Tag Archives: Knighton

Death and burial in Clarendon Park

Bit gloomy, this subject, but it’s a big one and actually quite interesting.  Not everyone who lived in Clarendon Park in the past died there, but a lot did and especially – sadly – the children.  National infant (under 1 year) mortality in Victorian England was something appalling like 160 per 1000 live births in 1899 and the figure for Leicester, as a town, was probably significantly higher.  One in three children would not live to see their fifth birthday.  Adults also had a much lower life expectancy than today.

I have been transcribing the burial records of St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, listing every person who died whilst living in Clarendon Park.  It is time-consuming work – so far I have finished 1887-1906 and 1929-1950 and there are literally hundreds of names.  Each entry records the person’s name, their address, age and the date they were buried.  You are welcome to ask me to look up any name or address (I found a tiny baby who died at my house in 1900..very poignant).  Anyway, the list forms a useful snapshot of death in Clarendon Park, though totally unscientific.  Here are the results for 1887 – 1906:

  • <1m             32
  • 1m – 6m     45
  • 7m – 12m  45
  • 13m – 2y    32
  • 3y – 5y        13
  • 6y – 10y     8
  • 11y – 19y   19 (of which 7 were aged 17)
  • 20 – 30       24
  • 30 – 40      30
  • 41 – 50       30
  • 51 – 60        31
  • 61 – 70       28
  • 71 – 80       18
  • 81+             14 (the oldest person was 93) 

As you can see, the vast majority of deaths were in children 2 years or younger, though the risk levelled off a bit after that.  A surprising amount of people died in early adulthood, and most adults died in what we would now consider middle age, rather than after the current retirement age.  There must be many more deaths in the 81+ bracket today.  It is notable from the records how the number of child deaths gradually reduces and the age of people generally increases over the 19 years I looked at.

So, how and where were all these Clarendon Park folk buried?  There isn’t a burial ground in Clarendon Park itself.  Many people were buried at Welford Road Cemetery, which opened in 1849 and provided space for people who were not members of the Church of England, as well as those who were.  Clearly a lot of people chose to be buried at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, as St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park and St Michael and All Angels, Knighton had no graveyard (many if not most new Victorian churches were built without).  Even nonconformists were buried there – under the Burials Act of 1880 any christian burial could be carried out at parish churches, and quite a few Methodists and other nonconformists were buried at St Mary’s.  Some people were buried in other parishes, for example if they had lived many years in a village or another part of Leicester before moving to Clarendon Park.

Victorian funerals were big business, with mourning warehouses advertised in the local press.  The middle classes were obviously able to spend more on the trappings of mourning but it was a matter of pride for many poorer people to give a decent funeral.  Many would not have been able to provide even that.  Cab Proprietor William Maurice Jackson was also a funeral undertaker, and coffins would have been provided by some of Clarendon Park’s many carpenters, joiners and builders.

Thank goodness those days have passed, and most Clarendon Park dwellers are in good health and can expect to live to a reasonable age.  I promise to bring you something less morbid next time!  Regards, Elizabeth.

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.

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)

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.

Accident on the Railway at Leicester

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, January 14th 1899, p6

Accident on the Railway at Leicester

 A shunter in the employ of the Midland Railway Company, named William Covill Taber, of Lytton-road, Clarendon Park, met with a serious accident at the Knighton Sidings, early on Wednesday morning.  Taber, who had finished duty a few minutes before, and was just about to go home, missed his footing while alighting from an engine, which passed over his right leg, and badly mutilated it.  He was immediately conveyed to the Midland Station on a special engine, and was taken thence to the Infirmary on a stretcher.  It was found necessary to amputate the injured limb, and the poor fellow is doing as well as can be expected. 

William Covill Taber was 24 when he lost his leg in this horrible accident.  He had been married for less than two years to Florence Sarah Izzard, a woman from London.  He was a country lad from Cambridgeshire, having moved to Leicester presumably to find work.  Becoming disabled in late Victorian England was pretty grim – no state support was available except parish relief, and that usually meant the workhouse.  Perhaps the Midland Railway Company offered compensation and support.  They certainly continue to employ William, as in 1901 he was a railway porter and in 1911 a railway goods checker.  I wonder whether he had a wooden leg?  Regards, Elizabeth.