JAMES PILTON’S MENAGERIE

Piltonprint

Louis’ son Joseph William, returning home in 1814 as a naval commander after seventeen years’ war service at sea, which was punctuated only by the occasional shore leave and his year-long convalescence from his wound, fell in love with Theresa Philo ‘Tizzie’ Pilton and married her on the 5th March 1816.  Theresa was Fanny Bergman’s niece, daughter of her sister Louisa, who had married James Pilton of Chelsea.  It is likely that Joseph and Theresa had known each other since childhood, given the close family connection, but since Joseph had gone away to sea at the tender age of twelve, there would have been little chance for the romance to blossom until he returned.

The Pilton family were all wireworkers, producing all manner of garden furniture and fences for the gentry.  The 1808 Post Office Directory lists:
Pilton, James, Manufacturer of Pleasure Ground Fences; warehouse 204, Piccadilly; the Manufactory, Kings Road, Chelsea
Pilton & Redgrove, wireworkers, 20, New Bond Street;
Pilton, W., Wireworker, 214, Piccadilly;

In 1809 James Pilton’s Manufactory in King’s Road advertised its fences, verandahs, and other ornamental metalwork. James Pilton invented what he called his Invisible Fence, which was a ‘fence made of tort elastic wire, which becomes invisible at a comparatively short distance, calculated for pleasure-grounds’.   Presumably if used across a vista on a country estate in conjunction with thin metal posts it would keep the stock out of the gardens and not spoil the view, as it could hardly be seen at a distance, and would be cheaper and less permanent than a ha-ha. 

James Faulkner, in his An Historical and Topographical Account of Chelsea and its Environs, published in 1810, says:
PILTON’S  MENAGERIE.
In the King’s Road is a grand menagerie for foreign and English birds, the property of Mr. James Pilton; as also his manufactory of light fences for inclosing lawns, shrubberies, and ornamented walks; which is, very properly, called Invisible Fence: as at a comparatively small distance they vanish from the eye, and leave the prospect free and uninterrupted.  We understand that this manufactory has been established under the distinguished patronage of their Majesties and Royal Family, who have been graciously pleased to honour the proprietor with their presence to view the works and grounds.  The manufactory also extends, generally, to various other and ornamental works, which are particularly adapted to country residences. Indeed, the novelty of this establishment, altogether, and the judicious manner in which the various specimens are displayed for public inspection, render it highly interesting, and worthy of attention.

“TOWARDS the end of the thirties there stood in the King’s Road, Chelsea, between the present Radnor Street and Shawfield Street, a deserted mansion known as the Manor-House. It was spacious, if not lofty, and had apparently nothing to do with the two historical manor-houses of Chelsea…  About 1809 the Manor-House had been occupied by James Pilton, manufacturer of ornamental works for country residences (fences, summer-houses, etc.), and the grounds were neatly laid out as an open – air showroom, with a small menagerie and aviaries.”
[Cremorne and the later London gardens;  By Warwick William Wroth, 1907]

The fact that the land was ‘occupied’ by Pilton suggests that he leased it or even ‘squatted’ on what seems to have been a piece of unoccupied land.  In 1812, Pilton leased 20, New Bond Street from Richard Platt, but as Pilton was declared bankrupt in 1814 he had to abandon the property.  It does appear that Pilton, although a man of considerable enterprise, overextended himself and the business eventually had to be sold.

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2 Responses to JAMES PILTON’S MENAGERIE

  1. nicholasstorey says:

    Poor Pilton! It is difficult not to feel sorry for his failure in the face of such endeavour.

  2. Charles Bazalgette says:

    Yes but unfortunately the reason for bankruptcy is very rarely reported in the sources, so we can only guess why it happened.

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