Street View: 57
Address: 253 Blackfriars Road
In 1826, William Shaw insured premises at 74 Blackfriars Road with the Sun Fire Office. His occupation is given as ironmonger, so that would match the information I had from Tallis, but the house number did not match, or did it? The policy register kindly informs us that the ironmonger’s business was situated on the corner of Holland Street and that does match the information in the Tallis Street View booklet. An 1829 insurance with the Sun Fire Office, and indeed many later ones, list Shaw’s business at number 174, so I assume that there was a transcription error in the 1827 registry, and the house number was in fact 174. In 1831, the numbering had not yet changed to 253, but the name of the street has changed and is now referred to as Great Surrey Street. The 1835 and 1836 insurance records were hedging their bets by naming it ‘Great Surrey Street Blackfriars’. According to The Survey of London “the road was known as Great Surrey Street until 1829 when its name was changed to Blackfriars Road.”(1) Well, not quite, but we get the picture. In 1836, the insurance records still number the house as 174, but Tallis has no. 253, so the numbering must have been altered somewhere around 1837 or 1838.
In 1823, the stock of a tea dealer who had his business at number 174 Great Surrey Street came on the market, certainly suggesting that the owner had either gone bankrupt or died.(2) Kent’s 1823 directory listed a Mr. Greenhill, grocer, on the premises, but whether Shaw took possession immediately after the tea dealer/grocer had left is not clear, as the earliest mention of him is 1826. The property was fairly substantial as we can see from the vignette in Tallis’s Street View. The street on the left with the covered wagon is Holland Street and the one on the right with the carriage is Blackfriars Road. Despite the size of the building, not many people actually lived there; the 1841 census only lists Robert Shaw, 24 years old, an ironmonger; Eliza Shaw, 17 years old, no occupation given; Charles Stephenson, 18 years old, an apprentice; and Mary Cook, 24 years old, a servant. Whether and how Robert and Eliza are related is not made clear. Ten years later, we find Frederick F. Shaw, 26 years old, an unmarried ironmonger, at number 253 with his sister Mary A. Staff, a 36-year old widow; and Frederick Bates, 18 years old, a servant porter. Frederick Francis was most likely the son of William and Mary Shaw who was baptised on 24 December 1824 at Christchurch, Southwark, but not much else is known about the family. The numerous entries in the various records for people with the name Shaw do not make it easy to search for a particular individual with that name, and the combination with William certainly does not make it any easier, so we will concentrate on the business itself.
The 1843, 1848 and 1851 Post Office Directories all list William Shaw senior as ironmonger at number 253. One William junior can be found at 39 Newington Causeway, but whether he was William senior’s son, or in any other way related is not yet clear. I will try to solve that puzzle when I get round to writing the post on 39 Newington Causeway. The 1853 Shopkeeper’s Guide and the 1856 Post Office Directory list Frederick Francis as the ironmonger at number 253, suggesting the demise or retirement of William senior. Although the directories keep it simple and just call the gentlemen ‘ironmongers’, they were much more than that. As you can see from the substantial advertisement of four times a third of an oblong page in the Street View (bottom of this post), Shaw was a wholesale ironmonger and stove and range maker. They supplied their customers, be they householders or farmers, with all kinds of metal goods, cutlery, kitchen furniture, garden and other tools, not to mention the ‘sundries’. In other words, whether you needed a teaspoon or a weather vane, a fruit basket or a Dutch oven, a screw or a sickle, Shaw was your man.
But Shaw also invented implements, such as this ‘carriage lifter’, which was praised by a William Baddeley in the Mechanics Magazine of 3 October 1840. Apparently another model had been described in an earlier instalment of the magazine and “a still more ingenious contrivance” had been rewarded by the Society of Arts, but Baddeley thought that “the simplicity and efficiency” of Shaw’s tool was recommendation enough and need not be given more explanation of its merits than a small drawing with a description of the handles and levers involved.(3)
Frederick Francis does not seem to have been as astute a businessman as his father was, and in 1857 he got into trouble. A bankruptcy claim was filed against him in February 1857, and if that was not enough in itself, it turned out that he had also involved himself in the London and Birmingham Iron and Hardware Company Ltd. who had bought the business at 253 Blackfriars Road and were trying to raise money by giving out shares. Shaw was “engaged to continue the active management of the concern”. This ruse did not work and a bankruptcy claim was filed against the Company in April of that same year.(4) Shaw had been promised £600 by the directors of the Company, but they failed to pay up. A legal wrangle in the Court of Exchequer ensued to work out whether the wording of the agreement had made the directors personally responsible for the sum of money, or whether the case was one of limited liability.(5)
The records of the London and Birmingham Iron Company seemed to have been a bit of a shambles and one Mr. Harrison who had given Shaw 50l. for 25 shares never received his certificate of shares, but, as he was a friend of Shaw, he saw it more as a loan than an investment. He had been told by Mr. Harris, one of the directors, that he did not have any shares, although his name later appeared in the list of shareholders. Harrison was not the only one slightly confused about the procedures of the Company; even George Shaw, the brother of Frederick Francis, was listed for more shares than he thought he had. Did the company deliberately fiddle the books, or were they just sloppy in their accounting? The meeting to sort it all out at the Court of Bankruptcy was adjourned, so the report in the newspaper(6) does not give us the final outcome, but the third and final dividend to the shareholders was only made payable in 1896! The shareholders certainly needed a lot of patience with the London and Birmingham Iron and Hardware Company. And Frederick Francis? Well, in 1871 he could be found as a coal merchant in St. Helier, Jersey, and there is a good chance that he was the Frederick Francis who died in the second quarter of 1878 at Lewisham. I cannot prove it, but, at that time, he may have been living with his daughter Emily who was certainly to be found in Lewisham in 1881.
(1) Survey of London: Volume 22, Bankside. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1950. Via British History Online.
(2) The Morning Chronicle, 5 May 1823.
(3) The Mechanic’s Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette, Volume 33, no. 895, 3 October 140, p. 356 (online here).
(4) The Era, 15 February 1857; and The London Gazette, 24 February and 27 November 1857.
(5) The Jurist, July 1857.
(6) Daily News, 26 November 1858.
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