Street View: 14
Address: 55 St. James’s Street
The chemist’s shop Tallis lists at 55, St. James’s Street had been there since 1829 when Henry Richards took over the property from John Lanman, a tailor. Richards had moved to number 55 from number 11, on the opposite side and further down the street. The move had all to do with the widening of Little King Street, the small passage that linked King Street to St. James’s Street (see Horwood’s map below). The widening had been set in motion by Statute 7 George IV C. 77 of 1826 (see here). Number 11 disappeared altogether and numbers 10 and 12 can now be found on either side of King Street. Number 10 was rebuilt as the grand, but unsuccessful St. James’s Bazaar. Richard’s new shop at number 55 was situated on the corner of Bennet(t) Street and was frequently referred to as 1 Bennet Street. In later years, the chemist’s shop was run by Daniel Rokely Harris and his name is still attached to the business, although it has since moved to 29 St. James’s Street via 30 King Street and 27 St. James’s Street. The accepted history of D.R. Harris & Co. (see their website) states that the business started in 1790, but as we shall see, not with a Harris in charge.
If we try to work backwards in time to get to the 1790 beginnings of the firm, we find a listing in Kent’s Directory of 1803 for Henry Richards, chemist & druggist at number 11. Although the Land Tax records at that time did not include house numbers, Richards was listed in the record for 1803 as occupying the 2nd property from Gloucester Court, which is number 11 St. James’s Street. Before Richards came on the scene in 1803, the tax records list a James Gent for the property. Where Richards himself had come from is as yet a bit of a mystery. We know he was born in Arminghall, Norfolk, but what he did before he took over from Gent is unclear. James Gent was, according to The General London Guide; or, Tradesman’s Directory of 1794 a ‘chymist and druggist’ at 11 St. James’s Street, so we are getting closer to the origins of D.R. Harris & Co., and we can take it back even further as Gent is also listed as a ‘chymist’ at number 11 in The Universal British Directory of 1791, close enough to substantiate the 1790 claim.(1)
Although the takeover from James Gent to Henry Richards appears to have taken place in 1803, it must have been the year before as James Gent died in early 1802. He wrote his will on 25 December 1801 and probate was granted to his executors on 2 March 1802. Gent bequeathed to “James Eades my nephew now living with me as an apprentice all the beneficial interest in the lease of the house which I at present occupy and in which my trade is at present carried on in St. James’s Street … together with all the stock in trade”. But, as James Eades was still an apprentice, Gent asked his executors to enlist the help of a “proper assistant” who could help run the business until Eades had attained the age of 21 or was “more fully and sufficiently competent to carry on the same”.(2) There is, however, no mention of Eades in the tax records, so it is uncertain what happened. Did the executors make other arrangements? Was Eades reluctant to continue the business? Or was Henry Richards perhaps the “proper assistant” who carried on by himself when Eades for whatever reason bowed out? We may never know, but fact is that Richards continued the chemist’s shop.
Henry Richards was the proprietor when Tallis produced his Street View of St. James’s Street. In 1841, he is listed in the census as unmarried, 65 years old, and not born in the county. Living with him is Rotely Harris, 25 years old, a chemist’s shopman, and Eliza Mily (or Miles), a servant of the same age. The 1841 census was notoriously imprecise as regards ages, so we must not be too dependant on them to trace back the lives of these people. We will come back to Rotely Harris in a minute, but first the 1851 census in which Richards is listed as a 79 year old, so he was probably born in 1772. Also on the premises in 1851 is Henry Harris, a 34-year old surgeon, and servant Jane Miley (or Miles, probably a relation of the Eliza who was listed in the 1841 census). We will also come back to Henry Harris in a moment, but first the death of Henry Richards. He died somewhere in mid-1853 and probate was granted on 9 July, 1853, to solicitor Charles Steward, his nephew from Ipswich whom he had named sole executor and heir.(3)
From 1855 onwards until the end of the century, the Land Tax of 1 Bennet Street is listed for Henry Harris, the surgeon we saw on the premises in the 1851 census. Henry Harris was the son of Daniel Harris and Juliet Susanna Rotely of Swansea, Glamorgan. He was baptised on 4 October 1815 at St. Mary’s, Swansea. His older brother Daniel Rotely Harris was baptised in the same church on 22 April 1814. The Rotely Harris in the 1841 census of 55 St. James’s Street was most likely this Daniel Rotely. He is, by the way, the one whose initials still grace the firm’s name: D.R. Harris & Co. The two brothers were both involved in the medical world: Henry as a surgeon – he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1842 – and Daniel Rotely as a pharmaceutical chemist. While Henry seems to have stayed in London – the 1861 census still finds him at 55 St. James’s Street -, Daniel could be found as a chemist in Ware, Hertfordshire in the 1851 and 1861 censuses. He lived at 1 Baldock Street with his wife Susan, daughters Susan Powell, Mary Elizabeth, Julia Jane and son Daniel Rotely Philemon.(4) In 1862, however, Kelly’s Directory finds him at Laurie (or Lawrie) Place, Sydenham.
The 1871 census still finds Daniel R., by then a widower, and two of his children, at Sydenham, but the electoral register of 1871 lists him for 55 St. James’s Street. From 1878 onwards, the rate books of Westminster also list him at number 55, and so does the 1881 census. But that does not mean that he had moved to London completely as Kelly’s Directory of 1882 lists him at 11 Kirkdale, Sydenham. And his probate record – he died in November 1888 – lists him as late of 55 St. James-street and of Kirkdale, Sydenham.(5) He was buried on 4 December 1888 at Lewisham.
And Daniel Rotely’s brother Henry? Well, there is a bit of an open end to his story, as I have not been able to find out exactly when he died. His name is still listed in the tax records for 1892 and in the Medical Register for 1899, but that is as far as I got. Henry Harris is not the easiest name to research as there were quite a number of them around at the time. The Post Office Directory of 1902 shows that D.R. Harris & Co. had moved to 30 King Street and at some point in the early 1920s D.R. Harris took over Hairsine’s, another chemist, who had been trading from the Haymarket.(6) And due to an air raid in 1944 the firm had to abandon the King Street address and move back to St. James’s Street, first at number 27 and from 1963 onwards at number 29 where you can hopefully find them for a very long time to come.
To sum up, the addresses and proprietors of the business were:
11, St. James’s Street
1791 – 1802 James Gent
1802 – 1829 Henry Richards
55, St. James’s Street / 1 Bennet Street
1829 – 1853 Henry Richards
1853 – c. 1900 Henry Harris
c. 1871 – 1888 Daniel Rokely Harris
30, King Street
c. 1900-1944 D.R. Harris & Co.
29, St. James’s Street
1963 – present D.R. Harris & Co.
(1) I am very grateful to Julian Moore of D.R. Harris & Co. for alerting me to the long history of the chemist’s and for providing the scans of some of the pictures that illustrate this post, and to both Julian and Alison Moore for generously making available the information they have on the history of the shop (their website: www.drharris.co.uk).
(2) PROB 11/1371/24.
(3) PROB 11/2176/72.
(4) The children were all baptised at Ware, Hertfordshire: Susan Powell, 29 August 1844; Daniel Rotely Philemon, 2 December 1846; Julia Jane and Mary Elisabeth, 26 March 1858.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1889. His effects are valued at just over £3,650, later resworn at just over £3,885.
(6) Hairsine and Co, 47 Haymarket, is listed in the telephone directory up till 1921. As an interesting aside, I noticed that from 1922 a W. Hairsine is listed at 52 Wardour Street. We have come across another W. Hairsine, chemist, in the post for John Christopher Addison, although this original W. Hairsine had died in 1916 and cannot have moved to Haymarket and back again to Wardour Street, so a bit of a mystery there.
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