Who lived in a house like this?
This painting of Chiswick Square hung in the main
Damson Lane Offices in Hull
One member of a well-known Chiswick family who was born in this house is still able, after 55 years in Australia, to remember the smell of the polishes which were part of his childhood.
Ron Penn, whose father worked in the cardboard box department, was born in 1927 at 4 Chiswick Square and himself worked briefly in the Chiswick laboratories before joining the Royal Navy in 1944 and then emigrating to Australia in 1947.
Ron wrote: "My father started at the Chiswick Polish Company as a machine minder in 1914 at the age of 17. He joined the army in 1915 and served in France and Belgium until he was taken prisoner of war in March 1918. After the war he returned to the company until he retired in 1959 after collapsing at work a year or so earlier. Until he collapsed, he had not taken a single day sick leave or had been late for work in all the years at Chiswick.
In about 1926, Dan and Charles Mason gave Ron's father the opportunity to rent one of the "Houses" attached to Boston House, the 17th century manor house that they purchased as a recreation area for their female staff. Apart from Chiswick people that historic house was also well-known to Reckitt people in Hull as it was one of the paintings (reproduced above) which hung in the famous Social Corridor, known as the Chicken Run, which ran through the main Dansom Lane offices to the canteen and other facilities. Ron was born in that house (no 4 Chiswick Square) and the family later lived in another company owned house that backed onto the Burlington Lane factory where the various polishes were made and packed.
When the Chertsey Road factory was built in 1930 the cardboard box department was transferred to the new factory and the Penn family went to live in Twickenham.
"After leaving school in 1943 I joined the company as a Laboratory Assistant in the laboratory at the main factory, but worked in the cardboard box department on Saturday mornings to gain some extra cash. My father and I were also members of the company's Auxiliary Fire Service based at the Chertsey Road factory and Dad and I spent at least one night and one Saturday or Sunday a week on duty at the factory,"said Ron.
The Works Cricket Team pictured in December 1919
has Mark Penn seated on the ground, front right.
"In 1944, I joined the Royal Navy and eventually was shore based in Sydney, Australia for nine months, during which time I met the girl who is now my wife. I returned to the UK for about nine months before emigrating back to Sydney where I have been for the past 55 years. I was able to get a job at the University of Sydney in the Department of Veterinary Physiology as a lab assistant and I retired in 1987 as the manager of the same Department".
I have visited Chiswick Products a number of times during various study tours connected with my job, but was greatly saddened when I made a retirement visit to the UK in 1988 and found that both the Burlington Lane and Chertsey Road factories had been completely demolished.
Like many other R & C family links there is more than one branch of the family involved. Ron's uncle Charlie Penn also worked for the company for over 30 years and also lived in a house on the Staveley Gardens estate, the road leading to the Chertsey Road Factory.
© 2003 Ron Penn, John M Davis, Reckitt & Colman Pensioners Association
at Cherry Blossom / Chiswick Products