Bit gloomy, this subject, but it’s a big one and actually quite interesting. Not everyone who lived in Clarendon Park in the past died there, but a lot did and especially – sadly – the children. National infant (under 1 year) mortality in Victorian England was something appalling like 160 per 1000 live births in 1899 and the figure for Leicester, as a town, was probably significantly higher. One in three children would not live to see their fifth birthday. Adults also had a much lower life expectancy than today.
I have been transcribing the burial records of St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, listing every person who died whilst living in Clarendon Park. It is time-consuming work – so far I have finished 1887-1906 and 1929-1950 and there are literally hundreds of names. Each entry records the person’s name, their address, age and the date they were buried. You are welcome to ask me to look up any name or address (I found a tiny baby who died at my house in 1900..very poignant). Anyway, the list forms a useful snapshot of death in Clarendon Park, though totally unscientific. Here are the results for 1887 – 1906:
- <1m 32
- 1m – 6m 45
- 7m – 12m 45
- 13m – 2y 32
- 3y – 5y 13
- 6y – 10y 8
- 11y – 19y 19 (of which 7 were aged 17)
- 20 – 30 24
- 30 – 40 30
- 41 – 50 30
- 51 – 60 31
- 61 – 70 28
- 71 – 80 18
- 81+ 14 (the oldest person was 93)
As you can see, the vast majority of deaths were in children 2 years or younger, though the risk levelled off a bit after that. A surprising amount of people died in early adulthood, and most adults died in what we would now consider middle age, rather than after the current retirement age. There must be many more deaths in the 81+ bracket today. It is notable from the records how the number of child deaths gradually reduces and the age of people generally increases over the 19 years I looked at.
So, how and where were all these Clarendon Park folk buried? There isn’t a burial ground in Clarendon Park itself. Many people were buried at Welford Road Cemetery, which opened in 1849 and provided space for people who were not members of the Church of England, as well as those who were. Clearly a lot of people chose to be buried at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton, as St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park and St Michael and All Angels, Knighton had no graveyard (many if not most new Victorian churches were built without). Even nonconformists were buried there – under the Burials Act of 1880 any christian burial could be carried out at parish churches, and quite a few Methodists and other nonconformists were buried at St Mary’s. Some people were buried in other parishes, for example if they had lived many years in a village or another part of Leicester before moving to Clarendon Park.
Victorian funerals were big business, with mourning warehouses advertised in the local press. The middle classes were obviously able to spend more on the trappings of mourning but it was a matter of pride for many poorer people to give a decent funeral. Many would not have been able to provide even that. Cab Proprietor William Maurice Jackson was also a funeral undertaker, and coffins would have been provided by some of Clarendon Park’s many carpenters, joiners and builders.
Thank goodness those days have passed, and most Clarendon Park dwellers are in good health and can expect to live to a reasonable age. I promise to bring you something less morbid next time! Regards, Elizabeth.