Street View: 58
Address: 32 Blackfriars Road

Farley’s property in Blackfriars Road was almost on the corner of what is now Colombo Street, but what was then called Collingwood Street. Christ Church Southwark can be found across from Colombo Street. On the insurance map of 1889 below, you can see the property with the church to the north and Collingwood Street bending down towards the south. The street at the bottom of the map is Cross Street, now Meymott Street. Farley’s immediate neighbour at number 32 was Mr. Millward, the proprietor of wine vaults (P.H. on the map for Public House).

Thomas Farley first appeared at Blackfriars Street in Robson’s Directory of 1823, when that part of Blackfriars Road was still called Great Surrey Street. Farley had been a freeman of the Vintners’ Company since 1809 when he acquired his freedom by patrimony, thanks to the membership of his father, John Farley. But Thomas was not a vintner in the sense that he sold wine, he had a toy warehouse. We have already come across another toy dealer named Farley, that is, Henry Farley of 31 Fleet Street, but there does not seem to be an obvious family relationship between the two. Thomas was the son of John and Henry of George, but who knows, maybe the link is further back through the generations.

Following the listing of Farley in the subsequent Robson’s Directories, we see him at 32 Blackfriars Road until 1841, but in 1842 his name has been replaced by that of Henry Chenu, silversmith. The 1841 census, taken on 6 June, already shows Chenu and his wife at number 32, so Farley must have left before that. Why he did so and where he went has not been established, so I cannot tell you more about him and we will turn to Chenu. Henry Chenu, son of (Michael) Nicholas Chenu, builder, had married Eliza Ann Draper, daughter of Thomas Draper, leather seller, on the 11th of November, 1840, at St. Andrew Holborn. The address for groom and bride is given as 97 Holborn. Tallis has W. & T. Draper, leather sellers at 107 High Holborn, and there must at least be a family connection there. Will sort that out when writing the post on the Drapers. Henry Chenu had at some point a stake in the leather business as at the end of 1864, he retired from a partnership he had with Charles L. Draper and William H. Draper as leather dressers and dealers in carriage silks at 107 High Holborn.(1)

According to the directories, Henry started his career in Blackfriars Road as a silversmith and jeweller, but the 1845 Post Office Directory lists him as hatter and jeweller. And an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle of 27 July 1847, says he is a hat manufacturer. He apparently had a lodger, a Mr. Jones, who was trying to acquire some houses. Or was he just using Chenu’s address as a convenient collection point for his mail? Jones is certainly not mentioned as living at number 32 in the 1841 and 1851 censuses.

The Observer of 19 November 1855 reported on a great fog the previous Thursday and Friday which caused multiple accidents: two trains collided, people fell off boats into the Thames, cabs and carts had accidents, and less than honest people found it an excellent opportunity to rob others with impunity. Chenu had one of his shop shutters taken out, a window glass broken, and “wedding rings, keepers, gold eardrops, and other property, taken away, worth £80”. According to the newspaper report, either a barking dog, or the approach of a police officer disturbed the burglars and they dropped some of the stolen jewellery in the street.

By 1861, Chenu had moved his jeweller’s shop to Kentish Town, and the census found him living at 102 Gloucester Place. The census showed 32 Blackfriars Road in possession of James Brown, an iron plate worker. Chenu’s move did not do his business any good and in 1869, bankruptcy proceedings were taken out against him.(2) He is then said to be of 96, Camden Road and 9, Leighton Road; the former his shop, the latter his house. To make his bankruptcy plight even worse, his shop was broken into in November 1869 and 9 gold watches, 25 silver watches, 60 rings and unspecified other property with a total value of £150 was taken. The thieves were apprehended while in possession of some jewellery, a jemmy and skeleton keys that had been used in the burglary.(3)

In 1875, Chenu’s bankruptcy case was closed as the London Bankruptcy Court was satisfied that “the whole of the property of the bankrupt had been realized for the benefit of the creditors, and that a first and final dividend of two shillings and eight pence in the pound had been paid to the creditors”.(4) The 1881 census saw Henry and Eliza Ann at Willes Road and his occupation is given as “collector”, no indication what he was collecting, presumably rents or subscriptions. Eliza Ann died in 1887 and, according to the 1891 census, Henry went to live at Langdon Road in a “home for respectable aged people”. He died in 1901 and that is the end of the story as far as this blog post is concerned.

Silversmith, after Caspar Luyken from ‘Menschelyke beezigheeden’, 1695 (© Trustees of the British Museum)

(1) The London Gazette, 1 January 1865.
(2) The London Gazette, 4 October 1869.
(3) Old Bailey case t8700110-171.
(2) The London Gazette, 26 March 1875.


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