23 Sep 2021

Dating Dee’s Stores in Stoke Newington

I’m currently updating my digital London walking tours This is to coincide with the publication of Ghost Signs: A London Story. The walks include signs that aren’t in the book, such as this one for Dee’s Stores. It’s on the chamfer wall on the corner of Stoke Newington Church Street and Marton Road. This was once one of two shops owned by George Dee on Church Street.

Fading painted sign on a chamfer wall.
Oils Sold at Dee’s Stores, and Warranted … White Lead …

Dee’s in the 1950s

Dee’s full story, including his work as an ostrich feather dyer, is told on the walk. However, the discovery of a 1955 photograph at Hackney Archives suggests the sign may be much newer than first thought. In the photo there is a mounted Dee’s Stores sign on the chamfer wall. We’d expect to see the wall-painted sign in the space above, but this is completely empty.

1955 photo of corner hardware shop, including mounted sign on chamfer wall.
1955, cropped from original Hackney Archives P10550.39

Ownership After Dee

History of Stoke Newington‘s incredible survey of businesses on Church Street shows that Dee was operating in the building (number 119) from about 1890 until around the time of his death in 1924. At this point the shop was taken over by Robert James Smith. After that it was Robert George Smith (likely his son) who was in charge in 1955 when the photo was taken. It’s clear that the Smiths kept the Dee’s name despite the change of hands.

Occupants of 119 Stoke Newington Church Street between 1890 and 1962.
119 Stoke Newington Church Street in the History of Stoke Newington street survey

A Tentative Conclusion

My best hypothesis is that the sign was painted between 1955 the Dee’s/Smith shop closing in the mid 1960s. (It doesn’t look like there’s a whitewash in the 1955 photo, which would rule out a possible alternative explanation.) If there is a better hypothesis as to the sequence of events then I’d love to hear it.

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