Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1777-1850 - Leather Lane (Holborn)

Plaster figure maker Dominico Cardosi was born in Tuscany some time during the first decade of the nineteenth century. He was in England by 1830, if not before, and registered as working from no. 76 Leather Lane. In the 1841 census, Dominic Cardozi, whether the same man or not, was listed in Gray’s Inn Lane as a figure maker of foreign birth, aged thirty-five.

There were fourteen workers listed as figure makers at these premises, including Giovacchino Cardosi and two men by the name of Caproni. Domenico Cardosi is recorded as arriving in the Port of London from Boulogne on 5 May 1842 after an absence of eight months, leading a group of Italian figure makers. Then on 22 March 1850, probably another Domenico Cardosi (his son?) is similarly recorded arriving in the Port of London, apparently with another fifteen figure makers. This would suggest that they were responsible for bringing large numbers of Italian figure makers to London.

The arrival of the Elgin marbles in London, and their display at the British Museum from 1816, opened up new markets for plaster casts as museums and academies began to develop more comprehensive cast collections for teaching purposes and for wider display. The demand for skilful labour was huge and figure makers principally descending from Lucca and surrounding villages in Tuscany began to come to Britain in increasing numbers to produce ornaments for town and country houses and to sell cheap plaster figures as an itinerant trade. Dominico Cardosi died in 1844 in the Holborn district.

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