Leicester Chronicle, Thursday 30th April 1898, p2
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.