Street View: 70
Address: 14 Old Compton Street
The 1808 land tax records for St. Anne, Westminster simply list ‘Hedges’ in Compton Street, but in 1809 they have changed that to ‘Nehemiah Hedges’. In 1811, Killingworth Hedges takes over and the 1819 Post Office Directory duly lists K. Hedges, looking glass maker at the corner of Dean and Compton Streets. There is another change in 1818 when John Hedges takes over. He certainly pays tax until 1829, but at some point in the 1830s John Ashby takes over. Ashby dissolves a partnership with Henry Sutton as looking and plate glass manufacturers, carvers and gilders at 14 Old Compton Street at the end of 1837.(1)
Ashby splashed out in the Tallis Street View, not only with an advertisement, but also with the depiction of his property in the vignette. The caption still mentions Mr. Hedges as the one Ashby succeeded; no doubt because it was a well-established and respected firm. The caption claims that Hedges had been in business since 1739. The advertisement lists the products that could be supplied, from plate glass for sashes to toilet glasses, and from wood frames to window cornices. The advertisement was not only entered in the booklet for Compton Street, but also repeated in the one for Trafalgar Square and the one for New Bridge Street.
The premises on the corner of Dean Street depicted in the vignette seemed rather large, apparently encompassing number 13 on the left as well, but that is not entirely true. The 1841 census only shows Ashby, his wife Frances Elizabeth, 3 children and one servant living above the shop and the Tallis directory shows E. Watson, ironmonger, at number 13. It looks as if Ashby just had the signboard on the facade lengthened with “14 PLATE GLASS” across the property next door. John died in November 1850 and in his very short will bequeathed everything to his wife. I think it was rather a rushed job as the will is dated the 18th of November and John was buried on the 25th.(2) Frances Elizabeth died in late January 1852. And that would have been the end of the story, but for the fact that Frances appointed former business partner Henry Sutton as one of the executors.(3) In 1860, that is, eight years after Frances’ death, a notice in The London Gazette mentions a decree of the High Court of Chancery in the case of Henry Sutton against John Ashby (that is, the son of the carver) and others.(4)
The 1856 Post Office Directory lists Frederick Ellington, picture dealer, at 14 Old Compton Street, so John Ashby junior did not continue his father’s business. Various others occupied the premises after Ellington, but from 1893, it became the address for Percy Denny & Co’s hosier and outfitter. The street was renumbered in 1899 with the even numbers on one side and the uneven on the other, and number 14 became number 39. Denny’s continued at number 39 until 1997 when they moved across the street to 55a Dean Street. According to Soho & Theatreland Through Time the building on the corner of Old Compton Street had been there since the 1720s, but was replaced by another one in 1923. World War II bombs fell heavily in Soho, and on 11 May 1941 a high explosive bomb hit the buildings on the opposite side of Dean Street. Denny’s (these days without the apostrophe) were very proud that the clock they had on the building since 1935 survived the Blitz. You can see the clock in the second picture of the West End at War webpage, see here. The same photograph is also shown on Dennys own website, where you can find more information about their history.
(1) The London Gazette, 19 December 1837.
(2) PROB 11/2123/148.
(3) PROB 11/2155/397.
(4) The London Gazette, 10 February 1860.
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