Wednesday, 25 December 2019



A century and a half ago, the summer of 1856 was reportedly an extremely good one in Melton Mowbray with dry and extended spells of languorous days and nights, a situation which was I am sure very much appreciated by the hard-working people of that town.  But the long warm days of that high summer were to be rudely interrupted by a series of dark events which would create grounds for grim anxiety amongst many of its inhabitants and perhaps even amusement for others.  Whilst an alleged murderer awaited trial for the vicious slaying of two people in the town and a local businessman was shot in the chest by a crazed young solicitor's clerk, members of the local high society were having domestic problems of their own in the form of an acrimonious domestic dispute in the nearby village of Goadby Marwood which would ensure that the town's magistrates were adequately engaged.  In its Saturday edition of August 30th, 1856, the Leicester Chronicle published the following enticing snippet of news on an inside page:
... she emerged from gaol, wearing a fashionable brown hat and feather, with a black lace veil over it, and habited in a flounced muslin dress and black velvet cape. Glancing her eye about for a few moments, as if expecting a friend to receive her, she at length espied a young man and woman at the end of Mr Musson’s garden wall, near Carlton Terrace (who appeared to be waiting for her), in which direction she went. These two persons were, it was understood, the servant man and housemaid at Goadby Hall, who had a chaise and pair in attendance to convey her to Melton, into which vehicle the three entered, and were driven off for that place ....’
Like something from a Victorian novel for ladies, it was coming across this interesting snippet of news in a local newspaper which drew my curiosity and persuaded me to discover more.  I did indeed search further and learned of a contentious yet fascinating storm in a rural teacup, a very 'posh' domestic event which certainly had the effect of stirring the interests and passions of the local population who were ever willing to listen in on the secret comings and goings of their 'masters' who employed many of them.  The Goadby case did indeed revolve around members of the very top drawer of the area's top families, but  I formed the impression that if the cast of characters had involved any of the many agricultural worker's families who lived locally, the people of the press would have stayed at their desks.

The very small village of Goadby Marwood lies almost secretly hidden from the main highways and byways, being some 2 or 3 miles to the northeast of the ancient market town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.  The older part of the village is to be found today pretty much as it was at the time of these happenings, but has probably doubled in total size since.  Local and well established landowner residents, the Manners family were, and still are, headed by the Dukedom of Rutland, established in this part of the world for many years at the family seat of nearby Belvoir Castle and through a number of interwoven marriages over the years, much of the family real estate and wealth has been established and increased in these parts.  As an extremely numerous and convoluted landed family which has evolved over many decades, this would not be the best place to dwell on their detailed antecedent histories,  except perhaps to paraphrase the following notes:


Complicated and convoluted indeed, the ‘who’s-who’ of the Manners family takes many column inches. Suffice to say for my purposes that the Earldom of Rutland produced Thomas Manners, (c. 1488–1543), the son of the 12th Baron de Ros of Hamlake, Truibut and Belvoir, who was created Earl of Rutland in the peerage of England in 1525.  His mother, Anne St Leger, was Richard Plantagenet's granddaughter.  The 9th Earl was later created Duke of Rutland and Marquess of Granby in 1703 by Queen Anne. Today, the incumbent at the family seat of Belvoir is David Manners, the 11th Duke, who has a son Charles (b. 1999), waiting in the wings.

Over the period of more than three centuries, the various Manners males have produced a plethora of offspring - many of them illegitimate - the product in many cases of idle dalliance with divers ladies of the court and even a fair number of those from 'below stairs'.  For many years, various generations of the Dukes of Rutland were the incumbents representing the Melton Mowbray parliamentary Conservative constituency at Westminster.


Wikipedia tells us that ‘A Norman castle originally stood on the high ground in this spot during the English Civil War.  It was one of the more notable strongholds of the King’s supporters.  It eventually passed into the hands of the Dukes of Rutland and following a fire, was rebuilt by the wife of the 5th Duke, and gained its present Gothic castle look.  The architect James Wyatt was chiefly responsible for this restructuring and the result is a building which bears a superficial resemblance to a medieval castle, its central tower reminiscent of Windsor Castle.  The present castle is the fourth building to have stood on the site since Norman times.  Belvoir Castle has been the home of the Manners family for five hundred years and seat of the Dukes of Rutland for over three centuries.’ 


     A 17th Century country house which is today Grade II listed, Goadby Hall in the small hamlet of Goadby Marwood, near to Waltham on the Wolds, was substantially altered about 1750 when a new south front was built in the Palladian style.  The 180-acre (0.7 km2) estate was a subsidiary holding of the Duke of Rutland, and the property was often the residence of junior members of the Manners family.  Lady Elizabeth Manners, daughter of the 4th Duke married Richard Norman MP in 1798.  Their son George Norman inherited the estate and hall from his cousin the 7th Duke.
      So this was the background of some of the characters involved in the rather astonishing and unwholesome events which were to unfold to the public gaze and within earshot during that summer of 1856, when the Normans and a young Miss Mary Johnson shared a presence at the Melton Mowbray Magistrates Court. During that same week, the small town was to suffer the indignity and upheaval of two other violent events involving the infamous murderer of two people, William Brown and also the would-be murderer of local architect and respected estate agent, Mr William Shouler, who had recently survived a point-blank pistol shot to the chest by a young man of temporary unsound mind.  If the case of William Brown, known notoriously as 'Peppermint Billy' had created massive fear and ire for the good people of Melton Mowbray, the shenanigans and petty squabbles of the upper- crust parties and their cavalier treatment of legal proceedings with the assistance of their lesser peers who administered it, was to cause great resentment amongst the 'proletariat', not to mention two of the local newspapers which would diverge politically in their opinions of the societal shenanigans and political manipulations which were created at the time.


THE Dramatis Personae

To properly follow this sad little tale of what was essentially a domestic or family spat, it is better to have some knowledge as to whom fills the parts played, so heading the cast is the the Reverend Edward Manners, M.A. of Goadby Rectory, one-time Rector of Kirby Bellars who was by now retired, but chronically bed-bound and living out his final days. A member of the local Belvoir Manners family and born in 1786, Edward was admitted to Christ's College, Cambridge in June 1822 and after brief residences at Chester and Lincoln he was to be ordained Rector of Goadby Marwood Parish in September 1825. He died at the Manor House, Kirby Bellars on December 21st, 1857.  In 1807 Edward had married Elizabeth Hill who was to pre-decease him in 1830 at the young age of 45yrs, having produced three daughters; these were Ann b. 1823 who never married and Louisa Julia b. 1814 who was married in 1834 to George Norman, landowner, politician  J.P. and general pillar of local society.  A third daughter, Elizabeth Caroline was born in 1815 and she married the Reverend William Hartopp in Nether Broughton in 1850 and following his death after just two years, she married another man of the cloth in Reverend Nathan Hubbersty of Derbyshire and bizarrely, Elizabeth herself was to die in 1854 after just two more years of marriage. The Manner's family were usually resident at Goadby Marwood Hall, but towards the end of his life Edward was to relocate to the Rectory, just next door having passed over the family seat to his eldest daughter Ann.

In the opposite corner of this family dispute were included the the Reverends domestic staff who were local people of the village and when a friction was working up into, when it seems that bad blood was brewing up between the two sisters Ann and Louisa,  a situation that was to reach boiling point and spill over during a visit to their ailing and frail father at the Rectory on Tuesday 22nd July.  On the 26th, the 'Leicester Chronicle' reported the first public column inches of the dispute and its nasty consequences, followed a week later with a more detailed account.


    The town of Melton Mowbray was on Thursday in a state of tense excitement, the cause of which was an assault which had been committed upon Mrs Norman, wife of George Norman Esq., of Goadby Marwood Hall, by three of the servants of the Rev. E. Manners, of Goadby Parsonage, the father of Mrs. Norman.
    The case came on at three o'clock, in the Magistrates Room at the Corn Exchange, when there was a large attendance of the public. The Magistrates on the Bench were C.H. Frewen, Esq., M.P., (chairman,) Rev. F. Norman, H.C. Bingham Esq., and J.C. Beasley Esq.
    The defendants were Mary Johnson, David Ecob, and Thomas Landers, who were charged with unlawfully assaulting Louisa Julia Norman, at Goadby Marwood, on the 22nd July.   Landers is a groom in the service of the Rev E. Manners, Ecob occupies a similar position, and Mary Johnson acts as a companion to Miss [Ann] Manners, the daughter of the Rev. E. Manners.  Mary Johnson is the young woman who took out a game certificate about two years ago, and injured her hand whilst out shooting, a notice of which appeared in the Chronicle at the time. She appeared in court richly dressed with valuable rings on her fingers and carried a bouquet of gay flowers in her hand.
    Mr Atter, of Stamford, appeared on behalf of the defendants, who had been apprehended on Thursday night, under a warrant issued by Mr. Bingham. The hearing of the case occupied three hours, and the circumstances are of so unusual a character that we intend giving next week a full report a full report of the case. We only have time and space this week to give a brief outline.


The following is part of the promised later account as published by that newspaper the following week:



  We gave last week a brief account of this remarkable  case of assault, heard before the Melton magistrates, on Thursday, July 24th. we now fulfill the promise we then made, to give a full report of the proceedings. The assault complained of took place on Tuesday, July 22nd, while Mr Norman was attending his magisterial duties at Melton. The complaint is the wife of George Norman Esq. who reside at Goadby Marwood Hall, and the defendants were domestics in the establishment of the complainant’s father, the Reverend Edward Manners, M.A. of Goadby Rectory. It appears that for some time past a feeling had existed between the parties concerned of not the most friendly nature, and annoyances of various kinds have been submitted to. As we stated last week, one of the defendants, Mary Johnson, who is a farmer’s daughter, has for some time been a companion to Miss [Ann] Manners, and has had a great share in the management of the household at the Rectory. The other defendants were man-servants employed there.
Mary Johnson is a good looking young person, apparently about 22 years of age, lady-like in appearance, and was gaily-dressed when she appeared in Court. Her penchant for sporting has on one or two occasions been noticed in the Chronicle. We believe that it is now about two years since she took out a certificate to shoot, and shortly afterwards, whilst out shooting, she met with an accident, and lost part of one finger by the accidental discharge of her gun. The warrant for the assault was issued by Mr Bingham on Wednesday, and the same evening the defendants were apprehended by Superintendent Condon, at the Rectory. They were conveyed to the lock-up at Melton, where they were detained until three o’ clock on Thursday afternoon, when the case came on in the Magistrates Room at the Corn Exchange. The Court was crowded during the hearing of the case. The following Magistrates were on the Bench:- C. H. Frewen, Esq., M.P. (chairman), T. C. Beasley, Esq., H. C. Bingham, esq., and the Rev. P. Norman. George Norman, Esq., occupied a seat immediately behind the magistrates, and offered suggestions to his brother magistrates during the hearing of the case.
Mr Atter of Stamford, appeared on behalf of the defendants; the cross-examination on behalf of the complaint, of the witnesses for the defence was conducted by Mr Frewen and Mr Bingham.
The case came before the Bench upon the complaint of Louisa Julia Norman, of Goadby Marwood, charging Mary Johnson, Thomas Landers, and David Ecob, with having, on the 22nd of July, assaulted her.
  Mrs Norman deposed as follows:- 'I am living at Goadby Marwood, and reside at the hall.  My father, the Rev. Edward Manners resides at the parsonage. He is a very old man.  I have been in the habit of visiting him, and my father never denied me, but was glad to see me.  I went there at a quarter past twelve o’ clock on the 22nd July.  I went into the house and found the door locked. Ecob came in, and I enquired for my sister.  I asked him to go and tell her I wanted to see my father.  He said she was ill, and had been having leeches, and that the doctor said I was not to see my father.  I said I shall not ask any doctor whether I will be permitted to see my father, and I shall insist on seeing him.  I then went to the staircase and called my sister two or three times.  As I received no answer, I went upstairs to the door of the room where I thought she was.  I knocked on the door and received no answer.  I then went down into the kitchen, and said,  “I shall remain in this house until I have seen my father.”  I asked all the servants in the room where she was, and they said they did not know.  I then went and sat down in a chair, opposite my father’s bedroom, on the ground floor. After a few minutes, Mary Johnson came up, with the key in her hand, to unlock my father’s room door.  She put the key to the door, but did not unlock it.  I stepped up directly to the door, and said, “I wish to see Mr Manners.”  I put my hand upon the handle of the door.  She instantly drew the key out, and gave my hand a sharp blow, saying, “You shall not go in.”  There is a mark now on my hand where she struck me.  I then left my hold with the left hand, and took hold with my other.  The violence of the blow she gave me broke the ring upon my little finger.  She then said “You shall not go in, unless he wishes to see you.” I said,  “When he does not wish to see me, I will go away, but not until then.”  She then took hold of my right thumb and bent it violently back.  She said several things to which I made no reply, and I still remained by the door.  I took a chair which stood in the hall, and said “I shall stay here until I do see Mr Manners”  I placed the chair against the room door. She then went outside the house, and called through the window of my father’s room, “Here is Mrs Norman, she wants to come in - am I to obey her orders, or those of Mr Douglass?” I stood close to the door and heard no answer made, Mary Johnson called to me and said  “Mr Manners does not wish to see you, and if you like you can come here and hear him say so.”  She then came into the hall, and said,  “If you do not go, you shall be turned out.”
Mr Campion was not putting down the whole of Mrs Norman’s statement; therefore Mr Atter appealed to the magistrates, and wished to have the whole taken down.
Mr Frewen said the witness was only making a statement, in order that they might see what was material.  What was not material need not be taken down.
Mr Atter considered it very important that the precise words of the witness should be taken down. If (said he) this is an open court, and the public are to hear the proceedings, I only want it to be known what is said against the accused. I contend that the depositions ought to be taken at length, and not in this loose manner.
Mr Frewen thought it quite unnecessary to take down the immaterial parts.
Mr Atter submitted that the part he wished now to be taken down was most material.
Mr Frewen repeated that what was material only would be taken down.
Mr Atter: You say she said, “If you do not leave, I shall have to turn you out?”
Mrs Norman:- She said, “I will turn you out.”  Landers then came up to me, by her orders, and said ”Come, go out, you have no business here: get out, you are not wanted here.”  I said to him, “I am not going to obey your orders.”  He said ”come then, I’ll make you get out.”  He took hold of a book I had in my hand, and tore it violently from me. Mary Johnson then called the other man, and said, “Turn her out, drag her out, do you not hear what I say to you? take her out instantly, obey your orders.”  Thomas Landers then took hold of me.  I took hold of the handle of the door with one hand, and of the bar of the spring with the other.  Landers put his hands round my waist, and Mary Johnson took hold of me. I said “Mind what you do.”  I received two or three severe bruises on my arm, which is still very much discoloured and swelled.  I believe the blows were given by Thomas Landers, but in the struggle I cannot say positively who it was.  One stood at the entrance door, and the other a little way off, when Mary Johnson spoke to them. They both took hold of me and pulled me in a very violent way, and they threw me out of the door with force.  I fell upon the gravel, and I believe Landers threw me down.  I turned round quickly, and opened two small lattices in the front, and jumped in at the window of my father’s room.  He was sitting at the end of the table not doing anything, and he looked wild and bewildered, with no expression of anger on his face.  I said to him, “Are you aware of this outrage?”  He said, “What my dear?”  He was looking as if surprised at the noise.  I took hold of his hand, and at the same time , the servants came in at the door.  The three defendants came in in a violent manner.  Mary Johnson rushed at and violently pushed me aside, so violently that I almost fell. I was leaning at the time at the end of the table, and she pulled me away. She then said in a very loud voice to Mr Manners, “Do you wish me to turn Mrs Norman out?”  She said immediately, he says ”Yes, yes.”  I never heard him speak.  When she asked the question she stood opposite to him, as near as I did.  Thomas Landers immediately repeated the words “Yes, yes”, I said “No, he said nothing.”  Thomas Landers then put his arm round my waist and pulled me down on the floor.  It made me feel very sick but did not knock me down.  Landers then used most insulting language, and followed me.  I felt I was in danger of severe bodily injury, and I dare not stay any longer, so I went back to the gate, and went away from the premises.  I never saw any persons whilst I was there, except a man going by on horseback before the affray began. After Landers gave me the blow on the breast, no further assault took place, as I kept stepping backward. I had various bruises on me and could not sleep at night, because of my arms and legs aching. I was obliged to put one arm in a sling. I cautioned Landers against touching me.
Cross-examined by Mr Atter:  I think, Mrs Norman, Mary Johnson has resided four years with Mr Manners?
Witness:  I think she has.
Mr Atter:  Your sister also resided there I think?
Witness:  Yes.
Mr Atter: Did you not know that at this time she was ill, and having leeches applied?
Witness:  I did not know until they told me.
Mr Atter:  father, I think, is old?
Witness:  Sixty-nine last March.
Mr Atter:  Now for some time past I think that there has not been the most friendly relationships between your father and yourself?
Witness:  Nothing had occurred at all.
Mr Atter: There have not been, I think, regular visits in the way you could have wished?
Witness:  I have gone as often as I had time to go.
Mr Atter: Did you not apply to his surgeon to ascertain if it was advisable that you should visit him or not?
Witness:  I do not think I am called upon to answer that question.  I do not see that it has anything to do with the assault.
Mr Atter:  I ask no questions except fair ones.  One of your answers was, that you should not ask a doctor.  Now I ask you if you have ever asked permission of a doctor?  I ask you, is this the letter, addressed to Mr Douglass, surgeon, of Wymondham, in your handwriting?
Witness:  Yes, it is my handwriting.
At the request of Mr Atter, the letter was read by Mr Campion.
The letter was dated from Goadby Hall, and the writer, Mrs Norman, stated in it that she should be obliged to Mr Douglass if he could inform her whether he left an order that she should not be admitted to see her father.  She did not wish to make any use of his name, but only asked for her own satisfaction.
Mr Atter: Had you previously to writing that letter had any intimation that your father had given orders that you were not to be admitted?
Witness:  No, I had not.
Mr Atter:  Then how can you explain the writing of that letter. if you had received no such intimation?
Witness:  I do not see that it has anything to do with the assault case.
Mr Atter:  I only ask for an answer.
Witness:  That has nothing to do with it.
Mr Atter:  I have put a plain question, and your worships will decide whether I am entitled to an answer. I ask, if she has always been received and never rejected, why she wrote such a letter to Mr Douglass?
   Witness:  I wrote to him, to ask him if he left an order that I was not to be admitted.
Mr Atter:  Did you receive an intimation that such was the case?
Witness:  I did not.  It has nothing to do with the case.
Mr Hubberty, who married a Miss Manners, and sat by the side of Mr Norman, here interposed a remark, but was interrupted by Mr Atter, who enquired of him if he was a magistrate.
Mr Atter said Mrs Norman had received all of the assistance the Court could give her, and all he wanted was the same indulgence for the accused. a letter had been written to Mr Douglass, the medical attendant of Mr Manners, and he wanted to know if Mrs Norman had not received a previous intimation that her presence there was objectionable. There must be some reason for writing a letter of that description.
  ......and much more.......

The Backlash

The bizarre and pathetic circumstances of this short trial, which in reality was but a mere dribble in a china tea-cup, was to culminate in a truly inimical and overly zealous finding of guilt followed by a severe punishment which was to immediately raise the ire of the people in the county - especially in her own small village of Goadby - and when the story was telegraphed more widely and copied to many of the newspapers across the wider country its effect was to create a feeling of shame and indignity amongst many thinking people.   In particular, the 'Leicestershire Mercury' of August 9th that year, which was quick to print the following stinging rejoinder to the Melton authorities;


    Our readers have doubtless perused with some degree of interest the particulars of the remarkable assault case tried before the Melton Mowbray Bench of Magistrates at a special sessions convened on the 23rd July last and terminated by the sentence of Mary Johnson and Thomas Landers to imprisonment and hard labour, the first for a period of one, and the second for that of four calendar months. Upon the extraordinary nature of the proceedings instituted  on that occasion, and upon the great severity of the punishment inflicted on at least one of the prisoners, we feel it our duty to make a few passing comments.
    Mrs Julia Norman, the complainant, is the wife of Mr Norman, a county magistrate residing at Goadby Marwood Hall, and the daughter of the Rev. Edward Manners, a clergyman of the church of England, who lives in Goadby Rectory. The household of the latter gentleman is superintended by another daughter, Miss Ann Manners, assisted by Miss Mary Johnson, the daughter of a retired farmer. Between the former lady and her sister Mrs. Norman, as it may be inferred, there is some serious misunderstanding.
     Mr E. Manners is in such a state of health that his medical attendant, Mr Douglass, recommends perfect quiet to his patient, and in order to guard him from all mental excitement, directs that his attendants only shall be admitted to his room. On the 22nd July Mrs Norman calls at the Rectory, and requests an audience with her sister. This is declined on the plea that Miss Manners is indisposed. She next asks to be allowed to speak with her father with equal ill success, and after the refusal of her application, declares her determination not to quit the house without a personal communication with Mr Manners. At this moment Miss Johnson enters the apartment, and proceeds to unlock a door communicating with Mr. Manner’s room. A physical contest is forthwith commenced between the two ladies, which, after being for some time sustained, is summarily cut short by the intervention of Thomas Landers, a servant of the establishment, by whose joint efforts and those of Miss Johnson, the process of ejecting Mrs. Norman is completed with considerable violence. Mrs. Norman then enters her father’s apartment by a window, and after appealing to him on the subject of the outrage just perpetrated upon her, is again - with the full consent and express direction of Mr. Manners, according to his solemn declaration, taken before Mr Latham, but without it, according to the affirmation upon oath of his daughter - once more forcibly removed from the house. In the second struggle certain severe blows, accompanied with insulting language, are inflicted upon her by Landers, and for this injury she appeals in the ordinary manner, to the Melton magistrates for redress.
     We have thus succinctly stated the case, according to the evidence given by the offended party, as it is reported in length in the Leicester Chronicle of last week. Mrs. Norman it will be observed, is not only prosecutrix, but the sole witness to the violence which she represents to have sustained without any provocation given on her part. We have no wish, however, to impugn or throw the slightest doubt upon the veracity of the complainant. Some allowance might be made for the natural excitement under which she was labouring. Some stress might be laid upon the fact that the only parties (three in number) capable of giving an opposite testimony to her own were every one defendants in the case. We will, however, take her statement without any such deductions, and assume that that it was made with perfect accuracy and impartiality in every respect. We will assume, too, that Miss Johnson and her attendants acted without orders from Mr Manners, although he himself has made a directly opposite declaration, and that the blows inflicted were such as described, although no medical testimony was induced in corroboration of this most important fact. We will admit, in short, all the alleged particulars of the assault. But to the perfect propriety of the proceedings before the Melton Bench in this instance, we can by no means so readily give our assent: nor to that of the sentence afterwards delivered by the Magistrates: nor to that of the conduct of the officials charged with the duty of conveying the convicted parties to their destined place of punishment.
     In the first place, we find that a special session was convoked for the hearing of the case. The assault is committed on the 22nd of July. On the 23rd, proceedings are instituted and the matter is forthwith decided without the remotest possibility of appeal. Where was the necessity for this unwanted precipitation? Secondly, it appears that Miss Johnson was not cited to appear by summons, but arrested summarily by warrant at a moment’s notice, and confined in the Melton lock-up until produced to answer the charges brought against her. What was the purpose of this unusual harshness?
     In the course of the trial, Mr. Atter, of Stamford, the attorney for the defence, again and again entreated the magistrates to postpone their decision, in order that the personal evidence of Mr. Manners might be produced in confirmation of the facts alleged in his written declaration. Every lawyer must see that that was a point of vital importance to the accused. Why was Mr. Atters request so sternly negatived? or in what possible way would the interests of justice have suffered by the desired postponement? Further, Mr. Norman, the husband of the complainant, and a witness to the marks of violence upon her person, takes his seat, according to the report of the Leicester Chronicle, immediately behind the judicial bench, and from time to time makes suggestions to his brother magistrates. Mr. Hubbersty, a brother-in-law of Mr. Manners, sits behind Mr Norman and also offers remarks upon the evidence. Why was not the unseemly interference in both cases at once rebuked. Then again, the defendant Landers, wishing to make certain statements to the Court in his defence, is prohibited from doing so after the following curious dialogue:-
   Landers:   Am I allowed to ask Mrs. Norman a question or two?
   Mr. Frewen:   You should have asked them before.
   Landers:  I never had an opportunity. I want to ask Mrs. Norman what she said to me at the back of the stairs, before she went into the kitchen. I asked her if she did not know that I was the groom.
   Mrs. Norman:   I said, do you know which is Miss Manners room?
The magistrates said they would put the questions.
   Landers:   Ask Mrs. Norman what Mr. Manners said when she asked him if we should turn her out.
   Mrs Norman:   I never heard my father say a single word.
   Landers:   He told me to take her out; and by his orders I did so. Ask her if Miss Johnson did not say, shall Mrs. Norman go out of the room, and if Mr. Manners did not say, yes, take her out.
   Mrs. Norman:   No.
   Landers:   There are two witnesses in the room, and they can prove it.
   Mr. Frewen:   Mrs. Norman says, he did not say so.
   Landers:   But he did, and Mrs Norman tore my shirt and trousers; she did not tell you that.
   Mr. George Norman (to the police):   Make him hold his tongue.
Landers complained that he had never been allowed to speak before.
   Mr. Campion (the Magistrates Court’s Clerk):   You have no right to speak.
   At last comes the decision of the Magistrates - four months imprisonment with hard labour to Thomas Landers with doubt expressed whether this period of work at the crank* ought not to have been extended to the full term of six months under the new act - 1 month imprisonment and hard labour to Miss Johnson for one calendar month. Is such a sentence warranted we will not say by the letter, but by the obvious spirit and intention of the aggravated assaults Bill (17 and 18 Victoria), headed by the preamble, “Whereas the present law has been found insufficient for the protection of women and children from violent assaults”. The answer to this question we have to be supplied by other jurists than ourselves. In the meantime, one thing is certain, that by the rigid interpretation of the above statute, both Mary Johnson and Thomas Landers are alike at this moment toiling through their effective terms of confinement upon hard fare, and with the accompaniment of severe or menial labour within the walls of the county prison of Leicester.
     It appears that with the following very dignified address from the Bench, the Melton Petty Sessions of July 22nd was brought to its conclusion.
     The defendant Landers wished to address a few more words to the Bench but was stopped by Mr. Frewen, who said; “We don’t want to hear any more about it, you’ll go to your four months to the house of correction.”
* The notorious and dreaded 'crank' was, until 1865, utilised within Midland prisons along with other brutish methods of hard labour.  Comprising a wheel with a counting device affixed to a box of gravel, the wretched prisoner would be required to rotate the handle a given number of times before any nourishment would be made available to him.  Not unique to Leicester Prison, this activity produced no useful or profitable conclusion and was later, along with the practice of solitary confinement, considered to be a cruel and unnecessary punishment and discontinued.  It is said that at Birmingham Prison that if the prisoner did not complete the required number of rotations he was kept in the crank cell until late into the night. This usually meant that he would miss supper and have no food until the following morning.  Read here for more information on life in Victorian prisons.

One week later, the following appeared in the same newspaper of Saturday, August 16th, 1856:


     'It appears that, in our succinct account last week of the proceedings, instituted against Miss Mary Johnson and Thomas Landers at the suit of Mrs George Norman of Goadby Marwood hall, we omitted one part of the remarkable and memorable sentence pronounced by the Melton Bench on that occasion. We have recently been informed that, in addition to the one month’s imprisonment with hard labour, awarded to the former, and to the four months of similar toil and confinement assigned to the latter defendant, both were alike sentenced to find sureties for their good behaviour for the space of twelve calendar months. This we think, was the only addition required to make the judgement of the Melton Magistrates complete, as a rich specimen of something more than questionable law, but of the most unquestionable precipitation and severity. The case as it now stands we believe to be unique. That it will obtain a wide and lasting celebrity among the curiosities of rural justice, does not admit of a doubt. In the meantime, we think it most desirable, that it should attract the serious attention of her Majesty’ present Secretary of State for the Home Department.
     According to the famous saying of Martin Luther, the human intellect may be compared to a drunken clown trying to ride a restive horse. If he succeeds in mounting the animal on one side, he is certain, before long, to fall to the ground on the other. If this aphorism is correct in its application to questions of metaphysical Science, or to the mysteries of Divinity, it is certainly no less true, in relation to Legislation and Jurisprudence.
     A short time since, the English public was horrified, and not unreasonably, by the number of brutal assaults committed upon defenseless women and children, by intoxicated husbands and unnatural parents. Wives half killed, or grievously mutilated - infants with bruised limbs and emaciated bodies, and brought to the very verge of the grave by systematic ill-treatment, were constantly recurring objects in our courts of petty session. Against the perpetration of such inhuman cruelties, a storm of indignation naturally arose. A revision of the existing law of assault was clamorously demanded. And the consequence was a new act permitting the punishment of hard labour, for a period not exceeding six calendar months to be inflicted on offenders in “aggravated” cases. But in what sense the word  “aggravated” was to be received, the law unfortunately neglected to define. That was to be determined by the discretion of the Magistrate.
     And now we see some of the results of this lax, hasty and indefinite legislation. Under the old law, the offence of Miss Johnson, supposing all alleged against her to be thoroughly proven, would have been visited with a moderate fine and in default of payment, with a not very serious imprisonment. But for reasons, to me wholly inexplicable, the judges have determined that her case comes within the category of “aggravation” - that it is, in fact, to be classed with those little less of homicidal acts of violence, which the framers of the new act no doubt had exclusively in their view, and for the punishment and repression of which alone, it is plain that the additional penalty of hard labour was meant to be imposed. To Miss Johnson, the consequences have been painful enough. But to the public in general, the future results of this power of arbitrary interpretation may possibly prove of a  still more serious character. If the decision of the Melton Bench is to be taken as a rule, it would appear that any assault only has to be presumed aggravated to be punished accordingly. The chastisement of a child by its relative - the chance ugly encounter between two angry women in a market place, or between two educated ladies in a drawing room - (such scenes, it appears, are quite within the limits of possibility) - may consign the offending party not only to summary arrest and the prompt decision of a court of special petty sessions, but to the additional penalty of close confinement in the county or borough gaol, with accompaniment of such a period of hard labour as the criminal law assigns to the convicted thief and to the suspected burglar, to the midnight poacher and to the receiver of stolen goods, to the perpetrator of acts of the most unseemly indecency and to keepers of the worst places of vicious resort.
     With these illustrations of the possible working of the new law of assault, it is to be hoped that an “Act to amend” the Act 16 and 17 Victoria, ch. 30, may be among the earliest measures submitted to the notice of the House of Commons after the commencement of the ensuing session.
     We observe, with some surprise, that our local contemporary, the Leicester Advertiser, takes a rather different view of the late assault at Goadby Marwood from ourselves. Our contemporary “has always regarded the Melton Bench as very favourable specimens of the firmness and uprightness with which justice is administered in our petty sessions”, and thinks the the late decision which consigned “two of the Goadby domestics to prison” is one of which every husband and father, every lover of strict justice, must rejoice”. In his opinion, the sentence of the Melton Bench errs only on the side of excessive clemency. The “woman” Johnson, instead of one months hard labour should have had at least four months. The securities for her future good behaviour “should have been proportionate to her own estimate of her importance - evidenced by her dress, jewellery and equipage.” Finally, the Advertiser assures us that the prosecutrix in the late trial, is just now the subject of universal sympathy, and the whole chivalry of the County of Leicester is “up” in behalf of Mrs. Norman.
     Thus far the Advertiser. Very delicate indeed and in exquisite taste, is this allusion to the “woman” Johnson, and to her present punishment, as contrasted with her former “dress, jewellery and equipage.” If, however, this “chivalry” of Leicestershire, wherever that element may be found, is indeed as our contemporary states “up” and ready to fly to the lists on behalf of the Lady of Goadby Marwood. we would merely suggest that according to the best authorities on the subject, it is no chivalrous  quality to take arms in support of one party before the other has been heard in her defence. If this is not chivalry, it is at any rate that by which “chivalry” has long been superseded - namely, common sense and common justice. At present we only have Mrs Norman’s statement as to the particulars of the late assault. Miss Johnson has no means of appeal to public opinion. In the “chivalrous” English of Mr George Norman she has been very effectually “made to hold her tongue”. But the time may come when the secrets of her prison visits will be fully made known, and when to these may be superadded her version of what we presume the Advertiser would call the late “gentle passage of arms” of Goadby Marwood. Pending this revelation it may perhaps be as well for the “Leicestershire “chivalry” to repress its hasty tendencies to be “up” - and as well for our respected contemporary, the Leicestershire Advertiser, to keep its somewhat one-sided conclusions and remarks for a while in abeyance. 

Monday, 6 May 2019


Born May 6th, died September 27th, 1843.
Born September 21st, 1844, died May 25th, 1846.
Born November 2nd, 1845, died January 11th, 1846.
Born December 8th, 1846, died May 25th, 1847.
Born December 16th, died March 10th, 1848.
Born January 28th, died October 6th, 1849.
Born January 22nd, died July 31st, 1850.
Born March 7th, died August 31st, 1851.
Born May 22nd, died October 15th, 1852.
Born July 3rd, died September 24th, 1855.
Born December 6th, 1856, died January 21st, 1859.

Accustomed as I am to wandering around my local graveyards about the town - especially on a Sunday morning when there are less people to see me go about my odd pastime - I occasionally come across a few words inscribed on the headstones which give me great food for thought.  I have been moved to write in the past of the story of three young men, siblings all, who had passed away in the summer months of a century ago during the visit of a massive weather event to the area.  The sad story which unfolded of the tragic events at the small village of Barsby on a dark stormy night in October of 1927, I have written about elsewhere, but my point is that it was my meanderings which created my ongoing interest in cemeteries and the ancient gravestones which have retained the mostly forgotten stories of the past.

During a more recent Sunday stroll in the St Mary’s Gardens, behind ‘Tubes Night-Club, I was attracted to a particularly large and beautifully embellished stone of dark-grey Swithland slate which was exquisitely inscribed by an obviously skilled artisan. The name ‘WEAVER’ appended at the very bottom of the slab told me that it was crafted by Mr Samuel Weaver,  builder and stonemason/engraver then of Sage Cross Street and the year was likely 1859.  But I was not only attracted by the fine handiwork displayed, as what really drew my attention was the amount of script he had inserted into his allotted space.  As depicted in the above photograph, (and my transcript beneath), the names of no fewer that 11 children - 7 girls and 4 boys - all belonging to parents Frederick and Mary Tyler are shown, all of which had died at a very young age, some most likely at the time of their birth. The more I perused the still very readable script, the more I wondered whatever lay behind the tragic story of this ‘message’ of over 150 years ago.

You do the math.  I gave up on the task as I started to work out the ages or days lived by each of these eleven babies; perhaps you might like to work this out for yourself. Puzzled and ever inquisitive, I engaged in the task of discovering who this desperate couple might have been, especially the poor mother who had obviously suffered the bulk of the wasted endeavour and the long days, months and years of grieving and likely puzzlement of their own.  I can pretty well safely say that Mary spent at least 23 years in confinement and can assert that in this period of time she was to give birth to a grand total of no less than 17 children of which only 3 boys and 3 girls seem to have survived to adulthood. Bizarrely, five of these were comprised of the first five born to Mary.  The sixth survivor was a ‘Fred’ who was born much later in 1854 and who grew up to marry and have a family of his own.

Fred and Mary Tyler.

Mary Roell was a Melton Mowbray girl who married Frederick Tyler in the August of 1836. I believe that this family name is mis-spelled and should be ‘Rowell’, but I have gained no useful knowledge as to her family background.  Her first-born child was Mary, in 1836 and it is perhaps ironic that as a widow, she would be living with this particular daughter when she passed away at the age of 77 years.  Mary is on record as having been employed as a laundry worker, but I’m sure that she spent more time working as a mother!
In 1841, the couple are recorded as living in Scalford Road, Fred being shown as a publican and there are four children present, but ten years later in 1851 he is shown as a watch-maker by occupation and there are now five children, with baby Mary Jane only just born in February of 1851.  A change of address tells us that they were now living in their better known address of Sage Cross Street, possibly newly built.  A salient point to mention here is the fact that baby Mary Jane was by then her eleventh born child!  In 1861, the family is still in Sage Cross Street, next door to the builder’s yard of his friend, master mason, Robert Weaver and his family and it is possible that Sam had even crafted the family tombstone for them by then.  It is interesting to also note that at least three of the Tyler children were by now in their 20’s and what’s more, there was by now a one year old, Arthur, who was named as a ‘grandson’.
By 1871, the large Tyler family was still dwindling, with Fred and Mary still in charge there now remained with them only Emma, a widow at 29, but likely the mother of 10 years old Arthur who was still resident and shown as an ‘errand boy’.  I leave my search here of a family, totally irrelevant to me and of no particular personal interest, apart from me gaining an insight into a world now passed which seemed to have retained so many sad stories.  Mary was to die in March 1888 after Frederick who had passed some 8 years earlier at the age of 70.
That then, is the sad story behind the names on the beautiful gravestone which drew my intention. What follows is a potted history of the those burial grounds in Melton Mowbray up to the present day.



It may be of interest to learn that the three main cemeteries of Melton Mowbray have each evolved from the basic conundrum of available space divided by the required demand from an increasing population. Simply resolved, when the hallowed ground comprising the limited curtilage of St Mary’s Church yard became no longer comfortably viable for the acceptance of more remains, suitable and available land was acquired from the garden area which then joined King street at the rear of the Generous Briton public house with Norman Street to the north of the town.  This was to be known as the ‘New Cemetery’.

A brief knowledge of the history of the Nation’s religious problems tells us that Melton Mowbray was very much a part of the schism which grew to be  a rancorous separation of the long established church by a smaller dissenting community in various scattered guises. Dissent was very much a proactive part of the social scene, but suffice to comment for now that the split which existed at the time of this change of location, created a ‘them-and-us’ scenario with Dissenters being laid to rest only in the northern one third of the ground provided, whilst the larger ‘established’ number of ‘remainers’ of the high church, were allocated the remaining two-thirds.

With the inevitable crowding out of the loyal deceased parishioners from the small graveyard of St Mary’s which abutted BurtonEnd, it was vital that somewhere be found to carry the ever increasing overflow. There were several acres of grassland behind the Church apparently doing little apart from providing one or two small allotments, but these were owned by wealthy outsiders then, so an alternative compromise on the grounds of cost was arranged when the Town Estate property was utilised off King Street. See the small maps  which clearly show the ‘new’ cemetery layouts.

The enforced removal from the original church grounds to the virgin land off King Street in that late Summer of 1845. was to prove not to be a permanent answer to the space problem, more a relatively short term solution and as the town expanded towards the end of the Victorian era, its useful days were to become numbered once more, when, in 1898, Meltonians would  celebrate the opening of a what was planned to be the ultimate answer to the burial problem when the new purpose-built facility in Thorpe Road was officially opened. though its future too, is now currently in doubt as the onward march of each generation continues to quickly fill up the existing allocations.  In the meantime I present below, a short account of the opening in 1845 of the ‘new’ town cemetery in 1845, through the eyes of the irascible Leicester Chronicle which is bizarrely presented with an edge of humour in some sort of reference to a competitive newspaper.
(Reproduced from the Leicester Chronicle of Saturday 25 October 1845) 

The coffin has been made, 

To receive its fallen dead. 
And therein 'twill be laid. 
When its tiny spark has fled, — 
'Twill be buried with the grandeur it deserves; 
And thus it will be sung. 
Whilst the great bell will be rung, 
" It died of sap among All its nerves “— Old Song. 

On Friday, the 3rd inst., (says a correspondent,) the new burying ground in Melton was consecrated. In anticipation of this event, the ‘Recorder’ had been ‘lying in state,’ ever since its demise, at the office of the Publisher, for its ‘nobility’ could not, even in dust, blend with the ignoble democrats over the wall ; and on Monday, the 20th inst., the ‘maiden sod’ was upturned, that its remains might be deposited in the silent tomb.  At present all that marks the mournfully interesting spot - the grave of Melton's hope - is a pasteboard tablet (in imitation of marble) bearing the following inscription; 

all that was mortal of 
After a lingering and painful illness, 
it departed this life 
the 14th day of July, 1845, Aged 20 weeks. 
Ye readers kind, who now lament, 
Be thankful while you weep. 
For I, who made you drowsy once. 
Myself am fallen asleep."  

But of course this will not be deemed a sufficient tribute to its ‘memory dear’ by its admirers. It is therefore proposed either to erect a statue to, or build a nest for, the ci-devant (former) Editor, testifying thereby that his herculean labours have not been wholly unappreciated. If the statue is decided upon, a premium will be offered to artists for designs.

Sir Francis Grant President R.A. (1803-1878)  

Meanwhile, On a related note, referring to my recent presence at the cemetery, I might draw attention to the placement in this former cemetery - now not recognised as such in its present state - of the monument of one of our town’s most prominent former residents. By the way of a diversion from the theme of this article, I speak of the world-renowned artist and long term popular resident, Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy of Arts. A Scot, he was born in Edinburgh on the 18th January 1803. At first a student at Harrow on-the-Hill school as a young child, he was later educated in Edinburgh, but not at university nor did he achieving any significant degree. Arriving in Melton Mowbray, attracted by its reputation, he was to gain the friendship of two locally established artists, the well regarded Ferneley brothers.  Without formal training he would learn to paint and in later years, to advance this self-taught expertise to a standard beyond even his own wildest dreams. Francis grew up to become a formal portrait painter of some great renown, specialising mainly in the portraiture of many aristocratic and political figures of his time, including that of his greatest admirer, Queen Victoria. 

The Grant family home in London was at No 27 Sussex Place, Marylebone, where he spent the early days of a spoiled life with his two brothers and from where, with an inheritance of more than £10,000 from his deceased father’s estate, he vowed to spend his early years spending it all, with a further promise to train later as a lawyer.  He achieved his first avowal to spend but did not quite make his visit to the halls of higher education, instead, wasting his precious moments in his great passion of hunting and gambling, pastimes which were to bring him inevitably to Melton Mowbray, where only the very best of this popular sport was to be achieved amongst some of the most important people in world society.  

At the age of 23 years he met his wife-to-be, Emily Farquharson who also hailed from Scotland and they were married in 1826, but sadly, in circumstances seemingly unknown, young Emily, without issue, was to die in 1828, it being less than two years after their nuptials and for a short time Francis was on his own again. Extremely handsome and reportedly most attractive to the ladies of his time, the young budding artist was not to mourn for too long before he was courting local lady, the highly sought and esteemed society beauty, Isabella Elizabeth Norman (1805-1894) a relative of the Manners family of Belvoir.  On the 8th July, 1829, Melton Mowbray was to witness the wedding of all weddings at the Parish Church of St Mary’s, when Francis married for a second time. No children had emanated from his first marriage with Emily, but this new union was to eventually produce five girls and three boys born between 1830 and 1847.  I understand that one of these eight children is said to have been born out of wedlock, but I have as yet, no further details.  The Grants lived in the large house, then known simply as ‘The Lodge,’ today extant on the lower slope of Dalby Road almost opposite the swimming baths. In the 1930’s, the residence was renamed for some reason as ‘Dorian Lodge’, the name which it currently retains. When, as a popular and respected Associate of the esteemed Royal Academy of Art in London, he became their President in 1866 being simultaneously rewarded with a Knighthood from his Queen in recognition of his valuable and prolific services to art.

With a very much dispersed family of children, we usually hear mainly of two or three of his young daughters who remained in Melton as their home town. Sir Francis and Dame Isabella had retained the family home at 27 Sussex Place in Marylebone, adjoining Regents Park and in the Spring of 1871 they are to be found there in residence with four house staff and a carriage in the driveway. His work in the capital city ensured a close connection with his art, but by now it was more with the business of administration and exhibitions.  
Finally, as they say, ‘All good things come to an end’ and it was on the 5th day of October, 1878, when apparently without prior warning, Sir Francis Grant suffered what was described as a ‘massive’ fatal heart attack whilst resting at Dalby Road with his daughter, Daisy.  His funeral service at St Mary’s was widely reported as being one of the biggest turnouts ever seen in the town.



At the meeting of the Local Board, on Wednesday evening, Mr Joseph Smith, of Nottingham Road, Melton, was appointed superintendent of the new Cemetery out of fourteen applicants for the post.’     
 (Grantham Journal, 3rd June, 1893.)

Towards the end of the 19th Century, it is apparent that the ‘new’ cemetery in King Street was now becoming as congested as that of the church of half a century before and it became once more the business of the local board, in partnership with representatives of the various denominations now proliferating in the town, to provide the extra space for a future generation of the residents. In 1893, land was acquired at the side of the Thorpe Road, then utilised as public allotment gardens, for the purpose of providing an up-to-date and ‘state-of-the-art’ new facility. The Leicester Chronicle of the day, described the opening event.


On Thursday morning last, the new Cemetery provided for the locals of the town of Melton (a full description of which appeared in these columns some few weeks ago) was formally opened after having been handed over to the Board at a special meeting on the previous evening. The proceedings were of the simplest character possible, the members of the Board meeting at the Lodge, where the Chairman (Mr. J. J. Fast), in a few words, “opened the place.” It had been suggested that a dedicatory service of some kind should be held to mark the event, the proposal being that the whole of the ministers in the town should take part in it, but no definite steps in this direction were not taken, and consequently nothing was done as regards any religious ceremony. The whole of the cemetery is open, i.e no pets it is consecrated as is the custom in many towns, according to the rites of the Church of England.  Though complete as regards its buildings and the laying out of the various intersecting pathways, the Cemetery as yet presents by no means a finished appearance, no trees or shrubs having been planted, as doubtless there will be in time, and the ground near the Chapel and also the lodge still bears traces of the “hands" of the builders. When the ornamentation of the place in these respects has been carried out it will look very pretty, and we think that Meltonians will have no reason to be dissatisfied with the new burial ground when it is got into proper order. 
As stated, the Cemetery was opened in the most formal manner, with a special meeting of the Board being convened for ten o'clock that Thursday morning at the keeper's lodge. There were present— J. Fast (chairman of the Board), J. Glover, J. Gill, W. Willcox, G. N. Wing, J. Anderson, C. Callis, Rd. Barker (Clerk), and K. Jeeves (Surveyor). The grounds were formally inspected and they then, proceeding to the room where the ministers robe, the Chairman said they were there that day for the purpose of formally declaring the Cemetery open to the public, and he hoped they would all live long enough to hear the public say that they looked upon it as a boon. He would like to have expressed entire satisfaction with regard to one or two small matters which had been detected, he supposed there was nothing perfect in this world, and they must put up with things as they found them unless they had the power to remedy them. Mr. Willcox said that he thought it would a great boon to the town at large when the place was properly set out, and hoped it would not fall so heavily upon the ratepayers that some of their friends have imagined, because no doubt they would derive a considerable revenue from here on.  Mr. Glover remarked that he had no wish to see the cemetery pay its way, which would only mean a heavy death-rate.—A slight discussion then ensued with reference to the letting of the plot of ground attached to the cemetery, and it was ultimately resolved to let it by tender. 
The proceedings then terminated. The first funeral took place at four o'clock in the afternoon when the body of Mrs. Sophia Clarke, wife of Mr. Henry Clarke, refreshment-house keeper of Church-lane, Melton, was interred. The deceased, who was sixty-eight years of age, died on Monday after a somewhat lengthy  illness. Mrs Clarke was well known in the town and highly respected. The obsequies were conducted by the Vicar (Rev. R. Blakeney) the first part of the service being held the Parish Church, and then completed at the grave-side where a short dedicatory prayer was said.  The funeral was witnessed by a large number of people. The Parish Magazine for June had announced that the custom which has hitherto prevailed of the portion of the burial service being read in the Parish Church, can still observed in every case in which it is desired.
(Leicester Chronicle.)


And what of tomorrow?

For more than a century the Thorpe Road Cemetery has served the people of Melton Mowbray. Its fine lodge at the main entrance still stands today, overlooking the large, manicured area of the various sections representing the religious followings of its occupants, which must now amount to many hundreds over time.  Little seems to have changed over these years, during which time the spare plot mentioned at its opening ceremony was indeed utilised for extra space.  There is talk today, in 2019, of the sale of the lodge house as a private dwelling and news of a possible end of term for the facilities so lovingly provided all those long years past. There is even a current  public discourse on the subject of bringing to an end the ancient practice of burial in the ground in civic open spaces, leaving no doubt, much contention amongst the religious groups who will no doubt need to organise alternative methods of the disposition of loved ones.  Watch this space!

© John McQuaid 2019

Friday, 22 February 2019




Relating to the life and times of one of the most iconic of Melton’s Lodges, ’The House’, which once stood in Sherrard Street and could be said to epitomise the life and times of a great period in the colourful history of the old market town of Melton Mowbray.


Yet another valued son of old Melton Mowbray who is now almost lost - or forgotten -  in the mists of time was Josiah Gill, the son of a farmer of the same name who owned and worked his land in the very small village of Holwell, just to the north of the town.  A first-born child to the former Mary Ann Gilson of Twyford, he was soon to be one of seven siblings, but at the age of 26 years Josiah, articulate and well schooled locally as a child entered college as a pharmacy student in London and as expected, he qualified as a dispensing chemist.  Returning to Melton at the end of this training, he set up in business as the proprietor of a combined chemist and grocery shop and in the summer of 1915 he married Kathleen Broxholme of Ashby-de-la- Zouch, though no children were born to the marriage.  A younger brother, Leonard Gill, was also to open a shop in Melton which was remembered until quite recently as ‘Leonard Gill’s Hardware’ in the Market Place. Kathleen died in 1961 and Leonard followed in 1965.  Both of the businesses were to cease trading within the lifetime of the the following generation.

Josiah was greatly interested and personally involved in the social and political side of his home town, and county, especially in the matter of childrens’ education and in particular, the Sunday schools of which he was the local superintendent in which he frequently taught and preached. Politics interested him very much and he was at different times, Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Urban District Council and a prospective councillor for the Leicestershire County Council, making frequent attempts at election to that body - all unfortunately, abortive.  He did achieve success as a member for the Liberal Party in his town. As Second-in-Command of the local branch of the Salvation Army, Josiah was said to be thrilled to be deputed to meet and greet with General Booth and his wife who visited Melton to great fanfare and excitement in his ubiquitous open automobile, to speak at the Corn Exchange in Nottingham street in July of 1907.  His father sadly took his own life in 1917 at the age of 70 in 1917 and Josiah himself was to pass away in June, 1933 at the young age of 59 years.  Thankfully, much of his work is still discoverable.

I have ‘rediscovered’ Josiah Gill in this new, twenty-first century by reason of the fact that amongst all of his many interests, like myself, he had a great passion for the social history of his beloved town and was to produce a number of scholarly and readable articles for occasional publication in the local press. I have no scruples about occasionally 'lifting' a whole piece of prose in the interests of presenting an accurate account and so, as an example of one of Josiah's valuable literary contributions, I have reproduced the following article from The Grantham Journal of Saturday June 25th, 1932, which memorialises in the wonderful detail and style of the time the life and times of one of the most iconic of Melton’s many old hunting lodges -‘The House.’  


‘The House’ and Other Famous Local Residences. 

By Josiah Gill.

Sporting and artistic ghosts of a full century must have mingled their sighs when last week they watched the fall of the hammer which broke for ever the link between a distinguished family and the town of Melton Mowbray. With the departure of the venerable Miss Grant and the Hon. Mrs. Walsh, another of those old homesteads, which may be compendiously classified as Victorian, has closed its doors.  

The story of the Norman - Grant - Markham family in Melton commencing with the coming of Richard Norman, Esquire, who anon wedded the Lady Elizabeth Isabella Manners, daughter of the fourth Duke of Rutland, a popular nobleman in the days of Pitt and Fox.  Their two chief mansions have for their title of honour the definite article only, the single word ‘The’ rightly giving to these historic homesteads a stateliness and dignity all their own. In respect of Squire Norman’s newly-acquired properly, the simple grandeur of the appellative is considerably intensified, for in all probability ‘The House’ was the cradle, as it were, of the Melton Hunt. To it, so the records declare, came William Lambton when, in 1787, that pioneer Nimrod decided to make this town his headquarters and by so doing incidentally raised the place from  a townlet of small importance to the front rank among fashionable resorts. 

After about six years of being the hub and heart of the rising Hunt, the centre of ‘a most select company of noblemen and gentry of sporting celebrity,’ the fortunes of ‘The House’ appear to have changed. In the September assessment for the year 1793, the name of Lambton is erased, and that of ‘Norman’ substituted by pencil. The House was forthwith designated after the new owner and so remained until comparatively recent years when it unaccountably characterised itself having no prefix to its generic name.

With all the dignity and amenity of a country house, planted in the very heart of the town, ‘Norman House’ continued for upwards of half a century, the abode of one of Melton’s most honoured families.  Lady Elizabeth Norman, generally known by the appellation of ‘The Good Lady Elizabeth,’ was a veritable ‘Lady Bountiful’ amongst her humbler neighbours.  The sense of ceaseless responsibility to poorer neighbours of the noblesse oblige, was strong in those days and during very many years Lady Elizabeth’s discerning sympathy and delicate generosity were the means of brightening the lives of scores of her fellow-citizens.  Her benevolence among the poor was unbounded; wherever there was sickness or distress her heart was open to sympathise and her hand to relieve. Often she was found at the bedside of the afflicted, reading portions of Holy Writ, and many times was she observed on her way to the house of some sick and almost destitute person, herself carrying the means to minister to their needs. 

At her funeral, in 1852. hearse nor carriage was present, but members of the families of Manners, Grant, Straton and Forester, headed by the Marquis of Granby, were numbered among the mourners who witnessed the interment by Orlando, afterwards fourth Lord Forester, in the almost forgotten God’s acre hidden away off King Street.  In relieving the poor, Lady Elizabeth not only fed them, but physicked them also.

Perhaps the most enduring memorial of this great lady is found in the form of a homely recipe, which even to-day survives as a magnificent proof of her benevolence and charity.  Within last few days enquiries have reached the town from Africa respecting the formula of this cheap, effective medicine, with a view of employing it among indigent natives of Umtata. Owing to lapse of time the appellation of dignity very often varied by the present generation from “Lady” to “Queen,” “Mother,” “Aunt,” “Mary” and even ‘Saint’ Elizabeth’s cough mixture.  Thus is paid unwittingly the highest compliment due to a good soul of bygone days.

After the death of Mr. Norman, the beautiful font, with its exquisitely carved oak canopy, was erected to his memory in the Parish Church. ‘As a token of love and affection by his widow and fourteen surviving children.’
A romantic interest attaches to this house from its close connection with ‘the most beautiful woman in the Kingdom of high rank’ as Wraxall styles Mary Isabella, widow of His Excellency the Duke of Rutland' who died Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1787.  Towards the close of her life, this magnificent Peeress - four times painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds - spent a portion of several winters at The Poplars, a house now almost lost in modern uses to which trade has converted it. Apropos of this circumstance, the Duchess not infrequently provided her immediate neighbours with one of those wonderful pieces of pomp and pageantry which in that era were so often associated with the most common-place events in life, for we have it on excellent authority that when this Ex-Vicereine paid a casual visit to her daughter, who resided on the opposite side of the street, she invariably chartered her four-in-hand pony phaeton, with its complement of liveried servants, by which in almost semi-regal state she traversed the few yards of thoroughfare. 

But ‘The Duchess Rooms’ of today suggest to us a much more intimate and prolonged association with ‘The House’ than was conceded to its neighbour.  That the Duchess and her dandy sons were great habitués of the place is certain.  In an interesting side-light on the social life of this mansion about a century ago, Mr. Brereton, the gossipy Headmaster of the School, was accustomed to give private instruction to the juvenile members of the Norman family.  On one occasion, after exhibiting some experiments, this local diarist confided to his journal under date 1822, “The Duchess of Rutland is electrified.”

The best features cf country-house life were again united during the long residence here of Colonel and Mrs. Markham and their numerous family.  Colonel Markham considerably enlarged the house and also beautified the gardens. Thenceforth the place became a most agreeable rendezvous for the junior members of the hunting families, where festivities and jollifications of merry young folk frequently took place.

On December 12th, 1877, this mansion formed fitting background for a bridal cortege.  Surely no more splendid spectacle ever graced old St. Mary’s Church than the nuptials of Cecile Markham and Cecil Samuda when a great throng of the elite of the town, dressed in full hunting attire, honoured the ceremony by their presence. On emerging from the Church the bridal party, which included ten bridesmaids, each wearing a robin in her hat, passed under an avenue cf garlands supported by scarlet-coated huntsmen, among them the venerable Duke of Rutland.

Benevolence, like hunting, runs in families, and Mrs Markham inherited from her grandmother a keen sense of personal responsibility for her neighbours welfare.  The House again became sacred to scores of townspeople who reverenced the character or benighted by the unostentatious charity so naturally bestowed by this hereditary, 'Lady bountiful.'  Melton was stirred to its depth, when, on July 20th, 1880, it heard of the death of this great-hearted lady, at the age of 44 years.  This sad event left upon the mind of the writer an ineffaceable impression.  Two days afterwards there took place the National Sunday school centenary celebration.  The silencing of the bands and the dipping of the flags and banners, as the great procession, on its way to Church, passed The House, was a token of affection towards one, who, in many ways, had befriended the youth of the town.

The only other name which counts in the annals of this mansion during the past fifty years is that of John Adrian, Earl of Hopetoun, a Chamberlain to Queen Victoria and one of her favourite ministers.  After leaving Melton, Lord Hopetoun achieved distinction by becoming first Governor-General of the Australian Commonwealth, and eventually received the honour of a Marquisate.  Since the death of Mrs. Lionel Powell in 1929 ‘The House’ has stood forlorn and dismantled, awaiting, doubtless, only the coup de grâce it will one day receive at the builder’s hand. 

Few Melton houses carry more historical reminiscences than does the old homestead situated in illustrious obscurity on the southern slope of Mount Pleasant, the name of which we again crown with the definite article.  The earliest notices we possess of ‘The Lodge’ appear in the year 1870 when it functioned as the hunting-box of that popular patron of 'agricultural improvements’, the ninth Lord Kinnaird.  The place conjures up memories of many notable people to whom it has been let during the century.  In the ’seventies, when in the tenancy of Lord and Lady Dupplin, King Edward added a distinctly interesting page to its history by a brief visit.  Again, the Americanisation of Melton may be said to have been set when James Gordon Bennett, son of the founder and himself the proprietor of the “New York Herald,” first took up his residence at this house during the absence of the Grants.

Mr. Moreton Frewen tells how on one occasion, he dined here with that great sportsman, ‘sitting next to a strange hard-bitten American who regarded Melton as a ‘lunatic asylum in pink coats.’ “I did not catch my neighbour’s name and enquired of my host.” “Oh” he said. “ Its Stanley, a man I am sending to Africa to hunt up Livingstone.”  Art, rather than rank, has, however, given to The Lodge its greatest distinction. For the one name of supreme importance and consequence in its annals is, of course, that of Sir Francis Grant.  Indeed there never was a place so associated with with the memory of one man as is this villa with the once popular President of the Royal Academy.

Sir Francis Grant came to Melton as far back as the early ‘thirties.  He began to paint and little by little, by dint of his genius and ability, he worked his way steadily onward until at length he gained a secure place among great English painters, ultimately reaching the highest position in his branch of art in this country. Three or four years before settling in Melton, young Grant commanded the notice of Sir Walter Scott in the following delightful entry in his ‘journal’ — ‘He is not going to be content with sitting at the bottom of his father’s table and passing the claret, but in giving himself heart and soul in following a delightful, though most arduous profession, and achieving in it a marked and independent position,’  But the great Scotsman did not live long enough to see how brilliantly his foreshadowing of Grant’s career was realised.

Lady Dorothy Neville represents him as the only painter she ever knew who painted by gaslight, and he was further described by a lady at Court in the words of Queen Victoria as “ the handsomest man and the most gifted artist in the three kingdoms.”  Two pictures, representing the company at Melton during the reign of the ‘Sailor King’ hang in numerous houses of the town.  ‘The Melton Breakfast’ alone, with its graceful strength and repose, is sufficient to make immortal the name of the painter who exhibited during his career not less than 253 works.

As a rider, Sir Francis stood in the first rank. ‘Nimrod’ says of him;  “He possessed the combined arts of riding over not only fences and brooks, but now and then over horses and men in the morning and by delighting Society in the evening by the sallies of his wit and humour.

It is not always that honours such as attended this young man’s funeral ceremony are so fitly bestowed.  His friends seemed to have shared the feelings of the relatives of Lord Kelvin and Florence Nightingale, who alike declined the honour of a national burial which the nation, had it been permitted, would gladly have paid to the dead by interment in the central shrine of English Christendom.

Like his great predecessor, Sir. Godfrey Kneller, Sir Francis lies far from the bustle of the capital having found sepulture in the old cemetery in King Street among the hunting scenes he loved so well.  The funeral, on October 12th, 1878, marked perhaps, one of the most imposing and impressive obsequies ever witnessed in Melton.  Previous to the hour of burial, about three hundred members of the Royal Academy had luncheon at Norman House, and afterwards joined the funeral cortège. Nobles counted it an honour to support the pall, among the bearers being Lord Kinnaird, Mr. Cope R.A., the Duke of Rutland, Viscount Hardinge, the Marquis of Bristol, and other men of high consideration.  The public attended in great numbers and the ‘Archbishop of Society’ as the northern Primate was styled, took the service.

Right to the end, while still the home of his venerated daughter, the gentle presence of the great painter seemed to hover around the house he loved so well and which remained much as it was in his time, replete with beautiful productions and souvenirs.

Among street scenes of rather less than fifty years ago, which we remember as little more than shadows, the little donkey carriage carrying lady Grant and accompanied by her majestic daughter, stands out real and tangible.  Daughter of Richard and Lady Elizabeth Norman, Lady Grant was born at “The House’ on May 25th, 1805.  After the death of Sir Francis, Lady Grant made their winter hunting box her permanent home, until in the year 1893, she ‘shuttled off the mortal coil.’ Memories of this old and respected family are revived by inspecting the windows in the Norman Chapel of the Parish Church. Especially noteworthy is the beautiful memorial to the great artist, the subject of which is a full length figure of Saint Luke as a painter. 
Despite the brisk, pleasant modernity of young Mr ‘Hammerdown the Fourth’ [the auctioneer] cheerfully stripping The Lodge of its historic souvenirs, one could not but view with genuine sadness the scene which marked not merely the end - as far as patrician associations are concerned - of two historic houses, but also deprived Melton of the last in direct succession of the fine old families which through five generations identified them with the life of the community.'