Tag Archives: Mayfair

St George’s Hanover Square – and Its Remarkable Neighbour, Trinity Chapel


A marriage between the aristocratic hero and his true love in St George’s Hanover Square forms the climax of many a romantic historical novel, and I’ve used that scene myself. The church, completed in 1724, was built to serve the new and expanding residential area between Piccadilly and Tyburn or Oxford Road (now Oxford Street). These handsome streets and squares were a magnet for the upper classes in Society and handsome St George’s was the perfect place to be married or to have your children baptised. The 5th Earl of Jersey, husband of Lady Jersey one of the famous Patronesses of Almack’s, was a churchwarden here, although their marriage was a private one by special licence in their Berkeley Square house.

In a detail from John Roque’s map of 1747 (below) the new church sits with Burlington House to the South and Berkley (as it was then spelled) Square to the South West.

True, it is not in Hanover Square at all, but on the East side of George Street and its position gives the West front a cramped outlook, almost but not quite, looking down Maddox Street. The view at the top of the post (1812, from Ackermann’s Repository) is probably the best angle, then and now.

It is sometimes easy to forget that the occupants of these fashionable squares, great mansions and elegant terraces were serviced by a multitude of tradesmen, servants and labourers, all of whom ‘lived in’ with their employers or set up shop close by or who lodged within easy walking distance of their employment. St George’s was their church too and in between the glamorous christenings and marriages the humbler parishioners were in and out, tying the knot, naming their babies and being buried.

This was brought home to me by discovering my great-great-great grandfather James Wood marrying Mary Baldwin at St George’s. This was a surprise – James was a humble labourer turned chair mender and caner from Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire. What was he doing in London, let alone getting married in Mayfair? Then I discovered that he was a ‘servant’ (no idea what kind) of the Earl of Bridgewater whose country house was at Ashridge, close to Berkhamstead. The Earl had a London home in Albemarle Street (bottom, centre on the map), so presumably James Wood was there serving his employer in some capacity.

After that discovery ancestors marrying or having children baptised at St George’s in the 18th and early 19th century started appearing in large numbers – all from the concentration of piano makers in Marylebone, just North of Oxford Street. Possibly St George’s was seen as an aspirational place to be married because the Marylebone piano key makers, piano string makers, piano striker coverers and occasional dolls’ eyes makers did have other options in the various chapels of ease that had been built to help ease the pressure on the churches in these new and crowded districts.

One of those chapels  can be seen on the map on Conduit Street facing up George Street. This was Trinity Chapel and had one of the strangest histories of any London place of worship. A Chapel of Ease was a chapel either built before a parish church was in existence or added later to take the strain in a very large or crowded parish. This one started life as a moveable Roman Catholic chapel on wheels used by King James II. After he fled the country in 1688 to be replaced by William and Mary, the chapel was abandoned on Hounslow Heath where James had abdicated. Probably he took mass there in one of his last acts as king. It was transported to Conduit Street and turned into an Anglican Chapel of Ease on the initiative of Archbishop Tenison. Later it was acquired by bookseller and High Bailiff of Westminster James Robson, who had it demolished and rebuilt in brick, but because it was on leasehold land it was not eligible to be a parish church, hence the need for St George’s to be built. Unfortunately no images of the remarkable ‘traveling tabernacle’ seem to have survived and Trinity Chapel was demolished in 1875, the owner of the ground having decided that secular buildings would be more profitable.










Filed under Architecture, Buildings, courtship & marriage, High Society, Love and Marriage, Religion

Shopping is Wonderful – Until Hoby Sends His Bill

Bill Hoby

If you had the money, late Georgian shops were awash with tempting goods. And even if you weren’t so well off, tradesmen would extend credit for considerable periods if your name was good, you were a prominent person or your expectations were favourable. Many a Regency rakehell kept buying on tick for years, dangling the prospect of an inherited estate or a forthcoming marriage settlement before his unfortunate tailor or wine merchant.

No-one enjoys receiving bills, but distance lends enchantment as far as 18th and 19th century invoices are concerned and we can enjoy them for the insight they throw on shopping habits and prices and the pleasure of their ornate headers. The example at the top of the page is from Hoby, the iconic bootmakers of St James’s Street, to Major Crowder, the officer who captured the carriage with Napoleon’s codes in it during the Peninsula War. It is dated June 1818 and the major had received four pairs of boots and returned two, leaving him with £3 17s 6d to pay. A note on the back says that he did pay it, but does not give a date. Presumably the two pairs came back because he had not measured carefully enough, even with the help of the diagram at the top of the page. The red marks on many of these bills is from the sealing wax used to close them when they were folded up for delivery.

Bill Mandarin tea warehouse The next bill is from a Birmingham merchant, not a London one, but I couldn’t resist the picture of the Chinese tea merchants loading up tea crates with a background of pagodas. It is also from 1815, a time before the East India Company had begun growing tea in India, so all tea drunk in Britain was China tea.

The bill on the right has no ornate header but it is interesting for the location of the businessBill Frampton

and the purchaser of the goods. Richard Frampton was a “Grocer, Tea Dealer and Oil-Man” and also ran a “Two-Penny Post Office”. His shop was in Shepherds Market, the original site of the May Fair that gives the Mayfair area its name today. Shepherds Market now is the lcoation of numerous interesting eateries, but in 1815 was still very much a place to buy essential provisions. Mr Frampton had sold currants, raisins, almonds and spices to the household of the Countess of Fife and submitted his bill for £12 4s 6d on 7th September 1815. He had to wait until August 15th 1816 to be paid.

The bill below is a particularly nice one, because not only does it have the royal warrent of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and a handsome crest of the Prince of Wales’s feathers, but the business was owned by a woman, Margaret Masterman. Margaret ran her sadlery business from Down Street, off Piccadilly, and submitted a very long account, covering the period December 1810 to May 1811 and amounting to £24 15s 0d. It was paid by John Kitson in June 1811.  Mrs Masterman had repaired harness – “Mending a bearing rein 6d”, “repairing a coach bridle 1s 6d”; provided grooming equipment – “One mane comb 6d”; supplied new saddlery – “Two best Hogskin seated footmen’s saddles £7 7s 0d”and general cleaning equipment for carriages – “A large coach sponge 7s 0d”.

Bill Masterman

My final invoice is from W & G Bicknell, “Town Manufacturers of Hosiery, Hats and Gloves to their Majesties the Prince of Wales, Duke of York and the Royal Family.” Bicknells’ was located in Old Bond Street and they sent this account to Sir Henry Clinton, bart. in March 1793. He paid it June that year. The handwriting is very difficult to read but Sir Henry was buying ornate livery for his footmen, to a total of £7 8s 6d.

Bill Bicknell

Would it make it any less painful to pay the credit card bills if they came handwritten, with ornate designs at the top? I suspect they would be just as unpleasant., although one of the great advatages of these bills is that there doesn’t appear to be any interest charged, however late the payment!


Filed under Fashions, Food & drink, Shopping