Henry Joseph Howard – Hairpin Maker (19C)

From: Sheila Farmer
Hartley, Kent

One of my Peckham ancestors was a hairpin manufacturer so here is a history of him. Many thanks for keeping us in touch with Peckham news both past and present.

My great grandfather Henry Joseph Howard was born in Snowsfields, Southwark, in 1818. His father, a tin plate worker, died in 1820 leaving his mother Mary Elizabeth to raise Henry and his brother. However, Mary’s father Mathias Leverett, a wire drawer, was also living in Snowsfields at this time so no doubt she had some help.

I next found the family in the 1841 census living in 56 King Street, Southwark, with Rebecca Leverett (widow), Mary Howard and Henry. The occupations for Henry and his mother were given as pin makers. By the time he married in 1845, Henry had become a wine cooper and this is shown as his occupation in the 1851 and 1861 census returns. His mother in the 1851 census put her trade as that of a pin japanner.*

Henry, his wife Eliza, his mother Mary Elizabeth and six children left Southwark some time between 1865 and 1866 and moved to Woodbine Cottage, Nunhead Green. In the census Henry Joseph put his occupation as hairpin maker and in all further census returns he is Henry, his wife Eliza, his mother Mary Elizabeth and six children left Southwark some time between 1865 and 1866 and moved to Woodbine Cottage, Nunhead Green. In the census Henry Joseph put his occupation as hairpin maker and in all further census returns he is shown as a hairpin manufacturer.

I checked through various business directories, under the section for Hairpin Makers, and in the 1871 London Post Office Directory Commercial and Trade I found Howard, Henry Joseph, hairpin manufacturer, Nunhead Green, Peckham Rye SE. In later directories and census returns the address is Hall Road, Newlands, Peckham. By 1892 the business had become Howard Hy. & Sons, Newland Works, Peckham Rye.

Henry died on 26 October 1891 and from his will I discovered that he had left his business to his three oldest sons and, I quote “an hairpin manufacturers & japanners* which belonged to me and is now carried on by them together…” I looked through the business directories and it would seem the business continued well into the 1920s. From 1928 I found no more entries. If anyone can add to this little history I would be most pleased to hear from them.

* Japan – a lacquer that, when used to coat wood or metal, gives a glossy black finish.

By coincidence, Peter Crocker of Forest Hill sent us an article about the Gandolfi camera makers which was published in The Sunday Times Magazine (12 March 1978) which stated: “The Gandolfis moved to their present site in Borland Road, Peckham, in 1928: Louis bought it freehold for £350. These new premises had belonged to a hair-pin maker called Howard who had worked for the Court hairdresser and had gone bankrupt overnight when women began to cut their hair short in the fashion of the 1920s. Louis found in the workshop three-quarters of a million pins, which he sold to a bird-cage maker: when Frederick had to repair the workshop ceiling recently he needed a shovel to remove the pins lodged between the beams.”

[They moved to Berwick St Leonard, Salisbury, Wiltshire in 1982.