Street View: 6 and 76
Address: 28 Ludgate Street and 66-67 Charing Cross
In 1775, Thomas Farrance obtained his freedom of the City of London by presenting his credentials to the authorities. He had been bound as an apprentice to one William Manser, “a musician, a cook by trade” and had served his full seven year. Manser had, however, made the mistake of binding Farrance in the Company of Cooks, while not himself “free of this City in that Company”. An administrative mistake and fortunately not with any dire consequences as the error was considered a genuine mistake and Farrance was accordingly admitted to the freedom of the City.
In September 1782, he married Sarah Pennington at St. Clement Danes. The miniatures on the left are kindly provided by David Roy Clapham.(1) In all, the couple have at least ten children, all baptised at St. Gregory by St. Paul. Two of them, Thomas II (1786-1865) and James (1792-1862) follow their father in his profession. In 1791, an insurance record places Thomas as pastry cook at 74 Leadenhall Street.(2) Tax records for the Aldgate Ward show the Leadenhall premises empty in 1791, but occupied by Thomas Farrance from 1792 onwards. However, the indenture with which Thomas junior is bound to his father in 1800 says that they live in Ludgate Street (more accurately Ludgate Hill as the shop was on the corner of Ave Mary Lane) and an insurance entry for that same year places them at 28 Ludgate Street.(3) Considering that the children were baptised at St. Gregory, I assume that the family had always lived at 28 Ludgate Hill, which is born out by the tax records for the Castle Baynard ward of 1782 which firmly places Thomas in the correct area.(4) But Thomas is not content with just one or two shops and already in 1801, in an advertisement for a masquerade taking place in Ranelagh Gardens, we see that tickets can be bought from “Mr. Farrance’s, pastry cook, Ludgate-hill and Spring-gardens”.(5) We can assume that the Spring Gardens address was the same as the later 67 Charing Cross one as the premises were on the corner of Charing Cross and Spring Gardens and both street names were used interchangeably. Indeed, in 1805, the insurance is listed for Charing Cross.
In 1808, an intriguing entry occurs in the Post Office Directory where 74 Leadenhall Street is occupied by one “R. Farrance, confectioner”. I have not found a child of Thomas I and Sarah with the initial R. but it would be too much of a coincidence to have an unrelated Farrance occupying the premises for which Thomas took out the insurance in 1791 and for which he kept paying the Aldgate Ward tax right up to 1826. The 1811 Holden’s Annual London and Country Directory also has R. Farrance at the Leadenhall address and lists both 28 Ludgate Street and 67 Charing Cross for Thos. Farrance, confectioner. It is not at all unlikely that Thomas junior and senior are each in charge of one establishment. Thomas junior lived in Leadenhall Street for a while (see below), but from 1827 to 1834 the tax for that establishment is registered to James Farrance, the other son of Thomas I who went into the confectionary business and who obtained his City freedom in 1822 by patrimony. In the 1825 Pigot’s Directory James is already listed as being at the Leadenhall address. That still does not prove there was no R. Farrance, but at least we can be certain that he did not figure in the confectioner’s story after 1825. Was it perhaps a mistake by the directories, or is there a missing Farrance family member?
The invoice below is made out in 1813 for a Mr. Booth of New Street for the account of the years 1810-1813 and from that we can establish what sort of food the Farrances produced. Booth was charged for pies, giblet soup, oyster patties, jelly, cheese cakes and a few other items I cannot decipher. The bottom item looks suspiciously like turtle spunge. We know they sold mock turtle soup as in 1848, Percy Hamilton overhears the waiter in Farrance’s “soup-room” relay his and his friends’ order as “One pea, one ox, and one mock”.(6)
Ralph Rylance in his Epicure’s Almanack of 1815 is very complimentary about Farrance’s establishment at Spring Garden. “In point of magnitude, and of the excellence and cheapness of its article, this long celebrated shop has no superior, perhaps, in the world. here are exquisite soups, highly flavoured tarts, savoury patties, and delicious pastry and confitures. Fruits and ices throughout the whole extent of their season, good and in great variety”. And at Ludgate Street, one could get “soups, mock turtle savoury patties, ices, and confectionary, in all their glory and splendour, with custards of the greatest delicacy”.(7)
An unusual archival find gives us a glimpse into the life of one of Farrance’s apprentices. One James Thornton is asked by his then employer, John Frederick Fitzclarence, the Lieutenant Governor of Portsmouth, to give as much information as possible about his time as cook to the Duke of Wellington, because Fitzclarence thought that anything to do with Wellington might be of interest. Thornton served Wellington as field cook from August 1811, that is, during part of the Peninsular War and during the Battle of Waterloo. Afterwards he is promoted to Steward at Apsley House, but he resigns that position at the end of 1820. The question put to Thornton “where were you apprenticed?” is answered “1st to Mr. Farrance, Cook and confectioner, at the corner of Spring gardens and Charing Cross. 2nd to Mr. Escudier, Hotel Keeper in Oxford Street, London”. Fitzclarence is very content with Thornton as his cook and says “I cannot give him too good a character”.(8)
But back to the Farrances. In 1818, Thomas junior marries Temperance Horwood and up to 1823, their address given at the baptisms of their children is Leadenhall Street, but from 1824, the baptisms are recorded for 67 Charing Cross. But life isn’t always kind and in 1827, Temperance dies “at the house of her father, James Horwood, Esq. of Walworth”.(9). In 1824, the insurance record for Thomas Farrance of 38 (mistake for 28) Ludgate Street, lists his other properties as “The Spring Garden Coffee House adjoining 66 and 67 Charing Cross. In 1832, both Sarah and Thomas senior die and are buried at St. Gregory’s in the “rector’s vault”. In January 1833 we see the insurance record for the Ludgate property registered to Mary, Harriet, Elizabeth and Maria Farrance (the sisters of James and Thomas junior). In June of that year, it is just registered to Mary, but in January 1834 it is James, Mary and Harriet who pay the insurance. From 1834 onwards, the electoral register lists James at that address. I cannot find him in the 1841 census, but in 1851 and 1861 James lives with his sister Harriet, companion John Tucker and two servants at 10 St. Mary Abbots Terrace, Kensington. The family grave at Brompton Cemetery tells us that James was interred there on 15 November 1862, his sister Harriet followed him in April 1867. Thomas II had been buried in the same grave on 6 June 1865 and so had his second wife Elizabeth (1871), the other sister Maria (1891) and her husband Thomas Thomas (1868) and their child Maria Harriet (1861).
In 1851 and 1861, Thomas II is living at 6 Ladbroke Terrace with his second wife Elizabeth (Eliza) whom he had married in 1845 and the census lists Thomas III and James II (the sons of James II), both unmarried, as living at 66-67 Charing Cross as “confectioners, employing 16 servants”, some of whom are living on the premises. In 1864, a letter sent to the editor of the Society of Arts complains about the lack of sculpture entries for the exhibition at the Royal Academy, Trafalgar Square. The author, who just signed the letter ‘Epsilon’, is not surprised at this lack of response as “the rooms […] applied to the exhibition of this art in this building are a national disgrace”. If the organisation cannot do better, they might as well turn over the rooms “into the charge of Mr. Farrance, over the way, or some other restaurant of that class, who would be ready, probably, to pay a handsome honorarium to the academy for the privilege of there supplying cakes, ices, &c. to the weary and thirsty lovers of pictures.”(10)
And ices they certainly served at Farrance’s. F.M. Trollope in her 1850 novel Petticoat Government has Miss Tollbridge and Judith Maitland wait for their ices and buns in one of the smaller rooms at the restaurant which “exhibited flower-pieces, plans of porticoes and palaces, and drawings of various descriptions”. But it was not to last forever. James I died in 1862, Thomas II in 1865, Thomas III in 1876 and James II in 1891, but the building on Charing Cross did not last as long as the last survivor. The Architect of 5 February, 1870, tells us that “The old premises in Cockspur Street [the new name for that stretch of Charing Cross], so long occupied by Farrance’s well-known hotel and confectioner’s shop, have been purchased by the Union Bank of London, and are to be pulled down.” In fact, business had already ceased in 1865. When the Farrances stopped serving cakes at the Ludgate shop is unclear.
And to end this post, a poem that appeared in Punch, or the London Charivari of 4 November 1865:
“Thomas Farrance and Sons, 66 and 67, Charing Cross, beg to return sincere thanks to their friends and the public in general for their kind patronage, and respectfully inform them that their business of a Confectioner will on and after Oct. 31, be discontinued,” &c.
How they vanish, one by one,
All the haunts we loved of yore:
Farrance, they proud race is run:
regal ice or lowly bun
Thou wilt yield us – never more!
When we left, in Mays gone by,
The Academician’s door,
“Come! to Farrance let us hie.”
Straight we said – but now we cry.
“Never more-oh, never more!”
When our country cousins troop
To the Abbey, old and hoar,
On to Farrance’s they swoop –
But to tarts and ox-tail soup
We shall treat them – never more!
Other Farrances may rise,
Quite as bilious as before –
But the old familiar pies
(Veal and ham) will glad our eyes
Never more! oh. never more!
(1) The miniatures are watercolours on card measuring 7.5 x 6.0 cm and are part of a larger collection of miniatures in the collection of David Roy Clapham that have come down to him through the family via Ann Farrance, Thomas’s elder sister.
(2) LMA, MS 11936/379/588954.
(3) LMA, MS 11936/418/700144.
(4) LMA, MS 11316/250.
(5) The Morning Post, 7 Jan. 1801.
(6) Sporting events at home and abroad (from the MS life of Hon. Percy Hamilton) communicated to and edited by Lord William Lennox in The Sporting review, edited by ‘Craven’, September 1848, p. 180. That same year, the brothers Mayhew in The image of his father: a tale of a young monkey also mention a “basin of mock-turtle” (p.58).
(7) Ralph Rylance, The Epicure’s Almanack. Eating and Drinking in Regency London. The Original 1815 Guidebook, ed. by Janet Ing Freeman (2012), pp. 92,82.
(8) Your Most Obedient Servant: James Thornton, Cook to the Duke of Wellington, intr. by E. Langford, 1985.
(9) The Morning Post, 13 April 1827.
(10) Journal of the Society of Arts, volume 12, nr. 596 (22 April, 1864), p. 378.
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