Sunday, 29 September 2013

So who was: William Clarke

... William Clarke?

It really was inevitable, wasn’t it, that I would set off down one research track and end up on another! I often wonder what it is that sets me off on such a quest as finding out about a particular family in the first place. In the case of the Clarke’s of Loughborough, a beautiful house, an interesting occupation, and an almost derelict property that I pass on my walk into town piqued that interest and I had to find out more! So far, however, this research is in its infancy and I know there are many of you out there to whom none of this is news, and some of you out there who still have memories of what I’m about to present, but do, please indulge me, and read on, if you will.

The subject of the Thomas Clarke Dye Works in Loughborough, a company also known as Thos. Clarke & Sons (CLARDYE) Ltd., has cropped up a number of times recently in places where I’ve been – facebook, The Loughborough Echo, a local walk led by myself and Ernie Miller - and so it seemed a logical step for me to do a bit of research on the family behind this.

William Clarke, born about 1853, in Loughborough, was the son of Thomas Clarke of Loughborough, and Ann of Hathern [I haven’t yet worked out her maiden name]. His grandparents were Thomas Clarke, born about 1790 in Oakham, and Catherine, also born around 1790.

Thomas Clarke and his wife Catherine had at least 6 children:

  • John, born around 1812
  • Elizabeth, born around 1817
  • Thomas, also born around 1817
  • Philip, born 9 January 1821 and baptised on 27 November 1822, in Leicester
  • Sarah, born around 1822
  • Jabez, born around 1830

I haven’t done a lot of work on the dye works itself, but I believe it was created around 1825, by Thomas Clarke (senior), and was located in Devonshire Square. This idea seems to be supported by the census return of 1841 which shows Thomas, aged about 50, living with Catherine, his wife, and three of his children – John, Elizabeth and Sarah – in Devonshire Square. Curiously, six houses down, his son, Jabez, aged 11, was living with the Smith family, whilst, Thomas’s eldest son, Thomas, was living in a house on his own, three doors down from his brother, Jabez! The explanation for Jabez being down the road is probably something as simple as he was playing with his 12-year old friend, Matthew Smith, and I’m sure Thomas (junior) was on his own as his wife was away (maybe at her parents’ home) giving birth to their first child, Frederick. And of course, the occupation of those menfolk, was dyer! In fact, many of the men listed on this census page were employed in the dye works, although there were still a few ag labs also listed.

Information from subsequent census returns reveals that Thomas junior and his wife Ann had seven children:

  • Frederick, born in 1841
  • Thomas, born in 1845
  • Sarah Ann, born in 1847
  • John, born in 1849
  • Elizabeth, born in 1852
  • William, born in 1853
  • Frances, born in 1856

Trying to decipher the information included on the 1851 census has proved troublesome, as the text is so faint it is hardly legible. However, both Thomas Clarke (senior) and Thomas Clarke (junior) are to be found living a couple of doors apart in Devonshire Square, Thomas senior with Catherine and two of their children – Jabez (mistakenly transcribed as Jobes) and Jane  – and a small visitor, John aged four, who I suspect might be a grandson, and Thomas junior with his wife Ann, and their children, Frederick, Thomas, Sarah Ann (later known simply as Ann) and John (all mis-transcribed as Clack) and Elizabeth, their servant. The occupation of Thomas (senior) is quite indecipherable, as is that of Thomas (junior), apart from the words “dyer” and “Master”, so I’d guess Thomas (junior) was now the boss of the dye works.  

On 16th April 1859, Thomas Clarke (senior) dies, leaving effects totally under £2,000. On the 1861 census, his wife, Catherine, is listed as a widow and a retired dyer, living with a “house servant” called Mary Carter. Living next door to Catherine, in Devonshire Square, is Thomas (junior), with his wife, their seven children – Frederick, Thomas, Sarah Ann, John, Elizabeth, William and Frances -  and their “house servant”, Hannah Hules(?). This time, the census is readable, and so we discover that Thomas was listed as a woollen dyer and trimmer, the Master, employing 18 men, 3 women, 2 girls and 4 boys, one of the men surely being Frederick who is also listed as a woollen dyer!

I believe that between the 1861 and 1871 census Catherine Clarke died, but as yet have not been able to find a record of this. Thomas and his family, with the exception of his son Frederick, now appear to be living in Forest Road Cottage. As far as I can tell, this would have been somewhere between Emmanuel Church, and Ward's End. At this time, Thomas is employing 17 men, 9 women and 2 boys, and his own sons – with the exception of Thomas – have joined him in the dye works. Interestingly, the two girls, Elizabeth (aged 19) and Frances (aged 15) are listed as scholars, and the family no longer appears to have a servant.

Sadly, between the 1871 and 1881 census returns, Ann, wife of Thomas (junior) dies, leaving him living with two of his daughters – Elizabeth and Frances – who by 1881 had joined the family business, and Thomas. The plight of Thomas, the 36-year old son, now becomes apparent. On the 1871 census he was recorded as having no occupation, and on this 1881 census, the enumerator has crossed out the word “Unemployed” in the occupation column, and entered the phrase “Imbecile from birth” in the final column of the census.

Also between the two census returns, William Clarke, son of Thomas Clarke, married Laura Wakefield from Islington. The marriage took place in Hampstead, on 9th July 1878, and William’s father, Thomas, is recorded as being a “Gentleman”. By the night of the 1881 census, William and his wife, Laura, have a daughter, Helena Laura, and have two servants. Helena Laura was baptised in 1887, and the address given was Wood Brook, Loughborough. Both Thomas (junior) and William and their respective families are living on Forest Road, about 10 doors apart.

On 8th May, 1891, Thomas Clarke (junior) died, aged 74, leaving a personal estate of £11,751 4s 2d. On the 1891 census return, William, his sixth child, now aged 38, is living at The Gables on the corner of Forest Road with his wife, Laura, his children, Helena Laura, Henrietta Frances, William Ashley Tyndale and Winifred Margaret. Harriet Leeson, one of the two servants who was living with the family in 1881, is now a trained domestic nurse, and I believe this is significant. There are also two other servants living with the family.

The Gables in 2013

I have read somewhere that William Clarke had The Gables specially built for himself and his family, particularly because one of his daughters suffered from asthma, - hence them employing a nurse - but of course, now that I’m looking for it, I can’t find that reference again! Given that the family were living on Forest Road in 1881, and The Gables in 1891, then it is fairly certain that the house was built between these two dates. This time period is supported by the description of the building as penned by the borough council in its listing building status description.

In 1901 William and his family are still living at The Gables, with three servants. William is still the employer at the dye works, but none of the children, now aged between 14 and 20, appears to have an occupation.
Park Road house (No.55)

Park Road house (No.57, joined to No.55)

On 26th July 1905, William Clarke dies, leaving £8,524 13s 3d. to his wife. Why she decided to move house after this, I have no idea, but she is reported in the 1911 census as living at no. 55 Park Road, with all her children. The girls are listed as having no occupation, but the son, William Ashley Tynedale Clarke, aged 26, is now an employer in the hosiery industry, presumably, having inherited the dye works from his father. 

On 23rd April 1953, William Ashley Tynedale Clarke, of 3 Park Street, dies, leaving the sum of £19,657 14s 6d to his widow, Margaret Ann Clarke.  Again, I don’t know what happened after William’s death, but the company was taken over by the liquidator in December 1958: At an Extraordinary General Meeting, held in Leicester on 22nd December 1958, the following Special Resolution was passed: “That the company be wound up voluntarily and that Bruce Lovatt of 13 New Street in the city of Leicester be appointed Liquidator for the purpose of such winding-up.”, as reported in the London Gazettes of 30th December 1958 and 9th January 1959.

I have found a few other snippets of info that might be of interest to you, for example, a lovely 1926 advert for the company, although I could not say which of the Thomas Clarke’s is pictured.

On 16th January 1893, a porter at the London and North-Western railway station in Loughborough was caught stealing four pairs of stockings valued at 4s that had been sent to the station by a foreman at Clarke’s dye works for delivery to a client in Scotland. This was not the only theft committed, and the man was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment.

In June 1897 reports appeared of the celebrations taking place in Loughborough in honour of Queen Victoria’s jubilee: The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury reported that Messers. Clarke’s dye works, in Ward’s End, “looked extremely well”! This statement was preceded by a comment on street bunting and the shopfront of Mr George Adcock.

It was reported in July 1897 changes were proposed to the Wood Brook, to help prevent recurrent flooding: This involved clearing the course of the brook from Mill Lane to True Lover’s Walk, and the owners of Clarke’s dye works were to be approached with a view to improving the waterways and weirs at the dye works.

The Carillon, the war memorial in Queen’s Park, carries an inscription from Clarke’s Dye Works in honour of those who gave their lives during the First World War. These included a member of the Clarke family, Hilary C. Clarke. 

And it is on that sad note that I must end my story. So, The Gables crops up once more in my research, I regularly walk past the house on Park Road that is now so dilapidated to be an eyesore, my surname is one of those occupational ones, although I have yet to find a family member active in that industry, and someone who trained as a Leicestershire Tour Guide at the same time as me just happens to live in one of the houses previously owned by a member of the Clarke family!

See you next week!


  1. Hi Lynne,
    If you look at this document "Loughborough Victoria Street Conservation Area" online there is two interesting maps of Park Road from 1884 & 1903 showing the original section layouts of numbers 55 & 57 Park Road. Also of Park House next door and where the original driveways were.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi! And, of course, I've looked at that document many times, but in the context of the Middleton Place post I made last week! So, I've never stopped to look closely at the map because the places I've blogged about are still standing, and I regularly walk past them. So, Park House was on a substantial plot! Well-spotted - the council conservation documents are a wealth of information (there are about 3 or 4 others as well). Still hunting for a photo ... Lynne


If you have found this post interesting or have any questions about any of the information in it do please leave a comment below. I might not be able to answer immediately, but I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading the blog.