There was a depot of John Dickinson’s paper makers, of Basildon Bond fame, in Fontayne Road, Tottenham, London, N15.

I was sixteen years of age and had been unwell so I had to find a job where I could work in the open air. Originally I was training to be an engineer but that wasn’t to be. I found myself a job with John Dickinson’s, not expecting to stay for long. I became a van boy, travelling mostly around London’s West End, the City and many London suburbs. The man in charge of the transport department was foreman Fred Martin, a very approachable character with a friendly attitude. Just before my seventeenth birthday in January 1956, he asked me if I wanted to learn to drive one of the company’s vehicles. Being very keen to drive, I jumped at the chance.

On June 19th, 1956 I passed my driving test in one of Dickinson’s vehicles at the Abbey road Testing Centre which was situated at the top of Jolly Butchers Hill.

                KEN CLARKE -PICTURED 1957                                            

I believe there were about eight drivers at our depot like Arthur Gandon (who lived somewhere near Burgess department store), Ernest Randle, Johnny Sorrell, Gordon Smith and Fred Jaycock. Fred had been on the beaches of Dunkirk and was bombed off three boats which were trying to rescue him but he finally made it home to Blighty. He lived near The Standard pub in Walthamstow then.

Other drivers were Harry Points, George Auburn and a very good mate of mine, Jimmy (Arthur) Baggaley, who died prematurely of a brain haemorrhage on New Year’s Day in 1964 I think. He was only 31.

We were called car men and we had to know all the post codes and one way streets in London.   During my time at Dickinson’s I had around four van boys to help with deliveries, one of who was Vic Crampin.


Dickinson’s vehicle engineers were Joe Drayton who lived in the Down Lane area and “Big Man” Dennis Moore, Joe’s second in command.    Joe was a wizard with machinery; there wasn’t much he didn’t know about mechanics.


Next door to the garage was where the depot’s chauffeur (also called Fred) worked.   He had two cars to look after, one of them being a Standard 16 Limo.   He kept both cars in immaculate condition.   Another driver warehouseman, I recall, was Ronald Bloomfield (nicknamed Rommel!) who lived at 28 Summerhill Road, I seem to remember.


They were great times and we were all good friends.


One department was called the Household Department where George Auburn met his wife to be, June (I can’t recall her maiden name).


Then there was the Label Department.   I was asked if I would like to have the managerial job over twenty six women at one time but turned it down.   I didn’t want a desk job!


There was a very clever man whose name I can’t recall, who designed the serviettes, cutting the dies by hand from a roll of metal which resembled a giant rolling pin.   Watching him work fascinated me.   The display of serviettes on the sides of the delivery vehicle could not be painted so the company who painted the lorries stuck a serviette on both sides then varnished over them.   Job done!

Dickinson’s personnel were strict on employees’ timekeeping.   The two big gates to the firm were closed at 8am, then reopened at 8.03am.   If you were kept outside as the gates closed, then allowed in after three minutes to clock in, you would lose a quarter of an hour’s pay.   I was often late and only lived around the corner!


Dickinson’s also had their own railway siding behind the factory.   I remember a horse collar in the garage workshop which had been used on the horses to pull the railway trucks onto the siding to be unloaded.   This was when the company was owned by Millingtons, long before my time.


Dickinson’s made stationery for many companies; writing paper in well manufactured zipped pockets, envelopes with embossed stamps on them and toilet rolls for the Government.   Names like Basildon Bond, Queen’s Velvet and Three Candlesticks come to mind, but there were others I can’t recall any more.


I visited many Government buildings including Pentonville Prison in Caledonian Road, N1 and Somerset House which had an entry for delivery vehicles off Westminster Embankment.   In the delivery area, which was very cramped, a dumb waiter was used to take the boxes of official envelopes up into the store room.   After loading it, you pulled on a rope attached to it to start the mechanism working.   The dumb waiter was powered by the Thames.   I was told at the time that water from the Thames also powered Tower Bridge in the same sort of way.


I delivered to many places of interest, including hotels in the West End like in Mayfair, Kensington and Belgravia.   Also all the docks, including East India docks.   A lot of London was still in ruins due to the War, including the surrounding area of St. Paul’s Cathedral.


I love the East Enders, such a down to earth people!


Every third year drivers would have a new uniform tailor-made at a military tailors in Curtain road, near Liverpool Street Station.


Dickinson’s still have their main depot at Apsley Mills near Watford, or so I believe.   Although it’s called Dickinson Robinson Group now, I will always remember Dicko’s with much fondness, a great firm to work for.





 MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:  Dickinson’s did not just make Basildon Bond stationery. There were a number of other paper-based products too. Over the decades they made napkins, birthday cards, tape, luggage labels and printed brand labels for other companies to add to their stock.

Prior to Dickinsons the factory was owned by Millington and Company. Millington’s was a major manufacturer of envelopes, with factories (all called ‘Crown Works’) dotted around the country as well as Tottenham. Their most well-known stationery product had been thought up at a meeting of the company’s Directors in 1911 held at Basildon Park, near Reading. They had decided to create a new range of writing paper and envelopes which were to be produced with a high-quality watermarked paper. And, most importantly, it was to be sold at a low and affordable price.  It was named ‘Basildon Bond’ - after the place where they had met to discuss the idea.

Article Produced - December 2020  from original note and photographs by Ken Clarke

We acknowledge the Miscellaneous notes information originates from a Local History Post from Bruce Castle Museum, Tottenham