William Southwell Junior (1804–1880): A Timeline

1804 Born in Liverpool in 1804,1 son of William Southwell (1736/7–1825) and his wife [partner] Frances.
1822 Married Elizabeth Cuming at St Marylebone Church on 26 August 1822, a union that was to endure for fifty-eight years. They had ten children, details of whom are in the genealogical section of the site.
1825 At the time of his father’s death in this year, he was one of two brothers already employed by the firm of Broadwood.2 It seems probable he had served his apprenticeship with his father, begun at a younger age than the norm of fourteen years, since apprentices were not permitted to marry.
1837 Charles Southwell recounts how when he returned to England after fighting as a Legionnaire in the Spanish Civil war in 1837 he sought out his brother William who was ‘at that time a foreman and contractor’ for Broadwood and living in ‘an elegant house in the Edgware Road’.3 This residence may be identified as 5, Winchester Row from two sources:
  • Firstly, it is the address given in William Junior’s patent application for an improvement to the action of grand pianofortes (no. 7424), which was granted in this year,4 the manufacturing rights for which he sold to Broadwoods and which was known as the ‘Victoria Repetition Grand’, in honour of Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837. The original patent drawing is extant in the patent rolls of The National Archives, Kew and is reproduced here by kind permission (under licence).

  • Secondly, corroborative evidence of his identity is found in the birth certificate of his daughter ‘Celina’ in 1838 – in all subsequent records known as ‘Selina’ - which gives her father’s occupation as ‘pianoforte maker’ and address as 5, Winchester Row.
A record in the Broadwood archives confirms that on 12 May 1837 the firm paid Southwell £100 for the assignment of his patent and includes a commitment to pay him a further £200 in May 1838 if they continued to use his improvement.

An article in The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840), 141 discusses this patent innovation, stating that was ‘Invented by Mr. Southwell, son of the late Mr. W. Southwell’.
1838–1850 A notebook of wages, salaries and gifts in the Broadwood archives shows that in 1844 the firm discontinued use of his patent and increased his wages to £3.3s per week in compensation for this and his attention to the finishing of Grands in their workshop.

In the 1841 census return, William Southwell is listed at St. James Place, Hampstead, with his wife and family, indicating that he had moved from Winchester Row to this address.

From 1845 – 1848 the Post Office Directory for London he is listed at this same address, 12, St. James’s place, Hampstead–road, which is consistent with Charles’ statement that his brother was operating his own workshop as a contractor to Broadwood as well as being a foreman at their premises.

In 1850 the Broadwood wages book records a payment of £200 to Southwell, and this is the final entry located for him there.
1851 William Southwell gained the prestigious award of ‘The Prize Medal’ for ‘a grand pianoforte’ at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 under Jury Xa in his own name. No mention is made of any association with Broadwood at this time.5

The census return for this year shows him as resident at 16 Baker-street with his wife and two of his daughters. A second census entry shows the remaining children and a servant resident at 25, Gloucester-road, with an enumerator's note that the head of household was absent. It appears that Frederick, second son of William, then aged 18 and an apprentice pianoforte maker provided the information about the rest of the family. For reasons unknown his sisters' names are incorrectly stated.

Two entries appear in the Post Office Directory for London, one under the name ‘Wm. Southall’ at 16, Baker-street – a variation of the surname that reflects the received pronunciation of the day [Suthall]; and in another entry on the same page, as ‘William Southwell, pianoforte maker, 4, Circus-street’.
1856 In this year he is still listed at 16, Baker-street as a pianoforte maker, indicating that the watershed change of the family business to portrait photography had not yet occurred.
1857–58 The first mention of Messrs. Southwell, photographers of Baker-street is found in a newspaper report – see Southwell Brothers: Photographers Royal.
1860 The Royal Blue Book of 1860 lists ‘Southwell, Wm. Photographic artist’. Whether this refers to the William in question here or to his eldest son William Henry (1823– ), one of the three brothers in business as ‘Southwell Brothers: Photographers Royal’ from 1862, remains an open question.
1861 The census return for this year shows William, aged 57, as resident at 13, Queen’s Road West and his occupation now given as ‘proprietor of houses’.
1878 William made his will, while living at 46, Haverstock Hill, Hampstead. His youngest daughter Amanda and her husband William Elliott Debenham (a Regent-street portrait photographer) were living with him at this time.
1880 In February of this year, Elizabeth died. They had been married for fifty-eight years. Six months later William died on 4 July 1880. He is buried in a tomb in Highgate Cemetery, London. A photograph obtained of the tomb by David Cripps some years ago shows it still exists, but is highly overgrown. In his lengthy will he forgave his surviving sons Frederick and Edwin any debts they owed to him (suggesting he had bailed them out following their bankruptcy in the 1870s) leaving the majority of his now modest estate (said in the probate record to be ‘under £4,000’) to his seven daughters and their children.

1 According to the 1851 and 1861 census returns, William Southwell Junior's place of birth was Liverpool.
2 Charles Southwell states in his book The Confessions of a Free Thinker (ca 1851), 13, that two of his brothers were already employed by Broadwood at the time of his father’s death in 1825.
3 Charles Southwell, The Confessions of a Free Thinker, 55.
4 It was enrolled in Chancery on January 2, 1838.
5 The Times, 16 October 1851, 2.   Medals were awarded as rewards for excellence, rather than with reference to individual competition (see ‘The Great Exhibition of 1851’, Old and New London: Volume 5 (1878), pp. 28-39. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45220; accessed 21 July 2013. According to an on-line article by Terry McGee (Flute Maker), Flutes at the 1851 Exhibition, the Sub-Jury for Class Xa (Musical Instruments) comprised:
Sir H. R. Bishop, Chairman and Reporter; Sigsmund Thalberg, Deputy Chairman, Austria; W. Sterndale Bennett; Hector Berlioz, France; J. Robert Black, United States; Chevalier Neukomm, Zollverein; Cipriani Potter, 9 Baker Street, Portman Square; Dr. Carl von Schafhautl, Zollverein; Sir George Smart, St. Anne's, Chertsey; Henry Wylde. (For more information about these jury members see Flutes at the 1851 Exhibition).

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