Street View: 74
Address: 135 Fenchurch Street
To tell you something about the history of 135 Fenchurch Street, we have to go back to the mid-eighteenth century and to another part of London. According to John D. Davis in his Pewter at Colonial Williamsburg (2003), John Townsend, the son of another John, a Berkshire yeoman, started his business as a pewterer in 1748, which would have been soon after he obtained the freedom of the City. He had started his apprenticeship with Samuel Jeffery, pewterer, on 10 November 1740, which would give him his freedom after the usual 7-year period in late 1747. He started his professional life at 47 Prescott Street, Goodmans Field, but could later be found in Booth Street, Spitalfields. In 1752 he married Sarah Hogge and that same year, he took on as an apprentice, Thomas Giffin, son of Thomas, another pewterer. In 1770 the Land Tax records for the St. Gabriel Fenchurch precinct record Thomas Giffin for the first time at the property where Tallis was to find Henry Broughton, that is, on the corner of Cullum Street and Fenchurch Street. John D. Davis mentions a partnership Townsend contracted with one Reynolds between 1767 and 1771, but from 1771 he was in business with his former apprentice Giffin. From 1778, the company was known as John Townsend & Co., which included Giffin and Townsend’s son-in-law Thomas Compton.
Compton had been Townsend’s apprentice since 1763 and had married Townsend’s daughter Mary in 1775. Townsend and Compton had their pewter and tin-foil factory in Booth Street, Spitalfields, and in 1790, they took on one John Gray from Brentford as their apprentice. Thanks to him, we know a lot about Townsend and Compton as in 1839 the Memoir of the Life and Character of John Gray, a Member of the Society of Friends was published by Theodore Compton. Later editions included short biographies of Gray’s masters Townsend and Compton. The Quaker Townsend travelled widely in England and in America on “religious services and missions”. Apparently, his brother had settled in Canada and from there Townsend went to New York and Pennsylvania, among other places. From time to time members of the family went to America on business and lots of their pewter, “immense quantities” according to Davis, ended up in America.
But to return to 135 Fenchurch Street. Thomas Giffin took the corner property in 1770, but the tax records usually listed the property for Townsend & Giffin and from 1780 onwards for Townsend & Co. until 1803 when only Thomas Compton is listed. Thomas died in 1817 and the property is then listed for T. & G. (or T. & H.) Compton until 1831 when Henry Broughton takes over. Henry Compton later traded from 37 Fenchurch Street. We will leave the Townsend/Compton business for what it was and concentrate on Broughton. He called himself a hardware and button warehouseman in the 1831 Sun Fire Office entry where he is stated as having insured the property, “in which no manufactury takes place”, for £1300. In 1834, he also insures his stock and utensils for £500. From 1836, he shared the property with Jonathan White junior who insured his household goods for £100, later increased to £150. By the time Tallis produced his booklet, Broughton shared the property with Gordon & Leith. Tallis does not give these gentlemen an occupation, but they were merchants, trading in the Caribbean, with just an office in Fenchurch Street. In the 1851 Post Office Directory they have been replaced by Charles Avery, colonial broker. More on these men in a later post.
Henry Broughton did not trade just from Fenchurch Street, but also from Bouverie Street, Fleet Street, although by the time his will was proved in 1849, he was said to be “late of Bouverie Street and now of Fenchurch Street”, so the Bouverie Street property was given up at some point. According to the list of military button manufacturers that Peter Nayler compiled, Henry Broughton had been in partnership with Thomas Nortzell at 21 Bouverie Street from 1820 until 1831(1), so up to the time of his move to Fenchurch Street. It is unclear whether he remained in Bouverie Street after the partnership with Nortzell was dissolved in 1831, possibly just with a warehouse, but it seems likely, because why would he otherwise still refer to that address in his will? After Broughton’s death, the Fenchurch property was listed in the tax records under the name of Broughton & Son till 1854 when one Edmund Jones took over.
Although the premises at number 135 were listed in the tax records for Broughton, or rather, for his son, until 1854, an advertisement in the newspapers of late 1852 suggests an earlier change of hands. The property is advertised as a haberdasher’s shop, but Broughton always called himself a hardwareman or button maker, so it seems that Jones took over earlier than the tax records suggest. The 1856 Post Office Directory lists Jones as hosier and shirt maker, sharing the property with Thomas Thompson, solicitor. More on later occupants of 135 Fenchurch Street in the forthcoming post on Gordon & Leith, but for now, this is where this post stops.
(1) Partnership dissolved 30 June 1831. Source: The London Gazette, 12 July 1831.
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