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Buttle’s is one of the UK’s longest-established timber and builders’ merchants. Our roots are in timber – we’ve been selling it since 1919

How Buttle’s Builders Merchants started

Around 125 years ago, George James Buttle left his Essex farming life to start afresh as a sawyer in St Pancras and established a tradition of craftsmanship and service which has been maintained by future generations of his family.

His son, George Harold Buttle, chose a different path. Not content to be just a sawyer in someone else’s sawmill, he saw an opportunity to start his own business by making joinery and wooden parts for pianos and organs. In 1919, during the difficult time just after the end of the Great War, George Harold rented a railway arch in Kentish Town and began trading as a timber merchant.

This became Buttle’s first branch, and the company is still trading there today!  We now have branches in London, Enfield, St Albans and Leighton Buzzard.

As we celebrate our centenary we thought it would be interesting to look at our branch locations and surrounding areas during 1919.

Going back to where our branches are based

Kentish Town in 1919 differed a fair amount from what we see today.

The largest municipal building in Kentish Town is the St Pancras public baths, opened in 1903, designed by Thomas W. Aldwinckle. The large complex originally had separate first and second class men’s baths and a women’s baths, along with a public hall.

Kentish Town Road contained a thriving tube station, South Kentish Town, however, the station was closed in June 1924 after strike action at the Lots Road power station meant the lift could not be used. It never reopened as a station, although it was used as an air-raid shelter during World War II.

At one point, eight different silver screens were aglow across the Kentish Town neighbourhood, the grand Palace Cinema opened on the corner of Prince of Wales Road from 1913 to 1959.

Enfield’s Royal Small Arms Factory had its own church, school pub and football team. By June 1917 there were 7,040 men, 1,448 women and 1,095 ‘boys’ (9,583 total workers). The Short Magazine Lee Enfield .303 is perhaps the most famous product associated with Enfield. During the war, the factory concentrated on producing this rifle. By Easter 1919 the number of workers at the RSAF had been reduced to 2,700 from a wartime high of 12,000.

Trinity Methodist & United Reformed Church with its gothic ragstone, spire and pinnacles was gutted by fire in 1919, rebuilt by the original builders and reopened in 1920.

During World War I in September 1916, following an attack on St Albans, the German Airship SL 11 became the first airship to be brought down over England.

After 1919 St Albans, in common with much of the surrounding area, became a centre for emerging high-technology industries, most notably aerospace. St Albans became a centre for the Marconi plc company, specifically, Marconi Instruments. Marconi remained the city’s largest employer with two main plants until the 1990s.

The First World War came as a shock to Leighton Buzzard along with the rest of the country. The Morgan Carriage and Car Works in Linslade made nearly 500 fighter aeroplanes and the Vimy bomber, which gave its name to one of the town’s roads. Peace brought reversion to the pre-war industries and the development of the town as a transport hub, with eventually more lorries per head of population than any other town in England. As road transport grew the importance of the canal declined.

In June, the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic was made by two Britons, Captain Alcock and Lieutenant Brown.  The flight took 16 hours and was made in a Vickers-Vimy plane that had been built in Leighton Buzzard.  The plane was loaded with three and a half tons of petrol and was one of 50 commissioned by the War Office

We wonder what the next 100 years will bring?  If you’d like to share any memories with us we’d love you to get in touch, either by social media or by email.

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