Friday 30 October 2009

Shopping in style - Quin and Axtens Bazaar

Postmarked Lambeth (a certain amount of guesswork here) and dated 2 March 1910. It says Wednesday evening on the message but it still got into the postal system and postmarked that same day.

The message reads
I am sending you this card, as M had the last one of this. I have felt very lonely this week.  Shall be glad to come down again.  My love to Mum.  Pleased with the card.  Will write soon.
I hadn't paid a great deal of attention to this postcard because the picture is a little faded, until I read the message and wondered what was so special.  A large shop, obviously.  Could it be Harrods?  But no, when I looked more closely, it's a shop I'd never heard of, Quin and Axtens, so I just had to investigate further.

Quin & Axtens was once a well know landmark in Brixton Road, south west London.  According to Lambeth Council (pdf) they were part of a general retail development in the area during the 1880s.  At the same time electric lighting and pedestrian footways protected by glass canopies were installed.  I can't find any details of when Q & A  first opened but they feature in advertisements of 1897 and 1898.  In 1912, two years after the postcard was sent, they were taken over by the rival Bon Marché, next door, and eventually became part of the John Lewis Partnership, well known in the UK today.

Sadly, the building didn't survive the war.  I found this extract from The War-time Diary of Gertrude Bathurst which makes for interesting and sobering reading:
Apr 17 Destruction everywhere, no trains from Streatham to London or trams from half way down Brixton Hill because of bombs in C.W.S. bakery, fire at Quin and Axtens and two more unexploded bombs between there and Kennington, the trams were running from there to Elephant only. Douglas saw over a dozen fires raging including Smithfield Goods Yard, St. Andrew's Church, City Temple and Wallis's. L.C.C. flats at Wandsworth were hit, many killed. Land mines at Streatham Vale an enormous number of houses down and ruined. A Margarine factory at Mitcham and 14 Home Guard Killed besides dozens of others. For a week no electricity or gas in the city and food very scarce. Travelling cost 1/8d return and took from l½ to 4 hours. 

Another bad night, Wailing Winnie tuned up at 10.55 and from then on until 5.45 a.m. the noise was incessant with planes, guns and machine guns. We heard two planes come down, one near Quin and Axtens and bombs were dropped in Moyser Road, Tooting Broadway and Streatham Vale, here 8 people and 14 at Tooting were killed. Picture Palace and Hotel at Balham Hill with other houses close by.
I'm still not sure why the writer was quite so pleased with the card, but I now know a great deal more than I did when I started.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday.
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  1. Very sad to hear about the war and its turmoil. How difficult life must have been for everyone at that time. We are fortunate, in the U. S. to have avoided the World Wars on our own soil.

  2. I'm glad I didn't live there during the war.

  3. Hi!
    Great postcard! All the info is awesome. Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

    A View of my Life

  4. Thanks Sheila, lovely postcard, awesome info about the card, the war and the people! Thanks so much! Happy PFF! :)

  5. Sheila, that's a wonderful card. Thanks for doing the research too. I wonder if the writer is referring to a card she received when she says "pleased with the card." What do you think?

  6. Love the display lettering and that ornate pedestal for the clock!

  7. what a brilliant find! this illustrates perfectly how important postcard collecting can be as a record of social history. great research too...what a sleuth!

  8. Thanks for sharing your old card. Your research is also sobering - and reminds us it was called "the Battle of Britian."

  9. Amazing how a faded postcard can recreate history - a very sad period of history in this case. Great research Sheila, thanks for bringing us the story behind the card!

  10. Wonderful postcard and thank you for your research about Quin and Axtens. So much destroyed and so many lives lost. I would think this is an important postcard historically? Yes?! Well done!

  11. The diary brings the period to life. So Q&A was still in business under that name until at least the war. I was a bit amazed at something else - glass protective canopies. A bit scary, actually. Is a Wailing Winnie a buzz bomb, I wonder? I am with Christine in thinking the postcard writer refers to a card she had received earlier.

  12. A little research of my own tells me Wailing Winnie was the air raid siren.

  13. That is just fascinating! Thank you for doing all that research, and a happy PFF to you!

  14. Thank you all, I'm glad you liked the card. Max, thank you for looking up Wailing Winnie, because I'd assumed it was a buzz bomb too.

    As for the "Pleased with the card", I read it to be that she was pleased she had managed to get hold of the card because M had got the last one. That could mean the previous one of course, rather than the last in the shop. But if I'm right, Quin & Axtens must have been something special. On the other hand, you're probably right, and she's pleased with one she received.

  15. what a "blast from the past" (literally?) type of postcard!


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