Category Archives: Old postcards and photos

Leonard Norman, a Clarendon Park Photographer

Sometimes I come across something on Ebay that really excites me.  Just a couple of weeks ago I spent the best part of thirty quid on a collection of 66 cartes de visite and cabinet cards barely held together by a falling apart album of very questionable taste – just to get hold of a single image that definitely isn’t worth £30.  But I didn’t care, firstly because the collection belonged to a Leicester family whose tree I have been growing from the tiny acorn of a single named and dated photograph, and secondly because the cabinet card I wanted is perfect.  Here is all about it.

The photographer is L. Norman of Clarendon Studio, Montague Road, Clarendon Park.  The card stock (dark green), the gold bevelled edge, the studio name in gold all point to a picture taken during the early 1890s.  The image is of a little girl in an outfit that almost certainly isn’t hers, and it’s not a very good image either – too much light in the top right hand corner and the little girl’s black- stockinged legs disappear in the gloom behind her.  However that really awful vase and feather are beautifully clear.

A trip to Leicestershire Records Office told me quite a bit about Leonard.  Leonard was born in Knighton village in 1870 and after school began work, as so many did, as a shoe clicker.  He moved to 28 Montague Road in 1893 (shortly after his marriage to Elizabeth Carter) and 30 Montague Road – the most likely premises for “Clarendon Studio” in 1897.  I suspect he occupied both 28 and 30 Montague Road between 1893 and 1907, when he moved to 51 Montague Road.  None of the street directories of the period described Leonard Norman as a photographer, in fact his first entry is in Wright’s Directory of Leicestershire in 1906, at 30 Montague Road, as a “picture framer.”  

30 Montague Road. It is still fairly apparent that this was once a shop premises

The 1901 census described him as “shopkeeper and picture framer.”  Picture framing and photography often went together at this time, for obvious reasons.  Leonard’s last directory entry was in 1912, but by this time he had already returned to his previous work as a shoe clicker so either the entry was out of date or Leonard was only working as a framer in his spare time.  I wonder how seriously Leonard took the photography side of his business, and how successful it was.  Clearly not all that successful – I feel quite sorry for him.

51 Montague Road

I am fairly confident that I will be able to find out the name of the little girl in the picture, as long as she was related to the Hughes family of Thornton Lane, Leicester, whence my album originated - and I think she must have been.  So you can see why I was so excited to get hold of that tatty album.  Regards, Elizabeth.

The Disappointing Holiday of Hannah Vice

I love this postcard of St Michael’s Mount, Penzance, which was posted to Mrs W J Vice of 222 Clarendon Park Road.  Not because of the picture, but because of the message from Hannah expressing her very English dissatisfaction with her holiday.  Listen to this:

The weather is just as dull as it was at home.  Not much sea and rather a dirty brown.  Did you come here as well as Swansea?  I forget!  There are some nice public gardens but small.  Went to the Baptist Chapel twice yesterday.  Yours with love Hannah.  Penlee Villa, Redinnick,  Penzance.

Poor Hannah!  I’ve been to Penzance once and it was lovely, although the sun was shining and I’ve never been a fan of large public gardens.

Mrs W T Vice was Mary Eliza Vice  (also nee Vice, 1857-1927), wife of William Thomas Vice (1862-1942), originally a corn miller from Blaby but by 1911 manager of flour mills for a biscuit manufacturer.  They had several children: Samuel (1886), Dorothy Martha (1888-1954), Gladys Mary (1890), Hilda Geraldine (1894-1931), and Marjory (1893) who died in infanthood.  All except Dorothy lived at 222 Clarendon Park Road in 1911.  I have no evidence for this, but suspect that the Hannah of rubbish holiday fame was William’s unmarried sister Hannah Eliza Ann Vice (1854-1928).  Virtually all the Vice girls – no pun intended - remained unmarried, and almost the whole Vice family returned to their native Blaby to be buried in the cemetery.

222 Clarendon Park Road - I've often admired this house

It’s a pity Hannah didn’t enjoy her holiday more because it was probably the last one she took for a long time.  The postcard was sent on 1st September 1913, not long before the onset of World War.  My mother in law is off to Penzance in a few weeks – here’s wishing her blue skies and a sparkling sea.  Regards, Elizabeth.

St John the Baptist Church

Central section of St John's

St John the Baptist Church, on Clarendon Park Road, is the parish church of Clarendon Park.  It is an Anglican Church (Church of England).  There is far too much to say about its history in just one post, but I would like to share with you a few pictures and facts about its earliest days.

St John’s was built in 1884-1885 by architects Goddard and Paget of Leicester, funded largely by a gift of £6,000 from Miss Sarah Barlow (more about her some other time).  It was built as a chapel of ease in the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, and only became parish church in its own right in 1917.  The parish minute books show how pleased the then vicar and churchwardens were, as it considerably simplified the financial running of the churches.

Joseph Goddard also built Leicester’s clock tower, in 1868.  Here is an excellent site about the Goddard empire.  St John’s was designed in the Victorian gothic style.  I think it is fair to say that it is considerably more imposing on the inside than the outside.  The level of detail is astonishing and the overall impression is of grandeur and awe.  Here is one of Goddard’s original designs for the railings that used to top the front boundary wall (which you can see in the photo above have been removed…probably as part of the war effort).  Luckily the attractive gate still stands.  Leicestershire Records Office holds all the original designs, and they are beautiful in themselves.

As for the interior, here is a postcard showing the interior as it was before the addition of a new reredos in memory of Guy Edward Frank Russell, who died in World War I.  The screen is still in place – this was taken down within living memory of the current congregation. 

St John’s is open 9 – 3pm most days except weekends (services on Sunday are at 8.30am, 9.30am and 11am) and it is well worth a visit even if you are not a practising Christian.  There is a lot more to say about St John’s but some other time!  In the meantime, check the Index page of this site for several more articles about St John’s.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Postcard from Whitwick to Clarendon Park

A postcard of Glasgow

  

 The postcard reads: “Dear Mrs. Stevens, We arrived quite safe at Whitwick & are enjoying ourselves very much.  I have seen Mother & Father and they are quite well, I hope you are.  Give my love to Mr. Stevens & yourself.  It is much quieter here than in Leicester, the air is much fresher.  We have been out every night so far & we are going to church tonight, with best love to you all from Milly.”   The postmark show that it was sent from Whitwick A on August 6th 1906, to Mrs. Stevens, 74 Montague Road, Clarendon Park, Leicester.              

The reverse

First let’s look at the addressee, Mrs Stevens.  John Stevens (born c1842), of Belton in Rutland, married Sarah Ann Jelley (born c1848), born in Burton Overy, in Leicester in 1867, thus elevating her to the exalted position of Mrs Stevens and freeing her from a rather silly name.  They started their married life in Leicester.  In 1871 they lived at 2 Bethel Court, Black Friars with their daughter Sarah Jane, who sadly died at the end of the year aged just two.  She was the only child to be born alive to John and Sarah Ann.  By 1881 they were living at 28 Cosby Street in St Margaret’s.  In 1881 John and Sarah lived alone at 28 Cosby Street in St. Margaret’s, Leicester.  John’s occupation was ‘Grocery’ and Sarah’s as ‘fancy hand’, which is not the disreputable trade it sounds like!     In 1891 John and Sarah Ann had moved to Montague Road – number 26, though as the road had only just been built a couple of years previously and may not have been completed (I need to check), it may have been renumbered later.  Because John and Sarah Ann spent at least 20 years living at the address on our postcard, 74 Montague Road.  In 1901 and 1911 - as with 1891 - they had a boarder, William Henry Thorp, a joiner.  That’s 30 years of playing gooseberry.  John was a domestic coachman, and I would love to know for whom…maybe for one of the grander houses in Clarendon Park or Stoneygate.  Sarah died aged 67 in 1915      

Now, as to “Milly”, the author of the postcard…I have looked into various possibilities.  Could she have been a sister of John or Sarah Ann?  Neither set of their parents seems to have been alive in 1906 so her reference to “Mother and Father” precludes that.  I can’t find any obvious links to either the Jelleys or the Stevens but as always, a simple solution has been staring me in the face, in the form of a Millicent Emily Jelly living at 20 Montague Road in the 1901 census.  There is absolutely no proof, nor any clue to a relationship, but it does seem more than a coincidence.  Millicent and Jell(e)y are two names that few people have attempted to put together (very wisely, I feel.  Though in searching I did find a baptism for Kelly Jelly, which amounts to child abuse in my view), and to be living in the same road is enough to satisfy me, in a strictly non-professional way of course.   

As to Milly’s remarks, whomever she may have been….she was obviously enjoying her holiday in sunny Whitwick (near Coalville) and who can blame her?  Out every night and church on Sunday.  The air must have been noticeably fresher, away from the factories and the smog of coal fires in close terraced houses.     Though why she chose to commemorate with a postcard of Glasgow is anyone’s guess.  If it was Milly Jelley then she would have been 14, just old enough to have started work, possibly as a tailoring machinist as she was in 1911.    She went on to marry Albert Hambly in 1922.        

I have a small collection of postcards to Clarendon Park.  I find them just as interesting as postcards of Clarendon Park.   I hope you agree.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Clarendon Park Road

Let’s dive straight into the heart of Clarendon Park, both today and in the past, and look at this wonderful postcard of Clarendon Park.  Unfortunately the post mark is almost unreadable so I can’t say exactly when it was posted, but the stamp on the back is a 1/2 penny George V green, meaning that it must have been posted between 1912 and 1918, when the cost of postage doubled (plus ca change!).   It was posted from Leicester from ‘Nellie’ to Mrs P Warner of 24 St Paul Road, Coventry.

 So whereabouts on Clarendon Park Road was this taken?  Well, the slightly taller building on the left hand side, just beyond the first block of bay fronted houses, is Knighton Library.  In 1912 the library opened in the evenings only, perhaps reflecting the times when Clarendon Park’s largely working class population were free to visit (working hours generally being longer and often including Saturdays).  The church in the far background is Christchurch, currently a Methodist/Baptist church.  The photographer stood at the corner of St Leonards Road and Clarendon Park Road, facing towards the Queens Road crossroads.

The most striking feature of the photograph is the emptiness of the street, however we mustn’t be tempted to think that the road was usually this quiet in the 1910s.  Far from it – the decorative poles to the centre right are holding up tram wires, and this was a busy thoroughfare of electric trams, horse-drawn traffic (one or two horses and carts are visible here) and even motor vehicles.  In 1912 Clarendon Park already had a motor engineer works, The Burgess Motor and Engineering Company in Oxford Road, and two motor garages – Sydney Bower of 111a Clarendon Park Road and the Portland Motor Garage and Engineering Co of Portland Street.  William Maurice Jackson ran a cab service and livery stable at 1 West Avenue, and bicycles featured strongly in Clarendon Park too – a cycle maker at 60 Montague Road and repairs at the Burgess Motor and Engineering Company.  Add the pedestrians shopping at Queens Road and the scores of small shops on Clarendon Park Road itself and it seems much more likely that the photographer had to get up pretty early to catch Clarendon Park Road at this quiet time!

It is worth mentioning how tidy Clarendon Park Road looked with its paving in good repair and no so-called home improvements spoiling the look of the terraced houses, which all have tidy front gardens with their original walls and decorative ironwork (to be lost in the war efforts, no doubt).  Although when this photograph was taken the houses, and Clarendon Park itself, were  just thirty years old.

It would be interesting to take a photograph of the same view today and compare the two…..but not with my photography skills!  Regards, Elizabeth.