Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Edward Harrison of Merton House (part 2)

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Edward Harrison had launched The Young Ladies’ Journal in 1864 in partnership with James Henry Dunlop Jehring, a printer, and John Peter Wall, a wood engraver at 188 Strand. This partnership was dissolved by mutual consent on 6 April 1865, although an announcement to this effect did not appear in the London Gazette until 1 February 1867. (John Wall died eleven months later).

James Jehring, born in Glasgow in 1821, came to London in the early 1840s and established himself as a printer. After marrying Jane Turner in Clerkenwell in 1846, he moved to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (1851 census) and later to Grosvenor Park, Newington (1861 and 1871 censuses – in the latter census he was shown as employing 25 men, 20 women, 16 boys and 6 girls). By then he had formed a partnership with Edward Harrison as Harrison and Jehring as printers (later Harrison, Jehring & Co.), initially at 15 & 16 Portpool Lane, Gray’s Inn Road (1863) and later at 25 & 27 Portpool Lane (1882 onwards).

By 1881 Jehring had moved to Enmore House, Woodside Green, Surrey – the 1881 census showed he was employing 33 men, 40 women and 20 boys. He died at Enmore House on 21 March 1896, leaving an estate worth £8,329 (£850,000 in today’s terms). His son, Ernest Augustus (born 17 November 1856), took over his role in the company.

As well as his printing partnership with James Jehring, Edward Harrison also worked in partnership with Edward Henry Viles, best-known as an author. Viles, born in Southwark in November 1841, spent most of his life in Staffordshire, firstly working as an accountant’s clerk before finding his metier as a writer. In 1864 he helped Harrison launch The Young Ladies’ Journal, and he remained a close collaborator with both Harrison and his sons until his death. He was also a partner in the printing firm of Sweeting & Co. of 4 Dyer’s Buildings, Holborn. He obviously maintained a London address, a necessity given his work, and as evidenced by the birth places of some of his children – his daughter Minnie, for example, was born in Kentish Town in 1864; his son Edward was born in Bloomsbury in 1867; and his daughter Louisa was born in Bloomsbury in 1869, and baptised in Haverstock Hill, with her father’s address given as 62 Brecknock Road, Kentish Town.

By 1870 Viles had made enough money, although it is not clear how, to build and occupy Pendryl Hall in Codsall Wood, Staffordshire, a substantial country house, where he indulged his passion for photography – in particular, he became an expert in microphotography, and exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society and published numerous articles in photography journals.

In the 1881 census, he is recorded as living at Pendryl Hall with his wife, Annie (née Bennett, born in Bilston, Staffordshire around 1841 – they married in 1863), four children, and six domestic staff. Rather strangely, online histories of Pendryl Hall (it is now a wedding venue) refer to Viles renting the property to a local businessman for the use of his married daughter in 1879.

In 1888, Viles was living at16 Wetherby Gardens, Brompton, Kensington. In the 1891 census his sons Edward and Harold were described as an “Assistant Editor” and a “Publisher Books” respectively.

Edward Viles senior died on 8 December 1891, leaving an estate worth £16,893 (£1.6 million in today’s terms). Probate was granted to his widow and to his son Edward.

Edward Harrison junior was born in 1851 and baptised at St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, on 22 July 1852. (He was actually Edward and Mary’s second son to be named Edward – the first, born on 8 January 1846 and baptised at St. Leonard’s on 21 April 1848, died a few months later and was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard, Haggerston, Hackney, on 21 September 1848). He presumably joined his father’s business after leaving school – in the 1871 census an Edward Harrison, publisher, is recorded as a visitor at an address in Hoxton. In 1878, he married Amy Grace Brearey (born in Brixton in 1856) at St. George’s, Hanover Square, with whom he went on to have five children: Ethel (b. 1880), Kathleen (b. 1882), Freda (b. 1885), Sibyl (b. 1887), and Shirley Cecil (b. 1890) In 1881, he and his wife and Ethel were living in Tyson Road, Lewisham, along with Edward’s widowed brother George (who was not shown as having any trade or profession, but who had been described in the 1871 census as a bookseller). By 1891 the family had moved to 28 Crystal Palace Road, Beckenham, Kent, which was, at the time of that year’s census, occupied by Edward, Amy, their five children and four servants. In 1893 the family moved to Endrick Bank, Honor Oak Park, Surrey, where Edward died on 23 May 1895, leaving an estate valued at £4,459 (around £450,000 in today’s terms). He was buried in Nunhead Cemetery on 27 May 1895.

At the time of his death, he was a partner in Harrison & Viles; Harrison, Jehring & Co.; and Sweeting & Co. His wife took over his role in all three companies, although the partnership running Sweeting & Co. (James Cowie, J.H.D. Jehring, Amy Harrison, Frederick William Harrison and Ernest Augustus Jehring) was dissolved by mutual consent on 30 June 1895, with James Cowie carrying on the business on his own. (London Gazette, 13 August 1895). In November 1897, Frederick left the partnership operating as Newspaper Proprietors and Publishers at Merton House, Salisbury Square, leaving it in the hands of Amy Harrison and Annie Viles. (London Gazette, 23 November 1897). Two months later, he left the partnership running Harrison, Jehring & Co., leaving Amy Harrison, Annie Viles and Ernest Jehring to continue it. (London Gazette, 18 January 1898). This partnership was itself dissolved on 30 March 1901, with Ernest Jehring taking sole responsibility (London Gazette, 17 September 1901).

Annie Viles died four years later, on 24 July 1905, at 2 Downside Crescent, Havertsock Hill, Middlesex, leaving an estate worth £1,926 (£181,000 today); Amy Harrison died on 14 August 1910, at 21 Mowbray Road, Norwood, leaving an estate worth £3,583 (£320,00 today).

What happened to Frederick William Harrison is a mystery. He was born in 1858 (exact date of birth is not known); in the 1871 census an F.W. Harrison is recorded at a small boarding school in Hampstead; but after the 1881 census, when he was living with his father at Kingsbury House, aged 23, but with no apparent trade or profession, there are no definite sightings of him in the online genealogy records. Whilst his father left him a share in Harrison & Viles, and whilst he also became a partner in Harrison & Jehring, he did not stay associated with these companies for long, leaving both in 1897. What became of him after that is a mystery.

Edward Harrison’s second son, George Leekey Harrison (his middle name came from his mother’s family) is another rather mysterious figure. He was born on 14 September 1849 and baptised at St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, on 22 July 1852 (at the same time as his brother Edward). After leaving home in the late 1860s he appears to have begun his working life as a bookseller, presumably working for his father – he was shown as such in the 1871 census, when he was recorded as a visitor at an address in Brixton. He married Florence Jane Guiver (born in Bilston, Staffordshire in 1852 – at the time of her marriage her father was the Treasurer at the Drury Lane Theatre) at St. Pancras on 4 December 1872, while they were both living at 3 Mornington Crescent, with George described as a publisher. They moved to 10 Stansfield Road, Brixton, where they had two children: Ernest George (born in 1873) and Florence Nelly (born in 1875).

George’s wife died four years after the birth of her second child, and was buried in Norwood Cemetery on 19 February 1879. Both children were subsequently brought up by their maternal grandparents in Brixton. In the 1881 census, George was living with his brother Edward and his wife Amy in Lewisham, his profession being shown as a Lace Importer. In 1885 he inherited his father’s interest in the printing firm of Harrison & Jehring – however, he appears to have sold this fairly quickly, as in the 1891 census he is recorded as “living on his own means” and staying at a hotel in Brighton.

He then seems to have taken a lead from his father-in-law, who had become a theatrical manager, and at the time of the 1901 census he was working as a theatrical agent and lodging in Aberavon, Wales. However, this clearly did not work out, and the last trace of him, rather sadly, is in the 1911 census when a George L. Harrison is recorded as an inmate in the St. Pancras Workhouse, 4 King’s Road, Camden Town, his profession given as journalist. He was also shown as married (whereas in 1881, 1891 and 1901 he was shown as widowed), although there does not appear to be any online record of a second marriage. Neither is there any obvious record of his death, although family trees posted on the Ancestry website suggest he died in 1950.

The firm of Harrison & Viles moved from 135 Salisbury Court to 8 Farringdon Avenue in 1902. At that time, it was being run by Edward Harold Viles’s two sons, Edward Bennett Viles (born in 1866) and Harold Bennett Viles (born 1868), along with Amy Harrison. Amongst the publications they were still issuing were The Young Ladies’ Journal, Harrison’s Dressmaker and The Guide to the Worktable, plus they still had stocks of penny dreadfuls such as Black Bess. On 4 December 1906 Harrison & Viles was incorporated as Harrison & Viles Limited, a private company limited by shares, with a share capital of £292 divided into £1 shares. Its major shareholders were Edward Viles, Harold Viles and Amy Harrison, having 288 shares between them. Edward Viles became the General Manager. After Amy Harrison’s death in 1910, her place as a director was taken by her daughter Katherine Kingsbury Harrison, with Amy’s shares allocated to largely to Katherine and and her two sisters Freda and Sibyl.

Ten years later, the directors felt obliged to appoint a liquidator, having resolved, on 21 April 1920, that the company was no longer viable. In January 1921 the liquidator pinpointed the wartime increase in paper prices as the reason for the company’s declining profits. In June 1919 the directors had tried, without success, to raise extra capital to meet their increasing costs, and so in August 1919 they approached George Newnes Ltd. with a view to selling up – Newnes subsequently purchased all their titles on 17 November 1919 for £2,000, and Harrison & Viles effectively ceased to exist.

This was not without its problems, as both Viles brothers then claimed damages for breach of a life agreement written into the company’s Memorandum of Association – that they would remain directors for life. Edward made a claim for £3,120 plus £545 in “lost” director’s fees; Harold made a similar claim although this was later withdrawn. The company’s creditors objected, especially when the liquidator wrote that if the claims were met they would only receive around 50% of the amounts they were owed. In the event, a compromise was reached, although the terms are not known. (Source: National Archives files).

Edward Bennett emigrated to Australia in 1924, and died there in 1939; Harold Viles died in Islington in June 1937.

The company of Harrison, Jehring & Co. moved from Portpool Street to 11, 12 & 13 Emerald Street, Theobolds Road, Holborn, in 1905. It continued largely as a printing firm, although a handful of titles appeared under its imprint. In June 1914 its directors created Harrison, Jehring & Company (Limited), with a nominal share capital of £12,000, buying out the old company for £10,839. Towards the end of the First World War the company published a series of photographic portraits of various aspects of the conflict, including “Carry On”: British Women’s Work in War-time; The Sentinel of the Sea: The Tireless Vigil of the British Navy; Through Swamp and Forest: The British Campaigns in Africa; and German Prisoners in Great Britain.

In October 1920, all six shareholders (all members of the Jehring family) sold their shares to United Press Ltd. for £15,000, using the proceeds to pay off outstanding loans. United Press had been formed in May 1922 ostensibly to acquire the titles owned by Lloyds Publications, the last remnants of the publishing empire created by Edward Lloyd in the 1830s. On 17 January 1923 United Press sold all its shares to William Robert Masters, for £4,726, and a month later it was facing a winding-up order. In the meantime, Masters had become the Managing Director of Harrison, Jehring & Co. Ltd., although he was not paid a salary and merely drew expenses. In 1926 he began making loans out of the company’s funds to two other companies with which he was associated – both of them went under in 1928. Edgar Dunlop Jehring (Edward Augustus’s son), who had remained on the company’s board, resigned in protest at Masters’s activities, but this did not prevent Masters from making further bad investments with the company’s cash and accruing further debts.

In June 1930 Masters considered that the company owed him a substantial sum for his services and on 3 June 1930 he gave a promissory note to a registered moneylender as security for a loan of £4,200, bearing interest at 42% per annum. He later secured a further loan of £5,413. Between June 1930 and August 1931 the company paid out £3,818 by way of servicing the loans – capital and interest – but this was insufficient and in October 1931, owed a total of £8,298, the moneylender petitioned for Harrison, Jehring & Co. Ltd. to be wound up – this was dismissed as the court had already ordered the company’s closure. This was the consequence of earlier petitions from creditors, one in January 1930 and the second (from the Forrest Printing Ink Company of Verulam Street, Gray’s Inn Road) in August 1931. A winding-up order was finally made on 13 October 1931, although Harrison, Jehring & Co. Ltd. wasn’t struck off the Companies Register until March 1936. (Sources: National Archives files and the London Gazette).


Edward Harrison was, perhaps, a more significant figure in the world of cheap Victorian publishing than has previously been recognised. His career as a publisher lasted from the late 1850s until his death in 1885, with his name living on in the shape of the company he founded, and with his success largely due to the popularity of his penny-part serials. As a periodical publisher, he had more failures than successes, although his most successful periodical, The Young Ladies’ Journal, lasted for 56 years between 1864 and 1920. Unlike many of his contemporaries and rivals he was a careful publisher, seemingly only falling foul of the law once, when he was sued by Stannard & Sons, printers, of Oxford Street, who alleged that he had copied one of their maps of Paris and published it in The Gentleman’s Journal in November 1870. Harrison denied that it was a copy while admitting that use had been made of Stannard’s original. He therefore contested the claim, refusing to give up all unsold copies of the Journal and to destroy the block from which his map had been printed. Unfortunately, the outcome of the litigation is not recorded, other than that a breach of copyright had occurred. (Source: National Archives file).

Equally as important was Harrison’s role as a printer. By joining forces with James Jehring in 1863 he was able to maintain control over his own printing costs, plus make money from printing for other publishers. The company of Harrison & Jehring flourished for almost 70 years, although its demise, in 1931, was marked by controversy. So, too, was the demise of the remnants of his publishing business, Harrison & Viles, but it had nevertheless outlasted most of those companies with which it was competing in its early years.

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