During the Second World War, Wates Ltd built aerodromes, army camps, factories and most notably, developed a speciality in constructing pre-cast and in situ reinforced concrete barges and floating docks.
The company supplied major parts of the code named "Mulberry" Harbours which supported D Day invasions, assisting the supply of goods and military equipment for the invasion.
Two harbours were established, Mulberry A, to support the beaches on which US troops landed and Mulberry B at Arromanches, in the British invasion area. Mulberry A was largely destroyed in a powerful storm on the 19th to the 20th of June 1944.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote a memorandum headed, ‘Piers for Use On Beaches’, to Lord Mountbatten, the Chief of Combined Operations, on the 30th of May 1942, “They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves.” With this order a team of engineers were called upon to work out ways in which this could be achieved.
Between 1943 and June 1944 Wates Ltd. became one of a number of companies which set about putting the idea of an artificial harbour into reality. Wates Ltd. carried out their work on the Mulberry components at yards and docks across the country including at Goat Road in Mitcham and the West India Docks.
Wates in Streatham
Wates built a number of properties in the Streatham area.
In one estate Wates advertised their more expensive houses as “the finest homes in the finest suburb” and pointed out that Streatham was “London's most favoured, healthy and convenient suburb”.
Wates also built a number of properties on the Woodfield Estate centred on Abbotswood Road in Streatham.
After the War, the company used this knowledge of pre-cast concrete to develop high-rise and low-rise industrialised housing systems and built over 60,000 houses and flats using these techniques. Property development was also added to the core housing, contracting and plant businesses.
The Wates family of Streatham:
E A Wates was formed in 1900 by brothers Edward and Arthur Wates- There is still one shop trading today in Mitcham Lane, Streatham.
In 1897 Edward Wates and his three brothers set up the first Wates Company.
During the 1920s and 1930s Edward's sons, Norman, Sir Ronald and Allan, expanded the Company by speculative house building and then extending their activities into general contracting. They built thousands of houses in the area
Builder born in Ipswich and his wife, Sara from Essex, lived at 87 Mitcham Lane and in 1911 are also recorded at 39 Thrale Road
*Sir Ronald Wallace Wates (1907–1986), builder and benefactor born in Streatham
*Norman Edward (b 1905 Streatham),.
*Allan Charles (b 1909 Streatham).
In 1939 Sir Ronald Wates lived with his wife Phyllis in one of the mansions in Garrad's Road, Streatham at "Chenies"
Arthur, born in Dulwich, is recorded as living at 1 Brookview Road, Streatham in 1911 with his wife Edith.
(extracts of this article are from Emmanuel School - Allan Charles Wates (Emanuel 1919-1927) Norman Edward Wates (Emanuel 1917-1921) and Sir Ronald Wallace Wates (Emanuel 1917-1923.
The wartime images are © Wates Ltd