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  • An August birthday - David Cooper, 1753-1819

An August birthday - David Cooper, 1753-1819

May I introduce David Cooper, 1753-1819, silk mercer, who has a birthday in August.

He was born on the 20th August 1753 in the City of London and baptised in St Michael Bassishaw on 9th September 1753, his parents being named as David Cooper, 1716-1792, and Rebecca Cooper, 1723-1778. Fortunately the parish register gives the date of birth as well as the baptism. “Our” David’s father was a successful man, an iron-monger, a Freeman of the City of London, a member of the Tallow Chandlers, being elected Master on 9th July 1776, and a collector for the New River Company with his place of business being the Moorgate Coffee House. Francis Cooper, 1673-1747, the grandfather of “our” David, was a friend of Joseph Truman, the brewer. Francis Cooper, d.1759, David’s uncle being the brother of David senior, was a partner in the Truman Breweries.

David’s father had married twice. His first wife died in childbirth and the child did not survive. His second wife was Rebecca Wright, 1758?-1796 from Sheffield and they had seven children – four daughters and three sons. David was the fourth child and the eldest son. Two of David’s sisters died young and two seemed to have disappeared without trace. However David and his two brothers all reached a good age, living full and successful lives.

In 1768 David was apprenticed to Richard Preston, a mercer, in Holywell Street; the fee being £100 – a large sum in those days! Then in October 1776 he and his brother Philip Cooper, 1755-1846, were admitted as members of the Tallow Chandlers Company and made Freeman of the City of London by patrimony. While David did not involve himself in the Tallow Chandlers, his brother Philip went on to being elected Master on 17th July 1828.

On the 1st November 1777 David married Fanny (Frances) Wilson in St Luke’s Old Street. The marriage licence says that her father was William Wilson of the Parish of St Martins in the Fields and that David was of the Parish of St Clement Danes. They had a daughter, Rebecca Cooper, 1781-1840, who was baptised in St Clement Danes on 6 May 1781.

An advert in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser in December 1777 suggest that David was now trading on his own at 15 Holywell Street as a mercer. It also says that he has taken the entire stock of Mr. Wilson, who was retiring; a stock of silks, satins and other materials. Is it possible that this Mr. Wilson was his father-in-law? Or is it just a co-incidence of names?

Between 1777 and 1795 David continued successfully in business at 15 Holywell Street, some directories calling him a mercer and others a silk mercer. His brother Philip pursued a similar independent career – until 1784 he was a draper at 85 Cheapside. Then between 1784 and 1797 he was silk mercer in Craven Street.

In July 1791, David’s father resigned from the New River Company as he had fallen breaking his leg in two places. He died a few months later on 24th February 1792 at the house in St Swithins Lane of his youngest son James Cooper, 1760-1858. His three sons, “our” David, Philip and James were appointed executors. A few months later the Times shows that, as executors, they put up for auction the only property that appeared in the will. It was Cooper Court in Portpool Lane, consisting of brick five messuages. These five properties were mentioned by their grandfather Francis Cooper in his will. 

Disaster and amputation

About August in 1795 David broke his leg in an accident. A newspaper report at the end of November 1796 tells the tale. He and his brother, not named, were crossing Hampstead Heath in a “one horse chair”. By this time David and his family were living in West end Hampstead. It seems that the horse was going at full speed and the shaft broke so both David and his brother leapt out. Both brothers broke a leg. It seems that David broke his so badly and the setting did not go well so he had it amputated in November 1796, some fifteen months later. It must have weighed heavily on David’s mind during that time that his father, who had died only a few years earlier, had only survived some six months after breaking his leg in two places.

On 30th September 1796, about two months before the amputation, his wife Fanny died. She is buried at St John at Hampstead. The tombstone is so eroded that the inscription is unreadable. However a local history society had previously transcribed the tombstones. It says – “Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Frances Cooper wife of Mr. David Cooper of Holywell Street St Clement Danes London who departed this life at West End in this Parish Sept 30 1796 aged 39 years”. It would seem that around this time David’s daughter Rebecca, who was about 15 years old, went to live with her mother’s parents in Yorkshire.

Recovery

Sometime after 1795, David and his brother Philip went into business together as silk mercers. An advert in the Times on 16th December 1797 states that “David and Philip Cooper, Silk Mercers to his Majesty have removed from Holywell Street to No. 28 Pall Mall”. It goes on to say “D. Cooper begs leave to return his grateful thanks to his friends for their kind consideration, is happy to acquaint them he has so far recovered his dreadful accident, as, to be able to give his personal attendance to business.”

A few months later in May 1798 his daughter, aged 17, married in Yorkshire.

Then in 1809 David married for a second time. The marriage took place in Ramsgate on 22nd November and his new wife was Dorothy Tomson, 1764-1843. Her family were long established in the Ramsgate and Deal area of Kent. Her sister Anne Simpson Tomson, 1773-1832, had married David’s brother James a few years earlier in 1805. Admiral William Fox, 1733?-1810, was an uncle to the two sisters and was a witness at both weddings.

David and Philip remain trading at 28 Pall Mall until February 1818 when they moved to new premises at 2 Waterloo Place, near to Carlton House. The newspaper advert announcing that move states that they were silk mercers to Her Majesty, and to His Majesty’s Great Wardrobe. Philip can be found still trading in Waterloo Place on the 1841 census. The premises remained in the family as it is mentioned in the will of Philip’s daughter-in-law Louisa Cooper née Delight, 1813-1882, signed in 1875 and probated in 1882.

 In January 1819 David made his will. In it he says he is “of Hammersmith and Waterloo Place”.   A reading of his will gives the impression of a warm-hearted and generous man.   There are bequests and kind words for all his close relatives. His daughter is left property in Yorkshire. He mentions his “portrait on horseback by Bestland”. This portrait is mentioned again in 1861 in the will of another member of the Cooper family.  David added two codicils to this will, one signed on the day he died.

He died on 17 February 1819, aged 65, in his house in Portland Place Hammersmith. The Times said “On the 17th inst., at his house in Portland Place, Hammersmith, David Cooper, Esq., of Waterloo Place, mercer to his Majesty”.  

On the 24th February 1819 he was buried at St Mary’s Chapel in the parish of Fulham in a family vault. This was a Chapel at Ease and eventually became a parish church now known as St Mary West Kensington.     

His executors put the house on sale almost immediately after his death. It was called Otto House and had six bedrooms, two drawing rooms, a dining room, a library, coach house and stabling, an orchard and gardens and best of all a “hot house or grapery”.   

The survivors

His daughter, Rebecca, was widowed two months after her father’s death. She went on to marry again and they moved to the West Country. She died in 1840 and is buried in Bunhill Fields.   Dorothy, David’s wife, died in 1843 in Deal. She spent time with her brother-in-law James Cooper who had married her sister. Philip kept the silk mercer business in Waterloo Place going. He died there in 1846, aged 91, and was buried alongside his brother David in what was then called the District Chapel of St Mary North End Fulham. Philip’s children did not continue the silk mercers business. James outlived them all. He died in Henley on Thames on 27th March 1858 at the grand old age of 98. 


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