Watercolour of Brompton Square by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1843

Watercolour of Brompton Square by
Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1851

Francis Place

Dates: 1771 - 1854

Profession: Politics

Address: 21 Brompton Square , SW3

Dates at address: 1833 - 1851

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Son of Simon Place, keeper of a debtor’s prison, Place was apprenticed to a breeches-maker but also educated himself. He married Elizabeth Chad in 1791 when a recession and a failed strike nearly killed them. She died in 1827 and he married actress Louisa Chatterley in 1830. He had fifteen children.

As well as tailoring, Place was also drawn to politics by Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, joining The London Corresponding Society in 1794. A confidante for Radical politicians, he “masterminded” the first Radical win in the Westminster election in 1807, becoming a major force. He used his power to get the anti-trade union combination acts repealed in 1824, support Radical reforms and draft the People’s Charter in 1838. He also championed improving the choice of the poor, pioneering a birth control study in 1822 and fighting the Temperance Unions. He never got the political position he craved.

In 1833 falling profits, possibly caused by his new wife, forced a move to Brompton. He lost contact with his political allies, who met above his old shop, and his power waned. Seriously ill, he left his wife in 1851 and moved to Hammersmith with his daughter. After his death in 1854 the Times editor asked of his obituary, “Can’t you get him into one column? A column used to be enough for a hero; it ought to suffice for a tailor—even a Radical tailor”.