Tag Archives: Victorians

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.

A chemist in Queens Road for 100 years?

Let’s take a look at one of Clarendon Park’s businesses of the past, a dispensing chemist – W T Hind, of 76-78 Queens Road and also of 44 Montague Road.  I bought this label on ebay a year or so ago, and it got me interested in chemists in Clarendon Park.   I started looking into W T Hind and his business, and have uncovered quite a lot of information and sources.   I am planning to post information here as I find it.  If only Leicestershire Record Office wasn’t closed for stocktaking this week I could tell the whole story in one go but hey ho.

 The 1947 Kelly’s Directory of Leicester shows the following entry: “Hind, William Tom, 76 and 78 Queens Road and 44 Montague.  Telephone number 77140.”  The same telephone number is shown on the Inhalation label, which helps us to put a rough date to it.  Being in business for a long time was a good selling point in past times – less so now, I suppose – so Mr Hind helpfully put the date he started the business, 1888, on the label. 

So, looking at the 1891 census we find William Thomas Hind living not above the shop in Queens Road, but with his mother in St Peter’s Road.  He is a Chemist and Druggist aged 24, born in Leicester.  If his business started in 1888, he must have been just 21 at the time.  He seems to have moved house a lot at this time, living all over the city.  By 1901 he had married Lizzie Smith and helped produce three children.  The whole family now lived at 78 Queens Road with their servant.

In Wright’s 1909 Directory of Leicestershire Wm Tom Hind, 78 Queen’s Road, is the only chemist and druggist listed, which might explain why in 1911 the family (now with another daughter) lived at ‘Lindenhurst’ in East Avenue, Clarendon Park, a decidedly swisher address.  The eldest son, Horace William, is a pharmacy student.

This was a very long lived business.  In Kelly’s Directory of Leicester 1957, another chemist is listed, Frederick Leonard Hind (William Thomas’s third son, born in 1900).  There are now two telephone numbers and we are also told that they are dealers in photographic apparatus and materials.  In 1896 William had been granted a license to sell ‘medicated wines’, which is amusing when you consider all the other interesting potentially recreational chemicals a chemist could legally sell in those days.  In fact, there are a lot of W T Hind bottles and labels still kicking around, which give you an idea of how the shop must have looked and smelled.

W T Hind was still in business in 1984 – almost 100 years (Not the W T Hind though I hope – unless his pills were REALLY good!).  Over the next few days I hope to find out exactly when the business ended.

As to the premises – 78 Queens Road is currently home to the Co-Operative Pharmacy, formerly Gordon Davis pharmacy.  It is funny how business premises sometimes retain the same use for a long time.  It may well not have been used for any other purpose since it was first built.

More on W T Hind and its competitor for the oldest pharmacy in Clarendon Park, Spiers, soon.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who remembers W T Hind.  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.

Mischievous Lads

Leicester Chronicle, Thursday 30th April 1898, p2

Mischievous Lads

Herbert Walker (12), Albert James (10), and Thomas Hamp (13), schoolboys, of Montague-road, were jointly summoned for damaging the roofing, slates, and chimney of a workshop belonging to William Watts Clarkson, at Clarendon Park, doing 10s. damage on the 18th inst.  All boys denied the charge.  A son of the tenant of the property spoke to observing the lads on the roof.  They were pulling slates off, and removing bricks from the chimney.  Witness told them to come down, but they commenced swearing at him.  The agent for Mr. Clarkson said damage was constantly being done to this property by boys, and the present summons was taken out as a deterrent.  The boys said they went on the roof to collect their tipcat.  The Mayor, addressing the parents of the boys, said they regarded the present case as a serious one.  It was within the personal knowledge of the Bench that damage was continually being done in all parts of the borough by lads and young men, who seemed to regard property as open to destruction.  Having regard, however, to the good character borne by the defendants, they would be discharged on the parents paying the damage and the costs of the prosecution.

I wouldn’t call that behaviour mischievous exactly!  What naughty boys.  By 1901, only one of them – Thomas Henry Hamp – was still living at Montague Road (number 89).  Albert Arthur James and his enormous family of mother, father, 5 sisters and 4 brothers had moved to 9 Cecilia Road – a two bedroomed house!  And Herbert Walker was no longer in Clarendon Park.  Maybe it was the shame of having been in court that made the family move away?  Anyway, overcrowding is a recognised cause of delinquency and there was certainly plenty of that in Clarendon Park in the 19th century.  Let us hope that the boys made good in the end.  Certainly Thomas Hamp was in work as a shoe heel fitter in 1901 and a trimmer’s labourer in 1911, so there is every chance.

As to the victim of the crime, in 1901 William Watts Clarkson was – at least by his own description a ‘gentleman’ living at Upper Tichborne Street (Highfields) with wife Harriet.  Having retired by 1891, he was previously a brick manufacturer employing 74 men, so he wasn’t quite-quite, of course.  As to the premises that were mentioned in the newspaper article – well, in 1881 Clarkson appeared in Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire and Rutland (a sort of Yellow Pages for the time) under Brick Manufacturers.  The entry reads “Clarkson, William Watts & Co. Grey Friars, Leicester.  Works, Knighton Junction.  See advertisement.”  Unfortunately I am using an online version of the directory and it does not contain the advertisements section – gah! But luckily White’s 1877 Directory comes up trumps, and here it is on page 12:

So his works were at Clarendon Park.  Perhaps this was where those mischievous boys were removing bricks and swearing?  Or maybe it was one of the many smaller workshops in the area (many still standing).  Mr Clarkson seems to have owned quite a bit of property, and much of it was attacked by vandals and thieves.  In May 1886 James Duke was sentenced to 6 months hard labour for stealing two water cisterns from empty houses in Knighton, the property of Mr Clarkson.  The idiot had simply cut the cisterns from the wall, leaving the pipes overflowing and considerably damaging the houses in the process.  The cisterns weren’t worth anything much and James Duke had a well paid job as a plumber, so goodness knows what he was thinking.  Astonishingly, on his death in Middlesex in 1914, William Watts Clarkson was worth just £5.  Maybe the cost of having his properties pulled apart by small boys and lunatic plumbers was just too much.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Postcard from Whitwick to Clarendon Park

A postcard of Glasgow

  

 The postcard reads: “Dear Mrs. Stevens, We arrived quite safe at Whitwick & are enjoying ourselves very much.  I have seen Mother & Father and they are quite well, I hope you are.  Give my love to Mr. Stevens & yourself.  It is much quieter here than in Leicester, the air is much fresher.  We have been out every night so far & we are going to church tonight, with best love to you all from Milly.”   The postmark show that it was sent from Whitwick A on August 6th 1906, to Mrs. Stevens, 74 Montague Road, Clarendon Park, Leicester.              

The reverse

First let’s look at the addressee, Mrs Stevens.  John Stevens (born c1842), of Belton in Rutland, married Sarah Ann Jelley (born c1848), born in Burton Overy, in Leicester in 1867, thus elevating her to the exalted position of Mrs Stevens and freeing her from a rather silly name.  They started their married life in Leicester.  In 1871 they lived at 2 Bethel Court, Black Friars with their daughter Sarah Jane, who sadly died at the end of the year aged just two.  She was the only child to be born alive to John and Sarah Ann.  By 1881 they were living at 28 Cosby Street in St Margaret’s.  In 1881 John and Sarah lived alone at 28 Cosby Street in St. Margaret’s, Leicester.  John’s occupation was ‘Grocery’ and Sarah’s as ‘fancy hand’, which is not the disreputable trade it sounds like!     In 1891 John and Sarah Ann had moved to Montague Road – number 26, though as the road had only just been built a couple of years previously and may not have been completed (I need to check), it may have been renumbered later.  Because John and Sarah Ann spent at least 20 years living at the address on our postcard, 74 Montague Road.  In 1901 and 1911 – as with 1891 – they had a boarder, William Henry Thorp, a joiner.  That’s 30 years of playing gooseberry.  John was a domestic coachman, and I would love to know for whom…maybe for one of the grander houses in Clarendon Park or Stoneygate.  Sarah died aged 67 in 1915      

Now, as to “Milly”, the author of the postcard…I have looked into various possibilities.  Could she have been a sister of John or Sarah Ann?  Neither set of their parents seems to have been alive in 1906 so her reference to “Mother and Father” precludes that.  I can’t find any obvious links to either the Jelleys or the Stevens but as always, a simple solution has been staring me in the face, in the form of a Millicent Emily Jelly living at 20 Montague Road in the 1901 census.  There is absolutely no proof, nor any clue to a relationship, but it does seem more than a coincidence.  Millicent and Jell(e)y are two names that few people have attempted to put together (very wisely, I feel.  Though in searching I did find a baptism for Kelly Jelly, which amounts to child abuse in my view), and to be living in the same road is enough to satisfy me, in a strictly non-professional way of course.   

As to Milly’s remarks, whomever she may have been….she was obviously enjoying her holiday in sunny Whitwick (near Coalville) and who can blame her?  Out every night and church on Sunday.  The air must have been noticeably fresher, away from the factories and the smog of coal fires in close terraced houses.     Though why she chose to commemorate with a postcard of Glasgow is anyone’s guess.  If it was Milly Jelley then she would have been 14, just old enough to have started work, possibly as a tailoring machinist as she was in 1911.    She went on to marry Albert Hambly in 1922.        

I have a small collection of postcards to Clarendon Park.  I find them just as interesting as postcards of Clarendon Park.   I hope you agree.  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.

A Wild Cow’s Pranks

Leicester Mercury Saturday, 18th Jan 1890, p6

A Wild Cow’s Pranks

Between nine and ten o’clock on Wednesday morning a cow in the Cattle Market became wild, and broke loose, upsetting several people who endeavoured to stop it. Despite the efforts of its drivers, the beast, which seemed fairly maddened, made its way to Stoneygate, rushing at everyone who came in sight. Near the Clarendon Park Congregational Church it made for an old man, but fortunately he succeeded in escaping. It then went for the roadman, but he was behind a gate when it arrived. Rushing up Springfield Road, it turned its attention to some bricklayers working at a new house, and they promptly fled. It was finally driven into a field, where it quieted down somewhat, and later in the morning some more beasts were fetched, and it was returned to the market. So far as can be at present ascertained, no actual casualties occurred, though several persons had very narrow escapes.

Mad cows charging through Clarendon Park does not seem to have been a rare occurrence – there were three reported in The Mercury in the previous year!  But this article is particularly interesting because it shows how Clarendon Park was still semi-rural and under construction.  A mad cow these days would drop with exhaustion before finding a field off the London Road.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Clarendon Park Road

Let’s dive straight into the heart of Clarendon Park, both today and in the past, and look at this wonderful postcard of Clarendon Park.  Unfortunately the post mark is almost unreadable so I can’t say exactly when it was posted, but the stamp on the back is a 1/2 penny George V green, meaning that it must have been posted between 1912 and 1918, when the cost of postage doubled (plus ca change!).   It was posted from Leicester from ‘Nellie’ to Mrs P Warner of 24 St Paul Road, Coventry.

 So whereabouts on Clarendon Park Road was this taken?  Well, the slightly taller building on the left hand side, just beyond the first block of bay fronted houses, is Knighton Library.  In 1912 the library opened in the evenings only, perhaps reflecting the times when Clarendon Park’s largely working class population were free to visit (working hours generally being longer and often including Saturdays).  The church in the far background is Christchurch, currently a Methodist/Baptist church.  The photographer stood at the corner of St Leonards Road and Clarendon Park Road, facing towards the Queens Road crossroads.

The most striking feature of the photograph is the emptiness of the street, however we mustn’t be tempted to think that the road was usually this quiet in the 1910s.  Far from it – the decorative poles to the centre right are holding up tram wires, and this was a busy thoroughfare of electric trams, horse-drawn traffic (one or two horses and carts are visible here) and even motor vehicles.  In 1912 Clarendon Park already had a motor engineer works, The Burgess Motor and Engineering Company in Oxford Road, and two motor garages – Sydney Bower of 111a Clarendon Park Road and the Portland Motor Garage and Engineering Co of Portland Street.  William Maurice Jackson ran a cab service and livery stable at 1 West Avenue, and bicycles featured strongly in Clarendon Park too – a cycle maker at 60 Montague Road and repairs at the Burgess Motor and Engineering Company.  Add the pedestrians shopping at Queens Road and the scores of small shops on Clarendon Park Road itself and it seems much more likely that the photographer had to get up pretty early to catch Clarendon Park Road at this quiet time!

It is worth mentioning how tidy Clarendon Park Road looked with its paving in good repair and no so-called home improvements spoiling the look of the terraced houses, which all have tidy front gardens with their original walls and decorative ironwork (to be lost in the war efforts, no doubt).  Although when this photograph was taken the houses, and Clarendon Park itself, were  just thirty years old.

It would be interesting to take a photograph of the same view today and compare the two…..but not with my photography skills!  Regards, Elizabeth.