Copyright © 1999 - 2010 Ronald M Penn
Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish
Dan & Charles Mason, pioneers of the shoe polish industry in Chiswick
The Penn's of Chiswick Products 1
THE PENN'S OF CHISWICK PRODUCTS Ltd Page 1 of 5
Mark George Penn was born at Strand on the Green, Chiswick, London, on 5th January, 1897, the son of Harry and Martha Emily Penn. Living on the banks of the River Thames, meant that much of Mark's childhood involved the river and also in grooming horses and cleaning harness in nearby stables. He was one of five children, four sons and one daughter. His eldest brother was killed in an accident in Canada after emigrating to that country, and the next eldest was killed in action in Belgium in 1917 while serving as a sniper with the army. At the age of fourteen years, Mark commenced work as a machine minder at the Chiswick Polish Company, manufacturers of the famous Cherry Blossom Boot Polish.
Very soon after the commencement of World War I in August 1914, Mark added a few months to his age and enlisted in the Seventh (City of London) Battalion of The London Regiment. This battalion was nicknamed "The Shiny Seventh" because of the high shine they maintained on the "bombshell" hat badges and shoulder badges worn by members of the battalion.
Mark's eventual capture as a prisoner of war on 24th March 1918, may virtually have been a "lifesaver" for him. He had served a period of almost exactly three years in France and Belgium, much of it in the mud of the front line, had been involved in some of the bloodiest battles of World War One, had been gassed and wounded on one or more occasions, and suffered almost continually from a severe respiratory problem and from the agonies of Trench Feet. It is therefore open to speculation as to whether he would have survived the final eight months of the war as a soldier of the line. As it was, not only was Mark's health much better as a prisoner of war, but he also learned a number of useful skills during his period in the hands of the enemy. Apart from learning to cook, he became very skilled in knitting, crocheting, and embroidery, all of which he used to good effect in later life. However, it is quite likely that Mark would have given up all this to have remained with his mates fighting in the front line until the enemy was finally defeated. Although he seldom spoke about his role in World War One, he obviously was very proud to have fought as a member of the Seventh (City of London) Battalion of The London Regiment in the Territorial Army..
After his demobilisation from the army in December 1918, Mark married Vera Manchester on 2nd February 1919. Because of the great post war housing shortage, the young married couple accepted an invitation from Mark's father and mother to live with them at their home at Battersea, a suburb of inner London
Immediately after his demobilisation leave was completed, Mark resumed his employment in the Cardboard Box Department at the Chiswick Polish Company. He quickly became a valued employee and was highly thought of by the owners of the company (Charles and Dan Mason). In 1921, Mark and Vera were delighted to receive an invitation from the Mason brothers to live at No. 4 Chiswick Square which, together with
an old mansion house called Boston House, was part of a property that the brothers had purchased opposite their factory in Burlington Lane, Chiswick. The new home was almost like heaven after the crowded accommodation that Mark, Vera and their small daughter Florence (later known as Penny) had ocupied in Battersea. Details of Chiswick Square, its surroundings and life at No. 4, are given in the "Memoirs of Penny Macdonald/Chilvers nee Florence Vera May Penn"..
Chiswick Square in 1930 (No. 4 on left)
Up to 1928, the Cardboard Box department was located in the main Burlington Lane /Hogarth Lane factory area, but following the formation of a new company, Chiswick Products Ltd., from the amalgamation of the Chiswick Polish Company with their main competitor in the shoe and floor polish trade in Britain, The Nugget Polish Company. The Cardboard Box and Tinplate Printing departments were relocated in a new factory known as the Chertsey Road factory and that was built on a large area of land on the banks of the River Thames near Barnes Railway Bridge about a mile away from the main factory.
The Mason brothers had purchased this area of land in 1923 for future development of the company and in 1925 portion of it had been laid out as a recreation and sports ground and a sports pavilion had been erected on it. This was in keeping with Charles and Dan Mason's intention to provide every possible facility for their employees. In addition to the space taken up by the various sporting facilities e.g. cricket, hockey, football, netball, tennis, lawn bowls, etc., there was still plenty of room to build a number of houses in what was known as the Staveley Gardens Estate, which the company rented out to members of staff and their families, Mark's younger brother Charles, who also worked in the Cardboard Box Department, occupied one of the houses in the estate with his family for many years.
The Burlington Lane factory in 1930
The following extract from "PENNing a History" by Ronald M Penn OAM JP