Sir Thomas De La Rue bought a house in Cadogan Square
It has an interesting history.
In 1886 the house built by architect Sir Ernest George for Sir Thomas, was designed specifically for entertaining on a lavish scale.
Thomas came over from Guernsey to London in 1816.
By 1830 he had established a printing firm which became the leading manufacturer of playing cards.
The house was number 52, to reflect the number of playing cards in a deck. Originally it was number 26!
Carved wooden panelling in the dining room depicted the suits of a pack of cards, illustrating the source of De La Rue’s fortune in printing playing cards.
Later on De La Rue began printing postage stamps and had the exclusive right to print the 1d stamp.
The company was hugely successful.
However, by the time it was being run by the two grandsons of Sir Thomas, things started to unravel.
Warren William was humourless and pedantic, and Thomas Andros was urbane and extrovert.
This led to clashes in management – understandably!
Warren, badly injured in a riding accident, retired. And as a result, Thomas became chairman of the company.
Thomas Andros lacked the business flair of both his father and grandfather and he wasn’t a sympathetic employer.
The company remained profitable mainly because of its virtual monopoly on the printing of postage stamps for all the countries in the British Empire – a nifty little contract to have!
But there was little innovation and no attention to the welfare and working conditions of the staff.
At the same time, concern grew in Parliament over the monopoly held by De La Rue.
Things came to a head when the Inland Revenue proposed dividing the contract.
Printing postage stamps was to be divided between both De La Rue and another firm, Harrisons.
The Revenue asked De La Rue to review their pricing.
As technology advanced in printing methods, the cost of production had decreased.
Thomas Andros refused point blank to both adjust his prices.
And he didn’t was to share the contract with another company!
Consequently the whole contract was awarded to Harrisons, and overnight De La Rue lost over half of their revenue.
This catastrophe was no doubt a contributing factor in Thomas’s fatal heart attack in 1911.