A street in Bermondsey has a car repair shop with a relic of times when horsepower was measured in low digits – two horses heads on the frontage.

This is formally 2a Morocco Street, and used to be a forge and coach house. The rear yard still contains the original white glaze bricks and tethering rings for the horses.

In the early 20th century with the decline of horse driven transport and the rise of the motor car the premises became a garage. The repair and maintenance of road vehicles has been on the site for over 200 hundred years, from the repairs of carriages and horse gear to present-day cars.

Although the two horse heads look original, one at least is either a replica, or restoration, as it wasn’t there when this photo was taken in 1969 and still missing when this photo was taken in 1981.

Today it’s RW Autos, and the current owners, looking after mechanical horses, are Patrick and Ian, part of a family that has run the company for three generations and started working together when they were 16 and 14 years old respectively. They both took over RW Autos in 1990.

Next to the old building is a road junction leading off to what is today called Leathermarket Street, but used to be plain Market Street, adopting the Leather part of the name long shortly before the leather makers of the area departed. It’s an echo of the time when the whole area was filled with the vile smells and noised of the leather tanners.

Today though, the area is mostly residential, and the ongoing presence of the motor car workshop seems to be causing annoyance to people who moved into the area recently. A planning application to revamp the flats and build a new extension for the owner/occupier threw up an unusually large number of comments from locals, some supportive, and quite a few very much not at all keen.

The planning application was approved — and the old forge will continue servicing mechanical horses for many years to come.

Which makes a pleasant change from the ongoing wave of cafes taking over the place.


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One comment
  1. Maurice Reed says:

    Nice when the old facades of buildings are still in place like this.

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