Street View: 67
Address: 38 Bishopsgate Street Without
Mr. Whitfield at number 38 had, according to the writing on the elevation in Tallis’s Street View, a business in “carpet & floor cloth wholesale retail & for exportation”. The 1841 census identifies him as John Whitfield, warehouseman, 35 years old, and his wife Eliza, 40 years old, but his real name was Jeremiah Whitfield as Pigot’s Directory of 1839 correctly states. At one point, I thought Jeremiah might be related to John Whitfield, cheesemonger of Lamb’s Conduit Street, and William Whitfield of 44 Old Bond Street, but that does not seem to be the case.
Jeremiah obtained his freedom from the City of London in March 1838 by redemption, indicating that he had not gone through the usual apprenticeship of 7 years. In the papers deposited at Guildhall, there is a document listing Jeremiah’s age as 35 and his father’s name as Ralph Whitfield, late of Barton Bendish, Norfolk, labourer, deceased. Barton Bendish is fortunately a very small village and it was easy enough to work out that Jeremiah was baptised on the 9th of May 1802 as the son of Ralph and Sarah. Ralph died in 1825 at the age of 47.
As Jeremiah was not apprenticed to a member of one of the London Companies, there is no information as to when he came to London. Kent’s Directory of 1823 does not list a Jeremiah Whitfield anywhere, but he may of course have been employed rather than have owned a business. He was definitely not yet the proprietor of 38 Bishopsgate as one William Hare is listed there as carpet and rug manufacturer. There is a marriage listed in February 1825 at St. Leonard Foster Lane with Elizabeth Proud, which may very well have been the Jeremiah and Elizabeth of number 38, but there is no conclusive evidence that this is indeed the case. In Pigot’s 1825-26 Directory, William Hare is still the proprietor of number 38 and Whitfield is still nowhere to be found.
Jeremiah must have started his carpet warehouse somewhere between 1826 and 1838 as a set of watercolour elevations of Bishopsgate Street of that latter year show his name to the right of the cobbled alley leading to the back of the buildings in that section of the street. The anonymous artist has given the alleyway a rounded ceiling, although Tallis has levelled the top of the arch and shows two doors on the right-hand side rather than the one shown in the watercolour. Whitfield must have occupied the premises above the alleyway as the house numbering does not correspond to the Tallis directory in any other way. Reynolds, milliner, occupies number 39, then comes Whitfield at number 38, then Mrs Hammond, dressmaker at number 37 and number 36 is the Coffee Rooms, in Tallis occupied by Shrimpton, but in 1838 by Robert Field.
Whitfield’s carpet business was not a great success and in April 1841, he is declared bankrupt. He is allowed to continue trading and is awarded a certificate in February 1843.(1) Later that year, a wine merchant by the name of Edward Jenner Stannard comes to the Whitfield warehouse and wants to buy a floorcloth and two mats for his counting house. They were to be paid for on delivery. The porter sent with the mats was not to deliver them without receiving the money. Stannard did not show up at the appointed time and the porter brought the material back. Stannard called again the next day and increased the order to 25 pieces with a total value of £150. Whitfield stated that he would only accept ready money as the profit margin on the mats was very small. The goods were transported in two vans and the porter was sent with the second one to receive the money. However, the mats were not brought to Stannard’s home or warehouse, but to a Mr. Davis in St. Mary Axe. The porter was not given the money, but was told Stannard would come to Whitfield the next morning. He did indeed come the next day, but only offered bills and no cash. Whitfield refused. After a bit of toing and froing, Whitfield tried to get his carpets back from Mr. Davis, but he would not let them go as he had a claim on Stannard which was covered by the carpets.
Whitfield took the case to Guildhall where Alderman Musgrove called the action by Stannard and Davis theft and a trick played on Mr. Whitfield. Although an employee of Stannard alleged that he had heard that Whitfield would accept bills, the porter, who was heard at Guildhall the next Monday, denied that. When the case was heard again on the Thursday, the solicitor for Mr. Whitfield said that the goods had been returned that day by Mr. Davis. Davis gave as an explanation that he had read in the paper how the goods had come into the hands of Stannard and had concluded that they still belonged to Whitfield and had therefore returned them. Alderman Musgrove was satisfied that the goods were now returned to Whitfield who, as a small trader, would have suffered badly from a loss of £150, but he did not think there was enough evidence to convict Stannard if the case went to the Old Bailey, so Stannard was discharged.(2) I am afraid Stannard was a dodgy character and was up to no good again a few years later when he was confined for 18 months for defrauding someone of railway shares.(3)
Whitfield did not enjoy his life as a carpet dealer for very long as in December 1844 he died and was buried at Abney Park Cemetery. He left all his “household goods, ffixtures, plate, linen, china and all and every my personal estate of whatsoever nature” to his wife Elizabeth whom he also named as the sole executor.(4) As he did not specify any of his goods, we are none the wiser, but as he does not mention a lease or freehold, we can probably assume that he just rented his property. Elizabeth continued the warehouse for a little while as she is mentioned in an Old Bailey case of October 1845 as the proprietor of number 38.(5) She is still listed in the 1848 Post Office Directory, but she must have given up soon afterwards as Edmund Weaver is listed as carpet manufacturer at number 38 in the 1851 Post Office Directory.
As no examples of the carpets Whitfield sold, nor any advertisements listing his wares, have turned up, I have simply done a Google Image search for nineteenth-century carpets, so the carpets you see dotted around this post are the result of that search. Nothing to do with Whitfield; they just add a bit of colour to the page.
(1) The London Gazette, 9 April 1841, 13 December 1842 and 13 January 1843.
(2) The Morning Chronicle, 4, 5 and 8 September 1843.
(3) Old Bailey case t18490409-1005. You can read the complete proceedings here.
(4) PROB 11/2018/316.
(5) Old Bailey case t18451027-2014.
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