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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

85 Montague Road: The Doctor Said the Leg Should Be Cut Off

Apologies for the gruesome title. The Dundee Telegraph, 4th April 1901, carried an advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla with this very headline. The incredible efficacy of the tonic (supposed to contain yellow dock, dandelion, stilingia, juniper berries and….sarsaparilla, amongst other similarly benign ingredients) was described in the advertisement by one Mrs Cox of 85 Montague Road, Clarendon Park.  Mrs Cox wrote:

I was afflicted about eight years ago with an ulcerated leg and ankle, and have tried every possible remedy I could get; also, various doctors, one of them advising me to have my leg taken off, but my husband strongly objected [Mrs Cox didn’t have an opinion, one assumes].

After another year of misery and suffering I was advised to go into the infirmary. I did so, and after having had three outpatient notes, they turned me out incurable….Imagine my feelings when told this, as my torture, day and night, was past describing, my leg getting so bad that I was unable to get about, having to lie down day and night…I had long given up hope of ever recovering the use of my leg, till one day I read an advertisement of Hood’s Sarsaparilla, and then I had another hope.”

Mrs Cox asked her husband to buy some Hood’s ‘blood tonic’ and would you believe that after consuming just one 3d bottle she was able to walk again! After two months and three bottles she was completely cured, resumed her daily work and walked as though there had never been anything the matter with her. What an amazing tonic (20% alcohol, 20% vegetable extracts, 60% water).

85 Montague Road

85 Montague Road, where the miracle happened

Mrs Cox was born Priscilla Townsend (1850-1924) in Oldbury, Worcestershire.  She married railway wagon builder Luke Cox (1849-1941) in 1871.  After marriage Priscilla and Luke lived next door to Priscilla’s parents in Oldbury, Worcestershire, where their first three children were born.  By 1882 they had moved to Leicester.  In June 1886 the family lived at 26 Edward Road, where their son Harry (1885-1899) was born.  Between 1891 and 1901 Priscilla and Luke moved from Edward Road to 85 Montague Road with their adult children Laura (1875-1960 dress maker at home), Albert Edgar (1879-1965), Alice (1881-1954), schoolgirl Gertrude May (1889-1937) and a boarder.


In 1905 the Cox family moved to 120 Howard Road where they lived out their days.  Priscilla died in March 1924 and was buried at Welford Road Cemetery with both her legs.  Daughter Laura and the granddaughters moved in with Luke in 1929, presumably to help take care of him as he was by now in his 80s.  Luke died in 1941 and was buried alongside Priscilla.

As an interesting aside, Laura’s husband was Friedrich Otto Pechmann (1979-1956) who was born in Berlin in 1879. They married Laura at St John the Baptist, Clarendon Park, in 1903 and moved into together at number 116 Howard Road, two doors down from Priscilla and Luke.  Three children came along – Ella Gertrude (1909-1978), Hilda Louise (1913-1947) and Lorna Irene (1915-1976).  As an enemy alien Friedrich – who by this time had anglicised his name to Frederick Peckman – may have spent the first world war in a prisoner of war camp.  It wasn’t a successful marriage.  By the time Laura moved in with her father in 1929 she and Friedrich had separated. Friedrich lived in Manchester in 1939.  At the start of the second world war was exempted from internment as a Category B risk and allowed to live, supervised, in the community. However, in July 1942 he was recategorised as a high security risk and sent to a prisoner of war camp.  He died in Manchester in 1959.

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