On This Day: 20 October 1706

On this day in 1706, Thomas Bowrey made an inventory of the contents of the China House in Goodman’s Field. Building work had been carried out on the shop premises the previous year and this may have represented the stock when the shop was opened to the public.

That Bowrey owned a china shop may seem unlikely but, as someone always looking to maximise the profits from the East Indies Trade, selling direct to the public rather than wholesale, may have looked an attractive option. Bowrey certainly considered himself to understand the tastes of the domestic market while he was buying consumer goods in the East and had made specific personal orders for East Indies  household goods after his return to England. It is even possible that he set up the shop to give Mary, his wife, something to do. The couple lived with their in-laws most of their married life and, with three women (Mary, her mother and her sister) plus at least one maid in the household, there was little for Mary to do at home.

When Bowrey visited Delph, Holland in 1698, he commented on their famous tin-glazed pottery writing in his diary that: Here is a Curious sett of China extraordinary fine and the shop stocked a few Dutch Cups in addition to china from Japan and China. In addition to china, the shop sold everything needed for the fashionable drinking of tea, coffee and chocolate including tea tables alongside other desirable Chinese exports: fans, pictures and toys. Whilst making her purchases for her next tea party, the fashionable lady could also be persuaded to purchase a fine gauze handkerchief, a necklace (possible lace to be worn round the neck rather than what we now describe as a necklace) or a length of chintz or muslin for her next outfit.

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