Sutton & Co (Carriers) Original Building

Sutton & Co (Carriers)
War Memorial


William Richard Sutton was born in Cheapside, London but the exact date and the identity of his parents are unknown. In 1861 he founded Sutton & Co (Carriers). Whether he started in Golden Lane EC1 is not known but certainly, the company had prestigious offices there.

He was an astute businessman and soon realised that Royal Mail, although delivering letters, did not deliver parcels. Instead, the sender had to arrange delivery to a railway station, freight the parcel to a station near the destination , and then make separate arrangements for delivery to the final destination. Sutton felt that his company could take care of all those stages. The railway companies did not want their monopoly broken, but after several years and court cases, the House of Lords allowed him to proceed and so began the country’s first door-to-door parcel delivery service. When he died on 20th May 1900 there were 600 branches. The business was nationalised in the 1950s, becoming part of British Road Services.

As he did not marry or have children, he bequeathed almost all his wealth, some £1.5 million (approximately £197 million today), into philanthropic trusts for housing for the poor, what we now know as social housing. His family disputed the will, as did some large landlords who were worried that cheap housing would result in lower rents. They failed and The Sutton Model Dwellings Trust was formed. Starting in Bethnal Green, they built housing for the poor across England. The Trust is now known as Clarion Housing Group.

You may ask what this has to do with the reference to a war memorial mentioned in a book about alms houses in Barnet. The book, “Barnet and Hadley Almshouses” by WH Gelder (1979), mentions “A Memorial to the Fallen of the 1939-45 War” located at Thomas Watson Cottage Homes in Leecroft Road. There are two connections: the memorial was last seen at Sutton & Co’s premises in Golden Lane and Thomas Watson himself.

Sutton & Co (Carriers) War Memorial 1

Depending on where you look, Watson was either the proprietor or manager of Sutton & Co, the association lasting some 50 years. He died in 1910. Four years later, his daughters, Annie and Florence, built a small, gated enclave on land that the family owned in Leecroft Road, Barnet for the benefit of those employed in the road haulage industry, specifically Sutton & Co. Recently part of the land was sold to enable the building of two further properties.

What is not explained is how the memorial ended up at Leecroft Road if the estate was started in 1914 and the plaque was still in Golden Lane in 1965, some 55 years after Watson died. The daughters are no longer alive, the Trustees of the Cottage Homes do not know and there appears to be no-one else to ask. We should be thankful that the memorial has been saved.

There are 29 names inscribed but I cannot trace any connection with the Borough of Barnet. Nor can I find any reference to a memorial for those who fell in the Great War (1914-18). One can only assume there was one but that it might have been destroyed when the Golden Lane premises were demolished.

Sutton & Co (Carriers) War Memorial 2

Despite there being no Barnet connection, as the plaque is within the Borough, it has been added to our list of Barnet War Memorials.




All images courtesy of Gerald Alterman and are Copyright of the BWMA.