Cornelius Gatward 1824-1893
By the time Cornelius inherited the business, the industrial revolution was in full blow and the young Queen Victoria was about to ascend the throne.
Whereas we had hitherto only been tenants of Gatward's premises, we have to thank Cornelius for securing them for posterity. In 1876 he purchased them, together with the adjacent Whaley's hairdressers for the princely sum of £1,300.
The building itself is an unbelievable rabbit warren with numerous staircases, different floor levels and concealed doorways. Dating from the medieval period, tales abound of secret passages going from the Priory to the Church etc., but if they exist, we have never found them. The cellars, now heavily shored up, extend right under the Market Place. We have always understood that the building was original an old drovers' inn and certainly in the cellar, hollows in the wall suggest they could have held beer barrels, but there is no documentary evidence to support this theory.
Both the Crimean war and the American Civil War raged while Cornelius persued the business in Hitchin. His other claim to fame was that he was the first member of the Gatward family to sell jewellery, now such an important part of the business, as well as watches and clocks.
This information has been taken from the Gatward book celebrating 250 years 1760-2010 with the permission of the Gatward family). Acknowledgements to Susan Robinson (nee Gatward), Hitchin Historical Society and Hitchin Museum.