John Moseley & Sons People Planes Tool Makers

Being John Moseley

John Moseley moulding planesJohn Moseley moulding planes

Last month’s tool haul included some beautiful John Moseley ‘side-bead’ moulding planes. I’m always interested in moulding planes, but these are in particularly good condition.

John Moseley is a name that creeps cropping up in my various web searches for tools. He’s synonymous with good plane making and he’s of particular interest to me because his business address, and indeed his common maker’s mark, is usually listed as ’54-55 Broad St, Bloomsbury, London’.

Now it just so happens I cycle through the streets of London to get to work every day, and my current route takes me through the heart of Bloomsbury, so I thought I’d try and find out where his premises used to be.

The first problem I encountered is that Broad Street does not exist in Bloomsbury any more. There’s a Broad Street in neighbouring Soho, (home of the Broad Street pump, which John Snow identified as the source of the 1854 cholera epedemic), but nothing in Bloomsbury.

However, Broad Street is clearly shown on Greenwood’s famous London map of 1827, (you can see it down in the lower left corner of a section reproduced below).

Greenwood’s map of 1827

Some searching later, and it’s clear there’s been a name change. Broad Street is now just an extension of High Holborn. This is confirmed on the UCL website. Of Broad Street and the area of St.Giles, they quote:

Thomas Beames, writing in the middle of the nineteenth century, described the whole area of St Giles as the type of “the lowest conditions under which human life is possible”, but he was at a loss to explain why: it was not on the river (at that time a haunt of criminals), had not had sanctuary areas (which often became criminal rendezvous places) and had been a rich area in the seventeenth century (Thomas Beames, The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective, 2nd edn, 1852)

I’ve been searching online for some good photos of Broad Street before it turned into High Holborn. I’m hoping the wonderful people at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre will be able to find something. They’re very knowledgeable about the local area and think some photos might exist in a London Transport archive. If so, and if I find a picture of John Moseley’s premises, I will certainly post it on the blog.

I also found reference to a chap named Jeff Warner, who uses 19th century Sun fire insurance records, to find out a bit more about Moseley. Seems at some point, the family business moved to Covent Garden.

‘The records also helped to establish that another tool dealer, John Moseley and Son of 16-17 New Street, Covent Garden, was taken over by William Moseley in October 1828 after the death of John Moseley on 10 June 1828. More importantly, the Sun insurance records show that John Moseley was the possessor of a horse mill in the yard of his premises, which means that some kind of manufacturing was taking place, as the mill would have provided power to run a saw or perhaps a grinding wheel. This important piece of information had not been recorded in any other source.’ Link

He cites Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trade in 18th Century London as a book which was a big help in finding out more about John Moseley and his family. And in another book that comes up as containing this information, Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools by James. M Gaynor,  I find a picture of the Covent Garden premises, as used by William Moseley on his trade card.

‘Fig. 5. Trade card of John Moseley, New Street, London, showing the retail shop in New Street. Although this card probably dates from the 1820’s, this is the same premises (renumbered) that he had occupied since the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Image courtesy Guildhall Library, Corporation of London.’

Horwood map

I then found a few old maps of Covent Garden, including a section reproduced above from Christopher Horwood’s 26 inch to the mile Map of London, Westminster & Southwark 1799, which clearly shows New Street. However, looking at our modern day Google, the road has been renamed as New Row, although the building still seems to be there. Number 16-17 still looks the same, except for the hideous slice of retail that now underpins so many beautiful London buildings, in this case, a Costa Coffee shop.


At some point, New Street was re-named as New Row


17 New Row as it now looks today. (2012)

What changes have I not seen in the line of route not many hundreds of yards in length between the eastern corner of Pall Mall and Garrick Street itself. The last-named thoroughfare was not constructed when I was young, and it owed its existence very much to the untiring efforts of Albert Smith, who did much more as a social reformer than his contemporaries gave him credit for, and who was continually protesting in the newspapers – he was the “London Scoundrel” of the Times – and in his own books and magazine articles, against a narrow and inconveniently crowded little thoroughfare called New Street, running out of St. Martin’s Lane, towards Covent Garden, which New Street is still existent, but the traffic in which has been much lightened by the building of Garrick Street, which obviously derived its name from the Garrick Club, which migrated thither from its original home, King Street. (From Victorian London – Publications – Social Investigation/Journalism – London Up to Date, by George Augustus Sala, 1895 – Three P.M. : At the National Gallery) Link

A poster gives news of a move for John Moseley & Sons, from their established premises in New Street, further east along the adjoining King St.

1892 William Marples & Sons acquired the business of John Moseley and Son, plane makers, London.

At Hackney Tools, we buy tools as well as sell them. If you have any planes in very good condition, with John Moseley or Moseley & Sons stamps, get in touch.