The company was established in 1835 as B Beddow and Sons in South Audley Street, a manufacturer of hunting preparations but the company was bought by The Chiswick Polish Company after the death in 1922 of Alfred Beddow, the sole proprietor. The company certainly remained as Beddow and Sons Ltd until at least Dec 1938. Curiously the company Propert Limited was in existence from 1877 to 1955 – the Beddows and Properts companies are thought at this point to be business arrangements under the same management. Propert’s Blacking was certainly sold until at least 1897.
The Properts brand was yet another to be swallowed up by Reckitt & Sons Ltd in 1970 (latterly Reckitt Benckiser plc) whose acquisitions include many famous names of old – Wren, Nugget, Meltonian & Chiswick.
Their rather splendid blacking factory at 142 Battersea Park Rd, Wandsworth, London SW11 4NB was built in 1878/9 conjoining Spier & Pond’s Colossal Steam Laundry. It is constructed of yellow brick, with stone window-sills, Beart’s white-moulded brick for string courses, window jambs, arches, and cornices. The Building and Works are from designs by Mr. Kemp, Architectural Engineer. Mr Priddle of Hounslow was the Contractor and Mr. Warburton, Clerk of the Works, under whose superintendence the work were carried out. Later, on the other side, The London and Provincial Steam Laundry Company Limited was built. Propert’s premises still exist (as are the extensive premises next door, the later named Imperial Laundry) with the Properts name over the door. The premises have been extensively and sympathetically renovated and are now home to several businesses.
Interior photos: Livia Whyte
Boot-top powder photos: Richard Giles
Propert’s ‘Breeches paste’ and ‘Polishing Cream’ from their saddlery product portfolio and a bottle of ‘Royal Navy Dressing’ boot cleaner.
These term’s of boot-top powder and breeches paste are rather alien to us now, but as recently as 1936 in a registration of the Propert’s trademark made by R & C Products Pty Ltd (The Australian Reckitt & Colman division) it describes the company as supplying “Balls of polish for leather; boot top powders, fluids and polishes; saddle soaps, pastes and polishes, liquid blackings and blackings for polishing; boot and shoe creams; kid polishes and creams; brown leather cleaning and polishing preparations; all other cleaning and polishing preparations for leather, metal and leather cloth; harness compositions and breeches and glove pastes included in this class; balls of coloured paste for applying to leather”.
In “Driving for pleasure; or, The Harness Stable and Its Appointments” of 1897 by Francis T Underhill the ideal equipment required by a stable for the use of the liveryman was to consist of “One hat brush, one set blacking brushes, one pair boot-top brushes, one breeches ball, one box breeches paste, one pair rubber boots for servant, one rubber washing apron, one box or bottle shoe blacking or oil, one bottle boot-top fluid, one bottle boot-top polish or one box boot-top paste and one box boot-top powder, one button stencil plate (for cleaning livery buttons)”.
In a Vanity Fair article of 1910 entitled “For the Well Dressed Man” it describes the care of a pair of gent’s boots and shoes: “In the first place, all shoes should be cleaned on well-fitting block trees and tan shoes or boots should not be worn on two days in succession. Particular care should be taken when the boots are wet and they should not be allowed to dry until the trees have been put into them and they have been well scrubbed with soap and water until all stains are removed. If there are any obstinate stains which are difficult to eradicate, they can easily be removed by applying Propert’s boot top powder – of a nut brown colour – which is mixed with water and applied with a brush. The boots should be allowed to dry gradually, after which Lutetian Cream can be applied liberally. The polishing is done with a soft brush and finished with a soft woollen cloth or chamois. After this Wren’s Paste may be applied sparingly and polished with a soft brush, a soft woollen cloth or chamois being used to give a finishing or final polish.”
The company specialised in boot and shoe polish and as can be seen from the 1966 catalogue supplied all manner of coloured creams, polishes, dubbin and saddlery lines. The brochure shows the address as 1-17 Burlington Lane, London W4 – the famous Chiswick House. Clearly at some time between 1945 and 1966 production and sales was moved from Battersea to the Chiswick plant.
The brand name still exists and belongs to Kiwi (owned by SC Johnson) and the trademark is licensed by an Italian equestrian supplies company IEXI. www.iexi.com