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.
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.
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