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1808: A Lord Mayor of London born in The Talbot ... 2

Thomas Scambler Owden 1808-1889

In this second part of the Sir Thomas Owden story

we will learn about the Owden family and discover why Thomas moved to London and we will tell you a little about his period in office as Lord Mayor of London.

One item of evidence, among several others, is that the Owden family lived at The Talbot was the Church record of the burial in the graveyard of Ann Owden age ‘1 dtr of John from Talbot Inn' in May 1800.

Thomas was born in Cuckfield a year later on 28 Oct 1808 but there is no specific confirmation in any records of his home as being 'The Talbot Inn'. He was baptised on 30 September 1810 at St George in Stepney, in East London. The latter was near his mother Anne's family home (she was the daughter of Thomas Scambler) and just a mile from where she was born in Shoreditch.

Thomas's father was John Bennet Owden who may have been running The Talbot business for several years. He had married Anne in Brighton in February 1796.. Sadly Thomas never got to know his dad as he died in 1811 (buried 2 May 1811) less than three years after he was born.

We will pick up Thomas's story shortly but first let's consider the Talbot business, his father John Owden and the Owden family.

John's transformation of 'the Hound' to 'The Talbot'

'The Hound' alehouse (left)

John Owden, with business partner James Scott, together injected a significant amount of capital into what would become The Talbot.

As the business grew he must have ploughed the profits back to bring in to further custom. They turned around the fortunes of what was a small alehouse called ‘The Hound’ and either adopted the newly renamed 'Talbot' or had been responsible for the nenaming. The latter seems most likely.

In a future article we will take the story back a stage to when John Owden had built a relationship with business partner Scott.

In the closing decade of the eighteenth century - and as the coaching business in Cuckfield took off - this inn grew rapidly. It became a head-on rival with the King’s Head which was, at that time, located on the opposite side of the high street and attracting royal patronage.

Where did the Owdens come from?

The name 'Owden' is most prevalent in the South East, and in the 1600s there were Owdens living in Bolney, Wivelsfield and Keymer. There is a baptism recorded on 13 September 1704 in Cuckfield Church for a baby called Elizabeth to Thomas and Ann Owden. But this is all probably just coincidental.

But finally we tracked down Thomas's dad. His name was John who was awarded an apprenticeship by Will Cobb, as a shoemaker at the Old Artillery Ground, in 1762 which was an area of Spitalfields. Later records show that John married a Mary Brackin on 18 May 1771 at St Martin-In-The-Fields, London, Westminster, London and there are a number of family links that point to this part of London. He later married Ann Scrambler (mother of Thomas) on 2 Feb 1796 in Brighton.

John seems likely to have been in the inn keeping or livery businesses and relocated down to Brighton from London tasked with setting up a new hotel business in the newly fashionable and expanding Brighton (or Brighthelmstone as it was at the time). Richard and Mary probably lived there from the 1760s to the 1780s. We will explore this further in a future article.

John died of Consumption (today we call this Tuberculosis) on 2 May 1811 and the funeral was held at St Dunstan and All Saints in Stepney. This is not far from Spitalfield where he had been baptised at the age of 22 days some 64 years before on 23 March 1746 at Christ Church.

The Talbot changes hands

His wife Anne, as her husband had died in London, will have moved their possessions out of Cuckfield and sold The Talbot business before moving to London with her young family. Thomas Owden had a brother John, nine years older (he died in Co. Cork, Ireland 1870), and two older sisters Sarah (born 1801) and Elizabeth (born 1803). Two sisters both names Anne died in infancy as did a brother Henry.

And if the Mid Sussex source article is correct: 'Mr Falkner Best, in the early part of this century, having purchased The Talbot Inn of Mr Owden, father of Sir Thomas Owden' - this sale may already have happened. John Owden's wife sold The Talbot c1811/12 to Faulkner Best (who was 39) who was born in Charlwood, Surrey. Best was already in Cuckfield. We know that he had dissolved his partnership with Cuckfield landlord Daniel Dench in March 1806 [The Gazette].

A business arrangement may have been set up after Dench was declared bankrupt on 5 June 1798, and this legal link was closed down, most probably, after the financial issues were resolved. But we have now just established that there was both a father and son called Daniel Dench, the father was a landlord of The Talbot and the other the King's Head. This conundrum of business relationships needs further untangling if historical records will oblige.

Dench of King's Head was well known for entertaining the great and the good and especially for making the young Prince Regent and his friends welcome. These guests may well have been so important to him that this prompted him to move his business out to The Castle at Hickstead in 1813 when the London / Brighton turnpike route via Hickstead became the preferred route for coach traffic to Brighton. It could have been the building work on 'The Castle' found him short of cash to continue in business and may have resulted in Best buying the King's Head off Dench at that time. But we may never know for sure.

About 1818, according to the Mid Sussex Times article on 22 May 1883 ‘Demolition of the Old Market House, Cuckfield’ - and for the same reason of the diversion of passing coach traffic - that Best then downsized the King’s Head.

He did this by relocating the business to a smaller premises on the corner of Church Street. James Webber from Horsham would run this until c1830 after which Stephen Wileman took over. The old inn was partly demolished and made way for a new house construction 'Hill Rise' (still there today on the corner of Ockenden Lane) for Faulkner's son - TW Best's (Thomas William) - and a new brewery.

Thomas could either have sold The Talbot, possibly leased the premises as a going concern or retained it with paid managers. The records log the landlords but do not plot the changes of ownership.

The Best family and succeeding generations would prove influential and successful business owners in the area for over a century and were also generous local benefactors.

Thomas grows up in London

After Thomas's father's death his mother, the family moved to an area in London where Anne grew up (she would outlive her husband by 31 years). Henry Scambler her brother, who was just five years older than Thomas, would be instrumental in putting his nephew's future on a sound footing for the roles he would later take on.

Stephen Coote in ‘The Innholders - a history of the Worshipful Company of Innholders’, the livery company's official history, explains what happened:

'Scambler himself was a highly successful livery stable owner operating from 62 Bishopsgate Street Without [which is near both Stepney and Shoreditch]. [When he died in May 1845 at the age of 42] He left his business to his nephew (who also ran the Thames Freight and Navigation Company) .... and Thomas, finding himself to be a wealthy man, devoted the greater part of his time and talents to the City and the [Innholders] Company.'

Successful early career in the City

On 17 December 1835 (aged 27) Thomas was awarded the Freedom of the City of London by William Taylor Copeland (1797–1868) who was the Lord Mayor of London that year.

City records confirm that in 1841 (at the age of 33) Thomas was company stable keeper in ‘St Botolph’s without Bishopsgate’ [with his uncle Henry]. But 62 Bishopsgate was a private address and his workplace was probably close by and associated with the inn trade - this was a desirable location for the best inns in the rich merchanting area of London and the stabling probably related to one or even several of these.

[The 1845 Post Office Directory confirms that his uncle Henry's occupation was livery stable keeper living at 62 Bishopsgate].

Thomas would have been eligible to join the Worshipful Company of Innholders which would create the path for himself to become 'the Master’ of this company and become eligible for election to the office of Mayor of London.

This background would explain why Thomas qualified as a member of the Worshipful Company of Loriners. A loriner makes and sells bits, bridles, spurs, stirrups and other metal items of a horse’s harness, together with the saddle tree.

Thomas married Frances Mary Rigby (bn 1814 in Shoreditch) who was six years younger in 16 Mar 1837 at Saint Botolph, Bishopsgate, London. By the time Thomas became Alderman for Bishopsgate Ward they had three sons and three daughters.

Thomas's career in brief

With strong conservative and imperialist views he became a Common Councillor in the ward of Bishopsgate in 1845, Deputy in 1862, Alderman in 1868 [he succeeded Copeland after his death], Sheriff in 1870-71 and finally Lord Mayor in 1877, opening the new Winter Gardens Blackpool in that year.

It was also the year in which he was knighted at Windsor Castle. Despite living in Tottenham [Henry's second home] for over 30 years, he served the City's institutions in many ways. Thomas was also a diligent and painstaking magistrate.

In the course of his mayoralty, funds were raised at Mansion House for the relief of the sufferers of three disasters in 1878: the Princess Alice steamboat disaster on the Thames, the loss of HMS Eurydice [see our earlier article], and the Abercorn Colliery Accident.

Sir Thomas had other responsibilities including Chairmanship of the Estates Investment and Villa Farm Company and a Directorship of the Norfolk Estuary Company. He was a member of the Board of Guardians of the East London Union [the East End workhouse], successively Deputy-Chairman and Chairman, until its amalgamation in 1859.

He was a member of both the Innholders' and Carmens' guilds [drivers of carts], becoming a Master of the first in 1853- 54, and of the second in 1882.

Died in Sutton

Thomas died at Mulgrave House his home in Sutton Surrey on 9 January 1884 'after a severe attack of jaundice'. He died a wealthy man, leaving £23019 12s 2d in his will - that's about two million pounds today.

Although Thomas was unlucky to lose a father at the age of three, he will have most likely inherited some wealth from the sale of The Talbot business, he certainly became wealthy on the death of his uncle. Clearly they both were successful businessman and as they were just five years apart in age, uncle and nephew must have been more like brothers.

Once Henry died, Owden was able to concentrate on socially worthwhile projects such as running of the workhouse, and records show he attracted a loyal following across all sectors of society - he promoted a hybrid mix of socialist and capitalist views.

Cuckfield benefitted from the business acumen of Thomas's father and can be proud to have been the birthplace of a well liked and successful Mayor of London.



Owden family grave in Highgate Cemetery

James Scott's name: We sourced the first name of the partner (or the partner's son) who helped run the Talbot from the 1802 will of John Buckwell of Framfield grandson of the above refers to the sale of 'my capital messuage … situate in the town of Cuckfield commonly called or known by the name or sign of The Talbot, to James Scott of Cuckfield, Innkeeper'.

The later career biography: Claus, Peter Mark (1998). ’Real Liberals’ and Conservatives in the City of London, 1848-1886. PhD thesis for the Open University., 62 Bishopsgate Street

Famous City Men, biography by James Ewing Ritchie, 1884 P139

Celebrities of the Day, British and Foreign Vol I

A Monthly Repertoire of Contemporary Biography

No. I. APRIL, 1881. Vol. I., Biography Alderman Sir Thomas S. Owden

Where date references are given above these will have been sourced in including the following:

John Owden's death

Thomas Owden's marriage to Ann Scambler

John Owden's apprenticeship

Thomas's Freedom of the City of London

Debrett's illustrated baronetage and knightage (and companionage) of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1880, P1524

Visitation of Ireland (Vol 1) 1897 P5

‘The Innholders - a history of the Worshipful Company of Innholders’ by Stephen Coote, 2002 Collectors Book.

A detail from a drawing showing 'the Hound' from Cuckfield Fair illustration: Rowlandson visited Cuckfield Fair in 1789 to make drawings for his book 'An Excursion to Brighthelmstone made in the year 1789'. The volumen was a joint venture with his friend Henry Wigstead (1760 - 1800) and was intended to illustrate their journey to Brighton, then known as Brightelmstone, on the south coast.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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