Street View: 12 Suppl
Address: 31 Fleet Street
We made a pause at the toy-shop in Fleet-Street,
to see the giants of St. Dunstan’s strike upon the bells(1)
On 4 May 1841, Henry William Alphonsus Farley received the freedom of the City of London by redemption (that is: by paying a fine) via the Company of Cordwainers. On the documents, he is described as a ‘toy dealer’, the son of George Farley, a painter from Maidstone, Kent and he had been a member of the Cordwainers since 3 October, 1838. His address on the 1838 document is already 31 Fleet Street, but Tallis, in the original set of Street Views, tells us that one Harrison, a toy dealer, lived at that address. The Land Tax Records for 1838 give us the name of Mary Harrison and she can be found at the 31 Fleet Street address from 1824 onwards. The property, opposite St. Dunstan’s Church, belonged to the Cordwainers Company, so it is not really surprising that Farley became a member of that Company. In 1547, The Cordwainers had been left several houses in Fleet Street and Falcon Court by John Fisher and hence the area is known as Fisher’s Charity.(2)
Henry Farley placed an advertisement in The Morning Post of 5 January 1839 in which he advertised a new drawing-room game, called The queen and her defenders. Farley explains the rules of the game in the advert and it appears to be a game played on a specially designed board, involving a spinning-top and fifteen chessmen. The chessmen are supposed to ‘defend’ the queen from the attack by the spinning-top. Don’t know if it was fun, but it does not seem to have survived, unlike Russian bagatelle(3), also announced in the advertisement as “new and delightful”. But, if buying board games and toys was not what you were after, Farley could also arrange for a clown to come round to your party, or provide the fireworks “from one pound and upwards”. Later that year, he advertised his shop as “Toy and Fancy Repository, and City Conjuring Depot” where magic lanterns, rocking horses and “an extensive assortment of amusing and popular games” were to be had.(4) A few years later, he mentioned “evening parties attended with magic lantern and mechanical tricks”.(5)
On 28 October, 1844, the new Royal Exchange was opened in grand style by Queen Victoria. The houses in the streets through which the Royal party was to ride towards the Exchange (that is: Pall Mall, the Strand and Fleet Street) were lavishly decorated and Mr. Farley’s was one of the properties mentioned in a newspaper report of the event. He had covered his shop with “laurels, evergreens and dahlias, tastefully interspersed with various coloured flags” and for that he “obtained general admiration”.(6)
1847 was not a very good year for Farley, but, as is so often the case when things go wrong, the circumstances were reported in the papers and we therefore now know that Farley also ran a Post Office in his toy shop. An investigation by the Crown Commission found Farley indebted to the Crown for 331l, 17s, 4d in money and stamps. A writ had been issued to recover that sum more speedily than normal because Farley was insolvent.(7) Two weeks later, one of Farley’s employees, John Martin, was found guilty of stealing from the till. Various sums of money had gone missing and one day Farley charged Martin with it and asked him to empty his pockets. Martin flung some money in the fire and was taken into custody. The case was heard before the City authorities and Farley had to admit that more than 300l was missing from the Post Office account, but that more people in the shop had access to the till. Alderman Musgrove considered Farley to blame for the neglectful way in which he conducted his business and although Farley was ready to forgive Martin, the alderman thought that Martin ought to be punished and committed the case to trial.(8)
Surprisingly enough, at the Old Bailey, Martin was charged with taking a work-box, “a lady’s companion”. Farley had not missed the box from his shop, but it was brought in by an officer who had searched Martin’s room after he had been arrested for the stolen money. When Farley was cross-examined, little details about the everyday running of the shop came out. Martin was given 6s 6d a week, presents, clothes and food. Farley and his wife and “one or two others” attended to the post office. All the people working in the shop handled and received money which they were supposed to put in the till. Farley also states that he is now in trouble for “mistakes in the account” and that his property will be confiscated in lieu of the deficiency. Although the report of the Old Bailey does not state it, the theft of money by Martin could not be fully lain at his door, because others had the opportunity as well, but he was found guilty of stealing the work-box and confined for six months.(9)
Despite the insolvency and the missing Post Office money in 1847, Farley continued to ply his business from 31 Fleet Street and in 1851 advertises for model ships and boats besides the usual games and toys.(10) That same year, he once again decorates his shop to celebrate the Queen’s visit to the City by hanging up a transparency with a medallion portrait of Nelson with the model of a frigate in front of it and miniature flags surrounding it.(11)
Farley died, 48 years old, in late September or early October 1854 and was buried at Abney Park on 7 October. From his will, which was dated 23 March 1835, we learn that at that time, he lived at 25 Ludgate Street, which may very well indicate that he learned his trade from Payne who ran a “Repository for English and Foreign Toys” at that address at the time Tallis produced his Street Views. In his – very short – will, Farley leaves everything he has to his wife Mary Ann who is also named executrix, and he apparently never saw a reason to change the will. It was proved on 2 November 1854. On 8 March 1855, the lease with goodwill, stock and household furniture was auctioned “at the Mart, opposite the Bank of England”.(12) In the advertisement about the auction, Farley’s business is described as “comprising that of a naval modelist, and flag manufacturer, toy and fancy repository, carried on by the late Mr. Farley, and his predecessors […] for nearly a century and a half”. More on the earlier history of the shop in the post on Mary Harrison, the proprietor mentioned by Tallis in his early Street View and the direct predecessor of Farley.
(1) Charles Dickens, The Personal History of David Copperfield (1850), p. 245.
(2) The Endowed Charities of the City of London (1829), p. 210 and the website of the Cordwainers’ Company
(3) For the history of (Russian) bagatelle and the later pinball, see here.
(4) The Morning Post, 17 December 1839.
(5) The Morning Post, 5 January 1843.
(6) Berrow’s Worcester Journal, 31 October 1844.
(7) Daily News, 24 September 1847.
(8) Daily News, 6 October 1847.
(9) Old Bailey case t18471025-2296.
(10) The Morning Post, 7 May 1851.
(11) The Morning Post, 10 July 1851.
(12) Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Guardian, 3 March 1855.