PLATES C, C2 and C3


In the foreground will be seen a patent calf skin with the words “Success to the Cordwainers’ Exhibition, 1895,” cleverly cut with an ordinary clicker’s (shoemaker’s) knife. In the background is a carved marble urn, by Nollekens, to the memory of John Came, who was a Citizen and Cordwainer of London.

In the long roll of citizens who have worthily filled the Master’s Chair of the Cordwainers’ Company, no name is more honoured than that of John Came. How Dickens would have loved to portray the quaint humour and unobtrusive benevolence of the good old man, to whom came the rare pleasure of hearing, while in office, the comments and surmises of his colleagues concerning the anonymous and frequent donor who happened to be himself.

His father was Jonathan Came, Cordwainer, of Duke’s Place, Aldgate, in the City of London. At an early age he was left an orphan, and in the year 1732 was apprenticed to one John Smith, Cordwainer, of Cheapside, who afterwards became a member of the Livery of the Company. John Came, upon the termination of his apprenticeship, took up his freedom as a Cordwainer in 1740, and continued to remain in the service of John Smith.

His master having died in 1746, the management of the business was entrusted by the widow to the care of John Came, who appears to have been so prosperous in conducting her affairs that she ultimately became his wife. The issue from the marriage was a son named Jonathan Came, who became free of the Company in 1775, was admitted to the Livery in the same year, and died in 1779.

The continued success of John Came led him to occupy larger premises, styled in the directory of that date as a shoe warehouse. There is an anecdote relating to the transferring of his business from one side of the street to the other, that he had caused to be inscribed upon the facia of his shop front, “I CAME FROM OVER THE WAY.”

He was called to the Livery in 1753 and in the year 1764 he served the office of Junior Warden, and became a Member of the Court of Assistants in 1773, and was chosen Master in July, 1780. It is said of him that towards the close of his life he became blind.

While he was serving the office of Senior Warden, the Court received an anonymous letter addressed to them as follows:



I wish and beg you will do a favor for me to convey throw your hands, far the benefit of a few individuals, the enclosed sum of One Hundred Pounds.

I hope this will not be thought a troublesome task, though at present there is no appearance of a reward of this world’s goods for your labour. The cause, I hope, will appear to my Maker and you, as it doeth to me, to be good. I hope and wish you and myself a sure reward in time and Eternity.

This I surely think you with me will conclude it will make some addition to your good report, if in this way I shall be of public benefit, and my name not known, will give mc great and lasting pleasure.

Gentlemen, the distribution of the above money I beg to have done at your convenience between Michaelmas and Christmas annually. Gentlemen, you may depend on my sending the money always before Michaelmas.

Gentlemen, the disposing of the above money I beg to be in the following manner

To twenty Clergymen’s Widows of the Established Church of England, that their last deceased Husband a Clergyman, whose duty was done within the Liberty of the City of London, I wish to confer this benefit to the City of London and Liberty, thinking without this your trouble will be more than needful by so great a number of Petitioners.

Pray give to twenty you best approve, each of them Five Pounds; a Widow having no children must not be less than fifty years old, a Widow having children alive must not be less than forty years old. Gentlemen, I have not the least doubt but you will make an impartial choice out of the number of Petitioners, which best recommended and appear most in want, and I think at least they should have a character of their living a Religious Life, and doeth all they can to support themselves. That being set forth by not less than six of the principal inhabitants of the Parish the deceased did his duty. Not that I mean by this to exclude them that are by any way rendered unable to support themselves, I wish and think they should have the preference.

On the decease of any of these, or by any way there is a vacancy, I beg you will choose others in their room; or, if in time any or all of these having obtained the benefit should appear to you not to answer the character given them at first, and you think them unworthy the benefit, I desire and require of you to strike them off the list, and chuse others in their room, always keeping up the number.

When the above appears in Public, and I hear how it is approved, and what is the opinion of mankind, and should see reason to make some alteration as I think will the better please my Maker and my Conscience, and appear to be of greater benefit; I then shall endeavour to do it. Without this I shall not think of any alteration.

Gentlemen, farewell for this time. I wish and hope to remain until death,


Dated, April 5th, 1780.

Upon the reading of the letter the Court passed an order that the original should be preserved in the iron chest with the Company’s writings, and entered upon the minutes of the Court of the 5th April, 1780.

In order to carry out the instructions of this Friend to Mankind” they directed that advertisements should appear in the public press inviting applicants for the charity. Every endeavour was made by the Court to find suitable applicants, but, through the limitation by the terms of the letter to persons only within the area of the City of London, they were unable even by the public announcement to find a sufficient number of persons qualified to become recipients. After waiting nearly twelve months to fill up the vacancies, a second letter was received from the same anonymous person, directing them what to do with th~ money remaining for distribution. The writer addresses himself thus:



By your advertisement in January last, I find not above Fourteen Clergymen’s Widows that come within the description I have given. I indeed thought you would have many more than you could relieve. I think it is for the want of being more publickly known; for my part I do not see any reason to alter any part of the description only the limits, which I beg for the future may be within the bills of Mortality, and I beg and wish you will always give the preference to those petitions that come within the City and Liberty of London.

And if you have any petitions that come within the circuit of the enlarged limits, I beg you will give Five Pounds to three of them you best approve. If you have none that comes within the new limit you may have and think you surely will have enough to receive all the money next for distribution.

As to the Fifteen Pounds remaining then in your hands, I humbly beg your acceptance. It will I hope pay for Advertisements and Books. I should be very sorry to put you to any charges on my account. I am very much obliged to you for the care as appears to me you have taken, more particularly in your not enlarging the limits without my advice ; as their limits are set I think and wish they should be strictly attended to. I intend before I send you the next money for Clergymen’s Widows to beg another favour of you similar to this you have already done for me, the particulars of which in my next, in the meantime and at all times I am a well wisher to the Cordwainers Company.

Dated, March 5th, 1781.

In the month of July following, the Court received from the same anonymous donor the sum of £100 enclosed in a letter, to be distributed for the benefit of poor blind persons, addressed to the Company and Assistants of the Company for ever £37,200 £3 per Cent. Government Annuities and £100 per annum Short Annuities, the Interest arising therefrom [subject to £6o per annum, which he bequeathed to the Company, and also subject to certain Annuities amounting to £145] to be by them annually distributed in Five Pounds each to Clergymen’s Widows, Blind persons, and Deaf and Dumb persons, being of the descriptions mentioned in his Will.

He died the 13th May, 1796, aged 78 years, and was buried in the Church of St. Mary-le-Bow, London.

On the east wall are to be seen fine specimens of Morocco. skins, On the north wall will be seen paper patterns for shoe manufacture, which were exhibited in competition. The looking-glass was exhibited in the Exhibition of 1851, and was at that period one of the largest known.