Dr Herbert Davies was a very nice man. His obituaries in January 1885 made a point of it. This niceness played a pivotal role in providing Julius and Clementina Reuter not only with somewhere to live but also a London platform from which to develop their fledgling business.
After reading medicine at Cambridge, in 1848 Davies went on to study in Paris and Vienna for three years.. He then took up an appointment as Physician at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Julius and Clementina were also in Paris in 1848 and 1849. The Davies family legend has it that a friendship grew from a chance meeting in a continental railway carriage. Davies encouraged Julius to try his luck in London and offered the couple accommodation in his own home.
The benefits of Finsbury Square
By 1851 Herbert Davies was married with a young son. The family lived comfortably at 23 Finsbury Square, easy walking distance from 1 Royal Exchange Buildings. In 1851 or early 1852 Julius and Clementina joined them as lodgers. Important consequences would follow.
In 1845, the Josaphat-Reuters had lodged in Bury Street beside Bevis Marks Synagogue, a crowded quarter almost exclusively German-Jewish. By contrast, Finsbury Square was spacious and middle-class with a high proportion of medical men. It was also popular with Jewish city businessmen. By living there, Christian convert Julius took his first step into what was as a more mainstream and conventional ‘English’ milieu, while at the same time remaining within reach of his comfort zone. The couple would follow this pattern for the rest of their lives. Herr and Frau Reuter left the stage; enter Mr and Mrs Reuter.
‘Englishness’ brought increased business benefits. Julius was now placed to meet the ‘right’ people. But benefits come in guises other than purely business. Davies was an exceptionally well-qualified physician. The Reuters had remained childless since baby Julie’s death in 1846. At last, on 10 March 1852, ‘Herbert’, a healthy child, was born at 23 Finsbury Square with Herbert Davies in attendance. Over the next eleven years, three daughters and two more sons would follow, delivered almost certainly under Davies’s supervision. In 1852 specialist medical attention of this quality would have been far beyond the modest means of the Reuters.
Look for more dispatches from our archive this week as we celebrate the birth of Julius Reuter.