Category Archives: Old newspaper articles

Crime Solved: Arson in St Leonards Road

93 St Leoards

93 St Leonard’s Road

At about 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Friday 10th March 1899 some children playing in St Leonard’s Road noticed smoke pouring from the windows of number 93, the home of Robert Hunt (1847-1915), his wife Sarah Hannah Smart (1851-1927) and five of their children.  Robert and Sarah were at work whilst the younger children – Nellie (11) , Ethel (10) and Henry (9) – had finished school and were playing outside. Florence (20) and Lilian (18) were also out of the house and the three oldest girls were already married and lived elsewhere.

One of the children who saw smoke was May Mary Perkins (1888-1956) younger daughter of Sergeant Joseph Perkins (1857-1912) , who lived nearby at 73 Clarendon Park Road.  May ran home to tell her father. Sergeant Perkins ran to the Clarendon Park Police and Fire Station at 139 Queens Road to fetch Fireman Gibson and Superintendant Joseph John Howe (1851-1914) and the “curricle” ladder.

The Curricle

The Patent Curricle Fire Escape Ladder

They entered by the front upstairs window but the fire was found to be downstairs in the front sitting room. It looked as though the fire had been started deliberately – the couch and chairs were heaped together and covered in newspaper, and three petroleum lamps, without their globes, had been placed on the floor near to the couch.  Fortunately there was more smoke than fire and it was quickly extinguished.

Known to be a man of eccentric habits, glove hand Robert Hunt was arrested when he came home at 10pm but as he denied all knowledge of the fire and as his wife would not testify against him, the case against Hunt was dismissed.  But I suspect that if the police had had access to Robert’s previous history of fire starting they would have pursued the case further and brought a charge.

Thanks to the British Library’s searchable historical newspapers collection, I was able to discover that Robert Hunt was charged in 1876 with starting a fire in a haystack in Shepshed. He was seen by a farm labourer to be loitering next to the haystack, which was then set alight. He denied starting the fire but could not explain a used match found in his pocket and two stones against which matches had been struck. He gave the name William Brown to the police and said he was from Scotland, later admitting his real name and that he was from Leicester. Robert was found guilty despite a good character having been provided by his employer of seven years, James Brown, a hosiery manufacturer. He was sentenced to 5 years penal servitude. However, Robert’s friends and called upon the Sheriff of Leicester, who took up the case and petitioned the Home Secretary, describing Robert as “an honest, steady and industrious working man, against whom no charge has ever been made prior to the alleged crime of fire raising.” Robert received a full and free pardon.

I have no evidence that Robert was charged with any other fire-starting offences. He lived an apparently blameless but “eccentric” life.  He married Sarah Hannah in May 1868 at St George’s, two years after the death of his first wife Elizabeth Clark (c1843-1866). They had fourteen children, nine of which survived early infancy.  These were Mary Ann (1871), Ruth Baxter (1874), Beatrice Alice (1876), Florence Maria (1879), Lilian Baxter (1881), Nellie Eveline (1887), Ethel May (1888), Henry Robert Archibald (1889) and John William Charles (1893).  They lived in a number of properties including Liverpool Street, Church Street, Dover Square, Duke Street and 56 Montague Road before moving to 93 St Leonard’s Road in 1898.  Astonishingly after Robert set fire to that property the family were not given immediate notice by their landlord but presumably cleared the fire and smoke damage and stayed on living there until some time between 1906 and 1911, when they moved to 43 Ullswater Street. Hannah remained at Ullswater Street after Robert died in 1915 and until her own death in 1927.

56 Montague

56 Montague Road, Clarendon Park – home to the Hunt family c1883-1898

 

 

Advertisements

More about 51 Montague Road

Whilst I was researching Leonard Norman and his photography/picture framing business at 28-30 Montague Road in the 1890s and possibly later at 51 Montague Road, I came across another small story about a former occupant of number 51.  It comes again from the Leicester Chronicle, this time the 5th May 1894 (so as Leonard was just settling in to 28 Montague Road).

Harriet Wills was fined ten shillings for being drunk and disorderly in Montague Road the previous Saturday night.  And she a married woman in her fifties too!  That can’t have been much fun to live down with the neighbours, most of whom were no doubt very respectable.  Clarendon Park did have a reputation as a drunken place.  There is a fantastic cartoon displayed at the Abbey Pumping Station museum called ‘Last Tram Back to Clarendon Park’ or something very similar, depicting a tram overflowing with drunken, dazed or fighting people.  I wonder if the last 44a has the same reputation today?  Regards, Elizabeth.

51 Montague Road

The Probable Poisoning of George Scott Grainger

I recently read a sad article from the Leicester Chronicle which demonstrates how life has changed over the past 100 years .  George Scott Grainger aged 51 was admitted, unconscious, to the Leicester Royal Infirmary around 6.15pm on Monday 30 September 1890.  He later having never regained consciousness.   George, who was a gardener working at Victoria Park and then living at 17 Oxford Road, Clarendon Park,  had obtained some Corporation Diarrhoea Mixture from the Town Hall (people provided their own bottles) earlier that day.  However the mixture contained in the bottle George was holding when his wife found him contained tincture of opium, not Victorian Immodium.

17 Oxford Road (Oxford Road sits between Howard Road and Montague Road)

At the inquest Jane Grainger, said that on the morning of his death she left before George to go to work and he was not then complaining of diarrhoea.  At 2.30pm she was in Victoria Park and could not see her husband so she asked his colleague James Norwell where he was.  Norwell told her he had obtained medicine, so she “knew he must be very ill as he strongly disliked medicine.”  Jane went to look for George and found him lying in a field on Evington Lane, with the bottle in his hand.  He complained of diarrhoea.  He said he had consumed the entire contents of the bottle and felt quite well, and wanted to stay where he was as he was comfortable, but was moved in Dr Greasley’s carriage to the Highfields Hotel and afterwards to the LRI where he died.

A couple of things struck me about Jane’s story.  Firstly, it was very odd indeed that George’s own bottle should have contained opium, as the Town Hall folk must have dispensed quite a lot of diarrhoea mixture and it would soon have been obvious if their stock had replaced or contaminated with tincture of opium.  So perhaps George found that diarrhoea mixture was not efficacious and bought his own cure – opium – instead (opium was used in some diarrhoea preparations).  Secondly, when Jane found that her husband was not at work as expected, she naturally went to look for him.  But in a field in Evington Lane?  Perhaps all is not exactly as Jane described.  Perhaps she was used to finding him lying intoxicated in a field and knew where to look for him. It’s a good job the powers that be started to tighten the regulation of opium, making it harder for people to accidentally poison themselves, even if it sounds like George had quite a peaceful ending.

Jane had moved from 17 Oxford Rd by the time of the census in April 1891.  So many people seemed to have passed in and out of Clarendon Park without leaving much trace.  Poor George – in both senses – was buried in a common grave without a headstone at Welford Road cemetery and his wife never joined him.

Five sons in the service: A good way to make three quid

From the Leicester Chronicle Friday, December 29th , 1900 p2

Five Sons in the Service:  Queen’s Gift to a Leicester Man

Mr. Edmund G. Hanham, 19, Edward-road, Clarendon Park, who has five sons in the Service, has received the following letter from Sir Fleetwood Edwards, Keeper of the Privy Purse:-

Privy Purse Office, Buckingham Palace, S.W., 18th December 1900

 Lieut.-Colonel Sir Fleetwood Edwards is commanded to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Edward G. Hanham’s letter of the 5th ulto., and, in reply, to say that the Queen is very much gratified to learn that Mr. Hanham has five sons at present in the Service, and Sir Fleetwood Edwards is further commanded to forward to Mr. Hanham the enclosed Post Office Order for three pounds from the Queen as a mark of her Majesty’s appreciation of this interesting fact, with the hope that it may be of some temporary assistance.

Clever Mr Hanham, spending ha’penny on a stamp to write to the Queen, and getting a postal order for three quid in return!  Edmund George Hanham (c1849 -1925) married Mary Ann Dawkes (1850 – 1934) in 1874 and together they had at least ten children.  Edmund was a sergeant in the Staffordshire militia, so it makes sense that so many of his children chose a military life.  On his retirement, the family moved to Edward Road in Clarendon Park, where Edmund set up as a boot and shoe maker.

Mary and Edmund’s children were: Edmund George Lawrence (1875-1901), Violette Polly (1876-), Frances May (1878-1878), Hedley Thomas (1878-1962), Archibald Harry (1881), Albert Victor (1883) Thomas (1884-1884), Charles Gordon (1885), Albert Edwin (1887), Christie (1887-1946)

I haven’t been able to find out about the military service of all Edmund’s sons, but here is what I did find:

Edmund George junior was a Sergeant Doctor in the South Staffordshire Regiment.  He died in January 1901 at Winburg, during the second Boer War of 1899-1902 and just a few days after the article in the Chronicle.  How awful for his father, to be recognised by the Queen one month and then the next, to lose one of his sons.

Hedley Thomas joined the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment and later the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  He was demobilised and became a warehouseman in Huddersfield.  In 1914 he again enlisted, rejoining the Duke of Wellingtons.  He returned to Huddersfield and died in 1962.

Christie joined the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1902.  he was wounded in South Africa in 1903 and again in 1904.  In 1905 he requested permission to emigrate to Canada – can’t say I blame him – but was refused.  He spent a few years in the Reserves before re-enlisting, then staying in the service until 1915.  His record states that he had a tattoo of a flower and two dots on his right forearm!  He never did make it to Canada: He died in Leicester in 1946.

The Hanhams didn’t stay in Clarendon Park for very long and were living elsewhere in Leicester by 1911.  I don’t suppose they made much of an impact on the area but the letter from Her Majesty must have stirred a lot of interest at the time.  Small stories, but interesting nevertheless.  Regards, Elizabeth.

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.

Furiously driving three horses and an omnibus on the London Road

A theme is developing as I look at old newspapers to find criminal and delinquent Clarendon Park dwellers.  That theme is Avenue Road Extension.  Now I realise that it’s a long road…but the former inhabitants take up more than their fair share of column inches.

Take this case of a speeding driver on the London Road in 1893.  Benjamin Garner, aged 45, who lived at 67 Avenue Road Extension, was summoned for ” furiously driving three horses and an omnibus on the London-road”  on the 31st of January.  Benjamin was a bus proprietor.  He had a wife (Fanny) and children Walter, Benjamin, Annie, Harry and shortly afterwards Ernest  to support.  Perhaps that was why he was speeding; to get as much work as possible.

Benjamin had started off as a plasterer, but sometime between 1881 and 1887 he started a shop at Edward Road (off Montague Road).  He also kept a wagonette.  By 1891 he and his family had moved to Avenue Road Extension and Benjamin concentrated solely on his omnibus and wagonette driving business.  As they got older children Walter and Benjamin worked for their father as bus conductors.  Walter went on to start a hardware shop in Twycross Street, later joined by his brother Harry.

Benjamin retired late in the 1910s, not before having branched out to give riding lessons.  I wonder if any of his pupils knew that he had been up in court for reckless driving?  As for the punishment, he was ordered to pay costs.  Furiously driving up the London Road these days would more likely land you with points on your driving license, if indeed it was possible to drive faster than 9mph due to traffic.  Regards, Elizabeth.

Playing Football in Clarendon Park Streets

I know, shocking isn’t it?  Playing football in the street seems to have been quite  a problem in Clarendon Park in the 19th century.  There were plenty of young lads up before the police court, charged with this heinous crime.  Bearing in mind that there was much less road traffic than today, and that children and young people in particular would have been very much more in evidence in the street than they are today, I can’t see the harm.  And when you consider the overcrowding of the small terraced housing, it makes sense that teenage boys indulged in a game or two.  Take this example from the Leicester Chronicle (November 1896) : 

Walter Green (17), Edward Bostock (17), Arthur White (16), all of Avenue-road Extension, and shoe hands, and Frank Wilson (15), Knighton Fields-road East, were summoned for playing football in the Wigston-road on the 2nd inst.  PC Broome proved the case, and the boys were cautioned and discharged.

Edward Bostock came from a family of at least 8, and both Walter Green and Arthur White lived with eight other people in their 2 bedroomed houses.  There just was not space for everyone to sit around in the evenings reading improving books, especially when the children were strapping teenagers taking up huge amounts of leg room.

The courts didn’t seem to have a very standardised approach to dealing with the menace of street football.  In April of the same year the Chronicle reported two other youths who had been fined:

Albert Austin (16), Salisbury Cottages Lorne Road, and Edgar Stapleton (15), youths, were summoned for playing football in Avenue-road Extension on the 22nd inst.  Fined 2s. 6d or three days.

Given that many other Clarendon Park lads were summoned for the much more unpleasant crimes of throwing stones at cats, swearing, drinking and brawling – you’d think that the local constables would have better things to do.  Especially at Victoria Park, where I have been reading of some VERY fruity goings-on.  But more about that some other time…regards, Elizabeth.