Street View: 43
Address: 1 Skinner Street
The West India Merchants and Planters had established a coffee outlet for their produce at 2 Skinner Street with William Deacon as the proprietor, and the establishment was hence called Deacon & Co’s Coffee Mart. William died in 1815, but other Deacons continued the business. Next door, at number 1, the Colonial Coffee House had been established as part of the Coffee Mart. A critical article in The Scourge, or, Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly (volume 3, 1811), suggesting improper behaviour at coffee houses such as the Colonial, quoted an advertisement for the coffee house in which it was said to be “handsomely fitted up, for the accommodation of the public, and also with the view of promoting the welfare of the British coffee and sugar plantations”. Coffee &c for breakfast was to cost 1s and a single cup 6d. Newspapers were to be provided and a subscription room upstairs was to be opened “liberally supplied with magazines, reviews, gazettes, papers, Lloyd’s list, price current, shipping intelligence, etc”. The ladies were provided with a separate sitting room. The “vile insinuations” that the coffee house was only established to “promote vice and immorality” were strongly objected to by “a subscriber” in the next instalment of the magazine and no more was heard of the allegations.
When Samuel Deacon applied for a wine licence for his ‘hotel’ in 1828, a recommendation was filed “testifying to the respectability of Mr. Deacon’s character, to the perfect correctness of the manner in which the house had been hitherto conducted and the utility of such a house in the neighbourhood”.(1) So the “vile insinuations” of before seemed to have been just that, insinuations. The wine licence was, however, denied, not on moral grounds, but on bureaucratic ones: the absence of required signatures and for following the wrong procedure. Whether Deacon was fed up with having his licence refused or whether it was for other reasons, the fact is that in late 1831, he announced that he was removing the establishment to Walbrook, near the Mansion House.(2)
After the removal of Deacon & Co, the premises were once again used as two separate houses and Tallis found George Hodson, a woollen draper, at number 2 and Richard Nelson Reeve, “mans [sic] mercer” at number 1. Tallis is one of the few references I found for Reeve as a mercer; in most other sources he is listed as a woollen draper. In February 1838, Richard Nelson Reeve acquired the freedom of the City of London by redemption (that is, by paying for the privilege rather than through a 7-year apprenticeship) and on the registration papers he is said to be the 32-year old son of William Reeve, of Epsom, Surrey, a deceased victualler. His address is given as 1 Skinner Street, but he had been at that address well before he obtained his Freedom of the City. He could be found there at least as early as May 1837 when he took out an insurance policy for the premises with the Sun Fire Office. The 1841 census finds Richard, his wife Emma, and two female servants on the premises.(3) Not all servants lived above the shop as one Richard Andrew Tackley testifies in an Old Bailey case that he is in the employ of Reeve, but he is not listed in the census for Skinner Street.(4)
Another Old Bailey case tells us a bit more about Reeve’s business and how fortunes can change. In 1843, one Henry Wilson is indicted for embezzlement. Reeve testifies that Wilson had been in his employ as “country traveller” and was supposed to enter the money received into the cash book and hand the money to Reeve. One Elbourn, a draper from Amersham, Bucks, had paid Wilson three lots of money (£5, £10, and £10), but Wilson had only accounted to Reeve for £4, £5 and £5. When cross-examined, Reeve said that in the past Wilson had traded on his own account in Sun Street, Bishopsgate, and that Reeve had been one of this employees. But after a robbery in which Wilson lost a lot of money, he had been obliged to go into service. He had been with Reeve for the past six years and had been paid £200 a year + travelling expenses. Reeve also says that his own business “is now very extensive”. Wilson received a good character and was recommended for mercy. He was confined for four months, which was indeed fairly lenient, considering that other thieves were condemned to death or transported to the colonies for having stolen far less.(5)
Richard Nelson’s business may have been “very extensive” in 1843, it was not to last. He is declared a bankrupt in 1848 and then described as of Clerkenwell Green, licensed victualler, trader, dealer and chapman.(6) He did receive a licence and could continue trading. The 1848 Post Office Directory still lists him as woollen draper at 1 Skinner Street and as the proprietor of the Crown tavern on Clerkenwell Green, but a subsequent notice in The London Gazette of 19 October 1849, gives him as formerly of the Crown tavern, then of 25 Peyton Place, Walworth (out of business), and now of 6 High Street, Newington Butts, town traveller. In other words, what happened to his former employer Wilson, now happened to him. Reeve tried to re-establish his business, but in September 1851 he had to assign all his property to two trustees who were to satisfy the creditors with the proceeds.(7) The 1851 census finds Richard and Emma in Islington. Richard is described as woollen traveller.
In 1876, Richard’s name comes up as a witness in a case of fraud where a man and a woman had pretended to be running a tailor’s business. After paying one small order promptly at Reeve’s employers, Messrs. Powell and Caton of 13 Newgate Street, no doubt just to establish their credibility, the thieves ordered several larger lots which were never paid for and when Reeve went to their shop, it was empty and the culprits had absconded.(8) In the 1881 census, Reeve, by then a widower, is listed as “retired merchant” and living at the almshouse at Stanstead College, Idsworth, on the Hampshire/Sussex border.(9) He died in 1892.
(1) The Morning Chronicle, 13 December 1828.
(2) The Athenaeum, 17 December 1831.
(3) Richard had married Emma Kentfield on 16 May 1829 at St. Nicholas, Brighton.
(4) Old Bailey case t18411025-2737.
(5) Old Bailey case t18430821-2357.
(6) The London Gazette, 4 January 1848.
(7) The London Gazette, 21 November 1851.
(8) Daily News, 6 September 1876.
(9) From A History of the County of Hampshire, Volume 3. (Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908): Stanstead College, was founded by Mr. Charles Dixon, of Stanstead Park (Suss.), by deed 1852, for the support and benefit of decayed merchants of London, Liverpool, or Bristol, being members of the Church of England.
|<– 2 Skinner Street||1 Farringdon Street –>|