Category Archives: Old newspaper articles

She drank to death at Wistaria Villa, Howard Road

This is the sad tale of Mary Ann Pretty, wife of Clement Pretty, who drank herself to death at Wistaria Villa (now number 65) Howard Road in 1886.

Mary Ann and Clement started their married life in London, with Clement working as a commercial traveller in silks.  Several children were born there: Clement, Henry and John.  By 1877 they had settled in Leicester, and daughter Alice was born.  Perhaps due to an inheritance in 1875 from Clement’s father, formerly the landlord of The Three Crowns licensed hotel in St Martins, following his death in 1875, Clement set up in business as a coal merchant.  The 1877 White’s Directory of Leicestershire shows Clement Pretty, colliery agent, at Stanley Terrace (Humberstone Road), and in 1881 the family lived at 22 London Road.

Things started to go wrong.  In 1883 the RSPCA prosecuted an employee of Clement’s, William Lemon, for cruelty.  The animal was destroyed, being emaciated and having several sores on its back.  Later that year, In 1883 Clement was made bankrupt and his coal merchant business liquidated.  In 1885 Marian sold 5 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, to a tobacconist named Ignatius Carter.

Then on the evening of 30th April 1886, Marian got drunk.  She was an habitual  heavy drinker.  She took to her bed, complaining of a pain in her side, but this time she was taken very ill with “apoplexy” (bleeding), perhaps in her liver or her pancreas.  The local doctor was called but Marian died the following afternoon.  Clement moved out of Wistaria Villa shortly afterwards, being replaced in 1887 by Arthur Triggs, a commission agent.

Mary left £1,275 in her will and it seems that Clement decided to spend the money purchasing numbers 1-13 Edward Road, Clarendon Park, which he presumably rented out.  These he owned until at least 1904.  He moved to Holbrook Road with daughter Alice and in 1901 was “living on his own means” (or at least his late wife’s!).  However, when he died at the Infirmary in 1931, he left just £139 9s 6d, so Clement somehow spent it all. 

I wonder why Marian was such a heavy drinker?  Perhaps those years of worry about debt bankruptcy drove her to it.  Clement doesn’t seem to have been very good with money.  Perhaps she visited her in-laws at the Three Crowns too often.  Anyhow, it must have been very sad for her husband and children.  Perhaps she needed the help of the Temperance folk.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Leicester Chronicle, Saturday May 15th, 1886, p6.

Distressing Case of Sudden Death

An inquest was held at Knighton on Monday afternoon, before the coroner, Mr G.F. Harrison, on the body of Mary Ann Pretty, aged 42, the wife of Mr. Clement Pretty, Wistaria Villa, Howard-road, Knighton.  The husband stated that the wife was taken ill through drink on the 30th inst., and did not come down stairs afterwards.  About nine o’clock on Friday morning, he heard a crash in her bedroom, and on going up to see what was the matter found his wife lying on the floor.  He called in Mrs Williams, who lives next door, and she assisted him to get his wife into bed.  Deceased complained of feeling very unwell, and of having hurt her side.  He remained with her for some time, and sent for Dr. Emmerson.  He left her about three o’clock in the afternoon, and on going up to her room at 3.30 with the doctor, found her dead.  She was, he said, a woman of intemperate habits.  Dr Emmerson examined the body of the woman ,and found no suspicious appearances.  He was of the opinion that death had resulted from a natural cause, serious apoplexy, induced by drink.  He had attended her several years, and knew that she was very intemperate.  A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned. 

Chinese crackers on Howard Road

I meant to post this bonfire night-themed newspaper article from 1900 yesterday, but I was in bed with tonsilitis (woe is me, etc), so here it is a day late instead.  Following on from those Mischievous Lads, here is another example of delinquent Clarendon Park youth, from the Leicester Chronicle Saturday, October 13th, 1900 p6.

THE RISING GENERATION

Leonard Stanton (12), schoolboy, St. Leonard’s Road, and Herbert Wales (15), shoehand, Clarendon Park Road, were summoned for letting off Chinese crackers in Howard-road, on September 26th.  They were fined 2s. 6d.

Leonard Stanton lived at 103 St Leonards Road – and I bet he got a fair amount of stick for it!  Funnily enough I know the people who live there now and they are the nicest, least delinquent folk imaginable.  Leonard’s father was already dead in 1900 and his mother had four children to take care of.  Between October 1900 and April 1901, he left school and started work as a grocer’s errand boy.  By 1911 he was a grocers assistant, working for and living with Frank Claxton in Newark, Nottinghamshire.  I hope that by then he had grown out of his firecracker habit!  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything out about his partner in crime, Herbert Wales.  Let’s hope he didn’t blow himself up!   Regards, Elizabeth.

Robbery at Clarendon Park Post Office

The Leicester Chronicle Saturday, July 21st 1888, p2

ROBBERY AT A POST OFFICE

Some time during Friday evening the Post Office at Clarendon Park was broken into and a sum approaching £20 taken from the till.  The matter is in the hands of the police.

The Chronicle doesn’t report whether the thief was caught in the weeks after the robbery, but I did find out a few interesting things.  The post office in 1888 was on Queens Road.  It was run by Henry Scorror, “stationer and agent” (Wright’s 1888 Directory of Leicestershire) and his wife Catherine.  Letters and parcels were collected on weekdays at 9.50am, 2.10pm, 3.30pm, 7pm and 8.20pm.  By 1891, as the population of Clarendon Park increased, collections were also made on Sundays.  The address was now 83 Queens Road – where the current post office also stands.  It’s amazing how much longevity of service these Clarendon Park shops and businesses have seen!

In 1891 Henry Scorror lived at 39 Montague Road in 1891 with wife Catherine Burnet née Bethell, his children and servant.  He died in Queens Road on 1st January 1893 aged just 39.

Catherine kept up the post office at 83 Queens Road, with the assistance of daughters Annie Burnet Scorror and Edith Dorothy Bethell Scorror, living in rooms above the shop.  She was still sub-postmistress in 1916, but retired some time before 1925, when daughter Annie was in post (now as Mrs O’Connor).   Catherine died 9th January 1936.

I’ll be visiting Leicestershire Records Office on Thursday to find out how long the Scorror/O’Connor family were in charge of Clarendon Park Post Office.  The British Postal Archive will also be a port of call one of these days.  And I must speak to the lovely chaps who run the post office today to see if they can tell me anything about its history.  As always, half an hour of research brings up many more questions than answers!  regards, Elizabeth.

In a bad state of repair: Queens Road and Clarendon Park Road

You didn’t think I was talking about today, did you?  Certainly not.  From as early as 1887, with half of Clarendon Park still not built, people were already complaining about the state of the roads.

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, December 24, 1887 p5

A correspondent writes from Clarendon Park, calling attention to the bad state of Clarendon Park-road and Queen’s-road, and urging the authorities to put them in good repair and charge the owners with the cost.  He understands that part of one of these roads belongs to the borough, and thinks the town authorities ought to make their own part good.

Serious Gas Explosion at Clarendon Park in 1898

If there’s one enormous difference between newspaper reporting in the 1800s and newspaper reporting today, it’s the lavish attention to detail of the past compared with the present.  To the point that you begin to wonder how people stayed awake whilst reading it – though I am very grateful as a local historian.

Here we have an account of a gas explosion in 1898 on what is now known as Welford Road, but I have seen described in old documents as Wigston Road and Bosworth Road.  Two sisters had recently moved into a brand new house (which sadly I have not been able to identify), and their landlord popped over to tap a barrel of beer for them.  The pantry was too dark for him to see, so he called for a light.  One of the sisters brought him a candle, but there was a gas leak and the pantry exploded, sending the landlord and his tenant flying into the kitchen.  The landlord escaped to raise the alarm, but poor Sarah Hall was unconscious and badly burned.  Meanwhile her sister Annie was in bed upstairs, and the staircase was so badly damaged that it wasn’t safe for anyone to rescue her.  Luckily a man was driving a ladder past the house – this being a busy road – and he carried the woman out.

The doctor was called and he summoned the horse-drawn ambulance (imagine being bumped about in that all the way to the infirmary).  I can find no record of Sarah dying, so I assume she survived.  As to the house – well, not surprisingly Annie and Sarah moved before the 1901 census.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wanted to stay either.  Now both of the ladies must have been invalids (Annie was already bed bound at the time of the accident).  The landlord, John Hurren, must have been pretty devastated too – not only did he receive head injuries and the loss of his tenants, but his brand new house was badly knocked about and must have needed expensive repair works.

For those interested to read (nearly) the whole report, here it is.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Leicester Chronicle Saturday 19th November 1898, p.3

Serious Gas Explosion at Clarendon Park: Lady Badly Injured

About ten o’clock on Friday morning, a serious explosion of gas, resulting in severe injuries to one person, and lesser injuries to another, occurred at a house in the Wigston-road,  Clarendon Park, the residence of two maiden ladies of middle age, named Miss Sarah Hall and Miss Annie Hall.  At the request of Miss Sarah Hall, the landlord, Mr. John Hurren, Euston Villa, Clarendon Park Road, called at the house for the purpose of tapping a barrel of beer.  He went into the pantry, which is just under the staircase, but finding it in darkness, called to Miss Hall for a light.  She at once lit a candle, and came to the pantry door, but th moment she reached the threshold a terrific explosion occurred, and she was thrown violently backwards into the kitchen, while Mr. Hurren was also knocked down and badly injured about the face and head.  He managed, however, to struggle through the thick smoke and dust caused by falling ceiling and mortar into the back garden.  He had not gone many yards when he met Mr. Wilson, who lives next door, and who, having heard the explosion, was hurrying to see what was the matter.  Mr. Hurren, who was dazed and bewildered by what had occurred, called out “There’s another inside.”   Mr. Hurren immediately made his way into the house, and discovered Miss Sarah Hall lying unconscious on the kitchen floor.  Lifting her up, he managed to carry her outside, and then with assistance, conveyed her to a neighbour’s house.  Dr. Hunter, who lives in Clarendon Park, was immediately sent for, and in the meantime some members of the St. John Ambulance Association at the Wheatsheaf Works, having heard the explosion, and rendered all the aid they possibly could to the injured lady and Mr. Hurren. 

On his arrival, Dr. Hunter, having ascertained the grave nature of Miss Hall’s  injuries, ordered her immediate removal to the Infirmary.  The fire brigade horse ambulance was summoned by telephone from the Wheatsheaf Works, and the unfortunate lady was removed to the Infirmary in a still unconscious state.  She had sustained very severe injuries to the face, neck and chest, and was suffering from violent shock.  After the injuries of Mr. Hurren had been dressed he was able to return home.  Miss Annie Hall is an invalid, and was in bed in the front room upstairs when the explosion occurred, and was naturally very much alarmed and upset.  So great was the force of the explosion that the staircase was twisted round and jammed into the wall in such a manner as to render access to the upstairs rooms by that means too dangerous to be attempted.  Attracted by the noise of the explosion, a little crowd of people quickly gathered in front of the house and fortunately one of their number, a man named William Chalk of 6, Burns-street, happened to be wheeling a ladder on a truck.  The ladder was placed against the house, and Chalk himself climbed into the bedroom, and bore the imprisoned lady through the window in safety to the ground, conveying her afterwards to a neighbour’s house.

Superintendant Howe, in charge of the district, was communicated with, and arriving on the scene with all possible despatch, did everything in his power for the injured people.  There can be little doubt that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of gas within the pantry, but whether the leakage arose from defective fittings or from a burner being left on cannot be definitely stated.  That the accumulation, however, was considerable, was shown by the force of the explosion, and the consequent damage to the interior of the house…..every panel of the door leading to the kitchen was blown out, and the top panel in the front room window smashed….the walls on either side of the pantry were bulged out.  The interior of both kitchens was a scene of desolation.  Everything was smothered by the fallen debris, and the furniture twisted and broken.  The damage was not extensive in the front room, but the cornice was all knocked down, and the furniture displaced.  The house has been built quite recently, and the Misses Hall were the first tenants.

Accident on the Railway at Leicester

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, January 14th 1899, p6

Accident on the Railway at Leicester

 A shunter in the employ of the Midland Railway Company, named William Covill Taber, of Lytton-road, Clarendon Park, met with a serious accident at the Knighton Sidings, early on Wednesday morning.  Taber, who had finished duty a few minutes before, and was just about to go home, missed his footing while alighting from an engine, which passed over his right leg, and badly mutilated it.  He was immediately conveyed to the Midland Station on a special engine, and was taken thence to the Infirmary on a stretcher.  It was found necessary to amputate the injured limb, and the poor fellow is doing as well as can be expected. 

William Covill Taber was 24 when he lost his leg in this horrible accident.  He had been married for less than two years to Florence Sarah Izzard, a woman from London.  He was a country lad from Cambridgeshire, having moved to Leicester presumably to find work.  Becoming disabled in late Victorian England was pretty grim – no state support was available except parish relief, and that usually meant the workhouse.  Perhaps the Midland Railway Company offered compensation and support.  They certainly continue to employ William, as in 1901 he was a railway porter and in 1911 a railway goods checker.  I wonder whether he had a wooden leg?  Regards, Elizabeth.

Mischievous Lads

Leicester Chronicle, Thursday 30th April 1898, p2

Mischievous Lads

Herbert Walker (12), Albert James (10), and Thomas Hamp (13), schoolboys, of Montague-road, were jointly summoned for damaging the roofing, slates, and chimney of a workshop belonging to William Watts Clarkson, at Clarendon Park, doing 10s. damage on the 18th inst.  All boys denied the charge.  A son of the tenant of the property spoke to observing the lads on the roof.  They were pulling slates off, and removing bricks from the chimney.  Witness told them to come down, but they commenced swearing at him.  The agent for Mr. Clarkson said damage was constantly being done to this property by boys, and the present summons was taken out as a deterrent.  The boys said they went on the roof to collect their tipcat.  The Mayor, addressing the parents of the boys, said they regarded the present case as a serious one.  It was within the personal knowledge of the Bench that damage was continually being done in all parts of the borough by lads and young men, who seemed to regard property as open to destruction.  Having regard, however, to the good character borne by the defendants, they would be discharged on the parents paying the damage and the costs of the prosecution.

I wouldn’t call that behaviour mischievous exactly!  What naughty boys.  By 1901, only one of them – Thomas Henry Hamp – was still living at Montague Road (number 89).  Albert Arthur James and his enormous family of mother, father, 5 sisters and 4 brothers had moved to 9 Cecilia Road – a two bedroomed house!  And Herbert Walker was no longer in Clarendon Park.  Maybe it was the shame of having been in court that made the family move away?  Anyway, overcrowding is a recognised cause of delinquency and there was certainly plenty of that in Clarendon Park in the 19th century.  Let us hope that the boys made good in the end.  Certainly Thomas Hamp was in work as a shoe heel fitter in 1901 and a trimmer’s labourer in 1911, so there is every chance.

As to the victim of the crime, in 1901 William Watts Clarkson was – at least by his own description a ‘gentleman’ living at Upper Tichborne Street (Highfields) with wife Harriet.  Having retired by 1891, he was previously a brick manufacturer employing 74 men, so he wasn’t quite-quite, of course.  As to the premises that were mentioned in the newspaper article – well, in 1881 Clarkson appeared in Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire and Rutland (a sort of Yellow Pages for the time) under Brick Manufacturers.  The entry reads “Clarkson, William Watts & Co. Grey Friars, Leicester.  Works, Knighton Junction.  See advertisement.”  Unfortunately I am using an online version of the directory and it does not contain the advertisements section – gah! But luckily White’s 1877 Directory comes up trumps, and here it is on page 12:

So his works were at Clarendon Park.  Perhaps this was where those mischievous boys were removing bricks and swearing?  Or maybe it was one of the many smaller workshops in the area (many still standing).  Mr Clarkson seems to have owned quite a bit of property, and much of it was attacked by vandals and thieves.  In May 1886 James Duke was sentenced to 6 months hard labour for stealing two water cisterns from empty houses in Knighton, the property of Mr Clarkson.  The idiot had simply cut the cisterns from the wall, leaving the pipes overflowing and considerably damaging the houses in the process.  The cisterns weren’t worth anything much and James Duke had a well paid job as a plumber, so goodness knows what he was thinking.  Astonishingly, on his death in Middlesex in 1914, William Watts Clarkson was worth just £5.  Maybe the cost of having his properties pulled apart by small boys and lunatic plumbers was just too much.  Regards, Elizabeth.

From Words to Blows

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, September 24th 1898, p3

Borough Police Court: From Words to Blows

Alfred Tracey (60) shoehand, Avenue-road Extension, was summoned for assaulting Eliza Bree, married, of the same road, on the 14th inst.  Defendant pleaded guilty, but alleged provocation.  Mrs Bree told the magistrates that Tracey, who lodged in the Avenue-road, came home while complainant was there.  Defendant struck her with his fist, and also with a brush.  She gave him a return blow.  Tracey said that a dispute arose between him and Mrs. Bree, and from words they came to blows.  Fined 10s., in default seven days.

Oh dear.  Eliza and Harry Bree (both aged 40 in 1898) , a railway porter and a sometime laundress, lived at 266 Avenue Road Extension in 1901 with various children and boarders.  It must have been very crowded in there at times, so when Alfred Tracey rolled up drunk, perhaps Eliza’s temper was just a little too irritable for him.  So he hit her, the bully, and she hit him back!  Those laundresses must have had some pretty good arm muscles and she had 20 years on him, so I expect – and hope – it really hurt.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Temperance in Clarendon Park

The Leicester Chronicle Saturday, 19th August 1893, p11

Local and District News: Leicester Temperance Society

A week’s temperance mission, under the auspices of this society, was inaugurated on Saturday evening by Mr. Jonathan Smith, of the British Temperance League….On Sunday afternoon Mr. Smith addressed a meeting of men in the Christ Church schoolroom….On Monday night Mr. H. Bedford took the air at the open air meeting at Queen’s Road, Clarendon Park, Mr. Smith again being the speaker, and the Carter family singing selections.

Temperance was an important movement in Victorian Britain.  Upper and middle class folk were keen to keep the lower classes respectable and working hard, and drink was seen as an evil.  They did have a point (though the upper classes certainly enjoyed a drink or two themselves of course) – beer houses, pubs and gin palaces abounded and drunken brawls were a feature of every town and village. 

There were many different Temperance societies.  The British Temperance Society was a northern, teetotal and Christian group.  It still exists under the banner of the British National Temperance League, but I can’t quite envisage an open air meeting on the Queen’s road being a success in 2010.  A condition of the sale of land to the Clarendon Park Company was that no pubs, etc should be erected, but it didn’t seem to stop the good people of Clarendon Park lifting their elbows.  There were several beer shops and off licenses in the 19th century and the last tram to Clarendon Park back from the city centre was notoriously drunken!  And as soon as the caveat was lifted on drinking establishments, bars began to spring up on the Queens Road.

As an interesting aside, I wonder how many Clarendon Park residents are not allowed to open a beer shop in their home?  My house has a deed of covenant which states that I am not allowed to, and nor am I permitted to burn bricks in my back garden.  Which is why I have had to turn my hand to historical research, I guess.  How else is a gal to make a living?  Regards, Elizabeth.

A Wild Cow’s Pranks

Leicester Mercury Saturday, 18th Jan 1890, p6

A Wild Cow’s Pranks

Between nine and ten o’clock on Wednesday morning a cow in the Cattle Market became wild, and broke loose, upsetting several people who endeavoured to stop it. Despite the efforts of its drivers, the beast, which seemed fairly maddened, made its way to Stoneygate, rushing at everyone who came in sight. Near the Clarendon Park Congregational Church it made for an old man, but fortunately he succeeded in escaping. It then went for the roadman, but he was behind a gate when it arrived. Rushing up Springfield Road, it turned its attention to some bricklayers working at a new house, and they promptly fled. It was finally driven into a field, where it quieted down somewhat, and later in the morning some more beasts were fetched, and it was returned to the market. So far as can be at present ascertained, no actual casualties occurred, though several persons had very narrow escapes.

Mad cows charging through Clarendon Park does not seem to have been a rare occurrence – there were three reported in The Mercury in the previous year!  But this article is particularly interesting because it shows how Clarendon Park was still semi-rural and under construction.  A mad cow these days would drop with exhaustion before finding a field off the London Road.  Regards, Elizabeth.