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Street View: 2
Address: 157 Leadenhall Street


It is sometimes a good thing that the process of OCR is not perfect, especially not for older text material, as I might not so easily have worked out that Tallis made a mistake by listing J.W. Norie as Morie, with the modern facsimile edition making it even worse by transcribing Tallis’s mistake as Moria. My first Google search for ‘moria leadenhall’ immediately gave me as a matching result a book available at archive.org that contained an advertisement for Norie and Wilson at 157 Leadenhall Street, and that put me on the right track for John William Norie who obtained his freedom of the City of London by redemption through the Company of Coopers. The notice from the Coopers’ Company about his registration already has 157 Leadenhall Street as his address. The 1834 electoral registers tell us that besides his shop, he also had property in Albany Street, Regent’s Park.

Norie did not start the navigation warehouse in Leadenhall; it was William Heather who had taken over the chart publishers Mount and Page and who ran the Naval Warehouse and Academy from 1795. When Heather retired in 1813, Norie took over and hence needed the freedom of one of the Worshipful Companies to be able to trade in the City. He had already been busy before 1813, not just as an assistant to Heather, but also as an author, or perhaps more correctly compiler, of A New and Complete Epitome of Practical Navigation (1805). On the title-page he is referred to as ‘teacher of navigation and nautical astronomy’ and in his preface he sets out his reasons for writing the book, namely the inadequacy of existing works on practical navigation. He dedicated the book to the Court of directors of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies, which was of course a sensible move as most of the customers of the Navigation Warehouse had links with the East India Company and their headquarters were situated just a bit further up the street.

The shop is depicted in Robert Wilkinson’s Londina Illustrata (1825) as the second building from the left in the first section on the north side of Leadenhall Street, that is, on the left if you were coming from Cornhill and had just crossed Bishopsgate and Gracechurch Street. The caption explains that these houses were erected after a fire in 1765. A map of that fire, with the individual houses can be seen here. From the map, we learn that number 157 was then occupied by a linen draper, but none of the names correspond to the ones in the 1825 picture and in turn, most names of the 1825 occupants had disappeared by the time Tallis produced his booklet on the street some 15 years later, with the exception of Norie at no. 157, Robinson at no. 153 and Corser at no. 152.

There is nothing left now of the shop as street widening has taken its toll. There is, however, a tangible reminder of the shop in the Charles Dickens Museum. They have on display the figure of a midshipman who used to adorn the Norie premises as a shop sign.(1) The poor man is squashed a bit against the ceiling in the museum and not so easy to photograph (no flash allowed), but it is great that he has not been thrown in a skip when the shop was demolished. Dickens used the navigation warehouse in Dombey & Son as the model for Sol Gills’ shop with one of the “little timber midshipmen in obsolete naval uniforms, eternally employed outside the shopdoors of nautical instrument-makers in taking observations of the hackney coaches”. The little midshipman appears throughout Dickens’s story, following the ups and downs of Gills’ shop, and ending with a new coat of paint, still gleefully taking the measure of the hackney coaches.

Illustration by Hablot Browne (‘Phiz’) from the 1848 edition of Dombey and Son

portrait of Norie by Adam Buck, after Williams (Solomon Williams?), watercolour, circa 1803 (© National Portrait Gallery, London

portrait of Norie by Adam Buck, after Williams (Solomon Williams?), watercolour, circa 1803 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

John William Norie was born in 1772 and died in 1843. He probably retired in 1840, as that is when the partnership between the executors of George Wilson and Norie came to an end.(2) Norie’s will provides a number of clues. For starters, it was drawn up in Edinburgh, because he was at that time “residing in Princes Street Edinburgh in order to settle my affairs and to prevent all disputes that might otherwise arise in regard to my means and estate after my death”.(3) In fact, he was to die there at the end of 1843. He names William Nash of St. Thomas’s Hospital, his brother-in-law John Hodgson Anderson, and his son William Heather Norie as executors. Besides a few named bequests, he leaves his three daughters £5,500 each and the rest of his estate is to go to his son William Heather.(4) From the bequests he lists, we can work out that he had a brother Evelyn Thomas Francis, a nephew John William, and five sisters. All this information makes it fairly easy to work out that John William was the eldest son of James Norie of Moray and Dorothy Mary Fletcher of London. James had been trained for the Presbyterian ministry and ran a school at Burr Street, London. You can see a portrait of him here.

After John William’s retirement, the business was continued by Charles Wilson, the son of George Wilson who had been Norie’s partner in the past. The Land tax for 1840 is still in Norie’s name, but in 1841 it is Wilson who is paying the tax. His name continued in the tax records till 1882 when his name is given as “late Charles Wilson” and an annotation indicates that a new building is being put up: “Premises in course of erection” as the tax man phrased it. The business relocated to 156 Minories, and in time amalgamated with various other firms to become Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson, but it is nowadays just plain Imray of St. Ives, Cambridgeshire (more on them here).

title-page of J.W. Norie’s A New and Complete Epitome of Practical Navigation, 1805

part of a nautical chart by Norie, 1837 (Source: Library of Congress, online here)

octant, c. 1795 (Source: Land and Sea Collection, see here)

imprint of J.W. Norie’s New sailing directions for the Adriatic sea, or Gulf of Venice, 1843

advertisement for The Corinthian Yachtsman. Note the new address

(1) On loan since 1946 from Laurie, Norie, Imray & Wilson, see here.
(2) The London Gazette, 22 September 1840.
(3) PROB 11/1991/402.
(4) Evelina Harriet, Frances Charlotte, and Ann Isabella.


<– 158 Leadenhall Street 156 Leadenhall Street –>