Friday, 29 March 2013

A Suicide at Beccles Kings Head

My last blog post was about the attempted suicide of Sarah Jane Lark of Puddingmoor, Beccles in 1914. This time I am going to tell of another suicide which occured in Beccles in 1826, this one being successful. When I first came across this newspaper transcript, I was deeply shocked because it happened at the Kings Head Hotel where I spent many childhood years roaming its corridors and exploring its rooms.

The Oxford Journal of the 7th January 1826 reported the following, which is the most descriptive account I have been able to find so far:
"A very melancholy accident happened at Beccles, in Suffolk, on Monday morning last. On the Sunday evening a young man, of gentlemanly appearance, came walking to the Kings Head Inn, in that town, and said he should sleep there. In the morning of Monday he went to a gun-maker in the town and requested to see a brace of pistols, and took one over to the inn, he said, to show a person, but he went immediately to his bed room, and shot himself. He is not known to anyone in the town. - His dress was an olive coloured coat, drab kerseymere waistcoat and pantaloons, and a black stock around his neck; in his boot is written Mr Talevaser---Goodive, maker, of London, No. 715. Near his great coat collar is G.H. In his pocket was black letter case, with an ameythst seal, on which was engraved a dog rescuing a drowning child, and the motto, "Faithful in Adversity," and a ring. On the left side of his chin is a black mole spot."

Morning Dress, 1807

The Ipswich Journal of the 7th and 14th January 1826 reported an inquest which was held into the death of an unknown man who had shot himself. A Gentleman has been down to Beccles for inspecting the Body and property of the unfortunate young man...and has recognised him as a member of a most respectable Family in the County of Surrey, but declines to name the family.

The Bury & Norwich Post of the 18th January reported: "A gentleman has been down to Beccles for the purpose of inspecting the body and the property of the unfortunate young man, who in our last week's paper is mentioned to have shot himself at the Kings Head, and has recognised him as a member of a most respected family in the county of Surrey, and has given directions for his internment, but declines to name the family to which the deceased belongs."

Unfortunately I have been unable to find out more about the mysterious "G.H" and there are no further newspaper reports on the matter. It was swiftly brushed under the carpet but I have often wondered about the effects such a misfortune had upon the townsfolk and more in particular the Innkeeper of the Kings Head who, at that time, is believed to have been Mr John Mapes [source: 1823-4 Pigot's Directory].

I mentioned before about spending a lot of time as a child at the Kings Head, roaming its corridors. Much of my time was spent alone whilst my mother was working but I distinctly remember there was a bed room I did not like going into. Possessing a vivid imagination I always had a keen sense of an "otherworldly presence" but none more keenly than during my time at the Kings Head. Subsequently I have had a thirst for stories of the paranormal (from Shelley and Bronte to Dickens, Collins and M.R. James) and my interest in stories such as these and other gothic and macabre-style tales leave my mind reeling with an intense mixture of curiousity and downright fear!

Beccles Market in 1811
Image from E.A Goodwyn's "Beccles Past"

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Attempted Suicide of Mrs Lark

I love reading old newspaper article transcripts in relation to Beccles and its colourful history. That is mostly why I started the 'Relics of Beccles' Twitter account. Sometimes I've come across some facts which relate directly to my own ancestors, which is pretty exciting, and other times I've read things which just make me that little bit more eager to dig deeper. One such transcript was from the East Suffolk Gazette on 3rd February 1914:

ATTEMPTED SUICIDE: Mrs Larke of 13 Puddingmoor. Jumped into the river, saved from drowning by young man beside river.

My first instinct was to find out who Mrs Larke was. My second instinct was to find out whether my great-great-grandfather William Waters was involved in any capacity. Why? Because Mrs Larke tried to drown herself in the Waveney (a tragic tale) and William Waters was the Superintendent of the Bathing-Place in Beccles at that time (family connection). My curiosity got the better of me and so I donned my Miss Marple hat and went investigating.

Picturesque Beccles and the River Waveney

The full article in the East Suffolk Gazette is as follows:
ATTEMPTED SUICIDE: The wife of Mr Frederick Hindes Larke. 13. Puddingmoor, made a determined attempt to commit suicide by drowning herself in the River Waveney on Sunday morning. It appears that about 8.15a.m, as soon as she came downstairs, she bade those in the house "good morning" and walked out. Her daughter happened to inquire where she was, and search was at once instituted. A young man, named Flatt, walked down to the river, near the Bathing-Place, and  was just in time to see Mrs Larke being carried away by the tide. She was fully dressed with the exception of her boots. Flatt jumped into the river to rescue her, and she clutched him by the throat, so that he experienced great difficulty in holding her up until with the assistance of *Mr. Waters, she came with a boat, and Mr Sturman, she was got safely ashore. Mrs Larke has been in ill-health for several years, and her mental condition is such that her removal to Melton Asylum is anticipated.

What struck me most about this article was that it never gave her full name. I had to go looking for that myself, and the best way to find out was by looking at the census returns.
I found Mrs Larke most frequently written in census returns as Mrs Lark so I will continue to use that spelling for the purpose of this blog post. Mrs Lark was Sarah Jane Lark. Born Sarah Jane Harrod in 1858, she was born in Thwaite St Mary, the daughter of Jeremiah Harrod and Elizabeth Thelen. Sarah Jane married Frederick Hindes Lark in 1879 and yet, interestingly, she had an illegitimate daughter in 1877, named Rose Anna, who was born in Ilketshall (It is doubtful that Frederick Lark was the father as she never legally took on his name and when she married in 1907, she married with the name Harrod not Lark). Frederick and Sarah Jane (often named Jane in census returns) had two children: Elizabeth Ellen Arnoup Lark (born in 1879) and Frederick William Lark (born in 1881).
Frederick Hindes Lark (born in Beccles in 1849, son of Robert Lark and Rachel Arnoup, who, incidentally, had also lived in Puddingmoor) was a Boat Builder/Shipwright by trade, and in 1881 he and his wife and family resided in Northgate Street but by 1891 they had moved to Puddingmoor, and remained there for many years. Who were their neighbours? My great-great-grandparents, William and Emily Waters!


Frederick and Sarah Jane's son, Frederick William Lark, married Emma May Ashby on 5th December 1911 at St Michael's Church and they later resided in Fair Close Road. Frederick worked as a Bus Man for the Kings Head Hotel, in New Market, Beccles. When the Great War broke out he joined the Royal West Kent Regiment (6th Battalion) on 20th November 1915 and rose to the rank of Corporal in April 1917. On 17 July 1917 he died as a result of wounds (gun shot wound to the back).

Beccles War Memorial
F.W. Lark, top centre

What was the fate of Sarah Jane Lark? She was sent to Melton Asylum, as the newspaper article so coldly reported, and died later that same year, in 1914. I would be curious to know how she finally died. Was it another suicide attempt that this time did not "fail" or did her physical body give up, dying of an illness or malady?

My great-great-grandfather was often called upon to rescue swimmers, boaters, and even animals who were stranded in the Waveney and nearby marshland. Every instinct told me that he was there that day when Sarah Jane Lark threw herself into the river that bitterly cold February day so when I saw his name mentioned in the full East Suffolk Gazette article, I wasn't in the least surprised. Was it just a routine rescue for him that day, just another statistic he helped pull from the river? Did he feel deeply for those people who wanted to take their own lives? It was well known that he liked a drink or four, so perhaps he was trying to forget how terribly sad life could get that his local neighbours resorted to taking, or at the very least attempting to take their own life.

River Waveney, Beccles
Taken by Robert W. Copeman

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Photographers of Beccles : Part Two

Alfred Darby was born in Clerkenwell, London, around 1856, the son of Alfred Darby (who was a Seaman by trade) and Emma Salmon. By 1861 the Darby family were living in Beccles, and lived at Rosemary Lane for over twenty years. Rosemary Lane is situated between Northgate Street and Ravensmere.
In 1871 Alfred Darby (jnr) was working as an Apprentice Photographer with William Edward Mills (see part one of this blog for more information about William Mills). In 1882 he married Laura Matilda Smith and they had six children, two daughters and four sons. The 1891 census return shows Alfred was living at Smallgate Street. The 1891-2 White's Directory and the 1892 Kelly's Directory both list Alfred as Photographer of Smallgate Street, Beccles.
The 1911 census return shows Alfred Darby at 15 Smallgate Street, with his wife Laura and their three of their six children, including their son Claud, aged 19, who is: Photographer, Assisting Father's Business. Alfred Darby is listed in the 1912, the 1925 and the 1936 Kelly's Directory as Photographer.
The 1940 Beccles & Bungay Newspaper reported:

DEATH of Mr Alfred DARBY aged 83, of 15 Smallgate. Born in London, Mr Darby came to Beccles as a child and spent practically all his life in the town. After serving his apprenticeship with Mr Mills, a photographer, he went to Bradford for a short time. He returned to carry on Mr Mills’ business and carried it on for about 60 years.
Mr Darby was for some years a member of the old Volunteers at Beccles. He had belonged to the Beccles Adult School since it was founded in 1900. A lifelong teetotaller, he was a member of the local Tent of Rechabites (for more information read here).
A widower for the last five years, Mr Darby leaves four sons and two daughters. One of the sons, Mr Claud S Darby, for some years has been the Beccles & Bungay advertising representative of our series of newspapers.

Alfred Darby, 15 Smallgate Beccles
Found on ebay: Seller devonian35

Hern Andrey Leyneek was born in Prussia in 1885. He came to Beccles in 1900 and established himself in a studio in New Market before taking over the business from Arthur Edgar Mount (for more information about Arthur Mount see part one of my blog). Sometime during the first decade of his life in England, he anglicized his name to Andrew.
The 1911 census return shows Andrew Leyneek (written as H A Leyneek), Photographer, a boarder at the home of George Watson. George was a Grocer's Porter by trade. There are two very interesting things about the 1911 census. One is that Rosalie Mary Watson, his niece, was also at the Beccles address and the following year she married Andrew Leyneek at Beccles Church. The other interesting thing is that the address is given as 31 Station Road, Beccles. This would be Leyneek's address (and place of business) for the next forty years.
The 1912 Kelly's Directory lists Andrew Leyneek as Photographer of 31 Station Road, Beccles. The floods of Beccles and surrounding districts of August 1912 turned Andrew into a local hero, the East Suffolk gazette labelling his deeds "a kindly act". Below is taken from The Beccles Charter September 2012:

"Being Summertime, there were plenty of cattle on the marshes bordering the Waveney on the Gillingham side of the town. When, on Monday evening water was creeping up, an effort was made by marsh-men to remove a batch of five store beasts to safety. Despite their persistent efforts, the cattle refused to budge, and finally had to be left to their fate. The next morning, a photographer, Mr A Leyneek of Station Road, happened to see the animals floundering about while looking at the flooded marshes from the Churchyard wall. Braving the danger, he borrowed a rowing boat and set out to get them to safety. It took some time, but he got them to swim towards the town side where they were eventually hauled ashore by willing helpers at the Puddingmoor boatyard of Mr Herbert Hipperson..."

When the Great War breaks out in 1914, Andrew Leyneek is forced to defend his nationality and the East Suffolk Gazette of 11 August reports the following statement:

ANDREW  LEYNEEK’S  NATIONALITY: "It seems to be quite an understood thing in Beccles, where I have resided for the last 14 years, that I am a German subject, but this is quite a mistake. I was born near Memel in Kurland, which is one of the three counties known as Baltic Provinces. The people are called Lettish. They speak their own language and have their own books and newspapers. In  religion  they are  Protestants  (like  the  Germans), but  they  are  overruled  by  Russia, though the Baltic Provinces originally belonged to Sweden. My father and sister are still living near Riga."

It is believed that Andrew and Rosalie Leyneek did not have any children and so it may seem fitting that photographing children became Andrew's speciality (examples shown below). Andrew Leyneek died on 9 April 1949 and in his will he left £1604 to his wife Rosalie and William Bryan Forward, a Solicitor in Beccles (who was the Town Clerk of Beccles, 1914-1947).

Andrew Leyneek, 31 Station Road, Beccles
Found on ebay: Auction ended
Leyneek's stamp bottom right corner

Advertisement in the "Official Guide to the Borough
of Beccles" circa 1948

31 Station Road, Beccles remained a photographic studio until at least 1974.
ADDENDUM: Thanks to an enquiry by a 'Relics of Beccles' Twitter follower, I was prompted to find out who took over the business after Andrew Leyneek died. It was Ludwik Karl Olanczuk (originally from Felixstowe) who, together with his wife, bought the business and premises from Leyneek's widow Rosalie for £1,950.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Photographers of Beccles : Part One

I have a personal interest in Victorian photographers, not least because my ancestors were photographers in the Norfolk market town of Holt, in county Norfolk (see my other blog here), but because my grandmothers were avid family photograph collectors. My maternal grandmother Freda gave me a small collection of photographs several years ago, some of which were taken by Beccles photographers and these have held a special intrigue for me. Therefore, combining my love of local history and old photographs, I have uncovered some interesting information about these Beccles photographers which I thought worthy of writing a blog (or two) about.

The first known studio photographer in Beccles was Arthur Edgar Mount. He advertised in the Beccles Weekly Newspaper in May 1857 thus:
A E Mount, Smallgate, Photographer: Framed portrait, 2s 6d, Collodion process, colouring.
Arthur Mount is the only photographer for Beccles listed in the 1869 Post Office Directory. In fact, the Directory lists Arthur as being an "Artist & Photographer". This doesn't necessarily mean that he was the first and only photographer in Beccles, he was however the only one who advertised his services.
By 1874 there was a "rival" photographer on the scene: William Edward Mills (More about him below).

Arthur Edgar Mount was born in 1834 in Needham Market, county Suffolk. He was the son of William Mount and Susan, nee Hearn [source:]. The 1851 census shows Arthur at home, aged 14, with his widowed father. By 1861 he was living in Blyburgate Street, Beccles working as a Photographic Artist and was married to Ellen ( - ). Arthur would go on to marry three times in his life but I do not believe there was ever any children.
By 1871 Arthur and Ellen had moved from Blyburgate Street to Station Road, at Sunnyside Villa (also known as Sunnyside House). This would be Arthur's home and photographic studio for many years until his retirement during the 1880s. His wife Ellen died in the June Quarter of 1885 and later that same year, he married Maria/Marian King. According to the 1891 & 1901 census returns, Arthur and his wife were living next door to the Lawrence's of the Beccles Mineral Water Manufacturers.
In 1891, Arthur is shown on the census return as a Retired Photographer. By this time there is another photographer in Beccles: Alfred Darby. The 1891-2 White's Directory also lists John Miller, Photographer, of Station Road and Yarmouth. This would indicate that he ran his own studio in Yarmouth and perhaps "freelanced" at Beccles during the period of Arthur Mount's retirement/selling up and the taking on of a new, permanent photographer, which eventually, was Andrew Leyneek (More about Alfred Darby and Andrew Leyneek in part two of this blog).
In July 1899 the East Suffolk Gazette advertises:
TO BE LET or SOLD: Sunnyside House, Station Road. Apply A E Mount, No 6 Station Road.
The 1900 Kelly's Directory lists Arthur E Mount as a Private Resident at Sunnyside House, Station Road. What is interesting about the 1901 census is that it lists Albert C Jervis as living at the same address - Sunnyside Villa, Station Road, working as a Photographer. Arthur had by this time resigned so perhaps Albert Jervis had been his apprentice with a view to taking over the business. It would appear, however, that Albert did not remain in Beccles for very long, moving with his wife and family back to Ipswich.
Some time after 1901 Arthur and Marian Mount moved away from Beccles and went to live in Norwich. Arthur's second wife Marian died in the June Quarter of 1905 and later that same year he married Annie Ransome. (As a genealogist I find it rather odd that both of Arthur's first two wives died in the June Quarter of a year and then he married in the December Quarter of that same year. Twice!).
Arthur Edgar Mount died on 4 June 1923. He left effects of £60 to Walter Samuel Mollison, a retired photographer.

A E Mount, Photographer, Beccles
Author's private collection

William Edward Mills was born in 1834 in Wrentham, county Suffolk. He was possibly the son of Thomas Mills and Susan. It is not known for certain as the 1841 census is not clear and William was found on the 1851 census return residing as apprentice lodger in Mutford.
William did not start out his working life as a Photographer. He was apprenticed to John Pleasants in 1851 and by 1861 was living in North Cove, and was working as a Blacksmith. By 1871 however, William was living in Smallgate Street, in Beccles and was trading as a Photographer. He had married Jemima Julians in 1870 but it would appear that, like Arthur Edgar Mount, they did not have children.
The 1874 White's Directory lists William Mills, Photographer, of Smallgate Street. Then William's life takes another interesting turn of events when his wife Jemima dies in 1875, aged just 36.
In July 1876 the Ipswich Journal reported thus:
The Wesleyan Chapel held a Public Tea in the grounds of Mr Mills' Photographic Studio.
And in June 1877 the East Suffolk Gazette:
Band of Hope: Held in Mr Mills' rooms in Smallgate. Mr T A Laws presided.
Then, on the 1881 census return, we find William Mills, still in Smallgate Street, but this time he is listed as a Furniture Dealer. He remained thus until his death on 15 February 1886. He left just over £72 to his widowed sister Emma Mitchell, his only next-of-kin.

W E Mills, Photographer, Beccles
Found on ebay: seller devonian35
W E Mills, Smallgate Street, Beccles
Author's private collection

Today the site and grounds of William Mills and, later, Alfred Darby's, photography studio is the site of the Potters/Friends Meeting House in Beccles. The house/business on the street front is known today as the Quaker Cottage. This is almost certainly where Mills' and Darby's photography studio would have once been.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Evacuation to Beccles : 1939

I have often wondered about Beccles and its role during World War Two. My grandmother used to tell me stories about hearing the sounds of heavy bombing carried on the winds, across from the North Sea to the East Anglian coastline, but I don't actually recall her talking about some of the vital war work which civilian Beccles took part in.  My personal interest lies in the Evacuation Schemes from London and all of those children who came to Beccles during the Phoney War period and beyond.
David Lindley, a Beccles historian, has extensively researched and transcribed the local newspapers for Beccles and they paint an intriguing picture of the role that people of Beccles played during those early pre-war years of 1939. In particular, the evacuation of children.

Evacuees from London

In January 1939, plans were already underway for the EVACUATION of CHILDREN in the event of war: "In connection with the Government’s scheme for the evacuation of children from the big cities in the event of national emergency, local authorities in reception areas up and down the country have been asked to find out what housing accommodation will be available. Between now and 28 February these surveys have to be completed and the details analysed.  The Borough Accountant has been given general direction of this in Beccles. So far between 40 and 50 public-spirited citizens have offered their services as visitors, and during the next few days they will be making their calls from house to house. The borough has been divided into 16 districts of about 100 houses each."

Six weeks later the newspaper reports: "EVACUATION RETURNS: From the survey carried out in Beccles no fewer than 3,708 people from crowded cities and towns can be accommodated in Beccles in the event of war."

In April 1939, the local council sat to discuss EVACUATION & BILLETING. "The Chair was taken by the Deputy Mayor, Dr Wood-Hill (as the Mayor, Mr Allden Owles, was on holiday abroad at the time). The Accountant, Mr WS Clark, reported on a recent conference at Ipswich. Beccles was one of the nine detraining stations in the county, and would receive 2,000 persons on the fourth day of the evacuation. The number of billets available in the district served from the Beccles rail-head was 7,300. The approximate proportion of the 2,000 who would remain in Beccles would be 800. The remaining 1,200 would be distributed to Lothingland rural district and Bungay urban district by means of buses. Offers of accommodation in Beccles itself totalled 3,000. “In the event of an emergency, I think the matter will be dealt with ably,” he added."

April 1939. WOMEN’S VOLUNTARY SERVICE: "Public Meeting for women to advise them about civil defence work. The services with which it deals particularly are air-raid precautions, nursing and first-aid, and evacuation. The organisation is likely to play an important part with the evacuation scheme by assisting with billeting, communal feeding and the care of children, as well as catering for their reception, transport, etc. Mrs ME St J Barne, of Sotterley Hall is to be district organiser."

Evacuees from London leave for the countryside

2 September 1939. EVACUEES: "Since last Thursday, the Town Council offices in Blyburgate have been a centre of intense activity, final arrangements being made for the reception of evacuees. Between 200 and 300 reception officers, billeting officers, billeting assistants, guides, canteen workers and welfare workers have since been enrolled and allotted their particular jobs at the distribution centres in the event of war.
Allowances to be made to householders in respect of evacuees are: 10s 6d per week for one child, or 8s 6d for each child where more than one is taken. These payments will be payable each week at the Post Office on production of a certificate issued by the chief billeting officer.
It should be clearly understood that the billeting of evacuees is no longer optional on the part of householders, but has been made compulsory by the Emergency Powers Regulations."

By the end of September the Beccles & Bungay newspaper made this report. DIFFICULTIES OF EVACUATION in north-east Suffolk: "Plans were carefully laid, but at the last moment considerable numbers arrived by boat at Lowestoft and Felixstowe. There was no transport available to move them into the country and no free space to accommodate them. At Lowestoft evacuees had to be accommodated under all sorts of conditions - in schools, cinemas, hotels and public rooms for from two to four nights. As regards trains, for the first day & a half, they contained school parties only, but then to the dismay of the receiving officers, a train of women and children arrived instead of school children, with the result that billets were occupied by the mothers instead of school children. A large number of expectant mothers also arrived by train, not only alone, but in many cases with three, four or even five children under five years of age. However all these difficulties were eventually overcome thanks to the hard work of the officials."

The following week, the newspaper of 7 October 1939 ran this piece: 
EVACUEES’ LETTERS: “I appreciate the people of Beccles for the way they welcomed us into their homes, and the way they are kindly treating us while we are away from home.” These young evacuees are fortunate in being able to attend such a fine up-to-date school as that at Castle Hill.

On 2 December 1939 the Beccles & Bungay newspaper reported: "80 EVACUATED CHILDREN at St Benet’s School given canteen meal at lunchtime every week day. The Mayor & Mr Loftus, MP visited them, & Mr Loftus, who was very glad to see the children so happy and cheerful, told them:
“You have come to Suffolk and Suffolk is quite the nicest county in all England, so you are very lucky. You have come to the ancient town of Beccles and Beccles is one of the nicest towns in the nicest County in all England."

Evacuation Poster