Kennedy, 305 Walworth Road, Walworth, London SE17

From the Historic England entry:

“SHOP FRONT: the single storey building has a timber shop front of c1923 with grey granite stallriser, four transom lights of stained glass in an Art-Deco sunburst design and polished glass fascia which announces ‘305 KENNEDY 305′; the fascia has a makers’ mark reading ‘W. Piggot Ltd (Brilliant Process)’. The recessed lobby, to the right of the display window, has a soffit with green tiles and a mirror above and a black and white tiled floor.

The double doors to the shop have been replaced and what would have been a fifth sunburst transom light above them now contains modern glass.

SHOP INTERIOR: largely unaltered since the 1920s. The walls are clad in coloured tiles, green up to the timber dado rail and primrose up to the picture rail and there are green tile- and wood-edged panels, some containing mirrors, around the shop. Above the primrose tiles, at frieze level, are plastic panels in wood surrounds, which also cover the ceiling.

Four white glass globe lights hang by chains from the ceiling and light the marble-topped back counter, which is faced with green tiles, and the modern main counter. Affixed to the wall behind the back counter are three wood cabinets with glass backs, designed for the display of wares, with lettering in the entablature identifying the products – ‘Sausages’ and ‘Puff Paste’, for example. There are two further cabinets, also with lettering (one announcing ‘Fish Paste’), along the opposite wall. Other original joinery includes the architrave to the door at the back of the shop, with a clock set into the stepped entablature. There is also a neon tube sign and the floor is covered in red linoleum.

HISTORY: This shop is one of the earliest branches to survive of a small chain of shops in operation in South London for nearly 140 years. Kennedys began trading from 140 Rye Lane, Peckham in the 1870s, though nothing remains of their premises there now, and the proprietor from the 1890s was a John Kennedy. The business appeared in trades directories as ‘ham and beef dealers’ but Kennedy also ran a fishmonger at 128 Rye Lane. In around 1899, an Andrew John Kennedy, opened a fishmongers at 297 New Cross Road which was joined in the succeeding years by a ham and tongue shop at 301 New Cross Road run by the same John Kennedy of Rye Lane. The trade in pork products was clearly prosperous, for in the intervening years John Kennedy had opened another ham and beef shop at 13 Dartmouth Park Road, Forest Hill, although this was short-lived and had closed by the 1920s. Despite this closure, it was the interwar period that saw the great expansion of the family firm as they moved into a third premises on Rye Lane (No 85) and opened at least a further seven ham and tongue shops across South London at 86 Peckham Road, 319 Railton Road, 10 Denmark Hill and 305 Walworth Road (c1923), 18a High Street South Norwood (1926), 64 Deptford High (c1929) and 27 Church Street, Croydon (1929). During this expansion, the business was passed on to the next generation and from 1923 an Alexander Kennedy had began to take over operations. Of the shops that survive today only that at 10 Denmark Hill has ‘J Kennedy’ on the fascia and by the late 1920s the vast majority of shops were listed in Alexander’s name in trades directories, although most displayed just the family name on signage. The chain expanded further in the 1930s with shops at 137 High Street, Penge (1934), 161 High Street, Bromley (1935) and 11 High Street, Bromley (1936). One of the shops in the chain was established after World War II, that at 23 High Street, West Wickham (1962). The shops sold sausages for cooking at home, but also pies for consumption straight away. Like today, such readily-available and filling food was a staple of working people’s diets in the 1920s and 1930s. Kennedys ceased trading in 2007.

Just as other shops like WH Smith and Boots were developing the notion of branding and in-house style in the early C20, so Kennedys deployed a consistent design in shops across the chain. The same materials and decoration were used in each building, including: shop fronts with polished glass signage, granite stallrisers and Art-Deco sunburst transom lights; and green and yellow tiled interiors with marble-topped counters, wood cabinets and mirrored panels. Most of the fascia signs used at Kennedys were made with the Brilliant Process, whereby letters of V-section were impressed into copper sheets with steel dyes and then covered in glass. The shop fitters, whose mark is on some of the fascias were Messrs A Walter Piggott & Co Ltd, based at 7 Phoenix Place in Clerkenwell.

There is no record of a Kennedy’s branch on Lavender Hill, but this shop at no.53 shows strong stylistic similarities.

Chains of shops rose in prominence from the 1870s, by which time transportation, in particular the railway network, facilitated centralised warehousing and the supervision of widely-separated branches. The trend towards chains was prevalent in shops selling day-to-day purchases; in 1880, for example, only two grocers had more than twenty-five branches whilst in 1910 there were forty-four with such a large chain of shops. As a result of the importation of frozen meat from the 1880s, butchers also began to operate as multiple-branch businesses; there were over two thousand branch butcher shops by 1900. The inter-war period saw the greatest expansion of multiples; it was then that firms like Boots, WH Smith, Woolworth and Marks and Spencers consolidated their nationwide chains of shops. Yet smaller chains of shops in a particular city or area, like Kennedys in the suburbs of South London, were still able to grow and prosper; something which has proved more challenging, for independent shops too, in the period since WWII.”

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