Records which give us rich details about the minutiae of day-to-day life in the past can be hard to come by. Household accounts are a seemingly mundane source but can give us an insight into what goods and services were available, who was supplying them, and how much items cost. The papers of Charles and Charlotte Canning contain a file of bills or invoices with receipts for payments 1850-1851. It provides a glimpse into the lives of these elite members of the Victorian aristocracy and how they ran their household.
Goods offered by J. C. Cording, nautical and sporting waterproofer and tailor, 231 Strand - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9
The Cannings lived at 10 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, from 1836 until 1855, when Charles was appointed Governor General of India. The Cannings spent money on the fabric of the building. William Allen, plumber, painter and glazier, billed them for £121 7s 0d for work carried out from January-October 1850, including repairs to burst pipes ‘injured by frost’. His invoice was submitted in December 1850 and paid in August 1851.
The couple’s expenditure on clothing is shown. In June 1851, Ashmead & Tyler, hatters by Royal Appointment, supplied a ‘Dress drab napless Hat with Velvet band & Ostrich Feather for HM Fancy Ball’, at a cost of £1 13s 0d, ‘drab’ being fine quality fur. Clothes weren’t always bought new, but were made over, mended, and adjusted. H.C. Curlewis of 58 Conduit Street provided alteration services such as adding new collars, in addition to supplying new waistcoats and silk-lined frock coats. Their bill of £22 10s 0d for January-July 1850 was paid on 5 February 1851.
Recycling was common. A bill from George & William Atkins, brush manufacturers, turners and wax chandlers of Mount Street, Berkeley Square, shows that the Cannings paid £2 13s 0d in 1850 to have several ivory and silver brushes refilled with hair. There are additional bills for repairs to various household items, including a ‘cheese toaster’.
Bill for personal hygiene products from J & E Atkinson perfumers, 24 Old Bond Street- Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9
There are bills for personal hygiene products. Throughout 1850 the household made regular purchases from J & E Atkinson, perfumers of New Bond Street, for items such as quinine tooth powder, violet powder, Eau de Botot, rose mouthwash, Eau de Cologne, soap (both Pears and Castile) and sponges. The total cost was £8 18s 8d. Professional services were also paid for. ‘Medical attendance’ by Thomas Chilver of 14 New Burlington Street and Robert Cundy of Belgrave Square, cost £7 10s 6d. The doctors visited the housekeeper Mrs Cunningham, the coachman, and the footman.
Bankruptcy papers for William Goodchild Shipley - Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9
Suppliers submitted invoices for goods and services supplied three, six or even twelve months earlier, a system which did not always end happily. Bankruptcy proceedings against William Goodchild Shipley of 17 Market Row, Oxford Street, dated 21 December 1850 show the Cannings owed £51 11s 6d for forage for horses.
Items purchased include: candles (wax, India, margarine, sperm); horse stabling, tack, and feed; books; paper and envelopes; shaving powder; duelling pistols; carpets, curtains and household furnishings; cigars, tobacco and pipes; umbrellas; fishing boots; clothing (including for servants); wallpapering; picture framing; candelabras; coffee cups and saucers; silver inkstand; crystal glasses and tumblers; subscription to Hansard’s Parliamentary debates; gloves; newspapers; patent wine cooler; silvered globe; porcelain service; champagne, French truffles, dried cherries and dates; reading lamp; portfolio of nautical charts; railway guides; Turkish towels; hairdressing services; clock cleaning; and silk fringing.
Cataloguer, India Office Records
Mss Eur F699 Papers of Charles Canning and Charlotte Canning, Earl and Countess Canning (including file Mss Eur F699/1/4/11/9 Household Bills and Receipts, 1850-51)