Street Views: 59 and 60
Address: 16, 25 and 49 Shoreditch
The elevations at the top of this post show the three shops James Corss had at the time when Tallis produced his Street Views: number 16 is Corss’s boot and shoe warehouse and numbers 25 and 49 are the outlets for his clothing business. From various sources, we can work out when each shop was occupied by him. He was often listed as of Holywell Street, but that should not be read as another address, but as an older name for Shoreditch High Street.
It all seems – and I use ‘seems’ deliberately, see further on – to have started at number 49 where we find him paying the Sun Fire Office insurance premium from 1816 tot 1839. From 1829 onwards, number 16 is added with a last mention for that shop in an 1845 street directory. From 1839 till 1844, we also find number 25 in Corss’s occupation, but numbers 16 and 25 were superseded in 1844/5 by the larger shop at number 63.
Insurance records also place him at 48 Chiswell Street from 1826 onwards, but that may have been his home address. We also find him at 15 New Bond Street in early 1832 and at 348 Oxford Street in July 1839, but it is unclear how long he used those premises. They may just have been temporary outlets.
James Corss said in the 1847 advertisement in Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper we already saw in the post on Josiah Luntley, that he had removed his “Great Emporium” to 63 Shoreditch. In the same advertisement he claimed that his business had started in 1807 on the site of the present terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway”, so most likely at number 49 where he must have been some ten years before he paid his first insurance premium. Number 49 was situated on the corner of the alley that led to Webb Square, which disappeared completely to make way for the new railway line and terminus. Tallis probably only just caught Corss at number 49 before the demolishing began. The Shoreditch terminus of the Grand Eastern Counties Railway was opened on 1 July 1840 (see here).
The Webb Square area was a notorious haunt of “pickpockets, house-breakers and prostitutes”, at least according to the reverend Timothy Gibson when he gave evidence to the Metropolitan Railway Commissioners in April 1846.(1) It is therefore perhaps no wonder that Corss had to suffer several attempted thefts from his shop. He is listed several time in Old Bailey cases as the victim of small thefts. The records do not specify his address exactly, so are no use in determining whether he had always been at number 49, but they indicate that his shop was in Shoreditch. For instance, in 1819, when a pair of shoes were stolen, and in 1820 when a pair of trousers were taken, he is said to be of Shoreditch.(2)
The 1845 notice in The London Gazette about James Corss and Stephen Roberts dissolving their partnership as tailors and drapers already mentioned no. 63 as their address, so the move from 16 and 25 to 63 Shoreditch must have been made well before the advertisement in Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper of 1847.
The vignette street view in Tallis’s booklet shows two of Corss’s shops. Number 16 on the right, that is, the boot and shoe department which he ran in partnership with Tuckett and number 25 on the left, the tailoring business. It is quite likely that the advertisement Corss had in The Times of 5 December 1828 had something to do with the opening of his business at number 16. In the advertisement he is asking for a “smart, active, single young man” for a retail shoe warehouse. Also wanted is a shop boy. The first official mention of number 16 as Corss’s shoe shop is in an insurance record of February 1829. The 1841 census shows Charles Tuckett and his family at number 16. Was he the – by then married – young man of the advertisement who got promoted to partnership? It is just a guess. But the partnership did not last much longer as it ended at the end of 1841.(3) In the 1843 Post Office Directory, James Corss is still listed at numbers 16 and 25, without any indication that he was at that time in partnership with anyone else. The 1845 Post Office Directory, however, finds him at number 16 on his own, but at number 63 in partnership with one Roberts. Number 25 seems to have been relinquished and as the 1844 electoral register still has James for numbers 25 & 63, the change must have taken place in late 1844 or early 1845. On the 19th of February 1846, James Corss and Stephen Roberts dissolve their partnership with Corss to continue on his own.(4) The premises at number 63 were a lot larger than the previous shops, so James’s business seemed to have flourished.
Although the business flourished, Corss’s personal life was less rosy. We saw him in the 1841 census at number 25 with his wife Mary Ann and children Maria (17), James (15) and Eliza (13). Young James was to work in the business and most likely destined to take over after his father retired. But James junior suffered from depression, feeling himself wholly inadequate to deal with life’s challenges and one summer night he killed himself. He had been spending that Tuesday on business, buying goods at a warehouse in Wood Street. His father said at the inquest that he had not seen his son afterwards. But young James somehow ended up at an inn in Greenwich where he engaged a bed and wrote a letter to his father to explain why he could not go on and he then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Corss senior said that the delusions of his son had no ground in reality and that he had good prospects, but that he had suffered at times from great depressions. He was know to have disappeared before and that time he ended up in America. The verdict was insanity.(5)
Despite this tragedy, James Corss senior continued his Great Emporium business at 63 Shoreditch and in the 1861 census wife Mary Ann is given as the head of the family; she is listed without an occupation. James is not listed, but his daughter Eliza, an artist, and his son Clifford are at home. Clifford’s occupation is not easy to read, but it is [something] & tailor, so he is presumably working in his father’s business. Another son, Charles William, had chosen another career and was, in 1844, apprenticed to a Law Stationer, Alfred James Waterlow. On his marriage certificate (1863) Charles William called himself a lithographic artist. There was another link between the Corsses and Waterlows as Charles’s sister Maria married one of Alfred’s younger brothers, Albert Crakell Waterlow.
Father James Corss died in 1863(6) and brother Clifford in 1864(7); Charles then gave up his own career to take over the family business. Mother Mary Ann died in 1870(8), but it is unclear whether she had run the business after her husband’s death, or whether it were just the sons who had taken over. The 1871 census lists Charles William in Brighton, but with the occupation “master tailor employing 10 males at 63 Shoreditch”. The 1881 census saw him at Southbrook, Croyden, as “clothier” without any further information, and the 1891 census as “retired woollen draper”, still at Southbrook. He died there in 1902.(9) In the 1860s, the Corss firm seems to have specialised in boys’ school uniforms. I have not found any advertisements after 1868, but since Charles William still listed the business on the census papers in 1871, they must have continued for a bit longer.
49 Shoreditch: 1807?-1839
16 Shoreditch: 1829-1845
25 Shoreditch: 1839-1844
63 Shoreditch: 1844?-1871 or later
(1) Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Commissioners Appointed to Investigate the Various Projects for Establishing Railway Termini, within or in the Immediate Vicinity of the Metropolis, 1846.
(2) Old Bailey cases t18190217-94 and t18200517-130.
(3) The London Gazette, 31 December 1841.
(4) The London Gazette, 20 February 1846.
(5) The Morning Chronicle, 24 August 1848.
(6) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1863. The estate was valued at less than £5,000. The executor was Walter Blanford Waterlow, another brother of Alfred. See for the Waterlow family here.
(7) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1864. The estate was first valued at less than £5,000, but later resworn as £9,000. The executor was Charles William Corss.
(8) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1870. The estate was valued at less than £1,500. The executor was Walter Blanford Waterlow.
(9) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1902. The estate was valued at over £14,000. The executor was a solicitor.
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