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Gadsdons Coach Builders and Wheelwrights of London.
of Brushfield Street, London
Established circa 1790s-early 1800s.
From "Pioneers of the Trade No. 10" Saddlery and Harness May, 1892, p 167.
"This business, now carried on at 5, 11, and 13 Brushfield Street, and 30 and 31 Duke Street, Bishopsgate, London, E., dates back nearly 100 years, when it was founded by Mr. Richard Gadsdon (c1785-1863) , who was apprenticed to a coach founder and plater in Union Street, (now called Brushfield Street) near to the present establishment. Very soon after his apprenticeship was finished Mr. Gadsdon commenced in a small way by working out the orders he received in the rooms of the top floor of his brother's house, which occupied a site now covered by the newer part of Spitalfield Market.
1813 The founder removed to Gun Street, Union Street, and opened a shop for the sale of his own work. At this period he employed from six to eight men, who were chiefly occupied in manufacturing coach beading, an industry which has long ceased to exist in London to any extent, being chiefly carried on in Birmingham and Walsall. Metal beading was largely used at that time for decorative purposes on carriages, ships furniture, etc. and Mr Gadsdon made and fixed the beading on the first Thames steamboat, and was noted as one of the best beaders or "putters on" of his day,
1819 The business was removed to 22 Union Street (now Brushfield Street), where it continued to develop rapidly.
1837 The founder admitted his eldest son Charles as a partner.
1843 Richard Gadsdon retired from business and settled down at Norwood in a house that stood on a portion of the land where the Crystal Palace now stands. At the same time, a younger son named Benjamin joined his brother Charles in partnership, and the concern was carried on by the two brothers very successfully.
The firm traded under C&B Gadsdon when Charles and Benjamin took over the business together. Later it would become Gadsdons Ltd.
1869 Charles retired and left his share to his two eldest sons, Charles White and George John Gadsdon.
Benjamin Gadsdon remained in business until his death in 1881, when his share was taken up by his two eldest sons, Ernest George and E. H. F. Gadsdon, the latter being better known to his many friends by the familiar name of 'Mr. Ted'.
Members of the firm included four grandsons of the founder - that is two sons each of Charles and Benjamin Gadsdon.
Until about 1853, the business done was principally connected with the London trade, but about that time the firm began to extend their operations to the home counties generally, and now through the enterprise and industry of the younger members of this old firm, their country connection stood in the front rank of the trade.
1869 Charles Gadsdon Junior was called upon to take "to the road" and represented the firm for many years, and was much esteemed by his friends and customers, of whom he had many in the North-East and South-East of England. He was succeeded on this ground by John Lane of Birmingham. The West of England and the Channel Islands were worked by E. J. Jenkins of Bristol.
1882 Description of the Works
"The ground floor and basement are chiefly used for heavy goods, such as axles, springs, and machinery. The general offices are also on the ground floor, the counting house proper being on the first floor of No. 13.
A portion of the first floor is devoted to coach trimming in all its detail, and is a rapidly-increasing branch of their trade. In this department, also, they are developing a new departure, in making for the trade, at very short notice, cushions of all descriptions and in all materials.
They also show samples of all kinds of material used for stuffing purposes, such as horse hair, alva, fibre, flocks etc. the bulk being kept elsewhere on the premises. They also have a large stock of patient splits, enamelled hides, and other kinds of leather used by the trade. In this room also, there is a large stock of carriage lamps of every description, from the pony japanned to the elegantly mounted brougham or landau.
The whole of the second and third floors are given up to their large stock of saddlers' ironmongery, which consists of harness of all descriptions, saddles, collars, riding saddles and bridles, horse rugs, whips, bits, collar checks, harness furniture, and everything connected with this portion of their trade. Messrs Gadsdon have also a large store-room in the basement at No. 5 Brushfield Street, where an immense stock of felloes, naves, shafts, wheels, and spokes are kept, together with varnishes, colours, sash tools, and brushes.
Gadsdons of Brushfield St - Peter Gadsdon has written about his family history findings below. We are indebted to Peter, for allowing us to publish the following essay.
“I have always had an interest in the East End since I visited Club Row, Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane when I was a teenager. And although I knew that my father was born in Hoxton, I did not know about the connection with Spitalfields until I started to research my family history.
Henry, my great, great, great grandfather was born in City of London in 1774 and baptised in All Hallows, Lombard St. His father, also Henry, was a framework knitter who had three children and found it “difficult to maintain and educate them without assistance.” So he applied to have his son admitted to Christ’s Hospital charity school in Newgate St in the City of London, where young Henry was accepted.
On leaving in 1790, the charity school paid for Henry’s five year apprenticeship as a silk dyer at the cost of five pounds and then he set up his own business in Spitalfields, the centre of the silk industry. The first date we know for his business is 1805 in Holden’s Triennial Directory at 26 Paternoster Row, now known as Brushfield St. On a map from 1799, Brushfield St is shown divided in two – from Bishopsgate to Crispin St was named Union St, and from Crispin St to Christ Church was Paternoster Row. In the eighteen twenties, Henry formed a partnership with a Richard Harmer, listed as Gadsdon & Harmer, dyers, scowerers and calenders in Pigots 1828/1829 Directory.
The next we learn of Henry is in the Old Bailey records when a coat is stolen from his business premises in 1830. On retirement, he moved across the Thames to Deptford and his first wife Elizabeth, née Harvey, passed away shortly afterwards. The custom in those days was commonly to return the body to the parish where they had lived and she was buried in Christ Church, Spitalfields, where eight of her nine children had been baptised and one infant was buried.
In 1839, little more than a year later, Henry married for a second time to Charlotte Benskin and moved out to the hamlet of Hatcham, New Cross. He died in 1849 and is buried in Nunhead Cemetery nearby. Of Henry’s children two of his sons followed him to Christ’s Hospital School and on the application it states “A wife and eight children, one already at Christ’s, six under the age of fourteen years old, income under one hundred pounds per annum.” They were supported at the school by the Skinners’ Livery Guild of which Henry was a member. Another of his sons followed Henry into the silk dying trade, but by now the silk industry in Spitalfields was in its last throes.
Henry had a younger brother, Richard, who also had a business in Union St. Richard trained as a coachplater, making ironmongery for horse drawn carriages. A description from an encyclopaedia of Carriage Driving is as follows – “His job was to make such parts of the carriage as the door handles. He also prepared metal furniture for the harness. The average wage in the first half of the eighteen hundreds, for a plater, was thirty shillings a week.” Another brother, George. was also a coachplater who lived in nearby Gun St and I would assume that he worked with Richard when he set up his business in the early eighteen hundreds.
Advertisements show that they sold American wheels for carriages, and varnishes, japan and colours for the carriage trade. As the years progressed, they also moved into the motor car business and an advert from the turn of the century announces Gadsdons selling foot warmers suitable for both carriages and motor cars. Today, there is still a premises with the Gadsdon name on it in Spitalfields at number 49 Crispin St, though I am not sure if this is the carriage firm or if it is another part of the extended family. In 1926, a new Gadsdon premises of four storeys was built at the corner of Brushfield St and Duke St.
The last years of the business were in Christopher St, Finsbury Sq, from 1930 until the business shut down around 1936/7. Even then, they were still selling horse-drawn carriage goods such as wooden wheels alongside the new motor trade goods.
I discovered Richard had nine children and it is one of these, Henry – who was born in Gun St in 1814 – whose family owned the Crispin St building in the photo. Henry started an apprenticeship as a silk manufacturer, but his employer disappeared before he finished it. The next we hear is Henry started working at Thomas Brushfield’s house in Union St, engaged in the oil and colour business. Thomas Brushfield was the man after whom Brushfield St was named when Paternoster Row and Union St were combined later in the nineteenth century.
Henry married Thomas’s niece, Elizabeth Nadauld Brushfield and, after their marriage, they moved to Featherstone St, St Lukes, to start up their own oil and colour business. Unfortunately, they had a disastrous fire on the premises in 1840 and moved again, this time to Great Prescot St near the Tower of London, where once again a destructive fire broke out in 1854. This shows the volatile nature of the oil and colour business, which involved the bulk storage of oils necessary for the manufacture of paint. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the business moved back to Spitalfields and they built new warehouses in Crispin St, including the one in the picture above. They traded in Crispin St until just before the Second World War, when they decide to construct bigger premises in Edmonton. They started trading there and it was a going concern but, two years after they had moved, a bomb razed the warehouse. Their fleet of lorries and their garage premises were spared and they needed to continue the business, so they moved back to the Crispin St buildings which were still vacant and the business returned to Spitalfields again.
Once the war was finished they rebuilt the Edmonton premises. They supplied the hardware trade for household goods and tools, the oil and colour side of the trade had now disappeared. The business continued until 1977. It had lasted one hundred and twenty years.”