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Thomas Elsley - Ironmonger

Thomas Elsley 1838 - 1926

An impressive obelisk marks the grave of Thomas Elsley and his second wife Lilian.

Thomas was born in Guildford in 1838, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Ann Elsley. Thomas senior was a tin plate worker and his 4 sons all became ironmongers.

In 1863, Thomas married Sarah Trigg and by 1871 they were living at 32 Great Portland Street, London with his youngest brother Henry as assistant to his manufacturing ironmonger business. It was at Great Portland Street that he established his Portland Metalworks business at numbers 32 – 34. By 1881 he had also accumulated premises in Great Titchfield Street. Thomas now employed 60 persons – 50 men, 2 women and 8 boys. He and his wife had moved to Goldhawk Road in Hammersmith. Around 1897 he converted the firm into a limited company and consolidated his Portland Metalworks to Great Titchfield Street alone.

A t this point, Elsleys were making fireplaces and other art metalwork for leading architects, as well as structural features such as locks, skylights and ventilators. Charles Voysey was a designer in the Arts and Crafts style who designed hearths and door furniture for him. Murray Marks supplied Dutch tiles for incorporation into Elsleys fireplaces.

Elsley House and Elsley Court, art deco buildings were built on the Portland Estate site in the 1930’s.

Sarah Elsley died in 1898 in Eastbourne where they had recently moved to 30 Upperton Road (since demolished). Thomas had largely retired from the business by this stage. He remarried in 1901 to Lilian Eliza Grover. He was 63 and Lilian was 24 years old. Their only child, Lilian Martha Elsley was born in 1903. By 1911 the family had moved to Tunbridge Wells where he had purchased the substantial Hungershall Lodge.

Thomas died on 12 January 1926 leaving an estate valued at £182,086 10s 4d. He left bequests of £50 to each of the Church Missionary Society, the Church Pastoral Aid Society, the Salvation Army, Dr Barnardo’s Homes, the Middlesex Hospital, the Tunbridge Wells General Hospital, the Tunbridge Wells Eye and Ear Hospital, and the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital. The majority of his estate, his shares in Messrs. Thomas Elsley Ltd and his residence he left to his wife, with legacies to various nephews and nieces, plus provision for his daughter Lilian.

Some of Thomas Elsley’s firegrates and other art metal works are in the British Museum.

Lilian Eliza Elsley remained living in Hungershall Lodge until her death in 1945, leaving £115,331.

Lilian Martha lived at Langton Court, Broom Lane, Langton Green, where she died unmarried in 1988.

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