Street View: 51
Address: 87 Bishopsgate Street Without
In an advertisement in J.R. Pearson’s Hints on the Construction and Management of Orchard-Houses (2nd ed., 1862), Thomas Millington of 87 Bishopsgate Street Without proudly states than the firm had been established in 1750. The Thomas of this 1862 advert was officially called Thomas Alexander and was baptised at St. Botolph church on 20 June 1812 as the son of Samuel II Millington and Caroline Mary Church. Samuel was baptised at St. Antholin Budge Row in c. 1781 as the son of Thomas Cartwright and Ann Millington. This Thomas Cartwright was baptised 22 October 1759 as the son of another Samuel Millington and Catherine Stockall. This latter Samuel was the son of yet another Samuel and his wife Sarah and was baptised 9 October 1729 at St. Mary Abchurch.
So, we have in chronological order:
Samuel I 1729-1789
Thomas Cartwright 1759-1819
Samuel II 1781-1852
Thomas Alexander 1812-1887
Assuming that the business was indeed handed down from father to son, the first Samuel must have been the one to start the business in 1750, although not necessarily at the Bishopsgate address. As far as I can gather from various records, the men were all glaziers. The Sun fire insurance records enable us to find an early entry (for 1794) where Thomas is paying the insurance on the 87 Bishopsgate property.(1) The next step is a notice in the London Gazette, stating that in March 1819, the partnership between Thomas Cartwright Millington and Samuel Millington is dissolved and that Samuel continued the business alone. Thomas was to die later that same year. The Sun insurance records tell us that Samuel II (plumber and glazier) paid the insurance on 87 Bishopsgate in the years 1827-1831, but Thomas Alexander (plumber, painter, glazier and dealer in oil) in 1836, so presumably he took over the business somewhere in the early 1830s.(2)
The ability to produce bigger sheets of glass at reasonable prices greatly encouraged the building of greenhouses and Thomas was keen to corner that segment of the market and advertised regularly in dedicated magazines, such as The Florist and Pomologist; a pictorial monthly magazine of flowers, fruits, and general horticulture of Robert Hogg. Pearson in his small booklet mentioned above, Hints on the Construction and Management of Orchard-Houses, explains how to build yourself a greenhouse for growing, for instance, peaches and nectarines. No surprise that the last pages of the book contained advertisements for related goods, such as other books and magazines on horticulture, hot water boilers, whole greenhouses, but also for sheets of glass. One page-long advertisement was put in the booklet by James Phillips & Co. of 180, Bishopsgate Without, and, not to be outdone, Thomas Millington also put in a page-length advert. Both companies offered sheet glass for greenhouses in various sizes and other related items. Phillips sold milk pans, propagating glasses and paint, but Millington is more detailed in his description of what else he has available: hand glasses, propagating glasses, milk pans, hyacinth glasses, hyacinth dishes, cucumber tubes – even then they preferred their cucumbers straight – crystal glass shades, lamp glasses and also paint and oil. Millington’s was certainly the older establishment in that street as number 180 is occupied in Tallis’s Street View by Sanford, an ironmonger. Horticultural glass items were also used in other trades. In 1853, Millington was mentioned as one of the addresses where high bell glasses, known as ‘propagating glasses’ could be bought to use as a cover for microscopes.(3)
Thomas Alexander died 11 October 1887 at 11, Dalby Square at Margate. The probate record stated that he was “late of 26 Kingdon Road, West Hampstead” and that he was a widower.(4) If we follow the census returns, we find Thomas in 1841 in Bishopsgate Street, apparently still a bachelor, as lead and glass merchant with a servant and an apprentice. But, in 1851, we find him on Howards Road, West Ham (now Newham), a widower with four children (Caroline 15 years old, William 13, Thomas 8 and George 4), so the assumption that he was still a bachelor in 1841 is not correct. Further research shows that the children’s mother was called Julia and that there was another child, named after her mother and baptised in May 1839. Ten years later, in 1861, we find Thomas on the Orford Road in Walthamstow with his second wife Mary, children from his first marriage Caroline, Julia, Thomas and George, and children from his second marriage Gertrude, Henry, Arthur and Herbert. Another ten years on, in 1871, some of the older children have left or possibly died, but George and Gertrude are still there with new additions to the family: Grace, Frederick and Albert. In 1881, daughter Julia and son Herbert, both unmarried, are back and share the house with Thomas, Mary, Gertrude, Arthur, Grace and Frederick. The move to Kingdon Road must have taken place between the time of the 1881 census and Thomas Alexander’s death.
In the census records, Thomas is always described as (glass and/or lead) merchant, never as retired and although the census returns are not always accurate, we may assume that, at least till, 1881, he took an active role in the business. The latest datable advertisement I have found is from 1868 in the Journal of Horticulture. He may have lived above the shop in 1841, but he certainly no longer did so from 1851 onwards. This was a general trend in London; people moved to the suburbs and used the greatly improved transport network to get to their business in the city centre. What became of the business after Thomas’s death is unclear.
(1) LMA, MS 11936/399/632677.
(2) LMA, MS 11936/529/1121977 and MS/11936/547/1222492.
(3) H. Schacht, The Microscope, in its special Application to vegetable Anatomy and Physiology (1853), p. 15.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1887, p. 287.
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