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Receipts From London’s Oldest Ironmongers

August 14, 2018
by the gentle author

As any accountant will tell you – you must always keep your receipts. It was a dictum adopted religiously by the staff at London oldest ironmongers R. M. Presland & Sons in the Hackney Rd from 1797-2013, where this cache of receipts from the eighteen-eighties and nineties was discovered. All these years later, they may no longer be of interest to the tax man, but they serve to illustrate the utilitarian beauty of nineteenth-century typographic design and tell us a lot about the diverse interrelated  trades which once filled this particular corner of the East End.

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At London’s Oldest Ironmongers

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Nigel permalink
    August 14, 2018

    Strangely, all the writing on these receipts has a “right slope” tendency

  2. Jill permalink
    August 14, 2018

    Every one has the hole from when they were put on the “spike”, something else that I expect has gone due to health & safety.

  3. Marie-Anne permalink
    August 14, 2018

    If only one of them had been from the leather goods factory that my great grandfather worked for back in the 1800’s!

    I have not had any luck finding anything about the company, yet…

  4. Paul Loften permalink
    August 14, 2018

    I wonder, how did they manage without VAT ?

  5. August 14, 2018

    These receipts are like works of art compared to the flimsy digital receipts we get today. The handwriting is magnificent.

  6. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 14, 2018

    Fascinating stuff and a reminder of how complicated the old money was before decimalisation (I am old enough to remember!)

  7. paul ridgway permalink
    August 15, 2018

    I note that in the top left hand corner of the first bill, RM Presland & Sons, there is a set square and dividers (compasses), does this indicate that the proprietor was a freemason?

    All these businesses gave work to the local printers.
    Interesting to note that receipts were often signed over a stamp which used to be issued for ‘postage and revenue’.

  8. paul ridgway permalink
    August 15, 2018

    Yet more, should have done my homework…see here on the law and stamps on receipts of 1962:

    It must have helped the Post Office’s coffers no end but I gather it was not applied as law as the years went by.

    Incidentally until then we also had to pay stamp duty on cheques we wrote, of two pence a cheque. When you asked for a new cheque book you paid 30 x 2pence.

  9. August 15, 2018

    Days later, and I keep returning to this (saved) posting about receipts. There are so many reasons to savor it. The fact that these tender ephemeral bits of paper have lasted……Well, I love that. The design and typography, concocted to establish the bona fides of the various companies. The swirling handwriting, suggesting an intrepid clerk with dip pen, eye shade and garters. (ouch, could you rub my shoulder a bit……ah, YES, right there) And of course I loved the arcane (and sometimes puzzling) terminology. I mean…..”Manchester stripes”? Whazzit?
    GA, this is a banquet of wonderfulness.

  10. Ian Silverton permalink
    August 16, 2018

    Receipt,from timber merchant, A CRIPPS & SON dated 1885, bought back memories of livening along side of it in Warner Place, Bethnal Green,as a child,loved all the wood smells,fresh off the mill,they where still there when we left in the 1960s, opposite the the Pub the OLD HORNS, now a school, even had a Brothel in the same street,run from a private house,no 69! My parents and neighbors where allways haveing the Police raid it,but to no avail,as they had to be fought in the act!!! TRUE

  11. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    August 16, 2018

    Paul Ridgway, Thank you for answering the question I had about the stamp tax before I even asked it! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the minutes from Parliament of the debate (who’d have thought!).

  12. paul ridgway permalink
    August 17, 2018

    Jennifer Newbold, glad to help.
    Pariliamentary Debates a.k.a Hansard of both Houses (Commons and Lords) are a useful source.
    Maybe start here:

    Lynne Perella, Manchester stripes are understood to be a form of ridged velvet or corduroy.

    Corduroy trousers were known as Manchester trousers.

  13. David permalink
    August 23, 2018

    As someone who works in the design and printing trades, seeing these old receipts and how well designed they are is a real treat. The one for the Patent Screw Bolt Works is brilliant.

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