Category Archives: Old newspaper articles

More about 51 Montague Road

Whilst I was researching Leonard Norman and his photography/picture framing business at 28-30 Montague Road in the 1890s and possibly later at 51 Montague Road, I came across another small story about a former occupant of number 51.  It comes again from the Leicester Chronicle, this time the 5th May 1894 (so as Leonard was just settling in to 28 Montague Road).

Harriet Wills was fined ten shillings for being drunk and disorderly in Montague Road the previous Saturday night.  And she a married woman in her fifties too!  That can’t have been much fun to live down with the neighbours, most of whom were no doubt very respectable.  Clarendon Park did have a reputation as a drunken place.  There is a fantastic cartoon displayed at the Abbey Pumping Station museum called ‘Last Tram Back to Clarendon Park’ or something very similar, depicting a tram overflowing with drunken, dazed or fighting people.  I wonder if the last 44a has the same reputation today?  Regards, Elizabeth.

51 Montague Road

The Probable Poisoning of George Scott Grainger

I recently read a sad article from the Leicester Chronicle which demonstrates how life has changed over the past 100 years .  George Scott Grainger aged 51 was admitted, unconscious, to the Leicester Royal Infirmary around 6.15pm on Monday 30 September 1890.  He later having never regained consciousness.   George, who was a gardener working at Victoria Park and then living at 17 Oxford Road, Clarendon Park,  had obtained some Corporation Diarrhoea Mixture from the Town Hall (people provided their own bottles) earlier that day.  However the mixture contained in the bottle George was holding when his wife found him contained tincture of opium, not Victorian Immodium.

17 Oxford Road (Oxford Road sits between Howard Road and Montague Road)

At the inquest Jane Grainger, said that on the morning of his death she left before George to go to work and he was not then complaining of diarrhoea.  At 2.30pm she was in Victoria Park and could not see her husband so she asked his colleague James Norwell where he was.  Norwell told her he had obtained medicine, so she “knew he must be very ill as he strongly disliked medicine.”  Jane went to look for George and found him lying in a field on Evington Lane, with the bottle in his hand.  He complained of diarrhoea.  He said he had consumed the entire contents of the bottle and felt quite well, and wanted to stay where he was as he was comfortable, but was moved in Dr Greasley’s carriage to the Highfields Hotel and afterwards to the LRI where he died.

A couple of things struck me about Jane’s story.  Firstly, it was very odd indeed that George’s own bottle should have contained opium, as the Town Hall folk must have dispensed quite a lot of diarrhoea mixture and it would soon have been obvious if their stock had replaced or contaminated with tincture of opium.  So perhaps George found that diarrhoea mixture was not efficacious and bought his own cure – opium – instead (opium was used in some diarrhoea preparations).  Secondly, when Jane found that her husband was not at work as expected, she naturally went to look for him.  But in a field in Evington Lane?  Perhaps all is not exactly as Jane described.  Perhaps she was used to finding him lying intoxicated in a field and knew where to look for him. It’s a good job the powers that be started to tighten the regulation of opium, making it harder for people to accidentally poison themselves, even if it sounds like George had quite a peaceful ending.

Jane had moved from 17 Oxford Rd by the time of the census in April 1891.  So many people seemed to have passed in and out of Clarendon Park without leaving much trace.  Poor George – in both senses – was buried in a common grave without a headstone at Welford Road cemetery and his wife never joined him.

Five sons in the service: A good way to make three quid

From the Leicester Chronicle Friday, December 29th , 1900 p2

Five Sons in the Service:  Queen’s Gift to a Leicester Man

Mr. Edmund G. Hanham, 19, Edward-road, Clarendon Park, who has five sons in the Service, has received the following letter from Sir Fleetwood Edwards, Keeper of the Privy Purse:-

Privy Purse Office, Buckingham Palace, S.W., 18th December 1900

 Lieut.-Colonel Sir Fleetwood Edwards is commanded to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Edward G. Hanham’s letter of the 5th ulto., and, in reply, to say that the Queen is very much gratified to learn that Mr. Hanham has five sons at present in the Service, and Sir Fleetwood Edwards is further commanded to forward to Mr. Hanham the enclosed Post Office Order for three pounds from the Queen as a mark of her Majesty’s appreciation of this interesting fact, with the hope that it may be of some temporary assistance.

Clever Mr Hanham, spending ha’penny on a stamp to write to the Queen, and getting a postal order for three quid in return!  Edmund George Hanham (c1849 -1925) married Mary Ann Dawkes (1850 – 1934) in 1874 and together they had at least ten children.  Edmund was a sergeant in the Staffordshire militia, so it makes sense that so many of his children chose a military life.  On his retirement, the family moved to Edward Road in Clarendon Park, where Edmund set up as a boot and shoe maker.

Mary and Edmund’s children were: Edmund George Lawrence (1875-1901), Violette Polly (1876-), Frances May (1878-1878), Hedley Thomas (1878-1962), Archibald Harry (1881), Albert Victor (1883) Thomas (1884-1884), Charles Gordon (1885), Albert Edwin (1887), Christie (1887-1946)

I haven’t been able to find out about the military service of all Edmund’s sons, but here is what I did find:

Edmund George junior was a Sergeant Doctor in the South Staffordshire Regiment.  He died in January 1901 at Winburg, during the second Boer War of 1899-1902 and just a few days after the article in the Chronicle.  How awful for his father, to be recognised by the Queen one month and then the next, to lose one of his sons.

Hedley Thomas joined the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment and later the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  He was demobilised and became a warehouseman in Huddersfield.  In 1914 he again enlisted, rejoining the Duke of Wellingtons.  He returned to Huddersfield and died in 1962.

Christie joined the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1902.  he was wounded in South Africa in 1903 and again in 1904.  In 1905 he requested permission to emigrate to Canada – can’t say I blame him – but was refused.  He spent a few years in the Reserves before re-enlisting, then staying in the service until 1915.  His record states that he had a tattoo of a flower and two dots on his right forearm!  He never did make it to Canada: He died in Leicester in 1946.

The Hanhams didn’t stay in Clarendon Park for very long and were living elsewhere in Leicester by 1911.  I don’t suppose they made much of an impact on the area but the letter from Her Majesty must have stirred a lot of interest at the time.  Small stories, but interesting nevertheless.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Christmas at Clarendon Park Churches 1889

From the Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday 28th December 1889

St John’s, Clarendon Park

This church has been very artistically, if not profusely, decorated, and a considerable quantity of colour introduced amongst the green has relieved the sombre effect which inevitably accompanies a decoration of evergreens only. On the communion table are some fine bunches of white lilies, Christmas roses and Eucharist lilies, and on each side are a number of hot-house plants. Along the front choir-rail a pleasing effect is produced with evergreens, heathers, tulips, hyacinths, and other white flowers. On the front of the pulpit is a cross formed of green, with white everlasting daisies, and the reading lectern is decked with grasses and holly. The front is ornamented with some handsome grasses, holly and berries, and bunches of evergreens are placed in the window niches.

Clarendon Park Congregational Church

The decorations in this church though not very extensive, are carried out with taste and judgement. The pulpit is trimmed with variegated holly and evergreens, as is also the communion table, on which stands hothouse plants. Along the front of the choir is a string of ivy creepers, and the gas brackets, window ledges, and pillars, are decked with evergreens.

Merry Christmas everyone – Elizabeth.

Furiously driving three horses and an omnibus on the London Road

A theme is developing as I look at old newspapers to find criminal and delinquent Clarendon Park dwellers.  That theme is Avenue Road Extension.  Now I realise that it’s a long road…but the former inhabitants take up more than their fair share of column inches.

Take this case of a speeding driver on the London Road in 1893.  Benjamin Garner, aged 45, who lived at 67 Avenue Road Extension, was summoned for ” furiously driving three horses and an omnibus on the London-road”  on the 31st of January.  Benjamin was a bus proprietor.  He had a wife (Fanny) and children Walter, Benjamin, Annie, Harry and shortly afterwards Ernest  to support.  Perhaps that was why he was speeding; to get as much work as possible.

Benjamin had started off as a plasterer, but sometime between 1881 and 1887 he started a shop at Edward Road (off Montague Road).  He also kept a wagonette.  By 1891 he and his family had moved to Avenue Road Extension and Benjamin concentrated solely on his omnibus and wagonette driving business.  As they got older children Walter and Benjamin worked for their father as bus conductors.  Walter went on to start a hardware shop in Twycross Street, later joined by his brother Harry.

Benjamin retired late in the 1910s, not before having branched out to give riding lessons.  I wonder if any of his pupils knew that he had been up in court for reckless driving?  As for the punishment, he was ordered to pay costs.  Furiously driving up the London Road these days would more likely land you with points on your driving license, if indeed it was possible to drive faster than 9mph due to traffic.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Playing Football in Clarendon Park Streets

I know, shocking isn’t it?  Playing football in the street seems to have been quite  a problem in Clarendon Park in the 19th century.  There were plenty of young lads up before the police court, charged with this heinous crime.  Bearing in mind that there was much less road traffic than today, and that children and young people in particular would have been very much more in evidence in the street than they are today, I can’t see the harm.  And when you consider the overcrowding of the small terraced housing, it makes sense that teenage boys indulged in a game or two.  Take this example from the Leicester Chronicle (November 1896) : 

Walter Green (17), Edward Bostock (17), Arthur White (16), all of Avenue-road Extension, and shoe hands, and Frank Wilson (15), Knighton Fields-road East, were summoned for playing football in the Wigston-road on the 2nd inst.  PC Broome proved the case, and the boys were cautioned and discharged.

Edward Bostock came from a family of at least 8, and both Walter Green and Arthur White lived with eight other people in their 2 bedroomed houses.  There just was not space for everyone to sit around in the evenings reading improving books, especially when the children were strapping teenagers taking up huge amounts of leg room.

The courts didn’t seem to have a very standardised approach to dealing with the menace of street football.  In April of the same year the Chronicle reported two other youths who had been fined:

Albert Austin (16), Salisbury Cottages Lorne Road, and Edgar Stapleton (15), youths, were summoned for playing football in Avenue-road Extension on the 22nd inst.  Fined 2s. 6d or three days.

Given that many other Clarendon Park lads were summoned for the much more unpleasant crimes of throwing stones at cats, swearing, drinking and brawling – you’d think that the local constables would have better things to do.  Especially at Victoria Park, where I have been reading of some VERY fruity goings-on.  But more about that some other time…regards, Elizabeth.

Clarendon Park Road man dies in freak dog poisoning accident (1890)

Clarendon Park is such a mixed area, both in terms of housing and occupants.  The same was definitely true in Victorian times.  Take Clarendon Park Road for instance – at one end the houses were so smart that they only had names, not numbers (at least until the Post Office reorganised Leicester street numbers c1908) – and at the other end were one-roomed almshouses and five-roomed ‘villas’.  I find it fascinating, so when I found this in The Times 4th Aug 1890…

“On the 31st July (suddenly), at Fairford House, Clarendon-park, Leicester WILLIAM JOHN WALLACE, many years with Messrs. J. Simmons and Co., Upper Thames Street, aged 55 years.”

…I had to find out more.  Fairford isn’t a house name I have seen whilst trudging up and down Clarendon Park Road on the school run, so I looked at a variety of sources and so far have come to the conclusion that Fairford House is the same as Fairfield House, i.e. number 2 Clarendon Park Road.

 

And it turns out that William John Wallace did die suddenly and in very unpleasant circumstances.

Born c1835 in Lambeth, William married and had a properly Victorian number of children (at least 9).  He was a commercial traveller, working for the firm J Simmons and Co.  He was obviously successful, because after the death of his wife Mary he left London and started up in business in Leicester.  He purchased the booksellers and stationers business at 14 Granby Street from Francis Hewitt in 1886-7.  His first advertisement appeared in The Chronicle in 1888, for “The Best Writing Inks Made” (Hollidge’s Blue Black Writing Fluid, in case you are in the market for writing ink).  At the same time as purchasing the business, William and his children moved into Fairford House on Clarendon Park Road.

All was well for a time.  William was a sidesman at St John the Baptist Church and, according to  The Chronicle, was a Freemason and a member of the Caledonian Society in Leicester.  He was also interested in the Leicester Dramatic Club, and had given lantern slide shows.  In January 1889 he wrote a will making provision for his children, most of whom were still quite young.  Then, in August 1890 something terrible happened.  Intending to take his patent medicine for biliousness in the middle of the night and presumably in the dark, he instead took a dose of poison that he had bought to kill a dog and stupidly left on his nightstand.  He was not found until the following morning, by which time nothing could be done for him and he died a couple of days later, after having explained his mistake.  I can’t help feeling that there is something fishy about all this, but can’t put my finger on why.

William’s will left his eldest daughter Helena Ada Wallace in charge of all his money (about £3,ooo) and asked her to maintain a home for and raise her younger siblings until the last one reached twenty one.  William left it up to Helena and her brother Edward to decide whether to sell the business or keep it going – she obviously wanted to carry on, because from 1892 the directories advertise “Misses Eleanor and Ada Wallace, trading as W Wallace.”  She had a rough time of it – just before Christmas 1891 the shop was burgled.  Helena moved the family to 5 Severn Street (Highfields) for a time, but then around 1895 returned to their native Lambeth.  The business at Granby Street was kept going until after 1900, but was then sold to The Irish Linen Co.  This was under the terms of the will, as all the children had reached adulthood.  The money was split between William’s children and they went their separate ways.

The money didn’t go very far.  Helena ended up as a “lady housekeeper” to a clerk at the stock exchange in Streatham Common.  She didn’t stand much of a chance of getting married, being saddled with all her brothers and sisters to bring up.  Perhaps she never intended to.  She died quite young, in 1917, leaving £667.  It’s funny how far a few lines in the newspaper can take you!  Regards, Elizabeth.

Bankrupt!

In these modern times of crunched-credit, no one thinks anything of going bankrupt.  After seven years or so, a bankrupt is almost back to normal financially and I doubt there are many people who would shun them or think of them as shameful.  But back in Victorian times, when even the act of writing a cheque that you knew would bounce was a serious criminal offence, there was a huge stigma attached to bankruptcy.  Names were printed not only in the ‘official’ source (The London Gazette), but also in The Times and local newspapers.  It was whilst browsing The Times Digital Archive that I began to notice the Clarendon Park bankrupts.

The person with the dubious honour of being Clarendon Park’s first bankrupt (at least according to The Times), was Elizabeth Nancy Jackson.  Born in Poplar, London c1825, she came to Leicester 1861-71 with husband William – a commercial traveller – and their six children.  In 1881 she resided at Ramsey Villa, 1 West Avenue, describing herself as “dealer in works of art and antiquities.” 

Unfortunately Elizabeth’s businesses failed.  In October 1885 The Times printed the first notification:  “Bankrupts – Adjudications – Jackson, Elizabeth Nancy, Leicester and Clarendon-park, near Leicester, antique china and curiosity dealer, and dairy and cab proprietor.”  By February 1886 it was all over.  Elizabeth’s creditors were offered 7s 8 1/2d for each pound they were owed, i.e. less than half.  I bet the name of Jackson was mud all over Clarendon Park and half of Leicester.

By 1887 son William Maurice Jackson had taken over the cab business, which thrived for at least another 25 years.  One of these days I will look into that business properly, as it looks to me as though the premises are still standing.  In the meantime, I have plenty more tales of bankruptcy woe to share with you, so buy your handkerchieves now whilst stocks last!  Regards, Elizabeth.

The Cecilia Road Book Thief

This is a bit of an odd story.  In 1889 a man named William Alfred Haseldine (born in Syston in 1839), a blacksmith, who lived at 7 Cecilia Road – then known as Cecil Road – was sentenced to one month’s hard labour for stealing a book worth 3s 6d from the stall of Messrs Smith and Sons at the Midland Railway Station.  The Chronicle reported that Haseldine was convicted of a felony 17 years previously, which probably explains the harsh sentence.  He was also said to have been in good work since then, but was sometimes “rather strange in his manner,” and he wanted to know if he would be allowed to buy the book after he completed his prison sentence.  That sounds to me like the behaviour of a man who is mentally unwell, but he would not be awarded much sympathy in 1889.  He left his wife, Rosetta De Board Haseldine (is that not the most fantastic name?) and four children in need of support.

Later that year he committed another, more serious crime,  which was dealt with at the Quarter Sessions rather than at the police court – he stole 24 pairs of leather soles, worth £5, from his employer Willliam Wheater, and this time he was sentenced to eight months’ hard labour.  Then in 1891, barely out of prison, he stole again and was up in front of the bench.  He spent another few months at Leicester Gaol.

Things generally deteriorated for William.  In 1901 he was an inmate at Leicester Workhouse, and sometime before 1911 he was admitted as a patient at the Borough Lunatic Asylum at Humberstone, later The Towers Hospital.  On both occasions he was described as a widower, though his wife died in 1922, so perhaps she disowned him.  She too described herself as a widow in 1911 – probably because of  the shame of mental illness.

William died in 1914, probably still an inmate of the mental hospital.  He was 79.  It is sad to think of this physically strong man, a blacksmith, having been brought so low by mental illness.  I wonder whether his mental state caused him to commit the crimes, or whether it was the other way round?

I know William and his family only lived in Clarendon Park for a short time but it is so fascinating to me how every house has many different human stories,  This one is particularly poignant but I would love to know what felony William committed…another trip to the record office!  Regards, Elizabeth.

Drunken father neglects children

When I started writing this I had just seen a single newspaper article, dated 1900, about a father who went on drunken benders and neglected his children.  But when I looked into the case in more detail, I found that he was a Thoroughly Bad Man and wanted to tell his story for the sake of his poor suffering wife and children.

Edward Outram Thrall was born in Mansfield in 1863.  His father died soon after, and he was brought up by his widowed mother Martha, a mill hand.  They boarded in the home of William Marshall, a mason, which perhaps is how Edward was became a stone mason.  Between 1881 and 1885 he moved to Leicester where he married Eliza Smith Harris.  Their first daughter, Beatrice Alice, was born the following year (1886).  Then followed Benjamin Smith Thrall (1888), Harry George (1890-1892) Kathleen (1893) Arthur Edward (1896-1897) and Evelyn (1898).

In 1893 the Leicester Chronicle reported Edward for the first time.  “Edward Thrall stone mason, Lincoln-street, was charged with using obscene language, and being drunk in Green Lane-road,North Evington, on Saturday night.  He denied the offence, but two policemen gave evidence on which he was fined 10s.”  This was pretty minor stuff for him.  In October 1896 he deserted his wife and children since , forcing them to enter the workhouse to survive.  At the time he left his son Harry was very ill and unlikely to live (Harry died in April 1897), yet he went on a drunken wanderlust.  The Chronicle dated 27th March reported that “Prisoner asked for another chance, but the magistrates sent him to prison for six weeks.”  Asking for yet another chance was Edward Thrall’s constant refrain.

In September 1897, on the run from the Leicester police, Edward Thrall was charged with obtaining money by means of a fraudulent begging letter, which he was taking round the shops and inns of Loughborough.  He claimed to be collecting for a man named West, who had broken his leg and had a wife and family depending on him – how ironic that Thrall himself had a wife and children going hungry in Leicester.  Of course he pleaded guilty, having been caught in the act by a policeman, and said he was very sorry for what he had done.  He went to gaol for 28 days hard labour.

The moment he returned from prison in April 1897, he had subjected his wife to almost daily beatings.  On one occasion in October he ” banged her about, dragged her upstairs and assaulted her again there.”  Brave Eliza reported him to the police, but when Thrall received the summons to court he “thrashed her again and then, picking up a chair, said he would ‘Broughton her.'”  I haven’t been able to find a definition for this – though his intention is pretty clear.  Does anyone have any information?  Do let me know.  Anyway, predictably Thrall tried to  under play the assault and said it was not as serious as Eliza had made out, and that he had been so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing.  However, the magistrates characterised him as a very unworthy man, and sent him to prison for two months.

Unfortunately, fair divorce laws and the welfare state being many decades in the future, Eliza was forced to accept Thrall back as her husband and so-called provider.  Sometime between 1898 and 1900 the family moved to 1 Fleetwood Road, Clarendon Park.  Edward Thrall was no better.  In September 1900 the NSPCC, who had been supervising the family due to previous concerns, prosecuted him for neglect of the children.  Eliza testified against him, saying that  he was addicted to drink, and got worse and worse.   He was drunk frequently.  Her mother and other people had helped her, and she had done a little work herself.   Mrs Leicester, a Bible Woman, said she had assisted the family with food and clothing.  The NSPCC inspector said that it was a chronic case, and there did not appear to be any hope.  Sergeant Perkins, the arresting officer, had known Thrall for the last three years, and he had no been sober for many days together.  Thrall was again very sorry and asked for another chance – but was sent to prison for six months.

If there is a happy ending to this story, it is that by 1911 Edward and Eliza were living apart (Edward in a cheap boarding house with 94 other men in Lee Street, and Eliza with the children at Justice Street, of all places).   She was supporting them by making up hosiery, and the older children were also factory workers.  She did not live with Edward again, and he later that year aged just 47.  Sadly Eliza just a few years later, in 1918.  What a hard life she led.  I know that the family only lived in Clarendon Park for a few years, but their story is far from unique in its history I am sure, and I am equally sure that there will be families living with similar problems here today.  Please help if you can.  Regards, Elizabeth.