Frank Chester (1865-1921)

Frank was born in Loughborough in 1865 and didn’t immediately follow his father or brother directly into the joinery trade. At the age of 16[1], still living at home, he was working as civil service telegraph messenger. Hover, by January 1886, aged 20, he was working for the firm and working away, installing an ornate conservatory and lean-to vinery for Mr. Charles Sidney Howitt, of The Firs, Norton-by-Kempsey, Worcestershire. Over the period of the installation, which included heating to both vinery and conservatory, Frank Chester was one of about 18 of the firm’s employees who worked on-site; although not all at the same time[2].

In August 1888[3], he was in Shavington, near Crewe, installing a curvilinear peach house for Mr. A.P. Heywood Lonsdale at Shavington House. On finishing, he was dispatched to North Finchley, London, to install another elaborate conservatory; this time for Mr. G.W. Wright Ingle, who having just purchased Woodhouse[4] was in the process of extensively rebuilding the property.

Having just completing another installation in Oxford[5], he married Annie Maria Basford (c.1867-1938), daughter of Henry and Emily, at Holy Trinity Church, on 20th September 1890[6]. The following year[7] they were living at No. 23. School Street, Loughborough, with their 1-month-old son, Frank Archibald.

In October 1890, he was away working on the installation of a 22ft. long ¾-span vinery for Mrs. Carter of Ospringe House, London Road, Ospringe, Kent[8].

 

Section through vinery, Ospringe House, Kent

The family moved from School Street around 1892[9] and by 1898[10] were living at No. 17, Paget Street where they stayed until about 1913[11], when they moved to No. 10, Heathcote Street[12]. In 1892, they had a second child Emily Elizabeth.

 

No. 17, Paget Street, Loughborough

At the time of the 1911 census (2nd April), Frank Chester was working away with William Abel, another joiner[13]. They were working on a large installation for Mr. H.M. Hubbard, at Woodcot, Tower Hill, Dorking Surrey, including an 80ft. x 16ft. 9in. ¾ span-roof greenhouse, a 20ft. x 11ft. 9in. lean-to greenhouse, an 80ft. x 4ft. pit, all heated using a No. 47 Quorn Boiler. As was usual at the time, Frank Chester and William Abel lodged with a local family; in this case with Charles Sayers and his family at No. 8, Horsham Road, Dorking. Charles Sayers was a gardener, possibly gardener to Mr. Hubbard.

 

No. 10, Heathcoat Street, Loughborough

In early June 1921, aged 55, he was working on a job at Hever Castle, Kent for Major Astor and Lady Violet Astor, converting a second peach house into late vinery and rebuilding several sheds, etc.[14]

On 7th June, having had breakfast at his lodgings, he travelled up to London, on a hot day, to meet with George Gutteridge, the firm’s London Manager. He left the firm’s offices at around 12:45 to catch the train back to Hever, although it did not leave until 16:50. Having arrived back at Hever station, it appears that as he was walking up the hill to his lodgings he collapsed and died[15].

The firm immediately advanced his widow £15 and arranged for both her and her daughter to travel down from Loughborough, in a chauffeur driven car. On arrival, they spoke to P. Wightman, the firm’s on-site foreman, staying overnight at the Henry VIII Inn, adjacent to the Castle[16].

Due to the sudden nature of the death, an inquest was held on 10th June, returning a verdict of death from heart failure and exhaustion. It appears that Frank Chester had had nothing to eat since breakfast, which the doctor, Dr Newington of Edenbridge, thought contributed, along with the uphill walk[17].

The firm engaged a local undertaker to provide a polish elm coffin with brass furniture and take care of the body. As Mrs Chester requested that the funeral should take place in Loughborough, the firm arranged for the coffin to be conveyed home. It was originally thought that it would be returned by train, but in the event his widow and daughter accompanied the body back to Loughborough by road[18]. In his will dated 30th June 1913, when living at No. 10, Heathcote Street, he appointed his wife, Annie, as both sole executor and sole beneficiary, which included the house at No. 17, Paget Street. His estate was valued at £1,009 17s. 7d.

Frank Chester was held in high regard by the firm, particularly by George Gutteridge, who had considerable influence. In a letter, to Edwyn Burder, dated 11th June, he expressed his own views stating that “he was the man of all men I preferred to have on a job for which I was responsible…..[19].

The firm offered Mrs. Chester an ex gratia payment of £100, less £41 18s. 9d, expenses (£15 loan; £9 for the coffin; £16 for conveying coffin to Loughborough; £1 8s.9d., hotel bill whilst staying at the Henry VIII Inn). Through solicitors, Wilfred Moss of Wood Gate, Loughborough. Mrs. Chester applied to the firm for further compensation, which was rejected by the Directors. Interestingly, the balance of £58 1s. 3d., had to be signed by both his widow, Annie and daughter Cecelia. The family were also considering making a future separate claim for compensation under the Workman’s Compensation Act[20].

It appears that Annie Chester continued to reside in Heathcote Street until her death in 1938, aged 71.


References:

  1. 1881 Census Return.
  2. Privately held records.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Today (2017) Woodhouse is the home of a sixth form college
  5. Ashley Lodge, No. 3, Rawlinson Road, Oxford.
  6. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 27th September 1890.
  7. 1891 Census Return.
  8. Privately held records.
  9. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory for 1892 and 1894.
  10. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory for 1898.
  11. Leicestershire Record Office.
  12. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory for 1913.
  13. Privately held records.
  14. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/44.
  15. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/293.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.