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Page 4. The Family in Leicester

A place to start

Gallowtree Gate

Gallowtree Gate, Leicester by David Weston

This page has become the home of the Leicester Craxfords.

Newfloridian has to admit to a degree of self-indulgence again and has been wistfully recalling the days of his youth. Three linked articles were published on this page after a visit to Leicester back in 2005. These documented the old family home ("358 Fosse Road North"), the neighbourhood {"Growing up on Fosse Road North") and how the passing years had dealt with the streets of our childhood ("A walk down King Dick's Road - and Back Again"). With the ever increasing mountain of material available on the internet, and particularly the fascinating and remarkable historical finds made during the excavations in the city in 2012, it has been a pleasure to revisit and update these stories.

The latter two articles now include a brief account of the history of the West End of Leicester which was virtually undeveloped until 1860. Brenda and I both went to infant and junior schools in the area. I moved on to Alderman Newton's Boys and Brenda to the Collegiate Girls. Just across the road from our family home was St Paul's Church. In my early years I was a member of the choir (although the photograph below is slightly after my time) and junior altar server. I do recall duetting with fellow chorister, David Zanker, in a rendition of "Once In Royal David's City" at a Nativity Service when I was about 12 years old. I also attended the youth club which was held in the church hall over the road.

The choir 1966

St Paul's Church choir and servers, 1966 (1)

I should never cease to be surprised by the coincidences, interconnections and near misses that this study of family history continues to throw up. A seemingly casual remark in a conversation about an apparently totally unconnected issue will suddenly collapse the world into a microcosm of relationships. A friend of a friend from a different continent (friendships which span generations) suddenly becomes related to someone in the next street. On top of that we hear a hint that there might be an ancestral link to the Huguenots - a historical link to both our own Orange and Brown pages. Ruth tells the unfolding story in the next column.

Meet the editors

Brenda Eldridge

Brenda Eldridge Associate Editor

This website is developing almost exponentially in tandem with the underlying database that supports it. It is time to take a closer but hopefully dispassionate look at the origin of our particular branch of the family tree. Although we have pointed out the roots of the Craxford clan back in rural Northamptonshire, there are repeated liaisons and references over the last one hundred and fifty years to individuals and families living and working in the City of Leicester.

This is true of our side too - our parents lived there for most of their lives; Brenda and I grew up and went to school within its boundaries. We both left the city many years ago losing virtually all our links with the old place. A recent visit has shown us the extent to which time and the town planners have wrought changes upon the places we used to know.

Margaret Lodge

Margaret Lodge Associate Editor

George Craxford kept fond memories of his wartime experiences thoughout his life. He kept extensive diaries and many photographs which charted his progress after he was called up to the Royal Artillery in 1940, his involvement in the North African campaign and latterly as part of the occupation force in Italy. Called up on the same day was Lew Blackwell and our two families have remained long term if separated friends. George's diaries were donated to the Imperial War Museum after his death.

I am delighted to welcome Margaret, Lew's daughter, to these pages and thank her for her help in the preparation of these two articles which have been drawn from the diaries and from family memories.

Still searching for ...

As well as our regular surnames of interest list (Beadsworth, Binley, Claypole, Crane, Craxford, Jackson, Tansley and Tilley) we continue to look for information on the following for this section:

Burlton: Paternal grandmother's family arising from Hereford
Snow / Hems: Married names of George's cousins Iris and Joan
Knight: A historical link to Gretton

Do contact us with any news, photos or other documents that could be of interest.

Alan D. Craxford (Newfloridian) - Site Administrator

Continued in column 2...


(Added May 3rd 2016; updated May 16th 2016)

Against impossible odds (5000-1 at the start of the season), unfancied Leicester City have won the English Premier League title with two matches to play. What made the performance even more remarkable was that the winning margin over the side in second place (Arsenal) was 10 points. The trophy was lifted at the King Power stadium at the club's last home match and to cap his own managerial fairytale, manager Ranieri led his triumphant team out onto the pitch at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground in the final game of the season. As a lifelong nominal Leicester supporter (separated from the city by 40 years and 200 miles) and given the club's 130 year history this was an undreamed of achievement. This memory will long persist in the annals of football folklore. Congratulations!

Leicester City mug

(Added December 25th 2015)

What a tumultuous twelve months! Cast adrift and a banker for relegation at the end of 2014, the team made a dramatic and unexpected recovery in the second half of the season. Now, again against all prophecies of doom, the lads are sitting two points clear at the top of the Premier League and just two points away from manager Ranieri's safety net of 40 points for the season. Stay up there boys!!

Leicester City FC

(Added April 5th 2014; updated April 22nd 2014)

After ten years in the wilderness (including one season relegated to the third level of English football) Leicester City Football Club have gained promotion to the Premiership, and today they have gone on claim the Championship with two matches to spare. Congratulations to the manager, the players and owners. Here's hoping the team will stick together and make a 'go' of it next year

The Bacon effect strikes again! **

Ruth Bowes

Ruth Bowes

I am not completely sure how my interest in the family history started but I do know it was sometime in my late teens. Perhaps it was first sparked when I found out we had relatives in Australia (a great uncle had been sent to a penal colony!) or my mother returned from her third trip home to England with a large family tree for her maternal side of the family. Maybe it was my first name and the history it holds. Whatever the reason, my parents fostered this interest by giving me a paper-based ancestry kit to record and collect information. I wrote to my relatives who were overseas and received stories and photos from both sides. I filed all this information away along with the ancestry kit.

In the fall of 2010 I visited my mother who lives in Ottawa and found a box of letters and cards that she had saved since her childhood. I had never seen these items before. She still had the note my father wrote her when she was 16 asking for a secret date, as well as the letter he wrote her father asking for her hand in marriage. There were 21st birthday cards, wedding cards, Valentine cards from my father, letters written during the war and letters her six children wrote to her when she went to England for the first time in 1964 after emigrating to Canada in 1952. I had to do something with these. I scanned them and shared them and then during the next two years I put them and all her stories and photos into a self-published glossy book that I produced using "blurb" software. I presented my mother with the book at Christmas 2013 and needless to say she was thrilled. It is a 240 page tribute to her life. There are 688 photos, family trees, stories and it follows her life from her grandparents through to her grandchildren's marriages. I also presented her with a "roving" copy for family members to borrow and for us to keep at our family summer property.

It is this copy that was lent to Margaret Lodge. My mother met Margaret at St Mark's Anglican Church in the mid 80s. One of their first conversations revealed that they were both from Leicester. Of course they have been friends since then. At 91 my mother has become a grandmother for the sixth time. Her youngest son is a late bloomer. Tamar's god-parents are Margaret and Bruce Lodge. Recently at Tamar's first birthday, I was telling Margaret about the book I had produced for Mom and she asked to borrow the roving copy.

After reading it and loaning it to her mother, Margaret sent me an email with the following information: We now realise that my Mum's birthday is the same as your father's - a few years apart though. Mum is Aug 3, 1915 and that both he and my Dad (Lew Blackwell) were both in the 8th army at El Alamein and in the RA ... you know more than I do about details. Dad didn't talk about it but his friend George Craxford - another Leicester man - did ... and kept a diary too. His son has compiled a lot of info on their family web including info on my father in the stories "Comrades In Arms" and "El-Alamein". (There are links to these stories in the next column of this page)

Of course I went immediately to the website. I contacted the site owner, Alan Craxford with some information about my dad's service in Egypt as perhaps our parents' paths had crossed. Alan and I exchanged a few emails and I reviewed his site and found some Knights in his lineage. I cross referenced the names to my father's ancestors but found no matches (however I am sure at some point the lines cross!). It also transpired that our mothers both went to Alderman Newton's Girls School - albeit some years apart.

I did notice the name Anker and jokingly asked Alan if he had any Zankers (my mother's maiden name). His email back to me was a link on his site with a picture of David Zanker! Ask and ye shall receive!!

Alan then sent the following email to David Zanker: The daughter of one of my father's wartime and lifelong friends immigrated to Canada from Leicester about 30 years ago but kept in touch. Recent discussions with her close friend - also living in Canada showed that her family also came from Leicester - and that her maternal family name is Zanker. I've had a brief look at yours and her lineage and think you probably coincide in the Billesdon area (of Leicestershire) around 1880 which would make you about third cousins. She is keen to make contact with any relations in the UK.

David and I are now corresponding. In fact David told me he had been in touch with another woman some 30 years ago whose father was a Zanker. He didn't think her email would work anymore, and it didn't. But that is okay because I have it. She is my second cousin, the very cousin who sent the ancestry chart home with my mother in 1976!

Ruth Bowes, Rockwood, Ontario, Canada.
April 2014

Continued in column 3...

The Leicester Craxfords

"The majority of individuals with that surname who are not entitled to arms at all"

Africa Star: Father's diary "COMRADES IN ARMS"
"On July 29th 1940 troops from the Leicester area were gathering for the train to Derby "

George Craxford in Egypt: Access the war diary EL-ALAMEIN
"Apparently the 8th Army went into attack on Friday night and we are getting ready to move at any time."

George Craxford: Apprentice THE APPRENTICE
Alien to him were the concepts of computers, electronic calculators, spreadsheets and word processors.

Hilda Craxford as a baby: In Memoriam MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER
"The seat tipped up causing her to crash to the floor with her foot trapped in the seat ..."

Hilda Craxford as a child: A retrospective MAY YOU GAMBOL IN THE FIELDS OF PARADISE
We could all be part of an infinite loop forever playing the same role over and over from the beginning to the end of time.

358 Fosse Road North, Leicester: Part 1 of the trilogy 358 FOSSE ROAD NORTH LEICESTER
"They took to moving bags full of nutty slack in the bottom of the pram - with yours truly perched on the top..."

St Pauls Church, Leicester: Part 2 of the trilogy GROWING UP ON FOSSE ROAD NORTH
"If he doesn't pull his socks up he won't make second lieutenant in the St John's Ambulance"

Lane's black pudding: Part 3 of the trilogy A WALK DOWN KING RICHARD'S ROAD
"Even now I have no idea what 'quited' love was so I don't know how you would get requited, let alone find yourself in the opposite condition..."

To my surprise, the two daughters, still unmarried, were living in that same house in Flora Street in 1939 and they were still there in 1960!.

Other web sites of interest

My father had two prints by David Weston hanging in the hall of 358 and later when he moved to the North East of England - "Gallowtree Gate" which is reproduced on this page and "West Bridge" which illustrates the King Richard's Road article. Mr Weston was a local artist who has painted many scenes of old Leicester and is also renowned for his railway locomotive and transport studies. We do have several shared memories of which these pictures are so evocative. He too was a pupil at Alderman Newton's Boys School and was fascinated by the hive of activity that was the West Bridge. Although the trams were gone by that time, I used to stand on the corner of Silver Street opposite the Clock Tower and watch the illuminated BOVRIL sign while waiting for my bus home after a day selling sink units at the Co-op in High Street!

He was also author of a number of books on art subjects including "Letting Off Steam, The Railway Paintings of David Weston", "David Weston's England", "For The Love Of Steam" and "My Bit Of England". David Weston was awarded an honourary degree (Doctor of Letters) by the University of Leicester on July 9th 2009. It is with great sadness that we learned of his death after a long illness on May 11th 2011. A catalogue of his prints is available at Cranston Fine Arts

There is a wealth of information about Leicester today and its history on the Leicester City Council website


In January 1994, American actor Kevin Bacon made the comment in a newspaper interview that he had worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who had worked with them. The same year, a thread appeared on the internet which proclaimed "Kevin Bacon is the Center of the Universe". Since then, a parlour game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" has developed based on the "six degrees of separation" concept which states that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart (2) - Ed


1. St Pauls Church Choir and Servers 1966. Courtesy of Dave King, St Paul and St Augustine Worship Centre, Leicester
2. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopaedia

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Page added: September 5th 2007
Last updated: September 1st 2017

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