Flatiron-mongers Building


Carem Plumbing & Heating Supplies Ltd
Trafalgar Road SE10

You know what – I’ve been a grumpy old Phantom recently – moaning and grumbling – and it’s occurred to me that that’s not really why I started this blog. Of course, pointing out stuff I think needs talking about and worrying about things-to-come is important – but I started writing this because I wanted to celebrate some of the good things about Greenwich – the funny, quirky little things that make it somewhere to want to give a damn about it.

The things we pass every day without noticing – the fun stuff. This, for example – Greenwich’s answer to the Flatiron building. Ohhhh Yes. New York’s got nothing on us. We’ve got Carem Plumbing Supplies.

This teeny-tiny little store must have been here since the Ark. In fact Noah probably bought all his plastic pipes for the ark from here.
Presumably some speculative Victorian builder got the end of a row of shops and couldn’t decide how to deal with the corner. So he fitted-in what he could. After all, there will always be someone who can use a half-sized sales outlet.
At the nominal ‘front’ of the store, just a door’s width in total, burly plumbers must have to squeeze their way through past racks of widgets and stop-cocks, tap-heads and pressure-guages through to the business-end at the back, a tiny desk and the widest wall in the place (let’s face it, not very wide) also covered in packets of washers and screws.

The upside of having a triangular shop is that you get two windows, each with a funny little leaded light at the top and these are crammed with dusty showerhead kits and faded boxes of haeven-knows-what. I can’t imagine there’s room for a bed in the room upstairs so I guess it’s a store.

An old sign painted on the Trafalgar Road wall, clearly from an earlier shop, announces blurrily “We don’t do it all but what we do is at the Lowest Prices around.” Catchy. Of course they were called Wilkins in those days.
To be honest we could be forgiven for not knowing what they’re called these days. The sign’s painted out. Maybe they’re having a spruce-up? I hope they don’t do too much to it.

I love that this little shop still exists. In fact I feel a new campaign coming on. To rename the area, much as The Big Apple celebrates the area around the Flatiron Building, the Carem Plumbing Supplies District. I think it will catch on…

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