Street View: 9
Address: 140 New Bond Street
We saw in the post on Christopher Lonsdale that he used to work for Robert Birchall, music seller at 140 New Bond Street (was 129 from c. 1780-c. 1785 and 133 from c. 1788 to ±1816/7), but later set up on his own at 26 Old Bond Street. This post is about the shop at 140 New Bond Street where, after the death of Robert Birchall in December 1819, Christopher Lonsdale, Birchall’s daughter Mary, and Richard Mills formed a partnership to continue the music business. Mary Birchall left the partnership in 1829 and in October 1834 Mills and Lonsdale decided to discontinue the remaining partnership with Mills to stay at 140 New Bond Street and Lonsdale to start his own business. Richard Mills was the nephew of Mabel Mills, the wife of Robert Birchall, but the Millses were also related to the Lonsdales as Richard’s grandmother was the sister of the Christopher Lonsdale who died in 1797. Moreover, Christopher the younger who moved to 26 Old Bond Street, that is, the grandson of the Christopher who died in 1797, married Mary Ann Mills, the sister of Richard Mills, his former business partner. All quite complicated, but we will forget about the Lonsdales in this post and concentrate on Richard Mills.
In an advertisement in The Literary Gazette, and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. of 21 February 1835, that is, 15 years after Birchall’s death, Mills described himself as “nephew and successor to the late Robert Birchall” who will continue the business “established nearly 60 years ago”. He draws particular attention to “the musical circulating library [which] will be continued as usual, as R.M. has been in the above house twenty-three years, and has paid particular attention to this department of the business”, so Richard had already been responsible for the library when Birchall was still alive and intended to continue with this part of the business. The rules are made clear in an 1816 booklet; no writing in the books allowed on fine of paying the set price; and the library was open from 8 o’clock in the morning till 8 o’clock in the evening, but “no longer”. There is no exclamation mark after this last clause, but it certainly feels as if there were customers annoyingly banging on the door trying to exchange material after eight. Why else the warning?
The 1841 census found Richard Mills, his wife Elizabeth, and their growing family at number 140 where they were to remain till they handed over to their successors Hill & Co, but let’s not get ahead and stay with the Millses for a bit. In 1841 four children are at home (Elizabeth, Thomas, Arthur and Robert); the eldest sons, Richard Maitland and Henry, are at school in Greenwich. In 1851, Richard Maitland and Henry are back home and described as assistants to their father, and so is Arthur. Son Thomas has chosen a different career and is a clerk in a foreign merchant’s office. The youngest son Robert is described as ‘scholar’, that is, still at school. Ten years on, in 1861, Richard Maitland and Robert are working in the business as assistants. Richard senior died 28 November 1870(1) and widow Elizabeth is named the head of the household in the 1871 census. Richard Maitland and Robert are still there and listed as music sellers. Thomas is also living in Bond Street and is listed as clerk, but whether he is a clerk in the music business or somewhere else is not made clear. In 1881, Richard Maitland, by then a widower,(2) is the head of the household and living with him are Arthur and Robert. Ten years later, Richard has married again, Robert is still there, but no sign of Arthur.
And the 1891 census was the last to list the Millses at 140 New Bond Street as in 1895, W.E. Hill & Sons (that is William Ebsworth and his sons William Henry, Arthur Frederick and Alfred Ebsworth) took over and immediately rebuilt the shop to their requirements. They specialised in string instruments and had started out in Wardour Street, adding 38 New Bond Street to their emporium and then moving their whole business to number 140 in 1895. The building is now Grade II listed and according to the listing text it was designed/built in the Flemish style by Frederick James Eedle and Sydney Herbert Meyers.(3) You can read more about the Hill family and their track record as musical instrument makers and restorers here. The Hill Company was dissolved in 1992, but the building is still there and the ornate ground floor surround can still be admired (or loathed, depending on your architectural taste), although the shop windows have been replaced by a more modern version.
(1) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1871. Probate is granted to widow Elizabeth and son Richard Maitland. Effects valued at under £7,000.
(2) He had married Fanny Judith Grattan, a widow, on 17 April 1876 at Langham, Westminster. She died in 1879 and Richard married again in 1882 with Martha Jane Aves from Cambridge.
(3) Listing NGR: TQ2887780824.
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