Street View: 24
Address: 36 Gracechurch Street

Kent’s 1794 Directory of London and Westminster & Borough of Southwark lists Dunford, Baratty & Son, pin makers, at 36 Gracechurch Street, but the Dunfords had plied their trade for a lot longer, as from Christmas 1744, a house on London Bridge was leased to a Mr. Durnford, pin maker. Not much else is known, other than that the house had a frontage of 16ft 8in.(1). Kent’s Directory of 1766 already puts Richard Durnford, pin-maker, in Gracechurch Street, but no house number is given. The 1768 edition, however, lists R. Durnford at number 36. In 1808, Edward Francis and George Madgwick Davidson of 36 Grace Church Street, pin and needle makers, take out an insurance with the Sun Fire Office, suggesting that Durnford had disappeared from the premises. A year later, an entry in The Repertory of Arts and Manufacture, records that Messrs. Francis and Davidson have purchased a patent from one William Bundy for heading pins and the entry helpfully lists them “late Durnford and Co”. However, when Tallis came round in 1839 or 1840 for his Street Views, the firm was still called Durnford and Co, so what is going on?

Tabart’s Book of Trades, vol. 3

In 1819, The Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature reports on a useful new way of heading pins, which made for a speedier process and more uniform heads. The Cyclopaedia is not at liberty to disclose the actual process, so we are none the wiser, but they do mention the inventors as Messrs Durnford, Francis & Co. which at least gives us a link between Francis and Durnford. The Naturalist of 1838 gives hints to entomologists on pinning their insects and tells their young readers that “Swedish and Russian pins are the best made” and “the heads of the small English pins are very liable to come off (and then the insect runs great risk of being spoiled)”. That problem can be solved by heating the pin head and dipping it in sealing wax, but “silver pins should be used for those [insects] liable to grease. The makers are Durnford, 36, Gracechurch Street, and Hales, 15, Great Dover Street, Southwark”.

Despite this 1838 mention of Durnford, an 1820 insurance record just lists the names of Francis and Davidson. The two gentlemen were doubly related as George Madgwick Davidson had married Elizabeth Francis in 1809; Edward Francis was her brother who had married Susanna Davidson, George Madgwick’s sister, also in 1809. And they were not just involved in pin making as in September 1831, they dissolve a partnership that they had in Nag’s Head Court, just around the corner of their pin making business in Gracechurch Street, with Edward’s brother, William Francis, as wholesale tea-dealers, saltpetre and hop merchants, under the name of Francis and Co.(2) They seem to have been busy people.

Advert for Durnford & Co. is Street View booklet 9

The 1841 census does not give house numbers, so it is not exactly clear who occupies which house, but one Alfred Davidson, manufacturer, is found in the right area and in an Old Bailey case of the same year, he testifies that he is the son of George Madgwick Davidson and that he conducts the pin making business for his father. The accused, Matthew Bulger, had ‘removed’ a candlestick, a blower, 11lbs. weight of pins, 5lbs. weight of candles, 144 hooks and eyes, 2lbs. weight of tin, 24 pin-cases, 4 quires of paper, 3 account-books, 31lbs. weight of copper wire, 28lbs. weight of pin points, and 2 drawers, all recognised as property belonging to Davidson, his master. Bulger was found guilty and confined for six months.(3)

Advert in Street View booklet 11, with similar ones in 12, 24 and 28

George Madgwick did very well out of all his businesses and was listed as a landed proprietor in the 1851 census. He died that same year at Warmley House (listed building, see here) and was buried “by coroners’ order” on 19 July. Son Alfred succeeded to his father’s pin-making factory at Warmley, which had been set up in the 18th century by William Champion.(4) Alfred expanded the business to include the Warmley Tower Potteries, but, in 1863, after the death of his wife, he emigrated to Australia. He was described as “a persistent and passionate advocate for justice for the aborigines” and “an unrelenting opponent of the Pacific Island labour trade.” More on him here.

The shop at 36 Gracechurch Street narrowly escaped being requisitioned for the road works that were necessary because of the new approach to London Bridge. On the 1887 insurance map you can see that number 36 kept its straight facade onto Gracechurch Street, but number 37 and higher numbers were set back. In the 1833 tax records, the property of Davidson & Francis’s neighbour, Henry Blenkinsop, at number 37, is listed as having “late Naish & Blenkinsop” as occupiers and the “New London Bridge Company” as owner. The Durnford pin shop seems to have been abandoned in the early 1840s as the 1843 Post Office Directory fails to list them and although the 1844 land tax records still list Francis & Davidson there, by 1847 they have gone (the records for 1845 and 1846 do not seem to be available online). The 1848 Post Office Directory shows Lawrence Hyam, tailor, draper, outfitter, hosier, hatter & warehouseman on the premises.

1887 insurance map

Advert from the Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, 1851

(1) LMA, COL/CCS/PL/01/128/J.
(2) The London Gazette, 20 September 1831.
(3) The Old Bailey, case t18410201-678.
(4) Doreen Street, Not Worth a Pin: Pin Making in the Kingswood Area, online here)


<– 37 Gracechurch Street 35 Gracechurch Street –>