Back in the spring of 1891 a young couple were preparing to get married – Sheldon Alfred Martin, a Mechanic aged 19 and Elizabeth Holmes, a Factory Hand aged 20. Sheldon had previously been living at home with his parents Samuel and Elizabeth – the eldest of their nine children, at 17 Thornton Lane, Leicester at the time of the 1891 census, while Elizabeth had been living at 21 Royal Street East, Leicester with her parents George and Harriet. In contrast to Sheldon, Elizabeth was not the eldest child, but the second youngest of 13 children.
Sheldon and Elizabeth married on 16th May 1891 at St. Margaret’s Church in Leicester. Their witnesses were Elizabeth’s sister Emily Holmes and a George Hawkins. By the time of their marriage Sheldon gave his address as 53 Abbey Street in Leicester. Both Sheldon and Elizabeth could sign the marriage register which showed they had both enjoyed some form of education. Later that year Elizabeth’s father George sadly died.
It would not be long before Sheldon and Elizabeth had their first child, Lily who was born in the last quarter of 1891, but sadly she did not live to see her first birthday, dying in Leicester in the third quarter of 1892. Sheldon and Elizabeth suffered another loss with their second child, Elizabeth Adelaide again not reaching her first birthday, having her birth registered in the first quarter of 1894 and her death registered in the third quarter of that year.
However, Sheldon and Elizabeth’s subsequent children all survived infancy as they went on to have eight more children; Sheldon Ernest born 1895, Samuel George born 1898, Winifred May born 1901, Frank James born 1905, George Lawrence born 1908, Elizabeth Harriet born 1910, Harry Holmes born 1912 and finally John Bennett born 1914.
Sheldon and Elizabeth mostly lived in Leicester, however presumably for work, they spent a brief stint in Ayr in Scotland over 300 miles from Leicester – as this was where their son Samuel was born at 1:15am on 20th June 1898 at 1 Kyle Street.
Sheldon’s occupation was a Factory Overlooker, he had gone from being a Shoe Clicker on the 1891 census, to a Mechanic on his marriage certificate to a Factory Overlooker in the space of eight years. A shoe clicker was someone who cut out the uppers for shoes out of leather, so this was quite a step up.
The family did not remain in Ayr for long as by the 1901 census they were back in Leicester again, this time living at 82 Argyle Street where Sheldon was now a Worsted Spinning Overlooker.
Young Samuel ended up in the local paper in 1907, an article in the Leicester Chronicle dated 19th October 1907 reads:
“Alleged theft from an errand boy
At the Leicester Borough Police Court, on Monday, Thos. Wm. Smith (39), gardener, Garton Place, Joseph Street, was charged with stealing, by means of a trick, on the 28th September, 4 and a half lbs of beef, valued at 3s 3 and a half d, the property of William Arthur Chapman.
Prosecutor, a butcher, of Welford Road, stated that he instructed a boy named Martin to go with a piece of beef for Mr. Matthews, 6 Napier Street, a customer of witness’s. When the boy came back, in consequence of a communication he made, witness informed the police.
Samuel George Martin, an errand boy, of Muriel Road, in the employ of the prosecutor, said he was told by his employer, on the 28th of September, to take some beef to Mr. Matthews. When near to Napier Street defendant came to him, asked him how long he had been in Chapman’s employ and where he was going to. Witness replied to Napier Street, and defendant then said “I’d better take the meat”, at the same time taking it, and giving the witness a penny.
On the 12th witness was in the same street delivering meat, when defendant again came to him and asked where he was going. Witness replied, “No. 11”, and the defendant said “That’s right, along there.” Witness knew it was quite near, and knocked at the door. When defendant turned round, he recognised him as the name who had a fortnight previously stolen his meat. Leaving his basket at the house, witness followed defendant to New Bridge Street when he turned round and saw witness. Defendant then turned down a side street, and started running. Witness told two men near, and one of them followed defendant.
Walter Sills, a fettler, of Kentish Street, stated he saw defendant with a small boy running after him. Martin said “Will you run after that man, as he has ‘nicked’ some meat.” Witness went after defendant, who proceeded along Grasmere Street, when witness saw a policeman, whom he told of the affair, and he stopped defendant.
Detective Sergeant Gotheridge state on Sunday morning, he accompanied Martin to the defendant’s address, where Smith denied all knowledge of the theft.
Ivy Matthews, a dressmaker, of 6 Napier Street, stated her parents on the day in question, ordered a quantity of meat from Mr. Chapman, which was to be delivered. In consequence of not receiving the meat, Mr. Chapman was communicated with.
Defendant pleaded not guilty, and said that when the boy, accompanied by the policeman, came to his house Martin said, “That man looks like the man who stole the meat.” The policeman said, “Be sure.” and Martin then said “Well, I think he looks like him.”
The bench committed defendant for trial at the next Quarter Sessions.”
I do not know if Thomas Smith was found guilty, I’ve not yet found a subsequent report.
By 1911 the family were living at 15 Dannett Street in Leicester where Sheldon was now a Drawing Overlooker and his eldest son Sheldon Ernest was an Assistant Drawing Overlooker – presumably at the same spinning factory. None of the other children had occupations listed so they were likely still at school and perhaps having part time jobs like Samuel did as an errand boy.
Fast forward a mere three years and events were spiralling towards what would become known as The Great War or World War One. Samuel decided that on 25th March 1914 at the age of 17 years and nine months that he would join up to the army – some months before war was actually declared. From his WWI service record I could see that he didn’t end up in the worsted factory with his father and older brother, but instead was working as a fishmonger for a Mr Warner of Formby Street, Leicester. He joined the 2nd North Midland Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps.
Samuel’s war record is sparse – it seems his full service record does not survive but some records relating to his pension cover some information. It shows he was at home in England initially – presumably receiving training until the 1st Nov 1914, the following day he was in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and remained there until returning home on 16th January 1917. During that time he had been promoted from a Private to a Corporal on 10th Oct 1915. Two months after his return home he was discharged on 16th March 1917 under paragraph 392 (XVI) Kings Regulations for being no longer physically fit for war service, although his record doesn’t state why, however his pension card on Fold3 states it was due to Phthisis – another name for Tuberculosis. Samuel was awarded the British War medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914 Star medal – with clasps.
Samuel likely then returned home to his family who were still living at 15 Dannett Street, to rest and recover, one can only imagine what Samuel would have seen and experienced serving in the RAMC and was likely quite in the thick of the action as part of the expeditionary forces. The Martin family were fairly lucky in that only two of their sons were old enough to be involved in WWI and both returned home. Samuel’s elder brother Sheldon also served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Royal Army Service Corps. His service record does not seem to have survived but his pension card on Fold3 denotes he was discharged from the RASC on 30th April 1919 with his reason for his disability pension being for contracting Malaria. During the war Samuel’s maternal grandmother Harriet Holmes (nee Caulton) died in 1916, having been a widow since George’s death in 1891.
War ended on 11th September 1918 and within a year Samuel would be married. It is not known when or where they met, but a wedding date was set for 6th July 1919 between Samuel and a young woman named Lizzie Milnthorpe.
Lizzie was born on 20th October 1897 in Leicester, the daughter of Thomas Henry Milnthorpe and Hannah Elizabeth Greatorex. At the time of her baptism in 1899 the family were living at 20 Warwick Street, Leicester but by the 1901 census they were living at 3 Coventry Street, Leicester where they remained for many years as it was this address that both Lizzie and Samuel gave as their residence when filling out the marriage register. However, for some reason their wedding was postponed and moved to be held on 20th July instead. The register page has “cancelled” written across it, with no other information provided. Thankfully the postponement was only a matter of weeks and before long they were able to have their wedding day.
By the time of their marriage, Samuel’s occupation was now a Hatter’s Manager. His father Sheldon was still alive and was described as being a Caretaker. Lizzie’s father Thomas was a Builder. Their witnesses were Lizzie’s brother and sister Frank and Florence Milnthorpe.
A couple of years into their marriage, Samuel and Lizzie welcomed their first child into the world, George Glanville Martin born in 1921, followed a couple of years later by their second and last child, Betty Florence Martin born in 1923. The year after Betty’s birth, Samuel’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Martin who he was named after, passed away.
At some point after Betty’s birth the family spent a brief period in Barnsley, Yorkshire at 18 May Day Green, where Samuel continued to work as a Hatter’s Manager. I found them there in 1926 after locating a very sad record – George’s death certificate.
George – known as Glan going by a note in a family photo album maintained by his sister Betty, suffered from Tuberculosis which affected him in several ways. He had “caries of the spine” which is essentially when pulmonary tuberculosis spreads outside of the lungs and starts to affect the vertebrae – also called Pott disease. It causes spondylosis (curvature) of the spine. He also suffered from tubercular enteritis – where it had spread into his bowel. Poor George would have been an incredibly poorly boy. His death certificate states he had pulmonary tuberculosis for 2 years and caries of the spine for 16 months. He died at Royal Hospital Sheffield aged just five. We have just one photograph of him, and he looks like such a sweet boy, and to know that when that photograph was taken he would have been ill then, is quite heartbreaking.
Samuel, Lizzie and Betty all returned to Leicester at some point following George’s death, it may be that there had been a specialist tuberculosis hospital in the Barnsley/Sheffield area which prompted them to be there for treatment for George and after his untimely death they returned to Leicester. In 1929 Samuel’s paternal grandmother Elizabeth Martin (nee Lawrence) died.
Samuel’s family also suffered further with the loss of his brother Frank in 1933 when he was just 28 years old. He had only been married for about 5 years leaving a young widow Lilian. Then just two years after that, Samuel’s father Sheldon died aged 62.
The next time I found record of the family was on the 1939 Register – following the outbreak of war in 1939 a register was compiled by the Registrar General of everybody living in the UK for the purpose of issuing identity cards, ration books and call-up papers. Samuel, Lizzie and Betty were living at 50 Lyme Road, Leicester. Samuel was a Cleaner at an Electric Showroom but was also an ARP Depot Superintendent, Lizzie’s occupation was given as “unpaid domestic duties” as was the case for most women. Betty’s entry is closed – so in order to open it I will need to submit a copy of her death certificate, but she would have been around 16 years old and she may or may not have had a job.
Samuel’s role as an ARP Depot Superintendent would have been a position of responsibility, but it wasn’t quite enough for Samuel who went on to sign up to be in the Royal Air Force on 11th January 1941 aged 42.
His record shows that at the time of joining he was six foot two and a half inches tall – he had grown a bit since he joined the army back in 1914 when he was five foot nine! It described Samuel as having brown hair, hazel eyes and a dark complexion, with a scar on the back of his left hand. It also told me that he had joined back up to the army again before the war, having served as a Sergeant in the 4th Leicester Regiment between 1934 and 1939 and that before that he had been a shop manager at G.C. Dean in Leicester. There is also a note relating to College of Art, King Richards Road, Leicester, so it seems that he attended that college at some point in his life.
We have a photograph of Samuel as part of an Officer’s Training School in May 1942, his record reflects he was discharged on 19th May 1942 for an appointment to a temporary commission – presumably then transferred as he became a Flight Lieutenant from having been a Corporal.
His record seems to show that after his time at the officer school in June 1942 he then performed police duties in Burnham with the equivalent rank of a flying officer. In October 1943 he was discharged due to the same reason which had caused his discharge in WWI – Tuberculosis. He was allowed to retain the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He returned back home to 50 Lyme Road back with Lizzie and Betty.
Betty went on to get married the following year to Cornelius Pierce Darby – known as Pierce, they were my husband’s paternal grandparents.
Samuel would live for only a few more years following his daughter’s marriage, getting to meet his first grandchild but not getting to meet his second. Samuel died on 16th December 1947 at home on Lyme Road of Phthisis – which seems to have been an issue he had struggled with for at least 30 years. His occupation at the time of his death was “Formerly Assistant Fuel Overseer – City of Leicester.” He was just 49 years old.
His death was also commemorated on the WWII Roll of Honour. He was outlived by his mother Elizabeth Martin (nee Holmes) who died in 1952 and his widow Lizzie never remarried, she lived with Betty and Pierce – and she died in 1987 aged 90.
Samuel lived an interesting life, with a keen sense of doing his duty it seemed with his two periods of army service, the first during WWI, the second in the run up to WWII, being an ARP Depot Superintendent and then joining the RAF during WWII. The grandson he never got to meet went on to join the army too, spending time in Northern Ireland before his injury related discharge, not to mention that his own daughter Betty was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during WWII. Samuel also enjoyed a varied career, from errand boy, fishmonger, hatter’s manager, electric showroom cleaner to assistant fuel overseer. He seemed like he was a kind man – the photographs we have of him do seem to show someone who had quite a genial disposition. He suffered his fair share of loss, losing a young son and his brother and father all within 10 years and he too losing his life at too young an age, but hopefully he had a good life too, with plenty of happiness to balance out the loss.
Samuel George Martin 1898 – 1947