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British Industrial History

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Warrens, of London, makers of boot blacking

1791 Samuel Warren is a Boot and shoe-maker at 14 St Martin's Lane, London.[1]

1795-98 Thomas Warren and Jonathan Warren, sons of Samuel, commence manufacture of Blacking. Thomas is at 14 St Martin's Lane, where he also continues as a Bootmaker. Jonathan operates at 13 Great Suffolk Street, Haymarket. According to an affidavit by Jonathan's widow, the brothers were very briefly in partnership, but Thomas branched out on his own after learning the trade secrets from Jonathan. The affidavit of Thomas' widow denied these claims.[2].

1805 Thomas Warren dies. Robert Warren carries on his father's blacking business in St Martin’s Lane. Jonathan Warren, uncle to Robert, continues his business in Great Suffolk Street. There was great rivalry between them, but Robert Warren seems to have been the more successful.[2]

1808 Advertisement by Robert Warren cautioning against mistakenly buying a competitor’s products. Similar advertisements appear frequently over the next 15 years.[3].

1815 J. Warren was a blacking maker at 13 Suffolk Street, Charing Cross; Rob. Warren made liquid blacking at 14 St Martins Lane [4].

1816 Robert Warren moves to 30, Strand. He claims that this is necessitated by a great increase in business.[2]

1817 Jonathan Warren is declared bankrupt, but is soon discharged.[5]

1821 Advert for Robert Warren's blacking (of 30 The Strand) cautioned against mistakenly buying a competitor's products [6].

1821 Jonathan Warren moves to Hungerford Stairs, where he designates his property 'No 30'. His labels show '30' in large type in similar style to Robert Warren's.[2]

1822 Robert Warren takes his younger brother, Benjamin Warren, into partnership. The business continues to be known as 'Robert Warren, 30, Strand'.[7]

1822 Jonathan Warren sells his business to William Edward Woodd for an annuity of £250. The business continues to trade under Jonathan Warren's name and Jonathan is retained, at a salary, to supervise manufacturing operations.[2]

1822 Woodd employs his brother-in-law, George Lamerte, as a Clerk.[2]

1823 Lamerte offers employment to a very young Charles Dickens, who is his cousin by marriage on the other side of his family. There are references to both George and James Lamerte, but Michael Allen takes the view that they are one and the same person. Dickens is required to paste labels onto blacking pots.[2]

1824 Woodd's business moves from 30 Hungerford Stairs to 3 Chandos Street.[2]

1824 Jonathan Warren collapses and dies in a Strand shop.[8]. Two of his sons, probably Jonathan jnr and Richard Bassett Warren, are subsequently employed. It is suggested that this is to justify the continued use of the Warren name.[9].

1824 Charles Dickens leaves his employment at the business that still bears Jonathan Warren's name and resumes his schooling. Michael Allen calculates that this episode lasted for just over a year, at ages 11 and 12.[2]

1824 Lamerte has a disagreement and leaves Woodd.[2]

1824 Woodd admits Stephen Pilcher as a partner.[2]

1825 George Lamerte starts his own blacking business at 107 Whitechapel Road in partnership with his cousin, Lewis Worms. He styles himself 'late manufacturer to Jonathan Warren'.[2]

1825 Woodd's business moves from 3 Chandos Street to 9 Noble Street.[2]

1826 Woodd and Pilcher initiate proceedings against Lamerte and Worms over their use of the Warren name.[2]

1827 Woodd and Pilcher fail to follow up their allegations and the case is dismissed.[2]

1827 Robert and Benjamin Warren start proceedings against Woodd and Pilcher, and also against Lamerte and Worms. They are granted injunctions to prevent the use of labels etc similar to the brothers’ own labels. These injunctions are swiftly overturned on the grounds that any infraction has continued for a long time without complaint from Robert and Benjamin Warren.[2]

1827 Lamerte and Worms dissolve their partnership. Lamerte continues as a blacking maker until at least 1842, when he is declared insolvent.[2]

1827 William Russell and Richard Bassett Warren, son of Jonathan, form a partnership, ‘Russell and Warren’, to manufacture blacking at King Street, Golden Square.[10].

1829 Jonathan Warren jnr and William Griggs dissolve their partnership as blacking makers at 53 Hatton Garden.[11].

[Between 1825 and 1829 there could have been as many as 5 blacking businesses using the Warren trading name - Robert and Benjamin Warren; Woodd and Pilcher; Lamerte and Worms; Russell and Warren; Jonathan Warren jnr and Griggs]

c.1830 Jonathan Warren's business was incorporated into Day and Martin - date unknown but perhaps c.1830[12]

1830s Robert may have bought out Wood [13].

1837 William Russell and Richard Bassett Warren agree to buy the blacking business of Robert and Benjamin Warren. The agreement is soon amended to admit John Wright as a third partner. The consideration comprises lifetime annuities of £600 to Robert Warren, £300 to Benjamin Warren and £100 to Benjamin John Edward Wright (brother-in-law of Robert and Benjamin). John Wright is BJE Wright's son and both of them have been working in the business. 30 Strand is leased from Robert Warren for £400 pa over 21 years and fixtures, stock etc taken at valuation. The business is now ‘Warren, Russell and Wright’. Russell and Warren were already Lucifer Match makers and the new partnership also engages in Ink manufacture. In the period leading up to their sale of their business, Robert and Benjamin had shipped some large quantities of ‘bad blacking’ to their overseas customers. As a result of this, Robert Warren was reported to have said they were losing around £3000 pa].[14].

1837 Robert Warren, Junior, brother of Richard Bassett Warren, is employed by Warren, Russell and Wright. He lives at 30, Strand.[15].

1838 Robert and Benjamin Warren formally dissolve their partnership.[16].

By 1838, according to one source, Robert may have taken on some partners, the firm becoming Warren, Russell, and Wright, "Premier Blacking Warehouse". By then it also made ink and certain types of matches [17].

1840 Benjamin Warren dies.

1841 Warren, Russell and Wright, blacking manufacturers, 30 Strand [18].

1843 Richard Bassett Warren collapses in the street and dies.[19]

1844 Ann Jackson Warren, widow of Richard Bassett Warren, initiates proceedings to secure his share of the partnership assets. Argument centres on whether any valuable recipes for making blacking were obtained from Robert and Benjamin Warren.[20]

1845 The case comes to court but is inconclusive, probably because Mrs Warren’s share of the partnership assets is well on the way to being realised. The estate was initially valued at ‘under £3000’ but this was subsequently revised to ‘under £7000’ suggesting that early expectations had been exceeded.[21]

1846 Warren's manufactory was still in The Strand [22].

1848 The partnership between Russell and Wright is dissolved, leaving William Russell to continue alone. He trades as ‘Warren, Russell & Co’.[23]

1848 Robert Warren, the younger, leaves Russell’s employment and starts his own blacking business in Lambeth. He describes himself as ‘Robert Warren from 30, Strand’ and advertises ‘Warren’s blacking’.[24].

1849 Robert Warren (senior) dies.[25].

1851 Jonathan Warren, Junior is a Blacking Maker, employing 3 boys, in Bethnal Green.[26].

1855 William Russell dies. Business is carried on by his son, William Hugh Russell, who is declared bankrupt the following year.[27].

1857 Warren’s premises in the Strand are advertised for sale.[28]. The lease may have been terminated early as a result of William Hugh Russell’s bankruptcy. The site becomes part of Charing Cross station, which opened in 1864.

1860 Partnership of William Hugh Russell and Charles Samuel Burton, trading as ‘Warren, Russell & Co’ at Regent Works, 93 Regent Street, Vincent Square, Westminster, is dissolved and Russell continues alone.[29] W. H. Russell clearly survived his bankruptcy, found a partner and found new premises.

1861 The business, still styled ‘Warren, Russell & Co’, is acquired by Edward Grove for a consideration of £250.[30]

1863/4 Edward Grove assigns the business to his brother, Thomas Grove, for a consideration that Edward Grove should receive a payment of £1 per week should the profits prove sufficient.[31]

1865 Warren’s Blacking Company (Limited) is established to acquire Warren, Russell and Co from Thomas Grove, who is to continue to run the business as Manager with a seat on the Board. The consideration is £5000, plus £10000 in shares.[32].

1865 Robert Warren, the younger, initiates proceedings against Warren’s Blacking Company (Limited) over the use of the Warren name.Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives

1865 Robert Warren dies.[33] and the suit is continued by his widow.Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives

1866 Warren's Blacking Co was at Regent Street, Westminster [34].

1866 Thomas Grove is prosecuted by the Company for false accounting and forgery. The case is dismissed at an early stage.[35]

1866 Warren’s Blacking Company (Limited) is wound up on the petition of Thomas Grove, who was still due money from the sale of his business to the company.[36]. There is a remarkable disparity between the terms on which Thomas Grove acquired the business from his brother and those on which he sold it to the company. The final outcome is unsurprising.

1868 Herbert Sumpter and William Henry Wilby dissolve a partnership which has been carrying on a blacking business as Warren, Russell and Co at Regent Works, Regent Street Westminster.[37]. It appears that these gentlemen had acquired the business from the Company Liquidator.

1870 Bankruptcy Petition against Herbert Sumpter and Henry Shrimpton trading as Warren, Russell and Co, Blacking Manufacturers, at 93 Regent Street, Westminster.[38].

1870-2 Various further notices appear in the London Gazette relating to the above Bankruptcy.

1871 Mary Ann Warren, widow of Robert Warren the younger, and her unmarried sister, Eliza Stephens, are Blacking Makers in Lambeth.[39]. Mary Ann is probably the last Warren to make blacking.

1874 The address of 93 Regent Street, Westminster, was the site of the Portcullis Club, a newly established Working Men’s Club.[40].


Samuel Warren, boot and shoe-maker of St Martin's Lane. His sons were Thomas c1755-1805 and Jonathan 1766/7-1824

Thomas Warren, had at least 3 children - Robert Warren 1784-1849; Elizabeth Warren 1791-c1846, married Benjamin John Edward Wright; Benjamin Warren 1795-1840

Jonathan Warren had at least 7 children, of whom 3 were in the blacking business at various times - Jonathan Warren jnr b 1803; Richard Bassett Warren 1804-1843, married Ann Jackson Swallow; Robert Warren, the younger, 1823-1865, married Mary Ann Stephens

BJE Wright-Elizabeth Warren had at least 8 children, including a son, John Wright 1816-1873

William Russell, d 1855, father to William Hugh Russell 1827-1871

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Universal British Directory, 1791
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 ‘Charles Dickens and the Blacking Factory’ by Michael Allen. Published 2011. ISBN 978 1463687908.
  3. Morning Chronicle, 18 April, 1808
  4. According to Post Office Directory, 1815 cited in The Times, 23 January 1953
  5. London Gazette, 14 June and 30 August, 1817
  6. The Times, 17 December 1821
  7. Warren v Russell and Wright, 1844. Chancery case at The National Archives
  8. Morning Post, 18 August, 1824
  9. Warren v Woodd and Pilcher, 1827. Chancery case at The National Archives
  10. Warren v Russell and Wright, 1844. Chancery case at The National Archives
  11. London Gazette, 10 November, 1829
  12. The Times, 23 April 1907
  13. Biography of Robert Warren, ODNB [1]
  14. Warren v Russell and Wright, 1844. Chancery case at The National Archives
  15. Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives
  16. London Gazette, 16 November, 1838
  17. Biography of Robert Warren, ODNB [2]
  18. Post Office London Directory, 1841. Part 1: Street, Commercial, and Trades Directories
  19. The Times, 13 November 1843
  20. Warren v Russell and Wright, 1844. Chancery case at The National Archives
  21. Warren v Russell and Wright, 1844. Chancery case at The National Archives
  22. The Times, 30 October 1846
  23. London Gazette, 4 August, 1848
  24. Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives
  25. The Times, 15 February, 1849
  26. 1851 Census
  27. The Times, 30 September, 1856 and 9 February, 1857
  28. The Times, 20 June, 1857
  29. London Gazette, 1 May, 1860
  30. Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives
  31. Warren v Warren’s Blacking Company Limited, 1865. Chancery case at The National Archives
  32. Prospectus. The Times, 8 July, 1865
  33. National Probate Calendar, 1865
  34. The Times, 21 November 1866
  35. The Times, 21 November, 1866
  36. London Gazette, 18 December, 1866
  37. London Gazette, 20 November, 1868
  38. London Gazette, 11 October, 1870
  39. 1871 Census
  40. Letter to The Times, 7 March 1874