Wren 300, a city full of people

James Puckle of St Vedast

James Puckle

(d. 1724)

Attorney and Stockjobber


St Vedast

Researched by Nicky Scowen

James Puckle © The Trustees of the British Museum

James Puckle married Mary Francis in St Vedast’s in 1687. Their first child Elizabeth was baptized in St Christopher le Stocks church, later demolished to make way for the expansion of the Bank of England. A further seven children were baptised in other churches nearby.

James was an attorney and stockjobber, working in Pope’s Head Alley, Cornhill. He published pamphlets on the subject of the English fishing industry which recommended the purchase of shares in the company of the Royal Fishery of England, on which he appears to have received commission.

In 1718 James patented a portable breech-loading machine gun, able to fire grenades and either round or square bullets, depending on the religion of the enemy! He floated a joint-stock company to market his invention. It was successfully trialled and taken by the second Duke of Montagu on his failed attempt to set up a colony in St Lucia. Despite share prices in the company at one point selling for double their initial price, the venture was among the many ‘bubbles’ of the age and ‘Puckle’s machine’ was satirised as being only dangerous to investors. An example of the gun survives in the Royal Armouries in Leeds. James was buried in St Stephen, Coleman Street.


Local churches were the focal point of sixteenth-century City life. Weekly worship and all the milestones of parishioners’ lives took place here: christenings, marriages and funerals. Many churches were lost in the Great Fire.

Read the stories of four that either survived or succumbed to the flames, and how they reemerged from the ruins.

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