Tag Archives: House history

The Grocer Who Fell Off The Wagon

15 & 17 Edward Road - a single property for over 100 years

Poor William Jennings.  In 1884 he lived in Edward Road and must have been one of the first residents.  He seems to have continually been applying for beer selling licenses – there was something of a scramble for off-licenses in Clarendon Park in the mid to late 1880s as it was being built, and with all that working class housing being hastily built, it could mean very lucrative trade.  William was finally granted his license in October 1886.  The Wright’s Directory of 1888 described him as a beer retailer, cowkeeper and shopkeeper at 15 and 17 Edward Road.  All looked well for prosperity.

But in October 1890 he received a nasty bump to the head when he fell out of a cart (see newspaper article below) or fell off the wagon – you have my husband to thank for that pun by the way.  Beer retailer, wagon, falling off – geddit?   That wasn’t the only thing going wrong for William at the time – he was seriously in debt and bankruptcy proceedings were brought against him in early February 1891.  By then he was living in lodgings on Clarendon Park Road, and certainly by April the premises were occupied by John Thomas Booton (33), grocer and range fitter, and his family.  John had already run a grocers and beer retailers of his own on the corner of Lorne Road/Clarendon Park Road (in fact he had applied for a beer license the very same day that William Jennings fell out of the cart and hurt his head).

On 25th February William was found to be £925 in debt, with assets of £750, leaving a surplus of £175.  He had sold the freehold on 15 and 17 Edward Road to his stepson on 29th January 1891, transferring the beer license to him shortly afterwards.  However, as the property was mortgaged the Official Receiver insisted the premises be sold at auction by Warner, Sheppard and Wade on 20th October 1891.  The premises are well described in the auction advertisement: “The House contains front shop, covering the whole frontage, several store-rooms, sitting room, kitchen and six bedrooms.  There is also a paved yard, with outbuildings and passage entrance….in addition to the Grocery Business it has an extensive out-door beer trade.”  The sale raised £760.

John Thomas Booton didn’t hang on to 15 and 17 Edward Road, at least as the occupant, because by 1899 the beer retailer (no pretence of groceries selling now) was Hannah Barrows.  It looks like the property hasn’t altered an enormous amount since then – although it is no longer a shop as Edward Road is a pretty quiet back street with no passing trade – and is still double fronted.  These days it is known as 17 Edward Road and number 15 just doesn’t exist.

The cause of William Jennings’ misery, in his own words, was that he had lost two cows in two years and had made many bad debts.  There must be a new year’s resolution in there somewhere.  Note to self:  No bad debts in 2012 (and don’t lose any cows).  Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading, Elizabeth.

Leicester Chronicle, Saturday October 4th 1890, p6.

ACCIDENT – On Friday evening Mr. Jennings, aged 60, a grocer, living in Edward-road, Clarendon Park, was admitted to the Infirmary, suffering from injuries to his head, sustained by falling out of a cart.  He lies in a somewhat precarious position.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.