Lost & Found in Borough
I found myself heading north on a bus on Borough High Street after the dust had settled after the controlled explosion of a pesto sandwich this afternoon when I spied out of the window a couple of people rifling through some boxes on the street. Ever the sucker for a box of interesting things I rang the bell and hot-footed it back from London Bridge to take a look for myself.
What I found astonished me. In grubby cardboard boxes, amongst rubble and broken glass, were hundreds of plans, documents, blueprints and maps. I opened up an old bank safe to find a stack of invoices from 1885, I unfolded a map of a 1911 housing estate and rolled out a beautifully coloured plan for a Victorian orphanage. There, on the pavement, under the grey south London drizzle, was a whole heap of London’s social history, left to the elements and the bin men.
As quickly as I could manage I sorted the documents from the refuse. I had only come out for a walk, not to perform a professional salvage and archive operation so I worked with grubby hands and only managed to take two folders and a half-dozen plans with me. Fortunately I tweeted my find which ignited London’s social history network and I believe all the documents have now been salvaged.
My ability to take more with me was hampered by the fact that, along with 130 years of historical documents, the estate agents responsible (Field & Sons) had also dumped several dozen sets of keys, in labelled envelopes, out on the street for anyone to take. I found myself on a bus, hands covered in grime with a box of other people's’ keys heading to Charing Cross police station to hand them in.
Since then Twitter has confirmed that the same thing happened last Sunday. It seems that Field & Sons, an estate agents that prides itself on being the oldest in the area, has no hesitations about destroying 130 years of their archive (which is also 130 years of London’s social history) and leaving dozens of their tenants’ front doors wide open to whoever laid hands on these sets of keys.
As the historical vandals and criminally negligent estate agents they are, I would love to hear what Field & Sons (now owned by Dexters) have to say for themselves.