Right then storage fans. You’ve had Camden, you’ve had Southwark. Which means it’s time to take a look at how the last 25 years have changed in the area surrounding our third store – Wandsworth. In case you missed it, ABC Selfstore is 25 years old this April, and we’ve been reflecting on how the world has changed in the localities we serve.
Once again we’ll be looking at Places, Spaces, Technology, Politics, and Transport around our Garrett Lane self storage centre and across the Wandsworth Borough…
Places and Spaces in Wandsworth
HM Prison Wandsworth first opened its doors (or should that be locked its doors?) in 1851, in 2017 it is a category B men’s prison. Somewhat creepily, between opening and 1961, HM Prison Wandsworth was the site of 135 executions by hanging. The Gallows were maintained in full working order until 1993, which included testing a couple of times a year. Even more unbelievably, toilets were only finally installed throughout the Prison in 1996!
Southside – Southside shopping centre was built in 1971. It’s owned by developing behemoth, Land Securities. By the early 90’s Southside had developed a reputation as a discount destination. It was regenerated and reopened in 2004 which has changed the quality of retailers and increased footfall – it now enjoys 8.5million shoppers a year and features a host of major high street brands.
Young’s Ram Brewery – the Young & Co Brewing Company began brewing beer at their Ram Brewery in 1831. When we opened our storage doors in 1993 it was the oldest British Brewery in continuous commercial operation. 13 years later, Young’s took the decision to close the facility and move production to Bedford’s Eagle Brewery – after conglomerating the business with Wells Brewers. The site has been earmarked and approved for development into a business and shopping centre. Most recently it found fame as the location backdrop to BBC Masterchef – between 2011 and 2014.
Battersea Power Station – probably Wandsworth Borough’s most notable building and Grade II listed, Battersea Power Station ended its primary function of making electricity way back in 1983. Standing empty, with mounting debts and falling into disrepair, various attempts to regenerate the site were offered by various owners. In 1993, as ABC Selfstore was putting our old building to a new use in Camden, the Battersea site was purchased by Hong Kong based Parkview International. They came up with a scheme to redevelop the site, it was granted planning permission but by 2005 that proposal had floundered and the site was sold to Real Estate Opportunities. Their proposal also failed and it was only in 2012 that the site was sold again to a Malaysian consortium and finally, redevelopment is underway – phase 1, Circus West – predominantly residential apartment block opened in 2017.
Unlike the Boroughs around our other two stores in Camden and Southwark, Wandsworth has been under overall Conservative control at Local Government level since 1974. Of Wandsworth’s three Parliamentary constituencies, Battersea and Putney are hotly contested. Battersea’s been a key battleground, alternating between Conservative and Labour since 1983 – with the exception of the 2015 & 2017 elections – when Labour won – and has mirrored the national result in UK elections. When we kicked off trading in 1993 Putney was Conservative, but swung to Labour in 1997. The tories only regained control in 2005, with Justine Greening. It’s a different story in Tooting, the Borough’s other constituency, which has been Labour, throughout the past 25 years.
In 1993, if you wanted to listen to music on your jog across Battersea Park, or Wandsworth Common, you needed a Walkman portable cassette player strapped to your waist. The most dedicated musos would’ve spent a couple of hours with a tape-to-tape twin deck hi-fi putting together a mix-tape. The really adept would have managed to put together 45 minutes of tunes from different artists, with a good running beat. But you had to listen to the tracks in order, and once the 45 minutes was up, stop, take the cassette out and turn it over. You’d also need to make sure you had plenty of batteries. Nowadays you can scroll to playlists for just about every circumstance in Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer or any other Music streaming service of your choice. If you don’t like what you are given you can quickly and simply create your own, and if you decide on your run you don’t like that you can use voice control to request something else. As well as take a phone call and track your running performance. And stop to take a snap of the incredible sunrise over the your East London Skyline you were up early enough to witness.
We’ve covered cars, so let’s focus on Vans, or Light Commercial Vehicles, to give them their proper name. The workhorse of the London economy. Stalwart of the trades. Backbone of Britain (as one manufacturer put it). If you were a resident in 1993, when we opened the doors to our first self storage units, White Van Man/Woman was still White Van Man/Woman. Even his or her Van of choice had a familiar name – the Ford Transit. In 2017 different versions held the top two spots in the best-selling vans. In 1993 the ‘Second Generation’ version of the nation’s favourite was about to receive a facelift. Launched in 1994 the ‘smiley face’ Transit would have been a familar sight around the streets of Wandsworth, especially useful for moving stuff to and from self storage.