The building of the Great Northern Railway and the opening of Wood Green Station in 1859 stimulated the start of both residential development and industrial development in Wood Green.
One of the first factories to open was E Welch & Co Tobacco Manufacturer. I haven't pinned down the exact year they started operating, but it seems likely that it was in 1861 or 1862.
At the time London was the centre of tobacco manufacturing in the UK. Most of it was clustered in the East End and this is indeed where Edward Welch, the boss of the Wood Green company hailed from.
Born in 1814 near Shoreditch, by the time he was 32, in 1846, newspaper reports spoke of Welch as a "respectable tobacco manufacturer living at 15 Lower Whitecross Street". So things were clearly headed in the right direction.
Respectable, he may have seemed, but our Edward was far from straightforward. He was clearly happy to stray into illegal activities. In 1854 newspapers report that he was fined over £500 for adulterating tobacco with treacle, a practice used to increase its weight. A year later he and his brother were jointly fined for trading contraband tobacco.
Yet at the same time he was also involved in more productive endeavours. He took out a number of patents for his inventions of various tobacco manufacturing machinery, including an 'improved tobacco press'.
By the time of the 1861 census, Edward was living at 61 St John Square in Clerkenwell, with his wife Leah and his three children, Drucilla 19, Alfred 16, Richard 9. No servants were listed. His occupation is given as Tobacco Manufacturer, employing 13 men, 17 boys and 1 girl. (Two younger sisters, just 11 and 12 years old) were apparently pupils at a school in Gloucester Road Islington - now Almorah Road - with just seven pupils and two governeses). We know from other records that he had a tobacco manufactory next door at 63 St John's Square.
Things were clearly going well enough for him at that point for him to set himself and his family up very nicely in Wood Green. He built a factory and next to it a large villa called Cavendish Villa. From the details of the sale after Welch's death, we learn that the villa had a garden and a large vinery, amounting to nearly one acre. So not too shabby then!. In 1871 he was living there with his wife Leah, their son Richard and a twelve year old servant, Emily Sinclair*. By this point, oldest son, Alfred was living separately with his wife in Clarence Terrace Hornsey (which I believe was on Hornsey Road). He gave his occupation as manager of a tobacco works. I think we can guess which one!
Excerpt from 1863 Ordnance Survey Map. The road running just north of Cavendish
Villa is what is now Coburg Road. The trackway to its east is now part of Western Road
I assume that the rail connection was one attraction for Welch bringing his business to Wood Green, and , given that he sited his factory right on the Moselle river and that Tobacco manufacturing required plenty of water, it may well be that the river was an equally important consideration.
The three pairs of houses just to the south of the factory were also built by Welch, In 1871, works foreman Walter Ralph was living at 2 Western Road. (A newspaper report tells us that in that year he was charged with retailing beer and and rum from his house without a licence).
As to the type of tobacco manufacture Welch & Co carried on, we know from the details of sale by Edward's executors that the business included a cigar room and a shag room (shag being the term used for loose pipe tobacco). We also know from a listing in the The Directory of the Tobacco Trade in Great Britain and Ireland that Welch manufactured snuff. This means that his business included the three main forms of tobacco manufacture (anyone got a Welch tobacco tin??)
Copes Tobacco Factory Liverpool at around the end of the Nineteenth Century. No doubt things would have looked rather
more hectic and less civilised when the factory was in production!
Edward died on 3 April 1878 and newspaper advertisements later that year show that the whole business was sold. We might assume that oldest son, Alfred, took the sale quite hard and tried to carry on in the same line of work trading on his father's name, since in 1879 a newspaper advertisement was taken out by the new owners disassociating E Welch & Co from Alfred Welch, both at the Wood Green factory as well as at the premises in Cable Street and St Johns Square.
It seems that the family did not thrive after the business was sold. The 1881 census has younger son Richard living in half of a small terraced house at 29 Stanmer Street, Battersea with his wife Phoebe. His occupation was given as 'tobacconist’s traveller – unemployed'. His mother was living alone a few doors up at number 35 listed as an annuitant. I'm wondering if the houses were bought with their share of the proceeds of the sale of the business. Was Alfred the main beneficiary? Was this what he did to care for the other family members? Was Richard perhaps renting out half of his house to make ends meet whilst he was out of work? Whatever the case, Leah died in April 1885, leaving a very respectable estate of £168. We have no record of oldest son Alfred again till 1911 at which time, though still listed as a tobacco manufacturer and as married, he was recorded living alone as a boarder in a Brighton boarding house.
Back at E Welch & Co, the new owners carried on business for another ten years before putting the whole business up for sale in 1888. The sale notice published in various papers at the time also listed the inclusion of leases of wholesale and retail premises at Billiter Street, Wigmore Street, Carlton Bridge Terrace Westbourne Park, Mortimer Street, Kilburn High Rd, Cable Street, Walworth Road and a shop at 104 Old St St Lukes. Whether these were part of the previous 1878 sale or had been added since, I do not know.
The sale also listed the Hornsey Steam Laundry in a neighbouring factory also owned by Welch's. The business had apparently moved out recently before 1888 and from other records we can track it opening up in Albert Road at around that time as the Wood Green & Hornsey Steam Laundry. There is a note in the London Middlesex Gazette on January 6, 1900 that plans for the laundry in Albert Road had just been submitted. Surprisingly, the business paid for the move through a public share offer. Things didn't work out, however, and the business went bankrupt in 1916. The chimney of the laundry remains to this day.
Whilst other local historians have said that Welch's factory was sold to the Hornsey Gas Works, records on the National Archives make it clear that the sale was in fact to the Great Northern Railway (GNR). The records show the purchase of the business and 'Cavendish House' from E C Smith and M R Smith (mortgagees). GNR needed the land for works to add more lines to the railway, increasing the old dual trackway to four passenger lines and one goods line. At the same time they significantly enlarged Wood Green station. Both works involved considerable excavation and the site of the factory is now under the railway embankment.
Does the name Cavendish House have anything to do with Cavendish Road in Harringay at all?
None that I’m aware of, but the Ladder Road names are such a myster, who knows!