Street View: 16 and 5 Suppl.
Address: 3 Langham Place
The coach and harness business of John Isaac Marks at Langham Place was situated on the site of the former riding house of the Horse Grenadier Guards, hence the name of the street between Marks’s building and All Souls Church: Riding House Lane (now Street). The stables and barracks of the First Troop of the Horse Guards had been built in 1726 on what was then open ground. The First Troop became the First Regiment of Life Guards in 1788 and the buildings were adapted for use as livery stables and a coach repository. When John Nash was redeveloping Regent Street, he agreed with John Marks (John Isaac’s father) that a new frontage on the Langham Place side would be created at the expense of the Crown. It was only to be used as a pedestrian entrance and for showcasing the coaches. The new building was ready to be opened in 1824. It was quite an impressive front for Marks’s business and when The Gentleman’s Magazine of July 1826 reported on the recently consecrated church of All Souls, a frontispiece was included which not only showed the church, but also the coach repository (on the right, behind the coach and horses).
The buildings at the back around the yard were two stories high, with storerooms and standing places for carriages on the ground floor and galleries above for the display of carriages. In one corner of the building a crane could be found for raising the carriages. Various workshops were also found upstairs, such as those of the body and harness makers.(1) But, as we already saw in the post on Alfred Markwick, the frontage of the coach repository at number 3 did not dominate Langham Place for very long. James Fergusson who had made his fortune in India as an indigo planter, took over the lease and had four houses built in Langham Place in 1842. The coach depository was rebuilt at the back with the entrance leading to Marks’s business on the ground floor next to the new number 20 where Fergusson was to live until his death in 1886. Tallis was not quite sure what to do with the numbering and in the index to his Supplement, he lists Marks at number 19, although that was the house number of neighbour Markwick. The upper floors above Marks’s entrance were part of Fergusson’s house. Henry Stacy Marks, in his Pen and Pencil Sketches of 1894, wrote that the business became known as the London Coach Repository and concentrated more and more on selling coaches from other makers on commission.
In 1851, Marks sold out to one William Walker, who redeveloped the coach repository into the Langham Bazaar, later to be renamed the Portland Bazaar. It was not a great success and in 1862 the buildings were acquired by the Prince of Wales’ Hall & Club Company for redevelopment as a hall for musical entertainments. Before anything could be done, however, the bazaar was destroyed by fire and it took till 1867 before the southern half of the former bazaar had been rebuilt as a music hall. It was named St. George’s Hall and had a new main entrance at 19 Langham Place.
So, what do we know of the Marks family who ran the coach repository? The one who sold out to Walker in 1851 was John Isaac Marks. In the 1851 census we find him as a coach maker in Mornington Road. One of his children living with him was Henry Stacy whose occupation is given as a portrait painter. He had been destined to work in the family business and when his drawing and painting skills became apparent, he was set to paint the crests and coats of arms on the coaches. His commercial acumen, however, left much to be desired, and he went on to study art rather than take over the business. In his later reminiscences, he said that the business was “always irksome, never enlisted my energy or liking”. This may very well have been a contributing factor in John Isaac’s decision to terminate the business at Langham Place, although Henry Stacy contributed the closure to the fact that his father “had not the faculty for business”. Henry Stacy’s second name was derived from his great-grandfather Isaac Stacy, whose daughter Sarah had married John Marks in 1801. When John Marks died in 1828, a bit of bother occurred as one of the sons, James, that is, John Isaac’s brother, did not fulfil the requirements set out in his father’s will for attaining a fourth share in the business.(2) He had not worked the full term of his apprenticeship, but had set up on his own – unsuccessfully – as a horse dealer. He went bankrupt and Sarah and John Isaac were summoned to disclose the books of the Marks business. They refused on the grounds that James had nothing to do with the business and had shown no interest in it, but under John’s will James still had a financial interest in the business between the age of 21 and the bankruptcy, so it was ruled that Sarah & Co had to disclose the books, but that it would be done in private. You can read the transcript of the case here.
The advertisement above from The Edinburgh Review of 1831 shows how extensive the business was. They had 300 to 400 carriages on show and it is no wonder that their premises at the back of Langham Place were large enough to accommodate the later Portland Bazaar. If we work backwards, we can see that Marks took over from Stacy’s Repository which was already depicted in Horwood’s 1799 map. Yes indeed, that was the property of Isaac Stacy whom we met above as the father of Sarah Stacy, the wife of John Marks. In other words, Marks took over the business of his father-in-law who had died in 1803.
What was to become Langham Place was still called Edward Street in 1799 when Horwood produced his map, but Mortimer Street and Riding House Lane are clear markers for the position of the coach business. According to the 1831 advertisement shown above, Stacy had started the business in 1789, but it was probably a few years earlier. We already find advertisements in 1785 for a Mr. Stacy, (coach) painter, in Riding House Lane who deals in carriages. Although no first name or initials are given, it was most likely Isaac who started out as coach painter and expanded his business after the Horse Guards left into the repository, calling himself in his will a “coach broker”.(3) At some point (at least since 1790) Isaac subleased the livery stables to one Roger Hayne, but he kept the coach repository as his own line of business. Hayne’s stables were situated on the north side, the Riding House Street side, marked on Goad’s insurance map as “ruins of stables” (underlined in red). The middle section of the land was the northern part of Stacy’s and Marks’s depository and became the Portland Bazaar; the southern section of the depository became George’s Hall.
When Marks gave up on his coach repository in 1851 and removed himself to 140 Holborn(4), he left us a useful invention that considerably reduced the noise of the carriages, as described in The Northern Star and National Trades Journal of 27 July 1850, although Thomas Hancock and Charles Goodyear may have had something to say about that claim, see here.
(1) Henry Stacy Marks, Pen and Pencil Sketches, 1894.
(2) PROB 11/1745/400.
(3) PROB 11/1393/160.
(4) Old Bailey case t18530815-848.
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