Tag Archives: Old newspapers

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.

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.

She drank to death at Wistaria Villa, Howard Road

This is the sad tale of Mary Ann Pretty, wife of Clement Pretty, who drank herself to death at Wistaria Villa (now number 65) Howard Road in 1886.

Mary Ann and Clement started their married life in London, with Clement working as a commercial traveller in silks.  Several children were born there: Clement, Henry and John.  By 1877 they had settled in Leicester, and daughter Alice was born.  Perhaps due to an inheritance in 1875 from Clement’s father, formerly the landlord of The Three Crowns licensed hotel in St Martins, following his death in 1875, Clement set up in business as a coal merchant.  The 1877 White’s Directory of Leicestershire shows Clement Pretty, colliery agent, at Stanley Terrace (Humberstone Road), and in 1881 the family lived at 22 London Road.

Things started to go wrong.  In 1883 the RSPCA prosecuted an employee of Clement’s, William Lemon, for cruelty.  The animal was destroyed, being emaciated and having several sores on its back.  Later that year, In 1883 Clement was made bankrupt and his coal merchant business liquidated.  In 1885 Marian sold 5 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, to a tobacconist named Ignatius Carter.

Then on the evening of 30th April 1886, Marian got drunk.  She was an habitual  heavy drinker.  She took to her bed, complaining of a pain in her side, but this time she was taken very ill with “apoplexy” (bleeding), perhaps in her liver or her pancreas.  The local doctor was called but Marian died the following afternoon.  Clement moved out of Wistaria Villa shortly afterwards, being replaced in 1887 by Arthur Triggs, a commission agent.

Mary left £1,275 in her will and it seems that Clement decided to spend the money purchasing numbers 1-13 Edward Road, Clarendon Park, which he presumably rented out.  These he owned until at least 1904.  He moved to Holbrook Road with daughter Alice and in 1901 was “living on his own means” (or at least his late wife’s!).  However, when he died at the Infirmary in 1931, he left just £139 9s 6d, so Clement somehow spent it all. 

I wonder why Marian was such a heavy drinker?  Perhaps those years of worry about debt bankruptcy drove her to it.  Clement doesn’t seem to have been very good with money.  Perhaps she visited her in-laws at the Three Crowns too often.  Anyhow, it must have been very sad for her husband and children.  Perhaps she needed the help of the Temperance folk.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Leicester Chronicle, Saturday May 15th, 1886, p6.

Distressing Case of Sudden Death

An inquest was held at Knighton on Monday afternoon, before the coroner, Mr G.F. Harrison, on the body of Mary Ann Pretty, aged 42, the wife of Mr. Clement Pretty, Wistaria Villa, Howard-road, Knighton.  The husband stated that the wife was taken ill through drink on the 30th inst., and did not come down stairs afterwards.  About nine o’clock on Friday morning, he heard a crash in her bedroom, and on going up to see what was the matter found his wife lying on the floor.  He called in Mrs Williams, who lives next door, and she assisted him to get his wife into bed.  Deceased complained of feeling very unwell, and of having hurt her side.  He remained with her for some time, and sent for Dr. Emmerson.  He left her about three o’clock in the afternoon, and on going up to her room at 3.30 with the doctor, found her dead.  She was, he said, a woman of intemperate habits.  Dr Emmerson examined the body of the woman ,and found no suspicious appearances.  He was of the opinion that death had resulted from a natural cause, serious apoplexy, induced by drink.  He had attended her several years, and knew that she was very intemperate.  A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned. 

Robbery at Clarendon Park Post Office

The Leicester Chronicle Saturday, July 21st 1888, p2

ROBBERY AT A POST OFFICE

Some time during Friday evening the Post Office at Clarendon Park was broken into and a sum approaching £20 taken from the till.  The matter is in the hands of the police.

The Chronicle doesn’t report whether the thief was caught in the weeks after the robbery, but I did find out a few interesting things.  The post office in 1888 was on Queens Road.  It was run by Henry Scorror, “stationer and agent” (Wright’s 1888 Directory of Leicestershire) and his wife Catherine.  Letters and parcels were collected on weekdays at 9.50am, 2.10pm, 3.30pm, 7pm and 8.20pm.  By 1891, as the population of Clarendon Park increased, collections were also made on Sundays.  The address was now 83 Queens Road – where the current post office also stands.  It’s amazing how much longevity of service these Clarendon Park shops and businesses have seen!

In 1891 Henry Scorror lived at 39 Montague Road in 1891 with wife Catherine Burnet née Bethell, his children and servant.  He died in Queens Road on 1st January 1893 aged just 39.

Catherine kept up the post office at 83 Queens Road, with the assistance of daughters Annie Burnet Scorror and Edith Dorothy Bethell Scorror, living in rooms above the shop.  She was still sub-postmistress in 1916, but retired some time before 1925, when daughter Annie was in post (now as Mrs O’Connor).   Catherine died 9th January 1936.

I’ll be visiting Leicestershire Records Office on Thursday to find out how long the Scorror/O’Connor family were in charge of Clarendon Park Post Office.  The British Postal Archive will also be a port of call one of these days.  And I must speak to the lovely chaps who run the post office today to see if they can tell me anything about its history.  As always, half an hour of research brings up many more questions than answers!  regards, Elizabeth.

In a bad state of repair: Queens Road and Clarendon Park Road

You didn’t think I was talking about today, did you?  Certainly not.  From as early as 1887, with half of Clarendon Park still not built, people were already complaining about the state of the roads.

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, December 24, 1887 p5

A correspondent writes from Clarendon Park, calling attention to the bad state of Clarendon Park-road and Queen’s-road, and urging the authorities to put them in good repair and charge the owners with the cost.  He understands that part of one of these roads belongs to the borough, and thinks the town authorities ought to make their own part good.

Serious Gas Explosion at Clarendon Park in 1898

If there’s one enormous difference between newspaper reporting in the 1800s and newspaper reporting today, it’s the lavish attention to detail of the past compared with the present.  To the point that you begin to wonder how people stayed awake whilst reading it – though I am very grateful as a local historian.

Here we have an account of a gas explosion in 1898 on what is now known as Welford Road, but I have seen described in old documents as Wigston Road and Bosworth Road.  Two sisters had recently moved into a brand new house (which sadly I have not been able to identify), and their landlord popped over to tap a barrel of beer for them.  The pantry was too dark for him to see, so he called for a light.  One of the sisters brought him a candle, but there was a gas leak and the pantry exploded, sending the landlord and his tenant flying into the kitchen.  The landlord escaped to raise the alarm, but poor Sarah Hall was unconscious and badly burned.  Meanwhile her sister Annie was in bed upstairs, and the staircase was so badly damaged that it wasn’t safe for anyone to rescue her.  Luckily a man was driving a ladder past the house – this being a busy road – and he carried the woman out.

The doctor was called and he summoned the horse-drawn ambulance (imagine being bumped about in that all the way to the infirmary).  I can find no record of Sarah dying, so I assume she survived.  As to the house – well, not surprisingly Annie and Sarah moved before the 1901 census.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have wanted to stay either.  Now both of the ladies must have been invalids (Annie was already bed bound at the time of the accident).  The landlord, John Hurren, must have been pretty devastated too – not only did he receive head injuries and the loss of his tenants, but his brand new house was badly knocked about and must have needed expensive repair works.

For those interested to read (nearly) the whole report, here it is.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Leicester Chronicle Saturday 19th November 1898, p.3

Serious Gas Explosion at Clarendon Park: Lady Badly Injured

About ten o’clock on Friday morning, a serious explosion of gas, resulting in severe injuries to one person, and lesser injuries to another, occurred at a house in the Wigston-road,  Clarendon Park, the residence of two maiden ladies of middle age, named Miss Sarah Hall and Miss Annie Hall.  At the request of Miss Sarah Hall, the landlord, Mr. John Hurren, Euston Villa, Clarendon Park Road, called at the house for the purpose of tapping a barrel of beer.  He went into the pantry, which is just under the staircase, but finding it in darkness, called to Miss Hall for a light.  She at once lit a candle, and came to the pantry door, but th moment she reached the threshold a terrific explosion occurred, and she was thrown violently backwards into the kitchen, while Mr. Hurren was also knocked down and badly injured about the face and head.  He managed, however, to struggle through the thick smoke and dust caused by falling ceiling and mortar into the back garden.  He had not gone many yards when he met Mr. Wilson, who lives next door, and who, having heard the explosion, was hurrying to see what was the matter.  Mr. Hurren, who was dazed and bewildered by what had occurred, called out “There’s another inside.”   Mr. Hurren immediately made his way into the house, and discovered Miss Sarah Hall lying unconscious on the kitchen floor.  Lifting her up, he managed to carry her outside, and then with assistance, conveyed her to a neighbour’s house.  Dr. Hunter, who lives in Clarendon Park, was immediately sent for, and in the meantime some members of the St. John Ambulance Association at the Wheatsheaf Works, having heard the explosion, and rendered all the aid they possibly could to the injured lady and Mr. Hurren. 

On his arrival, Dr. Hunter, having ascertained the grave nature of Miss Hall’s  injuries, ordered her immediate removal to the Infirmary.  The fire brigade horse ambulance was summoned by telephone from the Wheatsheaf Works, and the unfortunate lady was removed to the Infirmary in a still unconscious state.  She had sustained very severe injuries to the face, neck and chest, and was suffering from violent shock.  After the injuries of Mr. Hurren had been dressed he was able to return home.  Miss Annie Hall is an invalid, and was in bed in the front room upstairs when the explosion occurred, and was naturally very much alarmed and upset.  So great was the force of the explosion that the staircase was twisted round and jammed into the wall in such a manner as to render access to the upstairs rooms by that means too dangerous to be attempted.  Attracted by the noise of the explosion, a little crowd of people quickly gathered in front of the house and fortunately one of their number, a man named William Chalk of 6, Burns-street, happened to be wheeling a ladder on a truck.  The ladder was placed against the house, and Chalk himself climbed into the bedroom, and bore the imprisoned lady through the window in safety to the ground, conveying her afterwards to a neighbour’s house.

Superintendant Howe, in charge of the district, was communicated with, and arriving on the scene with all possible despatch, did everything in his power for the injured people.  There can be little doubt that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of gas within the pantry, but whether the leakage arose from defective fittings or from a burner being left on cannot be definitely stated.  That the accumulation, however, was considerable, was shown by the force of the explosion, and the consequent damage to the interior of the house…..every panel of the door leading to the kitchen was blown out, and the top panel in the front room window smashed….the walls on either side of the pantry were bulged out.  The interior of both kitchens was a scene of desolation.  Everything was smothered by the fallen debris, and the furniture twisted and broken.  The damage was not extensive in the front room, but the cornice was all knocked down, and the furniture displaced.  The house has been built quite recently, and the Misses Hall were the first tenants.

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.

From Words to Blows

Leicester Chronicle Saturday, September 24th 1898, p3

Borough Police Court: From Words to Blows

Alfred Tracey (60) shoehand, Avenue-road Extension, was summoned for assaulting Eliza Bree, married, of the same road, on the 14th inst.  Defendant pleaded guilty, but alleged provocation.  Mrs Bree told the magistrates that Tracey, who lodged in the Avenue-road, came home while complainant was there.  Defendant struck her with his fist, and also with a brush.  She gave him a return blow.  Tracey said that a dispute arose between him and Mrs. Bree, and from words they came to blows.  Fined 10s., in default seven days.

Oh dear.  Eliza and Harry Bree (both aged 40 in 1898) , a railway porter and a sometime laundress, lived at 266 Avenue Road Extension in 1901 with various children and boarders.  It must have been very crowded in there at times, so when Alfred Tracey rolled up drunk, perhaps Eliza’s temper was just a little too irritable for him.  So he hit her, the bully, and she hit him back!  Those laundresses must have had some pretty good arm muscles and she had 20 years on him, so I expect – and hope – it really hurt.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Temperance in Clarendon Park

The Leicester Chronicle Saturday, 19th August 1893, p11

Local and District News: Leicester Temperance Society

A week’s temperance mission, under the auspices of this society, was inaugurated on Saturday evening by Mr. Jonathan Smith, of the British Temperance League….On Sunday afternoon Mr. Smith addressed a meeting of men in the Christ Church schoolroom….On Monday night Mr. H. Bedford took the air at the open air meeting at Queen’s Road, Clarendon Park, Mr. Smith again being the speaker, and the Carter family singing selections.

Temperance was an important movement in Victorian Britain.  Upper and middle class folk were keen to keep the lower classes respectable and working hard, and drink was seen as an evil.  They did have a point (though the upper classes certainly enjoyed a drink or two themselves of course) – beer houses, pubs and gin palaces abounded and drunken brawls were a feature of every town and village. 

There were many different Temperance societies.  The British Temperance Society was a northern, teetotal and Christian group.  It still exists under the banner of the British National Temperance League, but I can’t quite envisage an open air meeting on the Queen’s road being a success in 2010.  A condition of the sale of land to the Clarendon Park Company was that no pubs, etc should be erected, but it didn’t seem to stop the good people of Clarendon Park lifting their elbows.  There were several beer shops and off licenses in the 19th century and the last tram to Clarendon Park back from the city centre was notoriously drunken!  And as soon as the caveat was lifted on drinking establishments, bars began to spring up on the Queens Road.

As an interesting aside, I wonder how many Clarendon Park residents are not allowed to open a beer shop in their home?  My house has a deed of covenant which states that I am not allowed to, and nor am I permitted to burn bricks in my back garden.  Which is why I have had to turn my hand to historical research, I guess.  How else is a gal to make a living?  Regards, Elizabeth.