Williams & Sowerby, silk mercers


Street View: 34
Address: 61-62 Oxford Street

Messrs Williams and Sowerby already had a large shop when Tallis came round (±1839), but they were to make it even grander in later years. This will be a blog post with lots of illustrations and not so much text, because this post is more about the building than about the history of the people who occupied it. It had all started in 1828 when silk mercer John William established his Commerce House at 61, Oxford Street. Joseph Sowerby was taken on as the junior partner and the gentlemen set out to make their shop the best place in town to obtain “silk mercery, haberdashery, hosiery, gloves, ribbons, laces and general drapery”. This listing of their wares appeared in an advertisement in The Caledonian Mercury of 21 April, 1838, in which Williams and Sowerby introduced their agent J. Thomson, who sold their stock in Edinburgh. The advertisement also tells us that by then, that is ten years after they started the business, the London shop already encompassed 61 and 62 Oxford Street, as well as 3 and 4 Wells Street, around the corner. Williams and Sowerby spent some money on their entry in the Tallis booklet, as they not only entered two advertisements, but also a vignette, and a generous depiction in the street plan, not to mention the write-up that Tallis supplied.

The premises on the corner, the patent medicine warehouse, was number 63, not 66 as the street plan incorrectly states. Williams and Sowerby were no doubt frustrated that they could not manage to buy that property as well, as that would have meant a nice straight building site for the refurbishment they had in mind. However, they did manage to obtain number 60 on the other side of Commerce House as well as 5 Wells Street.

An item in The Belfast News-Letter of 3 April, 1840, copied information from an “Edinburgh Paper” on ‘glass cloth’. One Mr. Clarke had shown this new material at the Assembly Room in Edinburgh. Glass cloth was invented in Paris, but was “now manufactured by Messrs Williams and Sowerby, who are reported to have expended about ten thousand pounds upon the patent and requisite machinery”. The material consisted of very thinly spun glass, which was interwoven with silk. It could be used for curtains, but also for dresses and “has graced the ball-room at Almack’s and the Tuileries”. Williams and Sowerby called the material ’tissue de verre’ and in 1844, The Art-Union (p. 195) explained that the finely-spun glass material was not brittle at all, as one would expect of glass, but very flexible, and used to make material that looked very much like brocade. 1844 was also the year in which Williams & Sowerby opened their renovated showrooms. The Guide to Life included a picture of the showroom and a nice write-up, also mentioning the ’tissue de verre’.

Although the dome that was described in The Guide to Life could not be seen in the accompanying illustration, The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction included one that showed this marvel.

The Mirror praised the architect David Mocatta (see here and here) “for the happy adaption of the site, its lofty height, the forms of the design, and its enrichments, and more especially of the beautiful mellow light which pervades every part. The original form of the ground called for much ingenuity on the part of the architect, as next to Wells-street the width is only 25 feet, and at the back it is 43 feet wide; this difference is concealed by the arrangement of the circular parts of the two ends”. The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal included two plates; one to show the design of the new showroom, shown below, and the other the decoration on the columns with which they were not entirely pleased (see here).

The refurbishment had not gone entirely without a hitch, as a watchman employed to keep an eye on the Wells Street property while it was under construction was found to be asleep, creating an opportunity for some thieves to enter the empty building via a skylight. They got into the cashier’s desk in the counting house, but were apprehended before they could leave the building. The police had, in one version of the story, been alerted by the barking of a dog, or, if you believe another version, by a passerby who heard strange noises.(1)
The partnership between Williams and Sowerby was not destined to last as in 1851 a notice appeared in The London Gazette to announce that they had terminated their partnership with Williams to continue on his own. Although the entry in The Gazette speaks of “mutual consent”, an advertisement in The Daily News of 25 April 1853 seems to suggest something else.

The large building Williams and Sowerby constructed with the help of David Mocatta did not survive the century and was replaced in 1894 by a new building that was to become Bourne and Hollingsworth’s Department Store. For more on that building see here.

‘Tissue de verre’ and dresses made from it are mentioned in George Dodd’s Novelties, Inventions, and Curiosities in Arts and Manufactures, 1853 (see here) and a a blog post of Jessica Leigh Hester, ‘Glass Dresses, The Fairytale Fashion Trend That Never Quite Took Off’ (see here).(2)

(1) The Morning Chronicle, 19 September 1843 and The Standard, 25 September 1843.
(2) Thanks go to @2nerdyhistgirls, @ladymissalicia and @sarahmurden for finding these references.


<– 63 Oxford Street 60 Oxford Street –>

Nichols & Son, printers


Street View: 73
Address: 25 Parliament Street

This blog post has been written jointly with Julian Pooley of the Nichols Archive Project (see here) who kindly shared his extensive knowledge of the Nichols family.

The story of the Nichols printing office starts in 1759 when John Nichols (1745-1826), the son of Edward Nichols, a baker, is apprenticed to printer William Bowyer. He obtained his freedom after the customary seven years, but did not set up business on his own. He entered into a partnership with his former master and in April 1766, their first joint publication came from the press, which was then situated in Temple Lane, Whitefriars.(1) Shortly afterwards they moved the business to Red Lion Passage, Fleet Street, frequently referred to as Red Lion Court.

Lloyd’s Evening Post, 5 May 1769

When Bowyer died in 1777 Nichols inherited the business, together with Bowyer’s extensive Classical library and “the old bureau in the little back room which I give to Mr John Nichols my present partner in business to survey and preserve my papers”.(2) Nichols continued the business in Red Lion Passage, with its lucrative printing contracts to learned societies and Parliament, on his own. A year later he acquired a significant share in the Gentleman’s Magazine, which he and his successors printed and edited until 1856. Horwood does not name the small passage on his 1799 map, but it is indicated with the red circle. Nichols’s property is the one with the red cross.(3) These days the whole stretch between Fleet Street and Pemberton Row is called Red Lion Court, but the top part used to be the Passage, although that name was not used consistently. When the printing house and warehouse were destroyed by fire in February 1808, Nichols and his son, John Bowyer Nichols, rebuilt the premises and continued in business.(4)

Advertisement in The Morning Post, 11 January 1819, giving both addresses

As printers of the Votes of the House of Commons, the Nicholses sought premises closer to Parliament. An insurance record of June 1817 shows Arthur Oates Hebdin and two others, army clothesmen, at 25 Parliament Street, with Nichols as the occupier of another of their properties on the East Side of King Street, that is, the street behind Parliament Street. A year later, according to another insurance record, Nichols is in possession of both 25 Parliament Street and the adjoining printing office at 10 King Street. The 1818, 1819 and 1820 Post Office Directories, however, still list Nichols, Son & Bentley in Red Lion Passage. The partnership with Samuel Bentley, the son of John’s sister Anne, was dissolved on the last day of 1818.(5) The tax records up to and including 1819 list Nichols & Son as the proprietors of the premises in Red Lion Passage, but in 1820 Abraham John Valpy takes over. This, by the way, is two years earlier than most sources claim.(6)

The take-over of the Nichols business by Valpy was most likely not one by a new kid on the block, as Valpy had been apprenticed in 1801 to John Pridden and later, after the death of John, to Humphrey Gregory Pridden, John’s son. Another son of John, John junior married Nichols’s daughter Anne. More on Valpy in The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1855. Despite his move to Westminster, Nichols remained in possession of the Red Lion Passage property and Valpy paid the tax as ‘occupier’ until 1841, by which time he had retired.

Taylor’s business was situated to the south of the Red Lion pub, but Nichols’s property was more towards the north, on the other side of the Red Lion pub. The property is sometimes considered to be the one that is still there and has the ‘Alere Flammam’ relief set into the wall, but that was the motto of Taylor & Francis. Valpy used the digamma symbol on some of his publications.

The move to Westminster was not universally popular with Nichols’s private customers. Ralph Churton (1754-1831) of Oxfordshire feared Nichols would ‘hardly know a poor country Rector’ if he should visit, and remarked, ‘In Fleet Street there are Printers, radicals or not radicals, in every court and corner; but in Westminster, and the best street in Westminster – not a printer I ween to be found within a shilling coach fare. You will have the best business and all the business without a rival.’(7)

John Nichols’s son, John Bowyer Nichols, obtained his freedom of the Stationers’ Company in 1800 and became a partner in the firm. After the death of his father in 1826, he continued and enlarged the business, which was eventually spread across 23, 25 Parliament Street and 20, 22, 24, 26 King Street. In 1896, the Office of Works requisitioned the leases of these properties in their efforts to widen Parliament Street and to build one large office which now houses Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (see the blog post on John Burder of 27 Parliament Street for more information).(8) The Nichols firm relocated to Parliament Mansions, Victoria Street, later usually referred to as Parliament Mansions, Orchard Street.

Ordnance Survey map 1893-95, showing Parliament Mansions

Between 1820 and 1827 John Bowyer Nichols and his young family lived at 25 Parliament Street. Family correspondence discusses their redecoration of the living quarters and nursery and records how family and friends joined them at upstairs windows to watch royal processions on State Occasions. Although they moved to Clapham in 1827 and then to Hammersmith in 1831, they retained their living quarters ‘above the shop’, attending St. Margaret’s church, serving parish offices and entertaining neighbours such as the family of John Burder at number 27. In 1822 a quantity of paper was stolen from their warehouse in Cannon Row by a former employee, James Thatcher(9) and on 16 October 1834 Bowyer Nichols’s son, John Gough Nichols, feared that the printing house was on fire when he saw a glow in the sky over Westminter when returning home from Piccadilly. The Nicholses premises were safe, but that evening the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire.(10)

silhouette of John Nichols (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

The census of 1841 list Thomas Brickwood, a carpenter, and his wife on the premises in Parliament Street; in 1851 James and Rachel Brown, messenger and housekeeper to Nichols & Son; in 1861 and 1871, Rachel is still there as housekeeper; in 1881, Edmund W. Howick or Horrock, a printers’ warehouseman, unemployed, and his wife Mary, housekeeper, presumably to Nichols & Son, although that is not stated in the census and why Edmund is unemployed and not working for the Nicholses is also unclear; and in 1891 Sarah Sidery, a widow, is keeping house, presumably for Nichols. According to the Post office Directory of 1856, the Nichols firm also rented out offices at 25 Parliament Street to William John Thoms, secretary of the Camden Society (established by the Nicholses in 1838), the Liverpool Water Works Company, and to Stephen William Hy, parliamentary agent. And in 1860 to William Moxon, contractor, Gilbert Thomas Field, election agent, William Paul Gale, civil engineer, William John Thoms, secretary of the Camden Society, and to Thomas F. Gilbert, secretary of the National Society for the Amelioration of the Poor Laws. The housekeeper must have been quite busy.

John Bowyer had died in 1863, but his eldest son John Gough continued the printing works in partnership with his brother, Robert Cradock Nichols, till his death in 1873. The next director was John Gough’s son John Bruce Nichols who worked in partnership with his uncle, Robert Cradock. From 1898 until his death in 1929 John Bruce was joined by his son John Cradock Morgan Nichols. In 1930 the business became a Limited Company, J. B. Nichols & Sons Ltd, but in 1939 they voluntarily wound up the company and were absorbed into the Stationery Office.(11)

The London Gazette, 8 December 1939

For further information see J. Pooley, ‘”The Most Despicable Drudge in the Universe”? Ambition, Assistance and Experience in the papers of John Nichols and his family, 1765-1830’ in Michael Harris, Giles Mandelbrote and Robin Myers, eds., Craft and Capital (forthcoming), or any of his other publications on the Nicholses (here) and The Nichols Archive Project.

(1) K. Maslen and J. Lancaster, The Bowyer Ledgers, no. 4603, James Elphinston, The Principles of the English language.
(2) PROB 11/1036/267. J. Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1812) vol. 3 pp. 277 and 285.
(3) Determined by comparing Land Tax Assessments with various Directories.
(4) J. Pooley and Robin Myers, ‘The Nichols Family (1745-1873)’ The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004-ongoing). Online here, but subscription required.
(5) The London Gazette, 2 January 1819.
(6) See for instance his advertisement for Stephens’ Greek Thesaurus in The Morning Chronicle of 18 September 1820.
(7) Bodleian Library, MS. Eng. lett. c. 354 ff. 221-2. Ralph Churton to John Nichols, 16 Feb. 1820.
(8) National Archives, Kew, WORK 12/81/8.
(9) Old Bailey case t18220220-91 (online here).
(10) See www.carolineshenton.co.uk quoting Bodleian Library, MS. Eng. Lett. c. 6165/3/f. 302: John Gough Nichols to John Bowyer Nichols, 17 Oct. 1834.
(11) Anon [G.E. Dunstone], A Short History of the House of Nichols, 1699-1938 (London, 1938).


<– 26 Parliament Street 24 Parliament Street –>

John Boulnois, upholsterer


Street View: 82
Address: 14 Charlotte Street

14 Charlotte Street (now renumbered 30) is situated across from what was then called Bennett Street and is now part of Rathbone Street. In 1831, John Boulnois had started his furniture business at 44 South Molton Street. The previous occupant of that shop had been James John Cuthbertson, an ornamental painter, who had died in January, 1831, just 28 years old. In 1835, Boulnois extended his business by opening a showroom at 11 Davies Street, but having the business in two places proved inconvenient and in early 1839, he entered several advertisements in the newspapers to announce that he was moving to 14 Charlotte Street. The Davies Street premises were to remain open for a little while to sell off surplus stock at reduced prices. The new shop was to be called “The Percy Furniture Bazaar”, no doubt named after Percy Chapel, further up the road.

advertisement in The Morning Chronicle, 18 February 1839

In 1849, Boulnois decided to make “such repairs and improvements upon his extensive premises as cannot be effected while they contain his usual very large manufactured stock of upholstery and cabinet furniture” and he was therefore clearing off stock at very much reduced prices.(1) Besides furniture, Boulnois also sold Huxley’s patent stoves. In 1839, John Earle Huxley of Marlborough Street and John Oliver of Dean Street had been granted a patent for improvements in stoves (see here) and Boulnois’ warehouse was one of the addresses where they could be obtained.(2)

drawing to go with Huxley’s patent application from The Repertory of Patent Inventions, vol. XII (July-Dec., 1839)

The 1841 census shows John Boulnois and his wife Anne, whom he had married in 1837, living above the shop in Charlotte Street, together with John’s sisters Louisa and Charlotte, 3-year old John Arthur, and two female servants. In 1851, John Arthur is at school in Islington, but John, Anne, and Charlotte are still at Charlotte Street, and so are two female servants and a nurse, possibly for Charlotte who died in 1852. Anne died in April 1858 and a year later, John married Mary Anne Williams. In 1861, the census shows a change of address to 30 Sloane Street, Chelsea. John Arthur is by then assisting his father in the shop and in 1865, he married Annie Garrett. In 1871, John senior and Mary Anne are still to be found at 30 Sloane Street, Chelsea; he is listed as an upholsterer employing 12 men and 8 women. John Arthur and Annie are also living in Chelsea, in Markham Square.

Mary Anne died in 1872 and John senior in 1873. His effects were valued at £20,000, so he did very well as a businessman.(3) By that time, John Arthur and Annie were also living at 30 Sloane Street, but at some point between 1873 and 1879 they moved to Osborne Villa, Burgess Hill, Sussex, where John Arthur was to die in February 1879.(4) His estate was valued at £16,000. Annie remarried in 1887 to the ten year younger Valentin Townsend Lewis who is described as a law student in the 1891 census. She died in 1896 and he in 1914, leaving an estate of just over £5,000 to the Public Trustee.(5)

armchairs by Boulnois (Source: sellingantiques.co.uk)

And what about the shop at 14 Charlotte Street? As we saw in the 1861 census, John Boulnois had moved to Sloane Street, but not just his household, the business as well. The 1860 Post Office Directory still showed him at 14 Charlotte Street, and, by the way, also at 93 John Street, that is, the next street eastwards that runs parallel to Charlotte Street (now Whitfield Street). The 1861 Post Office Directory lists Boulnois in Sloane Street, not just as upholsterer, but also as undertaker. And the 1863 Post Office Directory adds ‘appraiser’ to his qualifications.

According to the tax records, 14 Charlotte Street was occupied from 1861 by Richard Southall, a plumber, and from 1867, after the renumbering of the houses (14 became 30), by Robert Perkins, a builder. By 1900, when an insurance map was produced, the property was already in use as a restaurant, judging by the letters REST written across the premises. Who stuccoed the house is unclear, but it can still be recognised as the property where Boulnois had his furniture shop. Even the ground floor doors and windows, although modernised, are still in the same place.

14 Charlotte Street (renumbered to nr. 30) from Google Street View, 2017

Rosewood and needlework armchair by Boulnois with paper label (Source: Christie’s)

prieu-dieu by Boulnois (Source: National Trust Collection)

There are entries for John Boulnois in the database of British and Irish Furniture Makers Online (see here and here), but they can be updated with the information above, stretching his working years considerably from 1831 to 1873 and his addresses to 44 South Molton Street (1831-1839), 14 Charlotte Street (1839-1860), and 30 Sloane Street (1861-1873).

(1) The Standard, 29 June 1849.
(2) The Athenaeum, 14 November 1840.
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1873.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1879.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1886 and 1914.


<– 15 Charlotte Street 13 Charlotte Street –>

Perkins, Bacon & Petch, bank note engravers


Street Views: 15 and 13 Suppl.
Address: 69 Fleet Street

In a previous post, we saw that Samuel Parker, cut-glass manufacturer, occupied 69 Fleet Street with his partner William Perry up to 1820. The tax record for 1821 lists Jacob Perkins for the first time. They have not yet worked out the correct spelling of his name and call him ‘Perks’. By 1822, they have amended the name and the property is listed for Jacob Perkins & Co. According to the Baker Perkins Historical Society (see here), Jacob came to London from Boston, America; not as a young man seeking his fortune, but as a 53-year old who had already made his mark as an inventor and engineer. He had worked in Boston and New York, but moved to Philadelphia in 1814 (according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography it was in 1817), where he was involved in the business of printing banknotes from a number of separate engraved plates to prevent counterfeiting. “Jacob’s engineering genius had a very significant influence on the banknote printing industry both in the United States and in England and led him to set sail for England on the sailing ship ‘Telegraph’, with his eldest son, Ebenezer Greenleaf Perkins, his engraver colleagues, Gideon Fairman and Asa Spencer, some workmen and many cases of machinery, on 31st May 1819, in the hope of gaining a contract with the Bank of England”.(1)

portrait of Jacob Perkins by Chester Harding (Wikimedia Commons)

Perkins and Fairman started their work in London at 29 Austin Friars and were joined at various times by other partners, some only for a short period. Already in December 1819, for instance, one Joseph Chessborough Dyer left the partnership he had with Perkins and Fairman(2). That same month, Charles Heath, engraver to King George III, joined the partnership and they moved the business to 69 Fleet Street. On 16 October 1821, Jacob Perkins, Gideon Fairman, Charles Heath, George Thomas Heath and Marcus Bull dissolve a partnership, because Bull wanted out; the remaining partners continued the business in Fleet Street.(3) In August 1822, Fairman decided to return to America and relinquish his share in the business.(4)

The London Gazette, 3 August 1822

Jacob Perkins was much more interested in inventing new things than in running a solid business, frequently exasperating his partners as he withdrew large sums of money from the business to fund his inventions, and in November 1824, G.T. Heath withdrew from a partnership he had with Perkins at Regent’s Park.(5) This seems to have been a separate partnership from the Fleet Street one. The remaining partner, Charles Heath, dissolved the partnership with Perkins in Fleet Street in January 1826.(6) In May 1929, Joshua Butters Bacon, who had married Jacob Perkins’ second daughter, joined the business and it became Perkins and Bacon. In 1834, Henry P. Petch was taken into the partnership – he had joined the firm in 1823 as an engraver – and the company became Perkins, Bacon & Petch.

banknote Derby Old Bank (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Jacob’s son, Ebenezer, was not in good health and returned to America. He is listed as an engraver of metal work in the 1829 Boston Directory. Jacob’s other son, Angier March, also came over when the contract for producing banknotes had been obtained:

We embarked in the ship Electra, 500 tons, about November 1821 and arrived in England in thirty days where we found my father and brother and all our friends. I … went at once into the employment of my father and his partners and was engaged for the next eight years in manufacturing banknotes, dies and plates. During the latter part of the time I taught other parties to do the work I was engaged upon and my services in the firm became unnecessary and I found myself obliged to obtain other business.(4)

James Findlay, View of no. 69 Fleet Street (© London Metropolitan Archives, Collage)

According to the censuses of 1841, 1851 and 1861, 69 Fleet Street was not occupied as a house, or at least, no one slept on the premises when the census people came round. The Perkins family may of course have lived above the business before 1841, but they had moved out by the time of the first census. In 1841, Jacob could be found living in Great Coram Street with his son Angier, his daughter-in-law Julia, and his own daughter Henrietta. After Angier left his father’s business in Fleet Street, he established an independent business as heating and steam engineer, first at Harpur Street, Holborn, but after a few more moves, he settled in 1843 at 18 Regent Square, where Jacob also came to live and where he spent the last years of his life. Jacob died on July 30th 1849, aged 83, and was buried at Kensal Green.

Jacob’s method of printing bank notes in several layers with ‘siderographic’ plates to combat forgery also attracted Sir Rowland Hill, who was a friend of Jacob, and Perkins, Bacon & Petch obtained the contract to produce the Penny Black, which was first issued in 1840. Within a few years, twenty-two thousand million stamps for Great Britain and the Colonies had been printed by the Perkins process.

ice-making machine as invented by Jacob Perkins (patent 1834, no. 6662) and constructed for him by John Hague and two of his apprentices. According to one of them, Frederick Bramwell, it actually did produce ice. Bramwell described the process and drew the sketch in a letter to the Society of Arts who published it in their Journal (8 December 1882).

According to the 1886 insurance map, the engravers’ workshop ran backwards from 69 Fleet Street towards Whitefriars Street, comprising house numbers 36-40. You can still see the division at number 69 where first Chaffin and later Robinson had their shop. Following the death of Henry Petch in 1887, the firm became Perkins, Bacon & Co. Ltd. In 1904, they moved the business from 69 Fleet Street to Southwark Bridge Road.

(1) Website Baker Perkins Historical Society, see here.
(2) The London Gazette, 19 August 1820.
(3) The London Gazette, 20 October 1821.
(4) The London Gazette, 3 August 1822.
(5) The London Gazette, 23 November 1824.
(6) The London Gazette, 28 January 1826.
(4) G. Bathe and D. Bathe, Jacob Perkins: his inventions, his times, and his contemporaries (1943). Quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Angier Perkins.

There is lots more information to be found on Jacob Perkins and his inventions, see for instance:
Jenn Nguyen, blogpost ‘Happy Birthday, Jacob Perkins’, 9 July 2018
Wikipedia page Jacob Perkins
Website Baker Perkins Historical Society


<– 70 Fleet Street 68 Fleet Street –>


Thomas Farley, toy warehouse


Street View: 58
Address: 32 Blackfriars Road

Farley’s property in Blackfriars Road was almost on the corner of what is now Colombo Street, but what was then called Collingwood Street. Christ Church Southwark can be found across from Colombo Street. On the insurance map of 1889 below, you can see the property with the church to the north and Collingwood Street bending down towards the south. The street at the bottom of the map is Cross Street, now Meymott Street. Farley’s immediate neighbour at number 32 was Mr. Millward, the proprietor of wine vaults (P.H. on the map for Public House).

Thomas Farley first appeared at Blackfriars Street in Robson’s Directory of 1823, when that part of Blackfriars Road was still called Great Surrey Street. Farley had been a freeman of the Vintners’ Company since 1809 when he acquired his freedom by patrimony, thanks to the membership of his father, John Farley. But Thomas was not a vintner in the sense that he sold wine, he had a toy warehouse. We have already come across another toy dealer named Farley, that is, Henry Farley of 31 Fleet Street, but there does not seem to be an obvious family relationship between the two. Thomas was the son of John and Henry of George, but who knows, maybe the link is further back through the generations.

Following the listing of Farley in the subsequent Robson’s Directories, we see him at 32 Blackfriars Road until 1841, but in 1842 his name has been replaced by that of Henry Chenu, silversmith. The 1841 census, taken on 6 June, already shows Chenu and his wife at number 32, so Farley must have left before that. Why he did so and where he went has not been established, so I cannot tell you more about him and we will turn to Chenu. Henry Chenu, son of (Michael) Nicholas Chenu, builder, had married Eliza Ann Draper, daughter of Thomas Draper, leather seller, on the 11th of November, 1840, at St. Andrew Holborn. The address for groom and bride is given as 97 Holborn. Tallis has W. & T. Draper, leather sellers at 107 High Holborn, and there must at least be a family connection there. Will sort that out when writing the post on the Drapers. Henry Chenu had at some point a stake in the leather business as at the end of 1864, he retired from a partnership he had with Charles L. Draper and William H. Draper as leather dressers and dealers in carriage silks at 107 High Holborn.(1)

According to the directories, Henry started his career in Blackfriars Road as a silversmith and jeweller, but the 1845 Post Office Directory lists him as hatter and jeweller. And an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle of 27 July 1847, says he is a hat manufacturer. He apparently had a lodger, a Mr. Jones, who was trying to acquire some houses. Or was he just using Chenu’s address as a convenient collection point for his mail? Jones is certainly not mentioned as living at number 32 in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.

The Observer of 19 November 1855 reported on a great fog the previous Thursday and Friday which caused multiple accidents: two trains collided, people fell off boats into the Thames, cabs and carts had accidents, and less than honest people found it an excellent opportunity to rob others with impunity. Chenu had one of his shop shutters taken out, a window glass broken, and “wedding rings, keepers, gold eardrops, and other property, taken away, worth £80”. According to the newspaper report, either a barking dog, or the approach of a police officer disturbed the burglars and they dropped some of the stolen jewellery in the street.

By 1861, Chenu had moved his jeweller’s shop to Kentish Town, and the census found him living at 102 Gloucester Place. The census showed 32 Blackfriars Road in possession of James Brown, an iron plate worker. Chenu’s move did not do his business any good and in 1869, bankruptcy proceedings were taken out against him.(2) He is then said to be of 96, Camden Road and 9, Leighton Road; the former his shop, the latter his house. To make his bankruptcy plight even worse, his shop was broken into in November 1869 and 9 gold watches, 25 silver watches, 60 rings and unspecified other property with a total value of £150 was taken. The thieves were apprehended while in possession of some jewellery, a jemmy and skeleton keys that had been used in the burglary.(3)

In 1875, Chenu’s bankruptcy case was closed as the London Bankruptcy Court was satisfied that “the whole of the property of the bankrupt had been realized for the benefit of the creditors, and that a first and final dividend of two shillings and eight pence in the pound had been paid to the creditors”.(4) The 1881 census saw Henry and Eliza Ann at Willes Road and his occupation is given as “collector”, no indication what he was collecting, presumably rents or subscriptions. Eliza Ann died in 1887 and, according to the 1891 census, Henry went to live at Langdon Road in a “home for respectable aged people”. He died in 1901 and that is the end of the story as far as this blog post is concerned.

Silversmith, after Caspar Luyken from ‘Menschelyke beezigheeden’, 1695 (© Trustees of the British Museum)

(1) The London Gazette, 1 January 1865.
(2) The London Gazette, 4 October 1869.
(3) Old Bailey case t8700110-171.
(2) The London Gazette, 26 March 1875.


<– 50 Regent Street 52 Regent Street –>

Ralph Wilcoxon, boot maker


Street Views: 1 and 18 Suppl.
Address: 60 King William Street

Ralph Wilcoxon of 60 King William Street was a rather enterprising shoemaker. Going through the Tallis index elicits a number of Wilcoxons as either shoe or boot maker, but as they are frequently listed without a first name, or even an initial, it is unclear whether they were the same shoemaker as the one of King William Street. However, a number of Old Bailey cases help us out. In 1835, John Green testifies that he is “foreman to Ralph Wilcoxon—he is a shoemaker, and lives in King william-street”.(1) A few years later, in another case, Ralph himself testifies and says, “I have seven shops, one in Howland-street, another in Tottenham-court-road, two in Oxford-street, one in Regent-street, one in Walker’s-court, Berwick-street, Soho, and one in King William-street, London-bridge—I live in Tottenham-court-road”. The total turnover of the shops was considerable. Wilcoxon states, “I have now a stock of 40,000 for my different shops”.(2)

Statue of William IV who is reported as looking towards London Bridge, which would mean that Wilcoxon’s shop is the darker property to the right of the statue. The statue was later moved, see here. (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Wilcoxon may have lived at Tottenham Court at the time of the 1840 Old Bailey case, but in the 1841 census he is listed at Claremont Place, Clapham. Over the years he seems to have moved a number of times. With the help of more Old Bailey cases, the 1841 Post Office Directory, some insurance records and Tallis’s Street Views we will try and pinpoint the Wilcoxon shops a bit more precisely as he does not give any house numbers in the Old Bailey report mentioned above:
-1 Howland-street (not mentioned in the 1841 Post Office Directory, but mentioned in an insurance record for 1833, and in Pigot’s Directory, 1839)
-60 King William Street (Street Views 1 and 18 Suppl.)
-289 Oxford Street (Street View 48)
-303 Oxford Street (Street View 41, but mentioned by Tallis for Bellenger, wine and spirit merchant)
-99 Regent Street (Quadrant) (Street Views 12 and 2 Suppl.)
-93 Tottenham Court Road (Street View 49)
-5 Walker’s Court, Berwick Street, Soho (1828 and 1829 Old Bailey cases (t18281204-230 and t18290115-25), Wilcoxon testified “I live in Walker’s-court, St. James'”; last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1851 Post Office Directory.
The first and the last shops in this list were not mentioned by Tallis as he did not produce Views for those streets, so we will leave those for the moment.

Below pictures of the elevations of the Wilcoxon shop as represented in the Tallis Street Views. More information on the shops other than the one in King William Street will be given in later posts on the individual premises:

60 King William Street

289 Oxford Street

First mentioned for Wilcoxon in a Sun Fire insurance record of 1829. Wilcoxon testified in an 1828 Old Bailey case (t18281204-22), “I am a shoemaker, and live in Oxford-street”. He does not say at what house number, but the claim seems to contradict another Old Bailey report of the same day where Wilcoxon said he lived in Walker’s Court. Last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1848 Post Office Directory.

303 Oxford Street

First mentioned for Wilcoxon in a Sun Fire insurance record of 1829.
In an 1834 Old Bailey case (t18341205-311) the shopman, George Samsome, said “I am shopman to Mr. Ralph Wilcoxon, who is a shoemaker, and lives at No. 303, Oxford-street” and “I have possession of the house all day, and two boys sleep there at night—Mr. Wilcoxon does not sleep or take his meals there”. One shop-boy, Dennis Crowley testified, “I am shop-boy to Mr. Wilcoxon, who lives in Tottenham-court-road”. Philip Jewell, the other shopboy said “I then went to No. 289, Oxford-street, to acquaint Mrs. Wilcoxon—I left the policeman at the door—I came back—Mr. Wilcoxon was not at home”. Three different addresses for Wilcoxon mentioned in one court case; something must have gone wrong in the transcription of the answers each of the shop servants had given. For one, it seems unlikely that they did not know where their master lived. And another peculiarity is the fact that Crowley said that there was only one shop window that was fastened with a catch on the inside and had shutters on the outside. Judging by the elevations in the Street View, this was far more likely to be number 289 than 303. So, was the shop robbed at number 289 and did Wilcoxon live at the far larger property at number 303? Most likely. The property is last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1848 Post Office Directory.

99 Regent Street

First mentioned for Wilcoxon in a Sun Fire insurance record of 1834, but an 1826 insurance record for 99 Regent Street mentions “other occupier: shoemaker” without giving a name. Last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1848 Post Office Directory.

93 Tottenham Court Road

First mentioned for Wilcoxon in a Sun Fire insurance record of 1830 ; last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1851 Post Office Directory.

Other shops mentioned for Wilcoxon
-3 Peter’s Street, Soho (Pigot’s Directory, 1825)
-102 Berwick Street (Wilcoxon in an 1825 Old Bailey case t18250407-126 “I live at No. 102, Berwick-street”; insurance 1826)
-38 Princes Street, Soho (insurance 1829)
-11 High Street, Islington. Tallis’s Street View lists no less than three numbers 11, occupied respectively by a hosier, a hatter and a shoemaker. It is tempting to promote the last one to Wilcoxon’s predecessor, but a decisive identification must await further research. First mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1845 Post Office Directory; last mentioned for Wilcoxon in the 1848 Post Office Directory.

Ralph Wilcoxon died unexpectedly in 1846; the coroner’s investigation into his death was reported in the newspapers:

On Sunday the deceased was in excellent health, attended divine service, and dined with his family. About nine in the evening he suddenly complained of shortness of breath, and went to the window for air, but feeling no relief, he proceeded down stairs, with the view of getting into the garden, but he got no further than the hall, when he fell on his knees, and died.(3)

Sounds like a heart attack to me. He left his wife Hannah the “goodwill and stock in trade of the business carried on by me in King William Street”. He does not separately mention the other shops, but I gather they were considered to be part of the King William Street business as Mrs Hannah Wilcoxon is listed as the proprietor of all the shops in later directories. His wife also gets the interest in Claremont Cottage, Wandsworth Road, and his mother the interest in the Paragon, Blackheath. He does mention lots of other houses and leaseholds in his possession which he distributes among his four children, Arthur (officially Arthur Samuel), Ralph, Hannah and Catherine. His executors are to take care of all these properties until the children reached the age of twenty-five when their inheritance was to be turned over to them.(4) Because he died so suddenly, his two youngest daughters were not mentioned in his will. He had no doubt planned to make a new will, but had not yet got round to it, so Hannah remedied the omission in her will, “I am especially desirous of making a provision for my two youngest children Eliza Wilcoxon and Emily Wilcoxon who from the circumstance of their being born after the execution of the will of their late father have by the disposition which he therein made of his property been excluded from any part of portion in his estate”.(5) She leaves the two girls all her personal estate, with the exception of an annuity for her sister.

After the death of her husband, Hannah continued the shoe shops and the 1848 Post Office Directory gives the following addresses after her name: 60 King William Street, 289 and 303 Oxford Street, 99 Regent Street (Quadrant), 93 Tottenham Court Road, 5 Walker’s Court and 11 High Street, Islington. By 1851, however, that is after her death – she died in 1849 – only 60 King William Street, 93 Tottenham Court Road and 5 Walker’s Court were listed after her name. The emporium was reduced even more after that and the 1856 Post Office Directory just lists Arthur Wilcoxon at 60 King William Street. He had probably been running that shop with his brother Ralph who had died in November 1850, just 31 years old.

advertisement in The Times, 11 November 1858

60 King William Street seems to have been the headquarters of the Wilcoxon shoe shop imperium, but until which year it continued is difficult to establish. According to the 1856 Post Office Directory, it was certainly still there in that year, and in November 1858, an advertisement lists the shop as one of the addresses where patent India rubber shoes could be had, but after that, no trace has been found of the shoe shop. Arthur himself married in 1859 and later lived for a time on the Isle of Wight, in Petersfield, Hants, and lastly in Frensham, Surrey, where he died in 1886.(6)

(1) Old Bailey case t18351214-255.
(2) Old Bailey case t18400406-1281.
(3) Daily News, 16 September 1846.
(4) PROB 11/2044/78.
(5) PROB 11/2103/352.
(6) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1886. The executors were his brothers-in-law, George Martin Hughes (husband of Catherine) and James Reynold Williams (husband of Hannah). The estate was valued at over £11,000, but later resworn at just over £10,000.


<– 61 King William Street (across) 59 King William Street –>

Ruddick and Heenan, importers of cigars


Street Views: 1, 1 Suppl. and 18 Suppl.
Addresses: 24 King William Street and 30 Regent Street

Although the title of this post(1) suggests there was a firm called ‘Ruddick and Heenen’, that is not the case, although the names are linked. From about 1834, Ruddick & Co. were trading as a snuff warehouse from 24 King William Street and one directory (Pigot’s) lists them as “Ruddick Ellen & Co, tobacconists”. By then, however, Ellen Ruddick was already married to James Heenan and another section of the same directory lists the shop for James Heenan. Another directory (Robson’s) and Tallis (Street View of 1839) persist in calling the business Ruddick & Co. But who was Ellen Ruddick and was she running the tobacco shop on her own before Heenan came along?

Ellen Ruddick’s father, John Ruddick, had died in 1826 and seems to have favoured his daughter Ellen over his four sons as she is to have 800 pounds while the sons only get £200 each. She is also to get the household goods and the rest of his estate after the death of her mother Hannah.(2) Perhaps the sons had already been provided for in other ways. Ellen was only 15 years old when her father died, so too young to set up a business of her own, but she, probably together with her mother, grabbed the opportunity to set up shop in the new development of King William Street, which was built in the early 1830s to ‘improve’ the northern approach to the new London Bridge. Their property was only small, but no doubt large enough for a tobacco shop.

1831 plan of the proposed King William Street with Ruddick’s shop outlined in red

an 1886 insurance map showing the corner shop at number 24. By then it was no longer a tobacco shop

How Ellen came to meet James Heenan is unclear, but on 18 October 1838 they were married at St. Mary, Islington. The marriage registration lists James as of Prince’s Row, Kennington(3) and Ellen as of Palmer Terrace, so she did not live above the shop. The tax records for 24 King William Street up to 1838 give Ruddick & Co, but from 1840, the property is listed for Heenan & Co. I am guessing that the ‘& Co.’ part of the name had something to do with the fact that mother Hannah was still alive and Ellen did not yet have the full rights to her inheritance. Hannah was living with Ellen and James at number 24 at the time of the 1841 census, and so was little Ellen Mary who was born, or at least baptised, in September 1840. The little girl unfortunately died in early November 1847. James and Ellen had one other child, son William Henry (born June 1842) who survived his parents and was still alive at the time of the 1911 census. He is probably the William H. Heenan who died in the last quarter of 1913.

advertisement in The Morning Post, 20 April 1843

So, the Heenans ran the small shop in King William Street, but in 1843, an advertisement tells us that they have opened a branch in Regent Street. The advertisement mentions a batch of cigars that have been purchased from Lopez and M’Kinnell. These gentlemen were wine merchants in Fenchurch Street, but apparently also dealt in Lopez cigars. The partnership between Lopez and M’Kinnell was dissolved later in 1843 and they may already have been offloading some surplus stock. In January, 1843, another tobacconist, J. Hudson of 132 Oxford Street, claimed to have taken over the complete stock of Lopez and M’Kinnell and his was therefore the only place in London where the real Lopez cigars could be obtained.(4) But, judging by the advertisement of Heenan, the Lopez cigars were not as exclusively available as Mr. Hudson would have wanted.

Another advertisement was entered by Heenan in April, 1843, in which he announced his desire to let the upper part of 30 Regent Street, consisting of eight rooms, including kitchen. It is therefore no wonder that the Tallis Supplement has both Heenan and the London and Windsor Railway Company at number 30. They probably rented part of the building for their office. It is quite possible that Heenan entered into a partnership to be able to afford a second shop, although it is uncertain when the partnership with Philip Hargrave Curtis started. It certainly ended on 18 May 1850 with Heenan to continue on his own.(5) The 1851 census lists two ‘assistants’ living above the shop in Regent Street, presumably shopmen in the tobacconist’s, and, separately, two brothers, Thomas and Joseph Hensley, leather merchants, with a servant and an apprentice. By that time, Heenan was no longer living in King William Street, but in The Cottage, Englands Lane, Hampstead. The shop in King William Street was minded for Heenan by Thomas Penn.

This Lopez cigar firm was apparently set up in 1876, so not the same Lopez cigars as the ones Heenan sold

In 1861 and 1871, the censuses showed more or less the same situation; servants were living above the two shops and the Heenans were living at Hampstead. But things were about to change. In 1872, Henry Brett and Co. of Old Furnival’s Distillery, Holborn, took over the premises at 30 Regent Street, and Heenan just concentrated on 24 King William Street. He may even have retired altogether, but that is not quite clear. James died in 1874 and his probate entry still mentions him as of Hampstead and King William Street.(6) Ellen died in 1889; she was then living with her son in Devon.(7)

advertisement in The Era, 17 September 1843

The two shop elevations are shown at the top of this post: 24 King William Street on the left and 30 Regent Street on the right. Click on the picture to enlarge.


(1) Research for this post started with a query by one of my readers who is involved in the one name study on the surname Heenan, see here. Some of the biographical information has been supplied by her, for which my thanks.
(2) PROB 11/1711/51.
(3) James Heenan, Gent., insured 39 Princes Road, Kennington, on 13 July 1840. Although it is fairly unlikely that a tobacconist who has just started a business is called ‘gent’, it probably does refer to the tobacconist. The record also refers to a Benjamin Heenan. The 1851 census lists a John Emanuel Heenan at 38 Princes Road and Benjamin Heenan at 39 Princes Road. Premises in Princes Road were mentioned in the will of John Heenan, tailor, who died in 1813 (PROB 11/1542/326). James, Benjamin and John Emanuel may have been brothers.
(4) The Standard, 10 January 1843. A repeat advertisement appeared in The Era, 2 July 1843.
(5) The London Gazette, 14 June 1850. The relation with the Curtis family remained cordial and James Heenan was one of the executors of one Francis Edward Hargrave Curtis who died in 1862.
(6) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1874. Probate of the estate, worth under £12,000, was granted to widow Ellen. She apparently left it unadministered and a second probate was granted to son William Henry in 1902. The value had by then dwindled to £144.
(7) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1891. William Henry was the executor and her personal estate was valued at £40.


<– 25 King William Street
<– 32 Regent Street
23 King William Street –>
28 Regent Street –>

Sampson Low, bookseller


Street View: 32
Address: 42 Lamb’s Conduit Street

The houses in Lamb’s Conduit Street have been renumbered in the 1860s and what was number 42 is now 83 Lamb’s Conduit Street, a property with a Grade II listing (see here). It sits snugly between two far more modern buildings, but looks more or less the same as it did when Sampson Low had his business there, despite the new shopfront that the listing text dates to the 20th century – you could have fooled me. The interior still retains some 18th-century features, such as the staircase and some panelling.

Google Street View

Before we get on to Sampson Low, the bookseller who had his shop at 42 Lamb’s Conduit Street, first something about his father:
On 3 September, 1782, Sampson Low, son of David, perukemaker from Ireland, was apprenticed to Jessintour (also Jessington) Rozea. This Rozea had his business at 91 Wardour Street and seems to have retired in 1786 or thereabouts as in that year J. Denew and A. Grant take over the printing business in Wardour Street. Apprentice Sampson Low is officially turned over to another master, Webster Gillman, on 3 February 1789. He must have been made free of the Stationers’ Company soon after that, probably after the required term of seven years, but he did not take up the freedom of the City until 7 October 1794, that is, more than two years after he started working for himself. The earliest evidence for him having his own business is an advertisement in The World of 24 December 1791 and the fact that in March 1792 he paid the duty for having an apprentice himself. He was then listed as letter press printer at Great Portland Street, which was outside the actual City and he had therefore no need to become a freeman of the City. 1792 is also the first year in which he is mentioned in the tax records for Great Portland Street. His earliest dated publications are from 1793: The Book of Common Prayer and A Catalogue of the Genuine Collection of Antient and Modern Coins & Medals. The latter publication did not mention Low on the title-page, but unobtrusively at the top of page 3.

In 1794, Low married Mary Ann Sheldrick from Dartford, Kent, and his son Sampson was born in 1797. To distinguish the two Sampsons, the father will henceforth be mentioned as Sampson (I) and the son as Sampson (II). Sampson (I) died in late 1800 or early 1801 and was buried on 5 January 1801 at St. James, Piccadilly. He had been trading since 1796 from Berwick Street, Soho. His business was probably sold by the executors, at least, it is no longer mentioned in advertisements or directories, but when his son grew up, he had the same bookish interest and was for a time apprenticed to Lionel Booth who ran a circulating library in Duke Street, Portland Place, and who also maintained the Register of Pamphlets and Newspapers at the Stamp Office. After Booth’s death in 1815, his son, also Lionel, continued the library. Sampson (II) worked for a time at Messrs. Longman, but in 1819, he set up his own bookshop in Lamb’s Conduit Street. According to his later partner Marston, his mother, who had remarried in 1802 to William Brough, kept house for him in the early years. In 1821, Sampson (II) married Mary Stent, but his mother continued to visit the bookshop and library frequently.

trade card (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Early advertisements for Sampson (II) suggest that in the early years he just sold and published books, but on 27 June 1822, he entered an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle announcing that he had “that day opened a commodious room, built expressly for the purpose, which will be regularly supplied with the morning and evening newspapers [… etc.] Cards of terms may be had on application”. One such card is probably the one shown above with the various subscription options.

Low remained at Lamb’s Conduit Street till 1849, when he gave up the reading room and library and established himself at the corner of Red Lion Court and Fleet Street, only to remove a few years later, in 1852, to 47 Ludgate Hill. But that was not the end of the moves as the viaduct for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company was built right across the houses in Ludgate Hill and Low, by then in partnership with Edward Marston, moved to 14, Ludgate Hill. The firm moved again, in 1867 to 188 Fleet Street, and in 1887 to St Dunstan’s House, Fetter Lane. The business dealt with many authors who are now household names, such as Wilkie Collins and Mrs Gaskell. More on Low’s publications and Marston’s dealing with these and many other authors can be read in the latter’s biographical After work; fragments from the workshop of an old publisher (1904; online here).

Sampson (II) Low from Marston’s After Work via Wikimedia

Low retired in 1875 and died at his home in Mecklenburgh Square in April 1886. He had outlived his wife and his three sons, Sampson junior, William and Walter. His estate was valued at over £24,000, which seems modest for a successful publisher, but, as Marston said, “he was not the man to accumulate a large fortune in trade; his zeal and energy took a less selfish and more philanthropic turn”. Low had used his energy into establishing a fire service and worked as a Sunday school teacher. His partner Edward Marston was one of the executors of the will. The profitable business continued for may years with various other partners until the 1950s when it became part of the British Printing Corporation. Unfortunately, Robert Maxwell got his hands on it in 1981 and the long-standing firm was stripped of its assets and wound up after Maxwell’s death and subsequent bankruptcy. But, history repeats itself in a way, and where there was a gap between the working years of Sampson (I) and Sampson (II), there was also a gap between the termination of the business and the rebirth in 1997, when a descendant brought the name Sampson Low back to life as a new publishing company (see here). Sampson (I) and (II) would have been proud.

One of Sampson Low, Marston and Company’s publications (Source: Little Stour Books via AbeBooks.com)


<– 43 Lamb’s Conduit Street 41 Lamb’s Conduit Street –>

Wheeler and Dupin, auctioneers


Street View: 2
Address: 28 Leadenhall Street

Auctioneers (unlike shopkeepers) have no right to turn bidders out of the auction-room so long as they are peaceable at the auction. They must take the biddings of all persons attending the sale, which the public have a right to attend from the very nature of the transaction and the business.

This piece of text on the admittance of the public to auctions appears at the top of a report in The Legal Guide of 1842, detailing the proceedings at the Queen’s Bench on 2 February of that year. One Isaac Somers had complained that he had, for no reason, or so he alleged, been turned out of the auction house of Cornelius Wheeler and James Fray Lewellin Dupin in Leadenhall Street. Wheeler responded by saying that in a previous auction, Mr. Somers had misbehaved and had been turned out with the caveat never to come back again and if he did, his biddings would not be accepted. However, at this subsequent auction of 12 October, Somers appeared again and put in a bid. Wheeler refused to accept the bid and allocated the lot to someone else. Somers complained and Wheeler had him removed and given into custody for the duration of the auction. The court decided that Wheeler was in the wrong and could not bar Somers from all his auctions as long as Somers behaved properly. According to the judge, Wheeler was to accept the biddings of any bidder in the room without distinction. The jury concurred and damages of 1s were awarded to Somers.

advertisement in The Morning Post, 12 October 1841

The auction of 12 October, 1841, where Mr. Somers was evicted, was most likely the one where property coming from 80 Houndsditch was auctioned, and may have been the sale of the shop content of David Harwood’s business, who is mentioned as curiosity and picture dealer at that address in Pigot’s 1839 Directory.

Cornelius Wheeler acquired the freedom of the City of London in 1831 by redemption, but he may already have been working as an auctioneer before that. In 1825, one Joseph Jones, bookseller and auctioneer, insured 27 and 28 Leadenhall Street and Wheeler seems to have taken over from him. Wheeler’s partner, James Fray Lewellin Dupin, was indentured to his father in 1824 and would normally be eligible to acquire his City freedom seven years later, but he only did so in April 1841. He was, however, already working as an auctioneer in 1839 (Pigot’s Directory) and in the court case mentioned above, Wheeler mentioned him as his partner. The partnership did not last very long as it was dissolved in 1842.(1) Dupin died a few years later at 4 Brompton Place.(2) Wheeler continued the business on his own, advertising his upcoming auctions regularly. But his income did not entirely depend on his auction business.

advertisement in The Morning Post, 18 July 1843

In 1843, for instance, his address was mentioned as the outlet for British Fluid Axis Composition, apparently a greasy concoction to waterproof leather and to prevent friction, “applicable to every description of carriage”. In 1846, he is suddenly mentioned as the manager of The Consolidates Investment and Assurance Company of the Life Assurance and Building Society Combined, and in 1848, he is listed as the surveyor for The Provident Clerks’ and General Building and Investment Society. But these were just sidelines. He continued to auction all kinds of goods from 28 Leadenhall Street: furniture, household goods, carpets, wines, and even whole houses. From 1846, the advertisements also mention the address of 15 Chepstow Place, Camberwell, but the main business premises remained at Leadenhall Street. Cornelius Wheeler died in December 1848 and the auctioneering business was taken over by Edward and Frederik William Thomas.

Part of a sketch by T.H. Shepherd, showing nrs 27 and 28 (Source Collage)

As we saw above, Joseph Jones had insured both 27 and 28 Leadenhall Street and the elevation at the top of this post shows both houses. They were very narrow and the doors were situated next to each other on the left-hand side. At the time of Tallis’s Street View, number 27 was occupied by a T.A. Watson who sold pens and quills, so it was certainly no longer considered as one property. At some stage (probably shortly after 1859 when Shepherd sketched the houses) numbers 27 to 33 were demolished and one large office building was erected. The 1861 census only lists number 27 with the annotation “formerly nrs 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33” without any names, indicating that no one slept on the premises. The 1871 census shows the same situation; no one lived there, which of course does not mean that no business was taken place there. The 1887 insurance map shows lots of office space, right back to Billiter Avenue. This 19th-century building has, in turn, since been replaced by an even bigger, glass-fronted office building and nothing now remains of the narrow building that once housed the auction business of Wheeler and Dupin.

insurance map, 1887

(1) The London Gazette, 19 April 1842.
(2) His estate was left unadministered by his widow and only registered after her death in 1877 by their son.


<– 29 Leadenhall Street 27 Leadenhall Street –>

Francis Szarka & Co., furriers


Street View: 9
Address: 119 New Bond Street

In July 1795, Francis Szarka (or Sarca as the registrar would have it) of the parish of St. Ann Blackfriars, married Sarah Richards at St. Andrew by the Wardrobe. They were married by banns, so no additional information about their parents or their address was recorded in the church records, but two years later Francis insured his furrier business at 10 East Harding Street, Fetter Lane. In 1810 and 1815, the Post Office Directories list him at 15 Gough Square.

Horwood’s 1799 map showing 10 East Harding Street and 15 Gough Square

By 1817, Francis had relocated to 188 Strand, on the corner of Arundel Street.(1) From 1823 onwards the business was called Szarka & Co., and some time later, the business was spread across two properties: 188 Strand and 119 New Bond Street. An 1835 Old Bailey case in which two foreigners were accused of stealing a sable-tail boa tells us more.(2) Francis stated that he had his business at 188 Strand and that he also lived there. His daughter helped him in the shop. His son George ran the New Bond Street premises for him, but he, Francis, was in the process of moving his whole business to that address, or so he said: “as I was going to move my business, if they wanted any thing in that line, I would be obliged to them to call in Bond-street, where my son lived—I told them he was my son—I was about moving at the time—”. The first indication that he actually did move is from an 1838 advertisement in which he mentions the expiration of the lease of 188 Strand as the reason for moving and we know that the next occupant, cutler Samuel Fisher, was first mentioned at the Strand address in 1838.

Advertisement in The Catholic Directory and Annual Register, 1838

Google Street View, August 2016

The New Bond Street property is now a Grade II listed building with the following description: “Terrace house. Mid C18 altered early to mid C19. Stuccoed with slate roof. Three storeys and dormered attic. Two windows wide. Ground floor has later C20 shop front. Upper floor windows: revealed sashes with late C19 glazing in architrave surrounds, those on first floor with cornices, those on second floor pedimented. Moulded cornice and blocking course”.(3) The cornices and pediments above the windows are probably later than 1840 as they cannot be seen on the Tallis Street View facade.

The 1841 census duly finds the whole Szarka family at New Bond Street: Francis, his daughter Caroline, his son George with his wife and five children, two independent ladies – presumably lodgers -, two female and one male servant. But things were not going as well as could be hoped and in 1843 bankruptcy proceedings were filed against Francis and George Szarka.(4) Francis was obliged to appeal to the generosity of the general public to supplement the 4s. he received from an unnamed charitable institution.

The Morning Post , 29 July 1844

What happened to George between the folding of the business in 1843 and 1849 is unclear, but he and his family were to set sail on the “Steadfast” as assisted immigrants to Australia where they arrived in April 1849. His wife Helen apparently died at sea after an epileptic fit and George had to provide a new life for his seven children aged between 1 and 16 and himself. He eventually became a public school teacher and died in 1885.

Francis and his daughter Caroline remained in London and were living at the almshouse, Garratt Lane, Streatham at the time of the 1851 census. Caroline married David Phillips that same year, another occupant of the almshouse and at least 20 years older than she was. David died in 1852 and Caroline and Francis remained at Streatham. Francis died in November 1861, well into his nineties, but probate was not granted to Caroline until 1868, possibly because George was in Australia and paper work had to be sent back and forth. Hardly worth the effort, though, as Francis’s wordly goods amounted to less than £20.(5)

furrier’s tools from Diderot’s Encyclopédie (Source: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

For the top part of Diderot’s plate, showing a furrier’s shop, see the post on Borradaile, Son & Ravenhill.

advertisement in Tallis’s Street View

(1) The Times, 3 January 1817.
(2) Old Bailey case t18350105-389. Online here.
(3) Historic England, Listing NGR: TQ2880480946. Online here.
(4) The London Gazette, 10 March 1843.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1868. Francis exact age is unclear. The 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses give him as 70, 86 and 95 respectively and the 1844 appeal advertisement as 77.


<– 120 New Bond Street 118 New Bond Street –>