Tag Archives: Victorians

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.

Christmas at Clarendon Park Churches 1889

From the Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday 28th December 1889

St John’s, Clarendon Park

This church has been very artistically, if not profusely, decorated, and a considerable quantity of colour introduced amongst the green has relieved the sombre effect which inevitably accompanies a decoration of evergreens only. On the communion table are some fine bunches of white lilies, Christmas roses and Eucharist lilies, and on each side are a number of hot-house plants. Along the front choir-rail a pleasing effect is produced with evergreens, heathers, tulips, hyacinths, and other white flowers. On the front of the pulpit is a cross formed of green, with white everlasting daisies, and the reading lectern is decked with grasses and holly. The front is ornamented with some handsome grasses, holly and berries, and bunches of evergreens are placed in the window niches.

Clarendon Park Congregational Church

The decorations in this church though not very extensive, are carried out with taste and judgement. The pulpit is trimmed with variegated holly and evergreens, as is also the communion table, on which stands hothouse plants. Along the front of the choir is a string of ivy creepers, and the gas brackets, window ledges, and pillars, are decked with evergreens.

Merry Christmas everyone – Elizabeth.

The West Street Butcher (but not that kind of butcher)

The gravestone of Frederick and Agnes Goodger

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I really enjoy taking a small piece of historical evidence and turning it into a story about someone’s life.  Well I’ve been at it again.  I had ten minutes to kill in Knighton churchyard and spent it taking photographs of the gravestones of former Clarendon Park residents.  The one that most took my fancy was that of Frederick Thomas Goodger, who “passed peacefully away” on 18th September 1908 aged 57.  Alongside is Frederick’s wife Agnes Mary Goodger, who outlived him by 24 years and died aged 82, still living at their former address of 33 West Avenue.

How did I know that the Goodgers were Clarendon Park residents?  It doesn’t say so on their grave stone,  but some time ago I made a database of all the Clarendon Park residents who were buried at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton before 1952 (there’s around 850 of them), which comes in handy sometimes.

Frederick was born in Leicester in 1851, the son of a painter.  He married Agnes Mary Price on 10th September 1872 at St Mary de Castro.  Within a short time (from at least 1876)  he had set himself up in business, as a butcher at 52 Shenton Street.  He took a loan of £100 from Sir Thomas White’s charity- which is still helping people start up in business in Leicester - in 1879, gaving him the capital to expand and improve his business, and take on new and better premises at Clarendon Park.  In 1891 he occupied 35 West Avenuen with wife, children and an apprentice.  By 1901 he also occupied 33 West Avenue, which was just as his adult daughters were working as milliners and dressmakers at home and no one likes their frock and hat to smell of raw meat.

35 West Avenue (corner of Cecilia Road)

After Frederick’s death, you might have expected Agnes his wife to live on the small amount left to her (£816) and her daughters’ assistance, but no – she gamely carried on the business with herself in the title role, so if you look at the trades directories of the 1910s you will find her under Butchers.  Misses Beatrice and Mabel never married (they were already old-ish for marriage by the time of the War) and they continued making dresses and millinery, probably scratching out a fairly basic but respectable existence and still occupying 33 and 35 West Avenue.  By the time Agnes died, there was nothing significant money-wise left to leave behind.

That’s another old shop I walk past most days, and I’m glad I decided to follow up the story behind Frederick and Agnes’s gravestone.  Regards, Elizabeth.

The premises are quite extensive, with a yard (where the initial butchering bit took place no doubt)

Ventilation for the cellar

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.

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.