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.

Montague Road 1911 – 2011

48 Montague Road - in 1911 a butchers, in 2011 "Centre of Balance" (alternative therapies)

I couldn’t wait for 2011 to start – it seemed like such a good opportunity for comparisons between today’s Clarendon Park and the area as it is shown in the 1911 census and other sources.  In fact, I considered writing a short book about it….but then I remembered that I have two young children, a husband and a cat.  I might get round to it when the next census is released I suppose.

So here is the first in the series of comparisons.  I’m starting with Montague Road because, although it is far from the most attractive road in Clarendon Park, the contrast between 1911 and today is very strong.  Today there are just a handful of visible businesses – a hairdressers, a crystal healing type shop, a pine furniture shop, a small kitchen and bathroom showroom.  There also seems to be a couple of small businesses operating from within someone’s home.  Now, in 1911 (according to the 1911 Town and County Directory of Leicester and the 1911 census), the following businesses existed:

  • (unnumbered) William Maurice Jackson, cab proprietor and funeral undertaker (also at 1 West Avenue)
  • 25 – William Henry Cox, bricklayer and builder
  • 39 – John Kyle, hot water and sanitary engineer, and gas fitter 
  • 41 – Albert Edward Deacon, haberdasher and stationer
  • 48 – Thomas Harding, butcher
  • 50 – Frederick Payne, fishmonger
  • 52 – Henry Miles , bootmaker and repairer
  • 54 – John Nicholson, grocer
  • 56 – Herbert Crofts, newsagent and confectioner
  • 60 – Arthur Short, cycle maker and repairer
  • 62 Eliza Broughton, shopkeeper
  • 63 — Alfred Measures, Grocer
  • 64 – Arthur Hirst, dealer in groceries and provisions
  • 65 – Thomas Emms, confectioner
  • 77 – Frederick Walker, boot and shoe repairer
  • 79 – James and Emma Tipper, laundry
  • 83 – Walter Wymer, green grocer and drayman
  • 96 – Henry Bennett, grocer
  • 98 – William Henry Johnson, bootmaker and repairer

96 Montague Road - in 1911, a grocers and in 2011 a private residence. The building has been rendered to hide signs of its former use.

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.

Home Ownership in 1894 (and other ramblings)

Whilst researching various house histories during November and December, I have been noting interesting facts relating to Clarendon Park where they emerge.  For example, whilst looking at the burial records for St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, I discovered lots of Clarendon Park residents – which is obvious really, but somehow I always imagined most of them spending their eternal rest at Welford Road Cemetery.  Amongst the dearly departed were Neville Thomas Hind, son of the Queens Road chemist William Tom Hind (aged just 21 months, in 1897) and William Tom himself in February 1944.  Also his son Frederick Leonard Hind (aged 77, in January 1978).  But now I am getting sidetracked.

What I really wanted to share with you is that I wasted time did some valuable research using the 1894 Electoral Register.  In 1894 suffrage (or the right to vote) was still not universal, and one of the qualifying factors - apart from needing a Y chromosome – was property ownership.  A separate register was kept of property owners.  I looked at the register for Knighton Ward and made a list of all the Clarendon Park residents who both owned a property and lived in it.  The numbers were tiny in relation to the total number of properties in Clarendon Park.  Most people rented their properties, even those living in the posher houses.  It would be very interesting to know what the proportion of owner-occupiers is today.  Much larger, I suspect.

The total number of owner-occupiers in Clarendon Park in 1894 was 55.  Several of these also owned the house next door, or even a row of houses in the same street.  There were a good many more absentee landlords, like George Colborne who owned a fair bit of Clarendon Park Road, yet lived in Havant in Hampshire.  Perhaps he let the properties through an efficient lettings agent and maintained them well.  Or then again he might not have.

If you live in or own a house in Avenue Road Extension, Cecila Road, Central Avenue,  Clarendon Park Road, Cross Road, Edward Road, Fleetwood Road, Montague Road, Queens Road, Springfield Road, St Leonards Road or West Avenue, and would be interested in finding out whether it was owner-occupied in 1894 (and who the owner was), feel free to contact me.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Leicester Aged Pilgrims Homes

Happy new year 2011!  I am delighted to be back in the blogging saddle after a manic December 2010 full of house history research for clients.  As part of the research process I needed to visit The National Archives in Kew, and whilst there I found the time to look up just one or two little Clarendon Park history things.  One of which was an index of trust deeds, containing five references to planned buildings in Clarendon Park.  In case anyone else fancies looking them up, they are listed at the bottom of this article.

The one that particularly took my fancy was an 1893 conveyance of land adjoining Lorne Road and Clarendon Park Road, “together with the messuages thereupon,” to the Trustees of Leicester Aged Pilgrims Homes.   I hadn’t heard of the Aged Pilgrims Homes but a little light googling revealed that it is an undenominational society founded in 1807 by evangelical christians.  There is an Aged Pilgrims Home in Evington, which opened in 1954.  The homes provide sheltered accommodation and home support for elderly christians.  If only I had the time whilst making my last visit, I would have ordered the trust deed.  Bah.  When I get back to the NA in February, I will post here.

So, the 1901 census shows ten Aged Pilgrims Homes from number 115 Clarendon Park Road onwards.  They were lived in by the “inmates of Aged Pilgrims Homes,” and also by one of the people who helped to look after them; a nurse, Ellen Simms.  The inmates were all women except for a gardener, Samuel Mathers, who lived with his wife at number ten.  Their ages ranged from 66 to 88.  Their names were Isabella Coleman, Sarah Ingram, Sarah Woolley (who still lived there in 1911), Sarah Yarrow, Elizabeth Davies, Ellen Holland, Rachel Orton, Mary Pallett and Charlotte Wash.  All but one were widows and most of the women had been born in Leicestershire.  Being an elderly widow in Victorian Leicester was not good in terms of material wealth or status, but living in almshouses like these women suggests that only their faith kept them out of the workhouse.

Not all the elderly people helped by the society lived in almshouses.  Kelly’s 1916 directory for Leicestershire informs us that “Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society (Leicester Branch) – to give pensions of 5, 7 & 10 guineas a year &c. to aged poor persons of every Evangelical denomination.  During 1915 the 25 pensioners in this district received pensions amounting to £191, inclusive of gifts from the Morton Trustees.  President A S Gimson; Hon Sec Wilfred Tyler.  In 1891 ten almshouses were erected in Clarendon Park Road at the cost of J T Morton, a London merchant, as free homes for the pensioners in Leicester & district.”

The 1911 census tells us that each of these “homes” consisted of just one room, perhaps with a fireplace for heating and cooking.  They were occupied by Samuel Cheney Pebody, Sarah Woolley, Emma Ball and her daughter Sarah Ann who did sewing at home for money; Elizabeth Davis, Sarah Dalston, Jane Brice, Louisa Smallbones, Eliza Clarke and Maria Wills.  Again, all were widows or in Samuel’s case, a widower.  Clarendon Park Road having been built up considerably since 1901, the address had changed to 200 Clarendon Park Road.

All this is really interesting and I promise to report back after I have been to the National Archives in February.  But for now, here are the trust deeds I came across in December.  No doubt they will inspire further research!  Happy new year, Elizabeth.

1895 Trustees for the Wesleyan Methodists to build a chapel (PR84 M36 C54/19999)

1894 Trustees for the Baptists to build a hall or chapel to be called “The Clarendon Hall” (PR22 M27 C54/19835)

1893 Trustees of Leicester Aged Pilgrims Homes, conveyance of land adjoining Clarendon Park Road and Lorne Road (Pt38 M8 C54/19747)

1895 Peterborough Diocesan Trustees, conveyance of school (Pt81 M39 C54/199996)

1904 Trustees of the Clarendon Park Congregational Church, site for a school and outbuildings (Pt83 No 1048 J18/24)