Hackney London People Slideshow

Goodbye to W.H.Clark

W H Clark originally opened as H.M.Presland & Sons in 1797. It became W H Clark in the 1890s and has traded as Daniel Lewis & Sons Ltd – The One Stop Metal Shop since 2002. The shop will be leaving Hackney Road this summer and I wanted to photograph the premises before that event.
W H Clark was originally opened as ‘H.M.Presland & Sons’ in 1797. it became W H Clark in the 1890’s and has traded as ‘Daniel Lewis & Sons Ltd – The One Stop Metal Shop’ since 2002. This picture shows the premises as it now stands at 493-497 Hackney Road. If you want to visit this shop, do it quickly, it will be closing this summer.
Part of the original shop-front sign that would have stretched across the whole frontage.
The colourful sight that greets you on entering the premises. I love the ordered way that so many varied items are presented. You can tell the shop has grown organically over the years, changing to suit the needs of the stock presentation. David told me that up until the 60’s, it was commonplace that a driver would turn up on a bare-chassis lorry, then proceed to order doors, seats, rear panels, windows, everything he needed to drive off and complete the build to his custom requirements. Amazing.
This Queens Royal Crest was hanging outside Garrard’s (Crown Jewellers) in Regent st. London and when Garrard’s closed, David purchased several of them. This is the largest of the selection and it’s made of fibreglass.
Going down the hallway you get an odd sense of daylight. The space seems to be ready to open out again. Here you enter a covered courtyard. A new modern roof covers an area where before there was an open street. Some of the larger metal-cutting jobs are done here.
Some of the large cutting blades from a circular saw.
This part of the premises holds the longer lengths of metal. Sheet and tubular metal has now taken over as the main business. The racks on the left of the picture date back earlier and would have held lots of wooden ‘fellowes’, (quadrant parts of the main circular part of a cart wheel) and also wooden spoke parts. W H Clark specialised in producing wooden wheels for carts and carriages, and this area would have been stacked high with wheels at various stages of production.
Turning left and entering that part of the former street, you are greeted with an amazing sight. A wonderful old road topped with cobblestones and further in, granite sets over bricks. This is a street that dates back to Roman times. You have to imagine this part of the premises without the roof and shelves. This was an open street, with carts and horses trundling in and out, delivering all sorts of cargo, to and from the address. It’s worth noting that horses were always used by the company and last used to do deliveries around London until 1918, just after the war. W H Clark started using commercial motor vehicles then, and coincidentally those also had wooden wheels with rubber tyres, until about 1929. David pointed out depressions in the granite sets on the floor. Over years and years, where the horses had been rested and tied, their hooves had worn shallow craters as they scraped back and forth.
Turning and looking right into the corner. A beautiful disorganised mess. Underneath this pile are some large flagstones, one of which David said he lifted one day and revealed a small stream which continues to run under the street.
Here David showed me one of the many wonderful remnants. A sack of turned spindles, which to me look like the sort of spindles that would have supported a plinth around the top of a piece of period furniture. There must be thousands in the sack and some guy stood there, turning them by hand on his lathe.
Part of the original metal sign from the shopfront. This is the ‘493’, from ‘493-497 Hackney Road’.
Into the bowels of the place. I can’t even tell you how many small rooms there are like this. Stuffed to the rafters with screws, nails, hinges, every type of hardware you’ve ever seen.
On a shelf, original paper packs of nails, never even opened.
I like the fact that someone bothered to paint some decent typography for these stock shelf numbers.
Back in the central space, we’re looking up at the first floor.
You enter the first floor space via a wooden ladder. This is pretty amazing. I already felt like I was in some Dickensian world, but heading up here, I can almost feel the guys running around with orders.
The view back down the steps.
A lot of these shelves have already started to be emptied for the move, but they still show the diversity of the stock that W H Clark held. A lot of these components are for horse carriages. Special bolts, window hinges, a lot of other items I don’t recognise.
Another corner of this first room. On the lower right is a threading machine. This would cut a thread on a bolt, such as the one held in it now. The power for the machines would have come via pulleys, which would have in turn been powered via a steam furnace. Behind this room, there was a Vulcanized Rubber Tyre fitting machine for placing solid rubber tyres on ash and elm carriage & cart wheels.
A ‘Mustad’ horse nails box, now containing small rivets. When I asked David about his stocks of nails, he replied he had ‘some sizes of Cut Nails, Horse Shoe Nails, Wagon Wheel Nails & Carriage Rivets… Mustad Nails, Clasp Nails, Twisted Bright Wire Nails and the usual everyday Round Wire Nails, Ovals, Floor Brads, Annular Ring Nails, Panel Pins, Blued Tacks…’. And I suspect that was just the start!
I gingerly walked out over the modern roof, (with David’s guidance) and took a shot looking back at the first floor doors from the outside. Where I am standing now, would have meant I would have been hovering 15ft in the air over a street, if we went back 150 years.
Looking from the outside into the second, farthest room.
And looking back toward the main courtyard space. If you look at the doors, you can see the swingarm that would have swung out and allowed people to lift goods up from the street and in through the doors.
Inside the second room.
Another shot of the stock shelves. Pretty much all these shelves in the premises have been built as needed. A lot are made of ply, sandwiched in galvanised panels, so they are incredibly strong and well-made.
Walking back down the steps, we go through the modern shop area and go up some wooden steps into the office area.
‘You can’t make a craquelure finish like on those panels’, said David. This comes from burning coal and the earlier years when everyone smoked in the office.
An old pencil sharpener from the 50’s sits on the wall. It works superbly of course, unlike a lot of the plastic crap we are sold these days.
A wonderful photograph hangs on the wall of the office, circa 1880-1890, and shows W H Clark as it looked back then. The railway bridge is still there today, but it doesn’t have steam trains puffing across it any more. Next to W H Clark you can see the Chandler & Wiltshire Brewery, now no longer there.
Another view into a corner of the office. W H Clark used to supply the GWR (Great Western Railway), and in turn the GWR supplied W H Clark with wooden panels which they lined their train carriages with. These panels now line the main office.
Looking out from the next door room over the roof toward the workshop rooms.
The sight gladdened my heart. This is a presentation case made by ‘GKN’- Guest Keen & Nettlefolds, a leading manufacturer in the Midlands, of fasteners such as screws, bolts and the like. This case was built to show their products for the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. Funnily enough, my father worked as a sales manager for that firm. He died when he was much too young, but he would have chuckled to see me poring over this case, whilst visiting this wonderful Hackney business, W H Clark.
Hackney London Tool Makers

Pushing Iron

May tools
Hello everyone! The last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy packing and sending out pretty much every tool that was listed on my previous newsletter.

(If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter yet, please do, I’m realising it’s probably the most effective way of sending out stock updates. You can find the link on the top right of the Hackney Tools home page).
I’m using the excellent courier service ‘MyHermes’ now, who are proving to be a real hit. For me, it means no more bulk deliveries through Post Offices and Royal Mail, and for you, it means lower delivery prices.

I’ll soon be sending out the latest newsletter, with some really nice tools on it, so thanks again for your orders and please get in touch if you have any pictures of the projects you’ve been building with tools from Hackney Tools. I plan to start doing more blog posts on craftsmen and makers soon.

(PS. If you are anywhere near to the east end of London during the 21-23rd May, you might want to drop in on Clerkenwell Design Week, where you can see some rising stars on the furniture-making scene. One chap I was very impressed with, (when I saw his latest chair whilst on a course at London Metropolitan Uni), was Alexander Mueller.
Alex Mueller 2 Workshop 72dpi
An Austrian, now living in London, and producing some fine furniture design, which to me seems to be heavily influenced by the software he uses to create his amazing angles.
Alexander Mueller 2 Woven Easy Chair
He uses Rhino and Autocad to create his designs, but works the wood by hand/machine and employs the good old Domino jointer for his joints. Even I can’t deny you need a machine sometimes!
All the best, Gary.

Hackney London Planes

Planes for sale

It’s a lovely day in Hackney today. After a stroll along the canal enjoying the sunshine, I finished cleaning a batch of vintage planes. These will all be up for sale on the site tonight. They’re all good planes and will make excellent users, a couple are collectable, if you’re into that sort of thing. Cheers. *ALL NOW SOLD*

Christopher Gabriel Hackney London Moulding planes Planes Tool Makers

Christopher Gabriel – Planemaker (1746-1809)

Christopher Gabriel plane stamp

Another name that comes up frequently in tool sales is, of course, Christopher Gabriel. For those wishing to read in detail about the planemaker, I can do no better than refer to the excellent book, Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trade in 18th Century London by Jane and Mark Rees. There is also a great set of papers on Gabriel on Google Books, Eighteenth Century Woodworking Tools by James.M.Gaynor. However, I recently stumbled on the article below, which gives a good abbreviated account of his career.

(This article was scanned from the July 1994 issue of ToolTalk.)

The story of Christopher Gabriel is the traditional tale of the poor boy who made good. Christopher was born on April 2, 1746, in Falmouth, a coastal town in Cornwall, England. Falmouth is a small town at the furthest southerly tip of Great Britain, near Land’s End. The record is not absolutely clear, but it is almost certain that his parents were Thomas Gabriel and Jane Hocking who are known to have been married in Falmouth on July 31, 1742. (That Christopher named his first son Thomas as was the tradition in those days, provides additional evidence that Thomas was his father.)

The boy, Christopher, grew up in Falmouth and was given an education which seems to have been adequate for the times. He attended school through age twelve, which would, now-a-days, be considered to be through grade school.(ref 1) Christopher also received religious instruction but it seems that at first he was little interested in it. There is a report that his mother was upset that he did not take to religion and she used to cry over him.(ref 2) There is still in existence in the family, Christopher’s exercise book in which he has written “Christopher Gabriel his Book”. In an updated entry he wrote that he tried “to avoid Public Worship with idle excuses.” Church services in those days took stamina, often lasting from morning to night with breaks for lunch and dinner. His exercise book, for example, has these notations, “30th May, 1756, went to church in the morning, Rev. Mr. Walters preached on Romans Ch. 1. Went to church in afternoon, he preached on Romans Ch. 12” and, he concludes with the comment that in the evening, “Rev. Mr. Walker preached on Jeremiah Ch. 9”.(ref 3) Mother need not have worried because Christopher ultimately became quite a devout Methodist. Every Sunday he would walk the 30 mile round trip to the neighboring village of St Agnes to attend church.

Shortly before he turned thirteen, which would have been about 1759 (no child labor laws then), he was apprenticed to a local master carpenter, recorded as Mr. Barnicot (ref 4) Apparently the master trained this apprentice well, as we can assume by Christopher’s later successes. The apprenticeship, of which we know very little was, apparently, routine. It ended in 1766 coinciding with the time Christopher turned 20 and which was also the end of the usual seven year term of a carpenter’s apprentice.

Christopher continued to live in Falmouth for 2 more years before the call of the big city became irresistible and he decided to try his luck in London (ref 5). One can but wonder if there are any Gabriel/Falmouth planes in existence or if he took up this trade after his move to London. Near the end of 1768 or the first of ’69, Christopher left Falmouth on foot He walked the nearly 200 miles to London, carrying everything he owned in a sack. A London newspaper article of about 1857 tells that Christopher, “came from Cornwall to seek his fortune in the great City whose streets were fabled to be paved with gold.”

Christopher had no sooner arrived in London than he met Alice Trowell who was very soon to become his wife, She had been born on June 24, 1743 in Soham, Cambridgeshire, living on a farm about nine miles out of town from the time she was ten until her father’s death seven years later. Alice had four years of schooling and could read and write well. (ref 6)

Christopher and Alice apparently met through their common interest in the teachings of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. It must have been a whirlwind romance because they were married in March of 1769 at St. John’s church, Clerkenwell. They set up house on Albermarie Street, Clerkenwell, and by the first of 1770, Gabriel began his business of planemaking. It has been speculated that Gabriel took over the shop of John Cogdell (ref 7). He prospered as a planemaker and lumber merchant over the next forty years.

Gabriel had some savings and he borrowed additional capital from his in-laws. He started his business in early 1770 with an investment of £ 131,1,8, On June 30, 1770 Gabriel’s responsibilities increased when his eldest child, Thomas, was born at home. Then came Christopher Junior in 1773 and Edward in 1779. There were also six children who died in infancy (ref 8).

The business did well. In 1774 Gabriel moved to a house in Golden Lane, London and in 1779 he moved again to a home he describes as “the new house built this year in Ould Street, valued at £320. (ref 9)

Business continued to prosper. On the day after his eldest son’s 21st birthday, Gabriel made up a summary of his net worth and he had accumulated what was for those days quite a fortune.

This account still exists and reads as follows: ACCOUNT OF PROPERTY JULY 1, 1791 (ref 10)

          Book Debts         £ 975, 1, 6
          Beach (lumber?) in warehouses in Ironmonger Row
          and New Street with labor to debtor £468, 8, 0
          Saw, Turkey Stone (Sharpening stone),
          Edge Tools & made up work £304, 18, 4
          Cultivated Wood, etc, in Old Street £41, 18, 10
          Cash in House £80, 0, 0
          Household Goods & Wearing apparel £126, 0, 0
          Utensils and implements in trade £60, 0, 0
          Estate in Old Street £346, 0, 0
          do. in Ironmonger Row £90, 0, 0
          do. in Connan Street £285, 0, 0
          do. in Thames Street £1100, 0, 0
          Rents from ditto due to Midsummer £34, 0, 0
          £ 3911, 6, 8
          Due to creditors £446, 16, 10


          £ 3444, 9,

Gabriel was making quite a name for himself. His planemaking business was then located at 32 Banner Street, Golden Lane. The following year he purchased a house in Banner Street for £370,9,6 and in 1793 he purchased the house next door for £200.11 While no other records are at hand regarding Gabriel’s property dealings, his Last Will and Testament lists 27 houses and commercial buildings. At the time of his will (Nov. 20, 1806) Gabriel recited that he lived in the Parish of Cripple gate, Bridgewater Square, London. This is the same neighborhood where the earliest known London planemakers, Thomas Granford & Robert Hemmings, are recorded12 To give the reader a picture of the value of money in those days, Gabriel left his sister a life income of £10 a year and his sister in law £5 a year but to be doubled if she was ever widowed13 Christopher Gabriel died in 1809, survived by his wife and three sons. His wife outlived him by only four months.

By April 10, 1798, Gabriel had taken his sons Thomas and Christopher, Jr. into the business which ultimately expanded into a busy lumber wholesale and importing business. The third son, Edward, was apprenticed to a goldsmith. In the early 19th century, the planemaking end of the business ceased and the family business was focused on the timber business at a location known as Gabriel’s Wharf, which was located across the Thames from the Tower of London between what are now the Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. Ultimately the timber business included a fleet of barges and was a very successful operation. After Gabriel’s death, the business operated under the name of Thomas Gabriel’s and Sons, then as Thomas Gabriel Sons & Burton and was then located on Commercial Road, Lambeth. It survived until 1968 as Gabriel, Wade & English, Ltd. when it was bought out by a conglomerate.14

The family which descended from Christopher Gabriel became quite prominent in England and his grandson, Sir Thomas Gabriel (a member of the Goldsmiths family) became, first, the Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1859 and the Lord Mayor of London in the years 1866-67.15 The name of Gabriel is still prominent in the news but in a way which could never have been imagined by old Christopher. The current international rock star, Peter Gabriel is a direct descendant from his planemaker ancestor.

Gabriel was an extremely prolific planemaker. It is amazing how many examples made by this 18th century maker are still to be found. Gabriel made good quality tools and according to Mr. Goodman, he was the innovator of several new plane designs.16 In this man’s opinion, every wooden plane collection should have at least one Gabriel plane: they are still available at reasonable prices, and it is a real pleasure to hold a 200 year old plane in your hands while you contemplate the life and times of Christopher Gabriel.


At Hackney Tools, we buy old, good quality woodworking tools. If you have any tools you would like to sell, please get in touch using the contact form on the home page.


1. Genealogical research by Douglas B.G. Gabriel
2. Ibid
3. This book is in the possession of Christopher P. (Kit) Gabriel of Falmouth
4. Genealogical research. op. cit.
5. Ibid
6. Biographical letter by Alice Gabriel, found after her death in 1800, letter now in possession of Douglas B.G. Gabriel
7. Goodman, “British Plane Makers from 1700.” Page 20
8. Genealogical research, op. cit.
9. Ibid
10. Ibid
11. Ibid
12. Carter, “British Plane Makers Before 1700”. EAIA Journal, June 1983
13. Copy of Last Will & Testament in possession of Muriel Gabriel Heltzel
14. Timber Trade: Journal (British) August 15, 1970
15. (London) The Morning Chronicle various 1866 dates
16. Goodman, “Stock Inventories, Gabriel & Sons, London 1791 & 1793 Chronical, June 1984


Tool sales on the website

First post in a while, because I’ve been concentrating on setting up pages dedicated to selling tools on my own site. Ebay’s charges are getting pretty heavy, so I figure I’ll start migrating now. Over the next few months I’ll be adding items to my site, and seeing how things go. I’ll continue with eBay for some items, and will flag those up on the blog, whenever they go on. Happy 2013!