Shedding some light on the Plymouth Paddons

Contributed by Nigel Overton, City Heritage Curator, The Box, Plymouth Museums Galleries Archives

Further word from Plymouth confirms that Henry John Paddon (1803-1874) and Francis William Paddon (c.1804?-1860) were indeed two individuals, but they were two men who had much in common. Both are mentioned in the Harris family correspondence, and both appear to have individual histories of insolvency and or bankruptcy. Perhaps less surprisingly, the two Paddons were brothers.

Edwin Harris’s brother-in-law Francis Paddon was believed to be culpable in the financial circumstance that first brought the Harris family to New Zealand. Henry Paddon is also mentioned in family dispatches (letter dated 17 Jan 1842) and, like Edwin, spent time at ‘Ilchester Mansion’, in prison as a debtor.

Henry and Francis were the sons of John (1778-1864) and Grace Paddon. John hailed from Exeter but was certainly working as a ‘broker’ on Fox-hole (later Vauxhall) Street in Plymouth by 1815. Their son Henry Paddon was born in Plymouth in 1803, but it seems Francis Paddon may well have been born at Fowey in Cornwall, where he was baptised in 1807. There were at least three other siblings, Elizabeth Ann Paddon (1805-1902), Harriet Willis Paddon (1809-1880) and Robert George Paddon (1814-1836), the latter described as being the “youngest son” on his early death.

By around April 1827, John and his eldest son Henry were working as Auctioneers, trading in Plymouth as Paddon and Son, or John L Paddon and Son. Francis William followed a different path. By August 1829 he had established himself in the Printing business and, the following year, he opened ‘Paddon’s News and Reading Rooms’ at the prestigious and recently opened Royal Union Baths.

Father John Paddon was long-lived. He continued working as an Auctioneer in Plymouth, sharing a Plymouth family home with wife Grace (nee Willis) and daughter Elizabeth. In the 1851 Census he is listed as a widower but still described himself as an “Auctioneer”. By 1861 he considered himself “Retired”. He died in 1864.

The two sibling family stories will now be summarised separately, but there is one definite cross-over, and one is left wondering if the two brothers were ever also connected by the circumstances that led to any of their subsequent individual business and financial difficulties…

Henry John Paddon married Jane Ann Shepheard (1806-1849) at Charles Church, Plymouth in 22 May 1825. They were living at 47 Park Street in 1837 but had moved to 33 Whimple Street by the time of the 1841 Census. The couple went on to have at least eleven children, but the death of Jane, on 2 January 1849, must have put a terrific strain on the family and their circumstance.

In the 1851 Census, eight of their children appear to have been living together in a house belonging to Henry’s father-in-law John Shepheard at 48 Park Street, with their second born, John Paddon (b.1827) as “Head” of the household. Although, Henry John Paddon is yet to be found in the UK Census for 1851 and 1861, his name is associated with the same Park Street address, as “Occupier”, in a Rate Book for 1860. He is also still in Plymouth in 1871, three years before his death, living with his widowed daughter Elizabeth Jarvis (nee Shepheard; b.1832) and her two children; one of many families in a large lodging house at 10 Green Street. His relationship to the household is given as “Grandfather” – which is right on two counts!

In business, Henry started out with his father, and Paddon & Son remained in business together until the partnership was dissolved on 6 June 1837. Henceforth, father and son each worked independently in Plymouth as an “Auctioneer, Appraiser and General Agent”. On 26 November 1841, Henry was in Court at Exeter and, as a result, he is listed in the Devon ‘Register of Insolvent Debtors (1835-1847)’. This case presumably relates to Henry’s previously referred to visit to ‘Ilchester Mansion’, although his debts were seemingly discharged by the end of 1841.

However, Henry is in trouble again in late 1846 (The London Gazette).

Interestingly, given what you will go on to read about brother Francis, in 1871 Henry is describing himself as an “Accountant”.

Francis William Paddon married Ann Mountjoy Hill (1808-1887) at Charles Church on 10 December 1833. They appear to have had just the two children, Frank or ‘Francis’ William (1837-1871) was the first born. A daughter, Mary Mountjoy (1849-1925), was born over ten years later. Mary’s given place of birth varies from source to source; possibly at Plympton St Mary and possibly at Mutley, both were then just outside of Plymouth, but both are now part of the City.

By comparison with his elder brother, Francis’ business and financial woes appear to have been much the worse. He had evolved his first business as a Printer to that of “Printer and Stationer”, but he was in trouble early on. Francis was declared Insolvent on 4 January 1831 and Bankrupt on 1 February.

He next appears in Plymouth as a Carrier or, more fully, as a “common-carrier, commission agent and consignee”. For a time he is in partnership with his father-in law William Hill, but this partnership was formally dissolved on 24 April 1835, with Francis carrying-on alone and picking-up the responsibility for any outstanding debts.

A newspaper advert for the sale of this business, published in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 18 February 1837, signals more trouble ahead; interestingly the sale is handled by his father and brother’s firm of Paddon and Son. Francis is declared Bankrupt again in March 1837.

Next, and with your author not fully understanding the process and proceedings relating to Insolvency and Bankruptcy in the mid-1800s (or indeed now), he can only report that further proceedings appeared in The London Gazette and The Jurist in April 1839.

By the time of the 1841 Census, Francis is living on Glanville Street, Plymouth, with his wife and their infant son Frank – although he now describes his occupation as “Accountant”. Perhaps more worryingly, his name appears in the press again in August 1846. The headline in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette of 15 August 1846 reads “Important and Extraordinary Case”. This time it reports Bankruptcy proceedings in the case of Burrows and Gliddon, Brewers of Plymouth – but it turns out Francis Paddon had been “advising the bankrupt about difficulties in business”. To be fair, he had some personal experience to draw-on…

There are many details still to find out, and that need to be better understood, in order to fully colour-in the varied business activities of Francis Paddon, but he is in financial difficulties again in 1846-47 (The London Gazette 1846, The Jurist 1847). This leads to a spell of confinement at the St Thomas the Apostle Debtor’s Prison on Cowick Street in Exeter.

In February 1850 we find Francis facing new problems. A notice in the Western Courier, West of England Conservative, Plymouth & Devonport Advertiser, dated 14 February 1850, gives forewarning by announcing the dissolution of a partnership between Francis Paddon, Thomas Prout and George Marshall, all of Plymouth; with the latter named henceforth responsible for any debts. This time the business involved the then newly growing China Clay industry, with their interests apparently centred on Botus Flemming in Cornwall, just west of Plymouth. Bankruptcy for Francis inevitably follows.

It is therefore unsurprising that, at the time of the 1851 Census, Francis Paddon is again an inmate at St Thomas’ in Exeter – helpfully, with his birth place listed as Fowey in Cornwall, but his occupation now given as a “Clay Manufacturer”. In the same year, his wife Ann and their two children are lodging at 158 Fore Street in Saltash, just the other side of the River Tamar from Plymouth. Ann describes herself as an “Accountant’s wife”.

By the time of the 1861 Census, Ann has relocated to Lambeth, London and is keeping a Lodging House at 4 St George’s Place. She is now also widowed. However, it would appear that Francis had moved to London with his wife, and it is the death of ‘our’ Francis William Paddon that was registered at Lambeth in London in the second quarter of 1860. Their daughter Mary Paddon, 12, is boarding in Liskeard, Cornwall, at the school kept by Miss Loveday Adams and Mrs Mary Tickel, where her aunt Emma Hill is a governess. Ann Paddon will inherit the New Zealand Harris correspondence after Emma Hill’s death in 1866, and Mary Paddon will keep some of those letters after her mother’s death in 1887 and send copies of them to New Zealand.

‘Aunt Paddon,’ Harris Family Album, p22


‘Cousin Mary Mountjoy Paddon,’ Harris Family Album, p22

2 thoughts on “Shedding some light on the Plymouth Paddons

  1. what a wonderful lot of details!
    I now am curious about the etymology of the Fox hole / Vauxhall link. Which came first? Assuming they are variants of each other.

    1. Fox-Hole Quay and Fox-Hole Street were on the NW side of Sutton Pool. There is mention of ‘Foxhole’ in 1663 and this name remains in local use for at least 150 years.

      Foxhole Street is marked on John Cooke’s Map of c.1820 (viewable on Both addresses are also still listed in Pigot’s Directory of 1822-23 (and quite possibly in later directories too).

      However, Benjamin Donn’s Map of Plymouth in 1765 instead marks Foxhole as Vauxhall Street. (It’s viewable on Wiki or as above). So too a map by William Simpson dated 1786. In case you are wondering, the quay itself runs eastward from the junction of Woolster Street and Foxhole/Vauxhall Street.

      So, maybe the transition starts out as how a visiting cartographer might have misheard the word ‘Foxhole’… but perhaps the much later more general adoption of ‘Vauxhall’ was about a more fashionable address…? (Perhaps linked to the growing fame and popularity of Vauxhall Gardens in London…?). Guess we’ll never know…

      FYI – Nowadays, Vauxhall Street has subsumed Woolster Street. Happily, Foxhole Quay is still known as Vauxhall Quay. It is fronted by several historic warehouse buildings, some built as ‘Prize Stores’ during the Napoleonic Wars.

      Incidentally, also marked on Donn’s Map (1765)you will find Charles Church and, nearby, Green(e) Street, both referred to in the Paddon text. Also, W(h)imple Street (near St Andrew’s Church). Park Street, a little to the north-east of Ham Street, had yet to be developed – but it does appear on Cooke’s Map (1820).

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