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From Cedars Estate to Soho Square – the story of the Blackwells in Harrow

If you find yourself on Uxbridge Road there is a chance you will see a set of iron gates. These gates, however, are not placed randomly. They were once the grade entrance to the Cedars Estate.

The Cedars were the home to the famous Harrow Weald family, the Blackwells. Known for their many business ventures, the first notable Blackwell was Charles Blackwell. From humble beginnings, Charles married recently widowed Mary Waller. The two went on to marry and Charles quickly rose in the ranks and took control of Marys late father’s brick-making business. The two went on to have a total of 10 children.

The eldest child, also named Charles went on to take over the family business, which by 1861 was becoming increasingly successful. A local census from the year showed that the company employed around 70 people.

From Cedars Estate to Soho Square - the story of the Blackwells in Harrow Harrow Online
Credit: Harrow Online

The fourth of their children, Thomas proved that the Blackwells have business in their blood. As a young man, he was the apprentice to William Wyatt. Wyatt was the co-owner, alongside Richard West, of West & Wyatt, a business that held Royal Warrants to supply salted fish to George III, George IV and Willian IV.

As an apprentice, Thomas formed a lifelong friendship with Edmund Crosse who would later go on to become his business partner. The two purchased West & Wyatt for £600 following the death of Richard West and the retirement of William Wyatt. This led to the famous Harrow-born brand, ‘Crosse & Blackwell’.

Crosse and Blackwell had many prosperous years and went on to become the first business in the world to mass produce jam. By 1844, the company had a capital of £26,000. It had become especially successful in export trade and then produced over 70 varieties of sauces, pickles and soup. Specialising in preserved food was vital at this point, especially with the wealthy as you buyers.

From Cedars Estate to Soho Square - the story of the Blackwells in Harrow Harrow Online
Crosse& Blackwell mushy peas. Credit: World Open Food Facts

Over the years Crosse and Blackwell tried various endeavours, they opened a salmon cannery in Cork, Ireland in 1849 and showed a dedication to luxury, freshness and quality. By 1851, the company employed 126 people. With their main place of production now out of Harrow and in Soho Square, the pair decided that it was time to expand. They opened up a second Soho Square building and their products were selling out.

Further expansion of the business led to premises in Soho Square, Sutton Place, George Yards, Denmark Street, Stacey Street, Dean Street and Earl Street by 1868. The firm now held a good reputation, especially as an employer having over 1000 employees by 1870.

Thomas Blackwell, leading a well-established life, had married June Ann Bernasconi of the Clock House in Harrow Weald. The Clock House would later be renamed The Cedars. From the humble beginnings of Charles Blackwell to the success of Thomas Blackwell, the Cedars have housed many over the years.

From Cedars Estate to Soho Square - the story of the Blackwells in Harrow Harrow Online
Credit: Harrow Online

The last to live in The Cedars was Thomas’s son, Thomas Jr. Following his father’s death in 1879, Thomas Jr lived out the rest of his days on the estate before passing in 1907. The Cedars stood on the grounds for another 50 years before the London County Council claimed the land for social housing and public space.

The Cedars Estate is an almost forgetting part of Harrows long history. If you find yourself in the area, take a walk through what is left of The Cedars and pay attention to what once was.

Read more about Harrow’s history.