Street View: 3
Address: 36 Holborn Hill


It does not occur all that often in the Tallis Street Views that the name of the shop does not indicate the name of the owner, but in this case, the Spratswill that gave his name to the draper’s shop was long dead by the time Tallis came round to depict it. William Spratswill (sometimes given as Spratswell) started trading in Holborn in 1819, not yet at number 36, but at number 52. The land tax records find him there from 1819 to 1825 when he moved to premises a little closer to Fetter Lane. Number 36 Holborn Hill was the third house from the corner with Fetter Lane and was severely damaged not long after Spratswill moved in. In April 1825, a fire broke out which was first discovered at Mr. Davis’s, a perfumer, who had his shop at number 38. Next door, number 39, the premises of Mr. Gray, seedsman, also caught fire and it spread on the east side of Davis’s towards Fetter Lane, first to Mr. Harwood’s, a turner at number 37, then to Spratswill’s and finally to trunk maker Pratt’s at number 35. According to the newspaper report, the shops of Gray, Davis and Harwood (numbers 37-39) were totally destroyed, Spratswill’s partly and the back of all the houses mentioned were burnt. A fireman was seriously injured when he fell from Mr. Davis’s shop; he had contusions on the head and a broken thigh. Other people received injuries from falling rubble.(1) The Land Tax records for 1825 clearly show the affected buildings.

1825 land tax 2

Situation in 1799 when Horwood published his map

Situation in 1799 when Horwood published his map. Spratswill’s indicated by a red arrow

Spratswill died in May 1828, just 43 years old. He left most of his worldly goods to his widow Mary, but whether she continued the shop herself is doubtful. I think it was put in the hands of others and she lived on the income of invested money as she said in her will (she died in 1851) that her share and interest of the money held by the executors of her husband’s estate are to go to the three children of her brother Benjamin Figgins. She names John Wade of Winchmore Hill one of the executors.(2) In 1830, the shop got broken into – it is still described as “of Mr. Spratswill”, by the way – and goods were taken to the value of £100. The thieves gained access to a cellar-flap which had not been secured by the carpenter who had altered it after a new pavement had been laid. A reward was offered for the apprehension of the thieves, but whether they were caught …..?(3)

Daily News 5 December 1853

Daily News 5 December 1853

From 1831 onwards, John Wade is mentioned as the proprietor of 36 Holborn Hill in the Land Tax records, but other resources still give the name of Spratswill, such as Pigot’s 1839 Directory. J. Wade & Son are given at 57 Holborn Hill, just as Tallis was to do. The son is William Benjamin who obtained his freedom of the City by redemption on 24 March 1846 and is then listed as tailor of Winchmore Hill and 57 Holborn Hill. Both number 36 and number 57 continue to be listed for the Wades in the Land Tax records, but number 36 is always referred to as Spratswill’s in advertisements and directories. That we are definitely talking about the same John Wade is proven by an Old Bailey Case of 1833 where Benjamin Wade gives evidence in a case of theft and where he says “I live on Holborn-hill; I carry on business under the name of Spratswell”.(4) More on the Wades in a future post on number 57.

Punch used Spratswill's as an example of working under another name

Punch used Spratswill’s as an example in depicting politicians ‘carrying other people’s bills’

In the tax records for 1866, number 36 still has the name of Wade as the proprietor, but also a note that the shop was empty. And not just number 36, but also numbers 34, 35 and 37. A year later, an advertisement in The Economist announces that Charles Meeking and Co have opened number 36 “for the sale of our new stock of mantles and cloaks”. The 1867 tax records do indeed show Meeking at numbers 34 to 36. Numbers 37-39 are in the possession of the City and vacant. The 1866 changes had all to do with the construction of Holborn Circus. Many shops were issued with a compulsory purchase order and moved out, but Charles Meeking saw an opportunity and bought up some of the empty properties. The October 1867 minutes of the proceedings of the Metropolitan Board show that surveyor Rawlinson Parkinson notified the Board that the three buildings at 34-36 Holborn Hill were to be altered under his supervision. Meeking seems to have bought up the whole block eventually and extended his own business, which had started at number 62, to more or less encompass all the shops from Holborn Circus to Fetter Lane. The store was later taken over by Thomas Wallis. More on them in a future post on number 62.

trade card (Source: British Museum)

trade card. Do notice the window display continuing into the alley on the left-hand side of the building (Source: British Museum)

(1) The Examiner, 24 April 1824.
(2) PROB 11/1742/33 (William) and PROB 11/2144/90 (Mary).
(3) A Political Compendium, 18 December 1830.
(4) Old Bailey case t18330103-94.


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