Street View: 24
Address: 59 Gracechurch Street
At the time of Tallis’s Street Views, Henry Blenkinsop’s hosier shop was located at 59 Gracechurch Street. Between numbers 58 and 59 could be found St. Bennett’s Place which used to be called Jerusalem Alley or Jerusalem Court. It is still called by the old name in Norwood’s map of 1799. But Blenkinsop had not always been at number 59 (red cross on the map). At some point he moved to number 53, but in his early career he had been at number 37 (green crosses on the map). The move from number 37 can be explained by an amendment to the London Bridge Approaches Bill in which it was decided to add number 37 to the list of houses that needed to make way for the approach.(1) Thomson, in his book on the history of London Bridge, explains that several houses on the western side of Gracechurch Street were “to be set back” to make way for a wider approach road.(2)
When exactly Henry started his business is not known, but it must have been before 1827 as his marriage registration already gives his occupation as hosier. An advertisement in the Edinburgh Review of 1827 sees him in partnership with one Naish who had a patent on cotton thread that was “remarkably strong and free from curling”. An earlier advert of 1821, saw one F. Naish on his (or her?) own at 37 Gracechurch Street, running a baby-linen warehouse.(3) The discontinuation of the partnership between William Naish and Henry Blenkinsop was announced in the London Gazette of 5 February 1833. Henry was to continue the business. William Naish originally came from Bristol and was the son(4) of the Quaker Edmund Naish who received a patent on 8 February 1818 “for certain improvements on the machines or machinery used for winding cotton”(5), so who the F. Naish was in the 1821 advertisement remains unclear (error for E.?).
In 1838, Blenkinsop was the victim of some shoplifters. Three females entered the shop, pretending to be interested in Guernsey frocks. They were apparently not the type of customers Blenkinsop was used to in his shop as he stated that he said “I did not think I had any that would suit”, but when they insisted, he showed them the cheapest he could find. They decided “they would not do” and left the shop. Almost immediately Blenkinsop noticed some stockings missing from the window and he and his assistant gave chase. One of the girls, Sarah Young, quickly passed the stockings to an accomplice, Charles Hewitt, but Blenkinsop managed to apprehend them both. Young and Hewitt were found guilty and confined for three months.(6) A Guernsey frock, by the way, is not some sort of skirt, but a shirt or sweater based on the garments worn by Guernsey fisherman (see here for more information).
Henry Blenkinsop was the son of Charles and Alice Blenkinsop of Heighington in the county of Durham, and was in his late thirties when he married Elizabeth Pryer, daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Pryer of Walworth, St. Mary Newington, on the 28th day of the 8th month, 1827. The designation of the months by numerals was a Quaker practise and the event took place “in a public assembly of the people called Quakers, at Redcross Street, Southwark, in the county of Surrey”.(7) Three children were born to the couple: Erasmus (1-7-1828), Anna Maria (19-9-1829) and Ellen Elizabeth (24-6-1832). Unfortunately, little Erasmus died when only 9 months old, but the two girls survived and lived until they were 81 and 71 years old respectively (see below).
The registrations of the births of the children were entered at the monthly Quaker meeting of Gracechurch Street. In all three cases the address is still given as 37 Gracechurch Street, so the move to the other side of the street must have occurred after June 1832. The 1841 census does not give a house number, but the 1851 census finds Henry and his two daughters at number 53. I have not found a record of his wife’s death, but Henry is listed as a widower. Anna Maria and Ellen Elizabeth are unmarried and were to remain single all their lives. Henry died on the 27th of March, 1854 “after a lingering and painful illness”.(8) The “hosiery and outfitting business” was disposed of(9) and at some point after the death of their father, the sisters moved to Saffron Walden where they started a private school, which they advertised in The British Friend of October 1863.
The census records for 1861-1911 show them residing in Saffron Walden in the High Street at number 77. Ellen Elizabeth died on 16 November 1904 and Anna Maria on 14 August 1911; the probate records name the house as “The Gables”. The sisters were most likely buried in the Friends’ burial ground in Saffron Walden and with their deaths, the line of Henry Blenkinsop, hosier, died out.
(1) House of Lords Journal, Volume 64 – 27 March 1832 (via British History Online).
(2) Richard Thomson, Chronicles of London Bridge (1827). See also the blog post – with lots of pictures – by Georgian Gentleman on the shop at One London Bridge that had to be demolished for the new bridge.
(3) La Belle assemblée: or, Bell’s court and fashionable magazine, 1 Oct. 1821.
(4) William was born on 13 July 1806 (The National Archives; Kew, England; General Register Office: Society of Friends’ Registers, Notes and Certificates of Births, Marriages and Burials; Class: RG 6; Piece: 36: Monthly Meeting of Bristol: Births (1787-1837)) and married Sarah Hallam on 6 March 1832 in London (Idem, Piece: 539: [St John] Horsleydown and Southwark: Marriages (1795-1836)).
(5) “Notice of expired patents” in The Repertory of Patent Inventions, vol. 13 (1832).
(6) The National Archives; Kew, England; General Register Office: Society of Friends’ Registers, Notes and Certificates of Births, Marriages and Burials; Class: RG 6; Piece: 539: [St. John] Horsleydown and Southwark: Marriages (1795-1836).
(7) Central Criminal Court. Minutes of Evidence (1838).
(8) The British Friend, June 1854.
(9) The British Friend, June 1854.