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Offley Works (1899)

Summary

Offley Works is an important part of Lambeth’s industrial heritage as it was the main factory for JA Sharwood & Co Ltd - a business that thrived locally and continued to thrive first with RHM (Rank Hovis McDougall) and then Premier Foods.  It remains a well known and loved brand to this day. It can be said that the term ‘chutney’ was introduced to the country by products from this site.


Offley Works is a group of buildings between Clapham Road and Offley Road on a previously undeveloped site of approximately 1 acre. Most of the buildings date from about 1899 when they were purpose built for James Allen Sharwood founder of JA Shawood & Co Ltd - manufacturers, importers and exporters of food products. The view illustrated in the 1930s letterhead (top right) is difficult to reconcile with the current buildings.  The second image shows the entrance from Clapham road and the third, offices in Offley Road. These date from 1956 replacing some neighbouring houses that had been bombed during the second world war.


The business, Sharwoods, was acquired by RHM (Rank Hovis McDougall) in 1963 and the buildings auctioned off in 1964.  The buildings were then used as a print works for some years.  In later years, Offley Works became home to various businesses and community groups including Furniture Aid South Thames (FAST) a theatrical costumier and various community groups. In 2004, the London Borough of Lambeth sold the site to the London Development Agency. (LDA).  A limited design competition was won by 6a architects who were "selected for their sensitive approach to the re-use of existing buildings".  Many of the tenants fought hard to stay but the last, FAST, moved out at the end of June 2011 and the site now going to be developed into mixed residential and commercial space.


The story of Offley Works is essentially one of industrial success first with Sharwoods food products and then Christies International Media Division =printers of the famous Christies art catalogues.  Subsequent occupiers may also have gone on to success but their stories have yet to be completed.  


Although the buildings have been left to decline in recent years they are about to be reborn probably in 2013.  Once again, businesses will start to use Offley Works and, perhaps, that old Sharwoods magic will rub off and some will go on to do great things.  Time will tell.

Offley Works Offley Works entrance on Clapham Road Offley Works offices in Offley Road Offley Works wheel and chain

Chronology


1899
Offley Works was a purpose made factory built for JA Sharwood & Co Ltd. on a previously undeveloped plot behind Clapham Terrace on Clapham Road.  

1908

Improvements made to Offley Works

1924

Factory extended

1930

JA Sharwood retires and Major HG Lomer takes over as managing director

1947

Royal Warrent granted to Sharwoods for supply of chutney and Indian curry powder to King George VI

1950

The range of products on the Sharwoods stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition was considered a ”model of its kind” attracting a “remarkable degree of public admiration and comment”.

1956
A new office block is built on the site of Offley Road houses which had been bombed during the second world war.  Managing director, Major HG Lomer retires at the age of 90 in favour of his son-in-lawMajor JM Oke.

1963
Sharwoods was acquired by RHM (Rank Hovis McDougall) which later merged with Premier Foods in March 2007

1964

Offley Works were put up for auction on 19 November 1964 at City Auction Hall, Coleman Stret .  The autioneers, Chambers and Willows had advertised the auction in the Times on four occasions.  The initial adverts described a 'Valuable Factory' having 7,500 sq ft area on 1 acre and including a block of main road residential properties adjoining the factory producing £2,500 per year. This had reduced to £2,000 per year by the later adverts.  Presumably Sharwoods had an interest in another property advertised at the same time -1a Offley Road 2 storey warehouse of 8,500 sq ft reducing to 7,760 square feet in the later adverts.  

1972
After Sharwoods, offley Works was used as printing works as confirmed by an advert indicating that White Bros (Printers), based in Offley works, were producing the Christies Review of that year

1994
Furniture Aid South Thames, a homeless charity, open for business in Offley Works

2004
Lambeth sell Offley Works to the London development Agency

2005
Punchdrunk put on a memorable performance of the Firebirds Ball in the derelict buildings.  Spectators wear masks and move from room to room to experience the performance

2007
Design for London, working with the LDA and The Architecture Foundation, ran  a design competition .  Thw inner wwas The winner was 6a architects, "selected for their sensitive approach to the re-use of existing buildings"

2008
Valerie Shawcross, London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, helps win a temporary reprieve for community groups based at Offley Works.  The LDA agreed to grant a temporary lease to Starlight Music Academy and Code 7 Music;

2009
Controversy erupts over Lee Jasper’s connection to groups at Offley works


2011
Furniture Aid South Thames, a homeless charity and last remaining tenant of Offley Works, becomes homeless itself when it has to move out of Offley Works.
  

JA Sharwood & Co Ltd letterhead showing drawing of Offley Works

References


  1. Letter from Director of JA Sharwoods to traveller AW Shaw (4 February 1930)
  2. Story of JA Sharwood and Co Ltd (Grocer monthly supplement - June 1950)
  3. 70th Anniversary of Sharwoods (Grocer’s Gazette -15 August 1959)
  4. Auction adverts (Times - 7 and 21 September, 5 October, 2 December 1964)
  5. Recent developments (Offley Works website - http://offleyworks.com/)


Also see


We would like to hear from anyone who has ever worked in Offley Works or knows something about the site/previous occupiers. Offley Works has played an important part in local history and we would like to celebrate that in full.  If you have anything to share please e-mail mj.keane@ovalpartnership.org.uk