Street View: 38
Address: 9 Mansion House Street


Tallis Street View booklet number 38 contains a small advertisement for the firm of Flanagan & Nutting, seedsman and florists. They plied their business from 9, Mansion House Street, which was situated opposite Mansion House (where the NatWest building is now). Flanagan is William Flanagan who obtained his freedom of the Company of Playing Card Makers by redemption in January 1829. On the freedom document, he is listed as ‘seedsman’. His partner was William James Nutting who obtained his freedom half a year later from the Company of Joiners by patrimony. In 1827, William James Nutting had married William’s sister Priscilla at St. Stephen Walbrook and another marriage in 1827 led to a three-way family partnership. Robert Randall Chubb married Sarah Nutting at St. Sepulchre’s, Holborn and also obtained his freedom from the Company of Playing Card Makers by redemption. He too is then listed as ‘seedsman and florist’. When the partnership between the brothers-in-law started is not exactly known, but in 1833, Chubb withdrew from the partnership.(1)

advertisement in Tallis's Street View

advertisement in Tallis’s Street View

Drawing by George Sharp, 1833, showing the shops across from Mansion House (Source: British Museum)

Drawing by George Sharp, 1833, showing the shops across from Mansion House (Source: British Museum). Red arrow pointing towards Flanagan and Nutting’s shop

So far, so good. An ordinary chain of events. Marriages leading to or perhaps the result of a business partnership and one of the partners moving away for whatever reason. It happened all the time, but this case was not as amicable as the facts suggest. The first sign appeared in The Morning Post of 26 November, 1833, where Nutting and Flanagan feel it necessary to enter a notice in which they “return thanks for the support they have so liberally received” and they “beg to contradict a report of their being about to remove from their premises” and that they “have no connection with any other house”. What is the matter here? More is revealed in the report of the case ‘Chubb v. Flanagan and another’ at the Court of Common Pleas.(2) Chubb sued his former partners for an alleged libel in the Horticultural Journal and Florists’ Register in which Flanagan and Nutting “deem it necessary to caution their friends against a fraudulent representation that any part of their business has been removed” and that they “never had the most remote connection with the shop recently opened in another part of the town, under circumstances grossly misrepresented and highly discreditable, with a view of defrauding them of a part of their business”. Although I have not seen the original copy of the Horticultural Journal in which this ‘libel’ appeared and am going with the Common Pleas report, it seems to contain substantially the same message as in The Morning Post advert, albeit not in the same wording.

From the Court proceedings, we learn a bit more about the gentlemen involved. Chubb had been a linen-draper before he entered into a partnership with Flanagan and Nutting, but after the dissolving of the partnership set up shop as a seedsman in 70-71 Newgate Street. He had issued printed bills, notifying the public that “the seed and florist’s business”, previously carried on in Mansion House Street, “will be carried on in all its departments, under the firm of R.R. Chubb & Co.”, certainly suggesting that the whole business had been removed. He also had the following inscription put over the door of his new abode “Chubb & Co, Seedsmen & Florists, removed from opposite the Mansion House”. Flanagan and Nutting took exception to this statement and retaliated by inserting the alleged libel in the Horticultural Journal. They also state in the notice that their firm had fifty years of experience, so the firm must have started around 1784, obviously not with the defendants of the court case, but with an earlier generation; Nutting and Flanagan were both born around 1806. The Court case would probably have fizzled out if this had been all, but in the same issue of The Horticultural Journal an article headed “Chit Chat” was included which mentioned that Flanagan & Nutting’s dahlias would be ready for delivery in May and

“by the way, one of the most impudent attempt to draw off part of the connexion [sic] of this highly respectable firm has been ineffectually made, by a fellow, the very sight of whom, to say nothing of his conversation, would convince a man that anything above a linendraper’s porter was beyond his capacities, though he possesses all the low cunning of an experienced imposter. The character is, however, written upon his brazen face in such legible terms that he could hardly take in an idiot.”

Charming! Although it could not be proven that Flanagan and Nutting had anything to do with the authorship of the Chit Chat piece, they had sold copies of the journal and were on that ground liable to pay damages. In the end, the Jury found for the plaintiff and he was awarded 50l damages. Chubb also proceeded against the publisher and the printer of the Horticultural Journal and was awarded 40s. in both cases.

Drawing of a Hyacinth grown from a bulb imported from Holland by Flanagan & Nutting from The Florists's Guide and Cultivator's Directory, 1827

Drawing of a Hyacinth grown from a bulb imported from Holland by Flanagan & Nutting (Source: The Florists’s Guide and Cultivator’s Directory, 1827)

What happened next? In 1837, a partnership between Chubb and one James Hine Miller is dissolved(3) and at the end of 1838 he is declared bankrupt(4). We know from the Tallis Street View of Newgate Street that in 1839 Chubb was no longer at the address where he had his business and where the electoral registers lists him in the years 1834-1837, that is, at 71 Newgate Street. By the time the 1841 census was taken, he lived in Southampton with his wife Sarah and two children, James and Julia. He is listed as ‘Ind.’ suggesting he no longer had to earn his living. Ten years later, he and his family have moved back to London, living at 3 Montague Place, Islington as “landed proprietor and fundholder”. Spin forward another ten years and the money seems to have run out. Robert and Sarah are now living in a boarding house in Paddington and although Sarah is still described as ‘fundholder’, Robert is a commercial traveller. In 1871, they have managed to acquire a house again, this time at 2 Roseland Villas, Millbrook, Southampton, but Robert is still a commercial traveller. He dies 24 January 1873 and probate is granted to his son James.(5)

In the mean time, in April 1841, Flanagan and Nutting dissolve their partnership.(6) The notice in the newspaper about it tells us that they were still at 9 Mansion House Street, but that they also had premises at Dowgate Wharf, Upper Thames Street, presumably a warehouse. William Flanagan is to continue the business, but not long after the break-up he moves to 46, Cheapside; in the Tallis Street View of 1839 still the property of J. Brown, perfumer.(7) And from here on, things become murky and William Flanagan disappears from view. However, in 1850, one Cornelius Octavius Flanagan (who was most likely Williams (half-) brother of Mansion House Street, seedsman, signs over all his assets to George Charlwood of Covent Garden and William James Nutting of Cheapside, both seedsmen, “for the equal benefit of all his creditors”.(8) It sounds as if Cornelius took over the Mansion House Street property when William removed to Cheapside, but things went wrong and Cornelius had to hand over to his competitors, one of whom had been the business partner of his brother. But this latter bit is just conjecture. I have not found any records to substantiate it. The advertisement shown below may be from a completely different Flanagan, but maybe not. Your guess is as good as mine.

advert from Gardeners' Chronicle, 12 Jan. 1878

advert from Gardeners’ Chronicle, 12 Jan. 1878

Penstemon (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Flanagan & Nutting were one of the first firms to offer Penstemon seed; they offered nine species in their 1835 catalogue (Source: Wikipedia Commons and shef3d.com/i/Penstemon)

After the end of the partnership with Flanagan, Nutting finds himself a warehouse at Lyon’s Wharf, Queenhithe, from where he plies his seed trade until he can find more suitable premises.(9) The first we hear of him again is in the 1851 census when he lives at 1 Bread Street with his wife Priscilla and sons William James junior and Henry Cornelius. All three men are called ‘seedsman’. From an 1866 notice in the London Gazette, we learn that they are in partnership, in 1866 at 60, Barbican, but that William James the elder has retired in April 1863.(10) Why it took three years to enter the notice in the paper is not made clear, or was it a mistake by the paper and should the year have been 1866? William James senior may have retired, but he was still living above the shop in 1871. He died in October 1877 at 12 Royal Crescent, Margate.(11) The business, however, was continued by the sons and they must have done well, because when probate was granted in 1910 for the estate of William James junior, the effects were valued at over £53,500.(12)

Advert in The Garderners' Chronicle, 1882

Advert in The Garderners’ Chronicle, 1882

(1) London Gazette, 26 April 1833.
(2) Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the English Courts of Common Law, ed. by T. Sergeant, vol. 25 (1835), sittings in London after Trinity Term, p. 472-475.
(3) London Gazette, 30 June 1837.
(4) London Gazette, 28 December 1838.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1873. The estate is valued as under £450.
(6) London Gazette, 30 April 1841.
(7) The Athenaeum, 2 October 1841.
(8) London Gazette, 7 June 1850.
(9) The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 1 May 1841.
(10) London Gazette, 8 June 1866.
(11) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1898. The estate is valued as just over £69.
(12) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1910. Probate granted to Whitpaine and Henry William Walter Nutting, seed merchants.


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