This is the sad tale of Mary Ann Pretty, wife of Clement Pretty, who drank herself to death at Wistaria Villa (now number 65) Howard Road in 1886.
Mary Ann and Clement started their married life in London, with Clement working as a commercial traveller in silks. Several children were born there: Clement, Henry and John. By 1877 they had settled in Leicester, and daughter Alice was born. Perhaps due to an inheritance in 1875 from Clement’s father, formerly the landlord of The Three Crowns licensed hotel in St Martins, following his death in 1875, Clement set up in business as a coal merchant. The 1877 White’s Directory of Leicestershire shows Clement Pretty, colliery agent, at Stanley Terrace (Humberstone Road), and in 1881 the family lived at 22 London Road.
Things started to go wrong. In 1883 the RSPCA prosecuted an employee of Clement’s, William Lemon, for cruelty. The animal was destroyed, being emaciated and having several sores on its back. Later that year, In 1883 Clement was made bankrupt and his coal merchant business liquidated. In 1885 Marian sold 5 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, to a tobacconist named Ignatius Carter.
Then on the evening of 30th April 1886, Marian got drunk. She was an habitual heavy drinker. She took to her bed, complaining of a pain in her side, but this time she was taken very ill with “apoplexy” (bleeding), perhaps in her liver or her pancreas. The local doctor was called but Marian died the following afternoon. Clement moved out of Wistaria Villa shortly afterwards, being replaced in 1887 by Arthur Triggs, a commission agent.
Mary left £1,275 in her will and it seems that Clement decided to spend the money purchasing numbers 1-13 Edward Road, Clarendon Park, which he presumably rented out. These he owned until at least 1904. He moved to Holbrook Road with daughter Alice and in 1901 was “living on his own means” (or at least his late wife’s!). However, when he died at the Infirmary in 1931, he left just £139 9s 6d, so Clement somehow spent it all.
I wonder why Marian was such a heavy drinker? Perhaps those years of worry about debt bankruptcy drove her to it. Clement doesn’t seem to have been very good with money. Perhaps she visited her in-laws at the Three Crowns too often. Anyhow, it must have been very sad for her husband and children. Perhaps she needed the help of the Temperance folk. Regards, Elizabeth.
Leicester Chronicle, Saturday May 15th, 1886, p6.
Distressing Case of Sudden Death
An inquest was held at Knighton on Monday afternoon, before the coroner, Mr G.F. Harrison, on the body of Mary Ann Pretty, aged 42, the wife of Mr. Clement Pretty, Wistaria Villa, Howard-road, Knighton. The husband stated that the wife was taken ill through drink on the 30th inst., and did not come down stairs afterwards. About nine o’clock on Friday morning, he heard a crash in her bedroom, and on going up to see what was the matter found his wife lying on the floor. He called in Mrs Williams, who lives next door, and she assisted him to get his wife into bed. Deceased complained of feeling very unwell, and of having hurt her side. He remained with her for some time, and sent for Dr. Emmerson. He left her about three o’clock in the afternoon, and on going up to her room at 3.30 with the doctor, found her dead. She was, he said, a woman of intemperate habits. Dr Emmerson examined the body of the woman ,and found no suspicious appearances. He was of the opinion that death had resulted from a natural cause, serious apoplexy, induced by drink. He had attended her several years, and knew that she was very intemperate. A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned.