A small side street near Victoria contains a mosaic that people will tell you is an old advert for the Victor Talking Machine Company. They are wrong.

It certainly spells out Victor, and the Victor Talking Machine Company was a very well known gramphone and music company. However, no matter how many references I found supporting the claim that the mosaic was related to the gramphone company, it felt wrong.

In part thanks to the fact that Victor is far better known by its logo which is today quite famous. Looks familiar?

Yes, HMV records are the latest incarnation of the Victor Talking Machine Company — but, despite various claims, this mosaic is not related to the phonograph company.

After all, why would a company famous for the dog have a logo in London that’s so very different?

To be fair, the planning application that is seeking to demolish the building next door does say the mosaic is “thought to be” for the company, but plenty of other sources state it as a fact.

If you look at the logo though, it looks 1920s in style, and felt more likely to be motoring than musical. The claims just felt wrong.

And, just as I was about to give up researching and reluctantly accept the musical origins, I found it.

The advert is for a company that used to have its head office next to the mosaic, at 15 Carteret Street, and it was the Victor Tyre Company.

It seems to have been a very short-lived tyre manufacturer, starting life as the Reinforced Inner Tube Co, then later merging with another company to form Challenge Reinforced Tyre Co Ltd in 1910, and adopting the Victor name in 1913.

The company also had a long-running dispute with the RAC, judging by adverts they were placing in the press for a while claiming that the RAC was trying to suppress trials that showed its tyres were the best in the market.

However, the company lost a serious lawsuit in 1915 when it ended up in a dispute with a French supplier in Liege, and was accused of “trading with the enemy”, as the city was part of German-occupied France Belgium. Although the firm seems to have carried on trading, in November 1920 it was announced that the company’s Managing Director had resigned over a year earlier, and was now living in Monte Carlo citing ill health.

In 1921 the company was wound-up, and the formal liquidation took place in May 1925.

So, some 90 years after the sign was put up, and its origins seemingly lost, here’s a recovered little known piece of the UK’s motoring history hidden in plain sight. Maybe the developers of the building that’s being planned can be encouraged to put up a plaque explaining the mosaic’s heritage.

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  1. Traveller says:

    Small correction – Liege was (and still is) in Belgium.

  2. mikeS says:

    I think there’s a similar one to the north east of Tottenham Court Road, not far from Store Street. But I can’t remember where.

  3. Linsley says:

    It would be interesting to know where the works were in Southall.

  4. Jo Amey says:

    That has to be one of the most obscurely worded ads ever! No wonder they didn’t last long.

  5. Esther Birchall says:

    Interesting, thanks Ian. But isn’t Liege in Belgium not France?

  6. Alex McKenna says:

    As far as I know, the Victor name was never used in the UK,as that company was based in the USA, and not allowed to sell in British territories. The British affiliate was known as the Gramophone Company. (Initially as the Gramophone & Typewriter Company, before the familiar HMV picture was bought and used as a trademark.)

  7. ADS says:

    good detective work there Ian 🙂

  8. AG says:

    Thanks so much for this information. I regularly walk past this mosaic and have often wondered what it related to.

  9. Nic Maennling says:

    What a great feeling to solve such a mystery ! Good work.

  10. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Incredible history. Loving the history of London.

  11. Ralph Caton says:

    Re HMV….Gramophone co used HMV as trademark from 1910 prior to that used “GRAMOPHONE” as trademark with Berliner recording angel (still used in US as Angel Records) Victor used HMV from 1902 I think. Now RCA has it in the states.
    I expect JVC (Japanese Victor co) has it in Japan

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