Street views 48 and 52
Addresses: 185 Oxford Street and 204 Tottenham Court Road

The Hewetson brothers, John William and Thomas, had two very similar shops, at least from the outside. They were listed in two of Tallis’s Street Views and in each of them they had a vignette of their property; in booklet 48 one for 185 Oxford Street and in booklet 52 one their shop at 204 Tottenham Court Road. The various descriptions they get in the indexes of the Street View booklets and the lettering on the elevations show that they dealt in a large variety of goods, all to do with furniture, bedding, carpets and even interior decorating. And if two vignettes and their names and occupations on the elevations were not enough, they also included an advertisement in the booklet for Tottenham Court Road.

advertisement in Street View 52

In 1840 they take out insurances with the Sun Fire Office, the one for the Oxford Street premises fairly simple with the property described as John’s dwelling house with offices, stables and loft, all communicating, of brick and timber, with no cabinet work done on the premises and with no pipe stove therein. It is insured for £1350 with an additional entry for the plate glass in the shop front, valued at £50. The total premium came to 2l. 3s. The Tottenham Court Road property is listed for Thomas and insured for £1100 (premium £1/8/6). However, a separate entry in the name of both brothers explains that the house is connected northwards via a covered walkway with a (ware)house and stables at the back in Alfred Mews, which is partly rented out to a shoemaker. They insure household fixtures in the house and in the house behind for £50; household goods, wearing apparel, printed books and plate for £200; stock, utensils and business fixtures for £1800; china, glass & lace for £150; and stock and utensils for £200, which included livestock in the stables and the cart house plus loft in Alfred Mews, for a total premium of 3l. 3s.(1)

furniture label (Source: Grosvenor Prints)

But one property in Alfred Mews was not enough for the brothers and they gradually acquired more and more houses until they occupied almost the whole south side of the street. They also acquired more properties in Tottenham Court Road. Thomas Hewetson had partnered with Robert Thexton and the address given for them in 1871 is 200, 203 and 204 Tottenham Court Road.(2) By then, the premises in Oxford Street had probably been given up and although the census finds an upholsterer there, Herbert J. Boutor, he is listed as employing 9 men and 2 boys, so probably working for himself rather than for the Hewetsons. The Hewetsons are slightly difficult to pin down as half the family was called John, John William, William John, or William, with none of these names used consistently. The 1861 census saw a William Hewetson at Oxford Street, but whether he was the John William of the 1840 insurance is not clear. When he died in 1864, probate was registered for his son John Hewetson, also an upholsterer.(3) John Hewetson, the son of William or another John?, died in 1876 and Thomas of Tottenham Court Road in 1881(4), but Thomas Hewetson junior carried on the business with Robert Thexton and later also with William Peart, who dropped out as partner in 1884.(5) A year after that, Thomas Hewetson also left the partnership and it was just Robert Thexton who continued the furniture business until his death in 1889.(6) In or just before 1889, one Milner must have joined the firm as partner as Goad’s insurance map of 1889 shows the name of the firm splashed across the crescent-shaped row of houses as Hewetson, Milner & Thexton.

The leases in the area were to expire in 1902 and the City of London Corporation Estate decided to do something about the crescents in Chenies and Store Street as they were considered “quite out of date”. Alfred Place was to be extended to Alfred Mews, going straight through the premises of Hewetson & Co. Hewetson, Milner & Thexton, by then a Limited Company, resisted the Estate’s attempts, but were eventually forced to move to premises at 209–212 Tottenham Court Road, going bankrupt a few years later. Not surprising if the notice of 1901 in The British Architect is correct; it said that Hewetson & Co were granted a new 80-years’ lease by the Court of Common Council at an annual rent of £3,000, which was an increase on their old rent of £2,300. A notice in The London Gazette of 19 March 1907 about the forced sale of their premises after the bankruptcy gives an indication of the extent of their business:

Leasehold premises, comprising shops and showrooms, numbers 209, 210, 211, and 212 Tottenham Court Road, numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, Chenies Street, numbers 15, 16, 17, and 18 Alfred Place, covering a ground area of upwards of eleven thousand square feet, and two dwelling houses and engineering works in the rear thereof, known as number 44, 46, and 44A, Whitfield Street, with a ground area of about three thousand four hundred square feet.

In November 1911, the Liquidators’ Report was ready to be shown to the members of the Company and that was, after some eighty years, the end of the flourishing furniture business started by two brothers. It is ironic, and rather sad really, that the so-called improvement of the extension of Alfred Place never took place and the crescents that were considered so out of date are still there. The Hewetson buildings in Alfred Mews have all been replaced and the street no longer shows the rounded front it had when the Hewetsons traded from there.

The Times, 20 December 1900

(1) London Metropolitan Archives, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/575/1328805, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/574/1328756 and 1328757.
(2) The London Gazette, 7 March 1871. They issued a debtor’s summons against a Miss Neville of Percy Villas, Teddington, who apparently failed to pay her bills.
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1864. He left an estate worth £10,000, later resworn at £8,000.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1876, John left an estate worth £40,000; England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1881. Thomas left an estate worth £25,000, later resworn at £16,000.
(5) The London Gazette, 15 January 1884.
(6) The London Gazette, 24 February 1885. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1889. His estate was valued at over £20,000.


<– 186 Oxford Street
<– 203 Tottenham Court Road
184 Oxford Street –>
205 Tottenham Court Road –>