Tag Archives: History

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.