A View of (saw-makers') London

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by shoarthing, Apr 20, 2024.

  1. shoarthing

    shoarthing Most Valued Member

    1752 1770 bowles prospect hand coloures trustees bm.jpg
    (copyright ©️ Trustees of the British Museum)

    . . . recently I stumbled on this hand-coloured copy of a 1750s Vista of the Northern edge of London while drafting a chapter on the Manwarings (Isaac & so on). While it's not the artiest work of art you've ever seen, it shows 4 of the 5 churches most associated with the births, marriages, & deaths of Georgian London saw-makers.

    To our far left & nearest the fields is St Luke's Old Street (1733) with its bizarre obelisk/tower; behind St Luke's & to the West (our Right) is St Giles Cripplegate (<1394) with its squat stone-then-brick tower, delightfully topped by a 'lantern' . . . between these two churches ran & still runs Whitecross Street . . .

    . . . which was exceptionally well-argued by Simon Barley, in his September 2015 piece: "White Saws: probably the best in the World" to have been the origin & centre of the set of blacksmithing-in-steel skills that resulted in the English innovation of steel push-cut hand & back-saws. Here's where worked the White Family (& successors ending around 1825 with Gatward & Hundley); the Powells, Moormans, Haslers, Biddlecombes, (many besides) . . . for a century & more.

    Roughly in the centre of the vista, that charming lake-side pepper-pot is the stump of the New River Head Windmill (with a much less charming horse-gin beneath), and below & way behind it, part obscured by the Western edge of its roof, a tree at the top of the East side of Rosamon Street . . . . this was adjacent the site of the quasi-legendary Pleasure Garden "The English Grotto" (Romantically engraved below c1752-58, looking more-or-less due North to "Merlin's Cave") & very near the site of Isaac Manwaring's water-wheel-powered saw-manufactury of c1770; which he lost after a legal dispute with the New River Head Company.

    1760 before 1752 58 English Grotto Jean B Chatelain Large.jpeg
    (copyright ©️ Trustees of the British Museum)

    Nearly-in-line behind the windmill; the nearest (low, square) church-tower was that of (Old) St James, Clerkenwell (rebuilt 1792 with a vastly taller spire); behind it the tall pale square tower of St Andrews Holborn, as rebuilt by Christopher Wren in 1687. The curiously straight & wide road going down to the Thames was "Fleet Market" - then newly-built (1736) upon a succession of culverts, covering the last few hundred metres of the River Fleet - previously a notorious open sewer.

    North and West of St Andrews, Holborn, running up through Clerkenwell & shown in the above map as a vague low jumble; the Fleet remained uncovered until around 1850, & partly due the its proximity to the livestock-market at Smithfield, was indescribably foul - arguably the site of the most unpleasant slums in Georgian/Early Victorian London.

    In Q1 C19th, apparently independently, yet barely a hundred meters apart, that area was the site of the (separate) premises of two young saw-makers originally from Sheffield; Matthew Buck & Peter Straw. Each - somehow - survived & each - somehow - founded a family saw & tool making dynasty in London.

    Should you travel via Farringdon Station (1863/5) - the oldest Underground station in London - just before you step out onto its concourse leading East up to Turnmill & Cowcross Streets you may well walk 8 metres or so directly above where Matthew Buck once worked.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2024
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