Street View: 87
Address: 60, 61, 62 Wood Street
James Crocker is described in the index to Tallis’s Street View as ‘reel cotton manufacturer’. On the front of his shop he had the words ‘reel cotton & wadding manufacturer’ depicted, but the various sources I found give a wide variation for his and his partners occupations, so I will list them here, rather than with the individual references: warehouseman, dealer in British lace, sewing cotton manufacturer, wadding manufacturer, cotton winder, haberdasher, machine makers, turner, dealer, chapman. Not only did Crocker have various occupations, or more precisely, various descriptions of his occupation, he also had various partners. I found the following: 1827-1828 Arthur Inglis; 1829-1831 James Capey; 1831-1833 Thomas Liggins; 1834 David Colegrave; and 1835-1838 Daniel Griffin. This last partnership was dissolved on 10 January 1838(1) and after that, Crocker seems to have run the business on his own.
It had all started in 1828 at 50 Wood Street with Inglis and Crocker going bankrupt. Both gentlemen had other premises; Crocker at 120 Fore Street and St John Square, Clerkenwell. Then on 31 December 1829, both Crocker and Capey, separately, take out an insurance for 62 Wood Street. Crocker is described as ‘gent, his wife a milliner’, and Capey as ‘warehouseman’. But, they also take out a joint insurance for the premises as ‘warehousemen’. When one of the employees of Crocker and Capey stole some cotton and the case was heard in the Old Bailey, Crocker gave evidence and said that he and his partner lived at Wood Street and had two “manufacturies”, but only one for the manufacture of wadding; the stolen cotton probably came from their premises in Cowper Street, City Road. A foreman testified that they employed at least forty people.(2) The partnership between Crocker and Capey ended on 5 September 1831.(3)
Not long afterwards, in October 1831, by then partnered with Liggins, Crocker’s premises in Wood Street go up in flames. From the newspaper report we learn that the building housed the “card and wadding rooms of an extensive cotton factory in Cowper Street, City Road”. Despite the quick attendance by the firemen, the building was totally destroyed with the front parapet falling into the street. Fortunately, no one was injured.(4) According to the paper, Crocker and Inglis were not insured, which may very well have been the case as the insurance policy for 62 Wood Street for Crocker and Liggins is dated 1 December 1831, so after the fire. The 1831 Land Tax records give number 62 as “empty”, but in 1832, Crocker & Co are given as occupants.
In 1833, Crocker and Liggins insure 62 Wood Street, but also 26 Philip Lane, London Wall. Liggins goes, Colegrave comes and goes, and Griffin (sometimes named as Griffith) comes. At some point the gentlemen must have acquired number 61 as both houses are mentioned when the partnership is dissolved. I think that the two houses were considered as one property as the tax records consistently give the next tax payer as number 60. If you look at the elevation at the top of this post, you can see a blank wall on the higher floors of number 62 and the numbers pulled together by and ampersand (62 & 61). In 1839, one John Eley is listed for number 60, but in 1840, his name has been supplanted by that of Crocker (no more mention of Griffin, by the way), so Crocker now occupies 60, 61 and 62 Wood Street, which matches with what Tallis gives us. The 1843 Post Office Directory lags behind and just gives numbers 61 and 62 for Crocker.
But it was not to last. At least not in Wood Street. Crocker is still given in the 1843 tax records, but by 1844, one William Swainston had taken over. In the 1851 Post Office Directory, the properties have separate occupants once again: a cotton flock dealer at number 60, a wadding maker at 61, and a straw bonnet maker at 62. In July 1854, another fire, this one a lot bigger, ravaged the properties in the neighbourhood. It started at number 61 where a Mr. Jones, a carpenter and box maker, had his business which extended round the corner to 2 and 3 London wall. Superintendent Braidwood of the Fire Service accounted for the damage to properties in his report and the newspaper quoted from it. In all, about ten houses were damaged; some were not much affected by the fire itself, but had a lot of water damage, and even a few houses on the other side of Curriers Court did not escape unscathed.(5)
Here we go again!
In December 1882, a massive fire broke out once again in the same neighbourhood with even greater damage. More or less all the properties between Wood Street, London Wall, Philip Lane and Addle Street, a total area of about 380 by 150 feet, were destroyed with the fronts of the buildings in Wood Street collapsing and falling into the street. Curriers Hall, although wedged in by the other buildings, miraculously escaped with minor damage because of its thick walls and fireproof roof. Numbers 56-62 were at that time in the occupation of Messrs Silber & Fleming, manufacturers and importers of fancy goods. As is often the case, the fire was a blessing in disguise and the old buildings could be razed to the ground and rebuilt in a much grander style. The Illustrated London News of 1882 pictured the destruction in Wood Street and two years later, in 1884, the new shop and sale room of Silber & Fleming.
(1) The London Gazette, 12 January 1838.
(2) Old Bailey case t18310908-75.
(3) The London Gazette, 9 September 1831.
(4) Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 29 October 1831.
(5) The Daily News, 31 July 1854,.
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