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“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



Stoneleigh, 51 Queens Road: “Domestic Unhappiness, the Result of Drink”

When I am the bus stop on Queens Road (the last stop before Victoria Park), waiting for the number 44, I often look at the houses on either side of the road.  I really like the silly, grandiose house names their builders gave them.  It’s quite fun that for the first 20 or 30 years of their life, those houses were often actually known by their names rather than street number.  One of these is Stoneleigh, number 51 Queens Road.  There is a rather sad story of a family who lived there during the 1890s.

51 Queens Road

51 Queens Road

Fanny Burdett (c1851-1898) was born in Chichester and shortly afterwards moved with her parents to Marylebone, London.  From a young age she worked as a dressmaker.  Whilst in London she met Henry Rogers (1848-1920), a young tailor, and they married in 1878.  They moved to Leicester before 1881, settling in London Road, and by 1891 lived at Evington Street whilst keeping the London Road premises for the tailoring business – military and livery.  They had the usual Victorian brood; seven surviving children; five girls and two boys born between 1879 and 1892.

Some time between 1891 and 1895 Henry, Fanny and the children moved to Stoneleigh, number 51 Queens Road Clarendon Park.  Despite the relative prosperity of the family – they always kept at least one servant, usually two – and the respectable appearance of the house, the Rogers were in crisis.  Fanny was an alcoholic, her behaviour at times “like a maniac” and the children were suffering.  Henry tried to protect them, but Fanny had been addicted to drink for many years and he eventually saw no option but to force her to leave the house and children.

At some point the family became known to the NSPCC, still in its infancy having been established in 1884, and brought a case to the Borough Police Court in January 1896.  An inspector reported that the children had been ill treated, that they were horror-stricken and that there was a danger of the younger children losing their reason.  The only answer was for Fanny to be permanently separated from her children.  A document, which Henry had already prepared, was produced at court for Fanny to sign.  Provision was made for Fanny’s financial support.  The Bench agreed that the prosecution did not need to go ahead.

Fanny returned to London, where she died just two years later, probably from the effects of her alcoholism.  Henry and the seven children (Florence Annie, Gertrude Helen, Harry Burdett, Maud Eveline, Arthur Redfern, Mabel Winifred and Elsie Gwendolyn) remained at Stoneleigh for another few years.  Henry’s business grew.  He opened a shop at 22 Market Street.  Then between 1901 and 1906 the family moved to Bush Close, a house in Springfield Road.  Sadly Arthur died in 1907, aged just 17.

Arthur Redfern Rogers died on 20th November 1907 and was buried three days later at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton

Arthur Redfern Rogers died on 20th November 1907 and was buried three days later at St Mary Magdalene, Knighton

Henry continued his business with the help of his remaining son Harry, before dying in 1920.  He left over £14,000, a good sum of money.

I wondered whether, as the NSPCC inspector had feared, whether Fanny’s children really did lose their reason.  There isn’t much to go on, but of the six surviving children only two married (Harry and Maud).  Gertrude and Maud worked for a time as governesses – meaning that their education probably far exceeded that of their parents.  Florence, the eldest, moved just round the corner to 36 Portland Road, and the remaining unmarried sisters Gertrude, Mabel and Gwendolyn, lived and died (in old age) together at Hove in Sussex.  Harry also stayed in Leicester, after fighting in Egypt during the Great War.  There’s nothing to say that anyone lost their reason, but it’s still a sad story.  Something to ponder at the bus stop.  Elizabeth

Clarendon Park in the 1960s continued….parish life

Following on from my post about Clarendon Park Road in 1960, I dug out another Ebay find – the Parish Magazine of St John the Baptist, Knighton (now Clarendon Park), Septuagesima to Lent 1963.  It’s rather nicely produced, printed in dark blue ink and with a charming enclosure: “Are YOU coming to the St John’s Parish Social?”  The magazine contains a list of clergy, churchwardens, services, Sunday School and group leaders, and a letter from the vicar, the Reverend Canon F D H Harris-Evans, in which he refers to a new oak screen which was then being erected in the church (later removed).  There was also a new notice board being planned, which anyone involved with church affairs will imagine took as long and arduous a path to completion as the screen.

Although the magazine was published in 1963, it could easily have been written at any time in the fifty or so preceding years.  There is an “appeal” for a live-in companion help to two maiden ladies, one of whom was the former headmistress of St John’s Infant School.  The Mothers’ Union, the Church of England Men’s Society and the Youth Fellowship were all active but a truly modern note was struck by the Young Wives with their talk on Avon cosmetics and ‘Health Films’ (the mind boggles).

The names of those mentioned in the magazine are listed below – do feel free to contact me if you would like full details of anyone.

Allt, Andrews, Armstrong, Ashby, Baker, Beaman, Beck, Blaza, Blunt, Bowden, Briers, Chamberlain, Clark, Cole, Coulsell, Cox, Cullen, Culpin, Deighton, Edwards, Farrar, Flemming, Francis, Grooms, Harding, Harris-Evans, Heap, Grain, Hooley, Howe, Ironmonger, Johnson, Lincoln, Marsden, Millard, Orr, Parsons, Perry, Pick, Potter, Ross, Rowlett, Saunders, Shakespeare, Simpson, Smith, Tarratt, Taylor, Tindall, Wadd, Williams, Wood, Wrench, Wright


Adlard & Roffe (Grocers); Aston & Mochrie (Sign writers); Chamberlain (Cycle agents); W M Clark & Son (Decorators); E Colledge & Co (Printers & stationers); John Collins (Fishmonger & poulterer); Cox & Miller (Builders); Florence E Crane (Upholstress); Domestic Electrical Co (Radio & television); Forryans (Outfitters); Doreen Franey (Piano and French teacher); Garner & Son (Ironmongers); H A Hamshaw Ltd (Garage); W T Hind (Chemist); Hygienic Chimney Cleaning Ltd; W H Kempin (Butchers); Kirby & West (Dairy); Knight’s (Suits); J Kyle & Son (Plumbers); Laffords (Watchmakers & jewellers); Leicester Sports Ltd C W Molyneux Ltd (Electrical engineers); Mowbrays (hurch woodwork etc); J O Nicol Ltd (Butchers); Eric E Newton; A Parsons (Coal merchant); James Payne Ltd (Builders);Peter Pan (Knitting wools); Queens Road Garage; N Robinson (Fresh and frozen fruit & vegetables); L Sharp (Plumbers); Simpkin & James Ltd (Grocers); Sketchley (cleaners)

Yet more about the shop at 17 Lytton Road

Today I spent the day at Leicestershire Records Office and spent an hour looking up electoral registers and street directories for 17 Lytton Road, and I think that with Rosemary’s help and Helen’s mother’s help, I have a pretty good idea of who occupied the shop premises right from when it was first built.  Telephone directories have helped a lot too, but blimey reading them online is hard work on the eyes.

It looks like the shop was first occupied in 1907 by one Robert Edwin Stokes, draper (1873-1957), or at least the shop was in his name but in the 1911 census it was his wife Sabrina who took the title of draper whilst Robert was a postman.  Robert, Sabrina and their son Cecil Robert lived in the six rooms with their niece Katie Hawkes who acted as drapers assistant, and their servant   Robert and Selina stayed there until some time during the first World War, when it was taken over by Miss Mary Annie Inman, now also a draper but previously having been a boot hand as were so many in Leicester.  Maybe Robert or Sabrina found war work elsewhere?  Miss Inman (1881 -1968) seems to have lived alone apart from a brief period around 1921, when she had her younger brother (or possibly it was her father of the same name), Frederick Inman living with her.  Miss Inman was at 17 Lytton Road for a long time – until her retirement in 1945, when she handed over the premises to Walter and Ivy Moore.  Ivy ran the shop as a drapers, making and selling children’s smocked dresses, and acted as a receiving office for Wigston Laundry (according to Kelly’s Directory 1947).  They were joined in 1947-8 by Robert Taylor, perhaps a lodger?  By late 1950 Walter and Ivy had gone, to be replaced by Nellie and Roy Tester.  Nellie called herself simply ‘shopkeeper’.  It looks like the Testers were the first to get the telephone installed (number 77734).

After Nellie and Roy Tester left in 1958, a period of unsettlement began at 17 Lytton Road, with many changes of hand in a short time.  From 1959 – 1961 Reginald Pratt ran it as a greengrocers with his wife Mary.  1961 –  1963  Frank George and Mary Lily Noble were greengrocers there (F G Noble, tel 78017).  1963 – 1966 the shop was occupied by Trevor Victor and Evelyn E Batt, grocers, with the same telephone number.  Philip and Kathleen Edwards ran a grocers 1966 – 1972, and then in 1972 – 1975 James John Crisp and his wife Muriel(still with the same phone number 70817) lived there, with Margorie Ruth Wightman and Dora Helena Parnell – possibly students or lodgers?  They stayed on for a further year after Mr and Mrs Crisp had moved on.

Things settled down after that.  Between 1976 and 1989 Urmila and Manubhai Patel were at 17 Lytton Road – possibly the nice Asian people who ran it as a grocers, as remembered by Rosemary?  I haven’t recorded the occupants after that as it feels a bit intrusive.

It is amazing where one presumably temporarily revealed shop sign can lead you.  I don’t quite know how Reg Pratt’s sign survived for 50 years when he was only at 17 Lytton Road for a couple of years and there were so many businesses that followed – but I’m glad it did.  I had another look at the sign this afternoon.  It’s still there, and the builders are working on the building.  The front door was open and I shouted up to them but the music was blaring and they couldn’t hear me.  I wasn’t quite brave enough to go inside without asking, so I took these photos (well maybe I was just a little bit inside but that can’t be illegal, surely?).  I’ll add more if I can persuade the builders that I’m not a mad person or someone from the council, but as one of my dear friends recently pointed out to me, I do have that clipboard look.  Anyway, it’s been fun and thanks for reading – Elizabeth

The rather grand entrance to the back of the shop, ie the living quarters

Remembering the Clarendon Park Fallen: Claude Francis Alexander (1893-1918)

Claude Francis Alexander was born in Leicester in 1893, the eldest son of George Alexander (1870-1949) and Sarah Mutton (1872-1927).  Claude and his siblings Reginald George (1895-1955), Charles (1897-1925) and Marjorie Florence (1910-) lived firstly at one end of Hartopp Road – number 116 – and then at the other.  When Claude and Reginald signed up to join the Territorial Army it was while the family was living at number 9 Hartopp Road.  The family were Baptists.

9 Hartopp Road

Claude joined the Leicestershire Regiment in October 1914, when he was working as a clerk for a shoe manufacturer.  He started as a private but was promoted to lance corporal in 1916, and 5 months later to corporal.  Claude served in France, returning home briefly every year.  In 1917 he suffered a wound to his left knee and spent a couple of months in hospital in Bristol, but returned to France and was killed on 17th July 1918, less than three months before the end of the war.  He is buried at Fouquieres-les-Bethune, Pas de Calais, along with 386 of his compatriots, mainly fellow Territorial forces.  He never married.

Claude’s brother Reginald survived the war.  He joined the Territorial Army in 1913 aged just 17 and just 5 feet and 5 inches tall when he was a clothing dresser in the emply of Messrs Thorneloe Clarkson (in Northampton Street).  Sadly records of Reginald’s full service are lost, but we do know that he married Doris Stuffins in 1928 and lived in Leicester until his death in 1955.