More Morrison mysteries

Subtitled : A Wapping Mess

So many questions, so little time to find answers, and even fewer facts.

On Wednesday I reported on the story of Alexander Morrison the Younger (1761-1816?) who was a ship chandler and coal merchant in Wapping (now Wapping High Road). The story goes that his Wapping premises was demolished to make an entrance during construction of the London Docks (1799-1815), and that he moved to Jane Street off Commercial Road. The original premises were said to be next to Wapping Old Stairs and the Town of Ramsgate Hotel. Indeed that is where one finds the old entrance to the docks (now also filled in).

His firm, Rice Morrison & Price, traded at 6 Wapping, and as the street is presently numbered, this would align the address with dock entrance. However directories show the firm trading at that address as late as 1822,  and after he died (if he is the Alexander Morrison who died in 1816 and is buried at St Anne’s Soho – that always seemed suspect to me).

In addition Mr Morrison is shown living at 7 Jane Street as early as 1805, with the firm still in Wapping and in 1807 when Alexander Morrison the Youngest (1792-1834) is recorded in the Register of the apprentices of Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London:

“MORRISON, Alexander, 2 Nov. 1807, s. Alexander: Jane St., Commercial Road,
to David Alexander Bucquet, Cannon St., St. George in the East, watchmaker, 
20 (pounds).”

Amazingly, on reviewing my notes from research at the tower Hamlets Historical Society on Wednesday, I discovered that Alexander the watchmaker conducted business at 5 Dukes Row, Somer’s Town (now St Pancras) and that this turns out to be behind where I am staying in Cartwright Gardens.


Possibly these premises are now occupied by a Travel Inn on the corner of Euston Rd and opposite what is now New St Pancras Parish Church (commenced 1816) and where I attend evensong on Sunday when I am in London.

By 1819, the watch and clock shop was in Commercial Road Whitechapel, by which date Alexander the youngest, had been married to Sarah Cox in St Mary Magdalene’s Bermondsey (1816). I still haven’t worked out the Bermobdsey connection, found Sarah’s family or any children who were born and died before Alexander and Sarah migrated to Hobart in 1821.

There is another Alexander Morrison, the Senior, who is possibly the father of the ship chandler. That Alexander was a witness to a declaration in 1766 that dissenters to the C of E were meeting in a ‘chapel’ in Broad Street Wapping (Tower Hamlets Document ref: 2331).

The Scotch Chapel in St Vincent’s Street (aka Saint Andrew’s Scotch Church) started out as a Dissenter’s Meeting House in Broad Street on map above (now Reardon Street), in Wapping in 1668. It was started by Yorkshire born John Ryther.  After the Great Ejection of 1662, and the Indulgence that followed, there were five licensed Dissenting meetings in the old Stepney parish.  In 1668 one of these meetings built a Presbyterian church in Broad Street, Wapping. Between 1665 and 1740 the names of 14 minister are recorded – many of whom were ejected vicars and rectors from the Church of England in east London and Essex.

It was here that all the children of Alexander Morrison (Ships Chandler) were baptised.

With the construction of the London Dock, the Wapping church lost its building in 1822 and moved north of what is now Commercial Road to a new building in St Vincent Street, Stepney (now Philpot st) – an area by Arbour Square where the streets were named after the West Indies) as ‘St Andrew’s Scotch Chapel’.

Broad Street is now Reardon Street, Johnson Street is now Chandler Street, Love Lane now Meeting House Lane.  There seems to be an obsession with street name changes in this part of London.

The chapel entioned by Maitland in 1756, and shown on Rocque’s plan below.

More work to be done when I return from Israel for one day (12 May).



  1. Elsbeth

    Isn’t it fascinating being able to catch a glimpse, be it centuries later, of previous generations and the way they lived. You write of London and it’s street name changes, I explored Aberdovey in Wales, now grown to spread to what was a separate town, where my godmother’s family lived. I was intrigued by the contrasts.

  2. A most interesting history. Could you contact me as I am currently researching Alexander Morrison, watchmaker born 1792, who emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1821 and died in 1837. His details seem to match many of your Alexander Morrison.

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