William Mansell is a familiar name to Connaught Villagers as the local jewellers, specialising in clock, watch, barometer & barograph repairs as well as jewellery, silver, engraving etc etc. The name is known further afield, across the nation and across the globe, with people from far & wide travelling to or posting to 24 Connaught Street for repairs to timepieces etc. With international celebrities among the clientele, there’s never a dull moment at William Mansell. Tackling complex, difficult, intricate repair work that others shy away from, or lack the expertise to carry out.
However, very little is known about William (Bill) Mansell the man. Born on 27th September 1873, his mother Annie Marie Crate, was from a family of silversmiths & jewellers. He was only 5 when his father died & he went to live with his uncle Robert Humphries & aunt Mary Ann (Crate) at 52 Seymour Place where Robert Humphries carried on his business as a manufacturing silversmith which he had begun in 1864. He was later apprenticed to his uncle and worked along side another uncle Alfred Crate. Humphries died in 1896 & three years later Alfred & Bill changed the business name to Crate & Mansell.
On 8th September 1900, at St John’s in Hyde Park Crescent, Bill Mansell married Emily Woolcott, a coachman’s daughter who lived at 8 Norfolk Mews.
At first they went to live at 18 Drayton Gardens West Ealing, later moving to 66 Lynton Avenue, West Ealing 7 years later their first and only child Marjorie was born.
In 1911, Alfred Crate & William Mansell went their separate ways, Alfred carried on in Seymour Place with his son Leonard, seen standing in the doorway, meanwhile William Mansell took on the lease of 24 Connaught Street and set up shop. The upper parts were occupied by a dressmaking business and William Mansell developed to encompass all areas of the jewellery trade, supplying & repairing jewellery, silverware, clocks and watches. One of the clocks supplied by Mansell’s can still be seen in the Victoria pub in Strathearn Place.
Bill Mansell took on the lease of a premises at 11 Sovereign Mews where he set up a plating works. When Sovereign Mews was demolished to make way for the Art Deco flats Park West, he took on a lease at 15 Norfolk Mews West later re-named London Mews.
At the bottom of Bill & Emily’s rear garden were grounds behind Drayton Halt station wherein there was a scout hut. The scoutmaster was a chartered surveyor Arthur Williamson. Love blossomed between Arthur & Marjorie Mansell and in 1934 they married. The brightest & most able scout in Arthur’s pack, his blue-eyed boy, was Fred Salisbury.
Fred Salisbury speaking in 2002: “Old Bill was a very kindly guy, the sort that took a young kid who had no hope of getting anywhere, teaching him to clean & restore silver & the silver-plating business. He took on many lads over the years, many from the scout troop. One was Arthur Thompson who he set up at his plating works and later left the entire workshop and contents in his will.
For the last year of the war the shop was closed & Bill Mansell died a week before VE day leaving £3,000 in his will. Emily, Arthur & Marjorie had no great interest in keeping the business going The rent from Miss Hutchinson’s dressmaking business more than covered the outgoings on the premises and following Fred Salisbury’s return from India & demob, he was offered a share in the business. An offer he accepted, much to his wife’s disapproval. He attended night school and soon took over the day to day running of the business.
The lease was due for renewal in 1951 and the war damage and dilapidations were fairly extensive. The lease was owned by Emily. Arthur, being a chartered surveyor and a member of the same club, was treated with kid gloves by the Church Commissioners’ agent and said not to worry about the lease. The Church Commissioners woke up one day & appointed a new agent.
In the autumn of 1954, Arthur arrived in the shop accompanied by Mr Danger of Chestertons on behalf of the Church for an inspection of the premises. After discussions with Mr Danger, Arthur turned to Fred & said “That’s it, Fred, we’ll have to close down. They want £3000 (£80,000 today) deposited to cover the dilapidations and I can’t do it” After digesting this information for a minute, Fred said to Mr Danger, “What if I can ? “
Opposite William Mansell’s was an estate agent Deacon & Allen owned by Leslie Slot, also, a director of the Portman Building Society. Leslie was a good customer whom Fred knew well. He secured the necessary funding & was granted a new lease subject to completion of the works.
During the extensive repairs to the building, Fred added a kitchen & bathroom and in 1955 started living above the shop with his wife and two young sons Robert & William.
At that time there were a dozen people working in the business, carrying out repairs both for the general public and for the trade. As each employee moved on or retired, they weren’t replaced and by the early eighties, Fred was running William Mansell’s single handed.
In 1983, burglars entered the premises and removed almost the entire contents of the shop. Following this devastating blow, Fred’s youngest son Bill Salisbury joined the business, and began to re-build the stock and re-establish the sales side of the business.