Industries: Introduction

Pages 121-132

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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Before entering into a detailed relation of the industries of Middlesex it will be well to look at the characteristic features of the county. A glance at the map reveals its somewhat compact shape, with rivers on three boundaries, and an irregular range of hills on the north.

As regards its history, Middlesex has been for centuries an appanage of London; and its natural resources have been more or less at the service of the inhabitants of the metropolis. A closer topographical inspection shows further that all the highways radiate from London, and that there are no important cross-roads whatever. There are five so-called market-towns, but none of them are of high rank, unless Uxbridge should claim to be so. Except that Brentford and Staines are upon the same road, and that Brentford connects with Uxbridge by a branch of that main road, there is no special connexion between any two of them as members of the same community. Of cross-roads those worth naming are: traces of an old highway from Kingston (Surrey) through Uxbridge to the north-west; traces of a very ancient way from Brentford to Harrow and beyond; and perhaps a road joining Enfield with Barnet (Hertfordshire). Every other track tends directly to the metropolis.

Even little more than a century ago the condition of the turnpike roads near London was very unsatisfactory, in spite of the large sums of money available for cleansing and repair. The road from Hadley through South Mimms was insufferably bad, and disgraceful to the trustees. The Edgware road was no better, the mud being 4 in. deep after every heavy rain in summer, and 9 in. all the winter. The menders never thought of scraping it, but laid fresh gravel on the sloppy surface; the first cart cut it into ruts, and so it remained all the year round. The Uxbridge road was even worse; and during the winter 1797-8 there was only one passable track, and that less than 6 ft. wide and usually 8 in. deep in fluid mud. The rest of the road on either side was covered with adhesive mire from 1 ft. to 1½ ft. deep. And it must be remembered that the road from Tyburn to Uxbridge was supposed to have more broad-wheeled wagons pass over it than any other in the county; they naturally monopolized the fairly traversable 8 in. of mud, and forced light vehicles and horsemen into the bordering quagmire. During that winter, remarks an indignant sufferer, (fn. 1) 'The only labourers to be seen on the road were those of a neighbouring gentleman, and they were employed in carting the footpath into his inclosures.' The road from Hyde Park Corner through Brentford and Hounslow was equally filthy in winter, though the king often travelled along it several times a week. It is rather curious that the parish highways were sometimes much better: 'hard and clean in every sort of weather, so much so, that gentlemen may ride along them, even directly after rain, and scarcely receive a splash.' At the present day the main roads out of London, and many of the by-roads also, are well looked after, and furnish little occasion for reasonable complaint.

The main roads, it may be said, have for the most part existed on their present sites for long ages past. Where they have been altered, the cause of displacement has been sometimes local necessity or caprice, and sometimes national interest. One example (of those few which have been investigated) will be an interesting illustration of the point. The great road to the north of London, passing to the eastward of old St. Pancras Church, along what is now the Hornsey Road, went over Muswell Hill and by Colney Hatch to Whetstone. This proved so deep and miry in winter 'that it was refused of wayfaring men and carriers, in regard whereof it was agreed betweene the Bishop of London and the Countrie that a newe waie shoulde bee layde forth through the said Bishops parks, beginning at Highgate Hill to leade directly to Whetstone.' (fn. 2) The old road to Highgate was doubtless but a communication along the ridge to Hampstead, with little more than local value. The augmentation of the toll revenue at Highgate must have benefited greatly by the change. But the time came at last, when 'way-faring men and carriers' were not the only classes to be served by the new highway. Coaches and carriages found it an arduous affair to cross the hill, and at length, after much protest and waiting for redress, it was determined to improve the road by diverting it to the right upon a lower level. This was in 1812. At first a tunnel was projected, about 300 yds. in length. After about half of it was constructed, the whole fell in early one morning, luckily before the workmen were on duty. It was then determined to revise the plan. Operations were resumed with a deep open cutting, an archway to be thrown over at the point where the road is traversed by the Hornsey Lane. The road was completed, and opened for traffic on 21 August 1813, and proved very welcome as an easier route to the north. (fn. 3) The acclivity was still considerable, and in actual distance only 100 yds. or so were saved, but it has well justified the enterprise of the promoters. The archway was of stone with enormous brick supports and a stone balustrade, and had the merit of being rather ornamental when approached from either side. It is now superseded by an iron bridge, on bolder lines, more suitable to the needs of a busier generation.

The decrease of traffic on the Middlesex roads after 1840 was never so marked as on some of the great trade routes in more rural counties; and any falling-off has been regained within the last decade owing to the development of electric tramways, and the heavy motor goods-services of various companies. Both of these systems, in fact, are now vigorous competitors with the suburban railway lines. Owing, however, to the position of London at its heart, few counties are so well supplied as Middlesex with railroad facilities, since the national trunk lines radiate from the capital as a centre; the latest to acquire a terminus within the metropolitan area being the Great Central Railway at Marylebone. The construction of the electric tubes and their gradual extension to the suburbs has also, within the last few years, introduced a further element of competition as regards passenger traffic. The tramways, the omnibus companies, and the older railways have all been affected, though in different degrees. The loss of suburban traffic has been the main factor in suggesting the project for amalgamating the three great lines of the Great Northern, Great Eastern, and Great Central which is under consideration.

The county of Middlesex has the advantage of extensive means of water-carriage. Before the railways came, this advantage was more apparent than it is now when the value of time, in speedy dispatch and removal, is more fully appreciated. To begin with, the entire eastern and southern borders of the county are provided with navigable rivers, in the Thames and the Lea, while the Grand Junction Canal and its offshoots supply the needs of the county from Uxbridge in the west to several parts of the metropolis. The first canalization of the River Lea was undertaken about the year 1770, at a period when such measures were in their infancy, or were being undertaken with timidity. During the remaining years of the 18th century more ambitious efforts were made. A great many useful canals were formed throughout the kingdom, some of which have become disused through the influence of railway enterprise. Among those which remain in operation, and are to some extent prosperous, the Lea and Stort Navigation and the Grand Junction Canal may be included. They are almost a necessity to the localities they serve, and their proprietors may be congratulated on their dividends.

The Grand Junction Canal, with its direct and uninterrupted communications with Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Lancashire, enters the county at Uxbridge on the western outskirts of the town. Its course is through the levels of Cowley, West Drayton, and Southall, at a nearly uniform elevation above the ordnance datum of 100 ft. In the lastnamed parish a short series of locks brings it to the level of the River Brent, which is from this point canalized until it reaches the Thames at Brentford. It is significant of the importance of this canal to the traffic for which it was designed that a short branch of the Great Western Railway runs nearly parallel, from Southall to Brentford, without seriously diminishing the prosperity of the canal.

The success of the Grand Junction Canal naturally led to extensions of the principle. It was determined to make a supplementary cutting in order to bring navigation to the West End of London, and an Act of Parliament was obtained for extending the canal to Paddington. At the end of the 18th century Paddington was a rural hamlet, thinly populated, one of those almost unnoticed places that lie apart from the highways. A spirited life was put into the place when the new canal was opened in 1801; warehouses were built, dwelling-houses sprang up around, and by the day of opening Paddington had become a suburb. Great expectations were formed of its future; the first day was kept with festivity, and inaugurated by an aquatic procession.

The Paddington Canal begins with a junction at Bull's Bridge, on the River Cran, north of Cranford, pursuing thence a winding course, without locks, by Northolt, Greenford, Alperton, and Kensal Green; an ideal country for canal-constructors. The success of the enterprise was immediate. Traders had found a new and excellent route to and from the Midlands. Passage-boats with merchandise went daily to Uxbridge. Twice a week during the summer months other boats with passenger accommodation went backwards and forwards, and as late as the year 1853 a Sunday traffic of pleasure trips to Greenford Green was largely patronized. (fn. 4)

In 1812 a further extension was proposed and soon carried into effect. Under the name of the Regent's Canal, a cut was made round the entire metropolis to the River Thames, near Limehouse. There are many locks and bridges, and two tunnels, one under Maida Hill, and another of considerable length at Islington. There is a dock with large dépôts and warehouses in the City Road, besides a substantial dock at Limehouse. (fn. 5) The canal has been of immense benefit to the eastern and north-eastern districts of London. Miles of warehouses and yards occupy now the space of the green fields that existed at the period of its construction. Few undertakings of the kind have been justified so signally in their results.

In olden times there was one harbour in the very heart of the City of London, at the mouth of the Fleet River, which was navigable at least as far as Holborn. A mention of Fleet Hithe, in an old record, (fn. 6) is enough to establish the former existence of a tiny port near Blackfriars. Besides this, on the extreme eastern boundary of the county there was some sort of harbour at the mouth of the River Lea.

The extension of the canal system naturally incited the commercial and engineering classes to fresh efforts for the convenience of navigation. Docks were now wanted, and not many years elapsed before several spacious docks were given to the metropolis. Dock extension has never since these times ceased to be demanded. Indeed the need for remedial measures has long become urgent, and it is to be hoped that the Act of 1908 establishing the new 'Port of London Authority' (fn. 7) will afford a much-needed relief, and stop the serious decline in the trade of the port.

The West India Docks were the earliest of such enterprises, at least in the county of Middlesex. They were begun in July 1800 and took something over two years in construction. A good feature of the undertaking was the making a water-way across the Isle of Dogs, thus avoiding a long bend of the river. The West Indian trade at this time had grown enormously. Shippers were rather tired of waterside wharves, with their lack of warehouse room, and lighterage was increasingly troublesome and expensive. The first stone of the docks was laid in the presence of a great assemblage of merchants and shipowners, headed by William Pitt and Lord Chancellor Loughborough. The enthusiasm of that day was well justified when the work was done. The docks were occupied, and the new warehouses speedily filled with sugar, rare woods, and other staple products of the West. The saving to the mercantile community was immediate and permanent, and the revenue is understood to have benefited no less. Confidence in the docking system was established. A few years saw the completion of the London Docks (1805), the East India Docks (1806), St. Katharine's Dock (1828). Since those days dock extension has proceeded with intermittent but steady steps outside the boundary of our county.

The River Thames, after all, has a practical utility to which no combination of artificial water-courses can aspire. It is a perfect highway; and in its course of about 43 miles as the southern boundary of the county from Staines Bridge to the mouth of the River Lea, affords a prodigious water-supply, beside all the possible conveniences offered by water-side premises. As to actual traffic upon its surface, the Thames was, until the middle of the 19th century, a most important and lively artery for the purpose either of business or pleasure. The existing steps, wharves, and water-lanes are as old as anything on the river, and betoken a habit of passing to and fro by water, even if our chronicles did not testify to the prevalence of the waterman's calling. The rise of steam-navigation did not materially affect the waterman; it is rather the haste engendered by a busier age which has rendered the pursuit of his calling less lucrative. The first steamer that usurped the pleasure side of his trade was the Endeavour, which plied to Richmond in the year 1830. By 1842 the passenger traffic by steamers had grown enormously. In the summer of that year there were no fewer than four steamboat companies making a profitable traffic on the Thames. (fn. 8) But, as in the case of the Paddington barge above mentioned, these things lost their popularity when speed, alike in pleasure and business, was the urgent demand of a rising generation.

The government of the river was originally in the hands of the Corporation of London, whose jurisdiction was limited to the lower part, beginning at Staines Bridge. This lasted until the year 1857, when the Thames Conservancy Board was created by Act of Parliament. Later legislation gave the Thames Conservancy power over the whole length of the river, besides a distance of five miles up all its tributaries. The duties of the board include the maintenance of weirs, locks, &c., prevention of pollution by sewage, regulations as to fishing and pleasure-traffic, care of the towing-path (which is continuous from Putney upwards), dredging, and the general control of the disposition of the water.

Middlesex is wholly within the Thames basin; so that every spring within the county finds its way into one or other of the northern tributaries of the river. Of these, the Colne skirts the western boundary of the county, receiving no less than five important affluents at or near Uxbridge; near Staines it pours a good volume of water into the Thames, besides forming a separate channel which finds its way to Hampton Court. The Cran, rising in the higher levels near Harrow, and augmented by the Yeading brooks, passes through Cranford to Twickenham and Isleworth. The Brent, the stream of which is arrested by a large reservoir constructed by the Canal Company, meets the Thames at Brentford. Several small bourns flowed into the Thames in ancient times, which have long since been converted into artificial lakes or suffered to become mere drains. The Lea is a contributory from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, fed in its course by numerous springs, and by storm-waters from several rivulets. It is fairly certain that the Lea once flowed with a more powerful stream, and was a good natural water-way along the entire eastern boundary of Middlesex.

There has been a good deal of vicissitude in the process of bridging the Thames. Before the present fine bridge at Staines was built there was a succession of failures. A bridge existed here in very ancient days. There is repeated mention of a bridge at Staines in old records. The wooden one existing towards the end of the 18th century was at last condemned, and an Act of Parliament obtained for rebuilding. A stone bridge was forthwith put in hand, and opened for traffic in 1797. But this was found to be insecure, and it had to be taken down. A cast-iron bridge followed, and in its turn failed. A third attempt was made, with a low arch of cast iron supported on wooden piles; but this in turn was at length condemned. George Rennie then undertook the construction, and the result was the handsome bridge now standing. It was opened in 1832, with much state, the ceremony being attended by William IV and his queen.

Chertsey Bridge is a substantial structure in stone, opened in 1785. It is hardly equal to modern needs, with the increased speed and size of modern traffic. A bridge was raised at Walton, an eccentric-looking structure in wood and brick, which required alteration and repair from time to time. The central arch fell in 1859, and a new bridge was opened in 1863, a rather ugly but more convenient structure. Hampton Court Bridge was built in 1865, in place of a wooden structure erected in 1750. Kingston Bridge is one of the handsomest on the river. It replaced a wooden one several centuries old, and was opened in 1828. This bridge now has a strain on its accommodation, and is fated to be altered if not entirely superseded. On account of the busy population in and around the town, Richmond Bridge is likewise becoming inadequate to the wants of the neighbourhood. It was built in the year 1777. Half a mile lower down is the footbridge and lock, opened 19 May 1894. The shallowness of the stream hereabouts prompted a design which should hold up the tide at half-ebb, and always provide sufficient water for navigation. The plan was quite successful, and added a new triumph to the arts of modern bridge-building.

The new bridge at Kew, inaugurated by King Edward VII in 1905, is a great ornament to the river, and an immense improvement upon the old one of 1789. That was of stone and brick, but it became unfit for modern usage. The next bridge is at Hammersmith, on the suspension principle, opened in 1827. It has served its purpose, and is highly attractive in appearance; but it is destined to make room for a heavier structure, in view of modern needs. Fulham Bridge is a very fine modern one, suitable to the needs of an immense traffic. It was completed in 1885, replacing one of quaint-looking appearance which dated from 1729. At Wandsworth an iron lattice bridge was opened in 1873. Battersea Bridge is one of the best and handsomest on the river, raised in place of an old wooden structure dating back two centuries and a half. Below this are two handsome suspension bridges, which were rendered necessary by the extension of London suburbs on this side.

The new Vauxhall Bridge, opened in 1906, represents all that is complete in modern bridgebuilding, being spacious, elegant, and substantial, yet less expensive than its predecessor, which cost nearly £300,000. This older bridge had lasted only from the year 1816. The suspension bridge at Lambeth was opened in 1862, but is already considered defective as far as concerns the upper works. The splendid iron bridge at Westminster was opened in 1860-2 after a long period of obstruction of the water-way by its half-ruined predecessor of 1750. This latter had been injured at the foundations through the increased scour of the river caused chiefly by the demolition of old London Bridge. Near Charing Cross a suspension-bridge was raised in 1842, named after Hungerford Market, which has since been superseded by a railway bridge with accompanying footway. Waterloo Bridge is still in some respects one of the finest in the world, and was built some two years after the date of the celebrated battle.

The remaining bridges are in London proper. The Blackfriars Bridge of 1760 was an excellent work; but it suffered like its neighbour from the stronger scour of recent years. Its successor was finished in 1869, and has lately been widened to provide tramway accommodation. Southwark Bridge was built 1813-19. (fn. 9) The new London Bridge is slightly to the west of the site of a wooden structure of Saxon times, which had several successors. The first stone was laid in 1825. Half a million pounds were expended on the work, which was finished in 1831 and opened in state by William IV. The congestion of traffic was relieved in 1904 by widening the bridge to allow of four lines of vehicles, the centre being reserved for light carts and passenger conveyances. Finally, the Tower Bridge, one of the great triumphs of modern engineering, was completed in 1894.

The natural water supply of Middlesex is copious. Some parts of the county are better served than others. Until the invention of artesian wells, there was both difficulty and expense in reaching water, because of the thick deposit of clay beneath the surface. The numerous springs which rise from northern declivities supply every district of the county. When these rivulets failed from drought, it was formerly of great concern to have deep wells for occasional supply. But well-sinking was a serious affair in the London Clay. There is record of a well at Paddington, where the workmen had to go to a depth of 300 ft. before reaching water. Another well at Holloway, dug early in the 19th century, required an excavation of 172 ft. It is matter of wonder that a system of storage was never resorted to. At Ruislip, and at the head waters of the Brent, near Hendon, are large reservoirs which were provided for the wants of the Canal Company. Similar constructions, for domestic and other purposes, might have been of immense utility in some districts. Doubtless the question of initial expense hindered resort to this sort of economy.

In selecting for detailed treatment the more prominent industries, due weight has been given to the following among other considerations:-(1) The importance of the industry from its national character; (2) its historical interest; (3) its first appearance in this country; and (4) its being principally carried on in Middlesex. But a number of trades, some of which merit more attention, must for lack of room be allowed only a cursory notice in this introduction.

It may be convenient to turn our attention in the first place to the trades of East London and Hackney, where the proportion of the population engaged in manufacturing industries is exceptionally large. It shows a percentage of 39.95, whilst that of all London is 28.38, and that of the whole of England 307. Out of this army of workers we shall treat here principally of those engaged in home occupations.

Tailoring is one of the chief industries, and is carried on in some 900 workshops of Jewish contractors, and by home workers both for West End and City firms. 'The Jewish coat-making industry is practically concentrated within an area of less than one square mile, comprising the whole of Whitechapel, a small piece of Mile End, and a part of St. George's-in-the-East.' (fn. 10) Here is congregated a compact Jewish community of from 30,000 to 40,000 persons of all nationalities. Yiddish is the language of the streets, and Hebrew announcements are everywhere to be seen. The work of the English journeyman cannot be equalled, but the conditions of his home workshop are too often deplorable. Excellent work is also produced in the Jewish workshop, together with inferior work of every grade down to the 'slops' manufactured for the export trade. The existence of the lowest trade is dependent on the presence of a class of workers such as Jews and women, with an indefinitely low standard of life. Domestic workshops are most numerous in the eastern portion of Mile End Old Town; Stepney and Poplar are the centres of the slop, trouser, and juvenile trade.

In point of numbers, bootmaking is an equally important East End industry, and is rapidly growing in extent, especially in the districts of Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, where it gives occupation to a considerable fraction of the population. (fn. 11) Under the old system of bootmaking, the various workmen engaged for bespoke work were the last-maker, the clicker, who cut out the material for the 'uppers,' the closer, who sewed the upper or top portion, and the maker, who fitted on the sole or heel. Last-making is now almost a separate business, and it is becoming increasingly the custom to make uppers in a factory in wholesale quantity. In the hand-made bespoke work, the labour of the closer was largely done in the home, generally with the help of the wife and daughters of the family. Since the introduction of sewing-machines, many closers have left the trade and no one is learning it. The machine-made bespoke work is constructed with ready-made uppers from the provinces, and completed by makers working, at home or in associated workshops, on the fitted last. In the ready-made wholesale trade the organization is more complex, as cheapness is an indispensable element. A complete machinesewn boot passes through the hands of twenty different workers. The work of clickers and rough-stuff cutters is usually done in the factory in London, whilst lasters, closers, and sole-sewers are out-workers. The manufactories in London vary considerably in extent. There are the large makers who turn out 10,000 and more pairs a week, and the chamber-masters who chiefly employ members of their own family and whose weekly output is limited to a few gross. Then we reach the lowest level, that of the owner of a couple of rooms, who cuts his uppers, gets his wife and daughter to close them, and lasts and finishes the boots himself. Owing principally to the conditions resulting from the restrictions imposed by the Trade Union wage-standard, the work is being driven from London to Northampton.

Shirt-making is largely carried on by women in East London; both shirts and underclothing requiring good handiwork are made in several middle-class London suburbs. The shirt machinists who take work home belong to various grades of the social scale. Many are widows who are partly assisted by their relatives or by the parish. Some are young ladies who work for pocket money for a mere trifle, and so lower the standard of payment. Other causes of low wages are incapacity (many of the workers being feeble or inexperienced), sub-contract, and the indifference to the quality of work on the part of the consumer. Tie-making is carried on partly in factories and partly in the home. There is much sub-contracting, and prices paid for labour greatly vary, although the rate of payment is higher than that for shirts.

In umbrella-making, the covers and the frames are made in factories, and are then put together in dozens and given out to the home-workers. There are also small umbrellamakers in the East End who supply shops in the neighbourhood; they buy sticks and frames, and their families are all employed in the actual umbrella manufacture.

Corsets and stays are principally made in provincial towns, but there are a few factories in the East End. Several small stay-makers have workshops of their own, employing a few hands besides the members of their families, and a few hundred women do work at home for the factories.

The fur-trade is, with very few exceptions, in Jewish hands, both in the City and in the East End. The City furriers have part of the work done at their own warehouses; but most of them give out the sewing to be done by home-workers. The fur-sewing is most disagreeable and unhealthy, besides being the worst paid of any industry carried on in East London workshops.

The box-making industry gives employment largely to women. Fancy boxes are made almost entirely on the premises of the manufacturer, but much of the work in plain boxes is done by out-door hands at home. The cardboard is cut by men, and then made up by women and girls. Skill is required; and a girl does not become a good hand at plain work under two years, whilst for fancy work three years' training is required. Matchbox making requires no previous training, and is the lowest in the scale of the industries of the poor. It is the last resort of the destitute, and the employment of children of the earliest age. A child can earn 1d. an hour, and few women can earn more than 1¾d. an hour.

Brush-making is carried on principally in factories, very few of which give out work. The work is fairly regular, and requires a combination of skill and honesty. The lighter parts of the work are performed by women, and shorter hours on the whole prevail in this trade than in most others.

Match-making is a notable industry of East London, in which over one thousand women and girls are employed. The match girls have successfully combined to promote their interests, and make each other's cause their own. They form clubs among themselves for buying clothes and feathers, seven or eight paying 1s. a week, and drawing lots to decide who shall have the money each week. Their prolonged strike in July 1888 resulted in the formation of a Trade Union, the largest in England composed of women and girls. By improvements in the manufacture, the quantity of phosphorus employed has been very greatly reduced, and a considerable diminution in the terrible disease necrosis has consequently resulted.

In the confectionery factories, the manufacture of jam, preserves, pickles, and even sweets, is in greater part performed by men, women only being employed for labelling, packing, &c. The employment is of an irregular kind, only a certain number of the better hands being kept on permanently.

Among other industries which deserve more than a passing notice is that of cap-making. Here the factory system is driving the small workshops out of the field. The largest factory employs 600 girls, and the work is very laborious, although fairly well paid.

Artificial flowers are made in Hoxton and De Beauvoir Town, as well as by a few workers in the East End. This is a season trade, and subject also to much irregularity from the caprices of fashion.

Feather-curling, although fluctuating with changes of fashion, gives fairly regular employment to a large number of girls in East and North-East London.

The industries which supply man's everyday wants have the same characteristics more or less in every locality. Among beverages, the manufacture of aerated and mineral waters is carried on by many firms such as Perrier, Idris & Co., Schweppes Ltd., and John G. Webb & Co.

Turning to solid food it is a noticeable feature of the present day that the wants of residents and visitors of all classes of society were never so well provided for as by the various hotels, restaurants, bread and dairy companies, and people's cafes which now abound. In this great improvement the metropolis has certainly led the way. Of sauce and pickle manufacturers there are two wellknown firms in Middlesex, John Burgess and Son, and Crosse & Blackwell. In its vinegar works the metropolis until lately took the lead, and among the principal firms were those of Champion & Co., in Old Street, and Henry Sarson and Sons, City Road.

Middlesex was formerly noted for its extensive distilleries; the duty paid by English distilleries for the year ending 5 January 1833 was £1,420,525 10s., which was nearly £100,000 above that paid in Scotland, but below that in Ireland. (fn. 12) Of the total duty paid in England, two firms in the metropolis contributed together more than one-fourth, viz., O. H. Smith and R. Carrington of Thames Bank £201,287 5s., and T. and G. Smith of Whitechapel £207,559 2s.6d. This industry is still extensively carried on in Middlesex, but almost wholly within the metropolitan district.

There are maltsters at Brentford, Chiswick, Isleworth, Staines, and many other localities. Malting seems to have been carried on at Enfield to a considerable extent at an early period. In the latter half of the 15th century it is recorded (fn. 13) that John Hunnesdon of 'Endefeld' sought to recover £8 13s. 10d. from Robert Trott of Southwark, brewer, who 'hath used wekely to bye malt by the space of many yeres of your seid besecher,' and who it seems never settled in full for the same. 'At some tyme ther hath remayned unpayed for 2 or 3 quarters of malt, at som tyme 4 or 5, at som tyme mor,' until at length Hunnesdon's patience was exhausted. Other Middlesex maltsters (of the same period) of whom record exists are William Hall of 'Endfeld,' (fn. 14) Henry Wynn of Enfield, (fn. 15) and William Barley of 'Enffelde.' (fn. 16)

Hat-making was formerly a great Middlesex industry, but has of late years shrunk to very small proportions in the metropolis. The manufacture of felt hats was introduced early in the reign of Henry VIII; while in 1530 letters of denization were granted to Martin Johnson from Guelders, (fn. 17) 'strawen hat maker, otherwise splyter hat maker.'

Norden mentions a copper and brass mill at Isleworth between that place and Horton, where the metal was wrought, melted, and forged from ore which came from Somerset. 'Manie artificiall deuises,' he says, 'are there to be noted in the performance of the worke.' (fn. 18) These works formed the subject of a lengthy dispute between John Brode and Sir Richard Martin, Lord Mayor of London in 1593, which came before the Privy Council in 1596. (fn. 19) The manufacture carried on was that of 'lattin and battry,' the metals being produced chiefly in an unwrought state, although the term 'battry' was usually applied to brass or copper vessels and chiefly those for culinary and table use. Brode in his petition states that the metal was procured from a mixture of copper and calamine ore by a process employed by one Christopher Shutz, who had 'great cunning and experience' in its use. In 1565 Shutz, with a partner, William Humphrey, obtained an exclusive licence to search, dig for, and use calamine stone. These partners, as Brode alleged, although they brought over divers strangers, did not bring anything to pass, 'and so gave yt over as not fecible.' The project then, he says, continued without hope for nineteen years, when he in partnership with others leased the privilege for fourteen years at a yearly rent of £50. During the period of his lease his expenditure upon the works at Isleworth had amounted to £3,500, and he claimed to have brought the undertaking by his study and labour to a state of perfection. He is now (1596) threatened with forfeiture of his lease and seizure of his 'stuffe and tooles' for non-payment of rent. He prays that his tools and metal may not be seized, as he is willing and able to pay, and not personally defaulting; he is equally prepared to buy out his partners or that they should buy him out. Sir Richard Martin in his reply states that he, Andrew Palmer, and Humphrey Michell, were persuaded to become Brode's partners by his statement that he could perfectly produce 'commixed copper,' and that it would bring in £1,000 a year. The alderman then agreed to defray the charges of the first year, amounting to about £3,000, and each of the other partners contributed £800, so that Brode's statement that he had paid £3,500 was not true. Brode was allowed by the partners £50 a year to direct the works, but this he must have taken out of capital, as no profit was made. He would not divulge the secret (if it existed) either to his partners or to the Mines Corporation, although that company offered him and Palmer on such condition a further lease of seven years. Shutz and Humphrey's 'privilege' had meanwhile been acquired by the Mines Corporation. Brode in his rejoinder gives some curious information about the works. He asserts that Shutz and Humphrey did not succeed in perfecting their discovery, although they had from 20 to 30 tons of calamine stone from Worle Hill in Somerset conveyed to Tintern Abbey, where it was experimented upon without success by one Hinckins, a stranger whom they employed. He denies Sir Richard's account of the financial side of the transactions, and reaffirms his previous statement. The co-partners employed one John Dickson, coppersmith of London, to 'melte and batter out 20,000 wt. of copper and make it into plates and make the same malleable.' Dickson failed, but he the said Brode performed the task, and also refined 43 tons of Barbary copper, and brought it into plates, 'an act perfected never before by any Englishman.' About eight years since, Sir Richard Martin and Michell withdrew from the partnership and received the whole of their stock back again and £238 more in copper, plates, and kettles. The 'lattin' works were also attempted, but nothing brought to pass; by expending his own money Brode has brought these to perfection. On 17 April 1596 the Mineral and Battry Company petitioned Lord Burghley (fn. 20) to order Brode to supply their new lessees with materials at reasonable rates. They state that the patent granted in 7 Elizabeth to Shutz and Humphrey was for making 'lattyn, battrye, castworke, and wyre.' In 10 Elizabeth the patent was acquired by their company then incorporated, which consisted of thirty-six shareholders, among whom were the Duke of Norfolk, the Lord Treasurer, Lord Cobham, and others. The company pursued the work for a time, and then took up wire-work and other work under another patent. In 24 Elizabeth they granted a lease of their battery works for 150 years at £50 a year to John Brode and his partners, who built the works at Isleworth, Brode having sole management with £50 a year for his pains. Brode caused great loss to his partners, refused to divulge his secret, and now refused to pay the rent. The company then by judicial order made his lease void, and granted a new lease of twenty-one years to others at £100 rent for the first year and £400 yearly after. They conclude by stating that Brode has secured the supply of calamine and will not supply it to the new lessees. The petition is signed by Sir Julius Caesar, Sir Richard Martin, Thomas Caesar, William Bond, Richard Martin, jnr., and others. The company and Sir Richard Martin were also in controversy in 1596 with Richard Hanbery and Edmund Wheler. (fn. 21) How these disputes ended does not appear. Lysons wrote in 1795, (fn. 22) 'these copper-mills still exist, being situated at Baberbridge; they belong to the Duke of Northumberland, and are rented by the incorporated Society of the Mines Royal.'

Although cutlery as a trade has long since left the metropolis, the making of surgical instruments is a branch which still continues to flourish in this county, and to produce some highly-skilled workmen. Among the principal Middlesex firms are Down Bros., Ltd., St. Thomas's Street, S.E.; Allen and Hanbury's, Ltd., Wigmore Street; and John Weiss & Son, Ltd., now of Oxford Street, but originally established in the Strand in 1787.

In its highest and most costly form goldsmiths' and silversmiths' work is largely carried on in Middlesex by firms of high standing.

Soap-manufacture is an old established Middlesex industry. From the report of the Excise Commissioners for 1835 (fn. 23) it appears that whilst the total amount of duty paid for all England was £1,418,832 4s., fifty-five firms in London contributed no less a portion than £378,175 13s. 6¼d. Ten of these firms paid over £10,000 each. One of the oldest firms in Middlesex is that of D. & W. Gibbs, Ltd., whose premises, known as the City Soap Works, are in Wapping. The business was established in 1712, and was subsequently acquired by David Gibbs, whose grandsons are now directors of the company. Until 1889 the manufactory was in Milton Street, Cripplegate; but that building being destroyed by fire, the firm purchased the business of Paton and Charles at Wapping together with that of Sharp Brothers. The works cover 2½ acres of ground, and employ 200 hands, excluding the clerical and travelling staff, numbering about fifty. The firm holds patents for many specialities in soap. Other important Middlesex firms are A. F. Pears & Co., who have large works at Isleworth; Osborne Bauer and Cheseman of Golden Square; and T. D. Rowe & Co., and Wylie & Co., both of Brentford.

Although the London streets have much improved in cleanliness, the art of the shoe-black has long been a necessity, and blacking has always been an important Middlesex industry, the firm of Day and Martin being one of its chief representatives.

In the metropolis, with its concentration of public and private boards and institutions, its ever-increasing population, and the rebuilding and repairs of existing property, there is always so much work for builders that the building trade is one of the most important of its industrial groups. Brick and tile-making is extensively carried on, more especially on the outer fringe of the London districts. It seems probable that bricks and coarse tiles have been made in Middlesex from an early period. Late in the 15th century we hear of John Maier and Agnes his wife making tiles for William Code of Harlesden Green at the rate of 11d. per 1,000. (fn. 24)

There are floorcloth and linoleum factories at Staines (Linoleum Manufacturing Co.), Edmonton (Ridley, Whitley & Co.), and Ponders End (Corticene Floor Covering Co.).

Ever since Robert Barron of Hoxton took out a patent (fn. 25) for a lock 'far more secure than any hitherto made,' the locksmiths and safemakers of Middlesex have done their best to provide secure keeping for the great wealth of the metropolis. Some of the principal firms in Middlesex are Bramah & Co., New Bond Street; C. H. Griffiths & Sons, Bethnal Green; Ratner Safe Co., Ltd., Bromley-byBow; and John Tann, Old Ford.

London being distant from the coalfields, manufactures in iron are carried on to a small extent only. Copper is worked largely in Middlesex, and so is lead; both metals being so malleable and ductile that their manufacture can be effected with much less heat than iron requires. The extensive lead-smelting works of the old firm, Locke, Lancaster and Johnson & Sons, Ltd., are situated at Poplar, Limehouse, and Millwall.

Gas-tar works form an important feature of the East London Industries. The works of Messrs. Burt, Boulton, and Haywood for the distillation of gas-tar occupied in 1876 about 17 acres at Prince Regent's Wharf, Silvertown; and another 2 acres at Millwall. Gas tar produces by distillation four valuable substances: naphtha, creosote oil, anthracene, and pitch. But still more valuable products are the series of aniline dyes, the discovery of which forms one of the greatest triumphs of modern chemistry. In another department of these large works the making of creosote railway sleepers was carried on upon an extensive scale. (fn. 26)

Many leading firms of manufacturing chemists have extensive works in Middlesex. At Southall are the premises of W. Houlder, Son & Co.; at Poplar are F. Allen & Sons; at Ponder's End, T. Morson & Son; at Hounslow, Parke, Davis & Co.; at West Drayton, Alfred White & Sons; in the City Road, Stafford Allen & Sons; at Limehouse, Chapman & Messel; and at Hackney Wick, W. C. Barnes & Co., Ltd., and E. Beanes & Co. At the works of Carless, Capel & Leonard, at Hackney Wick, the various products of petroleum are manufactured on a large scale, and oil-refining is well represented by Fenner, Alder & Co. of Millwall; Hubbuck & Co. of Ratcliff; and the Union Oil and Cake Mills at Limehouse. Compressed and liquid gases are produced by Coxeter & Son at Seaton Street, N.W.; and the British Oxygen Company manufacture oxygen at Westminster.

Paint, colour, and varnish manufacturers are represented by D. Anderson & Son of Old Ford, and Denton & Jutsum of Bow Common; Louis Berger & Son of Homerton, and Duggan, Neel, & McColm, Ltd., of Millwall. Of makers of electrical appliances we can only mention the Jandus Arc Lamp and Electrical Company, of Holloway. Among the drug manufacturers are Allen & Hanbury of Bethnal Green, and Burgoyne & Burbidges of Mile End New Town. The manufacture of perfumery is represented by Hovenden & Sons of City Road, and W. J. Bush & Co. of Hackney. That of celluloid is carried on by Frederick Hill & Co., at Kingsland.

There are extensive powder-mills in the parish of Twickenham, 2 miles from Hounslow, generally known as the Hounslow Powder Mills; also at East Bedfont.

Among the decayed industries of Middlesex is that of sugar-refining, which at one time was an important trade in the east of London. We learn from Stow that 'about the year 1544 refining of sugar was first used in England. Then there were but two sugarhouses; and their profit was but very little, by reason there were so many sugar bakers in Antwerp, and sugar came from thence better cheap than it could be afforded at London; and for the space of twenty years together those two sugar-houses served the whole realm, both to the commendation and profit of them that undertook the same.' (fn. 27)

Sugar undergoes but little manufacture after it reaches our shores. The business of the sugar refiner, or sugar baker as he has been wrongly termed, is that of preparing from the common brown 'moist' the white conical lumps or loaves of crystallized sugar, familiarly known as lump sugar. This used to be carried on in the neighbourhood of Goodman's Fields, the factories being congregated within a circle of half-a-mile radius immediately eastward of Aldgate. (fn. 28) The chief supply of English sugar came formerly from the West Indies, where the sugar-cane was cultivated to a vast extent. Its preparation for shipment involved three stages: it was first a juice expressed from the cane, then a syrup from which the impurities had been removed, and lastly a brown granulated substance from which a considerable portion of molasses or uncrystallizable sugar had been separated. The ponderous hogsheads which used to be seen forty or fifty years ago outside the shops of the retail grocers contained moist sugar, somewhat resembling that imported by the refiner, but with a finer and softer grain. This sugar, well known to the housewife in those days as 'sevenpenny or eightpenny moist,' had various shades of brown colour, according to its quality. This was caused by the presence of molasses to a greater or less extent, but the sugar was largely consumed in the condition in which it arrived from the producing country, this being possible, and even pleasant, with the sweet and fragrant cane muscavadoes. Loaf sugar (which was a luxury in the fifties, even to the middle classes) and other sugars of fine quality were obtained by purifying still further the sugar of commerce, the object of the refiner being to expel the molasses together with other impurities which still remained in the sugar as imported. The factories for sugar refining were of special construction, the chief object being to obtain a large extent of flooring. Hence the buildings were lofty, containing a large number of stories, and being lighted by numerous small windows. The interior presented a peculiar appearance arising from the small height of the rooms compared with their great extent. As a precaution against fire, rendered necessary by the inflammable nature of sugar, the refineries were largely constructed of iron, stone, and brick. The great increase in the use of beetroot sugar made no difference to the operations of the refiner. The hogsheads of sugar or the bags of beet were emptied on an upper floor, and then discharged in shoots to a lower floor to be melted in the 'blow-ups'; these were cast-iron tanks fitted with mechanical stirrers and steam pipes for heating the water. The solution, called 'liquor,' was brought to a certain degree of gravity (25 to 33 deg. Baumé) and then filtered through twilled cotton bags, encased in a meshing of hemp. The syrup was next decolorized by being passed through beds of animal charcoal, inclosed in cisterns to a depth of from 30 ft. to 50 ft., the sugar being then discharged into tanks. It was then boiled in vacuum pans, and variously treated afterwards according to the nature of the finished sugar required. To make sugar loaves, small crystals only were formed in the pan, and the granular magma was poured into steam-jacketed open pans, and raised to a temperature of about 180 to 190 deg. Fahr., which liquefied the grains. The hot solution was then cast into conical moulds of the shape of the loaves, where it crystallized into a solid mass. A plug at the bottom of the mould was then opened to allow the syrup containing coloured and other impurities to drain away. This process was assisted by pouring into the cone successive doses of saturated syrup, ending with a syrup of pure colourless sugar. The syrup which drained from the loaves was sold as golden syrup; the liquor which obstinately remained in the interstices being driven out by suction or centrifugal action; the loaf was then rounded off, papered, and placed in a stove for drying.

The art of dyeing textile fabrics and leather had been practised from an early period in different parts of England, and much woad from Toulouse, and madder and scarlet dye from Italy, were imported by Florentine and Genoese merchants. So great, however, was the skill of the Continental dyers that much English cloth was from the 14th to the 16th century sent abroad to be dyed and finished. During the Tudor and Stuart periods improved methods of dyeing were introduced into this country. John Baptist Semyn, (fn. 29) a Genoese dwelling in Southwark, the king's dyer, was made a denizen in 1533. In the same reign several foreign leather dyers settled in or near London, and James Tybault, who took out letters of denization in 1544, describes himself as 'a leather dyer after the Spanish dyeing.' He had been then eighteen years in England. In 1561 Stiata Cavalcaunti, a Florentine, obtained a licence to be the sole importer of indigo into England, where it was then apparently unknown as a dyeing agent, though it had been employed at a much earlier time in Italy. It did not, however, come into general use, and was quite a novelty in England sixteen years later. (fn. 30) In 1567 Peter de Croix (fn. 31) offered to set up the 'feate of dying and dressing of clothis after the manna of Flaunders.' In a return of aliens (fn. 32) in 1568 he is described as a Frenchman 'who goeth to the Frentche church,' while in a house crowded with refugees in St. Magnus parish we hear of 'Francis Tybbold dyer, borne in Ipar, in Flanders, and goeth to the Dutch churche; he paith no rent.' With the immigration of Protestant refugees foreign dyers of silk, leather, and cloth increased in numbers in and about the city of London; but the most important enterprise undertaken by a dyer of foreign origin belongs to the next century when Dr. Johannes Sibertus Kuffler of Leyden, who had married a daughter of the famous Dutch chemist Drebbel, set up a scarlet-dye house at Bow, probably putting to practical use improved methods learnt from his father-in-law. The scarlet he obtained soon became known as 'Bow dye.' Further improvements in dyeing cloth were made by Bauer, a Fleming who came to England in 1667. (fn. 33)

Gun-making and the manufacture of small arms is an important industry of the county. The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was built in 1855-6 at a cost of £150,000; and has a station (Enfield Lock) on the Great Eastern Railway. The buildings form three sides of a quadrangle, and, with the testing ranges, cover an area of about 5 acres. The new magazine rifle is now made instead of the Martini-Henri, and machine-guns and swords are also manufactured. About four thousand rifles can be turned out weekly. At Edmonton are the ammunition works of Ely Brothers, Ltd. This industry is under the control of the Gunmakers' Company, the only livery company whose hall is situated outside the boundaries of the City of London. As compared with the majority of City gilds the Gunmakers' Company is quite a modern institution, not having been incorporated until the reign of Charles I. Under the charter of this sovereign, dated 14 March 1637, power was given to the company to prove and mark all gun-barrels made in London, which the makers were obliged to bring to the company's proof-house for such purpose. The authority of the company over the trade was confirmed by the Act of 53 George III, cap. 115, (1813), and by subsequent amending statutes. The last of these Acts, under which the company now exercises its powers, was passed in 1868, 31-2 Victoria, cap. 113. The proof-house is in Commercial Road East, and serves the company for the purposes of a hall. In one of the principal apartments is a fine trophy of arms. Apart from its trade duties and privileges the company exercises all the functions of an ordinary livery company. It is governed by a master and two wardens, chosen annually from the members of the court of assistants, and has a clerk, proofmaster, beadle, and other officials. The company, in common with the other City gilds, makes liberal grants from its income to pensioners and general philanthropic objects.

The Thames near the metropolis was once the seat of a flourishing trade in shipbuilding, which has now almost become extinct. In April 1594 Peter Hills of Redrith (Rotherhithe) received a tally for 431 crowns, value 5s. each, as the queen's gift towards his charges in building three new ships. (fn. 34) The number of shipwrights employed in the metropolis shows a rapid decrease in the census returns. The number in 1861 was 8,300; in 1871, 6,200; in 1881, 5,300; and in 1891, 2,300; this last return being little more than one-fourth of those counted in 1861. (fn. 35) The finest vessels in the East India trade were made in the Thames shipbuilding yards, but this valuable industry is being gradually lost to the metropolis. In August 1907 it was announced that Yarrow's yard at Millwall would be entirely closed within twelve months, and the business removed to Scotstoun on the Clyde. (fn. 36) This well-known firm of marine and mechanical engineers was established in 1864, and their premises at Poplar covered 12 acres of ground at the river side. Here they had given employment to hundreds of artisans in East London during the last fifty years. Their speciality was torpedo boats, torpedo-boat destroyers, vessels of shallow draught for military and trading purposes, and the 'Yarrow' water-tube boilers. They especially succeeded in the construction of high-speed naval craft, which they supplied both to the British and to foreign governments. The firm was incorporated as a limited company in 1897. Another wellknown firm of shipbuilders below bridge is the Thames Iron Works, whose extensive premises are at Canning Town, on the side of the River Lea. At Chiswick there are the large engineering and steam-launch building works of Thorneycroft & Co., equally famous with Searle & Sons, their old competitors on the Surrey shore.

The control of all Middlesex industries within a radius varying from three to ten or more miles from the metropolis lay, in former times, with the City authorities ultimately, and more directly with the companies controlling the various trades. This authority still exists in some industries-the goldsmiths and stationers, for example. But it fell generally into disuse towards the close of the 18th century.


  • 1. Middleton, View of Agric. of Midd. 395 et seq.
  • 2. John Norden, Speculum Brit. (1723), 15.
  • 3. E. W. Brayley, Lond. and Midd. x (4), 223.
  • 4. Personal recollections kindly supplied by Mr. E. Smith.
  • 5. Brayley, op. cit. x (4), 163.
  • 6. In the third folio (recto) of the ancient book known as Liber A. sive Pilosus, containing the ancient evidences of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, is a Process of Recognition of the reign of Henry I which states that stone ships or barges belonging to the dean and chapter unshipped their lading at Fleet Hithe, and that the owners complained of a toll levied upon them. W. J. Pinks, Clerkenwell, 377.
  • 7. Stat. 8 Edw. VII, cap. 68.
  • 8. Illus. Lond. News, 1842.
  • 9. A scheme is on foot for rebuilding Southwark Bridge or improving its gradients and approaches; also for building a new bridge near St. Paul's.
  • 10. The writer has to acknowledge his indebtedness to the splendid survey of this subject in Booth's Life and Labour in Lond.
  • 11. Charles Booth, op. cit. (Ser. 1), iv, 69.
  • 12. Commissioners o, Excise Enq. Rep. vii, 1834-5, p. 229.
  • 13. Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 60, no. 97.
  • 14. Ibid. bdle. 64, no. 189.
  • 15. Ibid. no. 110.
  • 16. Ibid. bdle. 86, no. 47.
  • 17. W. Page, Denizations and Naturalizations (Huguenot Soc.), p. xlvii.
  • 18. Speculum Britanniae (ed. 1723), 41.
  • 19. Lansd. MS. 81, fol. 1.
  • 20. Ibid. fol. 2-3.
  • 21. Lansd. MS. 81, fol. 4-7.
  • 22. Environs of Lond. iii, 122.
  • 23. Rep. xvii, 64.
  • 24. Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 150, no. 82.
  • 25. No. 1200, 31 Oct. 1778.
  • 26. Crory, East London Industries (1876), 25.
  • 27. Survey, 1720, bk. v, 244.
  • 28. Among the tenants of the Cutlers' Company on their Houndsditch estates were many who rented melting houses between 1584 and 1598, the period for which the information is available.
  • 29. W. Page, Denizations and Naturalizations (Huguenot Soc.), p. xliii et seq.
  • 30. Lansd. MS. 24, fol. 156.
  • 31. Ibid. 9, fol. 208.
  • 32. Kirk, Returns of Aliens (Huguenot Soc.), iii, 370 et seq.
  • 33. J. S. Burn, Hist. Foreign Refugees, 259.
  • 34. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1591-4, p. 480.
  • 35. Booth, Life and Labour of the People of London: Industries, i, 178.
  • 36. Daily Telegraph, 23 Aug. 1907.