Hands up anybody who knows where to find the plaque that commemorates the spot in Vauxhall where Vauxhall Motors started?
Lifelong Vauxhall car-owner Peter Fitchett didn’t know and, planning to see the plaque on a visit to Vauxhall, the Cheltenham-based fan contacted The Vauxhall Society/Vauxhall History. Today’s plaque, installed in September 2016, is so hard to see that people walk past without noticing it.
The plaque is at the entrance to Sainsbury’s Nine Elms supermarket on Wandsworth Road, near the junction with Wyvil Road, not the other entrance facing Wilcox Road. Even people who work at the supermarket say they don’t know where the plaque is.
It’s set into the wall to the right of the doorway, but is easy to miss because it’s positioned about 5ft 6 ins (1.7m) high. It’s also in a dull cast iron and so a lot less noticeable than its 2003 predecessor on the site.
Vauxhall Motors installed the 2003 plaque at Sainsbury’s previous store to mark the centenary of the first sale of a Vauxhall car manufactured on the site (then 90 and 92 Wandsworth Road’).
That plaque was placed at head-height, 5ft x 6ins or so, and was so mirror-like that at the unveiling ceremony Kevin Wale, MD of Vauxhall Motors, could pose for the camera admiring his reflection.
Both plaques carry VM’s Griffin (half-lion,
VM says the 2003 plaque is now in the carmaker’s Luton ‘Heritage Centre’, too ‘worn and tired looking’ to re-erect on its original site. ‘The directors here at Vauxhall Motors wanted something that would last much better and look more professional,’ VM says, adding ‘We decided to do a cast one so that it would be there for many years to come.’
The Sainsbury’s store is part of the Nine Elms Point property development (‘prices start from £525,000 for a studio’). The developer, Barratt London, paid for the replacement Vauxhall plaque, installed in September 2016.
Since then, however, Vauxhall Motors has changed hands. VM is part of General Motors’ European division which in 2017 was bought by Groupe PSA, the French owner of Peugeot and other brands.
General Motors contributed to the cost of Vauxhall Park lavender garden, which is shaped to spell out ‘GM’. With ‘Groupe PSA’ as owners of VM, will this mean a replant? Maybe that’s one to discuss in The Griffin, the newly-refurbished pub in Wyvil Road, between park and plaque.