Street View: 18
Address: 24 Farringdon Street
On the “second day of May in the forty third year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third”, that is, in 1803, William Snoswell, son of Ambrose Snoswell, carpenter of Newbury, Berkshire, put himself apprentice to Thomas Udall, clockmaker of London. His apprenticeship was to be for the customary seven years, but on the back of the indenture a note by the then warden of the Clockmakers’ Company states that William only received his freedom of that Company in 1818. Either William stayed on as a journeyman after his apprenticeship and saw no need to pay for the privilege of the freedom, or he set up shop by himself outside the jurisdiction of the City and did not need the freedom to be allowed to start his own business.
Whatever the reason, he only claimed his right on 12 October 1818. A week later, he married Elizabeth Hundtrodts at St. Bride’s. An insurance record with the Sun Fire Office tells us that on 3 February 1819, Snoswell insured premises at 29 Shoe Lane, giving us his first address. Fortunately for us historians, the person who entered the baptisms for St. Bride’s church also included the addresses of the parents. Not all churches did that, so we are lucky here. On 13 June 1820, son William is baptised and 6 Little New Street is given as the address. When the next child, George, is baptised on 17 February 1822, the family lives at Waterloo Street. On 28 December 1823, William Henry is baptised from 68 Fetter Lane, and on 11 March 1827, Elizabeth Ann from 64 Grays Inn Lane. These four children were all baptised at St. Bride’s, but the last child, Charles, was baptised on 4 November 1832 at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, still with the 64 Grays Inn Lane address.
If we turn to the Land Tax records, we see that Snoswell was listed in Waterloo Street (St. Luke, Old Street) from 1821 to 1824 and from 1835 to 1842 in Farringdon Street (Farringdon Without). From 1835 to 1840 the Land Tax recorders consistently called the section of the street where he lived Market Side, but in 1841 and 1842, it is just called Farringdon Street. As we know from the Tallis Street View, he had his shop at number 24 which was between Fleet Lane and Bear Alley, that is on the right-hand side of the street if you are coming from Ludgate Circus and going towards Holborn Viaduct, opposite the Hoop & Grapes which was Gurney’s wine vaults in Snoswell’s time. At some point, Snoswell must have moved to 1 Farringdon Street as he is listed at that address as a gas consumer in “Who’s Who”. Being a schedule to the deed of settlement of the Great Central Gas Consumers’ Company. 31st December, 1849. Number 24 became the residence of Jordan Roche Lynch, a medical practitioner, possibly in 1846.(1)
In 1844, son William Henry obtained his freedom from the Clockmakers Company by patrimony. Whether he remained working in his father’s shop or went elsewhere, I do not know. An amusing reference to one of the Snoswell boys, no first name mentioned, is made by Sir Edward Clarke who in his youth was introduced by his father to a Mr. Selfe, a clerk to one of the City Churches, who held a Bible class for young men at Salisbury Square in connection with the Church of England Young Men’s Society. The debating class, as Clarke called it, was at one time involved in discussing Cardinal Wiseman’s Appeal to the People of England which had been “lately published”, so Clarke is talking about 1850 or 1851.
At each meeting a chapter was read and then the members in turn tried to answer it. The chief combatant on the Protestant side was a supercilious young watch-maker in Farringdon Street named Snoswell. One night I ventured to suggest that he had not the best of the argument, and thenceforward I was looked upon with some suspicion. Again, I found that the library did not contain a copy of Shakespeare’s works. So in the suggestion book I proposed that one should be bought. Snoswell was shocked, and his name headed the list of those who protested against the purchase.(2)
Snoswell senior died on 5 March, 1859, and probate was granted to his widow Elizabeth, still living at 1 Farringdon Street. The estate was valued at less than £300.(3) Maybe the widow continued the shop for a while, but at the end of 1861, an advertisement appeared in the newspaper to say that the whole stock and effects of the late Mr. Snoswell were to be auctioned off. And that finally gives us the first indication of what Snoswell had for sale in his shop. I have not found any advertisements for him, nor any watches or clocks that bear his name, and certainly no musical ones. All I have are a few mentions of him when things got stolen from his shop.(4) Perhaps I have been looking in the wrong places and if you can enlighten me any further, please leave a comment. The advertisement for the sale certainly suggests he manufactured his own goods, so perhaps there are still some clocks or watches out there with his name on.
(1) Lynch is given the address of 24 Farringdon Street in The London Medical Directory of 1846.
(2) Sir Edward Clarke, The Story of My Life (1918), pp. 27-28.
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1859.
(4) The Morning Post, 17 October 1839, a gold watch stolen. Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 3 March 1849, attempt to steal some rings.