The Woman and the Wealth Behind St John the Baptist Church

A while ago someone got in touch with me to ask whether I knew how Miss Sarah Barlow, who gave £8000 for a church to be built in Clarendon Park, happened to have the money to do so. I didn’t know, so I did a bit of digging.

Sarah’s parents were Lemuel Barlow (c1750-1801) and Rebecca Morris (c1764-1826), who married at All Saints on 4th November 1782. They had eight children – Mary (1783-1825), John Clay (1786-1863), Ann (1788-), Sophia (1790-), Elizabeth (1793-), Sarah (1796-1801), Robert (1799-1853) and Sarah (1801-1886). Our Sarah was the youngest, born just three months after her older sister of the same name died in 1801 aged 4. Lemuel died in November of the same year, aged 51, so Sarah never knew her father. He was buried at St Margaret’s.

Rebecca remarried after 18 months. Her second husband was William Bosworth. Rebecca and the younger Barlows moved to Sanvey Gate, where Rebecca died in 1826. After Rebecca died Sarah moved into the home of her eldest brother John Clay Barlow, who was a coal and timber merchant who also owned properties in Rothley and Leicester which he rented out. They lived at Horsefair Street between 1841 and 1849 and at Prebend Street from 1851 to 1853. By 1861 John and Sarah lived at Leamington, which is where John died – unmarried – in 1863 aged 77.

Sarah was extremely attached to John and clearly missed him badly after he died. She dedicated a window to John at St Mary’s, Knighton. In 1878 she paid £600 for a new lifeboat to be built and named the “John Clay Barlow.” This was one of two National Lifeboat Institute lifeboats funded by Leicester benefactors and stationed at Hartlepool of all places. In 1881 the John Clay Barlow saved the life of three men from the schooner Thomas and three men from the Yorkshire Lass, which had run ashore near the Beacon Rocks. However Sarah’s most glorious memorial to her brother was the erection of St John the Baptist Church. I have sometimes wondered who chooses the saint to which a church is dedicated. It’s pretty clear in this case isn’t it. St John…

As an aside, Sarah’s second brother Robert seems to have been a much more interesting character. He was just two years older than Sarah and emigrated to America soon after the death of his mother, but not before establishing Barlow’s Rooms, a well used venue for meetings and lectures of all kinds including in 1838 the first public lecture of Owenite Socialism by E Nash. Robert was an elected Freeman’s Deputy and was active in trying to end the misuse of the Freeman’s income from Freeman’s Common. He died in Virginia in 1853.

After her beloved brother died, Sarah lived alone apart from servants. She rented and lived at 5 Upper King Street, opposite Holy Trinity Church, from 1882 until her death. No wonder she felt inspired to build a beautiful church after having to look at Holy Trinity all the time, which is surely one of the ugliest churches ever erected.

As well as founding a lifeboat and a church, Sarah established an almshouse in Knighton Drive to accommodate 4 poor women of good character, although she didn’t name it the John Clay Barlow almshouse.  Sarah died after a short illness on 7th May 1886 aged 84. Her funeral quite rightly took place at St John the Baptist on 13th May. The weather was very poor and the congregation was small. The Leicester Journal described the funeral in some detail – the 90th psalm was sung, as well as the hymns Jesu, Lover of My Soul and O God, Our Help in Ages Past. Sarah’s body was placed in a polished oak coffin with brass mountings in the family vault at St Mary’s churchyard. The Leicester Journal published Sarah’s obituary, describing her as “a lady whose name is well known as one of our local philanthropists…a most munificent contributor to the various charitable institutions in the town.”

Sarah does seem to have been a bit of a character. Despite her wealth – she died with an estate worth over £47,000 even after building churches, boats and almshouses – she always lived fairly frugally with just one or two servants. One of these was Elizabeth Hall (c1825-), whose mother Frances was remembered in Sarah’s will to the tune of 19 guineas. After many years of service Elizabeth herself was in line for an annuity of £20 a year until Sarah revoked the bequest, perhaps because of some falling out. Just before her death Sarah decided to give Elizabeth Hall £460 instead. Sarah changed her will five times before she died, including giving her great nieces and nephews the princely sum of £100 each. She took those £100s straight from the pockets of The Society at Leicester for Indigent Old Age, The Leicester Infirmary, The Leicester Dispensary, Mr George Muller’s orphanage at Bristol, the Church Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society – all originally line for £100 each and all revoked in 1879.

The rest of Sarah’s estate – mainly real estate at Earl Shilton and Leicester – went to Charles William Cooper (1842-1899) of Leicester, except for £5000 which was placed in trust for ten blind women of good character. Charles was for many years honorary physician to the Leicester Infirmary. I haven’t been able to find a family link between Sarah and Charles but it would make sense if he was a great nephew.

If you have reached the end of this and wondered why I still haven’t answered the question of how Sarah become possessed of enough to build St John the Baptist church, let me tell you that it’s because I don’t know. Sarah’s father Lemuel didn’t leave a will that I can find and there is little else to say about him except that I imagine he was a well off manufacturer of some kind, as his sons certainly had money and property. When John Clay Barlow died in 1863 he left his sister £25,000 but Sarah amassed at least the same amount by other means. It may well be that she lived so frugally that her income greatly exceeded her expenses. Whatever the case, it’s a great thing that she built a beautiful church for Clarendon Park.

Postcard to 31 Howard Road


Postcard sent to Cox 31 Howard Road

Postcard sent from Walton on Thames to John Cox of 31 Howard Road, 30th July 1910.

I love finding old postcards sent to a Clarendon Park address and so I was pleased to see this turn up on Ebay last week. In July 1910 twenty year old Sydney Ellis wrote to his “dear aunt and uncle” Ada Cox (1877-1960) and John Cox (1872-1957) at 31 Howard Road from his holiday in Walton-on-the-Naze on the Essex coast. Sydney enquired after their son, his 12 year old cousin Roland Cox (1898-1970) and someone called William/Willy who I have not been able to trace, but it sounds as though he was in a bad way.

31 Howard Rd

31 Howard Road

Ada Palmer and John Cox married at St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park, in 1897. Ada was born in Leicester whereas John originally came from Oldbury near Birmingham.  Ada had worked as a warehouse girl before marriage and John was a photographer. Roland, their only child, was born in 1898.  They moved to 31 Howard Road some time between 1901 and 1911. John’s family lived nearby in Montague Road and Edward Road and his father Luke and sister Laura (I will write more about Laura some time…she married a German man who was taken prisoner of war during both world wars) would eventually settle in Howard Road. To begin with, John worked in someone else’s photographic studio. By 1914 he had set up his own photography business at 104 Narborough Road. John died in 1957 and Ada in 1960.

Postcard sent to Cox 31 Howard Road front

The front side of the postcard

Our author, Sydney Ellis, was born in Leicester in March 1890 to parents John Ellis (c1866-) and Emily nee Palmer (1865-). Emily was Ada’s older sister. Sydney was baptised at St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park but the family moved to Colchester in Essex soon after. Sydney attended Colchester High School and then Colchester Technical Institute, where he passed exams in “Steam and Maths.” At the same time – from age 14 – he was apprenticed to Messrs Davey and Paxman in Colchester, then for a year (1911-1912) with crane manufacturers Messrs Herbert Morris in Loughborough. Sydney then stayed as Resident Engineer in Loughborough for three years until 1915, when he joined the Ministry of Munitions as a technical assistant. This work was centred on trench mortar shell fuses and as such he was exempt from active service.

However on 22nd January 1918 Sydney joined the Army as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers Trench Warfare Department, with whom he served in France. His service record is lost but the good news is that he survived – when I first started researching this postcard I experienced the usual dread and was relieved to learn that Sydney made it.

After the war Sydney returned to civilian engineering. On 10th February 1927 and at the age of 36, Sydney married Elsie May Overton (1901-1979), who was eleven years his junior. They moved into a semi detached house near the seafront in Frinton on Sea, which they named Overton Cottage in honour of Elsie. It is still called that today. Two sons were born in 1932 and 1939. Sydney worked as as a sales representative for engineering products.

Sydney died on 26th May 1966, still living at Overton Cottage. Elsie May died in 1979.







27 Avenue Road Extension….Veg Shop to Chip Shop

27 Avenue Road Extension

27 Avenue Road Extension, currently Vicky’s Chippy.

Someone was kind enough to leave a comment on a recent post, asking whether I knew anything about 27 Avenue Road Extension as relatives of theirs were grocers who lived there. I finally have time and headspace to look at local history again so I had a quick peep and found that number 27 Avenue Road Extension is currently Vicky’s Chippy, on the corner of Queens Road. The first I can find out about the property is that it was a shop premise in 1891 but stood empty. The Ball/Lister family were the first occupants after this and stayed for 60 years.

William Ball (1827-1899) married farmer’s daughter Hannah Clarke (c1838-1897) at Newbold Vernon church 30th December 1858. They had eleven children and lived at Newbold Vernon, where William kept a butchers shop on the main road. At some time between 1881 and 1891 William, Hannah and the youngest children Harry (1872-1945), Eleanor (1874-1958), Agnes (1876-) and Cicely (1878-1945) moved to number 33 Avenue Road Extension. William had retired from butchery – which sounds more dramatic than it probably was – whilst Harry and the girls worked in local factories. After a while William and Hannah got the shopkeeping bug again, moved three doors down to number 27 and started a small greengrocers. Number 27 had three bedrooms, two downstairs living rooms and of course the shop.

50 Montague

50 Montague Road where George’s father John Lister kept a fishmongers shop

William and Hannah’s daughter Eleanor married Fishmonger’s son George Alfred Lister (1874-1958) at St John the Baptist in 1895. They moved into number 35 Avenue Road Extension. George was a tailor’s presser and Eleanor had worked in a fancy hosiery factory until her marriage. They had a son, Alfred Reginald (1898-1978) whilst living at number 35. After Eleanor’s father William died, she and George moved into number 27. Eleanor took over the running of the greengrocers shop. They had another three children – Hilda Maude (1899-1983), Doris Lillian (1907-1990) and Daisy Eleanor (1910-2007), all baptised and later married at St John the Baptist.

In 1915 an accident took place in the house but I can’t work out who was the unfortunate Mary Ball who in September “was removed to the Infirmary on Saturday afternoon suffering from injuries to her head caused by a fall,” according to the Leicester Daily Post. Mary must have been a relation of Eleanor’s but whether living in the house or just visiting I can’t say.

It must have been a fairly crowded house too. Eleanor’s brother Harry Ball moved back to 27 Avenue Road Extension in 1918. He married Clara Bromage (1884-1958) in 1904. They lived in Edward Road and had four children together but, for whatever reason, Harry left Clara in 1918 and never lived with her again. The children stayed with Clara. Harry continued to live at number 27 until his death in 1945.  One Joseph Pearson lived there between 1925 and 1930, perhaps a lodger.

Eleanor died in 1958 after which George moved to number 110 Avenue Road Extension at some point, presumably because he didn’t want to continue running a shop. George died in 1965 and was buried along side Eleanor and her parents in St Mary’s churchyard.Grave

Due to the lockdown I am not able to follow the story of number 27 much further, but I do know that it was already a chip shop by 1971, run by D P Joannou who also installed the telephone line. The shop front was enlarged in 1984 and the first illuminated signage was installed in 1985. It probably hasn’t changed much since. It went by the name of Sunny Blue Chippy when I first moved to Clarendon Park, which always seemed a bit incongruous with the surroundings! I don’t frequent Vicky’s Chippy (I prefer Grimsby’s) but I know that it has many aficionados and hope that the business survives these strange times.

Tragedy at Trentham, 47 Queens Road


Trentham aka 47 Queens Road

Almost every house I look into has some kind of tragic story and number 47 Queens Road is no exception. The house was built in 1889 and was bestowed with the name ‘Trentham.’ In June 1889 Trentham was available for rent at £38 per year. It was taken by 30 year old Thomas Pearse Trethewey (1858-1894) and his wife of a month or so, Alice nee Evans (c1863-1930). Thomas was the recently appointed minister of Clarendon Park Congregational Church on the corner of London Road and Springfield Road. He and Alice had moved from Sheffield to take up the appointment in April, leaving behind Abbeydale Church where he had been much loved.

Thomas was well liked by his Leicester flock too. The deacon described him as

Clarendon Park Congregational Church

Clarendon Park Congregational Church

popular and able. But he had a tendency to disappear for periods, being low in spirits and sometimes troubled with delusions of being in insurmountable debt. One Tuesday evening in November 1894 Thomas left his wife at home without a word and walked to Blaby railway station, carrying no luggage. After a couple of days he was traced to the Liverpool area and was thought to have sailed for America. On Sunday morning the deacon announced to Thomas’s congregation that he was missing. His body was found on Monday, drowned in Lake Windemere. Thomas left letters in his pockets that described how he purposefully travelled there, to the place he had enjoyed visiting with his wife and mother and law, to drown himself in the dark and cold. He was worried about a debt of £270. He hoped Alice would forgive him. He was 32.

Poor Thomas, and poor Alice. In December she was forced to sell their belongings, the contents of Trenthham, which were described in an auction catalogue: “Superior  modern furniture and appointment…including a nearly new dining room suite of six chairs, two easy chairs and couch, covered in morocco leather…a number of etchings, photographs and sketches…full-size brass rail bedstead…stained glass hall lanthorn…hip bath…lawn mowing machine, etc.”  Alice left Leicester, moved back to Sheffield to live with her parents and died, still a widow, in 1930.

After the Tretheways departed, the Bray family moved in. They were Harry (1859-1931), solicitor with his own practice Bray and Price, his wife Lizzie Jessie nee Turner (1863-1946) and children Cecil Francis (1885-1964), Harry Gerard (1887-1964), Amy Ethel (1889-1973), Winifred Jane (1891-1969), Marian, (1894-1960), Bessie M (c1896-) and two servants. I assume Harry was one of the early founders of Bray and Bray, whose headquarters are near the city centre today. The Brays advertised for a servant in June 1897: “General Servant (Good) wanted. No washing. – Address B, ‘Trentham,’ Queens Road Leicester.”

By 1899 the Brays had moved to Narborough Road and widow Adela Martha Wykes nee Bramley (1856-1908) lived at Trentham. Adela lived with her adult children William Bramley (1881-1932), Lillie Marian (1881-1972), Gerald Davis (1883-1962), Alfred Douglas (1885-), Adela Ellen (1888-1975), her sister in law Fanny Davis Wykes (1860-1928) and a servant. The Wykes were partners at printing company Johnson, Wykes and Paine.

Printer image

Printed by Johnson, Wykes & Paine

After Adela died in 1908 her children William, Lillie and Adela lived on at 47 Queens Road until 1912 when William got married.

In 1912 Dr Louis Edward Staynes (1869-1945), physician and surgeon, took the house at an annual rent of £32 a year (£6 less than the Tretheways paid in 1889). Louis was a wealthy GP whose single brothers and sisters lived at Avenue House, Avenue Road. Louis himself lived at Avenue House until 1912 and returned to live there after the First World War, when Trentham was sold in January 1919.

Next came the Hirsts. Arthur Hirst (c1870-) was a grocer. He, his wife Henrietta nee Wheatley (1870-1956) and their children Edith Winifred (1899-), Enid Gertrude (1900-1974), Arthur Vernon (1901-), Hettie Gladys (1903-2000), Lilian (1907-) formerly lived in a much smaller shop and house at 64 Montague Road. They had moved away by 1939 and unfortunately that is as much as I can trace of 47 Queens Road until the records office is open again.

The Corner Shop at 77 Howard Road

Howard Road

Welcome to the first lockdown edition of YourHistories, where you will have to imagine what the buildings I am talking about look like today because I can’t get out to photograph them. Luckily we have this super postcard showing what number 77 Howard Road looked like c1908. It’s the corner shop with the blind open on the right hand side. Today it’s a lovely private residence and a fine example of what developers could do with lovely old shop premises instead of bricking up the big windows and installing poky, cheap white UPVC replacements.

77 Howard Road has come full circle. It was built as a private residence, converted to a shop in 1903 and back to a private residence again (actually split into two houses) in 2010. The first occupants I could find were commercial traveller Robert Duncan Henderson (1874-1936), his wife Kathleen Robinson (c1875-), their children John Duncan (1899-) and Robert William (1900-) and Kathleen’s mother Sarah. Robert William may even have been the first baby to be born in the house. They didn’t stay long though, because by October 1901 the Holyoakes lived at number 77. Alfred Weston Holyoake (1865-1904), Millicent Elizabeth Orgill (1869-1944) and their children including Colin Weston Holyoake (1902-1966), who was perhaps the second baby to be born at number 77, moved in but soon left for Portland Road.

I don’t know who converted the building to a shop – perhaps the landlord thought he could get more rent for a shop than a house – but Mrs Amelia Beedle, nee Lunn (1855-1941) was the first shopkeeper, in 1903, starting a long tradition of selling sweets. Amelia was a widow with six children. In 1906 another widow, Mrs Elizabeth Eaton, sold vegetables and confectionary but presumably made a bad job of it as she was gone by 1907. Then followed:

1908 – 1910 Former hotel proprietor George Bumpstead (c1841-1910) and Eliza (c1848-1912)  sold groceries and confectionary from number 77 but lived in Wolverton Road. George died in February 1910 and the business closed.

1910 – First World War George Edward Pritchard (1852-1924), wife Emily Hubbard nee Bent (1861-1949) and their children Annie Marian (1899-1988) and Ernest John (1902-1988) – grocer and confectioners. It’s not clear when they left number 77 but it was some time during the war.

1918 – 1954 James Cave (1884-1959) and Annie Caroline nee Randall (1895-1981), daughter Joyce Alma (1925-2006). In November 1919 James was granted a business loan of £100 by Sir Thomas White’s charity. They sold groceries and sweets.

1954 – 1959 Raymond Dadley Venn (1909-2006) and his wife Florence Mary Law (1915-) married at St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park in 1940. He was a clerk and she was a hairdresser. They lived at 77 Howard Road from 1954 and sold groceries and confectionary. Daughter Susan was born in 1955.

1960 S J Last, grocer.

1961 – 1962 Mary Elizabeth Smith.

1963 – 1973 Robert Charles Sibson (1915-1996) and Gladys M nee Randell (1916-) and their three sons. Robert had worked as a shop assistant in a pork butchers in 1939 before serving as a soldier during the Second World War, while Gladys worked in a hosiery factory.

1974 -1994 Longest standing residents the Patel family moved to number 77 in 1974.  Lallubhai, Dahiben, Hashmukhbhai, Rajeshkumar, Vijay K, Minaxi L, Jayesh K, Manaxi L, Sangeeta and Bharti Patel ran a general grocers, confectioners and off licence. After the Patel family left the premises remained empty and in fairly poor condition. You could still see shop fittings and old posters inside what is now the current occupants’ sitting room when I moved to Clarendon Park in 2005 and the old illuminated off license sign still hung outside. I wish I had taken a photo. A neighbour told me about Mr Patel – presumably Lallubhai – and what a friendly chap he had been.

From Clarendon Park Adult School to a Remarkable Quaker Family

Did you know that Clarendon Park once contained an Adult School? I didn’t even know such a thing existed but a chance mention in a newspaper got me searching. The Adult Schools movement began in the second half of the nineteenth century, when members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) established Sunday morning schools across the country to instruct in reading, writing and Bible study. The movement provided non-denominational, but religiously-based education for the working classes and as such Clarendon Park was the ideal location for an Adult School. By 1889 there were ten schools in Leicester with over 500 members. A wooden hut in Avenue Road Extension – Clarendon Park Mission Room, erected c1881 – was the venue for adult teaching of both sexes (but never together) from about 1883-4. One of the founding teachers was Miss Hannah Margaret Stafford (1852-1905) of Elmsleigh Hall, Stoneygate, who taught for over 20 years until just before her death in 1905.

The standard of teaching and discussion was high. In March 1897 the Mens’ Morning Class discussed the oppression of Cretan Christians by Turkey and urged the British government not to support the Turkish cause. There was a whist league in competition with other adult schools (Clarendon Park lost to the Paradise Mission in 1908) and a cricket team. There was also a thriving football team for many years – Clarendon Park Adult School FC.  Sadly at least two team members were killed during the First World War – Private Arthur Bree of 252 Avenue Road Extension  (killed in action 16th August 1917 aged 21) and Private Frank Owen Tighe of 10 Westbury Road  (killed in action on 17th July 1916 aged 22).

It was the social changes that took place after war that began the decline of the Adult Schools movement. In Leicestershire membership of mens’ groups fell by 38% between 1921 and 1937 and after the second world war this only worsened, partly due to competing leisure activities but also because there was more adult education provision on offer. Clarendon Park Adult School had closed by 1970 and the premises were used by Knighton Park Table Tennis Club. The wooden hut was demolished in 1979 and replaced with a brick building.

As always with these articles I start with one small thing and end up finding out hugely fascinating stories.  So I’d like to tell you now about a man who was involved in leading Clarendon Park Adult School and who as a consequence took Adult Schools to other parts of the country and even to New Zealand.  Edwin Gilbert was born in Oadby High Street in 1859 and baptised at Oadby Parish Church on 9th Sep 1860. His parents were Martha Bromley (c1834-1906) and Edward Gilbert (c1834-1914), who was a Baptist minister connected with the chapel in Charles Street. Edwin had two sisters including Elizabeth, who later ran a shop at 192 Clarendon Park Road.  Edwin married Lilla Ireland (1857-1938) in 1880. The couple initially lived with Lilla’s father at Crescent Street. Edwin worked as a commercial traveller. They had three children: Elsie Lilla (1881-1973), Harry Edwin (1887-1977) and Leslie Howard (1892-1987).

In July 1895 Edwin became involved in the Adult Schools movement and with Clarendon Park Adult School in particular. I don’t know whether this was because he had already joined the Society of Friends, or whether his work in this area led him to become a Quaker, but the two were strongly linked whichever order they happened in. He received an invitation from “a humble old man,” a member of the school.  Soon after the Gilberts moved to Salisbury. They returned to live in Leicester in around 1897, settling first at 111 Clarendon Park Road and then by 1903 at 198 Clarendon Park Road. Between 1901 and 1904 Edwin worked as a registration agent for the Liberal Party and from 1902 he took a salaried role in the Leicestershire Adult Schools Union and was later described as being the “leading mover in its extension work…He combined enthusiasm, a wonderful power of attracting men and organising ability.”

Meanwhile daughter Elsie trained and worked as a nurse, firstly at Gilroes Hospital for Infectious Diseases and then in Birmingham, before marrying Quaker doctor Joseph Tyler Fox. On leaving Leicester the Gilberts moved to Bournville where they lived during the War. This was not surprising as Edwin was by now an associate of the Cadbury family who were involved in Quaker philanthropic work. By 1911 Edwin was the national organising secretary for the Adult Schools movement and in 1913 he visited New Zealand, establishing Adult Schools there.

Edwin’s obituary in The Times later stated “In the years just before the War, he arranged interchange visits of British Adult School members and German workmen in the interests of international understanding.  Although the effect of these seemed lost during the War, it was found afterwards that the memories of them often facilitated the relief work of the Society of Friends in Germany.” At the beginning of the war Edwin worked with other Quakers to provide relief – including education – for ‘enemy aliens’ interred in camps. He joined the actively anti-war Birmingham city branch of the
Independent Labour Party in 1916. Later Edwin was asked to take charge of a prison for conscientious objectors at Warwick and afterwards at Wakefield Prison. He resigned following a  revision of the regulations brought additional unnecessary hardship on the objectors. Son Leslie volunteered with the Red Cross in France as an orderly in the Friends’ (Quakers) Ambulance Division, an extremely dangerous job but avoiding fighting. Meanwhile daughter Elsie joined her husband on a visit to Russia in 1916 with Dr Tyler Fox acting as chief medical officer to the Friends’ War Relief Expedition.

Immediately after the War Edwin joined a party of Quakers in visiting Germany  to investigate conditions in children’s homes and hospital. Gilbert shared their experiences in a newspaper article to raise awareness and raise relief funds, quoting Frederick Merttens: “The little babies were a heart breaking sight…and we turned away too overcome for words.” In 1919 Edwin helped to found a community centre in Plymouth called Swathmore Hall. He was appointed President of the National Adult School Union in 1922.

Edwin and Lilla lived in Thurmaston during the 1920s, moving to Bournemouth in 1930 where they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Edwin died on 2nd December 1933 a few days after undergoing an operation at the Royal Victoria Hospital. After Edwin’s death Lilla moved to York. She died in 1938.

Burglary at Ivydene, Springfield Road (1914)



John Rawson married (1844-1918) Elizabeth Ann Compton (1854-1919) in 1878. They had eight children: Kate Elizabeth (1879-), Benjamin (1880-1963), Margaret Edith (1882-1967), Gertrude Mary (1884-), Helen Mabel (1886-1959),  John Compton (1889-1940), George Frederick (1890-) Charles Herbert (1893-1953). John was a boot manufacturer whose business grew in size and success during the 1890s, enabling the family to move from Seymour Street to number 8 Springfield Road, known as “Ivydene” (not to be confused with the Ivydene in Clarendon Park Road).

During the late 1880s the business was based at 13 Wellington Street, moving to the Peveril Works in Deacon Street during the 1890s.  In September 1907 there were “exciting scenes” according to the Leicester Daily Post when the top two floors – which contained the most modern machinery – were completely burnt out in a massive fire. Luckily no one was hurt and the business was already in the process of moving premises to Evington Valley Road, where it continued until at least the 1950s. The business was finally wound up in 1998, by which time the registered office was 21 Watling Street.

Screenshot (40)In 1911 Ivydene – which was sandwiched between “Fernshaw” and “Blair Athol” – possessed 14 rooms. Various servants lived in to enable the comfortable running of the household. In 1914 the Rawsons were the victims of a crime. Burglars broke into Ivydene whilst the family and servants were out (given that it was Sunday evening, possibly at church) and stole £130 worth of jewellery and £20 in cash. In today’s money that’s £14,000 worth of jewellery and £2,000 in cash. Ouch.

The First World War was a boom time for Leicester’s boot manufacturers. To give a flavour of what working life was like during this time, have a look at this photo in the Imperial War Museum archive of a woman operating a slugging machine at Rawson and Sons Ltd. It became much more difficult to find young women willing to work as domestic servants whilst wages were high and labour in shortage, so the Rawsons may well have found it more of a challenge to maintain their large house. The Rawson family would have experienced the same worries as every other household containing young men. Charles Herbert served in France as 2nd lieutenant in the 6th Middlesex Regiment, from 1916 to 1919.

Rawson grave

The Rawson Family Grave, Welford Road Cemetery

John died at home in April 1918 before his son returned from France, leaving an estate of £40,000.  Elizabeth died eighteen months later. They were buried in style at Welford Road Cemetery. The contents of Ivydene were sold by auction on 7th June 1920, comprising mostly of what sounds mostly like of a lot of enormous, heavy Victorian furniture but also some valuable oil paintings by artists including Thomas Sidney Cooper.  There was also a Whitfield’s safe – presumably purchased after the burglary.  The house was also sold.

After John’s death the business was continued by his sons Benjamin, John Compton and George Herbert.  All the sons lived in Stoneygate, not far from their former home. John Rawson left £50 per year to the Baptist Missionary Society in his will and may have been somewhat shocked if he had known that after his death daughter Margaret Edith would enter St Catherine’s Convent, Glenfield Road where she died in 1963. Margaret had worked for the Society before John’s death.  Sadly John Compton Rawson committed suicide in 1940 having suffered from depression.

Ivydene was purchased in 1920 by hosiery manufacturer Charles Smith (c1869-1939), his wife Ruth Caroline nee Barker (1870-1946)  and their children Charles Raymond (1897-1971), Arthur Barker Smith (1901-1962) and Ruth Margaret (1905-). The Smiths lived at number 8 until the late 1930s when they moved to Westernhay Road. Charles was the owner of Charles Smith & Bros, Rutland Street, which specialised in ladies’ underwear. The Smith family were congregationalists and attended Clarendon Park Congregational Church, less than 50 yards from their home in Springfield Road. Charles left the church a legacy of £200. Charles Smith and Bros (underwear) Ltd closed in 1970.

After the Smith family left Ivydene, the Thompstone family then moved 11 doors along the road from number 40 Springfield Road where they had been living for over 20 years, to number 8. John Richard Thompstone (1865-1942) was a corn and flour miller in partnership with his brothers, operated in Cheshire and in Leicester, styled F R Thompstone & Sons Ltd.  The factory was at St Margaret’s. John lived at Ivydene with his wife Gertrude nee Moss (1886-1971) and their children Bernard (1909-1985), John (1911-1999) and Walter Brindley (1912-1963). Gertrude must have been particularly anxious about the military service of her son John, who served as a Bombadier in the 115th Field Artillery during the Second World War, having lost her brother Captain Charles Moss in 1917. Whilst living at 40 Springfield Road Gertrude commissioned a stained glass window in his memory, made by Edward Burne Jones and installed at St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield.

After John Richard died in 1942, Gertrude, Walter Brindley and Bernard stayed living at 8 Springfield Road. Walter died in 1963, Gertrude in 1971 and Bernard in 1985. Bernard was the last private individual to own and live at number 8 Springfield Road. After his death plans were made to convert the large property to a residential home for older people, which began in 1986. Several planning applications were refused but eventually a new detached house was built in the large garden, fronting Avenue Road, the rear of the property was extended and fire escapes added.  Today Ivydene is Leaholme Residential Home.



66 Clarendon Park Road: Builders, Painters, Servants, Families and Citroens

By 1877 the Clarendon Park estate was already partially formed and ready to extend. Advertising to speculative builders, Solicitors Messrs Stone and Billson announced that “The new road, called Clarendon Park Road, will be at once continued through to the Welford Road.” By June 1880 the first houses were being offered for sale. Frederick Simms (c1831-1898) and Elizabeth Elliott (c1828-), who married at St Margaret’s Church in 1856, appear to have been the first occupants of number 66 Clarendon Park Road, which was built in 1889.  Frederick had been a butcher and later a saw maker and sharpener, but by the time he and Elizabeth moved to Clarendon Park he had retired.  Frederick died in 1898 leaving an estate worth £1724 8s 10d (so could have owned his home) and Elizabeth remained at number 66 until 1902.  It isn’t clear where she moved to but she may have returned the Yorkshire, the place of her birth.  Frederick was buried in St Mary’s churchyard.

1902-1908 – Broughton, Cox and Co

Leonard Broughton

Leonard Broughton

In around 1902 Leonard Broughton (1867-1947), builder living at 153 St Leonard’s Road and William Henry Cox (c1876-1946), bricklayer living at 112 Hartopp Road, established a partnership based at 66 Clarendon Park Road, styled Broughton, Cox & Co, builders and contractors.  Leonard and William had lived in Clarendon Park and been friends for several years.  When William married Mary Ann Crane at St John the Baptist Church in 1898 Leonard acted as one of the witnesses, and their two wives were sisters.  The business partnership lasted for five years until on 31st December 1907 it was dissolved by common consent.  The business continued as Cox and Co. It doesn’t look as though Leonard or William ever lived at number 66.  Both are buried at Welford Road Cemetery.

1908 to 1917 – Cox and Co

William Henry Cox’s younger brother Ernest Joseph Cox (1880-1929) took on the business Cox and Co from January 1908.  Ernest, his wife Ellen Sherriff (1881-1956) and their children Ernest Ronald (1905-1988); Edgar William (1906-1971); Margaret Ellen (1910-); Barbara Mary (1913-2011); Gerald Winston (1915-2001) and Joyce Rosamond (1917-2012) moved into 66 Clarendon Park Road some time between 1906 and 1909.  Ernest was a house painter, like his father who had died when he was young, and so Cox and Co changed its focus from building to painting and decorating.

In 1914 Ellen – who kept one servant of her own – established a servant’s registry (which today we would call an employment agency) called Stoneygate Registry.  She advertised for servants who were looking for positions in Leicester and the surrounding counties.  For example in the Banbury Advertiser:  WANTED all kinds of servants. Fees not charged until suited. Stamp. – Apply, Stoneygate Registry 66 Clarendon Park Road.  Ellen didn’t continue the business for very long but may have sold it to Mrs Margaret Elizabeth Williams nee Brooks (1887-), who ran a registry with the same name out of 23 St James’s Road from at least as early as 1924 right up until the early 1960s.

The Cox family moved out of 66 Clarendon Park Road in 1917 and its owner, William Harry Cufflin, who lived in London Road, advertised in the Leicester Daily Post in December of that year “To Small Manufacturers – small two storey warehouse with very nice dwelling house and offices.”

Early in 1920 the Coxes moved to 42 Tichborne Street, later to Salisbury Street and finally to Aylestone Road where Ernest died in 1929. After Ernest’s death Ellen kept a boarding house at 28 de Montfort Street.  They are both buried at Welford Road Cemetery.




Boot manufacturer Thomas Godfrey White (1878-1948) and Mary Ann Dixon  (1882-1975) married at St Michael’s Church, Leicester, in 1904. They had children Annie Laurie (1906-1997); Connie Florence (1907-1998); Kathleen “Kitty” Mary (1911-2003); Evelyn (1913-1992) and Thomas (1918-1980).  The last of these, Thomas, was probably born at 66 Clarendon Park Road, where the White family moved in 1918.  Thomas was a protestant whereas Mary Ann was descended from Irish immigrants and was Roman Catholic, which made for some interesting debates! Mary’s granddaughter describes her as having had a great sense of humour.  After leaving Clarendon Park Road in 1930 the White family settled in Braunstone, where Thomas died in 1948. Thomas and Mary are buried at Welford Road Cemetery.

Thomas Godfrey’s factory was in Little Holme Street until his death, when his daughter Evelyn and her husband moved the business – now styled T G White (Sandals) Ltd – to Old Milton Street to focus on making infants’ sandals.

1930 – 1942

In 1930 the Walker family moved in to 66 Clarendon Park Road.  These were company director Herbert Walker (1886-1972), his wife Marion Ladyman (1888-1938) and their five children Donald Wilfred (1916-2008); Douglas Harvey (1917-1942); Anthony Walter  (1919-2003); Diana J (1923-) and Rosemary J (1924-). It isn’t clear why the Walkers wanted a house with business premises attached, as Herbert worked as a director of a chemical manufacturing company and it doesn’t look as though any other business was carried out there.  Possibly they sub let the premises – as in 1957 when it was occupied by Hornbrook & Godwin Ltd, house furnishers.

In January 1931 Marion advertised for a general domestic servant –  “a capable girl”  – to start work in February with wages of £26.  Whoever took the job stayed until 1935 when Marion advertised again for a young woman servant.  The next few years were difficult for the Walker family.  Marion died in a nursing home aged 50 in 1938 and after war was declared in 1939, Herbert’s three sons left home to serve their country.  In 1942 Acting Flight Lieutenant Douglas was killed in an air crash whilst taking part in a training exercise in Wales.  He was buried at Gilroes cemetery and left a young widow.  Donald and Anthony survived the war.

Reggio Garage

Reggio garage

By 1958 number 66 was once again a business premises, this time home to Reggio Garage motor repairs and -by 1967 – service station. The Reggio Garage specialised in repairs to Citroen cars.  By 1970 the business had expanded to include a service station at 135 Queens Road (now All Fours garage), and by the early 1980s there was also a bodyworks shop at Narborough Road South.  The Queens Road garage was sold to the present owners after 1984 and only the Clarendon Park Road business remained until recently, when it closed for the last time.  For the last few years 66 Clarendon Park Road has been home to Tippetts and Brooks, builders – returning to its 1900s roots! The house is divided into flats.

105 Queens Road Until 1973: Chinese Laundry, Groceries and Seeds

Queens Road

Count eleven windows to the right from the post office and you will find number 105 Queens Road as it looked at the turn of the 20th century.  These days it is the premises of Belvoir! estate and lettings agency.  This end of Queens Road was purely residential until around 1908, in fact in 1906 when number 105 was up for sale by auction it was described as “a dwelling house with palisade fence and small garden in front, tiled entrance hall, dining room with bay window to the front, drawing room with French casement, three bedrooms, two cellars, slated cycle house, w.c. and garden.” William Montague Smith (1864-1933), water rates collector, and his wife Mary Ann Asher (1859- Kibworth) lived there c1897- 1908.  Here is the history of 105 Queens Road as a shop.


John Henry Clover Askew

John Henry Clover Askew

For just one year number 105 Queens Road was lived in by Fanny Hurry (1861-1948) and her husband John Henry Clover Askew (1859-1945), who married in 1879 and had twelve children.  By 1908 only five children survived and three lived with them.  These were May (1884-), Gertrude (c1888-) and Edith (1897-1989).  Fanny and John had previously lived in Cheshire and in Nottingham but settled in Aylestone by 1891.  They were shopkeepers but didn’t seem to particularly mind what kind of shop they kept – firewood, confectionery, groceries.  In 1903 they kept a fishmongers at 113 Clarendon Park Road.  Fanny started the first shop at 105 Queens Road, a fruiterers, but soon moved away to Blaby where she and John lived out the rest of their lives.


William Edward Hack (1873-1953) was born in Asfordby and was apprenticed to a grocer. He married Mary Ann Angrave (1871-1930) in Nottingham in 1895 when she was pregnant with their daughter Hilda May (1895-1952) who was born in Doncaster. By the time Ida Phyllis (1899-1974) came along in 1899 the family lived at number 50 Farnham Road, Leicester and William worked as a grocer’s assistant. They moved to 132 Charnwood Street in about 1903 and in November 1909 to 105 Queens Road to start a grocer’s shop with £20 capital borrowed from a friend. At first things seemed to go well and so in 1910 William opened two branch shops, one in Cavendish Road and the other in Wigston.  Between September and December 1910 Mary advertised in the Western Daily Press for a baby to adopt.  There’s no evidence that William and Mary did adopt a baby but they did take in two boarders in 1911, possibly in an attempt to bring in more money to save their ailing businesses – the two branch shops closed in 1911.  By 1912 William was in debt to the tune of £362 and on the 21st August he ran off to escape his creditors, deserting his wife and children.  Wheeler, Son and Killpack, wholesale grocer’s of Belgrave Gate, initiated a bankruptcy order against William which was granted on 17th September.  Mary was allowed to keep the household effects as she bought them with money that belonged to her before she married.  The family moved out of 105 Queens Road in 1913.  At some point William and Mary were reunited and moved to Middlesborough where William found work as a nursery gardener.


Between 1913 and 1914 105 Queens Road was lived in by Charles Thompson, who almost certainly kept a shop of some kind but unfortunately there is no evidence to say what kind, or who Charles was.  We do know that pork butcher John C Fisher lived there 1914 – 1915.


Between as early as 1916 and 1938 105 Queens Road was a laundry.  In 1916 the laundry was operated by Cyril Wong.  It has proven impossible to find out anything about Cyril.  By 1919 the business was operated by Chow Fun, sometimes known as “Joe Lee” (1892-1966).  Chow was born in China and emigrated to Liverpool in 1916, where he was soon prosecuted for failing to register.  Shortly after he moved to Leicester.  He married Edith Annie Atkins (1899-1982) in 1920 and they had a son, Stanley (1922-1999). Shortly before his marriage, in July 1919 Chow was summoned for failing to furnish particulars of every ‘alien’ living at 105 Queens Road. These were Kow Wong and Wong Chin, friends from China who he said were visiting overnight. Chow was fined 40s (and his friends 40s and £3 respectively).  In 1925 the horribly racist Coventry Herald reported that “a sallow-visaged oriental” – Chow – was charged with speeding at 35 mph and skidding 26 feet before coming to a halt. The car was made in 1914 and Chow’s friend and witness stated that it was incapable of managing the speed, but the judge fined him 40 shillings anyway. By 1939 Chow and Annie lived in cramped accommodation at 45 Melton Street along with various members of Annie’s family and several boarders.  He still worked as a laundry master and Annie as a hosiery hand.  He died in 1966.  A former resident of Clarendon Park recalled Chow working at 105 Queens Road in her memoirs, which are recorded on the excellent Clarendon Spark blog. Edna said “He kept the starch in his mouth and spat on the collars as he ironed them.”


In 1939 Edward Plunkett (1890-1948) and his wife Ida Phyllis Stephenson (1900-1980) – known as “Ted and Pippa” – lived at 105 Queens Road with their son Bryan Edward (1921-2007).  They ran a corn and seed merchants. Edward and Ida installed a telephone line (number 77186) by 1939.  When Edward died in 1947 Ida and Bryan continued to run the business and live above the shop.  Bryan moved out in 1949 and Ida moved in with her new husband Sydney J Kemp whom she married in 1950.  The living accommodation remained empty until Ida’s retirement in 1964, apart from 1952-1955 when it was occupied by one Florence Hughes.


In 1964 John Douglas Barnes (1911-1974) took over the premises, keeping the shop as a corn merchant. John was born in Fulham and lived in and around London until at least the late 1950s so it’s not clear why he moved to Leicester.  He had previously worked as a grinder.  By 1964 John was a widow, his wife Bessie A Martin (1914-1958) having died in 1958. John was the last person to keep a shop at 105 Queens Road and live above the premises. After he moved to Hertfordshire in 1970 the living accommodation remained empty until well into the 1990s.  John ceased trading in 1973.  He died in 1974.



“Ironclad” Gas Mantles available from J S Smith of 192 Clarendon Park Road

IroncladHere’s an Ebay find – an invoice/receipt from J S Smith of 192 Clarendon Park Road, to Mr Stimpson of 102 St Leonards Road, for a variety of items presumably relating to a gas lamp fitting (gas/plumbing experts correct me if I am wrong).  Mr Stimpson purchased 15 inches of flex tube, a cock, 2 chains, a 6 inch tube, a Cora burner, a globe and mantle – all for the sum of 14 shillings and 8 pence.  There’s no date, but the collection I found this document in dates from around 1917-23, and the image and design would fit nicely with that.

192 Clarendon Park Road has changed hands at least four times since I have lived nearby.  In the last 13 years it has been a hairdressers, a peace cafe, a pottery studio and a strange shop selling clothes and computer parts.  Most recently, about 8 years ago, it become a tattoo parlour.  The current owners have been there for about a year.  Tattooing is rather different from the very first business to operate from number 192, which was a wholesale and retail ironmongers and hardware shop, the above mentioned J S Smith, purveyor of Ironclad gas mantles from 1899 to 1957.

The wonderfully-named James Squibb Smith (1856-1928) married Elizabeth Ann Gilbert (1856-1951) in 1876.  They had five children, who were Gilbert Harry (1877-1957), Frederick James (c1879), Mabel Helena (1882-1950), George Sydney (c1886) and Edward Henry (c1897-).  After their marriage James worked as an assistant in a hardware shop and the family lived at 46 Avon Street.  In 1893 they moved to 192 Clarendon Park Road and in 1899 James started his own business, described in Bennett’s 1901 Business Directory for Leicestershire as a “wholesale and retail dealer in all kinds of hardware goods, petroleum, lamps, lamp fittings, glass, china etc.”  Elizabeth’s father, Edward Gilbert, lived with the family until his death in 1914.  Mr Gilbert had been a Baptist minister connected with the Baptist chapel in Charles Street.

J S Smith

1954 telephone book entry

James ran the hardware business, assisted by his eldest son Gilbert, until he died in 1928.  Gilbert had moved out to live with his wife in Adderley Road after their marriage and he didn’t return 192 Clarendon Park Road to live with his widowed mother, but he did continue to look after the business until his own death in 1957.  in the meantime he took on apprentice to learn the wholesale and retail hardware trade, advertising in March 1939 for a 14 year old “strong lad”.  It can’t have worked out well because Gilbert advertised the post again in August 1939 only this time the lad needed to be both smart AND strong.  James, Elizabeth and Gilbert were all buried together at Welford Road Cemetery along with Mabel Helen.

As for Mr Stimpson who needed all those gas mantle accoutrements – Albert Stimpson (17 Jul 1893-) and Celia Annie Wood (1894-1950) married in 1917 and moved into 102 St Leonards Rd, where they lived for 14 years. Sometimes they kept a lodger.  Albert was from Clarendon Park – he had lived in Bulwer Road when some of the houses were so new as to not have numbers or house names.  He worked as a groom in one of the big local houses until after the First World War, when like many men who had previously worked with horses, he trained and worked as a chauffeur.  Albert and Celia had three children: Joyce (1920-1986), Eileen (1926-2004) and Margaret (1929-2013).

The Stimpsons moved to 82 Gainsborough Rd in 1931 and then by 1939 lived at 64 Kingsmead Road.  In September 1950 Celia died and was buried at Gilroes Cemetery.  I haven’t been able to find out when Albert died or where he was buried.

192 CPR.jpg

192 Clarendon Park Road today