The location of the sign is an odd one – on the side of a building but above the River Quaggy opposite the point at which it is joined by the Mid Kid Brook, painting much of it would have presumably involved climbing over the bridge, dropping a couple of metres to river level and then having the ladder standing in the river whilst painting the sign.
Other than the ‘F Stimpson’s’, ‘…works’ in the middle and ‘fine’ on the bottom row of lettering, it is difficult to decipher what remains – due to a combination of several layers, re-pointing and age. However, it is almost certainly, a sign for Frederick Stimpson who, according to the 1908 Kelly’s Directory, ran a carving and guilding business at 120 Lee Road, the side of the building on which the sign is located.
Frederick Stimpson was born in Killower, in rural County Galway 15 miles north of the city of Galway around 1877. His family had moved back to London soon after his birth as by 1881 he was living at 29 Horton Street, just off Loampit Vale, in Lewisham with his parents – his father was a ‘naval pensioner’ of 39.
By 1911 he was living over the shop at 120 Lee Road with a wife and four sons, all of who had been born in Lee, and business was good enough to be able to afford to employ a servant.
It wasn’t the first (or last) business to trade from the shop – in 1892 the short-lived Blackheath Gazette carried adverts for a W Francis who was a ‘Dyer, Cleaner, furrier and plumassier’. Local requirements have changed rather a lot in the last 100 years, the shop is now an Indian Restaurant and Take Away….
The rest of the row of shops has changed considerably as well; in 1908 in the shop fronts towards Lee Green were a confectioner, a butcher, a hosier, and a milliner and in the businesses towards Blackheath, were a hairdresser, furniture dealer, the auctioneers Stocker and Roberts – who still exist as surveyors in Lee, another milliner, a dressmaker and a costumier. While there is still a hairdresser, most of the rest of the businesses are like 120 – at the lower end of the market take-aways and restaurants.