one of the shareholders are residents of the UK. The only one who wasn’t was an American lawyer called Kellogg, who owned 7000 shares. At the bottom of the document is a list of German sounding names who were on the list of shareholders when Voelker Lighting Corporation Ltd took over from Voelker Mantle Co in 1905, and an assurance none of them are currently on the shareholders list.
When was the name changed? An article in the Wandsworth Historian from 2006 suggests it was early 1916, a view backed up by the rate books. Below are three entries in the Wandsworth rate books, the first is for the six month period ending March 1916, where the company appears as “Voelker”. The next entry is September 1916, and if you look carefully then you can see that the “E” has been scored out. By the March 1917 book, “Volker” is used.
The rate books point to the name being changed as early 1916, and further evidence is found in the Wandsworth Borough News of January 14, 1916, where the works are advertising for staff. Many of the staff were female, as the image from the book Wandsworth Past at the end of the blog shows, and the ad is for “Girls Wanted” at the Volker works. This suggests that our newly found poster might be from the end of 1915, as by 1916 adverts were out with the Volker name on them – and rate books, maps (the 1916 OS map shows “Voelker”), and Kelly’s directories just took some time to catch up.
Rate books, refs: MBW/3/2/98, MBW/3/2/114 MBW/3/2/130
Drainage plans, ref: Fairfield 3, 214
Wandsworth Borough News (available on microfilm)
1916 Ordnance Survey map
Wandsworth Past, Dorian Gerhold, 1998