Street View: 37
Address: 114 St. John Street
A tweet not so long ago alerted me to the imminent redevelopment of the Farmiloe premises in St. John Street. I had seen the empty building on a number of occasions and took some photographs to illustrate a future post on the Farmiloe shop for this blog, but the tweet made me dig out the information I had collected and start writing. So here goes:
When Tallis depicted the Farmiloe window glass business, it was still a modest affair; just number 114 was listed as their premises, but later their address was number 118 (empty when Tallis produced his booklet). Somewhere in the 1860s, the powers that be decided to renumber 118 as 34. Although the firm changed its address from 114 to 118, they kept possession of the plot at 114 and in fact, later in the century, extended their property to span from number 28 to number 36 (formerly 114-120, spanning both the yards of the Windmill Inn and the White Hart Inn), with 34-36 as the main building. The distinctive building you can see below in the photographs was erected in 1868 after a fire had destroyed the previous buildings. The Building News of 12 June 1868 tells us that the architect Lewis H. Isaacs had accepted the tender for rebuilding from Browne and Robinson for £12,915. It is now a Grade II listed building, so any redevelopment will have to take that into account.(1)
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper of 15 March 1868 reported on the fire which broke out on a Wednesday morning. The paper describes the building with one part of three floors and another of two floors. But as the building was interconnected, the fire spread rapidly “from store to store until the whole of the building was a mass of flames”. The firemen tried to prevent it spreading to neighbouring properties, esp. to the oil stores of Browning, but did not quite succeed. One unfortunate fireman was injured by a collapsing floor “and the falling upon him of a crate of glass” – ouch! The newspaper report, quoting the firemen’s captain, specified which properties were damaged and who they belonged to, which is a definite bonus from my point of view. I can now more easily reconstruct the proprietors in that part of the street:
– Number 26-28 J.W. and H. Browning and Co, oil merchants. Roofs of back sheds damaged by breakage
– Number 34, G. Farmiloe & Sons, back warehouses of two and three floors, 160 feet by 50 feet, all communicating, and contents nearly destroyed. The second and third floors of the front warehouse severely damaged and most of the roof gone. Lower part severely damaged by water.
– Number 36-38, Mr. Stenlake, tailor and Mr. T. Davis, printer. Back fronts seriously damaged by fire and contents by water.
– No number given, Mr. J. Sargeant, envelope orderer, and Mr. J. Wilkinson, lithographer, back fronts severely scorched.
– Numbers 40-42, unoccupied, similar damage.
– Number 5, Charterhouse Mews, Sweeting and Co’s stables, damaged by breakage.
So who were these Farmiloes that spread from just a small glazier business to such large premises on an extensive plot of land? George Farmiloe, the son of watchmaker William Farmiloe of Great Sutton Street, Clerkenwell, is taken on as an apprentice by John Roberts of the Cordwainers’ Company on the 6th of January 1813. It is not exactly clear when, but at some stage in the apprenticeship George is turned over to joiner Edward Chuck until he receives his freedom of the Cordwainers in February 1822. George’s address is then given as 3 Spital Square and his profession as plumber. We next hear of George in 1826 when he is described as a glass cutter of St. John’s Lane, West Smithfield, in a London Gazette notice regarding the assignment of the goods of a bankrupt colleague’s plumbing and glazier’s business to Farmiloe and one Benjamin Dover in order to dispose of them to pay off the bankrupt firm’s debts.(2) In 1829, George takes out an insurance with the Sun Fire Office for 8 St. John’s Lane as “window glass cutter, lead merchant, and dealer in oil and turpentine”.
The 1841 census describes George as lead merchant with a wife Elizabeth Meakin (the daughter of another glass and lead merchant who will be discussed some other time) and seven sons Thomas (1824), George (1826), William (1827), Lewis (1833), Henry (1835), James (1838) and John (1839). Also living on the premises are two female servants and a warehouseman with his wife and son. Ten years later, as so many Victorian shopkeepers, George no longer lives where he works, but can be found at 16 Park Road, Islington. The same seven sons still live at home, but although George is classed as lead merchant, the three eldest sons, all unmarried, are given as lead and glass merchants. The younger ones still go to school. A notice in The London Gazette of 11 December 1860 tells us that Henry leaves the partnership he had with his brothers George junior and James at 118 St. John Street as lead and glass merchants. Although they had been trading as George Farmiloe and Son, George senior had no role in this particular partnership as he is not mentioned, although that does not mean he has retired as the 1861 census still lists him as lead merchant. William, Henry and John still live at home and are also listed as lead merchants. Lewis also lives in Park Road but he is described as fund holder and annuitant. The next bit of information comes from a notice in The London Gazette of 5 January 1869 which tells us that the partnership between George senior, George junior and James is dissolved.
In 1872, son Henry, still a bachelor, dies at Ramsgate and probate is granted to his father.(3) In 1877, Lewis, who had been without a job description in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, applies for the freedom of the Glaziers’ Company by redemption and is then still described as “of no business or profession”, but in the 1881 census he is described as lead merchant while his father is then given as “independent”. Lewis and Thomas, both bachelors, still live with their father. Their address is, however, now given as Tillerye House, 45 Parkhurst Road, Holloway. The partnerships between the various family members did not just occur between the ones living with their father as a notice in The London Gazette of 13 May 1884 testifies. Thomas, John, William and George junior dissolve a partnership that they had as T. and W. Farmiloe, glass and lead merchants at Rochester-row, Westminster, and as George Farmiloe and Sons at 34 St. John Street, West Smithfield. The business at Rochester Row was to be continued by Thomas, William and John as T. and W. Farmiloe (see photo of the building here), and 34 St. John Street by George junior under the old name of George Farmiloe and Sons. I do not think there was a family feud as Cathy Ross suggests (see here), but giving all sons a responsible job may have been a bit of a stretch for the firm and a number of them just branched out on their own while apparently keeping close links with one another judging by the available evidence of the probate records where the brothers acted as executors for the estates of brothers from ‘the other’ branch.
Lewis dies 6 November 1890 at Tillerye house in Parkhurst Road, Holloway, and probate is granted to his brother William and one Charles Henry Nalder. George senior dies a few month later, on 21 January 1891, and probate is granted to son James as one of the executors.(4) Thomas dies 11 February 1897 and William 18 July 1897.(5) George junior dies 12 March 1906, John in 1917 and the last surviving brother, James, in 1921.(6) Judging by the value of their estates (see footnotes), the Farmiloes did quite well out of the constant need of the London populace for window glass and lead.
We can add one bit of information to the history of the firm and that is of the ketch Frances that went missing in the North Sea. The Frances, a small ship based at Harwich, had been continuously chartered by the Farmiloes since 1893 to carry Belgian glass for them on her return journeys from Antwerp. The glass was delivered by the vessel at the Nine Elms wharf belonging to the Farmiloes. Since January 1896, the size of the glass was so large that the crates prevented the hatches to be closed, but the captain and part-owner, James Goddard, saw no problem and made at least eight voyages with open hatches. When difficulties about the insurance arose, Farmiloe took out an additional insurance with Lloyds with the clause “with leave for hatches not to be closed” and Goddard agreed to transporting the large glass in his vessel with the hatches open. On 4 December, Goddard left Flushing in a severe gale, so severe that that same night Brighton pier was swept away (see here), and nothing was heard of the ship or the three men on board (captain John Goddard, his son Maurice Goddard and Josiah Sherwood) ever again. Although Farmiloe was not responsible for the disaster, nor blamed by the Board of Trade investigators, he gave the widow of captain Goddard an allowance of £1 a week for five years.(7) Although a newspaper report of the investigation does not specify which Farmiloe was involved, the official report of the investigation does and names John Farmiloe, so I assume it was the Rochester Row branch that had ordered the glass. You can read the whole report of the investigation by the Board of Trade here and if you want to read more about the subsequent history of the firm and their branching out into the manufacture of paint, sealants and sanitary appliances, I suggest you read this.
(1) See here for the listing on the Historic England website and here for the redevelopment plans on the Creative Clerkenwell website.
(2) The London Gazette, 16 May 1826
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1872. The value of Henry’s estate is given as £100.
(4) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1891. The value of George’s estate is given as £6,141 and that of Lewis as £11,973.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1891. The value of Thomas’s estate is given as £133,714 and that of William’s as £141,706.
(6) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1906, 1917 and 1921. The value of George’s estate is given as £120,329; that of John’s estate as £84,649 and that of James’s as £27,602.
(7) The Western Mail, 23 April 1897.