Industrial Islington

Exhibition Panel 4 - Marvellous Marble

Diespeker Wharf

Lorries queue in Graham Street outside the marble factory

Above: Graham Street, 1931

Diespeker’s terrazzo and mosaic factory was built beside City Road Lock in 1908.

Tony Byfield drove canal tractors in the 1950/60s and delivered: ‘hundredweight sacks of marble chips, size of sandbags, with Diespeker on them. Four porters would be hired from the Port of London and work all day unloading. One stood in the barge, throwing the bags onto a plank across the boat, and the other porters picked them up and took them into Diespeker. They’d mix it with cement, I don’t know what it was, and turn it into sheets of speckled marble, very nice and at the time, very modern.’

Hazel White remembered: ‘Diespeker was good to Johnny Daniels (City Road lock keeper). When he died, they bought the houses but didn’t push Mrs Daniels out because they knew them well.’

Below: Blackpool Winter Gardens, 1931, tiles by Diespeker

Colourful patterned marble floor in Blackpool, in ornate building

Factory making terrazzo tiles indoors, men at work

Above: Making terrazzo floors, 1931

The terrazzo and mosaic factory employed two hundred and fifty craftsmen. Celeste Chapman said: ‘all the Italians worked at Diespeker’s, most of them come from up north. During the war, the workers were interned.’ The Italian community in Islington still mourns the loss of many relatives killed when the ship, Arandora Star, deporting them for internment in Canada was sunk by the Germans.

Anselm, Odling and Sons marble merchants stood next to the Gainsborough Studios from 1900 to1951. Ted Harrison remembers it being delivered: ‘sometimes a slab would slip in the canal. The crane driver and the two slingers got into trouble for that because it meant they hadn’t put the sling on right. So they gave us thruppence out of their own pocket to take the sling down to put round the marble again, and we dived underneath. ‘Right ho Governor’ and if he got it out all right, it was thruppence. They had a machine with a wire running all round the wall with water playing on it. That’s how they cut the marble.’

Black and white advert for Diespeker

New North Road

Factory, brick built, tall, behind canalside crane

Above: Anselm Odling & Sons, by New North Road, 1967

John Wright lived nearby: ‘cutting the marble made a terrible noise. There was dust everywhere. The men put a sponge over their ears held in place with a cloth tied round, as if they had the mumps.’

Below: Marble delivered by new North Road, 1935

Canal barges lined up alongside a factory

Anselm advert marble and granite