From the Archives: William's Wit

  • Posted on 9th January 2015 by Nick

  • Welcome to the first blog in a series looking back at our illustrious history! With over 140 years to look at, there's plenty to discover from our archives.

    William Penhaligon was born in Philby, Cornwall in 1837. Having founded his Perfumers and Barbers in Penzance in 1861, William married his wife Elisabeth in 1862. William and Elisabeth had 4 children: Clara, Ida, William and Walter. William and his family moved to London, and William took up his position at the Hammam on Jermyn Street in 1869.

    By 1874, William had expanded the salon at the Hammam onto the ground floor, with direct access to the street, opening as an upmarket Perfumery and Hairdressers. Over £1500 was spent on the shopfit, which by todays standards is over £65,000!

    Penhaligon's popularity flourished under William's leadership and he entered into a business partnership with Mr Jeavons in 1880 - by 1881, William was employing 4 assistants at the hairdressers in the baths, and in 1891, Penhaligon and Jeavon moved into its prestigious new premises of 33 St James Street and 66 Jermyn Street - the two stores joined together at the rear. In 1892, the move to the new premises was advertised in Webster's Royal Red Book, declaring Penhaligon as the 'sole depot for the Hammam Bouquet'.

    Penhaligon’s was frequented by distinguished and well known clients. The Birmingham Daily Post describes how in 1889 The Shah visited 'Penhaligon’s fragrant shop' and was douched with 'Hammam Bouquet, a shower which lay like the morning dew on his royal bristles and moustache.'

    William was renowned for his wit and intellect, the Worcester Journal reported that “Mr Forster, anxious no doubt to wash off the dust of Ireland, went on Monday last to the Turkish bath... he remarked to Penhaligon, the hairdresser, “It is very hot here this morning.” “It is,” replied the ever ready Penhaligon; “but you will find it much hotter in the House of Commons this afternoon.”

    William passed away in 1902. His obituary describes that he was 'actively involved with one of London’s most renowned and important hairdressing salon' and that his 'great forte lay in the manufacture of perfumes and hair washes which are now world wide renowned.' A family man, William’s 'spare moments were devoted to his home and surrounds which he loved so well.'

    William's son Walter took over the family business following William's death, as Mr Jeavon sadly passed away 3 weeks after William. In 1904, Penhaligon's appeared for the first time without 'Jeavons'.