Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Naming of Orlando Road

I walked home via Orlando Road today, which in my opinion is one of the nicest corners of Clarendon Park.  So of course I got to wondering how it came by its name (you do that too, of course).

Well it transpires that Orlando Road began life as Holland Road, and was renamed along with a number of others throughout Leicester, as part of a rationalisation project to remove duplication.  In 1894 there were 40 streets with the same name; in seven cases there were three streets with the same name; four cases of four streets with the same name and one of the same name repeated five times throughout the city.  Which must have made the postman’s job something of a nightmare.

So in April 1894 the council made changes, including adding the qualification of north or south to some existing names.  An early suggestion was to change Holland Road to Dutch Road – a bit unimaginative, Councillors Smith and Booth - but in the end they settled on Orlando Road.  Our Lorne Road was allowed to remain, whilst the Lorne Road in Aylestone was changed to Lorrimer Road.

And why Orlando?  In 1890 the artist G F Watts had presented his painting ‘Orlando Pursuing the Fata Morgana’ to the Corporation, to help with the establishment of the permanent art gallery.  You can still find it at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, though perhaps not on display as that kind of art isn’t fashionable just now.  Personally I love a bit of narrative art and if it includes over blown close-ups of wobbly flesh, so much the better.  Anyway, I suspect that the painting is the reason for the name, though I’d be interested to hear another theory.  So the next time you are in Orlando Road (which probably isn’t that often unless you live there, or like me are forced by small boys to take an alleged ‘short cut’ through the alley from Cecilia Road), you can think of G F Watts and feel much better for it.  Regards, Elizabeth

More Clarendon Park Fallen

Last year I published the details of the war memorials at St John the Baptist church.  Because of the way that parish boundaries are and were set, not all of the Clarendon Park fallen are remembered at St John’s.  I would like to remember three brothers who died during the Great War, Harold and Arthur Bree, and their older brother Ernest Harry, who survived.

You might remember their mother, Eliza Bree, from an article I posted right at the beginning of this blogging lark – here.  Mrs Bree lived in Avenue Road Extension and in 1898 got into a bit of bother with her drunken boarder.  Eliza and her husband Harry had a large-ish family – Emma b1878, Ernest Harry b1887, Sydney John (1890-1), Harold b1892, Arthur Edward b1896, Oliver b1898, Doris May (b1904), Ivy Helen (b1907), as well as several others who died in infancy.

At the outbreak of the war, Ernest Harry, a railway goods porter, joined the Leicestershire Regiment as a private (nos 2046, 200223), fought in France and lived to tell the tale.  He died in Coalville in 1965.

Harold Bree enjoyed – if that is the right word – a varied career in the Army Service Corps and the Royal Engineers.  At the time of his death on 2nd May 1918 he was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers (Railway Traffic Establishment), perhaps due to skills picked up from his railway porter father and brother (Harold himself was a butcher before the war).  He died in England and was buried at Welford Rd Cemetery in consecrated ground, alongside fellow casualties Private Vivian Harry Ringrose and Private William George Grewcock.

Grave of Sapper Harold Bree, at Welfrod Road cemetery

Arthur Edward Bree, also a railway porter, joined up as a Private in the 4th bttn  Worcs Regiment and died on 16th Aug 1917, during the 3rd battle of Ypres.  His body was never found and he is remembered at Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium to the missing in Belgian Flanders.

Younger brother Oliver died six days later, as a Private in the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), having transferred from the Leicestershire Regiment.  He was just 19.   He is buried in Potijze Chateau Grounds Cemetery, Western Flanders.

Sadly none of the service records for the Bree brothers survive, being amongst those water damaged and lost during the second world war, which is such a pity as it seems that almost all we know of these young men is that they lived and died.  And what of Harry and Eliza Bree?  How awful for them to have lost three of their four surviving sons to the slaughter.

Thank you to David Roberts for telling me about the Bree brothers some months ago, and to the volunteers at Welford Road Cemetery visitors centre, who were so helpful in showing me where Harold Bree is buried.  It was good to visit his grave and see the poppy placed there by the volunteers.  Elizabeth

Drunk or Ill? You decide.

I have such an interesting article about Clarendon Park Congregational Church Football Club to post, but the wonderful postcard of the team in 1910 can’t be scanned because I am having yet more computer problems, so in the meantime let’s have another drunkard story, this time from 1893:

DRUNK OR ILL?  William Sharman (50), 11, Seymour Road, Clarendon Park, was charged with being drunk while in charge of a horse and dray in High-street on Wednesday.  – Mr J. T. Hincks defended. – P.C.’s Sharman and Underwood stated that they found prisoner asleep at his dray in High-street about one o’clock on Wednesday.  He was very drunk, and smelt strongly of drink.  Mr Dixon, charge office clerk, stated that when brought to the police station Sharman reeled about, and was very drunk.  Mr Hincks said that the man had been employed by a railway company for 30 years, and had nothing against him.  He contended his client was ill and not drunk and when he (Mr Hincks) saw him he could hardly stand for pain.  Evidence was called showing that the accused was very ill on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning was so ill that his friends advised him not to go to work.  One witness stated that at a quarter to twelve prisoner was quite sober, and two draymen, who were present when he was arrested, gave similar evidence.  The magistrates dismissed the case.

William Sharman, who was from Rutland, and his second wife Sophia, moved to 11 Seymour Road with their two children sometime around 1887, probably when the house was brand new.  In 1891 William was a drayman, meaning that he drove a low, flat-bed wagon with no sides, generally used for transporting goods.  He worked for the Great Western Railway until his death in 1905.

So was he drunk or was he ill?  Well, whatever the ‘illness’ it certainly wasn’t serious enough to kill him as he lived and worked another 12 years.  And there aren’t many illnesses that cause the sufferer to smell strongly of alcohol, so my money is on a conspiracy.  The man couldn’t stand for the pain, eh?  I’m putting him down for another Clarendon Park person drunk in charge of a horse.  Sorry William.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Experienced waiter of Avenue Rd Extension

The Times 25th July 1891, p16

“WAITER, Coffee, Sitting Room, or otherwise.  Thoroughly experienced.  English.  Age 23. – E.L. 241 Avenue-road Extension, Clarendon Park, Leicester.”

This advertisement is so interesting to me.  It typifies us so many things about Victorian Clarendon Park life.

Number 241 Avenue Road Extension was a shop.  In 1891 it was occupied by John and Elizabeth Clayton (and her mother), who also kept boarders.  Census night was 5th April 1891 and E.L., whoever he was, had presumably found a job and moved out.  He was almost certainly a boarder rather than a family member (Elizabeth’s maiden name was Rawlins).  There was a surprising amount of mobility in and out of Clarendon Park, and also within it – a bit like the student population today I suppose.  Boarders were particularly likely to move frequently, in search of better landlords or a more convenient location.

As to  E.L. – well, I have found in 1891 a waiter by the name of Emanuel Leiter, aged 23, in an hotel run by Emily Cunningham at 51 New Bond Street, Mayfair.  He was born in Switzerland, so he may not be the same person.  Then again, he may be – people weren’t always entirely honest about their age and minor details like their nationality in these adverts.  They knew that employers were prejudiced against foreigners and those they felt too old or too young for the job (especially domestic service).  E.L. may not even have been his real initials:  People sometimes changed their names to more ‘suitable’ ones for their profession, again especially in domestic service.  It has to be said that Emanuel isn’t a very Victorian Clarendon Park name – I was expecting something more prosaic like Edward or perhaps Ernest.

I tried to take a photo of 141 Avenue Road Extension but once again I CAN’T FIND IT.  Is the extension some kind of Bermuda Triangle?  If anyone feels like looking for it, or even showing me how the numbering system works on that godforsaken road, I would be only too grateful.  In the meantime, regards Elizabeth.

Howard Road 1911 – 2011

HUGE apologies for this being the first post in a very long time.  Real life work commitments have been keeping me from going to the record office, and I have barely sat down to do anything historical in weeks.  But enough about the high-pressure Clarendon Park life we all lead today (cue violins), and more about the past.  I thought we’d start afresh with Howard Road, one of my favourite parts.  It’s a bit like Clarendon Park Road in that there is a real mix of housing, though none of it as grand.  There is/was a sprinkling of shops and businesses, but of a smaller and humbler nature as they are not on a main thoroughfare.  Several purpose-built shops have now been converted into houses, but a few linger on.  Here is a snapshot of businesses in 1911, from the census and Kelly’s Directory:

    • 21 Howard Road – Mrs Lydia Fletcher, beer retailer and shopkeeper
    • 43 Howard Road - Ruby Gursley, general draper
    • 47 Howard Road –  Cuthbert Chapman, scientific instrument designer
    • 59 Howard Road – Julia Annie Hill, boarding house keeper (2 boarders)
    • 77 Howard Road - George Edward Pritchard, grocer and confectioner
    • 84 Howard Road – Sarah Benskin, dressmaker
    • 85 Howard Road –  Charles James Groves, boot repairer

59 Howard Road or "Ashbourne Villa" - Julia Annie Hill ran a boarding house here for many years

It’s worth mentioning that the lower end of Howard Road (towards Welford Road) was still pretty new in 1911.  Many of the houses from about 90 onwards were not built until 1903-6.

There were never very many businesses on Howard Road, because unlike Clarendon Park Road it’s not a main thoroughfare – especially now that it has been divided up for traffic calming.  There are only a handful today and several have been converted into housing like number 77, which in 1911 was a grocer and confectioners, and was last used as a general corner shop and off license.  It stood empty for many years and was a bit of an eyesore until it was renovated in 2009/10 and converted into two houses.  The old off license illuminated sign was still there until a few months ago. 

 Anyway, it’s good to be back and I promise to be a better Yourhistories from now on and not to get distracted by gin other things.  Yours, Elizabeth.

Clarendon Park Lending Library

I have been having a run of good luck on Ebay this week.  My favourite item, which arrived in the post this morning, is a copy of Ernest Thompson Seton’s Old Silver Grizzle The Badger.  What makes this slightly battered edition interesting to me is that on the front is a stained, green label printed with the words CLARENDON PARK LENDING LIBRARY.  Which got me thinking about libraries in Clarendon Park.

Apologies for the terrible photo!

Knighton branch library opened on Clarendon Park Road on 9th April 1896.  In 1912 it contained upwards of 4,300 books (according to Kelly’s Directory), rising to 5,900 by 1928.  Opening hours were then 6 – 9.30pm on weeknights and 3 - 9.30pm on Saturdays, reflecting the leisure hours of Clarendon Park working folk.  The Chronicle reported in 1897 that Knighton library readers were more inclined to read “serious” books, especially theology and philosophy, and there were more adult readers than at other branches.  It was abundantly supplied with daily papers and periodicals.  18,000 books were issued in the first year, making it a great success.  A separate table was kept for ladies, and another for boys.  Very sensible.  Ladies and boys just don’t mix, do they?

Many towns and villages had private lending libraries, often operating from small shops.  In Victorian times the cost of books was so high in proportion to incomes, that most people could not afford to buy them and so used a private lending library, at least until the municipal ones were established.  Quite a few were organised by churches, such as St Philips in Evington, where the vicar “put by” 300 or so books and started one for the poor of his parish (no doubt of an improving nature).  Some were established in village halls and schools.  Some of these were free, and some were paid for by subscription or by individual book borrowed.  Both kinds could have flourished in Clarendon Park, with its mix of wealthier middle class and very humble working class people.

None of which brings me much closer to finding out about Clarendon Park Lending Library.  I’m pretty sure I came across a reference to it in a city directory at the county archive…..but I won’t get a chance to check until next week.  Oh, and Catherine Hayes, of The Pebbles, Burmarsh circa 1982 with the red felt tip pen – you are a naughty girl for writing in your books!  Regards, Elizabeth.

The First Baptisms at St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park

Last week I began transcribing the baptisms that have taken place at St John the Baptist church from the very first one until some unspecified time (until I go mad and blind from microfiche reader overuse, probably).  It’s going to take me a long time.  In its first year of active service (geddit, service…) the font – designed and donated by the architect who designed the church - was used in 30 baptisms.  Soon after there were well over 50 christenings a year, as Clarendon Park built up and more and more people moved in.

The imposing font

I have only managed the first five years so far (over 270 baptisms) but it has been interesting to look at the database.  One thing that has particularly fascinated me is the way that neighbours seemed to get their children baptised all at the same time.  So no one in Montague Road, for instance, would be christened for several months…and then all of a sudden three or four families would appear within a week or so.  This happened so many times that it can’t be a coincidence.  I did wonder whether the curate was doing his rounds and telling off the residents for not having their children baptised quickly enough!

There are many occasions where entire families were baptised together, adults included.  It was certainly common for all the children to be baptised on one day – from teenagers to new babies.  On 6th July 1885 Ellen (10), John William (5), Annie (3) and Ethel Elizabeth (1) Stapleford, of Queens Road, were baptised together.  I wonder whether it was the excitement of being amongst the first to be baptised at the new church that encouraged so many?

The very first baptisms took place on 5th October 1885.  The children were William Harper, Beatrice Onion and Alice Muddimer, all of Avenue Road Extension and all just two or three months old.  One of these days I plan to write a little biography of each - if indeed any of them survived to adulthood.  Sadly I recognise many, many names in my baptisms database who went on the appear shortly afterwards in my database of the burials at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton.  Such was the reality of childhood in Victorian times.  Both my boys were baptised in the same beautiful font and I am so grateful that their life chances are better in every sense.

If you would like me to look up a baptism in my database then please let me know.  I have only reached 1890 so far but I will keep your request on record until I get there.  I am also happy to look up Clarendon Park burials at St Mary Magdalene – my database is complete from 1887 – 1951.  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.

The Gotham House Rusk Lovers

Around 1890, an advertising pamphlet or flyer was published by Montgomerie’s patented malt extract digestive bread, biscuits and rusks, “as used in the Queen’s household.”  These highly superior biscuits were “Highly recommended by the medical profession and frankly, I am appalled that they are not available on the NHS today, such is their wonderousness.  Not surprisingly, people rushed to offer their testimonials to the greatness of this product, not least HRH Princess Christian, who considered all Montgomerie’s products to be most excellent.  Amongst the illustrious contributors was one Rhoda Milne, of Gotham House, Clarendon Park Road.  She wrote to say

 I shall feel greatly obliged if you will send me twelve boxes of Malt rusks, for infants.  Gregory, your agent here, is out of them, and says he will not have any more for a fortnight.  I am entirely without, which is rather a serious matter, as nothing else suits my baby as well.  Yours truly, RHODA MILNE.

The front of the flyer

 So who was Rhoda Milne and why was she so desperate for these rusks?  Well, she was born Rhoda Stuart in Brighton c1858 and married John Milne, a Lancashire yarn agent, in London in 1885.  By 1891 they lived at Gotham House with children Helen (b1886) and John (b1889) – both born in Clarendon Park Road – and two servants.   The family stayed there, going on to have another daughter Elizabeth, until some time between 1901 and 1907, when they moved to Ashleigh Road (near Narborough Road).  John died in 1907 aged just 49, leaving the sizeable sum of £10, 206.  His son John – who by the way was probably the baby in the pamphlet who was greedy for malted rusks – continued the yarn agent and merchant business started by his father.  I imagine his mother had received a fee from Montgomerie’s for allowing her letter to be published as advertising.  I looked for a likely Gregory agent for the rusks but couldn’t find anything convincing.

Gotham House, Clarendon Park Road (left)

As to Gotham House on Clarendon Park Road – you would hardly know it was ever called that now.  There is only the gate post, which has been carved with the name, to show.  It’s divided up into flats now and a bit run down; a bit of a come-down from being the home of a successful businessman with a family and two or three servants. 

The engraved gatepost

 I see this gatepost four times a day so I am pleased that I came across the Montgomerie’s biscuits advertising leaflet that made me find out a tiny bit about some of the former occupants of the house.  If only I could find some of those rusks in the shops today!  Regards, Elizabeth.

Famous Clarendon Park Folk: Joe Orton, Playwright

Just recently I have become aware of a few famous (or famous-ish) folk connected with Clarendon Park in some way.  I thought it might make an interesting series, so here is the first.  Joe Orton (1933-1967), born John Kingsley Orton, spent the first two years of his life living with parents William and Elsie at 261 Avenue Road Extension before moving to Saffron Lane estate.

After leaving school, Joe started work as a junior clerk.  Sometime around 1949 he began to be interested in the theatre and joined a number of dramatic societies,  including the prestigious Leicester Dramatic Society.  He successfully applied for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in November 1950.  There Joe met  Kenneth Halliwell. They quickly became lovers.

After graduating, both Orton and Halliwell went into regional repertory work and wrote novels, which remained unpublished.  From 1963 he began to have success with radio plays and later at the theatre, including  Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1964),  Loot 1964)  What the Butler Saw.  Joe’s work became synonymous with the macabre.

On 9 August 1967, Halliwell bludgeoned 34-year-old Orton to death at his home in London, with nine hammer blows to the head, and then committed suicide with an overdose of tablets.  Orton had wanted to end their relationship.

The new Leicester Theatre, Curve, has a new pedestrian concourse outside the theatre’s main entrance named “Orton Square.” 

I have paraphrased this article from Wikipedia, where you can read the full article.  Unfortunately I can’t include a photograph of 261 Avenue Road Extension, because when I visited on Sunday it didn’t appear to have one.  259 yes, 263 also yes, but unless it is behind the two houses in the manner of Platform 9 and three-quarters, there is no 261.  I will see if I can find out about renumberings.  More famous Clarendon Park residents some other time – regards, Elizabeth.