Street View: 7
Address: 14 New Bond Street
On the 29th of March, 1837, a Frenchman arrived in England through the Docks of London and the arrival certificate states that his name was Jean Baptiste Reynauld, that he was a silk mercer, a French citizen with a French passport, and that he had arrived from Boulogne on the Emerald. This was not his first entry into England as it is also stated that he had “left from London in March last”.(1) And indeed, we do find a Jean-Baptiste Reynauld as early as 1827 in the records of the Fire Office as “silk mercer and linen draper” in 2 Beak Street off Regent Street. Subsequent entries show him in 1831 in 53 Lower Brook Street off Grosvenor Square as “silk mercer, embroiderer and jeweller” and from June 1836 in 14 New Bond Street, again as “silk mercer, embroiderer and jeweller”.(2) As you can see from the elevation, 14 New Bond Street appears to be a very moderate establishment, but as we will see later in the story, the space above the shops at number 13 also belonged to Reynauld.
His trip to France in 1837 for which we have the arrival certificate was probably not his last, as in May 1839 he advertises new dresses from Paris which have arrived in time for the celebration of the Queen’s birthday. We can probably assume that he went over to France to buy the dresses himself, although records do not show us that he did indeed go himself. He may have used agents, or received them on spec from his French suppliers, but that is not certain. The dresses probably looked something like the ones shown here. An advertisement in The Morning Post alerts us to the fact that Reynauld did more than sell silk. He was apparently also the agent, or at least the corresponding address for French institutions, such as the Institute for Young Ladies in Paris.
1839 is also the year where his misfortunes begin. One of his employees, Frederick Syret (also Syrett) and two associates, Robert Agar and Wiliam Blake, rob the place on 2 June. We can follow the story from the newspaper reports. The Era of 16 June gives a detailed account of the event under the heading “Housebreaking and extensive robbery” which came out at the Queen Street Magistrate Court hearing:
“Frederick Syret, Robert Agar, and William Blake, were placed at the bar, charged with feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of James Baptiste Reynauld, silk-mercer and laceman, of no. 14, New Bond-Street, and stealing therein £120 in bank notes, 28 sovereigns, a large quantity of blonde lace, Chantilly veils, jewellery, plate, and other property to a very considerable amount. – Mr. J.B. Reynauld stated that he had known the mother of the prisoner Syret for upwards of ten years, she having lived as housekeeper with him for ten years. He had never lost sight of the family from that period, and prisoner (Syret) had been a servant of his three times. He last came into his employ on the 15th of March, and remained with him until Sunday, the 2nd of June, when he asked, and received permission, to go out for the day. About a quarter to four in the afternoon prosecutor left his house, and on his return, at a quarter past five, his female servant, who opened the street door, was much agitated, and desired him to go up stairs. He found his bedroom and dining room strewed with articles of wearing apparel and property of different descriptions, and the lock of a bureau had been forced, and eighteen silver spoons, sugar-tongs &c. carried off. He then found the warehouse door, which great violence had been used to, open, unlocked, and the iron chest, which had been secured but two hours previously, robbed of its contents in cash and jewellery, amongst the latter of which was a valuable head ornament set with dead pearls of green, blue, violet and lilac. On a further examination he discovered that the locks of the different drawers had been forced, and a very large quantity of black and white blonde, a piece of silver blonde, a pair of gold epaulettes, a number of Chantilly veils, and other property stolen. – Mr. Gregorie [the magistrate] inquired the amount of the property stolen? – Mr. Reynauld said that he could not give a correct estimate at the moment, as so much appeared to have been carried off. He had at present missed articles to the value of £300. – Mr. Gregorie was desirous of knowing how Syret first became suspected? – Mr Reynauld replied that he had absconded, and, from what his servant told him, there must have been others besides him to have committed the robbery. Prosecutor was about to explain further, but Mr. Gregorie observed that what the girl had told him would not be evidence in law. She must be in attendance herself. – Mr. Reynauld said that he had omitted to state in his evidence that he had found a suit of old clothes in his bedroom, which had been evidently left by his visitors. – Serjeant Langley, of the A division, stated that he went with another constable – in consequence of having made inquiries – to the house, No. 13, New Street, Vauxhall, which the prisoners had taken possession of the day previously. It was at about nine on Sunday morning, and he found Agar in the front room. He told him he must consider himself in custody, and on searching he found £68 tied up in a silk handkerchief on a chair in the same room, which Agar claimed as his money; and in the parlour, under a bed, he discovered a box full of veils and lace, which prosecutor identified as part of the stolen property; and in a back lumber room several perfect sets of housebreaking implements. – George Colier, 38 E, corroborated the above. – Mr. Gregorie inquired who occupied the house as landlord?. – Collier replied, that Syret said he took it. – Witness had since seen the landlord, who confirmed this account. – Mr Gregorie inquired if the housebreaking implements had been brought away? – Two large portmanteaus full were then exhibited as ‘part’ of those found. They contained about half a hundred weight of skeleton keys of all seizes, several of which had been evidently broken in forcing locks. There were three dark lanterns, stocks and centre-bits, and a corresponding number of ‘jemmies’ as the crowbar is technically termed. There were other blank keys with wax on them, ready to take the impression of any lock; and by the account of the constables a vice and other implements were also found on the premises to file them out to any shape or size. – The prisoners declined making any defence.”
A week later, the paper continued with the report on the case. First of all the landlady of the house Syret had used after the robbery was questioned and she alleged that Syret had represented himself as “Mr. Edgar” to her. Another witness called was Miss Gibbs of 165 New Bond Street who “stated that on Sunday, the 2nd of June, she saw a person whom she believes to be the prisoner Blake standing facing Mr. Reynauld’s shop about four in the afternoon. He went to the street door, and the servant let him in a short time afterwards. When she again went to the window from which she had observed this, she saw Mr. Reynauld’s female servant who had let the man in ringing at her master’s door several times. Mr. Gregorie desired the servant to stand up, when she stated that on the Sunday of the robbery Syret went out in the morning while she was cleaning the warehouse out, and he returned again about half past three. While her master was engaged with two gentlemen in the warehouse, Syret went down into the kitchen, and inquired of her whether Mr. Reynauld had seen him come in, and she replied that she did not think his master had. After a few minutes Syret said, ‘It’s a nice day, Anne; how much good a walk would do you.’ She said, she knew no one nearer than Chelsea, and that was too far; to which he replied, ‘You can go and get that coat from my mother’s, or take a walk to Mrs. Wooler’s the washerwomen’s.’ She expressed her unwillingness to do so, and he then said if she would go out for a little while it would much oblige him, as he had two friends coming that he wished to say something to alone. Her master had just left the house, and, as Syret had pressed her, she went out for three quarters of an hour, as he said that would be long enough. On her return she found, after ringing at the bell some time, that the street door was partly open. She then went up stairs, and discovered that the place had been robbed and Syret gone. – On the application of Mr. Humphreys [the prosecutor], who said he was not prepared to go any further at present, the prisoners were remanded for a week.”
The story is then taken up by The Morning Post of 5 July who report that a case is made for Blake being innocent as Anne Kelly, the servant, could not identify him and Syret also said that Blake had nothing to do with the robbery, but Mr. Gregorie was having none of that. According to him the prisoners had all to go to trial. The next step in the saga is the trial at the Old Bailey where the case was presented on 8 July. I will not repeat the whole proceedings as they are essentially the same as those reported in the newspapers, but they do itemize the goods stolen, which in total came to well over £460:
505 yards of lace, value 112l.; 30 lappets, value 32l.; 14 veils, value 20l.; 12 sleeves, value 8l.; 18 spoons, value 6l.; 1 pair of sugar tongs, value 1l.; 3 studs, value 16s.; 1 watch, value 4l.; 2 coats, value 3l.; 1 cravat, value 6s.; 1 waistcoat, value 12s.; 1 pair of trowsers [sic], value 15s.; 2 pencil cases, value 12l.; 2 knives, value 2s.; 1 pair of spoons, value 4s.; 1 head ornament, value 30l.; 1 bracelet, value 20l.; 2 brooches, value 60l.; 1 opera-glass, value 2l. 10s.; 1 purse, value 5s.; 23 sovereigns, 10 half-sovereigns, 100 shillings, 16 sixpences, 1 £40 Bank-notes, 5 £10 Bank-notes, and 6 £5 Bank-notes.
Blake and Syret were indicted for stealing, Agar “for harbouring the said prisoners, knowing them to have committed the said felony”. The verdict for William Blake turned out rather good, he was let off “not guilty”, but Syret, 18 year old, was given a 15-year transport sentence, and Robert Agar, 23 years old, was to be transported for 14 years.(3) Syret was transported on the Eden in July 1840 to New South Wales; Agar on the Asia in April 1840 to Van Diemen’s Land.(4)
Life returned to normal and Reynauld continued to sell his silk from 14 New Bond Street until another disaster struck, this time a major fire. The Morning Post is once again our key witness:
“A fire broke out yesterday morning [= 7 February 1843] about a quarter before four o’clock, at no. 14, New Bond Street, occupied by Mr. Reynauld, a silk mercer, and which but for the promptitude displayed by the firemen, would doubtless have resulted in vast destruction of property. The house of Mr. Reynauld, which is in the narrow part of New Bond Street, nearly facing the Clarendon Hotel, is an extremely large one, extending over a row of shops occupied by Mrs. M.A. Smith, milliner, Miss. Devine, hosier and glover, and Mr. Asplin, hair dresser and perfumer, Mr. Reynold’s own show-room extending on the first floor over the entire three. Mr. Reynauld and his family occupied the upper portion of the house. Engines from Baker-street, which had but just left the fire at Colonel Buckworth’s, and those of the County Office, were speedily in motion, and a good supply of water being procured, operations were commenced with great difficulty, five lengths of hose having to be conveyed to the top of the house up the staircase, and the leaden roof having to be cut through before they could fairly get to play upon the flames. They were got under in about three quarters of an hour, and it was then discovered that the fire must have originated from a stove which stood in the south east corner of the dining room, the pipe of which came in close connection with one of the rafters of the roof. There was a fire in the stove the previous night, but Mr. Reynauld saw it put out. A considerable quantity of furniture is destroyed and the house much damaged by the water; the exact amount, however, had not been ascertained. The house and property of Mr. Reynauld is insured in the Phoenix.”
He may have been insured, but not long after the fire, Reynauld decided to sell up. What became of him and his family is unclear. Perhaps they went back to France.
(1) Alien Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869. Class: HO 2; Piece: 23; Certificate Number: 1168.
(2) National Archives, Records of Sun Fire Office MS 11936/516/1065576 28 September 1827; MS 11936/522/1096193 11 September 1829; MS 11936/533/1130316 28 October 1831; MS 11936/539/1163634 4 December 1833; MS 11936/550/1211708 28 January 1836; MS 11936/553/1224157 1 June 1836.
(3) Old Bailey Proceedings Online, July 1839, trial of Frederick Syrett William Blake Robert Agar (t18390708-2100).
(4) Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 91, Class and Piece Number HO11/12, Page Number 197 and 184 resp.
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