Bromley Ghost Signs – “Wallace Pring’s for Chemist Things”

I spotted this rather attractive sign on the side of a chemists (and post office) in a shopping parade at the corner of Chatterton Road and Walpole Road, close to Bromley Common when out running, ‘picked out’ by a street light and had been meaning to go back for a while. It is relatively unusual in that it is for the same name as the current business that occupies the shop.

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Chatterton Road is a pleasant Victorian shopping parade probably built around the early 1880s (the 1882 Kelly’s Directory has homes but few businesses). It is named after an 18th century poet, Thomas Chatterton, who was posthumously recognised by many of the Romantic Movement, including Wordsworth, Rossetti, Coleridge and Shelley, after committing suicide from arsenic poisoning aged just 17.

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William Wallace Pring seems to have bought the shop from a Charles Litten somewhere between 1903 and 1907 (there was a change in ownership in the Kelly’s between those years). The 1907 Kelly’s has them described as a chemist and post office, the same slightly unusual mixture of businesses as today. William had previously been the manager of a chemist in Crouch End.

The 1911 census has the Prings living ‘over the shop’. William, who was then 36, hailed from Reading; his wife Daisy, 29, came from Lamberhurst in Kent and helped run the shop, and there was a son, also William who had been born at around the same time as they moved to Chatterton Road. They had sufficient income to be able to employ a servant.

The business seems to have stayed in the family with William’s younger son Maxwell, who was born in 1913 and also had the Wallace middle name – presumably a family tradition. It appears that it was one of a pair of chemist shops that they owned in Bromley – the other was at 7 Bromley High Street.

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(William Wallace Pring in the middle plus a child, probably Maxwell given William’s WW1 uniform)

It is possible that they may have initially started a couple of doors down from the current location, as the 1907 Kelly’s lists Wallace Pring at 24. However, by 1909 they were certainly at 28 (which is now 40) as the postcard below seems to be was dated from then. Similarly, the 1911 census and 1913 Kelly’s has them at 28. However, it could, of course, just be a street renumbering.

While the shop was sold, the name lives on in both the shop name and the ghost sign. Given the longevity of the business it is difficult to date the sign, but it certainly wasn’t there in Edwardian postcard photograph of the shop.

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I would like to thank, Courtney Oneka Kennedy-Sanigar for letting me use the family photo and the postcard of the shop. She has produced a lovely family history centring on another Wallace Pring shop in Whitstable which is a clothing store.

16 thoughts on “Bromley Ghost Signs – “Wallace Pring’s for Chemist Things”

    1. runner500 Post author

      Thank you. I was vaguely aware of Thomas Chatterton, but I think that the link was a wiki one when I was trying the confirm the age of the street. It was really quite surprising and there seems nothing obvious in terms of a linkage to Bromley in terms of the street naming.

      Reply
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  2. Stuart Noble

    There is currently a name on the wall on the first floor of the baker’s opposite. It will be covered up when the extension is complete. It looks like **UNDY* or similar and would probably have been at number 43. The Kellys Directories no longer seem to be accessible from the Bromley website

    Reply
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  4. Geoff Torry

    Very interesting page.

    I have a photo of the frontage of The Mayfield Creamery, 36 Chatterton Road, taken in about 1911. This was a local diary run by my grandfather and grandmother, Walter and Ellen Usher. Ellen appears in the photo with her first child. I believe the business had to close when Walter went away to take part in WW1.

    Currently, number 36 is a branch of Coral, and although it has changed a good deal since 1911, I can see signs that suggest it could easily be the same building. However, having read the history above, and looked at the postcard, I can equally imagine there has been a renumbering, and that my 36 is now number 48.

    I wonder if anyone can shed further light on the history of The Mayfield Creamery?

    Reply
    1. Paul B Post author

      Hi Geoff
      Thank you!

      A couple of suggestions – on line you could have a look at the on line Kelly’s Directories at the University of Leicester website
      http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16445coll4

      You could also contact Bromley Archives (they are really helpful) – they will have a lot more local information and more recent directories, electoral registers etc.
      http://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/1062/libraries_-_historic_collections/1083/historic_collections_-_our_resources/4

      Good luck!

      Paul

      Reply
      1. Geoff Torry

        Many thanks, Paul.

        I’ve now found confirmation of my grandfather’s business at 36 Chatterton Road in Kelly’s for 1913; and have noted the Bromley Council page for future action.

        Best wishes,

        Geoff

  5. Don Mulkins

    I used to work at Wallace Pring in Chatterton Rd back in 1995 as a Dispensing Assistant. I’m from the USA so most people in the general area knew me as the American bloke at Wallace Pring. I very much enjoyed working there and I often think of the amazing people who also worked there both in the chemist shop as well as the post office inside. I’m so pleased that I came across this article because I never knew much at all about the history of Wallace Pring especially that the business dates so far back.

    Reply
      1. Richard White

        Very interesting to see the posts here. Wallace Pring is my Great Grandfather and my Dad (Peter White) was the last of the family line of Pharmacists. He ran 7 High Street Bromley for many years until it was sold in 1999 and it became Scotts Pharmacy. Sadly the name changed, although Chatterton Road obviously retained the WP name. Max Pearce was my Dad’s business partner and ran Chatterton Road until the 1999 sale. Max was instrumental in installing the post office. I believe there were 6 Wallace Pring sites in all, at one time.

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