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Street View: 26
Address: 1 Broad Street

John Meabry’s shop was situated at 1 Broad Street, on the corner of Museum Street. Museum Street and opposite Drury Lane used to be the point where High Holborn ended and Broad Street began, but nowadays the two roads are both called High Holborn. Not only has the name of the street where Meabry had his shop disappeared, the plot on which the shop stood is now just a piece of pavement in front of the entrance to the Shaftesbury NCP car park.

Meabry probably moved into 1 Broad Street after his marriage in 1793 to Elizabeth Rishforth at St. George’s, Hanover Square, although the first record for his business in one of the city directories is for 1795 (Kent’s Directory). The tax records, however, list him in Broad Street in 1794 where he took over from one Robert Snowden, also a grocer. Snowden had been at 1 Broad Street since 1790 when he insured the property with the Sun Fire Office for £1200.(1)

Horwood’s 1799 map showing the corner property. The southern section of Museum Street used to be called Bow Street.

Snowden was most likely Meabry’s brother-in-law by marriage, as Elizabeth’s sister Martha was married to a Robert Snowden who is described on their marriage registration as a grocer from London (13 Dec. 1788, St. Peter, Leeds). Martha Snowden leaves one hundred pounds to two of Meabry’s daughters, her nieces Sarah and Martha Meabry, by that time both widows.(2)

These two daughters of Meabry had married sons of Francis Keysell, a cheesemonger at 7 Broad Street. Martha Meabry married Richard Keysell in January 1822, and in August of that same year Sarah Meabry married Henry Keysell. The brothers both died of consumption; Richard in 1830 and Henry in 1833. Martha does not seem to have had an occupation after the death of her husband, as in the 1851 census she is described as ‘fundholder’ of 5 George Street, Hammersmith. She died there in 1876.(3) Her sister Sarah, however, continued to run the oil and Italian warehouse her husband had had at 17 Museum Street. Her father had insured that property in 1832 for £900, then “in tenure of Henry Keysall oil & Italian warehouseman”. The last mention I found for Sarah there is 1843. In 1851, she is living with her widowed uncle John Patchett (he had married Sarah Rishforth, another sister of her mother Elizabeth). He was seriously rich and left substantial bequests to his wife’s nephews and nieces and their offspring (see here). From the 1861 census onwards, we find Sarah living on her own means in Verulam Terrace, Hammersmith, where she was to die in 1887.(4)

Plate 9: the grocer, from P.A. Basset’s Genre Parisien, 1827-1829 (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

But back to John Meabry who continued to run his grocery shop at 1 Broad Street. The London Metropolitan Archives have a document (MR/B/C/1804/015), dated 1804, pertaining to be a “Surveyor’s affidavit confirming that 3 houses erected and built on the north east corner of Broad Street in the district of Saint Giles and Saint George, Bloomsbury, belonging to John Meabry, meets the requirements of the Building Act”. Unfortunately, the document is “unfit for consultation”, but it does seem to indicate that the property shown above this post was built for Meabry himself. From 1830 onwards, the business was kown as Meabry and Son, as son William (born in 1806) became his father’s partner. Son Charles (born 1807) also seems to have worked in the shop, but he was never a partner.

John died in September 1841, only a month after his wife.(5) The partnership that had existed between William and his father came to an end and so did the business. Charles and William both ‘retired’ and lived off their inheritance. William never married and died in 1852, as far as I can find out without leaving a will. Charles died in 1872, leaving a widow and daughter.(6)

The London Gazette, 12 Nov. 1841

The Yale Center for British Art has an undated trade card for “Constable & Compy : successor to John Meabry & Son : wholesale and retail tea, coffee & grocery warehouse : No. 1 Broad Street, Bloomsbury, London” (see here). The 1843 Post Office Directory lists Constable & Phillips, grocers, at 1 Broad Street. Henry Constable was still there in 1848, but by 1851 the grocery shop was run by William Palmer & Co. (Post Office Directories).

This would be the end of this post, but there is a little more to say about the final resting places of some of the Meabry family members. In 2003 Oxford Archaeology (AO) undertook some work at St. George’s, Bloomsbury, prior to the redevelopment of the crypt.(7) They excavated seven vaults where they found a total of 781 burials, dating from 1804 to 1856. Most of them could be identified, and yes, you probably guessed, some of the Meabry family were indeed laid to rest in one of St. George’s vaults. AO found the remains of John Meabry, his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Louisa, who died aged just eight years old, and their son William. The coffins were found to have been rearranged at some point in the past, probably in 1856 when the order was given to seal off the vaults. People buried later were found on top of earlier burials, so it was impossible to determine who was originally buried in the same ‘stack’. However, families were usually still found together in the same vault, albeit not necessarily in the same stack. The Meabrys were all found in vault 2. Each coffin has been given a number by AO: John (2032), Elizabeth (2014), William (2007) and Louisa (2022). Elizabeth’s coffin was found underneath number 2013, but the others were all found at the top of their stack.

upper level of coffins in vault 2 (Source: “In the vaults beneath”, p. 40, fig. 3.11)

Besides the information on these burials, the OA also lists memorial plaques in the church which gives us another tangible link to John and Elizabeth, as one of the church walls apparently holds a memorial plaque for the couple.

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(1) LMA MS 11936/368/565145. The insurance record gives the address as 1 Bow Street, Bloomsbury, the old name for the southern end of Museum Street.
(2) PROB 11/1922/75. Martha died between January 1837 when she wrote her will and January 1840 when probate was granted.
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1876. The executor was her nephew John Jeffryes Oakley. Her estate was valued at under £200.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1887. The executors were John Jeffryes Oakley and William Alfred Oakley, nephews. Her estate was valued at over £6,500.
(5) PROB 11/1954/81.
(6) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1872. His estate was valued at under £1000.
(7) ‘In the vaults beneath'. Archaeological recording at St George's Church, Bloomsbury by C. Boston, A. Boyle, J. Gill, and A. Witkin. Oxford Archaeology Monograph No. 8 (2009).

Neighbours:

<– 2 Broad Street 169 High Holborn –>
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