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Robert Mollett 1783 or 4-1866  The between years 


Skinner Street 1809?-1817

widower sir luke files 1844.jpg
making sugared almonds.jpg
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The painting above is by Sir Luke Files and it's called The Widower, although one has to wonder who the person in the background (a woman?) is?  And the figure in his arms, who is presumably supposed to be his wife looks a bit too young.  Hopefully Robert was not quite as poor as this little family, but I doubt his situation was much better. Depending on whether Elizabeth died giving birth to William or whether she died three years later, the ages of the children is also a bit wrong.  In fact it's all a bit wrong,   But still it sort of shows Robert's predicament.  How he coped we shall never know.

What we do know is that sometime between 1806 and 1809 Robert set up his own business in Skinner Street, Hoborn - just slightly to the south of Smithfield.  


Skinner Street was a building development begun in 1802 but which was not very successful.  Maybe the prices were too high.  Whatever the reason, in 1806 after a change in the law that allowed lotteries, there was one such lottery for properties in this new street.  But again apparently there were not a lot of takers, so eventually the property must have been pretty cheap.  I do not know whether Robert acquired his property through the lottery, or whether he bought it outright, but in August 1809 he takes out an insurance policy on a property at 54 Skinner Street, and a listing in the Post Office Directory as a confectioner.  He may have been there in 1808 though as he is listed in the Land Tax returns as living in Snow Hill at that time.  Snow Hill being a street that Skinner Street sort of replaced.  I also do not know whether he was a tenant or an owner.


In 1809 he is 26 years old, and maybe his wife Elizabeth is pregnant and about to give birth to a fourth child.  He has come a long way from his childhood in Norwich.  For the picture at left is the actual property that he purchased or rented.  It looks pretty substantial to me.  A double-fronted shop and four more storeys of habitable space. Some of that space may have been rented out, but it may also have been used to house his employees - for before too long he has some.  He operated his business from there for many years.

lottery notice.jpg

There are several different versions of this picture on the net, so it is a little difficult to know exactly what it shows.  But I think we are standing at the junction of Shoe Lane with Skinner Street, looking down towards the church of St. Sepulchre in the distance. Robert's shop would have been maybe halfway along. And there was even a bus stop right outside his shop as you can see from Mogg's Omnibus Guide above. Location, location, location.

And then, just when everything is going so well, Elizabeth dies.

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The history of Skinner Street is really quite interesting and I will make a separate page on it.  In the meantime there is a link at the bottom of the page to a contemporary account. The salient points are, I suppose, that according to that writer, it was not a commercial success, which seems to be belied by the picture below and Robert's long-term residency there.  A residency that allowed him the funds to buy other properties and educate his growing family. 


Also it was a street that saw the occasional hanging - there is an account of one of them that I have reproduced in Robert's son John's story.  And potentially most significantly a few doors away was the shop of William Beckwith - a famous gunsmith.  Now John eventually married Jane Elizabeth Beckwith who must have been related in some way - too much of a coincidence surely? But as of now (2020) I have yet to find the connection. 

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I suspect that one of the best cures for grief is work.  One step at a time, with the head preoccupied with making a living one slowly moves forward out of grief and into life.  The children would, of course, have been constant reminders of their mother, but maybe a comfort too.

And who looked after the children anyway?  Robert and John would have been around five years old by then, and in those times therefore partly able to look after themselves.  But William would have been only three.  Surely Robert would have needed someone to help out with that - besides, who cooked his dinner and cleaned the house whilst he was busy running his shop?  Is this where his future wife Lucy Farr comes into the picture?  She would only have been around 12 or 13 at that time, but many young girls of this age began their working life around this age.  Or did Robert have any of his sisters nearby?  I do wonder whether his youngest sister Anna Maria may have been there, or maybe Elizabeth.  I just do not know and probably never will. 

confectioners .jpg

Somehow or other though, the business thrived.  I wish I could find an advertisement to find out what kind of business he had.  Did he just sell sweets and ice creams?  Did he sell elaborate cakes and pies?  Did he deliver to offices?  Did he cater for functions.  There are so many things that the profession of pastry cook and confectioner could cover, but it must all have centred on his shop in the middle of London's thriving business district.

And he must have made money because he seems to have begun acquiring property - or at least having a sideline  managing property for others, because in 1819 there appears an ad in The Times which is advertising rooms to let - not at Skinner Street but elsewhere:

"Apartments to let … Euston Square, New Road, … for cards of addtess apply to Mr. Wilson, tea-dealer of St. Martin’s Court; or of Mr. Mollett, 54 Skinner Street, Snow Hill."

I have no idea of who Mr. Wilson is, but it is certainly evidence that Robert didn't spend all of his time making icecream and lollies.

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And maybe he took in lodgers in his own house.  Again in 1819 in The Times he places a different advertisement on behalf of a young lady:

A young person … wishes for a situation as companion to a lady, or to take the chargeof 2 or more young ladies ….Address by letter to B.A, Mr, Mollett’s, confectioner, 54 Skinner Street, Snow Hill."

Again I have no idea who B.A might be.  Is she just a lodger or is she some kind of relative - a niece or a cousin perhaps.  And then there is Emma Mollett - who in 1841 - later in his life I know - who was at 54 Skinner Street on the night of the census.

This beautiful and detailed map is dated 1817 - about the time that Robert moved into his Skinner Street premises.  It is just around the corner from his previous homes in Cock Lane and Long Lane, and very close to all manner of other sites associated with the Mollett family line.  If you click on the map you will get a bigger view.

It's an absolutely fascinating part of London, and although many of the ancient buildings are now gone - destroyed by The Great Fire, World War 2 and just progress in general, the skeleton outline of the streets remains much the same.  The red line, of course, is where the walls used to be.

Did he send his growing sons away to school during these years?  From 1817, Robert is placing ads in the Times advertising Hatton Hall Academy in Bagshot Surrey.  Well to be specific, Robert features as a meeting point for anyone interested in sending their children to the Academy where "young gentlemen are boarded and carefully instructed by W. Ives and a Teacher, in English grammar, writing, arithmetic, merchants' accounts, geography and mensuration, for 25 guineas per annum."


You would think would you not that if he was recommending this school then he would have sent his children there.  Maybe it was a way of paying the fees.


By 1817 when the first advertisement appears his twins were 13 and his youngest son 11, so if educated, would have surely started school at a much earlier age.  Maybe this is how Robert coped all those years alone.

I have written about Hatton Hill in John's story so I won't repeat it all here.  But I do think that this is what happened, although where he found the money for all of this will forever be a mystery to me.  He must have worked very hard all through his late twenties and well into his thirties.  For 8 years or so he was on his own with three small children to bring up and a business to build.  A remarkable feat I think considering how well his three sons turned out, and how his business grew.

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St. Sepulchre's and its neighbourhood in Old and New London v.2 1878 - The admirable British History Online site has reproduced  this detailed commentary on Skinner Street.

National Archives Research Guide on Apprenticeships - where to find records of apprenticeships, plus access to some online records.

And then in January 1817 Robert marries Lucy Farr.  After almost ten years he is no longer alone.



Marriage no.1

The between years

Marriage no. 2

Old age and death

The children (1)

The children (2)


Robert Mollett 1783 or 4 - 1866

Robert Mollett 1746 or 48 - 1816 or 1829

Temperance Boast/Bast/Bost/Base or 

Phoebe Sparden

Elizabeth Foster

Lucy Farr

John Mollett

Holborn and Skinner Street



Stoke Newington

Pastrycooks and confectioners

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