Friday, 5 March 2010

Royal London Building, Old Kent Road

Staying on the Old Kent Road for another day, let's take a look at the Royal London Buildings. Despite the grand name, it's easy to miss: today the occupiers are E Coombes, bookmakers. However, above the ground floor original details proclaim the original identity.

The name of the building is carved into the facade, but what does it refer to? The clue is on the windvane, which bears the initials RLFS; there's also a monogram with the same initials above the front door. These stand for the Royal London Friendly Society.

The Society had been founded, like all the best financial institutions, in a London coffee shop. Henry Ridge and Joseph Degge established it in 1861; Charles Dickens Jr's Dictionary of London (1879) lists the society's full title as the Royal London Friendly Society for Granting Policies of Insurance to the Working Classes. (I wonder why they didn't carve the whole of that snappy title on the building?) Subscription was by weekly payment, and money was payable on the death of a member, their wife or children.

The friendly society became a mutual in 1908. They may no longer occupy their former premises in the Old Kent Road, but Royal London continues to provide life insurance today. In fact, it's one of the largest such companies in the country - and remains a mutual.


Hels said...

The Royal London Friendly Society for Granting Policies of Insurance to the Working Classes must have been doing quite well, financially. That looks like a rather substantial building that they had built for themselves.

Edwina Dorset said...

My Great Grandfather David Owen, was a Superintendant of Agents for the Royal London Friendly Society from 1871 until his death in 1899.I have tracked his work over Lancashire, Staffordshire and London. It is wonderful to see the building in the Old Kent Road where his work for the Society all began.

CarolineLD said...

I'm glad you like it - this is one of my favourite buildings on the Old Kent Road - and well done with the research, which sounds really interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to find out about the history of this building as my great great grandfather,Charles Buckland, use to run a family laundry business from here around the 1880's. By the 1890's he had moved out.
Edwina - do you know if your great grandfather worked from here in the 1870's and whether the building looked like this then?

Anonymous said...

I lived here from Jan 1988 to Dec 1992. That's the bay window of my flat pictured (No 3). It has a fine albeit distant view of Big Ben and Tower Bridge. I heard that the flats were for the use of salesmen for the RLFS. There were no bathrooms and the loos were at the back of the courtyard. I really enjoyed my time here, the flat was full of space and character and quite unusual for South London.