Street View: 53
Address: 263 Tottenham Court Road

As Chapman’s shop was on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Great Russell Street, it was know by both addresses: 263 Tottenham Court Road and 1 Great Russell Street. The shop had had various occupants and the Sun Fire Office lists the following:
1810 Jonathan Grove, fishmonger
1826 John Bradford, grocer
1828 Charles Ward, tobacconist
1831 George Blakeway, grocer
1834 Isaac Marsh, grocer
1835 Richard Taylor, esquire of Edgware Road, so presumably renting it out
1836 Lavell and Chapman, silk mercers and linen drapers

In an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle of 9 November 1835, James Alexander Lavell and George Albert Chapman announce a partnership at 1 Great Russell Street. They explain that Lavell had been a partner with Harvey & Co. of Ludgate Hill and Chapman was “from the same house”. The way they phrase this suggests that Chapman had not been a partner, but just worked there. They called their new business premises ‘Victoria House’ and sold “a choice and superior assortment of drapery goods, of every description, which, for fashion, variety, and extent, is not usually met with in one establishment”. The partnership only lasted a few years and in February 1838, they dissolved it with Chapman to continue on his own.(1)

In 1841, the census lists George Albert at 1 Great Russell Street, apparently single, living with five male journeymen/servants and one female servant. Chapman’s shop was frequently visited by shoplifters and 1840 was a particularly bad year for him. It started in March 1840 with Isaac Eggenton who stole 22 yards of printed cotton. The Old Bailey record is unfortunately rather short and does not tell us much more than that Isaac was 19 years old [which was in fact, 13 years old], pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years transportation. We know that he was sent to the Isle of Wight, to Parkhurst Prison from where he, and many other “apprentices”, as they were called, were sent to Australia or New Zealand. Isaac ended up in Auckland, New Zealand, where he died in 1897 (see here).(2)

Some of Chapman’s shopmen had to give evidence in Old Bailey trials. Edward Griffith testifies that he is a shopman to Chapman in the trial of Catherine Broderick who had stolen several yards of cloth in March 1840.(3) A month later, Margaret Callaghan is apprehended for stealing some printed cotton. In this case, William Harris, “in the service of” Chapman, gives evidence.(4) Chapman’s shop must have been an attractive place for shoplifters, as a few month later, another female, Catherine Williams, attempted to steal a piece of mouseline-de-laine, but was caught hiding it in her shawl by Griffith. One Thomas Howes, a Manchester warehouseman of King-street, Cheapside, said he had known the prisoner for thirty years, and that “she had the best of character for honesty — she is of an absent character of mind — she scarcely knows what she is about”. She was found not guilty.(5) Small cases of theft did not usually make it into the newspapers, but in this case, a journalist must have been short of copy and decided to do a write-up about the Williams case. Unfortunately, he got it all wrong and instead of Howes giving Ms Williams a good character, the newspaper wrote that it was a Mr. Williams who did so. He was reported to be a bookseller of 1 Great Russell Street, but that is hardly likely as that was Chapman’s address and the last name of the bookseller is the same as that of the alleged thief. And in the newspaper, Catherine Williams was not discharged after having been found not guilty, but was locked up and only released after two days when bail was granted. It looks as if the journalist combined the notes on two cases and came up with a muddle.(6)

Linen draper from The Book of English Trades 1818

Linen draper from The Book of English Trades (1818)

But Chapman’s woes were not over yet and the month after the Williams case, Martha Jones tried to nick a shawl, but Edward Griffith was on to her(7) and in 1842, it was yet another shopman, Charles Hewitt, who stopped Peter Collins from wandering off with a pair of gloves.(8) And in May 1844, it was Chapman himself who apprehended Mary Ann Watson for stealing 11 yards of mouseline-de-laine.(9) Whether it was the frequent thefts or the less than perfect business acumen of Chapman himself, the drapery in Tottenham Court Road only lasted until 1845 when Chapman assigned his estate and effects onto John Bradury and Henry Sturt, both warehousemen, for the benefit of his creditors.(10) What happened next to Chapman is unclear, so we will continue with the businesses who occupied the corner shop after him.

One William Hardwick, laceman, is next found on the premises, but he went bankrupt in 1849, so that business did not last very long either.(11) The 1851 Post Office Directory lists Henry Tautz & Co., silk mercers, on the premises; all still in the drapery line of business, but the 1856 Post Office Directory lists William Davies, hairdresser for 1 Great Russell Street, so a complete change. The 1871 census shows Joseph H. Starie, bookseller, on the premises, and in 1882, an advertisement appears in the Daily News for Benson’s, a company selling rubber hoses at number 263. They had another shop at 4 Tottenham Court Road, which was just across the road. We will sort their history out when we write the post on number 4, but for now, the story of 263 Tottenham Court Road / 1 Great Russell Street has come to an end.

Daily News, 29 May 1882

(1) The London Gazette, 16 February 1838.
(2) Old Bailey case t18400406-1078. Thanks go to Lyn Olds who is a descendent of Isaac.
(3) Old Bailey case t18400406-1161.
(4) Old Bailey case t18400511-1431.
(5) Old Bailey case t18400706-1862.
(6) The Southern Star and London and Brighton Patriot, 12 July 1840.
(7) Old Bailey case t18400817-2011.
(8) Old Bailey case t18420131-772.
(9) Old Bailey case t18440506-1501.
(10) The London Gazette, 13 June 1845.
(11) The London Gazette, 28 July 1849.


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