Street View: 32
Address: 16 Lamb’s Conduit Street


16 Lamb’s Conduit Street was situated opposite East Street. Number 16 is now number 34 and East Street has been renamed into Dombey Street, but the former numbers 16 and 17 are still recognisable as twins with the drainpipe providing a visual division. The rounded arches around the windows on the first floor are not visible in the drawing by Tallis, so either he forgot to depict them or the frontage of the house is not as old as it appears and has had some alterations done to it since the time John Whitfield, cheesemonger, had his business at number 16.

A large part of Bloomsbury was in private hands and 16 Lamb’s Conduit Street was part of the Bedford Charity, also known as the Harpur Trust or Harpur Estate. It was founded in the sixteenth century by Sir William Harpur for the benefit of a school he had helped to found in Bedford. In a list of accounts for the years 1865 and 1866, 16 Lamb’s Conduit Street is listed for J. Whitfield (per William Todd) as part of the Bedford Charity.(1) A year’s rent to midsummer 1866 for the property was £94.10.0. The lease had started in 1843 (no doubt as a continuation of a previous term) and was to expire in 1873. The infamous developer Nicholas Barbon built many of the houses in the area, but whether he was responsible for this particular property is not known.

Google Street View of numbers 34 and 36 (formerly 16 and 17)

Google Street View of numbers 34 and 36 (formerly 16 and 17)

William Whitfield, butterman of 44 Old Bond Street was John Whitfield’s half-brother. They had the same father (John), but John’s mother was Margaret Ord who died in 1781, and William’s mother was his father’s second wife Elizabeth Pinckney. William worked in partnership with his half-brother for a number of years and, before he moved to 44 Old Bond Street, lived in East Street. The 1819 Post Office Directory does not yet mention John and/or William, but Kent’s Directory for 1823 does, so it is likely that they started the business in or just after 1820. Pigot’s Directory for 1825-6 also lists John and William at 16 Lamb’s Conduit Street. No official announcement of the end of the partnership between the brothers has been found, but William can with certainty be found in Old Bond Street in 1831. John continued the business in Lamb’s Conduit Street and in the Tallis Street View, we find the shop described as run by John Whitfield & Son. Tallis also has them as selling more than just cheese; they apparently also dealt in bacon, although the 1843 Post Office Directory just lists them as cheesemongers.

1799 Richard Horwood's map

1799 Richard Horwood’s map

As so many cheesemongers in London, the Whitfields came from the Teesdale area, Durham, and the families frequently intermarried. See, for instance, the post on Todd & Procter. John Whitfield had married Hannah Benson, the daughter of James Benson and Hannah Nicholson. Hannah’s youngest brother Nicholas (or Nicholson) Benson of Myddleton Square, Clerkenwell, also a cheesemonger, in turn, had married Elizabeth Whitfield, a half-sister of John the cheesemonger of Lamb’s Conduit Street. Nicholas had a daughter Hannah whom he described in his will as “my daughter Hannah Benson whose mothers name was Hall”, in other words, she was illegitimate but acknowledged.(2) John Whitfield and Hannah Benson, that is, the daughter of James Benson, had at least three sons and four daughters; these seven were mentioned in John’s will(3) (he died in 1843): John jr., William Benson, George James, Margaret, Elizabeth, Mary Anne and Hannah. William Benson became a surgeon at 64 Lamb’s Conduit Street, that is, almost opposite his father’s shop, and has been given his own blog post. Sons John jr. and George James continued the cheese and bacon business and are listed at 16 & 46 Lamb’s Conduit Street in the 1848 Post Office Directory.

At number 46 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Tallis lists a poulterer by the name of Wragg, but in the 1851 census George James lives there with a housekeeper. Part of the house is occupied by Edward King, a bookseller and stationer. John junior is living above the shop at number 16. Also living there are two clerks, a servant, and one William Millwood, a poulterer. But things were not to last and in June of that same year, a petition is awarded to declare the brothers bankrupt. In the notice in The London Gazette of 20 June about the bankruptcy, the Whitfields are described as cheesemongers, poulterers and porkmen, hence presumably the presence of Millwood. Number 46, by the way, is no longer mentioned. In 1853, another notice in The London Gazette describes John as of 37 Lamb’s Conduit Street, “cheesemonger, pork butcher and poulterer and lodging house keeper, next and late of same place, assistant to cheesemonger”.(4)

Painting by Floris Claesz. van Dijck, c. 1615 (Source: Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam)

Painting by Floris Claesz. van Dijck, c. 1615 (Source: Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam)

In 1856, a change of hands becomes apparent. William and James Todd are listed at number 16 in the Post Office Directory and they also appear in a list of people with a game certificate(5). A notice about the end of a partnership in 1854 tells us more. On 24 June 1854, William Todd, the elder, William Todd, the younger, and James Todd dissolve their partnership as cheesemongers at 16 Lamb’s Conduit Street. The business would in future be continued by the younger generation.(6) Did the Todds take over from the Whitfields when they went bankrupt? It seems likely. In the 1861 census, both William (30 years old) and James (28) are living above the shop, but ten years later they are both living as farmers at Barningham, Yorkshire. In 1874, a William Todd of Lamb’s Conduit Street and of Barningham dies and William and James Todd of Barningham, gentlemen, and Anthony Todd of 34 Lamb’s Conduit Street, provision merchant, are named as executors. They were Wiliam Todd (the elder)’s nephews. The 1881 census of Barningham gives us a clue to who the parents of these three nephews were. James is listed as James junior, while two houses away, another James Todd is listed with his wife Hannah, a son John, and a daughter Jane. Combined with the fact that William and James mentioned Kennington as their place of birth in the 1871 census, we can work backwards and place the whole cheesemongering family at Somerset Place, Kennington, from at least 1831 (baptism William) to 1856, or possibly a bit later (Post Office Directory).(7) By 1861 James, Hannah and two daughters can be found in Galgate Street, Barnard Castle, but ten years later, they too can be found in Barningham. James senior died in 1891, James junior in 1910.(8) The probate records name their houses in Barningham: Hill View and Fair View. I found a photo of the latter, that is, if the same building still has the same name today, and I will end this post with that picture.

Fair View from the Local History Group section on the website of Barningham village

Fair View from the website of Barningham village

You may also like to read about Todd & Procter, cheesemongers, who also came from the Barnard Castle / Barningham area, although I admit that I do not know how exactly they were related to the Todds of this post.

(1) Schools Inquiry Commission III (1866), online here.
(2) Information supplied by Catherine Ryan and Nicky Carter, for which grateful thanks. PROB 11/2007/69. Nicolas Benson’s will has been transcribed and can be found here.
(3) PROB 11/1985/56. The will has been transcribed and can be found here. An interesting aspect of the will is John’s involvement in carpet manufacturing. More on that in the forthcoming post on his son William Benson.
(4) The London Gazette, 2 December 1853.
(5) The Economist, 27 September 1856.
(6) The London Gazette, 30 June 1854.
(7) The application for a marriage licence (5 August 1829) showed that Hannah’s maiden name was also Todd. Eight children of James and Hannah Todd were baptised at St. Mary’s, Kennington, Surrey. Where an address is supplied, it is always Somerset Place. William (Joseph) 25 Feb. 1831, James 12 Jan. 1834, Joseph 12 Apr. 1835, Anthony 3 Jan. 1838, Thomas 29 July 1838, Margaret 28 Nov. 1841, John 31 March 1844, and Jane 18 Jan. 1846.
(8) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1891. The estate was valued at over £7,100; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1910. The estate was valued at over £26,000 (resworn at almost £27,000).


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