Street View: 85
Address: 35 Soho Square

The 1841 census saw Richard Hetley, glass dealer, at 35, Soho Square, that is, on the west side of the Square. Living with him are James, Henry and Frederick, and although the census does not specify their relation to Richard, nor their occupations, we know that they were his sons. Pigot’s Directory of 1839 just gives him as glass shade manufacturer, but he also supplied plate glass and the 1843 Post Office Directory gives his business as “wholesale glass shade, sheet, crown & patent plate glass warehouse”, which must have been a standard formula used by Hetley, as the 1847 advertisement in a horticultural book (see below) uses exactly the same phrase, and so does the 1848 Post Office Directory. Richard had been at Soho Square since 1835, but before that, he could be found at 8 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, where he had a short-lived partnership in 1828 with Antoine Claudet, whom we have come across before. Richard could not be found in the tax records of Tavistock Place before 1828, so I turned to the baptism records of his children to see if they elicited any relevant information.

His eldest son James Hicks Hetley, named after his mother Mary Hicks, was baptised in August 1817 at St. James Piccadilly. Richard’s address is given as Coventry Street and his occupation as fishmonger, which is certainly a surprise. The baptism in 1819 for the next child, Henry, gives the same information, but unfortunately, the next three children were baptised years later, in 1835, when the family was already living at Soho Square, so no more information can be gleaned there. Sun Fire Office insurance records tell us a bit more, namely that Richard was already working as a fishmonger in Coventry Street in 1810 and that he continued to do so until at least 1820. Richard must then have changed his occupation from fishmonger to glass merchant between 1820 and 1828 According to legend he started his glass business in 1823, but I have not found any evidence for that date. However, later censuses tell us that son Frederick was born in 1822 in France, and I wonder whether Richard’s connection with Claudet had anything to do with the move to France and the change in occupation. What came first one wonders? In May 1835, glass dealer Richard insured 8 Tavistock Street, but in September of that year he insured 35 Soho Square, which gives us a definite year for the start of the Soho Square business.

advertisement in George Glenny, The standard of perfection for the properties of flowers and plants, 1847

Sometime after 1843, Richard must have entered into a partnership with his sons, as, from then on, the firm is called Hetley & Co. Richard is listed as retired in the 1851 census and living at Beaufoy Terrace. Son James is living at 35 Soho Square and Henry at 13 Wigmore Street. Frederick is still living at home, but had chosen a different career; he is listed as a surgeon. Richard died in December 1853 and was buried at All Souls, Kensal Green. In his will, dated March 1852 [mistake for 1853], he said that he felt his “health declining very seriously”. He left one third of his possessions to his wife Mary and the rest was to be divided between the children.(1) He makes no mention of the business, so whatever provisions had been made must have been made before his retirement. Despite the fact that sons James and Henry were both glass manufacturers, they ran separate establishments.

Henry at 13 Wigmore Street

advertisement for Henry Hetley, 13 Wigmore Street, in The Lancet of 1856

In a previous post, we saw that the front of number 12 Wigmore Street was covered in scaffolding and that the date for the building work was given as 1820 in Walford’s Old and New London (vol. IV, p. 438). That date, however, could not be right. Number 13, the house next to number 12, is clearly showing the name of Hetley, glass shade manufacturer, but in the Tallis Street View of 1839, number 13 was occupied jointly by Hopper, a sculptor and Daniell, a dentist. They were still there when the census was taken in 1841. Daniell could be found in Wigmore Street till 1843, and Hopper till his death in 1844. Only in the 1851 census do we see Henry Hetley appearing as the occupant of the premises, so he must have moved in sometime after 1844. We can date his appearance in Wigmore Street more precisely to later that decade as the Post Office Directory of 1848 does not yet list him. And from an Old Bailey case we learn that in September 1846, Henry still described himself as a glass merchant of Soho Square.(2) Hetley and his family probably moved in between October 1848 and April 1850 as the address given in the baptism record of daughter Ellen May is 71 Great Portland Street, but for the next child, Elizabeth, it is 13 Wigmore Street.(3) The Hetleys were certainly still there when daughter Kate was born in 1857, but by 1861, they were living in Islington.(4)

13 Wigmore Street. Part of an 1852 drawing by T.H. Shepherd (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

advertisement in Edward Walford, County Families of the United Kingdom, 1860

Just because Henry Hetley moved to Islington does not necessarily mean he gave up his business – the 1861 census still lists him as glass dealer (employing 3 men) – but by the end of the year, he dissolved a partnership with James Meers of Gravesend as sand merchant.(5) And although sand and glass are certainly related, an advertisement in The Times of 18 May 1867 tells us that Henry’s business has been removed to Soho Square. What the exact circumstances were is unclear. Considering the remark at the end of an 1851 advertisement for James Hetley & Co, “their only establishment in London” (see below), it seemed unlikely that the brothers had some sort of partnership in the years that Henry traded from Wigmore Street. Did James gobble up his brother’s business in 1867, or had Henry wanted out anyway and found his brother willing to take over the content of his business? We may never know.

The next census (1871) tells us that Henry is living at Auckland Hill as a manufacturer of stationary. In October 1872, he collared the thief who tried to grab the two umbrellas he had with him when he went for a spot of lunch, and in the subsequent hearing of the case at Guildhall, Hetley described himself as a manufacturing stationer of 19, Finsbury Street.(6) In 1881, he is living at Versailles Road as a printer and in 1891 as a wholesale stationer. He died in 1899 and his probate record has him as wholesale stationer at Versailles Road and 63 St. John's Square, Clerkenwell.(7)

James at 35 Soho Square

advertisement for James at Soho Square in Adams’s Pocket London Guide Book of 1851

Meanwhile, James continued to run the 35 Soho Square business and also branched out into stained window glass (see here for his involvement with stained-glass designer Charles Eamer Kempe). James’s business had always been the bigger of the two, and, already in 1851, we see him employing 6 men and a boy, while Henry only had 4 employees at that time. The Great Exhibition was an excellent opportunity to bring in more customers and James entered an advertisement in The Times of 14 January, 1851, informing “manufacturers and others who intend showing works requiring BLOWN SHADES or CASES, in either plate, patent plate, or sheet glass, that they are prepared to furnish them, either on sale or hire, of all shapes and dimensions”. And as proof of their experience in these matters, James mentions that all glass shades needed for the Society of Arts exhibitions were made by Hetley & Co.

The Times, 9 Oct. 1965

Subsequent censuses no longer tell us anything about the size of James’s business, but it certainly lasted a lot longer than his brother’s business and, in fact, it still exists, albeit lately as part of Pearsons Glass, following the collapse of T&W Ide with whom Hetley was previously associated, and no longer in Soho Square, but at Glasshouse Fields, Stepney. Because of the traffic situation, Hetley’s had already left Soho Square in the early 1950’s for Wembley, that is, after well over a century.

advertisement in The Church Builder, 1869

In 1882, John Menzies Salmond, the manager, became a partner in the business. A later member of the Salmond family, Christopher, is reported in the Soho Clarion (nr. 69, late 1989/early 1990) as saying that “his great grandfather was a founder partner in Soho Square in 1823”. If that is the case, there must be a family link between the Salmonds and the Hetleys, but I do not know which one. I have not found a marriage to support this claim and there must be many more generations between the managing director of 1990, who was a child in WW2, and the founder of 1823. What he probably meant was that his great grandfather became a partner in a firm that had been established in 1823. Yale Center for British Art has the original vellum Deed of Partnership between James Hetley and John Menzies Salmond as part of a small collection of Hetley records. They have a scrapbook and an account book, dating from the second half of the 19th century (see here for a full description). I have not seen them, but they may tell us a lot about the everyday activities of the firm in the 19th century. The Soho Clarion, by the way, has a very nice picture of some of the Hetley employees posing in front of the shop windows at 35 Soho Square (see here for their archive, look for number 69).

(1) PROB 11/2184/15.
(2) Old Bailey proceedings t18460921-1837. Hetley had his watch and chain stolen in Holborn baths.
(3) Ellen Mary was baptised on 27 October 1848 and Elizabeth on 5 April 1850, both at St. Marylebone.
(4) Kate was baptised on 6 May 1857 at St. Marylebone.
(5) The London Gazette, 10 December 1861.
(6) ‘Police Intelligence’ in The Observer, 27 October 1872.
(7) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1900. Probate is granted to his widow Cornelia and the estate is valued at over £2600.


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