Friday, June 8, 2012

An Inventory of furniture and effects, 1794

By Mike Rendell

When the partnership between my 4xGreat Grandfather Richard Hall and his eldest son William came to an end in 1794 the family drew up an inventory of every stick of furniture at their property at One London Bridge. Presumably this was on the basis that William was entitled to be recompensed for his share of the furniture and effects.
I have decided to set out the contents list in full because it occurs to me that this may help aspiring writers, anxious for Eighteenth Century accuracy, to envisage what each room was like, as you move through the four bedroomed house. All you have to do now is populate the rooms with the characters of your choice!
My apologies to those who see inventories as being 'as dry as dust'! The list excludes the shop and counting house furniture (and all the stock-in-trade).
By way of background: Richard had built the shop with living accommodation above it, in 1767 at a base cost of £850. With surveyors fees and all other expenses it had cost nearly £1250 - a not inconsiderable sum (equivalent to perhaps £100,000 in today’s buying power). The map shows the site highlighted in red. It would have been the first shop encountered by pedestrians as they entered the City of London from the South – a prime position. Next door were warehouses, and opposite the shop is St Magnus the Martyr Church (one of Wren’s masterpieces).
This view taken from the Southwark side of the Thames, shows One London Bridge just to the left of the church (and the Monument), behind the waterwheel which thudded constantly pumping water to wealthy households in the area.

Inventory of the Household Furniture Linen China & Books taken at Mr Wm. Hall, hosier
No.1 London Bridge May 15, 1794
No. 1 Right hand and spair back
A half-tester bedstead and crimson Harrateen Furniture
A goose-feather bed, bolster and pillow. 2 blankets and a quilt
A truckle bedstead – a feather bed. Bolster, three blankets and a quilt
A walnut chest of drawers. 6 stained chairs – canvas seats
A corner night chair. A table clock – black Ebony Case by Smolling (?). 3 slips of carpets
A Harrateen window curtain
No 2 Right hand front
A bath stove, serpentine fender. Shovel, tongs and fender
A 4-part bedstead, Linen furniture. A feather bed, bolster & pillow
3 blankets. A linen quilt. A pair glass in a walnut tree Gilt frame.
A walnut tree kneehole dressing table. A ditto low chest of drawers.
6 black dyed chairs – matted seat. A square Scotch carpet 2 slips of Ditto.
A wainscoat. Pillow, Chair,Table. 5 paintings on Glass.
No 3 left hand
A Stump bedstead. A feather bed bolster & pillow.
3 blankets ,a wainscoat chest of drawers, a ditto round table.
A square dressing glass. A Scotch carpet
A brass front stove, tin fender.
No 4 Back room
A high wire fender. A parrot cage. 3 Cloaths horses. A large round table
A (?) Lanthorn (lantern). Sundry boxes. A folding board and sundries
A hatch and stairs
No. 5 Spair back room
A 4 part bedstead with Green Damask furniture – a goose feather bed bolster, 2 pillows, a flock mattress
A blanket, a green damask window curtain. A Mahogany one drawer table.
An oval swing Dressing Glass.
4 Mahogany Chairs – horse hair seats. A ditto basin stand, a wainscoat bureau.
A Scotch carpet to go around the bed. Sundry fossils and shells.
No. 6 – Spair right hand front room
A bath stove. Shovel tongs and poker. A 4 part bedstead, mahogany feet.
Pillows. Printed cotton furniture. A feather bed, bolster, 2 pillows.
A straw pallice, 3 blankets, a white cotton counterpane
2 sets of cotton festoon window curtains. A compress front mahogany Chest of drawers.
A swing glass in a Mahogany frame. A Mahogany double chest of drawers.
6 Mahogany chairs, horsehair seats. A Scotch carpet and 2 bedsides (i.e. slips)
A Mahogany basin stand Jug and Basin. A small ditto Cloaths Horse
Side bed. A small feather bed.. 2 pillows, 2 flannel blankets a Marseilles quilt, an India picture.
2 China jars & Covers. 2 ….(?) & 2 pieces blown glass.
No. 7 – Spair left hand
An iron grate on hearth stones. A harrateen window curtain & rod
A Mahogany cloaths press with folding doors & drawer under. A Mahogany bureau. A small ditto.
An easy chair. Cushion. Linen case. A Scotch carpet 2 setts of window curtains. A purple ditto. Linen
4 Diaper Table cloths,2 small ditto. 4 Damask Breakfast Ditto
4 Diaper Table Cloths. 1 pair Lancashire Sheets
4 pairs Russia Ditto, 3 pair Ditto. 2 pair Lancashire Ditto, 2 odd sheets
8 pr Pillowcases, 6 Diaper Hand Towels. 9 Huckerback towels – 2 Jack Ditto
2 old Ditto. 20 hand towels
A breakfast cloth – 2 Pudding Ditto. A cotton counterpane
A sett of blue check bed Curtains
One vol. Folio ½ bound. 1 Ditto unbound. 5 Ditto 4to (Quarto). Plates to ditto. Miscellaneous Tracks (tracts) relating to Antiquity. Baileys Dictionary. Buchans Domestic Medicine. Thompsons Travels. Non-conformists Memorial, 2 volumes, Winchesters Tracks. Philadelphian Magazine. A Dictionary. Harveys Meditations. Herberts Poems. James Beauties (?). 36 bound books. Sundry pamphlets – 4 bound. Pashams Bible. Hymns & Psalms. A family bible. Crudens Concordances. Clark on the Testament.4 maps of Europe Asia Africa & America. An orrery. 3 Portraits framed & Glazed.
No.8 Spair back room
A fretwork Mahogany Tea Table. A Japan Ditto. A variable (?) one-draw Table.
A Draft Board. A slip of floor cloth. Sundry stones shells & fossils.
A painting of fruit, sundry shells in a drawer.
No. 9 Dining Room
A steel stove. Fender shovel Tongs & Poker. 3 sett of blue Damask festoon window curtains.
2 oval pier glasses in carved gilt frames. 2 square mahogany Dining Tables with 2 flaps. A square pillar & claw Table.
A round Ditto. A Mahogany Dumb Waiter. 6 Ditto Chairs Sattin hair seats brass nailed. 2 Elbow Ditto. A Wilton carpet.
A marble slab on a Mahogany stand – a Mahogany book Case, Glass Doors.
A Harpsichord in a walnut tree case by Kirkhoffe …(?), a violin, a flute, a high Mahogany Chair, a Ditto stool, a Japan’d Urn, a Mahogany stand, 2 waiters. Cut(lery) and knife tray.
Sundry Moths & insects framed & Glazed. Sundry Stones Shells & Fossils. A Canary Bird & Cage.
A Mahogany Knife case. A set of cruets with Silver Tops - 2 small miniature portraits.
No. 10 Kitchen
1 Trivet, 2 Crane Hooks. Footman(i.e. kettle stand) 2 Spits…(?) Dripping Pan Stand. 2 Gridirons. A copper Boiler. A Tea Kettle. 2 Porrage pots & covers. 3 Saucepans. A chocolate pot.
A pair of Princes metal candlesticks. 1 pr shorter Ditto.3 high brass Ditto. A brass ladle. A tin fish kettle plate & cover. 5 Saucepans & covers. 6 candlesticks. 10 patties. Loose tea ware (?). Bread basket.
Japan Sugar Ditto. 3 Tin Cannisters. 14 Oval & round dishes.12 large plates. 6 small Ditto. Sundry Queens Ware. 4 water (?) plates. A meat steamer(?) lined with Tin.
A Deal table with 2 flaps.6 wood chairs. A pair of bellows. Salt box. Spice Box.2 sieves. A Japan Patent Jack. A Deal cupboard under Dresser. A Hatch on stairs.
No. 11 Store Room
An eight day clock in a walnut tree case by Wright. A Square Mahogany 2-flap Dining Table.
A 2-flap Deal Table. A small cloaths horse. A plate warmer. 2 Frying pans. A footman (i.e. kettle stand). A tin Fish Kettle. A copper warming pan. A brass Ditto. A small Lanthorn (lantern).
A Japan Tea Tray. 3 Flat irons & 2 stands. A pewter(?) water dish. 4 round dishes. 10 plates. A tureen. A copper stew pan. A bell metal Saucepan.
1 brass 1 copper Urn. Part of a set of China containing 35 pieces. A tea-pot Cover.
6 cups & saucers. 6 blue and white cups & saucers. Basin. 6 candles.
Basins & Saucers. 27 china plates. 3 Ditto bowls. A dragon basin. 2 mugs.
A tureen cover. 14 soup plates. 4 Dishes. 9 Patties. 4 basons.2 jugs. 4
Round dishes. 15 pieces of Queens Ware.4 Red dishes & sundry Jars. 2 Glass Decanters.
20 wine & jelly Glasses. A Tumbler. A Mahogany knife tray. 2 Waiters. 1 Japan Ditto. Candle box, lamp, 2 pairs of platedCandlesticks. A dish cross (?). 2 pairs of snuffers.
A plated stand. A plated Cruet (?) with 5 glasses.
12 brown-handled knives & forks.12 small Ditto. 10 forks.
Shop No. 12
A feather bed, bolster & pillows. 2 blankets & a rug.
No. 13 Cellar
A beer stand. 2 wash tubs. 2 pails. Sundry Garden Pots
All the Effects in the Foregoing Inventory is valued at One Hundred & Twenty Five pounds fifteen shillings & 6d by

John Fletcher

for Samuel Burton, Houndsditch.

The list describes the furniture and effects – other than trade and shop fittings – and reveals thirteen separate rooms. No mention is made of a privy – presumably because it was outside. Even the shop had a feather bed – no doubt because an apprentice slept there overnight. Indeed it is the sheer number of beds which catches the eye. Assuming that a bolster would not have been appropriate to a single bed, it looks as though there were seven double beds, one single, plus a “straw pallice” i.e. palliasse. In theory sixteen people could be in occupation. From the description of the Hall household it is assumed that there were only a couple of domestic servants “living in” – presumably in “No. 3 – Left hand” with its “Stump bedstead…a wainscoat chest of drawers, round table, square dressing glass” (i.e. mirror) and stove with “tin fender”.
The other rooms contain rather more furniture and benefit from “window curtains” (as distinct from “bed curtains”). In the main bedroom there is a half tester bed (i.e. with a canopy) with what is described as “Harrateen furniture” (Harrateen being a type of woollen fabric, used here for the drapes, canopy and curtains). The main bed had a goose feather mattress and pillows – other mattresses appear to have been mostly “feather”(of unspecified origin) or “flock” or straw. “Scotch carpet” appears to have been laid in strips – presumably around the sides and bottom of the bed – in most rooms. Only the Dining Room had a Wilton carpet.
As the Hall family would only have justified half the beds, the rest were either an indication that rooms were let out (a common way of generating an income, then as now) or shows rather more than one apprentice or shop assistant living in. There is no mention of any spinning or knitting machines, suggesting that by 1794 the Hall business had moved entirely away from manufacturing silk stockings, and was now wholly involved in the sale of general haberdashery.
There appears to have been a kitchen (number 10), a dining room (9), and a back room where tea was taken, with its “fretwork mahogany tea table, a Japan Ditto…a draft board, sundry stones shells and Fossils and a painting of fruit”. Books were described separately and the list suggests mostly religious tracts, pamphlets and Bibles together with a dictionary and “4 Maps, of Europe, Asia Africa and America”. Buchan’s “Domestic Medicine” is singled out and was presumably returned to Richard because it remains with his papers to this day. The family interest in astronomy was reflected in the “orrery” - a clockwork mechanism used to show the movement of the planets around the sun, and named after the Earl of Orrery. Some years earlier the Earl had commissioned the instrument maker J Rowley to make just such an instrument copying the invention of George Graham.
The list of linen is interesting with its reference to “Diaper Table Cloths” – diaper meaning “diamond patterned”, Huckerback towels – which the Oxford Dictionary defines as being “made of stout linen or cotton fabric” and “Jack Towels” meaning roller towels. The family appear to have been musical, with a “harpsichord in a Walnut Tree case” along with a violin and a flute. Ornaments seem to have been dominated by shells and fossils, along with miniature portraits and “sundry Moths and Insects framed and glazed”.
Even the canary in its cage was listed in the inventory (in the Dining Room, next to the Mahogany Knife Case). The parrot cage in the Back Room was presumably without an inmate (since none was mentioned) but indicates the popularity of keeping caged birds as pets.
A figure of just over ten pounds per room suggests that this was a family valuation. Richard bought out his eldest son William, and passed William’s share of the business to his younger son Francis Hall. Francis remained at One London Bridge until his death in 1826, and the premises were pulled down shortly afterwards to allow for road widening improvements linked to the new London Bridge. A reminder that nothing stays the same in a city like London!
Many more details about One London Bridge can be found in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman but I find it fascinating to think that I actually know in which room in the house some of the items I now own were originally kept.
Mike's book about the life of his ancestor can be found here He also does a regular blog on life in the Georgian era.


  1. What an absolutely fabulous document! Thank you also for your explanation of some of the items; Harratean, daiper, etc. This inventory certainly brings a Georgian town house to life. Owning some of these items and knowing their provenance makes them very special.

    1. If you are really, really good I will post another inventory in the future, taken in 1820, showing the furniture and effects of Richard Hall's widow, who lived in a country cottage in the English Cotswolds. Different styles, different descriptions, different wealth. Glad you found the post of interest.

  2. Thanks so much for your post, Mike. What a lot of work. I am going to save the information for reference in my writing.

  3. Great stuff, Mike! I was particularly struck by there being no mention of mattresses among the list of bedroom furniture. It was all goose-feather beds, bolsters and pillows. Very helpful!

  4. That's the great thing about an inventory - it is a very dispassionate view of what was in each room. No "angle" so no trying to prove anything, just a list of what the valuer saw when he visited that day. Glad if it helps! Will I recognize the place when your book comes out? Can't wait to see!

  5. Great post! I have a few inventories from wills in my family history stuff. I must go back and take a closer look at them. Early American/Colonial inventories were not usually nearly as extensive as this, but they definitely show what was considered valuable. Thank you for posting!

    1. There was an underlying "needle" between father and son: William (eldest son) had objected to his father's choice of bride when Richard remarried following the death of William's mother. The two never really spoke again, and yet were saddled by being in partnership, running the family business for over 15 years. As William wanted "out" of the famiily business he was determined to get his money's worth! The valuation is therefore more detailed than it might othwerwise have been.

  6. Absolutely fascinating - their lives were as filled with 'stuff' as our modern lives are - without the electronic gismos of course. I would love to see the 1820 inventory.


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