Street View: 24
Address: 40 Fish Street Hill
The story of Wilcoxon & Co. starts at the end of the 18th century at 58 Lombard Street where Robert Stanton and Arthur Wilcoxon were in business as looking glass manufacturers, although the firm probably existed since around 1770 (see 1864 advertisement below). Robert Stanton died in 1818 and was buried in Bunhill Fields, pointing to a non-conformist background. Robert’s son Robert junior inherited his father’s stake in the business, but in 1821 he withdrew from the partnership(1) and the firm became known as Wilcoxon, Harding and Owen. William Harding was Stanton’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Frances. Arthur Wilcoxon bought himself the freedom of the Clothworkers Company in 1821, just before the partnership with Stanton was dissolved. I guess because Stanton had been the member of a City Company which was obligatory for any businessman working in the City and the only option Wilcoxon had was to either find a new partner who was a Company member or become one himself. He paid the usual fine of 46s 6d. A year later, his son, Arthur II (I will refer to him as Arthur II rather than junior, as a 3rd generation also has an Arthur), also bought himself into a Company, this time the Wheelwrights. Edward Owen left the business in 1824 and the remaining partners were Arthur I, Arthur II and William Harding.(2)
The first time we hear about a Wilcoxon in the Fish Street area is in 1836, when Robert Wilcoxon insures premises at 1 Monument Yard with the Sun Fire Office as wholesale looking glass manufacturer. That same year, the tax records show “Wilcoxon & Harding” for a property at Fish Street Hill. The confusing thing about having the corner shop is that most of the time it was referred to as 1 Monument Yard (these days Monument Square), but occassionally, as Tallis did, it would be listed as 40 Fish Street Hill. As we can see from the 1799 Horwood map, it was quite a substantial building.
William Harding and Fredrick George Harding withdrew from the partnership in 1839, and the business was continued by Arthur I, Arthur II and Robert Wilcoxon.(3) The only address given is that of Monument Yard. Arthur Wilcoxon I died in 1842 and was buried in Bunhill Fields, just as his former partner Stanton had been. In Arthur’s will, drawn up in February 1841, we read that he is “late of Lombard Street but now of Monument Yard”, confirming the move. He leaves three portraits, one of himself, one of his late wife, and one of his brother Jonathan, to his son Arthur II. Is the portrait he mentions of himself the same as the one depicted above? Robert Wilcoxon turned out to be the other son of Arthur and he and his brother Arthur II are to receive the remainder of the estate after various legacies have been paid to their four sisters and various small sums to more distant relations and some of the employees and servants. Arthur I bequeathed 10 pounds and a ring to the value of 2 guineas to each of his two clerks and his two ‘travellers’, by which he means travelling salesmen, which seems generous and unlike most other Tallis shopkeepers whose wills do not normally mention their personnel at all.(4)
Although the firm started out as looking glass manufacturers, they branched out into all kinds of goods that could broadly be described as house furnishings. In 1840, for instance, they registered a design for stained paper hangings.(5) And on the indenture for the next generation, Arthur III, the son of Robert, Arthur II is described as upholsterer, cabinet-maker and plate glass manufacturer. And in 1857, Wilcoxon & Co. brought out a booklet with their designs for furniture. Unfortunately Google Books does not show the content, so I cannot give you any examples.
When Robert died in 1866, his sons Arthur and Charles were given as two of the executors, both with the address 1 Monument Yard and both with the job description “upholsterer cabinet and looking-glass manufacturer”. In 1868, a patent is given to James Watson, foreman to Messrs. A. & R. Wilcoxon, of Newington Causeway for the invention of “an improvement in the manufacture of wall papers, and in apparatus used in such manufacture”.(6) The description does not tell us much about the invention, but it does tell us that the firm must have branched out across the Thames. And indeed, a notice in The London Gazette of 11 April 1876, tells us that the partnership existing between Arthur II, Arthur III, Charles Wilcoxon and Frederick George Wilkinson (the third executor of Robert’s will and described as accountant) of 1 Monument Yard and 17 Newington Causeway is to be dissolved by order of a decree of the High Court of Chancery in the case Wilcoxon v. Wilkinson. Well, well, the Wilcoxons seem to have fallen out with their accountant.
Arthur II died in 1878(7) and the business seemed to have been split up after that. Arthur III moved the Monument Yard business to 153, 154 and 156 Queen Victoria Street, but went into liquidation in 1881.(8) In The Truth, G.M. and H.J. Story announce that they have taken over “the old-established cabinet & upholstery business of A. and R. Wilcoxon, late of Monument-yard” and that they have removed the whole business from Queen Victoria Street to their premises at Coleman Street and London Wall. And that was the end of the Monument Yard branch. Charles and a new partner, Frank Robson, continued the paper staining business at 17 Newington Causeway, but the partnership was dissolved in 1886 with Robson to continue the business under the old name of Wilcoxon & Co.(9) Not much more can be found on Robson, so I am afraid that was the end of the Newington Causeway branch as well.
(1) The London Gazette, 29 May 1821. Things did not go well for Robert and he was at one point confined to the king’s bench and it is suggested that he died in a mad house (see here)
(2) The London Gazette, 6 April 1824.
(3) The London Gazette, 26 February 1839.
(4) One of the salesman, John Robert Cuffley, can be traced to Great Yarmouth where he stayed a few days in July 1847 in the Angel Inn. He later had to give evidence in a case of election fraud (see here). On 27 december 1849, Arthur and Robert Wilcoxon attended a anniversary dinner of the Commercial Travellers’ School. Had Cuffley been a pupil at that school?
(5) Board of Trade, registered design 467 (National Archives BT 42/15/467), dated 13 November 1840.
(6) The London Gazette, 23 October 1868.
(7) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1878.
(8) The London Gazette, 22 July 1881.
(9) The London Gazette, 22 June 1886.