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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/1017
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1592-1954
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 4.96 linear metres (1745 documents).
Name of creator(s): Eliot | family | of the City of London
Howard | family | chemists


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Eliot senior (1683-1762) was born at St Austell, Cornwall, and was a successful merchant in Falmouth for some years before he moved to London, where he prospered with homes in Croydon and Bartholomew Lane, City of London. His son John (1707-1735) married Mariabella, the daughter of a wealthy tobacco merchant Peter Briggins, from whom he inherited property on which several houses were built in Bartholomew Close in the City. This became the Eliot family home, for it was a quiet and pleasant district, although in 1802 Bartholomew Fair was "Attended with unusual violence" (number 1371).

John Eliot inherited other property, including The King's Head Inn, Southwark, and property in Threadneedle Street and Mile End. The family appear to have retained the Falmouth House, and appear to have had an agent there to look after the business and estate interests. Eliot several times sent his grandson John (1735-1813) to attend to business and the West country Estates in or near Liskeard, Cornwall-Gormellick, Landazzard and Treworgey (see Nos. 116-156)-Topsham, Devon, and Ashmore Farm, Dorset, purchased by John Eliot in 1765 (see Nos. 157-3725).

A near neighbour of the Eliots was Robert Howard, metal and tin-plate worker of Old Street. The son of a brazier of Folkestone, he set up in London, and was one of many business and scientific men who borrowed money from John Eliot (III) the underwriter (see Number 929). His place of business was a large works, employing many local workmen, in Old Street on the site of the present Howard buildings; his daughter when an old woman wrote down her recollections of the works (Number 1709).

Robert Howard associated with A. Argand, the Swiss inventor of the standard oil lamp. The eldest son Robert spent some time at the Argand works near Geneva in 1788-9 and in his letters home he describes the lamps and the improvements, including the addition of the familiar double glass chimney, which it appears Howard effected on his own lamps (See Numbers 1297-1311). In later years the Howards paid an allowance to Argand and his daughter in their old age (see Numbers 1493-1513).

A daughter of the third John Eliot, Mariabella (1769-1852) married a son of Robert Howard, Luke (1772.-1864), who eventually inherited most of the Eliot property and was also a scientist of some note. Luke Howard served his apprenticeship with a chemist, Olive Sims, in Cheshire (see Nos. 1372-1377) and later founded a chemical manufacturing business at Plaistow (later moved to Stratford) in Essex, at first in conjunction with William Allen and then for a few years with Joseph Jewell. There are occasional references to the laboratory and to chemical experiments in Luke's letters and diaries.

Luke Howard, a member of the Askesian Society and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821, was especially known for his work in meteorology and for formulating the nomenclature of the clouds ( the familiar "cirrus", "nimbus", etc. ) Amongst other works he published in 1818 The Climate Of London (a copy of the enlarged 2nd. edition, 1833, is in the LMA library). He often noted weather conditions and barometer readings in his pocket diaries (see Nos. 1397-1406). This practice was also done regularly by an Eliot ancestor, Peter Briggins, in his diaries (see No. 2). Luke and Mariabella Howard lived at Plaistow near the laboratory when their children were young. Mariabella kept meticulous household accounts (Nos. 1394-1396) and also wrote charming letters to her husband and brother, mainly about the children. The eldest son was lively and needed a strict hand. At seven years old he helped his mother to bottle a cask of sweet wine, but "he tasted a little more wine...[and] a good deal of sugar off Mary's pies...and poor fellow he has smarted for his naughty tricks" (no. 1431). Mother was indulgent, but father recommended a rhubarb pill daily to cure his sweet tooth, and his grandfather insisted that he should not be allowed near the fishponds when visiting the cousins at Aspley.

Two of the sons followed early in their father's footsteps (Robert carried on the business, John became F.R.S) and as children on their seaside holidays at Folkestone they collected fossils, and seaweed to use as a hygrometer, while their sisters enjoyed bathing. While on such a holiday at Folkestone in 1812, Luke himself was questioned by armed men who were searching for a French General thought to be hiding in the neighbourhood (No. 1643). The daughters attended Quaker schools in Isleworth and Tottenham. There is no mention of the sons' schooling, but they may have attended the Quaker public school at Ackworth near Pontefract, Yorkshire, a school in which John Eliot (who lent money to the trustees) and Luke Howard were interested. Pontefract was the home of Luke Howards maternal relations, the Leathams. Later Luke purchased "The Villa" at Ackworth, which became his chief home (although there are no deeds of this property amongst his collection). Before moving to Ackworth, Luke Howard lived for a short time at Tottenham, Middlesex, and his son Robert lived there after his marriage to Rachel Lloyd, daughter of the Birmingham banker.

The Howards and Eliots and Peter Briggins were members of the Society of Friends. They normally attended the "Peel" meeting, which was handy for Bartholomew Close, but also went to Croydon and other places. John Eliot (III) and Luke Howard, in particular, attended meetings in various parts of Britain and sometimes abroad. They corresponded regularly with other friends, chiefly on religious matters, and also kept memoranda of meetings and matters of faith; many of the family papers consist of this type of material. A memorandum of John Eliot (III) describes his attendance before the Lord Mayor of London to answer his refusal as a Quaker to pay "Steeple house" rates; and the churchwardens of St. Bartholomew several times distrained upon his pewter-although apologetically, as Eliot and his family were good to the poor of the parish. Luke Howard was also afraid of destraint upon the laboratory. Church tithes, too, were refused on religious grounds and the "priest" personally attended the sheep shearing on the Eliot's Dorset estate, but "was uneasy at having to take it from a person who refused on religious grounds paying." Amongst essays on matters of faith is an article by Robert Howard senior refuting rumours that Quakers were hoarding corn during the shortage at the time of the French Wars. Luke Howard served on many Friends philanthropic committees.


Scope and content/abstract:

This exceptionally interesting collection consists of the archives of a London business family, the Howards, and their relations by marriage, the Eliots. The family were based in London, with homes in the City and various places round about, but they also had property and connections in several other parts of England.

The chief interest of the collection is in its quality as the personal record of a group of prosperous manufacturing and merchant families who were members of the Society of Friends. The Eliots were merchants and their account books, which cover both business and private expenses, together with letters and memoranda, reflect a picture of "City" life in the Eighteenth century. They attended the Change, Lloyd's and Child's and Jonathan's and other Coffee Houses, and dealt with a variety of business including trade overseas in cotton and duck cloth and Cornish tin and invested in "a voyage to Lima" and other merchant shipping ventures (including that of the Tuscany, unfortunately "Taken by the French and carried into Marseilles" in 1757). (See especially numbers 905, 928, 929, 944, etc.).

There is interesting material relating to John Eliot's estates supplemented by John Eliot's letters (e.g. Numbers 988-1011), which also mention a "good season" for pilchards, the decline of the docks at Topsham, the appropriation by the Government of some sugar pans near Exeter to use for French prisoners, etc. John's sister Mariabella also purchased in 1765 Pickhurst Farm, Hayes, Kent (Nos. 376-475).

There are amongst this collection a few letters and papers of later Howards, including an interesting pocket diary in which Samuel Lloyd Howard, grandson of Luke, jotted (unfortunately rather roughly in pencil) memoranda and sketches of impressions of his visit to America in 1854 (No. 1618). At sea his ship rescued the crew of the Hannay of Whitehaven, loaded with salt and flying a distress signal-"lay to and took all off, boy, baggage, chronometer, barometers and all".

At all periods the family kept in close touch with their relations in all parts of the country, including the Hows of Aspley, Bedfordshire, the Paces of Westmorland and London, the Leathams of Yorkshire as well as with fellow Quakers. This gives the collection a national rather than a local interest-indeed the family were not primarily associated with any one locality.

A curious document amongst the collection is a receipt dated 1824 for 8. 15s from R. Smith for freeing Hamma Fie, slave to Bentoo Demba, and signed with the mark of Madeba, Alcaide of "Birkow" (No. 1617/p.12). The Society of Friends Committee for African Instruction supported some missions, and Richard Smith, a friend of Luke Howard, was in Africa in the 1820's.

Quaker marriage certificates, of which there are several examples (eg. Nos. 117, 565, 1273, 1274, etc) give full details of both parties and are signed by members of the Meeting as witnesses. Birth certificates (e.g., Nos. 1275-1286, 1390-1393) give the date of birth and name, and were signed by witnesses to the baby's birth. The Society of Friends was in advance of both the State and established Church in respect of such documentation.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

ACC/1017-01: Diary of Peter Briggens;
ACC/1017-02: Memoranda of Briggens family births and deaths;
ACC/1017-03: Briggens family property transactions;
ACC/1017-04: Eliot family property transactions and related papers;
ACC/1017-05: Certificates, correspondence and diaries;
ACC/1017-06: Howard family business and family papers;
ACC/1017-07: Related documentation;
ACC/1017-08: Eliot and Briggens family property transactions;
ACC/1017-09: Eliot family probate papers;
ACC/1017-10: Private papers of John Eliot III;
ACC/1017-11: Howard family settlements, probates and trusteeship agreement;
ACC/1017-12: Eliot family papers.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in May 1968.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The firm, latterly known as Howards and Son's Ltd., is now merged in Laporte industries ltd., who have deposited the early records of the Howard business in the archives, reference ACC/1037.

The history of the Eliot family (especially John Eliot, 1735-1813) as recorded in these records has been written by Eliot Howard in ELIOT PAPERS (London 1895). This work also has chapters on Peter Briggins and the Weston family, drawing on additional material not included amongst the Howard Family records. It also gives genealogical tables of the several families. Mr. Howard distinguished the four John Eliots by roman Numerals, thus: John Eliot I, 1683-1762; John Eliot II, 1707-1735; John Eliot III, 1735-1813; John Eliot IV, 1771-1830. The practice has been followed in this schedule. A copy of ELIOT PAPERS is kept with the collection, (No. 1705) and another copy is kept in the readers library.

Some material relating to the Howard family and their connections, chiefly concerning religious matters, is in the Library of the Society of Friends.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Records prepared May to September 2011.

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