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By Peter Gadsdon



We are indebted to Peter Gadsdon who has shared with us this fascinating account of his former family business that originated in the Spitalfields district of East London in the early 19th Century. For a short period (Circa 1826 -7) one branch of the family operated a business close to Snells Park Tottenham. Another family member was later to reside in the Victoria Tavern in St Ann’s Road until his death in 1863. To complete the North London connection, the family business later moved to Angel Road Edmonton just prior to WW2.

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I was on a walking tour of Spitalfields with the Tower Hamlets Archives when I came across a building in Crispin Street bearing the name H. Gadsdon & Sons, oil and colour merchants. I had researched my family history through the paternal side and knew my family came from Spitalfields. My grandparents were married in Christchurch, Spitalfields and on the marriage certificate their address was given as 70 Brick Lane. However I did not know how H. Gadsdon was related to me. Thanks to two men who allowed me access to their Gadsdon database and with help from Ancestry I was able to make the connection.






It starts with my great, great, great grandfather Henry Gadsdon who was a silk dyer in Paternoster Row, Spitalfields (now renamed Brushfield Street). He was later to establish a business partnership and I have discovered that ‘Gadsdon & Harmer’ once operated from premises in Brook Place, Tottenham. Thanks to help from the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham, I discovered that the Pigots Directory for Middlesex in 1826 showed a business in Brook Place trading under the name ‘Gadsdon and Harmer’, dyers and scowers, listed at ‘Lower Tottenham’ (meaning the Lower Tottenham Ward). Initially I had difficulty in locating Brook Place on any old maps but eventually the museum were able to confirm that this was once located in the Snells Park district of Tottenham close to the boundary with Edmonton. The museum also offered the following information:
“However, a very large property called Brook House once stood in north Tottenham, close to the boundary with Edmonton, and I wondered if Brook Place was somehow connected. I looked at the Census details for 1841 and 1851 and Brook Place was indeed in that area. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact location but it was on the west side of the main High Road, formerly the Roman Ermine Street and a well-used coaching road in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This would have been convenient for any business, particularly if they needed to communicate with offices in London. Tottenham was full of springs, wells, rivers etc. – so this would have been essential for the operation of their trade”
Gadsdon and Harmer dissolved their partnership in 1827.
Brook Place would once have been located in the area to the left of the former Congregational Church that once stood in Snells Park close to the boundary with Edmonton.

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My great, great, great grandfather Henry Gadsdon had a younger brother Richard who had trained as a coachplater (this is an ironmonger) who made parts for the horse-drawn carriage trade. He had started his business in his brother's premises, eventually moving to his own premises in Gun Street, Artillery Ground (now part of Spitalfields) in 1813. The business moved to Union Street, this was at the western end of Paternoster Row and eventually the two roads would be renamed Brushfield Street. The business was very successful and over the generations it expanded into a wholesale business.
Richard Gadsdon, the founder, was born in the City of London, he married Ann Finch and they had eight children. On his retirement, after he had passed the business over to his sons, he moved with his daughter to Westrow Hill, Norwood his wife having died beforehand. This was when the Crystal Palace was built there. A few years later his daughter married a former tailor named George Rawll. Sometime after the marriage in 1851 George became the licensee of the Victoria Tavern in Hanger Lane, Tottenham, the public house later was renamed The Victoria and the road name changed to St Ann's Road. The Victoria has now been converted into flats. Richard passed away at the Victoria Tavern in 1863 and is buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.


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The business of Richard Gadsdon 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.

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It is Richard's son, Henry, who started H. Gadsdon and Sons. Henry was born in his father's business premises in Gun Street in 1814 and was baptised in the same year. He started an apprenticeship with William Hoyle, silk manufacturer of 17 Steward Street, Spitalfields on 7th December 1830. However his employer disappeared without trace, he is listed in the 1835 accounts of the Weavers Guild as "Gone away, not known where", so Henry was not able to serve his time out.

Henry then started working in Thomas Brushfield's premises at 28 Union Street, one would assume that Henry's father helped him secure the job having his own business a few doors away in the same street. Brushfield Street was named after Thomas Brushfield. He was a Justice of Peace and a prominent businessman in East London, as well as a trustee of various committees in Spitalfields. Thomas' business in Union Street was as an oil and colour merchant, a business that deals in oils and manufactures paints. It is here that Henry learns his new trade. In the meantime, Henry marries Thomas Brushfield's niece, Elizabeth Naduld Brushfield. In 1835 Henry starts out in business in his own premises in Featherstone Street, Finsbury.

In 1840 a fire broke out on the premises at Featherstone Street. The Morning Post on Monday 30th March reported this - Destructive Fire, "Between 12 and 1 o'clock yesterday morning a most destructive fire broke out on the premises of Mr Gadsdon, oil and colour man in Featherstone Street, Bunhill Row, St Lukes. Owing to the combustible nature of the stock, as well as the hold of the fire had obtained, the exertions of the firemen were unavailing for the premises, which were detached from any dwelling houses, were destroyed. Since 6 o'clock on Friday night 14 fires have occurred in the Metropolis and its immediate vicinity".

From here Henry moves his business to 31 Great Prescot Street, Goodman's Fields near the Tower of London. By now Henry and Elizabeth had nine children, some who did not survive into adulthood. In 1860, at the end of the year, Elizabeth passed away at Great Prescot Street aged 49 years old. Not long after his wife's death Henry met Catherine Newton who was connected with a family living in Great Prescot Street. Just over a year after Elizabeth's death he married Catherine in Gravesend, it seems that she was pregnant at the time of marriage as the first child was born 8 months later. This causes a rupture with his father who changes his will three days after the marriage and leaves Henry's share of his inheritance to the children of his first marriage. The reason is not known, but it could be his father's disapproval of the affair and his friendship with Thomas Brushfield, Elizabeth's uncle. Henry has six more children with Catherine

It is Richard's son, Henry, who started H. Gadsdon and Sons. Henry was born in his father's business premises in Gun Street in 1814 and was baptised in the same year. He started an apprenticeship with William Hoyle, silk manufacturer of 17 Steward Street, Spitalfields on 7th December 1830. However his employer disappeared without trace, he is listed The family moved, first to Woodford Green, then onto Buckhurst Hill in Essex. The oil and colour business remained in Great Prescot Street. It is after they have moved that another fire breaks out in their warehouses in Great Prescot Street. A report from the Leeds Mercury on Friday 23rd September 1887 states - Serious Fire in East End of London - "About a quarter to twelve o'clock on Wednesday night a fire of a destructive character broke out on the premises of Messrs, Gadsdon and Son, oil manufacturers,34,35 and 36 Great Prescot Street, Goodman's Field, E. A manual and steamer where quickly on the scene. On their arrival however, it was found that the flames had grown far beyond the power of a single manual and steamer, and consequently further aid was telegraphed for. Steamers and manual from the various sub-district stations were immediately dispatched. By this time the fire was extending in directions. In spite of every effort the fire now attacked the roof of some premises to the rear of house No. 34, while it threatened the houses of Messrs, Rice, fur dyers, Nos. 32 and 33. Every available point was manned from which a hose could be used with any effect. Still the inflammable nature of the stock defied all attack, and floor after floor became involved with the utmost rapidity. About one o'clock the men had stayed the fire on the side nearest Messrs, Rice's premises and at the back, where the roof of the premises attacked had fallen in, but for nearly two hours longer the main fire was burning". This second fire shows the volatile nature of the oil and colour business.

The business had some premises in nearby Rupert Street, this could have been temporary premises due to the fire. In 1903 the business built new premises in Crispin Street, Spitalfields to house the expanding business, with other warehouses in nearby New Street. Crispin Street is one road away from where the founder, Henry, was born in Gun Street. Two years later the founder Henry Gadsdon passed away in Buckhurst Hill, Essex in 1905. Around the time of the First World War they added hardware to their stock and changed from horse and carriage to motor lorries


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(The history in the catalogue states that the fire occurred in 1902, but the newspaper article shows it happened in 1887. I assume that whoever wrote the history in the catalogue 64 years after the fire failed to check the facts.)


The business remained here until just before the Second World War in 1938 when they decided they needed larger premises. The new premises were built on the Rego Estate, Angel Road, Edmonton, London, N18. The new offices and warehouses were called Crispin House after the road in Spitalfields. Twenty seven months after the move to Edmonton, during the Second World War disaster strikes again, an enemy air raid destroyed Crispin House. Fortunately their fleet of lorries escaped destruction and, as the old Crispin Street premises were still vacant, they moved back to Spitalfields. As soon as possible after the war they moved back to a rebuilt Crispin House in Edmonton. According to the 1951 catalogue it reopened in that year.

The business was now being run by the grandchildren of the founder.


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In the 1951 wholesale catalogue there are no oils or paints for sale, it is all the kinds of stock you would find in an old fashion hardware shop. Did they stop selling oil and paint goods after two fires or was it that big firms like Dulux started making paint on an industrial scale?

The company's demise came in 1977 at a time of economic turmoil. In the early 1970s the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries raised the price of oil by 70% and cut supply by 20%. The miners went on strike and factories went on a three day week caused by there being not enough coal to make electricity. There was also high inflation and high unemployment. The financial pressures at this time cause a lot of firms to collapse. So after 142 years H. Gadsdon and Sons went out of business.
To complete the Gadsdon’s family connections with Tottenham, during the war my auntie Florrie once worked in the Tottenham Hotspur stadium making gas masks, She was a distant cousin of Henry Gadsdon the hardware founder and the great great granddaughter of Henry the silk dyer. She was a Gadsdon as well so another Tottenham connection.

Article by Peter Gadsdon - March 2014

For anyone with information about H Gadsdon & Company's operation in Edmonton then please contact Peter Gadsdon direct at :

For more information about Gadsdons history please visite 'Spitalfields Life' website at the following address:        Refer to November 2012 and December 2013 for Gadsdon related articles.

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