Street View: 15
address: 45 Fleet Street
Advertisements for Charles John Eckford often contain the line “established 1792”. That may be true, but it was not at 45 Fleet Street that the Eckfords began their business. Charles’s name only appears at the Fleet Street address in the 1834 tax records. Before that he, and his father John, could be found in Water Lane (or Street), Bridewell. And before 1810, father John could be found in Crown Court, although not as early as 1792, but from 1804. In 1811, Charles was apprenticed to James Eckford of Walthamstow, also a carver and gilder. Judging by the name, there must have been a family link, but it is not specified what that link is.
When Charles’s brother, Henry George, was apprenticed to him in 1821, his address is given as Penton street, Pentonville. Father John and son Charles John must have worked in partnership for a few years in the 1820s, but on 4 December 1828, they dissolved their partnership with Charles John to continue the business on his own. The notice in The London Gazette about the partnership, describes them as carvers, gilders, and picture dealers. And it is this latter trade that got father John into trouble in 1824 with the custom officials.
According to a newspaper report, Eckford was accused of illegally importing some pictures. He had transported 146 picture frames from Antwerp, but had undervalued them in the import document and they were for that reason seized. The custom officials suspected Eckford of having removed the paintings that were in the frames and they raided his house and workshop. They seized 64 valuable paintings by Teniers and Van Dyke and claimed that they found marks on the frames that matched those on the paintings. The paintings were allegedly smuggled into the country separately to avoid custom duties. A former employee of Eckford, one Laming, confirmed that the paintings arrived at the workshop roughly at the same time as the frames were shipped over. They had been hidden in a case that contained human hair. The defence for Eckford disputed that the paintings had recently been brought into the country and called witnesses to testify that particular paintings had been in the country for months and in one case, even three years. Although eight pictures were sworn to in this manner, Eckford could not prove that he had paid the import duty and had to surrender most of the paintings.(1)
That Eckford dealt in picture frames and not just in pictures is also shown from an Old Bailey case where he had sent two frames to the Bolt-in-Ton in Fleet Street to be forwarded to a customer in Midhurst by the Chichester coach. One of the frames, however, ended up in the hands of the accused, one John Young, who claimed to have bought it of a man “dressed in black, in Holborn, for 15s“. The frame cannot have been very large, as the constable who apprehended him said that Young had it behind his back in a handkerchief. Eckford claimed the frame was worth 10s, but unfortunately, exact measurement are not given, nor is it clear whether this was a new or second-hand frame, so it is difficult to judge whether that was a fair price.(2)
Charles John, after the partnership with his father was dissolved, continued for a while at 17 Water Street, but the 1834 tax records find him in Fleet Street. As the advertisement above shows, he not only dealt in picture frames, he also made them. If we compare the price of the frame mentioned in the 1821 Old Bailey case with the 1840 price list, we must conclude that either Young had got hold of a very small frame, or it had been a second-hand one. 1840 was also the year in which John sr. died. From his will, it is clear that he was more than just a humble shopkeeper; he leaves various properties in Crown Court, St. Bride’s, and at Walworth and Bermondsey, in trust to his son Henry George, picture dealer, and to his son-in-law George Gull, a tallow broker, for the benefit of his widow and after her decease they are to be divided between Charles, Henry George and George Gull.(3)
Despite the income he must have received from the properties his father left him, Charles John only managed to keep the business afloat until 1843, when we find him in prison as an insolvent. The notice about it in The London Gazette has him as “formerly of no. 45, Fleet-street, London, picture dealer and carver and gilder, then of Liverpool-street, New-road, and afterwards of no. 16, Goulden-terrace, Barnesbury-road, Islington, both in Middlesex, not carrying on any business at either of the last-mentioned places, and late of no. 2, Grange-road-cottages, Queen’s-road, Dalston, Middlesex, not in any business or employ”.(4)
Charles died in 1850 at 14 Clarence Street, Liverpool. The notice in the local paper still has him as “late of Fleet Street, London”, but I do not know if you can class 7 years ago as “late”.(5) When exactly the Eckfords moved to Liverpool is not clear, but on 22 September 1849, son Edwin Frances Harry, ship broker, married a Liverpool girl and his address is given as 14 Clarence Street. The year after, on the 19th of October, the other son, Frederick Charles, an artist, also marries in Liverpool, although not from the same address. Charles John’s widow Maria and his two daughters, Emily and Henrietta, are found in Derby Road, Bootle cum Linacre, Lancs. in the 1851 census. The daughters remain unmarried and living with their mother at various addresses in Lancashire until at least 1881.
More information on the Eckfords can be found on the National Portrait Gallery website here and here. And 45 Fleet Street? The fact that Eckford left in 1843, came in very handy for the neighbours across the street, Stephen and George Hooper, as their shop was about to be destroyed.
(1) The Morning Chronicle, 12 July 1824.
(2) Old Bailey case t18210214-111.
(3) PROB 11/1934/366.
(4) The London Gazette, 12 December 1843.
(5) The Liverpool Mercury, 22 February 1850.
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