Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Elhanan Bicknell

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Elhanan Bicknell (21 December 1788 – 27 November 1861) was a successful London businessman and shipowner. He used his wealth as a patron of the arts, becoming one of the leading collectors of contemporary British art.

Born 21 December 1788, in Blackman Street, London, the son of William Bicknell, serge manufacturer, and Elizabeth Bicknell, née Randall, of Sevenoaks, Kent.

Educated by his father, who, having established a school at Ponder's End in 1789, when Elhanan was an infant, removed it to Tooting Common in 1804.

In 1808 Bicknell was sent to Caus, near Shrewsbury, to learn farming; but at the end of a year this project was abandoned.

Bicknell returned to London late in 1808 and soon after he joined a business run by his uncle, John Walter Langton (1746-1822). Langton had established himself as a tallow chandler at Newington Butts, about a mile south of London Bridge, by 1788.

Bicknell became a partner in the business about 1809 and the following year he married his cousin, Langton's daughter Hannah. She was the first of his four wives with whom he had a total of thirteen children. The business partnership was also productive and saw the firm become the leading oil merchants and spermaceti refiners in London by 1835. Bicknell was also part-owner of a number of South Sea whaling ships.

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