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More About Gadsdons

December 18, 2013
by the gentle author

From time to time, the descendants of those whose ancestors were occupied in the small trades that once clustered here at the boundary of the City of London return to visit the old neighbourhood. These are families that have not forgotten how their forebears were displaced from their homes by the building of Liverpool St Station in the eighteen-seventies.

I am thinking in particular of the Coles of Brushfield St, the Inces of Whites Row, the Senecals of Spital Sq, the Stutters of Bishopsgate and – of course – the Gadsdons. In each case, my stories about these families have led to the discovery of more artefacts and old trade catalogues, and even long-lost relatives appearing from the ether.

Peter Gadsdon first came to visit a year ago to tell me about his great, great, great grandfather, Henry Gadsdson, who was apprenticed as a silk dyer in Spitalfields in 1790. Last week, Peter returned to show me the handsome catalogues for coach-building parts sold by Gadsdons which he had acquired as a result of the original story. And, as a result of further research, Peter was able to tell me the story of another Gadsdon, whose name is still commemorated in Crispin St upon the building between Donovan’s Bags and the former night shelter – thus adding another strand to the densely-woven web that comprises the epic tale of the Gadsdons.

Once we had perused the handsome coach-building catalogues, Peter became animated to speak of his Gadsdon ancestor who emigrated to America, changed her name to Gadsden and became a star in Hollywood during the era of silent films only to be displaced once the talkies came along.

You can read Peter’s story of his coach-building ancestors below, but this other glamorous anecdote led me to wonder if we may expect a new and unexpected installment in the ongoing saga of the Gadsons of Spitafields next year.

“One person you meet leads you to another and you learn more and more,” Peter Gadsdon assured me, “There’s so much to it than this, it’s not over yet!”

If you have any more information about the Gadsdons and their endeavours, please contact Peter Gadsdon A copy of his first book about  The Gadsdons of Spitalfields is available to be consulted in the Bishopsgate Library.

Peter Gadsdon in Crispin St – spot the lettering on the building above, spelling out ‘Gadsdon’

“Here I am standing outside a building in Crispin St and in the relief you can make out H.Gadsdon & Sons. I always knew these people must be connected with my branch of the Gadsdons but I was not sure how. I knew that my great, great, great grandfather Henry had a silk-dying business in Paternoster Row (later renamed Brushfield St) in the early eighteen-hundreds, but I could not ascertain how he was connected to this H. Gadsdon. Previously, I had researched my family along the paternal side, so now I decided to investigate it sideways too, so I could find out how they were connected.

Having served a seven year apprenticeship with John Wright, silk dyer of Bethnal Green, Henry’s business success in Spitalfields allowed him to retire across the River Thames to the village of Deptford and live the life of a gentleman.

He had a younger brother, Richard Gadsdon who had learnt a trade as a coachplater –  an ironmonger who made the metal parts for horsedrawn carriages. Having finished his own apprenticeship, Richard started making carriage ironmongery in his brother’s premises, until 1813 when he started up independently in Gun St, Artillery Ground.

Later, as the business expanded, he moved to 22 Union St. This business lasted over one hundred and fifty years until the Spitalfield Market expanded in the nineteen twenties and took over the premises in Brushfield 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.”

Mr Gadson contributed two pounds to the rebuilding of Christ Church after the fire in 1836

You may like to read these related stories

Gadsdons of Brushfield St

Senecals of Spital Sq

Inces of Whites Row

Stutters of Bishopsgate

Coles of Brushfield St

6 Responses leave one →
  1. December 18, 2013

    “Strange” objects from another (better?) world…

  2. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    December 18, 2013

    Facinating bit of hidden hiistory

  3. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    December 18, 2013

    Love the motoring accessories!Has motoring improved?

  4. Andrea permalink
    December 18, 2013

    The lady’s polished and inlaid mahogany motor companion is a bit too expensive for me. Now I have to decide between the polished mahogany companion and the morocco covered one.

  5. December 18, 2013

    Thank you for linking again to the story of my ancestors – the Cole family of Brushfield Street. I had great joy writing the story for you and then following my story in its aftermath – particularly when my own daughter started to work last year in the exact location of her Bishopsgate ancestors.

    It is remarkable what Spitalfields Life achieves for the people you feature. I started my own local history blog directly because of Spitalfields Life (as you know, I even attended one of your writing courses) and have now been writing my own stories for nearly 2 years. I have just signed a deal with a mainstream well-known publisher of history books to write them 3 history books – 2 on local history and the 3rd about an aspect of the First World War.

    All because of the TheGentleAuthor and Spitalfields Life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Happy Christmas to you.

  6. Paul Hainesborough permalink
    April 11, 2024

    My father in 50s to 60s worked for Gadsdons when they were in Edmonton n18. We actually lived in the flat at the site. He was Ken Hainesborough. I was actually born in the flat there in April 1963. In 1966 we moved out into a brand new 4 bedroom maisonette in Bounces Rd N9. But spent first 3 years of my life living where my dad worked for years as Transport manager (think was his job title).

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