Street Views: 45 and 25
Addresses: 2 Duke Street (1* Wellington Street) and 208 Piccadilly
To explain some of the family history of the Edgingtons, we have to look at an 1864 court case Edgington v. Edgington in which Benjamin Edgington accused the defendant of falsely representing himself as in succession to or in connection with him.(1) He also accused him of opening a letter addressed to him, answering it in his own name in order to gain the custom of the letter writer. Benjamin stated that he had been in partnership with his brother Thomas as marquee makers up to 1823 when they dissolved the partnership.(2) Benjamin carried on the business under his own name, Thomas as Thomas Edgington and Co., and the latter’s son as John Edgington and Co. Although only indirectly stated in the report of the case, the defendant of the court case was not Thomas senior, who had died in 1857, but possibly his son John Farncombe, although more likely Thomas Farncombe, the other son of Thomas who took over after his father’s death. Thomas senior had his shop at 17 Smithfield Bars and John had his place of business on the Old Kent Road, but probably combined the two again after the death of Thomas senior and junior. It does not help that the various Edgingtons all seem to work in the tarpaulin, marquee and tent business, although not all had addresses within the scope of the Tallis Street Views, so can be safely ignored for the purpose of this blog.
Back to the court case. Benjamin states that until 1853 he had his shop at 208 Piccadilly [on the right in the elevation at the top of this post], then moved to 32 Charing Cross where he remained until 1861 when he left for Duke Street [corner of Wellington Street, Borough; on the left in the elevation]. This is slightly ambiguous, as we know from the Tallis Street views that he already had the shop in Duke Street since at least 1839 (in fact, since 1834 or 1835), but he probably meant that he gave up his other shop and just concentrated his activities in Duke Street. Benjamin alleged that soon after he left the Piccadilly premises, the defendant made an arrangement with the owner of 18 Piccadilly, almost opposite number 208, to take in his letters and receive commissions and that when Benjamin left Charing Cross, he did the same with the owner of 5 Charing Cross. The defendant disputed this and said he had only made arrangements in Piccadilly 8 years after Benjamin had left and that he had only supplied the owner of 5 Charing Cross with goods and was not trading from there. The allegation that he pretended to be Benjamin’s successor could not be substantiated. The only case that could be proven was the opening of the letter from the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, about the erection of a marquee for the visit of the Prince of Wales to the College. The defendant alleged that the address had been indistinctly written (he had conveniently destroyed the envelope) and besides, he had received wrongly addressed letters before. He had, to add to the confusion, sent his manager, who had previously worked for Benjamin, to Cambridge, leaving the Master under the wrong impression that Thomas (or John) had taken over Benjamin’s business. That mistake had been corrected and the Cambridge order had gone to Benjamin. The outcome of the whole procedure was that deliberate impersonation and misrepresentation could not be proven, but the defendant was urged to be more careful with the correspondence, especially as wrongly addressed letters had been received by him before, so he should have been aware of the possibility that they were not meant for him.
We’ll leave Thomas, John and the early family history for the blog post for 17 Smithfield Bars and concentrate on Benjamin. In 1823, the same year as the partnership with his brother is dissolved, Benjamin marries Stella Sophia Nattali at St. James’s, Clerkenwell. They have at least three children, but they all die young and in 1828, Stella Sophia also dies. In her will, she says that she is in a “bad state of health” and she dies a few weeks later.(3) In 1830, Benjamin can still be found in Tooley Street, at number 5 to be exact, as he takes out an insurance for the premises with the Sun Fire Office. That same year he marries Maria Theresa Francis, a widow, at St. Luke, Chelsea. Their first child is born in April 1831 and named Charles Nattali. It struck me as strange that the second name of the child is the last name of his first wife, but a bit more research revealed that Maria Theresa was Stella Sophia’s sister. She had married Edward Roberts Francis in 1818, hence the Francis surname. The couple were to have at least five daughters, but no more sons.(4)
In an advertisement in the Bury and Norwich Post of 20 May, 1835, Benjamin “begs to inform his friends and the public, [that] he has removed from 5, Tooley Street, to No. 2 Duke Street”. This was the direct result of the building of the new London Bridge. In 1829, Benjamin had heard that this new bridge was to be built and he realised that the new structure would obscure his Tooley Street premises from view, which would negatively affect his business. He complained directly to the Lord Mayor with a petition and claimed damages. He was able to convince the Mayor and City Corporation of his case and was awarded the lease on 2 Duke Street.5 From the 1835 advertisement, we also learn that Benjamin deals in rick clothes, poles, pullies, waterproof cloths for waggons, sacks, ropes, tarpaulins, etc. Later advertisements single out his marquees that are bigger and better than any the competition can deliver. His ‘Royal Victoria’ has a boarded floor for dancing and 8,000 people can stand in it, or 1,000 can be seated, for instance at a dinner. The marquee can be hired “at the shortest notice”.(6) That it was not an idle boast, can be deduced from the report of a “sumptious entertainment” given by the Duke and Duchess of Somerset to the Queen which included one of Benjamin’s marquees. “A table was spread for the Royal party in the dining-room, and an immense marquee was erected at the end of the portico, capable of containing the whole assembly with ease. After dinner the tent was cleared for dancing, and its grand and striking appearance can only be faintly imagined by stating its dimensions. These were – 180 feet long, 40 feet wide, 35 feet high, with a dome 53 feet diameter, and 50 feet high”.(7) It must have been some party.
Benjamin himself died in September 1869(8), but the business was continued, first under the continuing management of William Hardcastle who started his career as an apprentice to Benjamin’s father, but stayed on after his term to become the trusted employee and friend of Benjamin. He married Benjamin’s sister Maria on 23 Jun 1817 at Saint Mary’s, Reading. By the time he took over the firm, Hardcastle himself was getting on and the management devolved to the three sons of one of Benjamin’s other sisters, Sarah Williams.(9) The firm was to continue under Benjamin’s name for many years to come, supplying an ever-increasing range of camping requirements to travellers, settlers, explorers, emigrants and the military. At some point, the firm liaised with S.W. Silver who specialised in clothing and furniture for travellers. They do not seem to have entered into a formal partnership, but pooled resources and advertised together, sometimes with the emphasis on clothing and then the address for Silver would be given, sometimes with the emphasis on the equipment and then the Edgington address would be given. In 1967, Benjamin Edgington Ltd was taken over by Thomas Black & Sons, which are now Black’s of Greenock.
Below a selection of advertisements and trade cards for Benjamin Edgington.
Grateful thanks go to Charles E. Alexander who kindly sent me his notes on the family. For more Edgingtons, see the post for Thomas Edgington of 17 Smithfield Bars.
(1) The Law Times, vol. XI, pp. 299-301.
(2) Official notice of termination partnership to be found The London Gazette, 4 January 1823. They are then called sack-cloth and tarpaulin manufacturers and worked from Tooley Street, Southwark.
(3) The will is dated 8 December 1827 (PROB 11/1737/307) and she is buried on 12 January 1828 at St. John’s, Hackney. Probate is granted 17 March.
(4) Charles Nattali 1831, Stella Sophia 1832, Sarah Ann 1834, Helen Nattali 1836, Emily 1838, Elizabeth Atkinson 1840, and Susanna Jane Francis 1842.
(5) Information on the reasons behind the move received from Charles E. Alexander.
(6) The Brighton Patriot, 26 September 1837.
(7) The Morning Chronicle, 31 July 1839.
(8) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations ), 1869. Probate was granted on 17 September 1869 to Maria Theresa, the widow, Charles Nattali, the son, Samuel Bourne, the husband of daughter Sarah Ann and William Hardcastle of 2 Duke Street (the manager of the firm).
(9) Information on the later management received from Charles E. Alexander.
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