WILLIAM CATE – PRINTER AND PUBLISHER
William Cate was a well–known London printer in the late 1800s, perhaps best–known for his takeover, in 1881, of Hogarth House, the remnants of the boys’ story paper and penny dreadful business established by the Emmett brothers in the 1860s. But while the company he established lasted well into the 20th century, he has otherwise been virtually anonymous – he is rarely mentioned in any of the studies on 19th century publishing or literature. And even though his business became a limited company, there are no records of its incorporation or demise in the National Archives or at Companies House. However, it is possible to put together a picture of Cate’s life and career from other sources.
William Cate was born in 1829 and baptised on 29 December 1829 at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, the second child of William Cate, a milkman, and his wife Ann. (Their other child was Mary Ann, baptised at St. Dunstan’s on 11 March 1828). The first trace of him other than this in online genealogy records is in 1851, when he was living with his father, now a labourer, and mother in Limehouse, where he was described as a Barrister’s Clerk.
On 25 December 1851 he married Ellen Trattle at the parish church of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green. His father was now a carpenter. Ellen was born around 1830 in Shadwell, her father, William, being a greengrocer.
They went on to have six children: Jessie (born 22 July 1856, died 1858), William Henry (born 5 May 1858), George (born 28 December 1859), Charles John (born 24 March 1861), Alfred (born 21 January 1863), and Henry (born 30 June 1865). Jessie and William were both baptised on 26 May 1858 at St. Andrew’s, Holborn, with their father recorded in the baptism records as a law stationer living in Quality Court, Holborn. The remaining four children were all baptised in Islington, with the baptism records showing William Cate as a publisher, living in Hornsey Rise (1860), a publisher living in Highgate (1861 and 1865), and a publisher at Quality Court in 1863.
In the 1861 census the family was living at Springfield House, North Hill, Hornsey, the household including Ellen’s widowed mother, Margaret, employed as a servant, alongside William’s 10 year–old niece, Ellen Cate, also employed as a servant.
Ellen died in 1866 in Edmonton, and was buried in the churchyard of St. James’s Church, Camden, on 27 October 1866.
William Cate moved out of Springfield House and the property was taken over by James Stickley, a goldbeater, and his family. It appears that William had taken up with Ann Brooks, a widowed licensed victualler who was living at and running the Falcon Tavern in Pemberton Row, Gough Square, Fleet Street. (Interestingly, in the 1840s this had been the meeting place of the London Society of Compositors). William was recorded as living there in the 1871 census as a boarder, alongside Ann’s children Annie (aged 12) and Ernest (aged 4), her sister and three staff. At the same time, his sons William, George and Charles were boarders at Stafford House, a school in East End Road, Finchley; while Alfred and Henry were still living at Springfield House, boarding with the Stickley family.
William Cate and Ann Brooks (who had been born in Bewdley, Worcestershire, around 1829 and whose first husband, Alfred Brooks, had died at the Falcon Tavern on 25 November 1865) married on 3 December 1872 at St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street. Some time after this they moved to Brook House, Bury Street, Edmonton, where, in the 1881 census, William was shown as a master printer employing 50 men and 6 boys. Also living with William and Ann was their daughter Florence, born in 1875, Ann’s daughter Ann Brooks, and two servants. His sons William, George and Alfred were also living with him and presumably working for him, as all three were recorded as being Printer’s Clerks. His son Henry, then aged 15, was a Stockbroker’s Clerk. Charles, then aged 20 and an apprentice engineer, was living at the Falcon Tavern alongside his brother–in–law, Alfred Brooks, who was the licensee.
At the time of the 1891 census the household at Brook House had expanded and comprised William, described as a Printer and Publisher; Ann; Annie E. Smith (William’s daughter–in–law, aged 32); Harry A. Smith (son–in–law, a timber merchant aged 34); Constance Smith (granddaughter, aged 9 months); Ernest E. Brooks (son–in–law, aged 27, a mercantile clerk; Henry Cate (stockbroker’s clerk); Florence Cate (daughter); Minnie Alston (niece); and three servants.
Charting William Cate’s career as a printer and publisher is rather harder than tracing his personal life. While he was described as a publisher as early as 1860, it is not known what he published in his early years. Neither is it known what he printed until the 1870s, other than that in 1867 he became the printer of circulars for the National Association of Trade Protection Societies. He also launched the Commercial Compendium, a periodical which specialised in publishing financial information, around the same time. Both activities continued into the 1890s. His first known business address, other than Quality Court (which was, and still is, just off Chancery Lane, Holborn) was at 21 Cursitor Street (which was, and still is, off Chancery Lane, midway between Fleet Street and Holborn), from where, on 5 February 1876, he advertised in The Times for “a partner with £1,500” to help him extend his business.
His printing business, clearly a substantial concern as evidenced by the 1881 census, was still at Cursitor Street in 1882, although by then he had moved his publishing activities from Quality Court to 17 West Harding Street, and then adding 9 & 10 St. Bride’s Avenue, Fleet Street, to his addresses in 1881, from where he published Little’s Anglers Annual, in partnership with Little & Co. of 15 Fetter Lane.
As a printer, Cate had a long association with boys’ story papers, possibly beginning with Lads of the Village, launched in July 1874 by Henry Williams, and which ran for 40 issues until April 1875. Cate subsequently began working with the Emmett brothers, who had begun their career with the Young Englishman’s Journal in April 1867 as a riposte to Edwin J. Brett’s highly successful Boys of England, launched the previous November. For example, it is known that Cate took over the printing and publishing of the Emmetts’s Young Briton (launched in 1869) in September 1877, although only for a handful of issues until its closure in October 1877. Similarly, Cate took over as printer of the Young Englishman (launched in 1873) towards the end of its run in 1879.
In 1881, Cate took over the publishing business of Hogarth House, which was synonymous with the penny–part serials published by the Emmetts and Charles Fox. Hogarth House had been established in 1871, at 8 Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, by George Emmett, following on from the Temple Publishing Company established at 45 Essex Street, Strand, by George’s brother, William Emmett (then trading as William Eustace Laurence), and from where penny–part serials and boys’ story papers such as the Young Englishman’s Journal had been issued. George Emmett and Hogarth House moved to 9 & 10 St. Bride’s Avenue, Fleet Street, in September 1872. Round about 1877 the company was taken over by Charles Fox, although George Emmett’s name remained as the occupier of the Bride Street premises in the Post Office Directory until 1881, when William Cate’s name first appeared.
Cate remained at 9 & 10 St. Bride’s Avenue until 1885, when he moved to 32 Bouverie Street. He then began issuing many of the Hogarth House complete novels – bound volumes of penny–part serials – carrying the William Cate imprint and the Hogarth House, Bouverie Street address. This was simply a case of Cate putting new covers and title pages on old stock.
Cate also continued printing boys’ papers for other publishers, including Young Britannia, which was published by H.J. Brandon and ran between April and December 1885; and Boys of Britain, published by Samuel Dacre Clarke at 7 Bolt Court between April and September 1886.
In 1883 Cate was admitted as a freeman of the City of London, giving his address as 21 Cursitor Street, which is where he had his printing presses. In 1880, Cate had opened premises at 17 West Harding Street, and in 1884 he was working out of Cursitor Street, West Harding Street and St. Bride’s Avenue.
Cate’s other activities as a publisher were limited to a handful of specialist books and periodicals. These included The Commercial Law Annual (1873 onwards), Food for Thinking Christians (1881), The Bankruptcy Act 1883, and Schedules of Rules etc. (1883), Book–keeping Simplified (1884?), and Hints Upon the Law Relating to Bills of Sales (1887). Most of these reflected Cate’s interest in financial and legal issues, probably inspired by his early career as a law stationer. His Commercial Compendium specialised in publishing lists of Bills of Sale and County Court judgements, and in December 1887 he, along with two other publishers of similar material, sought an injunction against a fourth publisher for allegedly copying their material for which they claimed copyright. (Times, 3 December 1887). Cate again went to court, in Edinburgh, in 1898, seeking an injunction against the Scottish Trade Protection Society for similarly breaching his copyright. A local newspaper noted that Cate “was in the habit of publishing and arranging contracts for the supply of various periodicals containing information as to the financial position of traders in so far as such information was obtainable from public sources...” (Edinburgh Evening News, 6 July 1898).
In 1896 Cate was sharing his Bouverie Street premises with his son, William Henry Cate, who was working as a Law Stationer. In 1897, Cate’s business became William Cate Limited. One of his last publications was Power Locomotion on the Highway: A Guide to the Literature Relating to Traction Engines (1896), As a printer, Cate had printed the 59 numbers of Crombie’s Stories for the Crowd, published by Andrew Crombie, between 1892 and 1897.
By 1901 Cate had retired and had moved to Marie Lodge, Oxford Road, Teddington, where he lived with his wife and two servants. He died there on 10 May 1902, leaving an estate worth £3,549 (£336,000 in today’s terms), and naming his son William as executor. Ann died at 46 King Edward’s Grove, Teddington, on 26 January 1914, leaving an estate worth £1,070.
Cate’s printing and publishing business was presumably continued under the stewardship of his son William Henry, who began his career in the late 1870s as a printer’s clerk, presumably working for his father. There appears to be no trace of him in the 1891 census, but in 1901 he was recorded as a visitor at an address in Walthamstow, described as Secretary to a company of Law Stationers. In the 1911 census he was described as Secretary to a Printing Company (presumably the Cate business), living at 27 Walpole Road, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.
However, he was still operating independently as a Law Stationer, and remained as such until 1922 (Post Office Directory). He had earlier, on 10 April 1907, married Rosa Lizzie Boulton, born in Edmonton in 1865, and the daughter of Joseph Boulton, a publisher, at St. Saviour’s Church, Paddington.
The Cate printing business was still operating out of Hogarth House, Bouverie Street in 1908, when it published Picturesque Donegal: Its Mountains, Rivers and Lakes. Two years earlier, Cate had suffered a fire at Bouverie Street, fortunately not serious, which was investigated by the City Coroner. The fire apparently started in a canvas bag which was used to accommodate waste paper, oily rags and other rubbish. The London Fire Brigade claimed the fire was the result of spontaneous ignition, although Cate argued that that bag had been used for 15 years without mishap. The coroner’s jury agreed with the Fire Brigade. (Times, 7 January 1907).
In 1914 Cate moved to 140–150 Great Saffron Hill, Charterhouse Street (between Holborn and Clerkenwell), and began operating largely as a printer – the company’s last work as a publisher appears to have been a 63–page essay Mr Lloyd George’s Future: The Liberal Party’s Great Peril, published in 1920. One of Cate’s last roles was as the printer of the Electrical Review, until at least 1922.
In December 1926 the Hutchinson Printing Trust Limited was established by a group of publishers, headed by Walter Hutchinson of Hutchinson & Co., to acquire not only William Cate Ltd. but also several other printing and bookbinding businesses. (Times, 6 December 1926). The Trust, operating out of 34 Paternoster Row, reported that it had acquired all the shares in the companies it had planned to take over in April 1927, although William Cate Ltd. remained listed in the Post Office Directory at Great Saffron Hill until 1929, when its name had disappeared. The company of William Cate therefore ceased to exist, although it was not struck off the Companies Register for another 30 years. (London Gazette, 5 November 1957).
William Cate the younger lived in Walpole Road until around 1926, when he moved to 15 Meadway, Southgate, and where he died on 18 April 1928, leaving an estate worth £5,239 (£275,500 in today’s terms). Rosa died at the same address on 1 January 1934, leaving £4,325, naming Ernest Victor Boulton, a newspaper representative, as her executor.
Of William Cate’s other sons, George and Alfred appear to have spent only a short period in the printing trade. George, a printer’s clerk in 1881, died in 1890. Alfred was shown in the 1891 census as a Printer’s Picker (whatever one of those was). He had earlier, on 12 May 1884, at St. Philips Church, Lambeth, married Harriet Charlotte Jones (born in Lambeth in 1865, the daughter of John Jones, a cook). Both Alfred and Harriet were living at 7 Wynyard Terrace, Esher Street, Lambeth at the time. Alfred died in West Ham in 1897.
Charles John Cate became an engineer. In 1891 he was living with his brother Alfred, at 31 Ady’s Road, Clerkenwell, working as an engineer’s fitter. He married Harriet Cate – his sister–in–law – on 11 December 1898, just over a year after Alfred’s death, at St. Andrew’s Church, Stockwell, and the couple subsequently moved to 110 Ridley Road, West Ham. They later moved to Leeds, and then to Bury, where Harriett died in 1924 and Charles died in 1943.
Finally, William Cate’s youngest son, Henry, born in 1865, began his working life around 1881 as a stockbroker’s clerk. He remained living with his parents until he married Lilian Maude Dale (born in Edmonton in 1869) in 1895. Six years later they were living at 2 Latymer Road, Edmonton, Henry still employed as a stockbroker’s clerk. He died in Edmonton in 1904, as did his wife in 1941.