Street View: 74
Address: 34 Fenchurch Street

Tallis mistakenly lists the firm as Borradaili, but it should be Borradaile, nor does he give any indication what trade they were in. Admittedly, their profession is somewhat confusing as they were involved in all kinds of activities, but to keep it simple, I have given them the occupation of ‘merchants’. They were involved, however, in (fur) hatmaking, shipping, insurance, cotton mills, and probably much more that has not made it into easily accessible records.

top part of William’s indenture

William Borradaile (born 16 Dec. 1750, baptised 5 Jan. 1751), son of John Borradaile, a tanner of Wigdon, Cumberland, was apprenticed in 1765 to London Founder Edward Watson. In 1778, William’s younger brother Richardson followed him to London to be apprenticed to Draper Henry Wright. In Bailey’s Northern Directory for the year 1781, Edward Watson was listed as a merchant at 31 Cannon Street and in his will of 1788, Watson leaves “to the said William Borradaile all the rest residue and remainder of my personal estate”, in other words: everything that had not been left to others was to go to William.(1) By that time, William had already set up on his own and his name appears in the tax records for Fenchurch Street. That the relationship between his master Edward Watson and William Borradaile was close, can be seen in the name of Borradaile’s son, who was baptised on 2 April 1785 as John Watson Borradaile. In 1799, this son was apprenticed to his uncle Richardson, and so was his younger brother Abraham in 1803. Another brother, William, was apprenticed in 1807 to a Merchant Taylor, John Clark, but later became a man of the church.(2)

Pelts of beaver, fox, and other animals

Pelts of beaver, fox, and other animals (Source: uniquelyminnesota.com)

To complicate matters, Richardson, who had entered into a partnership with his brother, also had a son William who was taken on as an apprentice in the Fenchurch business of furriers, hatters and merchants. In those days, the Borradailes were certainly involved in the fur trade and the Hudson Bay Company archive shows them supplying hats to the North West Company at Grand Portage, Minnesota.(3) See here and here for more information on the fur trade from Grand Portage. In the summer of 2017, the Grand Portage National Park Service plans to open a reconstruction of the inside of a 1799 hatters’ shop, which they will name ‘Borradaile and Atkinson’.

The Borradailes formed all sorts of – temporary – partnerships, sometimes more than one at any given time, and a particular example is given in The London Gazette of 1811 where several partnerships were dissolved.(4) The first one mentioned was between William Borradaile, Richardson Borradaile and John Atkinson of Salford, Manchester, as merchants and manufacturers. They had been trading under the name of William and Richardson Borradaile and Co. in London and under the name of Borradailes, Atkinson and Co. in Salford. Another partnership between the Borradailes, Atkinson and John Clark was dissolved that same day. These partners had been trading under the name of Borradaile and Clark. Both partnerships were dissolved because Atkinson pulled out. Two more partnerships were dissolved that had involved Atkinson, although the entry in The London Gazette does not state whether they were dissolved because he withdrew. One of these partnerships was between the Borradaile brothers of Fenchurch Street, John Atkinson of Salford, Robert Owen(5) of Manchester and Thomas Atkinson of Manchester, as cotton spinners under the name of the Chorlton Twist Company. And the last partnership had been between all of the above mentioned partners together with Henry and John Barton of Manchester as cotton spinners under the name of the New Lanark Cotton Mills. The Johnstone’s 1818 Directory shows that matters in London were also not quite as straightforward as one might think, especially not when the next generation got involved. Johnstone lists under the name Borradaile:
R. & C. & Co. , furriers, Great Suffolk Street, Borough
R. and Wm. jun. & Co., merchants, 14 St. Helen’s Place
W. & R. & Co., merchants, 14 St. Helen’s Place
W., Sons & Ravenhill, hat makers, 34 Fenchurch Street, manufactury Hatfield Street, Blackfriars Rd.

fur shop from Diderot’s Encyclopédie (Source: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

We will concentrate on the Fenchurch Street business here, which was run by the Borradaile brothers and George Ravenshill after Atkinson withdrew from the partnership. More on the business in a moment, but first a glimpse into the private life of William Borradaile. On the 4th of July, 1812, he wrote a letter to the churchwardens of St. Laurence Pountney,

From the parents of my wife (who is just deceased) having been many years inhabitants of the parish of St. Laurence Pountney, and being, as well as my own mother and several others of our family, interred in the burial ground of that parish, I feel desirous to possess a vault there. I therefore request the favour of you to call a vestry, in order to consider of a grant to be made me of ground for the purpose of building such vault near the foot of my late mother’s grave stone, of the following dimensions, viz.: 7 feet long by 4 feet 10 inches wide in the clear, and of such depths as you may judge proper.(6)

His request was granted and presumably the vault was built, but surprisingly, he does not mention it in his will.(7) He was, however, buried at St. Mary Abchurch, which was the parish to which St. Laurence Pountney had been united after the Fire of London in 1666 as St Laurence’s was not rebuilt, although their graveyard continued in use until 1850. William’s gravestone, and those of other Borradailes, is listed for St. Laurence Pountney in The Churchyard Inscriptions of the City of London. But to return to the business: sons John Watson and Abraham continued the business under the name of Wm. Borradaile & Co., although the property at 34 Fenchurch Street was now listed in the tax records for John Watson alone as he had inherited the building itself. In 1832, these second-generation brothers, George Ravenhill and one William Thornborrow dissolve a partnership as insurance brokers; apparently a new sideline of the hatters.(8) The 1841 census found John Watson, his wife Ann, their children and brother Abraham at 34 Fenchurch Street, but soon afterwards the business premises were shared with various other companies.

From 1843 onwards, various other businesses could be found trading from 34 Fenchurch Street, among them Ludd and William Fenner, who went bankrupt in late 1843.(9), William Grant, tobacco broker who died in March 1853, and Marshall and Edridge, who ran the Australian line of packet ships. In 1851, John Watson and Abraham dissolved the partnership they had as “merchants and general commission agents”, because John Watson was retiring.(10) He died in 1859. Abraham continued the business until his own death in June 1857. While sitting in his counting house “he was suddenly attacked by mortal sickness, and, although medical aid was promptly at hand, expired in a few minutes of the seizure”.(11) The notice about Abraham’s death listed the company as “Cape merchants” and said that he had married his cousin, the daughter of Richardson Borradaile, many years M.P. for Newcastle-under-Lyne. The entry for Richardson on the website of the Parliamentary history gives more information on the various merchant activities of the Borradailes (see here). The Borradaile name continued to be used by various family members and could be found as far away as Calcutta where Messrs Borradaile owned a steam boat, the “Pioneer” which did service on the Ganges; they were also heavily involved in the Indian railways. The Borradailes even acquired eternal fame by having an – albeit small – island near Antarctica named after them, Borradaile Island.

Strakers’ Annual Mercantile, Ship & Insurance Register of 1863, lists numerous businesses trading from 34 Fenchurch Street:
Merchants: Bartholomew Calway; Alexander L. Georgacopulo; Demetrio Georgiades; V.A. Van Hüffel & Co.; Charles Maltby; Michaelis, Boyd & Co; Henry William F. Niemann; W. Potter; Henry A. Preeston & Co.; W.S. Shuttleworth & Co.; John Hammond Winch; East India and Colonial Merchants: Lerosche and Co.; James Macdonald and Co.; Tea and Coffee Brokers: Charles Maltby; Timber Brokers: Grant, Hodgson & Co.
Many more names could be added to these over the years, but I will leave it at this and end with the note that the building as the Borradailes knew it no longer exists. The building as Tallis depicted it with the gate in front had already disappeared when Goad produced his insurance maps. In 1936 a much larger Plantation House was erected and even that has now been superseded by Plantation Place, an enormous glass and steel office development.

1887 Goad insurance map

Goad’s insurance map, 1887

(1) PROB 11/1170/126.
(2) He became rector of Wandsworth, but killed himself in 1836 ‘in a fit of temporary derangement’ by jumping off Vauxhall Bridge.
(3) Public Archives of Canada Reel 5M5, Part F4/20, Invoice of sundries shipped by McTavish Fraser and Co. for the NWcCo. Reference kindly supplied by Karl Koster for which my thanks.
(4) The London Gazette, 28 September and 15 October 1811.
(5) A biographical sketch of Robert Owen appeared in The Poor Man’s Guardian, 28 November 1834.
(6) H.B. Wilson, A History of the Parish of St. Laurence Pountney, 1831, p. 177. William Borradaile had married Ann Delapierre in 1784; she was the daughter of Abraham and Mary Delapierre.
(7) PROB 11/1790/29.
(8) The London Gazette, 4 January 1833.
(9) The London Gazette, 22 December 1843.
(10) The London Gazette, 17 January 1851.
(11) The Morning Chronicle, 17 June 1857.


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