|AdminHistory||Robert Womersley (1743-1829) was a Yorkshire-born industrial chemist and manufacturer based in Spitalfields. Robert Womersley & Son traded from premises in Brown's Lane and Osborn Place. |
In 1797, the company, having established a dye house, took out an Osborn lease on the property, in order to set up as a drysalter for dying and other purposes (1). Local businesses were then largely grouped around the textile industry. Several dwellings, built in 1720 as Mason's Court, became Osborn Place in the 1780s, and occupied a location at the top end of the Fosson Estate in Spitalfields. Osborn Place later became the west end of Chicksand Street. In 1805, the Womersley and Womersley partnership based at Brown's Lane was dissolved by mutual consent. By the mid-19th century, the site of the Womersley factory had extended south to Finch Road (2). The front of the works was situated at 7, Osborn Place, between a school and a hostel. Leonard Womersley is recorded as trading under the company name from Osborn Place in 1938 (3). The school was an LCC school for mentally deficient and physically defective children named Finch Street school, although it faced Osborn Place. The school and an adjoining cleansing station were converted into the Osborn Place Cookery Centre in the 1950s (4). The hostel was the Salvation Army women's hostel, which closed in 1980. This site was demolished to accommodate the Greater London Council's Hopetown Estate. The hostel was relocated to Old Montague Street. Womersley's built more warehouses in 1929 and 1938, but left the area c. 1950s.
Court records highlight Robert Womersley's links with the Quaker tradition. In August 1776, Elizabeth Williams was indicted 'for stealing seven yards of printed linen, value 14s (5) the property of Robert Womersley August 9th' (6). A court summary described 'one of those people called Quakers, and his affirmation could not be admitted; there was no other evidence against the prisoner' (6). The prisoner was declared not guilty (7).
A later advertisement illustrates the extent of the company's operations. Robert Womersley & Son operated as 'suppliers of all Heavy and Laboratory chemicals, dye wood Extracts, Oils, Waxes etc. for Brass Founders, Dyers and Cleaners, Electro-Platers, Glass Bevellers, Laundries and Fur Dressers and Dyers' Manufacturers of Bright Dipping Acids' (8).
Sources of information
1/2. 'Chicksand Street to Old Montague Street - early history' in surveyoflondon.org, 30th March 2017
4. London Street Directory 1921 in londonwiki.co.uk
5. 14s.(1776) worth approximately £117.13 in 2020 : Bank of England Inflation Calculator
6/7. 11th September 1776 : Item 713, p.77, Proceedings at The Old Bailey in oldbaileyonline.org