"Trading Enterprise" – Half a Century of Building
Work of Mr. Kemp's firm
Building standards foremost of all industrial arts in the development of a place, people or country, and it plays an especially important part in the growth or decline of prosperity. A great political economist has laid it down as an incontrovertible truth that the builder who lays good bricks in well–tempered mortar, and erects serviceable buildings at the time they are most needed, is contributing one of the most useful and permanent services to his country. It is easily seen by those who pretend to no knowledge of the laws of political economy that the possession of good buildings and well-built houses contribute to the wealth of a community and to its health. For these reasons, if for not other, there is something in the history of any phases of building developments that claim for them general attention. They affect all classes of the community, the capitalist, workers of every grade, from the designer to the labourer, and through them merchants and traders. All depend to an enormous extent on building operations for their well–being and prosperity. The work of the builder, therefore, is a factor of considerable importance in the corporate life of the nation and of the municipality, and those who can claim possession of wealth in buildings own what must be accounted of highest value. Energy and enterprise in building mean also, not only the possession but the distribution of wealth, for the sustenance of life and health. But to be wholly useful and rightly available the energy and enterprise must be directed to good and sound work. It will be interesting to see how far, in our midst, this has been done.
Most of the best and most substantial buildings, apart from the Government property, in Aldershot, are associated with the name of Mr. G. Kemp, who before he was twenty years of age succeeded his father in the business he established just fifty years ago in Aldershot.
One has only to review briefly the work done during a half century by the late Mr. Kemp and his son to realise that the traditions of sound, honest work have been faithfully honoured. There is plenty of jerry building in Aldershot and the neighbourhood, but none of it is associated with Mr. G. Kemp, who, on the contrary, can claim credit not only for some of the best and most enduring work in Aldershot, but also for a considerable amount of notable work at Reading, Windsor, Camberley, Guildford, Whitley, Cranleigh, Blackwater, Haslemere, Virginia Water, Tilford, Woking, Ewshott, and, of course, Farnborough and Ash.
The Wesleyan Church at Grosvenor Road was built by Mr. George Kemp's father, and much work in connection with it, including the Soldiers Home, has been done by Mr. G. Kemp. Indeed almost all the Wesleyan chapels for a large distance round have been built by him, as well as institutes at Ewshott, Blackdown, North Camp, and all military stations besides Badshot County Council. If one were to enumerate all the important work that has been done by the firm even within the last twenty five years, during which Mr. Kemp has directed his affairs, more space than could be given would be necessary, but it may be mentioned that amongst this work is the new Post Office, Aldershot Hospital, the Parish Hall, Masonic Hall, Officers quarters, etc. at Ewshott Camp, the big range of buildings in the High Street, where Messers. T. White and Co. carry on an important part of their business, the Electric Light Station and chimney shaft, Mytchett House, most of the large houses in Church Lane and Cargate, the additions to the –
– Capital and Counties Bank, while amongst new work for which contract have been accepted include the Hippodrome, for Mr. Snounes.
Although in building much depends on the work of the architect, which in design and character varies so greatly, the work of the builder has a distinct character, which is impressed upon it, and adds to or detracts from its beauty, completeness, and usefulness. For those who look for interest and some understanding on these tings, the character of Mr. Kemp's work is easily seen. It has strength and the grace that comes of honest workmanship done under right conditions. Someone looking at a house which owed much of its design as well as its construction to Mr. Kemp, said: "It is beautiful, and it also shows good feeling", and so it did, in the sense that the use of the best material, rightly employed, showed a fine appreciation of the value of good work and of pleasure in doing it as completely and accurately as possible. Another circumstance that contributes to the distinctive character of Mr. Kemp's work is that he makes his own bricks, every bit of joinery used is made by his own workmen, and every department of the work is under his own personal supervision and control.
Mr. Kemp's work at Haslemere and elsewhere outside Aldershot has brought him in touch with some of the best architects of the day, and he has been quick to learn from them, but the foundation of his success is to be sought in his early training and in his own character. He has an instinctive dislike and scorn for pretentiousness. He believes in carrying out business on strictly business line, not seeking to advance it by social moans or any other than those which can safely be employed without loss of business dignity or integrity. Some of the men he employs worked with his father before him, and have been in the firm's service for upwards of thirty years. Of them he says with pride: "They are some of the best we have got: they would have not been with us now had they not been". Concerning the general outlook in building, Mr. Kemp had nothing very helpful to predict of the present year although he supposed that as the cycle came round again there would be the natural revival. So far as Aldershot was concerned, things had been very bad, although his business had not been affected to the extent that some had been, it was a fact that he had actually one third the number of men employed to what he had a few years ago. For every bit of work going there were so many wanting it that prices were cut to the lowest degree, and this, despite a rise in timber, metals, and, in fact, all building materials. On the Continent and in America timber was so much in demand that customers found the brokers very independent – and high prices ruled.
Apart from his business, Mr. Kemp has many interests and associations with the town in which he was born and has spent most of his life. He is one of the trustees of the Aldershot Institute, a member of the Aldershot Hospital Committee, a director of the Aldershot Athletic Club, a member of the Carnival Committee. He was at one time a keen cricketer, but of late year's business claims have interfered with his interest in sport. He is not a Freemason, but has the distinction of being a Freeman of the City of London, being a member of one of the oldest of the city guilds, the Barber Surgeons Company.
Capital and Counties Bank, now Lloyds Bank having been absorbed into Lloyds in 1918. It was Lloyds biggest takeover at that time. See Lloyds Bank History.
The building is at 117 Victoria Road on the corner with Gordon Road. Google Street view [top]