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James Wagland: from Merton to Summerstown (1860s to 1880s)

Sometime between 1855 and 1860 Joseph Leves and James Wagland formed a partnership (Leves & Wagland) and took over the lease of the Garratt Print Works in Summerstown (see page 18). Anthony Heath had held the lease from 1835 until his death in 1851 but was still listed in the Post Office Home Counties directory for 1855; possibly his son, Daniel Heath, who had been the Print Works Manager in 1851, had continued to run the business under his father’s name. The 1860 Post Office London Suburban directory lists Leves & Wagland at the Garratt Print Works.

Joseph Leves was about ten years’ younger than his partner. He was born in Aveley, Essex in 1818. By the time of the 1841 Census he was living in Merton with his elder brother, William, and his younger sister, Sarah. His brother’s trade was listed as block cutter and his as silk printer. In 1844 Joseph Leves married Amelia Broad at St. Saviour’s Church, Southwark (designated in 1905 as Southwark Cathedral). They had six children between 1845 and 1862. Presumably Joseph had met James Wagland while working at the same mill in Merton.

A key question which will probably always remain unanswered is how the partners raised the finance to acquire the Garratt Print Works lease and equipment. At the time that the partnership was formed, James was about 37-42 years’ old and had a wife and seven children to support, though the eldest ones were employed; Joseph was about 27-32 years’ old and had a wife and four young children to support.

By an Act of Parliament in 1861 changes were made to the Board of Trade. It became responsible for new legislation on such matters as patents, designs and trademarks, company regulation, labour and factory matters, control of merchant shipping, mines, agriculture, transport, etc. Accordingly, Leves & Wagland registered some 155 designs with the Board of Trade between 1862 and 1864; they can be viewed at the National Archives in Kew.

By 1867 James Kayess had joined the partnership. He was the son of James and Elizabeth (née Tucker) and had been baptised in Lambeth in 1822. He was therefore a few years junior to Joseph Leves and some fourteen years younger than James Wagland. By 1841 he and his parents had moved to West Ham Abbey Print Works which Elizabeth’s brother John then owned. By 1851, James had become the manager of the Print Works and then owner in 1853 on John’s death. He first married Laura Jewitt in 1854 by whom he had two daughters. Laura died in 1860 about the time that her second child was born. In 1862 James married Elizabeth Seldon by whom he had two sons.

It is possible that James Kayess had met James Wagland when the latter had worked at West Ham around 1831/32 (however Kayess would only have been 9 or 10 years’ old) or, more likely, had got to know him later through Edmund Littler who had been in partnership with John Tucker’s brother-in-law, John Baker, until he moved to Merton in 1832.

From the 1871 and 1881 Census records we know that James Wagland and Joseph Leves lived next door to each other on the same road as the Garratt Print Works; at the time it was known as Factory Road but is now named Riverside Road. James Kayess lived in Streatham, about four miles (6.5 km) away. 

In 1871 James Wagland was recorded as the senior partner and the print works employed 100 men, 8 women, 50 boys and 32 girls – almost 20% of the Summerstown population. In comparison James Kayess had employed between 300 and 400 at West Ham in 1861.

Map of Summerstown in 1862

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's “Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales” noted that Summerstown had 186 houses and a population of 920. As shown on the 1871-1882 OS map, Summerstown was a distinct village consisting of the houses along the main street, St. Mary’s Church, the National School for Boys & Girls, and The Plough public house.

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