Street Views: 19 and 9 Suppl.
Address: 370-371 Strand
In the post for Edward Cahan, tailor, we saw that he occupied 371 Strand from ±1845 onwards and that he was listed by Tallis in the 1847 Street View Supplement. But in the main collection of Street Views (±1839-1840), Tallis listed S. Hunt & Co, tobacconists, at number 371. The elevation at the top of this post shows Hunt as a billiard table maker. Samuel Hunt combined both jobs, after all, what better place to sell your cigars than in a billiard room full of gentlemen? Although Cahan moved into number 371 at some point, Hunt continued to use most of the premises as his “billiard rooms and cigar divan”. According to London as it is today, cigar divans were “essentially coffee houses, but of a distingué character, expensive in their charges, and more studied, elegant, and luxurious in their appointments and conveniences”. Cahan probably just had the ground floor of number 371 and perhaps a few bedrooms upstairs. Various illustrations of the property before and after Cahan’s occupancy show the cigar divan on the ground floor of number 371 with the billiard rooms above. It looks as if Hunt rented out some space at number 371 to Cahan, while keeping the rest of the property for himself.
The neighbouring property at 370 Strand had been in the occupation of one Bennett, pastry cook and confectioner in the early Street View; we will find out what happened to him in a later post, but for now we are concentrating on Hunt & Co. They, that is S. and C.J. Hunt [Samuel and ??], entered an advertisement in The Athenaeum of 1834 in which they warned their customers against inferior billiard tables that were advertised under “names of the most ridiculous nature – such as ‘Imperial Marmorean Stratification’ and ‘Petrosian Stratification Tables’ – made use of only to mislead the unwary, and to disguise the fact that they are made of COMMON WELSH SLATE”. As you can guess, the tables Hunt provided were anything but common, but made according to an improved principle, which needed no trumped-up names; the use of the word ‘slate’ was enough. The only thing to surpass the slate tables of Hunt were their metal tables. In the same advertisement, Hunt also advertised “A Scientific Treatise on Billards”. No author or proper title mentioned, but it was probably François Mingaud‘s The Noble Game of Billiards, a translation by John Thurston, rival billiard table maker, of the Noble Jeu de Billiard. Thurston, by the way, had an advertisement just above Hunt’s in The Athenaeum in which he advertised his ‘Imperial Petrosian Tables’ and also Migaud’s book. No love lost between the two rivals apparently.
Hunt & Co. had probably taken over from David Farrow, who was described in The London Gazette of 1834 as “formerly of no. 370 Strand, Middlesex, gun-maker and gun-dealer, and also a billiard-table-keeper, … out of business”. From an 1836 Old Bailey case, we learn a little bit more about Hunt. One Henry Bell was indicted for stealing 3 ivory balls, the property of Samuel Hunt. Hunt’s son, Horatio, gave evidence and said, “I live with my father, Samuel Hunt, in the Quadrant; he has another house in the Strand; he is a billiard-table-keeper”. While Horatio was cleaning the billard room in the Strand, “which is on the first floor”, the accused came in and started to “knock the balls about on the table”. The minute Horatio turned his back, the accused left, taking the balls with him; they were later found at a pawnbroker’s.(1) The 1841 census shows Horatio, with occupation tobacconist, living at 370 Strand and Samuel Hunt, billiard-table-keeper, at 371 Strand. Also living at 370 Strand is William Preist, trunk maker, who was in the debtor’s prison later that year.(2) In the bankruptcy notice, Preist is described as a foreman to a trunk maker and it is entirely possible that he was employed by Hunt in the making of the billiard tables. In Robson’s London Directory for 1842, Samuel Hunt & Co. are described as “trunk and camp equipage manfrs, tobacconists & billiard table makrs” and in the 1843 Post Office Directory as “metal & slate billiard table ma. tobacconists, & trunk makers, 370 & 371 Strand, & 105 Quadrant”. That same year, 1843, Samuel and Horatio Nelson, as he is officially named, dissolve the partnership they have at 370 Strand. No mention is made of the other addresses.(3)
Samuel Hunt died in July 1845 of “disease of the lungs and debility”, just 48 years old. Horatio Nelson continued the business, at one point assisted by one John Drucquer, who had at one time had had his own tobacconist and billiard establishment at 334A Strand, but had fallen on hard times.(4) By 1850, Horatio must have left the tobacco side of the business to William Henry and Charles Russell who dissolve their partnership as tobacco and snuff dealers at 370 Strand in February 1850.(5) The billiard business was, however, still in Hunt’s hands and he is listed as billiard table keeper at number 370 in the 1851 census. At number 371, the census lists George Beckingham, also a billiard table keeper. What exactly the relationship was between Hunt and Beckingham is not clear, but it seems that Beckingham took over part of Hunt’s business as in 1859, The Building News of 15 July reported that 371 Strand, known as Beckenham’s Billiard-rooms, was sold for £1230. The Land Tax records still show Hunt at number 370 and Cahan at 371. The 1861 census shows Horatio and his family at number 370, but 371 is just occupied by a single lodger, so no great help in determining what happened. In the 1871 census, Horatio has moved to 2, Montague Place, and is described as billiard table maker, employing 5 men. He went bankrupt in 1878 and was then living at 11 Finborough Road, South Kensington.(6) He got himself out of trouble and continued to work as a billiard table maker/keeper, in 1881 at 6 Tavistock Street. He retired sometime between 1881 and 1891 as the 1891 census finds him living on his own means. He died in 1898.
It is unclear what happened to 370 Strand just after Hunt left, but it came on the market in 1872 with an unexpired lease of 56 years.(7) It became part of the Exeter Hall Hotel, often referred to as Haxell’s Hotel after its proprietor Edward Nelson Haxell, but at some point it also housed George Hammer & Co’s, school furnishers. In the 1920s Haxell’s Hotel became part of the very grand Strand Palace Hotel, but that is another story.
(1) Old Bailey case t18360919-2121.
(2) The London Gazette, 16 November 1841.
(3) The London Gazette, 29 September 1843.
(4) The London Gazette, 6 February 1846.
(5) The London Gazette, 5 February 1850.
(6) The London Gazette, 19 February 1878.
(7) The London Gazette, 3 September 1872.
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