“the way in which a determined individual could make his way”

From: Guides to Local History Sources (Wandsworth Historical Society) No. 2: Building and Architectural (1985), by Keith Bailey:

“This guide is concerned not with a single source, but with a wide variety, to be found in an equally varied selection of record depositories. The subject matter can include anything from the hlstory of a well-known public building and its architect to the date and builder of your own house. The fact that the population of the Wandsworth area grew by more than 300,000 between 1800 and 1914, and that there were more than 100,000 dwellings of all sorts, gives some idea of the magnitude of the area of research encompassed by these sources. In all, there were something like three hundred separate building estates in the present area of the London Borough,of Wandsworth between c.1820 and 1839, each of which has its own fascinating story and includes the products of thousands of builders and tradesmen. This is apart from a large number of public buildings such as churches, libraries, railway stations, baths, halls and schools…

…There remain a few types of non-printed record outside the categories already described. The most unfortunate gap in the sources for building history is the almost complete absence of records of individual firms, builders and architects. Although there were literally thousands of these operating in the Wandsworth area in the period after 1820, few have left any first hand accounts, either literary or financial.

Pride of place must go to the autobiography of the Victorian architect William Willmer Pocock. This was written around the turn of the century for the edification of his family, as an example of the way in which a determined individual could make his way in a burgeoning economy and society. Pocock’s autobiography is available in the RIBA Library, and contains many fascinating insights into building activity in this area. For example, there is a detailed account of the working and economics of his brickfield off Falcon Road, Battersea, over a thirty-year span. The account of his work as an architect-developer is supplemented by accounts of his family, politics and religion, all-in-all a unique source.

Apart from this, and from chance survivals of correspondence and bills amongst the corpus of house deeds, it is only the memories of the children and grand-children of Victorian and Edwardian builders which help the historian to recapture an essentially lost world and there has, as yet, been no systematic attempt to record such memories in this area. It is to be hoped that this lacuna will soon be filled…”

From Wikipedia:

William Willmer Pocock (8 May 1813 – 18 September 1899) was a British architect.

He was born in Knightsbridge in Middlesex, the son of the architect William Fuller Pocock (1779–1849) and his wife Fanny née Willmer. In 1865 he stood unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate in the 1865 General Election in Guildford in Surrey and unsuccessfully again as the Liberal candidate against Conservative Richard Garth in the 1866 by-election in again Guildford. In 1883 Pocock was the Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters.

On 6 November 1840 he married builder’s daughter Sophia Archbutt (1815–1889) at St Luke’s church in Chelsea in London. Their children were: William Archbutt Pocock (1842–1901); Sophia Elizabeth Pocock (1844–); Alfred Willmer Pocock (1847–1906); Alice Mary Pocock (1851–1934); Lucy Maude Pocock (1852–); Maurice Henry Pocock (1854–1921), and Emma Clare Pocock(1856–1866).

His great-grandson was the author H. R. S. Pocock. Pocock published a book of poetry, Farmyard Comedian and other Poems, as well as The Conquest of Chile and The Memoirs of Lord Coutanche about the wartime Bailiff of Jersey. He also left to the island detailed research on its Martello towers. A keen amateur astronomer, his interests brought him the acquaintance of Sir Patrick Moore. He was also a talented composer, and left behind the full piano score to a musical of one of Oscar Wilde’s plays, Lady Windermere’s Fan, much in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan.

In 1877 the architect Joseph Lancaster Ball was articled to Pocock.

W W Pocock died at his home in Tunbridge Wells in 1899. There is a stained glass window memorial dedicated to Pocock at Wesley’s Chapel on the City Road in London.”

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