The Grayson Family
During the first half of the 20th century, Alfred Grayson's boot and shoe shop stood at 102 Mortlake High Street, in front of St Mary's Church. Previously it had been the parish's watch house, built by the Vestry in the late 17th century, in which the watchmen and the constable could detain drunk or disorderly individuals.
In 1839 the watch house was cleaned up and became the police station. It remained standing long after it was abandoned by the local police and in 1896, it was taken over by Alfred for his business. His shop was small and cramped. At the back of the shop there were two brick-lined chambers which had been the cells. The door was covered with iron plate, and the old bolts and padlocks were still attached.
But it was not just the house which had a history – so did the Grayson family. The 1838 survey carried out for the tithe commutation process showed that William Grayson (the shopkeeper's grandfather) was by far the largest occupier of land in Mortlake with 151 acres. William Grayson was renowned for his asparagus; it was reported in May 1833 that Mr Grayson "waited on his majesty at Windsor, to whom he presented a superb and perfect unique bundle of this delicious vegetable."
In 1847 William Grayson refused to contribute to the repairs of the open sewer called Black Ditch. A year later on a dark night Grayson accidently fell into the Black Ditch and was drowned. Large numbers attended his funeral. He was placed in one of his own wagons with the black pall stretched across the top and drawn by his own horses which had large black feathers on their heads. He was buried in Mortlake churchyard.
By 1868 William's sons had progressed from growing fruit and vegetables to the retail side: Alfred Grayson and George Grayson each had greengrocers' shops in Mortlake High Street; William Grayson another in Queen's Road, East Sheen.
It was Alfred's son, also Alfred, who took over watchhouse in 1896 and started up his boot and shoe business. The business survived the second world war but all the buildings which stood in front of St Mary's, including his shop, were demolished in the 1960s.