Street View: 48
Address: 171 Oxford Street
There must have been thousands of shopkeepers such as Henry Fricker in 19th-century London. Nothing spectacular happened to them, they were not particularly successful and their name hardly ever appeared in the newspapers. Their lives may not have been as quiet as one may assume from the lack of records, but for the purpose of this blog, they are the difficult ones. What do you write about a 19th-century London shopkeeper if nothing seems to have been worth recording, either about the person or the shop they had, or indeed about the building where they had their business? Well, you make the most of what you have found and hope the unassuming story about an unassuming man does not bore your readers. If you like detective stories, you may appreciate the account given below of my research. No, nobody was murdered, so do not expect a sensational plot; it is just a description of the tortuous route to find snippets of information about Fricker.
Henry Fricker is not a very common name, so first of all, I gathered all the bits of information I could find about what I thought was him, and put them in chronological order. That sounds like an efficient way of starting your research, but it quite quickly became apparent that there were two Henry Frickers involved in the leather and shoe business in London at roughly the same time. So, the next step was to separate these two gentlemen. There is a will for one of of them, dated 1842, and this fortunately tells us his exact address, 171 Oxford Street, so he must be the one we are after for this blog post. He mentions his brothers John and Francis and his wife Harriet. The will was written in 1836 and witnessed by Griffith Humphreys of 169 Oxford Street, by Griffith Richards, also of 169 Oxford Street, and John Henry Hoskyns of Queen Street, Edgware Road. Probate was granted on 8 August 1842 to Harriet and John Fricker, the surviving executors.(1) The only snag is that no Henry Fricker is listed in the Registration of Deaths for 1842. But, a Henry Fricker, 54 years old, is buried at All Souls, Kensal Green, on 19 September 1841, which may be the shoe maker we are after. Perhaps it just took a long time to sort out the effects after Henry’s death. However, the address given in the burial register is not Oxford Street, but 6 Mortimer Terrace, Kentish Town, so more work to be done.
The other Henry Fricker could at one time be found at 182 Fleet Street and is consistently listed as a (Japanned) leather cutter or splitter, or as a cap peak maker, never as a shoe maker or seller. In about 1836, he moved to 2 Albion Terrace, Kingsland Road, so, as long as the addresses or occupations are mentioned, the two man can be distinguished from one another. This second Henry died in 1866, still at 2 Albion Terrace.(2) To work out more details of the life and/or career of Henry of 171 Oxford Street, we can safely ignore all references to Albion Terrace or peak makers. The most logical place to start for someone who was alive after June 1841 is the census for that year which was taken on 6 June. Sounds straightforward, but it was not.
A name search on Ancestry only gave me more Henry Frickers, but none matched the shoemaker and the 1841 census does not give any house numbers for Oxford Street, so we have to work it out by looking at the neighbours. William, Thomas and Henry Green are listed as dressing case makers next door to Griffith Humphreys whom we have already seen as a witness to Fricker’s will. Both are also listed by Tallis (published in ±1839, so a little bit before the census). It is therefore easy enough to work out that they must be living at numbers 168 and 169. At 170 Tallis has a Mr. Balls, auctioneer and upholsterer and the census has George Martin, upholsterer, so he probably took over from Balls. We will sort those two out when we get to write the post on number 170. If we follow the numbering, we would next expect number 171 with Fricker, and after him Henry Mills, a silversmith, who is listed by Tallis at 172. But, that is not the case. Mills follows Martin and number 171 seems to have disappeared from the list completely. Or has it? No, not really, an 1840 insurance record for the Sun Fire Office has both the names of Mills and Fricker for number 171 and later advertisements for silversmith Mills have him at 171 & 172. In other words, he took over number 171 and merged it with 172. So far, so good, but where is Fricker?
Perhaps already at 6 Mortimer Terrace? Yes, indeed, Mortimer Terrace, Kentish Town, no house numbers given, has Henry Fricker, 52 years old, “ind” as in independent/retired. His wife is 40 years old, her name unfortunately totally unreadable, or perhaps the squiggle says ‘Mrs’, and children Harriet, Emily, Eliza, Francis, Mary and John. As always, the 1841 census is completely unreliable as regards ages, and they have the eldest three daughters all at 15 years of age. Anything is possible, of course, but I doubt they were triplets. The children were all born in London, but Henry and his wife were not (see last column in the illustration below).
Although the bare fact that a Henry Fricker lived and died at 6 Mortimer Terrace, and that a person of the same name had his business at 171 Oxford Street, does not necessarily mean that these two people are one and the same, but the baptism records of the children help us out here. On 21 July 1837, Henry and Harriet of 171 Oxford Street register their children, as most non-conformists did, at Dr. Williams’s Library. The names and ages of the children roughly match those of the 1841 census and no, the girls were not triplets.(3)
Where did Henry come from? Well, the electoral register for 1840 tells us that Henry Fricker who resided at the freehold of 171, Oxford Street, came originally from Meltham (this should probably be Melksham) in Wiltshire. And the baptism records for the children state that Harriet was the daughter of John Webb, a dyer, of Park Street, Borough, Southwark. This gives us enough information to search for a marriage. Harriet and Henry were married at St. Saviour’s, Southwark after putting up the banns on three successive Sundays: 24 May, 31 May and 7 June 1818. Henry was 54 years old when he died and 52 in June 1841 (census), so should have been born in 1788 or 1789. I have not found a record for the birth of Henry, but there were Frickers in Melksham around that time, so it is very possible that he came from there.
There is one intriguing trade card (© Trustees of the British Museum) left to discuss and that is the one above of Farmilo and Fricker at Bentinck Street. Was he “our” Fricker? Farmilo is certainly listed as a ‘lady’s shoe maker’ in various records, as Fricker was to be later on, but that is of course no guarantee. Francis Farmilo was buried on 1 April 1801 at St. George, Hanover Square, and that does seem a bit early for Henry to have been involved with him. The earliest possibility I found for shoemaker Henry is 1814 when he insured premises at 3 Tavistock Court, Covent Garden. And in 1822 he insured 171 Oxford Street and was found at that address in Pigot’s Directory. Was there an earlier generation of Frickers involved in the shoe business? Please leave a comment if you know the answer. For now, I think I have bored you enough with this account of my search for Henry Fricker of 171 Oxford Street.
(1) PROB 11/1966/277
(2) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1866. Estate valued at under £450.
(3) Date of births: Harriet (1-9-1819), Emily (14-2-1822), Eliza (1-6-1824), Francis (16-1-1829), Mary (20-8-1830) and John (29-1-1833).
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