In 1799 George James Lock (James Lock II) married Caroline Hall and in 1800 their first child, James Lock III was born. There followed a daughter in 1801 called Caroline; in 1803 a second boy, George; and in 1806 a third boy called Henry.
In 1806 the ‘old Mr Lock’ passed away and in his will he left the residue of his estate to George James Lock ‘who succeeded me in the business’. He left money in trust for a Charlotte Vanderpant and her sons and for Peggy Nixon. The will was devised so that if any of the beneficiaries predeceased his grandson James Lock Nixon their shares would revert to the boy, and if the boy died before his father then the bulk of the fortune would revert to Captain Thomas Nixon, Surgeon in the First Regiment of Foot.
As James Lock had predicted James Lock Nixon joined his father’s regiment in 1812 and three years later died on the battlefield of Waterloo.
Pollution had become an increasing problem in London and with an enlarging family, and a wife who had been used to living in a certain style in Mayfair, James Lock II moved his family out of the living accommodation above the shop and to a large property in East Sheen. He soon disposed of the lease for this property and moved to Richmond where he commuted to work in a carriage with an armorial bearing.
Unfortunately he was unable to tether the carriage in Crown Passage behind the shop and so had to lease a coach house and stables in Ormond Yard that was near Jermyn Street. His outgoings on this and his house in Richmond amounted to several times the rent payable for No. 6 for which the lease had only eight years left to run. It was highly unlikely that it would be renewed at the current figure of £52 10s 0d.
At this time turnover was in steady decline with competition increasing. A Mr. Dolman set up his business of Hatter and Hosier at No. 8 and there were hatters at No. 2 and No. 79 St. James’s Street. There was also competition from Piccadilly and Bond Street where the fashionable ‘loungers’ such as Beau Brummel flocked. With the country under war footing from the threat of Napoleon, business costs were on the increase.
James Lock II, perhaps because of his background, appeared more interested in playing the gentleman than getting a grip on the challenges the business faced. He started to spend less time at No. 6 and left the running of the business to Robert Lincoln who had become his business partner. Robert Lincoln had been a friend of James Lock I and in 1798 he had been apprenticed to James Lock II for a period of 5 years. In 1801 he was promoted from the counter to the counting house where James Lock II was always having trouble balancing the figures. In 1803 it was proposed that he should have a contract of employment for a further six years with the prospect of an eventual partnership. In 1810 both gentlemen entered into a partnership and Robert Lincoln moved into No. 6 with his family.
Unfortunately James Lock II continued to live above his means and the expenses of Robert Lincoln started to grow as well. Robert Lincoln was also starting to get involved in other business ventures that were not always successful. By the end of 1814 James Lock II owed the company £1,400 and when Lincoln remonstrated with him he replied ‘I can do nothing. I am in so much distress for my private debts that I do not know which way to turn’. To escape their creditors they borrowed £3,000 from a Mr. Nathanial Darwin on payment of an annuity of £300 per annum and James Lock persuaded Robert Lincoln to approach Captain Nixon for a loan of £3,000 from the estate of his dead son.
Robert Lincoln tried to persuade James Lock to cut back on his spending but without any great effect and soon the creditors were knocking on the door. The partners quarrelled bitterly.
In 1819 a meeting took place at No. 6 between Robert Lincoln and James Lock II with Robert Lincoln’s Lawyer, Mr Wilson, present along with his articled clerk - who happened to be James Lock III, an alert 19 year old.
It was agreed that the partnership of 1809 was rescinded and Robert Lincoln was given a larger share of the business. It was also agreed that George Lock, James Lock II’s second son should be an apprentice to Robert Lincoln. James Lock II agreed to retire to the country, at Lyndhurst in Hampshire, in order to be as small a burden on the business as possible. Robert Lincoln agreed to rent the property at East Sheen for £70 per annum and George Lock and James Lock III would move into No. 6 with Mr. Moss, the clerk, and Mrs Moss to look after them. Mr Wilson also got James Lock II to agree reluctantly that the £3,000 loan from Nathanial Darwin was his personal responsibility.
James Lock III, despite his youth realised that the future success of the business and the prospects of his younger brother George depended on Robert Lincoln. He tried to help the ailing business by borrowing some capital which he then lent on to Robert Lincoln for the business, but by then it was too late.
Robert Lincoln’s other business activities had continued to prove costly and James Lock found that he could not live on his annuity in the country. Any trust between the two men had disappeared and James Lock II stormed back to No. 6 to demand payment of £6,000.
The dispute went to arbitration, at more cost to both parties, and James Lock III, whose loan to Robert Lincoln had also proved irrecoverable, took over the company and its debts. However, business continued to be poor and bankruptcy loomed. James Lock III got the creditors to accept payment of fourteen shillings in the pound over the next two years for his fathers’ personal debts. In return for the goodwill of the business and for stock and furniture at No. 6 James Lock III would pay his father an annuity of £250 per annum.
James Lock II agreed to this and left these shores for Calais where a gentleman could still live cheaply. At the age of 51 he married a young lady called Elizabeth Vale and fathered four children. He lived on to the ripe old age of 90 on £250 a year.
With James Lock III at the helm, confidence in the business at No. 6 grew and in 1826 young George was out of his indentures and the brothers drew up a formal partnership. The business was to be known as ‘James and George Lock’ and after 21 years would revert wholly to James. The annuity to their father was to be paid out of the business.
The sign over the shop remained James Lock and the two brothers together took on the persona of James Lock. James was the administrator and bookkeeper while George was a practised craftsman who was well versed in every part of the process of hat making.
In 1833 when George married Louisa Prater, daughter of prosperous silk mercer in the City, she moved in above the shop and James moved into bachelor chambers at 19 Buckingham Street. James Lock III put all his efforts into the family business and making sure that his siblings were happy. He felt a special care to Ann Lock and was determined that she should marry for love and not economic necessity. She became a student at Miss Prowting’s Academy at Guildford and when her education was considered complete she graduated to the staff at the Academy.
While working in Guildford Ann met a Charles Whitbourn whose father held the title Warden of the Corporation of Godalming. Charles came from a wealthy family of farmers, millers and tanners although he was a country man of leisure. Ann was determined that she should wed Charles although she faced opposition from his uncles Thomas and Richard. They felt that there was nothing to be gained from the marriage as Ann Lock was without land of her own. James Lock III was also concerned about the match because he did not see the work ethic in the young Charles and he had already experienced the effects that this could bring.
Ann, however had her way and she married Charles Whitbourn in Godalming Church in 1836. The following year she gave birth to a boy who sadly lived only a few days. In 1838 a second boy, Christopher, was born and in 1840 a third son, Charles Richard, was born. Unfortunately Christopher died in 1844 and Ann’s health was never good after the birth of her first child. With the help of James Lock III she moved to the seaside at Littlehampton with her husband and surviving child.
The business at No. 6 continued to flourish and took in the development of the Coke (Bowler Hat) and the grey topper known as the Ascot and to be only worn at that particular race meet.
In 1865 George Lock died and his foreman, James Benning, was a legatee of his will. James Lock III recognized that Mr Benning was a competent successor to his brother and he soon took over all his dead masters’ responsibilities.
James Lock III realised that he needed to find a successor for himself and he looked no further than his nephew Charles Richard Whitbourn who was known as Charley to distinguish him from his father. However, there was much opposition to this offer of a partnership in the business. Charley’s paternal grandmother wanted him to join the Church whereas his father felt that the role of a ‘shopkeeper’ was beneath him and the family.
James Lock III managed to persuade Charley that if he took up the position he would be able to provide for himself and look after his mother in the event of his father’s death. His father had not been prudent with his income and was having to dip into his capital. James also told Charley that he would not have to actually serve in the shop but that he would have his own office like his uncle Richard, who was a banker.
On 31st December 1871 the interim tripartite association which James Lock III had arranged with his two protégés was dissolved and the business at No. 6 was handed over to James Benning and C.R. Whitbourn as equal partners. James Lock III assigned all his interest in the company for an annuity of £400 which would help him in his retirement as he was now 70 years old.
Having sorted out the inheritance issue at No 6 James Lock III surprised everyone by taking a wife. Her name was Miss Mariane Selot, whose father was a partner at Fortnum and Mason’s. They married in 1872 and in 1874 they had a daughter called Amy who eventually married a George Scorer and lived until 1962.
The persona of James Lock lived on in the form of James Benning who would sit at his desk by the window observing the passage of customers alighting outside the shop. He was described as having the manners of a very grand and distinguished butler.
His partner, Charles Whitbourn, remained in the counting house from where he seldom appeared. He controlled income and expenditure and recorded every transaction in great detail.
The relationship of the two partners was very formal but they each respected what the other brought to the business. They did not mix socially as Charles Whitbourn thought Benning was a bit of a rough diamond in spite of his ingratiating manners while Benning thought Whitbourn to be something of a snob.
Charles Whitbourn’s attitude to the shop was ambivalent as he both loved and hated it. He loved it for the sake of his mother and uncle but hated it for the aspect of servitude it brought. Unfortunately this came out in a terrible temper and he was known to bully the staff and was much feared because of it.
James Benning died in 1899 and his place at the window and in the partnership was taken by his grandson, George James Stephenson, who had joined the firm in 1894. G.J. Stephenson got to grips with the extended credit that had been offered to customers, despite the angry protestations from Charles Whitbourn that it was not gentlemanly to chase reputable people for their debts. Gradually he was able to reduce the list of outstanding debtors, keeping a black book of defaulters, and contributed in keeping prices stable.
Suppliers also found that if there goods were not up to standard they were returned and if they repeated the error they were replaced.