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Industrialists of Whitechapel Rd, London

Several family branches of Corinne’s family originate from Whitechapel Road in inner east London.

  • Mears
  • Cutbush
  • Flood
  • Venables


The Importance of Being Luke

Mentions Thomas Flood Cutbush, Luke Flood Cutbush, Matilda Catherine Mears, Mary-Ann Mears. 

This memoir was prepared in 1998 by Mrs Corinne Helen Christine Stace, Arthur Road,  Dorroughby,  Lismore  NSW Australia.   Her mother was born Ellen Beatrice Venables who married Arthur John Hall.   Many of the facts on which this little story is based have been provided by Simon Venables Hall. 



It was a late March morning in 1829.   Yellow daffodils were aglow in the spring sunshine, their golden heads dancing joyfully in a light breeze.   But there was no joy at the graveside of Mrs Luke

Flood Cutbush;   sombre black clad mourners stood with heads bowed while  the minister of St Marys Church, in the London suburb of Whitechapel,  read the prayers before the coffin was lowered carefully into the  grave.

The dead woman was only twenty two years old.  She was born Matilda Catherine, but was known as Catherine, elder daughter of bellfounder Thomas Mears II and his wife Matilda.   The mourners solemnly moved away, first having clasped the hand of the young grieving husband.   Luke’s father, Thomas Flood Cutbush placed a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder and gently drew him away.   Together they walked through the ancient  graveyard to pause at a monument which they both knew quite well.

Eleven years had passed since young  Luke, as a lad of fourteen, had seen his great grandfather laid to rest.   There had been a big crowd of people present and many kind words had been spoken, for great grandfather had been a churchwarden and treasurer of the parish for many years and was widely known for his generosity to  the needy.   Luke re-read those words which had been inscribed on the stone:-

Luke Flood;   died 18 Feb. 1818,  aged 80 years           

“Universally loved;   dying in peace
lamented by meritorious persons
peculiar serenity of temper
obliging disposition

most honourable, most kind and sincere
friend;  bright and rare example
of Christian to the world.”

 “Your great grandfather, Luke.   He was a great man and you were named after him” said Tom.   “Luke Flood is the man who gave the Cutbush family the name of  “Flood” and every generation, so far, has it.”   Tom warmed to the subject.  “My mother” he said “was Luke Flood’s daughter named Clarissa,   Now Clarissa was  an impetuous young woman who wanted to marry my father when she was only sixteen years old, so of course the young couple had to get parental permission.  It was after that marriage that the Flood and Cutbush families combined in business as house decorators to form “Cutbush and Flood;  Glaziers and Painters”.     

Tom Cutbush paused for a minute and then he went on, “my father never  touched a paintbrush in his life -- he was not part of the firm.  No, he was always a clerk in the office of the Ordinance at the Tower of London and I think it was the uniform which my mother liked -- at first  at any rate.  Thomas Hoskins Cutbush, clerk, Tower of London.   The pay was good --ninety pounds a year, and they were happy.”  

The two men walked on and out into the street where they parted, each wrapped in their own melancholy thoughts.

Luke was not given to self-pity.   He was proud of the family firm “Cutbush and Son, Painters and

Glaziers” and he was glad to get back to work after his wife’s  untimely death.   The shop was at 30 Whitechapel Rd and the premises had been in the family since 1791 when old Mrs Flood and her son had been corn chandlers.   By 1809 it  was known as “Cutbush and Flood,  Painters and Glaziers”  and was worked by uncles from both families.   Now, in 1829 it was just  “Cutbush and Son” ---  Luke’s father and himself.

Father and son were both proud of their busy, tidy little shop.   Luke looked at the big deal table where the glass was cut.   At one end of the table a locked drawer held his diamond  glass cutters -- carefully sheathed in leather pouches; his long rulers, set-squares, dividers and geometry tools;  hard and soft lead pencils and his notebook.  Beneath the table a wooden box, half filled with straw, safely held the glass sheets.    The fashion was for twelve-pane windows and Luke had to cut many square or diamond shapes to fit each window.   The handblown glass sheets had little bubbles of air and many other flaws which distorted light,  so he had to select pieces very carefully if the job was for a quality customer.   The rejects would be used for cheaper jobs;  there were always customers looking for a discount.

Down in the cellar Tom Cutbush kept kegs of white and red lead and big flasks of linseed oil and bottles of turpentine.     Much of Luke’s time was spent  in grinding with pestle and mortar the white lead with linseed oil mixing them  gradually to make a smooth paint that would brush easily onto wood surfaces.   There were jars of pigment such as umber and red oxide and the beautiful,  expensive blue lapislazuli;  but these were for special colours.  Much of their needs came in big tins of ready-mixed oil paints from commercial dealers, and part of Luke’s work was  to stack these on shelves,  and to keep accurate records in a stock book.   Tom was very particular;  everything always had to be spotless,  and in perfect order.

This was the beginning.  The business grew with London,  and both father & son  prospered and became well-to-do.                    

Tom Flood Cutbush lived with his wife upstairs in a residence above the shop.   Luke knew it well, for he had grown up there.   Suddenly he realised that his father might retire some day and then the residence would be his,   The thought startled him.   How could he manage without a wife!   Could he ever marry again?   Yes, but WHO?  The answer came like a flash of light:

MARY-ANN!  Mary-Ann Mears was the younger daughter of bellfounder Thomas Mears II and devoted sister of Catherine, the poor woman who only recently had been laid to rest.   

The Mears family had originally come from the cathedral city of Canterbury in Kent. In 1781, young William Mears had become interested in bellfounding when the bells of the great Cathedral were being re-cast and tuned: Whitechapel Bellfoundry had the contract and had done the work on the smaller bells in London. However the big bass bell was too heavy to be taken to London, and had to be re-cast near the Cathedral. The spot chosen was a big sandy yard, known as the “bellfield”, and there men dug and shaped a hollow in which the mould was carefully made for the molten bellmetal. William watched the whole process to the final polishing , tuning and hanging with the rest of the chimes in the belltower of the Cathedral. Thrilled by the wonderful events, he asked to join Whitechapel bellfoundry to learn about bell metal and how to create the wonderful peals of music which he could hear from the bells. After some years, he and his brother Thomas became master bellfounders and owned the business at Whitechapel.


Throughout the nineteenth century several generations of Mears sent peals of beautiful and important bells throughout the world. Many people are familiar with the cheerful timekeeping chimes which are broadcast by the BBC from the clock tower at Westminster, London. The deep tones at the hour come from “Big Ben” the famous thirteen and half ton bell which was cast at the Whitechapel Bellfoundry. Just as famous is the noble bell, commissioned in 1753 from Whitechapel (before William Mears time) for the State House of Philadelphia, North America.   Later the State House was renamed Independence Hall when in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted.   The original bell was recast in Philadelphia, carries the inscription “Proclaim Liberty Through the Land to all Inhabitants Thereof” and was named  “Liberty Bell”   Sadly  it has suffered several cracks and is now without voice -- but it remains the symbol of liberty for all citizens  of USA.

Back to Luke: he was made welcome into the home of his former parents-in-law.   Mary-Ann was pleased to see him and a new romance blossomed.   In  1831 Luke found lasting happiness when he and Mary-Ann were married at the parish church.

Two and a half years later, their only child --a daughter--was born and they named her Matilda.   She was a quiet, thoughtful girl and her parents lavished every possible care on this their beloved daughter,   They chose her friends carefully and gladly associated with the Venables family whose emporium, Thomas Venables and Son in Aldgate and Commercial Street had become a popular and successful business house.   So, when Mr John Venables’ talented business son, with the unusual name of Fasham,   asked for Matilda’s hand in marriage the Cutbush parents were delighted.   Here, indeed, was a marriage with excellent prospects especially as young Fasham Venables was anxious to make his home away from the industrial area of Whitechapel to live in better suburbs along the river Thames,  thus joining the general trend of prosperous businessmen to become “upwardly mobile”.   The Cutbush family went North ,  to the Leabridge Road,  crossing the small River Lea,  but the Mears set up homes at Charleton, in Kent, on the South Bank of the Thames.   The Blackheath cemetery,  not far away holds many Mears graves. 

Not long after Matilda’s marriage in 1859, a fine boy was born and  named John Luke Venables.   He pleased his grandparents with his good looks and quick understanding of the value of money.   Several more years were to pass before a quiet, thoughtful little daughter, Matilda Marion Venables was born and she grew to delight the elders with her clever drawings and skilful needlework.   But if her elder brother was worldly, Minnie, as she was fondly known, was more often found to be studying her Bible and in joining in good works in the parish.   

In 1873, when the Venables family were living in Beverley Rd, Barnes, their third child was born. Her parents named her Ellen Beatrice, but called her Nell.   This fun-loving little girl was taught to play the piano, which she did well, and to speak French, which she did indifferently.   She was not sent to a formal school, but was given private tuition.   It was as Nell Venables that she married my father Arthur John Hall of Kenley in 1896 to become our dear mother, and to successfully raise two sons and four daughters.     But that’s another story!



About Whitechapel Road, London


The Flood, Cutbush and Mears families lived on Whitechapel Road for many generations, from at least the 1680s, and owned property.

The earliest record is for Luke Flood (born around 1689). His death recorded says he was “Luke Flood from the Road Side” St Mary Whitechapel. He was age 73 and died of fever.


 Luke Flood, and his wife Ester Flood (nee Howard, also recorded as Esther Flood and Hester Howard) have at least twenty records between 1754 to 1779 of land tax collections for houses. These are mostly recorded as Roadside, St Mary Whitechapel. 

The earlier of these records (1754-1762) are in Luke Flood’s name, and from 1762-1779 are in Esther/Ester Flood’s name. One of the last records says “Luke Flood for followg Houses}… Esther Flood…. 18.8”. We can assume this is Luke Flood junior (Luke and Ester’s son). 

So, where exactly was Roadside?
Stanford’s 1862 map of the area shows ‘Roadside’ just above the letter “L” in the word Mile End (which is the eastern continuation of Whitechapel Road) and again two blocks east [highlighted in yellow below].
The source www.mappalondon.com has a very detailed map:  click here



Another map at around that time, Booth’s Poverty Map, doesn’t have Roadside listed, but it is interesting to see the levels of middle class and other classes living in and around that area. Whitechapel Road itself was lined with “middle class and well to do”.



Later generations of the Flood family came to own the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. This was located at the corner of Whitechapel Road and Fieldgate, a block east of St Mary itself. 



Whitechapel Bell Foundry


Corinne’s maternal great grandfather, Thomas Mears II, was an owner of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from 1805 to 1844.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was originally established in 1570. An entry in the Guinness Book of Records lists the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as Britain's oldest manufacturing company, having been established during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and in continuous operation since then. In 1970 the Foundry celebrated its 500th year, and it is still in operation today[3]. Whitechapel Bell Foundry's long history spans the reigns of twenty seven English monarchs, and among the royal visitors to the foundry were King George V and Queen Mary who came to witness the casting of two bells for Westminster Abbey.

The Mears family was associated with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry from 1781 to 1865. Bells cast at the foundry during the Mears family’s ownership include Big Ben in London (made by George Mears), and St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. 




The first Mears at Whitechapel[4][5]

The Mears family originated from Kent, near Canterbury. When bell makers Lester and Pack cast the 3½ ton ‘Great Dunstan’ bell for Canterbury Cathedral in 1762, they undertook the work within the Cathedral precincts because it was difficult to transport a bell of this size from London. While the work was being done a young man, William Mears, came by every day and watched the whole process. He seemed so interested that he was brought back to London and taught the craft of bell founding. Within 20 years he became a partner of the firm (Chapman and Mears) and took over after Chapman died. A couple of years later William’s brother Thomas Mears became a partner and continued to run the business for another 20 years after William died. 


The Mears family continued to own and run the bell foundry until 1865 (William, Thomas I, Thomas II, George). Here is the list from the first mention of the Mears name to the last (1781 to 1865):7


  • 1781 Chapman and Mears
  • 1784 William Mears
  • 1787 William and Thomas Mears
  • 1791 Thomas Mears I (pictured)
  • 1805 Mears and Son
  • 1810 Thomas Mears II
  • 1844 Charles and George Mears
  • 1861 George Mears and Co
  • 1865 Mears and Stainbank


In 1803 Thomas Mears I became a Freeman of London. His son Thomas Mears II (Corinne’s great grandfather) was quite a salesman and travelled to Canada for a number of years. After he became too old to travel the Canadian business continued through agents, Hugh Russell & Sons of Montreal. This work ceased after WWI owing to the strong French influence: the majority of the bells imported into Canada now come from France.

The final member of the family to be associated with the foundry, George Mears, retired in 1865 and died soon after. To this day, the front door to the foundry offices bears a Victorian-era plaque bearing the name 'Mears & Stainbank' (Robert Stainbank being George Mears' successor).

Thomas Mears II’s daughter Mary Ann Mears is Corinne’s maternal great grandmother. Mary Ann

Mears married Luke Flood Cutbush. Their daughter Matilda Mears Cutbush married Fasham Venables and had a daughter Ellen Beatrice Venables. Interestingly, Luke Flood Cutbush (Corinne’s great grandfather) had previously married Matilda Catherine Mears (Mary Ann Mear’s older sister) who died just seven months into their marriage.


Carillons and chimes by Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The following bells were installed when the Mears family was associated with the Whitechapel Bell

Foundry.  Older bells carry various names: Mears & Stainbank, C & G Mears, Thomas Mears, Mears & Chapman, Pack & Chapman, Lester & Pack.[6]


  •   New York USA – 1797, 1845, 1849; Trinity Parish Church (Episcopal), sometimes called Holy Trinity
  •   Sydney, Australia – 1794, 1858; St.Philip's Anglican Church, York & Jamison Streets (tower on Clarence Street)
  •   Pittsburgh USA – 1814; Southminster Presbyterian Church
  •   Toronto, Canada – 1828; The Bells of Old York,  Lower belfry , St.James Cathedral * made for St.James Church, Jamaica Road,  Bermondsey (SE London), England
  •   Quebec, Canada – 1830; La Cathedrale Episcopale de la Sainte-Trinité. Bells by Thomas Mears II
  •   Port of Spain, Trinidad - 1830; Catholic Church
  •   Lincoln, England – 1835; Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  •   Philadelphia, USA – 1835; Christ Church (Episcopal) 
  •   Montreal, Canada – 1843 and 1847; Notre-Dame Basilica 
  •   Philadelphia, USA – 1843; St.Peter's Episcopal Church 
  •   Sydney, Australia - 1843; Central tower, St.Mary's Cathedral Basilica, College St Sydney – replacement of all 8 bells made by Whitechapel in 1843
  •   York, England - 1845 - York Minster
  •   Hobart, Australia, 1846; Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (was Holy Trinity Anglican Church). Bells cast 1846 by C.& G.Mears—the oldest extant ring in Australia.
  •   Fredericton, Canada – 1852; Christ Church Cathedral 
  •   London, England – 1856; ‘Big Ben’ (replacement) Clock Tower, Houses of Parliament
  •   New Westminster, Canada – 1861; Holy Trinity Cathedral
  •   Burlington USA – 1865; Central tower, St.Mary's Episcopal Church


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