On this day in 1891: Barnum & Bailey’s Circus visit Loughborough

26 October 2021

Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth!
James A. Bailey, Proprietor
Reported in the Loughborough Echo on Thursday 2nd November 1891

Even on the busiest day of the November Fair, the streets of Loughborough have not been as thronged as they were on Thursday last (Thursday 26th October 1891) when the visit of Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show brought crowds flocking into the town from the countryside around.

It was practically a holiday as very little business was done.

There were busy times at the new Great Central Station at Loughborough in the early hours of Thursday morning. The sidings had been cleared in readiness and the first of four trains arrived from Chesterfield about five o’clock. In the first train were canvas wagons, pole trucks and the horses. These were quickly hitched up and on their way through the town to The Racecourse, Derby Road. There were 106 wagons, 28 cages of wild animals, 800 people, 420 horses, 32 led animals such as zebras, llamas, buffaloes, 16 elephants and 16 camels.

The procession, from the Great Central Station to The Racecourse was planned to start at nine o’clock. The crowds had taken up positions along the route and some difficulties were experienced as the procession wound its way through the streets.

Heading the procession was a large band-carriage drawn by 40 horses, then followed the cages of wild beasts. There were troops of riders, male and female, 16 elephants, some enormous in size, followed by 16 camels. There were many more animals, floats and displays.

There was a menagerie of tents containing hippopotamus, rhinoceros, pachyderms and many more. The greatest attraction was Hassen Ali, the Egyptian giant who stood 7ft 11 inches*. The most bizarre was Rob Roy, the dislocationist – he could dislocate any joint in his body and put it back again at will.

The main tent was 595 feet long and 240 wide, seating 14,864 people.

Details taken from the Loughborough Echo, 2nd November 1891

Promotional postcard of Hassan Ali, ‘The Egyptian Giant.’ (Photo sourced from Pinterest, here.) Hassan travelled the world with Barnum & Bailey, as can be seen in this American poster.

This article was written for the Victorian Loughborough Exhibition at Loughborough Library in 2019.  It was put together by the Library’s Local Studies Volunteers from information taken from an article published in the Loughborough Echo on Thursday 2nd November 1891.

*Info taken from the Loughborough Echo, though Hassan Ali’s promotional postcard gives a taller measurement.

What’s in a name?

24 October 2021

A Guild One Name Study

About 40 years ago my uncle asked me to look up some records for him at the Local Studies Department at Nottingham Library. This started me on my genealogical journey.

My maternal grandmother’s surname was Jex. This name conjured up many suggestions about its origins – the foremost thought is that it is derived from the Norman name of Jacques. However, there is no proof of this. As I traced my line of Jexes back in time, it showed that they originally came from Norfolk and they started out (well as far back as I could go at the time) as Jecks.

In Norfolk in the 1700s, there were Jecks, Jeckes, Jacques, Jakes and many more similar surnames. There were many different spellings due to illiteracy in the population when scribes would spell names as they thought fit, often phonetically.

About ten years ago I decided to embark on a “One Name Study” of the name Jex. Given that it is an unusual name, I thought that there wouldn’t be that many but I was wrong in that assumption. To date I have 3,800 on my database and probably the same number waiting to be added. In attempting to trace every Jex, or those with similar sounding names, there are too many to contemplate. Indeed, in America there are probably thousands.

I registered my study with the Guild of One Name Studies – fondly known as GOONS – paid my yearly fee and began. The rules are that your findings must be published either as a book, a document or a website and should anyone ask you for help with their research on the same name, you must provide help. I chose a website to publish my results:


I discovered Jex people in America, Canada, Australia, Belize and many other countries. A line of Mormon Jexes travelled to Salt Lake City on the wagon trains. They were a founding family and a book has been written about them.

Considering the resources that we now have at our fingertips to try to trace people with a certain name – censuses, births marriages and deaths, land records, criminal records, military records, wills and probates – the list is large. It is a lifetime’s work and is probably never ending, that is unless the name is so unusual that there are only a few family lines. Those studies where an end is obvious, are the fortunate ones. Mine is not one of those. 

Every so often I continue to hunt for more Jex people and invariably I succeed, producing yet more to add to the database. Please feel free to look at my website and check on the GOONS website to see if your surname has a study attached to it.


Sharon Gray, Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteer Group

Ashby Road residents in 1878

3 September 2021

Who lived on Ashby Road in 1878? Does your surname appear?

 1 & 2 Sutton, Mrs. Confectioner
  3 Fisher, J
  4 Bassford,  A
  5 Clarke, H
     Bennett, H., The Hill
  6 Bassford, G
  7 Hitchcock, T
  8 Andrews, I
  9 Bent, G
10 Swann, J
11 Hull, E
12 Astill, W
13 Chester, Mrs
14 Barrat, J., Glazier
15 Gibbins, –
16 Pratt. F
17 Martin, Mrs
18 Lockwood, Miss
19 Exon, T
20 Holmes. C
21 Kahler, J
22 Onion, J
23 Wright, Mrs.,
     Old English Gentleman
24 Wright, W
25 Quail, E., Greengrocer
26 Fox, E
27 Clarke, S
29 Morley, W
30 Harvey, R
31 Gamble, E
32 Brewin, B
33 Clarke, H
34 Gamble, W
35 Pass, T
36 Higgins,  W
37 Polkey, Mrs
38 Kelly, J
39 Cooper, J
40 Price, –
42 Fletcher, R
43 Monk, C
44 Bradley, –
45 Gee, Miss
    Egan, Rev. A.,
    Catholic Chapel
    Jones, J. S., Bower Cottage
46 Simpkin, T
47 Mason, Mrs
48 Hickling, G
49 Lockton, F
50 Kirk, Mrs
51 Gale, J., Generous Briton
52 Woodward, S
53 Watts, T
54 Ellis, J., Bootmaker
55 Pickard, J
56 Handley, J
57 Lockwood, J
58 Read, Mrs
59 Hawksworth,
60 Co-operative Stores
61 Gutteridge, J
62 Warren, T
63 Biddles, T
64 Broadhead, J
65 Barker, T
66 Barker, E. L., Builder
67 Start, Mrs
     Hickling’s Charity School
Fire Engine House
     Town Offices

During Victorian times, the area around Ashby Road was a select area where lots of the more well-to-do people lived, which is one reason why many of the houses along it are quite large and fancy.

Like a lot of similar towns, Loughborough grew rapidly during the Victorian era and the population grew from about 4,500 in 1800 to 21,500 in 1900. However, towards the latter end of the Victorian era when industrialisation had really set in, homes were needed for more ordinary folk and these grew up around Ashby Road – Oxford Street, Leopold Street, Paget Street, Station Street – producing almost a grid-like pattern.

Take a tour of modern-day Ashby Road with author and tour guide Lynne Dyer here.

Article submitted by Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers

A Loughborough boy’s experience of the Battle of the Somme

1 July 2021

July 1st 1916

Pte. W A Deakin* saw services in the trenches in France and Belgium and took part in the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916.  He wrote home to the Echo after the battle, which published his account. Here it is in full.

ONE of the Loughborough boys, Pte. W. A. Deakin, of the Royal Fusiliers, who took part in the great offensive movement on the 1st July, has written home his impressions of the day.

After referring to the few days prior to the attack, when they were held in readiness, he writes:

The guns continued their bombardment relentlessly. From the edge of the wood at the top of the hill, from behind the hedge bordering the road, from the rising ground beyond our vision, shells of every calibre tore through the air with a plaintive screech or a swishing sound like the roar of an express train.

At night-time the whole heavens were lit up by the brilliance of the flashes. From the guns near at hand there leapt a tongue of liquid light, so pure and brilliant that it dazzled the eyes. From further afield the flashes stabbed the sky as though the very hills were in eruption.

The noise and tumult in the little hollow where we lay, thrown back, as it were, by the higher ground and echoing among the woods, was indescribable.

A scene more fittingly representing hell on earth would be difficult to imagine. What must the Germans have suffered in their trenches, where all these shells were bursting? The days of waiting came at last to an end.

It was now Friday, and the rumour had gone round that we were to attack the following morning. Two hours after dark we filed round the outskirts of the village and wound slowly up the rising ground beyond.

Save for an occasional battery in the woods behind us, and the distant rumble of big guns on the left and right, the air seemed strangely _ quiet. The bombardment had slackened.

So unaccustomed had we become to the comparative quiet, that the effect was instantly soothing to the nerves.

The atmosphere was wonderfully clear, and the heavens, studded with innumerable stars, diffused a faint half-light, which threw the ruins of the village into dark relief against the sky.

As we gained the top of the ridge the sharp rat-tat of machine guns broke in upon us.

Away on our left shrapnel was bursting over the enemy’s lines, and an occasional high-explosive, over our own, while on the right over towards the river, the French ‘75’s’ suddenly opened out with a subdued and mighty rumble.

Star-lights sprang out at intervals over the ‘No Man’s Land,’ wavering unsteadily in the air, and casting their sickly light upon the white chalk outline of the trenches in a huge semi-circle around us.

It was with a feeling of relief that we entered the shelter of a communication trench, from which we finally emerged into the position we were to occupy in the front line.

Now it was that we were told of the postponement of the hour of attack until 7.30. It came as a surprise to us, and we queried the wisdom of such a measure, but, as events proved, the postponement was sound strategy.

It still wanted an hour or so to dawn, and aware that our next opportunity for rest might be far distant, we lay down in the bottom of the trench to get what sleep we could.

We awoke a couple of hours later to the knowledge that the air had become perceptibly colder, and with a firm resolve to do justice to the eggs and bacon (albeit, hard-boiled eggs and cold bacon), which we had brought with us.

By this time the bombardment was becoming more intense than ever all along the line. Shells followed one another through the air in shoals, and the earth shook with the vibration. Our new trench mortars were getting to work and making things hum.

Fritz, too, was very much alive, and the big stuff he threw amongst us often found its mark.

The Skylark’s Song

Among all this tumult and chaos it seemed strange that nature should still persist in having a say. For, as it were, in protest against the unearthly pandemonium which prevailed, a skylark suddenly rose from among the thistles and long grass between the lines and burst forth into joyous song as it soared aloft.

The sweetness of its song rose above the fury of the bombardment and took our thoughts from the present to the ‘past and from the past to what we hoped for in the future.

Strange what an influence a little incident such as this, so insignificant in itself, can have upon one when the senses are quickened and a crisis is at hand.

As the fateful hour drew nearer the heavy mist which had gathered since daybreak melted slowly away under the warm rays of the sun.

The rum ration had been served out, and with hearts beating somewhat faster than usual we waited for the signal to start.

Our platoon officer, dressed in private’s uniform, stood with one foot on the ladder. He was scrutinising the hands of his wrist-watch closely.

‘Five more minutes to go,’ he said, and the word was passed along.

‘Three more minutes to go,’ and then the mine went up.

It was our mine, and was the signal to start. It had been laid under the already existing crater of a former mine explosion – a crater held by the enemy and containing a machine gun.

The rumble of the explosion was indeed terrific. Huge masses of earth and chalk were cast like a fountain into the air. The sides of our trench collapsed, and some of us, crouching low for shelter, were partially buried by the fall.

The unfortunate Germans and their machine gun were heard of no more.

‘Over you go, my lads,’ cried our officer, and, leading the way himself, we followed him up the ladder with rifles ‘at the slope.’

It was a moment when there was little time to look around or think twice.

Once on the top we spread out into open formation. Shells were dropping all around, shrapnel was bursting overhead, and a couple of machine guns from the German fourth or fifth line were sweeping the ground in wide circles.

Thirty yards from the German front line we lay down in the grass, for our artillery curtain fire had not lifted.

An inch or so above our heads the bullets were whistling through the grass with an eerie ‘swish, swish,’ sound, which bade us keep low.

Then the barrage lifted to concentrate on the second line, and we went forward. As we had expected, the front line was unoccupied, and it was at the second line that we encountered our first Germans.

Threw Down Their Arms

They came running out of their dug-outs in a dazed condition, mostly without either arms or equipment, and waving their hands excitedly above their heads. We passed on and over, leaving these men to the care of those who followed us.

At the next lines and at a redoubt which lay in our path, we met with more resistance, but even this broke down as soon as we got to close quarters. The glint of steel as the sun shone on our bayonets wined to take all heart out of them, and they threw down their rifles, such as had them, and with hands in the air, shouted ‘Mercy, Kamerad’

Others, half crazy with fear and fright, began to strip, and with ludicrous gestures, held out to us their helmets, caps and even shirts.

If they were lucky they obtained mercy; if they were not, they didn’t. It was a case of touch and go, our safety or theirs, for to leave too many behind meant to get sniped in the back.

Such was the method of assault. Not the wild, hot-headed charge of former battles, but a deliberately-timed advance, with a dogged determination to push forward.

Our artillery worked splendidly, and lifted the barrage of curtain fire from trench to trench as we advanced.

The ground we had to cover resembled a ploughed field, rent and torn in an indescribable manner — a perfect honeycomb of shell holes.

The bombardment had done its work. The trenches lay so flattened out as to be almost unrecognisable, and the barbed wire entanglements lay in a broken mass half buried in the ground. Small wonder that the Germans appeared paralysed.

The attack, more-over, had taken them altogether by surprise. They had undoubtedly expected us at dawn, but when dawn came and no attack they had gone about their business, and were probably contemplating breakfast when our attack commenced.

The final bombardment was scarcely more severe than the others had been, and they had retired to their dug-outs till the air should clear again.

Here it was that our bombers took a heavy toll. Following up directly in the rear, the dug-out clearing parties discovered many a German just awakened from sleep and ‘whizz-bang,’ a bomb flew down the dug-out steps. Some had their boots off, and in one dug-out two men sat side-by-side, with folded arms in an attitude of deep sleep.

Most of the dug-outs had two entrances and were extraordinarily deep and strongly made. They had been a blessing during the bombardment, but proved a death-trap in a surprise attack.

Rifles, equipment and ammunition lay about in great profusion. There were stores of brown rye bread and a quantity of fatty foods, chocolate and cigars, but no meat.

Each valise pack contained a complete change of clean under-clothes, socks, candles and such-like things, and there appeared to be no lack of serviceable clothing. And then – helmets! Rows of them; all nicely polished, with the eagle still crying out defiance! These, sooner or later, found each a new owner.

The Cat-o’-Nine-Tails

In the officers’ dug-outs we discovered several ‘cat-o-nine-tail’ lashes made of strong leather thongs, and in one place was found evidence of the way in which they were used. This was on the bottom step of an officer’s dug-out, where lay a man — probably the officer’s servant – killed by a bomb wound in the head.  His shirt had been partially ripped from his back, and underneath were plainly visible the marks where the lash had cut and torn the skin.

Another tale is told of a machine-gunner, found chained, to his post, but I cannot verify this.  Sufficient is it that the prisoners gave no good account of their officers, and the impression gained is that the men obey when officers are present, but get out of hand as soon as their backs are turned.

All that night we ‘stood to’ in our last captured – and seventh – line of trench, hourly expecting the counter-attack which never came.

Fritz, however, thought better of it, and no doubt -spent his time in ‘strafing’ the British and manufacturing more hate.

Royal_Munster_Fusiliers_Battle_of_the_Somme (public domain Christopher Clark wikimedia commons)

Article submitted by Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers.

*W Arthur Deakin was the son of Joseph Deakin, the founder of The Loughborough Echo. Arthur survived WW1, returning to Loughborough and taking over as Managing Director of the company following Joseph’s death in 1929.

On this day in Loughborough … 1996

28 June 2021

On 28th June 1996, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Loughborough to open the new English and Drama building at Loughborough Grammar School.

At the request of Her Majesty, an anthem specially-written for the school’s quincentenary in 1995 by Sir Andrew Carter – was played for the Queen in the drama studio of the building, which was named ‘The Queen’s Building’ in her honour.

See a post about the visit here and here.

Memories of Charles Matthews, collector of local history

14 June 2021

Remember Loughborough Facebook Group member Dusty Miller knew Charles Matthews, who was a neighbour and friend of his father’s. Here, Dusty shares his memories of Charles and his passion for saving old photographs.

Charles was a close neighbour of ours, he lived on New Ashby Road, we lived behind him on Blackbrook Road.  My father – Peter Miller – was also into photography, but his main expertise was in processing film and printing from negatives. Almost all of the prints in Charles’s collection were processed by my father.

Charles spent many hours walking around Loughborough knocking on doors asking for old photographs or negatives.  Many were the old glass negatives which normal processors wouldn’t print.  Some were cracked and faded but father managed to get images from them.  Charles became quite friendly with Mrs De Lisle* so sourced several negatives from her.  

One example of Charles is, there is a photograph taken on Nottingham Road of a Victorian lady with a baby in a pram. Shortly after Father had printed this for Charles a film arrived for developing and printing. Father did the honours and amongst the photographs was a picture of a modern young mother standing with a baby in a pram on the same spot as the Victorian lady.  Charles went to look at the area of the original picture and asked a passing mother if he could take her photograph with the pram. After showing her the original she was only too happy to help.

Charles worked as a clerk for the railway based in a building on the line side between Loughborough Station and Meadow Lane. He later moved from New Ashby Road to Shepshed station house; we visited several times before their next move to Market Harborough.

My mother told me that Charles bought a large box of glass negatives when Hastings House closed for next to nothing.  This must have been in the 60’s before it became a community hospital.  No one wanted the negatives; had Charles not bought them they would have been dumped in a skip. It is so easy for important things like these to end up in landfill when their true historic value is missed.

It is great to finally see Charles contribution to the history of Loughborough archive recognised.  Most of the books of photographs of old Loughborough came from his collection.

Dusty Miller,
12 June 2021

The original posts from Dusty can be found on the Remember Loughborough Facebook page here.

*of Garendon Hall

Charles Matthews’ legacy to local history research

11 June 2021

The Founders and Notable Contributors to the Loughborough Library
Local History Collection

Mr. Charles Matthews, a local historian and amateur photographer, salvaged a number of glass plate negatives of Victorian scenes of Loughborough that otherwise would have been lost. These are still in existence and held in the Loughborough Library archives. Alongside many items from his own collection of photographs, the glass slides were exhibited in Loughborough Library in 1963. The exhibition was a great success. It was featured on television and thousands of people came to see it.

Mr. Matthews’ whole collection was eventually passed on to Loughborough Library and became the basis of what is now known as the Local Studies Collection, held in the Local and Family History Centre at Loughborough Library. The photographs were integrated into the 20th Century Photograph Collection and the books and papers are now available to all local historians and researchers.

There have been a number of other contributions to the Collection over the years, many by notable local historians such as Ian Keil, Brian Williams, Don Wix and George Green to name but a few. Other collections of information in many forms, have been donated by one-time employees of local companies such as Ladybird Books and Brush. Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers currently work with the Collection, constantly adding information, acquisitions and donations, in order to protect and enhance it for future generations.

If you have any documents, books, notes etc. that you feel would be a useful addition to this collection of Charnwood local history, please contact the Volunteers, in the first instance by emailing lllsv@gmx.co.uk. We shall reply as soon as possible given the limitations of the current Covid-19 situation.

Article submitted by Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers

Read a personal memory of Charles Matthews here.

Find an article showing photographs Mr Matthews took of the Loughborough Midland station in the 1950s here (published in The Loughborough Echo in October 2017).

Portrait of Charles Matthews in the Local History section of Loughborough Library, supplied by the Local History Volunteers.

Forest Line Exhibition at Loughborough Library

17 May 2021

Loughborough Library in Granby Street are celebrating the publication of a new edition of local historian Brian William’s book ‘The Forest Line’ with an exhibition about the former Charnwood Forest Railway in the local studies area.

The exhibition sees a welcome return to visitors to the Library, with the Local Studies Volunteers who put it together keen for as many people as possible to see it. It will be up until 27th June and visits can be pre-booked by ringing 0116 305 2420.

Copies of Brian’s book are available to buy at the exhibition, with funds from the sales supporting the research carried out by the local studies group.

Ralph Lemyngton’s Will

4 May 2021

The Will of Ralph Lemyngton a Rich Wool Merchant residing in Loughborough

Merchant of the Staple of Calais, dwelling in Loughborough
Abstract of Will dated 4th May 1521. English. Probate 1521

Soul to almighty God, our blessed Lady St Mary and all the holy company of heaven beseeching them all to pray for him that he may come to the everlasting bliss in heaven Amen
Burial: in the parish church of L
Mortuary: best beast
To high altar for tithes forgotten: 20s
For repair of the steeple: £40
For his burial and month’s mind: £100
For an obit for 60 years @ 10s p.a.: £30
For the purchase of land in mortmain producing 20 marks p.a. to maintain two priests: £320
To the Jesus Gild and Lady Gild: 40s each
To St Catherine’s Gild: 20s
To the Corpus Christi Gild and King’s Gild: 6s 8d each
To the Weavers’ Gild, [Carpenters’] Gild, Tailors’ Gild, Smiths’ Gild, and Cordwainers’ Gild: 3s 4d each
To his godchildren in L: £10
To his cousin, Thomas Marshall: a black gown and £5
To his godson, Ralph Marshall: 40s
To his cousin, Isabel Marshall: a black gown
To his cousin, Catherine Burton: 40s
To his maids in addition to their wages: 20s
To make his two apprentices free of the Staple: £7
To his servant, Thomas Chircheman: £5
To Garendon Abbey: £5
To Ulverscroft and Langley Priories: £4 each
To Gracedieu Priory: 53s 4d
To Ralph and Peter Shilton in addition to his father’s bequest: £80 each
To Alice Shilton: his house after his wife’s death and £120 due to her
To his wife: the house above for her life and 40 marks p.a.; 3 white goblets with a cover parcel gilt, 3 gilt goblets with a cover, 2 salts parcel gilt with a cover, a dozen silver spoons, 2 mazers with a ‘Nutte’ gilt with a cover
Trust: 800 marks to be deposited in a chest in the treasurer’s house in the parish church of L, with three locks (one key for the abbot of Garendon, one the priest, and one his exec)
To his cousin, Ralph Rollett: £50
To Ralph’s son, Ralph: £20
To his son, Affabell: 10 marks
To his daus (Elizabeth, Margaret, Margery, Jane and Ursula): 10 marks each
To his kinsman, John Rollet: £10
To his cousin, James Redmayne, and the wife of James, Alice: £5 and a black gown each
To his goddaughter, Anne Redmayne: £5
To Elizabeth Redmayne: £5
To his godson, Leonard Redmayne: £5
To Richard Richardes: 20s and a black gown
To Sir Thomas Crosbie: 40s and a black gown; 10 marks p.a. to celebrate for his soul, but after Sir Thomas 8 marks to the successor
To William Baker, haberdasher of London: 40s and a black gown
To his cousin, Alice, wife of William Baker: a black gown
To Richard Baker: 40s
To Alice Shilton: a black gown
He forgives Thomas Baker a debt of £10
He forgives Edmund Baker the debt that the testator paid for Edmund when he was imprisoned at Coventry
To Richard Barnarde: a black gown
Exec: his cousin, Ralph Rollet
Supervisor: Sir Thomas Crosbie, clerk
He refers to an earlier testament which specified the arrangements for his funeral
Residuary legatee: Ralph Rollet the elder
Sir Thomas Crosbie to be given £20 by the exec to distribute for his soul
Probate at Lambeth 24 July 1521

Taken from a collection of abstracts of wills from the 16th Century, part of the Loughborough Library Local Studies Collection held at Loughborough Library.

On this day in … 1873

17 April 2021

17th April 1873

Mr John Wyatts begs most respectfully to inform the inhabitants of Loughborough and it’s vicinity that he has recently purchased two SHILLIBEERS (horse drawn hearses with room for mourners).  NB coffins supplied on reasonable terms.

Snippets from the Loughborough Advertiser, Loughborough Herald and Loughborough Monitor.

Collated by Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers
Source: Matthew’s Local Newspaper Extracts Vol. 1

A horse-drawn hearse turning into Ashby Road from Regent Street in about 1905. Photo from ‘Bygone Loughborough in Photographs, Vol 2’ (Pub. Leics Libraries.)