One of the joys of working at the City of Westminster Archives Centre is coming across famous names in the archives. There are many notable clients among Westminster’s business records.
Years ago I was asked to find the account of William Morris, leading designer of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with Fribourg and Treyer, tobacconists and snuff merchants, of the Haymarket. His account includes several orders for 100 Corona A de Rothschild cigars for £6.0s.6d which he placed until just a few months before his death on 3 October 1896 at the age of 62. You can still see their lovely bow-fronted shop in the Haymarket today, though it closed as a tobacconist’s in the 1980s and is now a stationer’s.
Imagine our surprise when one of our volunteers found the bill for the Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s funeral on 10 December 1928 in the order books of Tookey and Sons of Marylebone High Street. He had an elm cremation shell for £12.12s. and a motor hearse to take him from the nursing home to a private chapel. The whole bill came to £58.13s.6d including the cremation at Golders Green Crematorium and obituaries placed in The Times, Morning Post and Glasgow Herald.
In 2007, with the help of the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, we acquired the archives of Beale and Inman, tailors, of New Bond Street, whose customers included Winston Churchill. As well as the usual sales ledgers and order books, they include a fascinating series of “new name” books, which record the names and addresses of new clients, together with references from other high-class shops noting their ability to pay promptly or otherwise. Little did their clients know that unflattering comments were being recorded against their name, such as this one in 1881:
“Sort of a humbug. Order cancelled. Only wanted to have 1 shirt, after he had given an order, found several faults with pattern etc”.
As well as giving us an insight into the relationship between this business and their clients, these books also show what an extensive information network the shops had built up to learn from the experience of other companies such as Harrods, Marshall and Snelgrove and Whiteley and find out which customers were credit-worthy.