The Falla Family

Charles Hailstone wrote in 1990:

The name of Falla was well known and respected in Mortlake. The family ran a shop at 34 Mortlake High Street and also a decorating business. Myler Falla, a cooper at Mortlake brewery, took over a business in 1855 at the age of forty-seven. I have in my collection the Fallas' early account books. The stock list includes housemaids' boxes, pattens and clogs, beetle traps, clothes horses, butter churns and scales, tammy and flannel, brushes and brooms, mats, pails, tubs, rope, twine, tarred string, punnets, hampers, baskets and coopering requisites. There were gardening things and all manner of domestic brewing necessaries such as mashing tubs and bungs. For below stairs there was black lead, emery cloth, hearthstone, bath brick, pipe clay, knife powder and the bottles of boot blacking.

The royal family, the nobility and the upper classes were regular patrons of the Falla business, not so much directly as through their servants, cooks and butlers. The accounts provide a wonderful view of life in and around Mortlake. Mr. White the Mortlake stationmaster, Mr. Shearman the East Sheen tailor, reverend gentlemen, the gentry, publicans and the townspeople all came to Myler Falla's establishment. Myler supplied the Mortlake brewers, Phillips & Wigan, cobbling and hooping their barrels and supplying headings and staves. In his coopery at the back he made tubs, firkins, piggins and rainwater butts. Myler was also involved in public service: he was an enumerator for the 1871 census which involved much tramping the lanes and alleyways of Mortlake outside working hours. He died aged seventy-three in 1881, and his wife Martha Falla took over the business. The business then passed to George Falla, who was Mortlake's parish clerk for nearly 40 years, and in 1921 to Arthur Falla.

I remember childhood errands to Arthur Falla's shop. There was a step up from the pavement and a bell tinkled on opening the door. Inside the light was subdued by the shadow of the brewery and there was a general aroma of paraffin, linseed oil, rope, putty, creosote and turpentine. Stock was stacked in all available space and hung from the ceiling. There were buckets, axes, garden tools, bundles of firewood, sacks and bins of this and that and hardware and ironmongery of every description, with little room for the customers. Mr. Falla stood behind a wooden counter black with iron filings, oil stained and well pitted from years of use as a workbench, with a brass yardstick let into the edge. An old clock on the wall behind the counter was flanked all round by little drawers and cabinets holding nails, screws, pot menders and all sorts. Arthur Falla, well-known in bowling circles, retired in 1956 to Worthing where he passed away in April 1962.

Jack Falla, the third of three brothers, a decorator of 19 Alder Road, Mortlake, followed his father as parish clerk of Mortlake in 1927. On leaving the old National School in Mullins Path, Mortlake, he started with Christopher Dresser, of Elm Bank House in Barnes, as a wallpaper designer.

In January 1915 Jack repeatedly ascended the tower of Mortlake church after a stranded cat. Then a chicken run was hauled to the top and puss was safely brought down.

In a fine summer before the war, Jack spent many an evening painting the cupola on the church tower white. In church Jack wore a long black cloak with velvet facings and his fine tenor voice led the congregational singing from the back pew near the font. In the procession from the vestry up the nave to the chancel and back after service he walked in front of the vicar, bearing the beadle's staff.

Jack Falla's end was sudden. In the late evening of Friday 16 April 1937 when cycling over the Sheen Lane crossroads at the then new traffic lights, there was a collision with a motor-car and he passed away instantly aged fifty-seven.