Golf Club Manufacture


Between the mid-19th and the mid-20th century there were many small workshops in Mortlake manufacturing a fascinating variety of goods. Little remains of these factories although their footprints can often be found.

Where Grosvenor Avenue makes a right-angle bend, there was once a workshop for Cann and Taylor Ltd, makers of high-quality golf clubs. There is now a group of modern houses on the site, but it is clear where the workshop stood, sharing its back wall with that of Old Mortlake Burial Ground.

In 1894 two golfers, George Henry Cann and John Henry Taylor teamed up to manufacture golf clubs. Both men had been born in Devon in 1871 and took up golf at an early age but then followed separate careers – Taylor as a professional golfer and Cann who made golf clubs. In 1897 Cann moved to New Jersey to develop their golf club manufacturing business in the United States where the game was becoming very popular. George Cann and his wife Flora had two children, both born in America. Cann returned to London in 1908 and moved to 35 Grosvenor Avenue, next door to the workshop at number 37. The workshop was originally a single storey brick-built structure with a drying shed when it was first purchased, and this was much extended over the next five years in order to house specialist machines and to employ more staff as the company expanded.

John Henry Taylor was the leading British golfer for two decades from 1894, the year he first won the Open. He moved to the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club in Richmond's Old Deer Park in 1899 where he became the Club's first professional player. Taylor, together with James Braid and Harry Vardon, were known as the Great Triumvirate of golfers who dominated the game at the turn of the century. These players formed the London and Counties Golf Professionals' Association in 1901 which became the Professional Golfers' Association, the original PGA, later that year. Taylor is regarded as a pioneer of the modern game. He was also renowned for designing courses throughout the UK and this included an 18-hole course at the Royal Mid-Surrey which was named after him.

Taylor and his wife Clara had nine children. He lived in Old Deer Park Lodge and remained at the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club until his retirement in 1946. Taylor then returned to Devon where he died in 1963 aged 91. Cann remained living in East Sheen until his death, also in 1963.

The workshop in Grosvenor Avenue continued to produce golf clubs until 1939. Antique Cann and Taylor golf clubs are now highly prized and can fetch good prices at auction. The 1920s metal advertising sign for Cann and Taylor Ltd, above, depicts JH Taylor in action and lists his championship successes.