John and Harry Cunningham

John Henry Frederick (1866-1961) and Harry Cunningham (1872-1960) were siblings, sons of Frederick and Mary. Both were born in Loughborough, as were their parents. In their early life, they lived with their parents at No. 2, Bedford Square in 1871 and just around the corner at No. 42, Wood Gate[1], by 1873.

Their father, Frederick, the son of John, a “spar ornament maker” and Ellen[2], was in 1861 a “letter carrier”, working for the post office and living in Mills Yard, which still runs between Devonshire Square and Wood Gate. In August 1880, he was accused of stealing from his employers and sent for trial. Firstly, he was brought before a special petty session held on Friday, 27th August in Loughborough[3]:

SERIOUS CHARGES AGAINST A LOUGHBOROUGH POSTMAN.

At special petty session Loughborough on Friday, before Mr. Hussey Packe, Frederick Cunningham, letter carrier, Loughborough, was charged with stealing 126 penny postage stamps property of the Postmaster-General, at Loughborough, on the 13th inst.; with stealing in or about the month of June, a letter containing a photograph handed to him to post, the Postmaster-General, at Loughborough; and also with embezzling at the same time £6., received by him on account of the public service. —Mr. Haxby, of Leicester, prosecuted. —William Edwin Howson said he was a clerk in the General Office. London, and attached to the Missing Letter Branch. In consequence of suspicions entertained, he was instructed by the Post Office authorities in London to test the honesty of the prisoner. On Thursday, the 12th inst., therefore, at Leicester, he made up a letter, and addressed the envelope to Mrs. Skipworth, 11, Bedford-place, Loughboro’, Moreton-in-Marsh. He enclosed a written letter in the envelope and 126 marked penny postage stamps. He securely fastened the envelope, and came to Loughborough; and about 3.15 he handed the letter in question to Mr. Astill, the postmaster, giving him certain instructions at the same time. On the following morning (the 13th inst.), he again came to Loughborough, and from information he received he went in search of the prisoner. About 11.30 a.m. he saw him standing outside the post Office door. He went to him, and said “is your name Cunningham?” Prisoner replied “Yes.” He then told him he was from the General Post Office; wished to speak to him; and requested him to go into the office. They went into the Postmaster’s private residence, which adjoined the Post Office, and Superintendent Peberdy followed immediately afterwards. He said to the prisoner “I’m from the Missing Letter Branch of the General Post Office; numerous complaints have been made of missing letters, all of which would have passed through your hands, either in stamping or delivering, and suspicion has fallen upon you in the matter.” Prisoner answered “I’ve not taken any letters.” He (witness) said a letter addressed to “Mrs. Skipworth, 11 Bedford-place, Longhborough. Morton-in-Marsh,” was sorted out to you this morning. which you did not give up or throw out; nor did you give it up after your delivery this morning,” Prisoner declared he didn’t see the letter. He asked him if he had any objection to being searched. Prisoner said he had not, and witness asked him if he had any postage stamps in his possession, but he made no reply. Supt. Peberdy searched the prisoner in his presence, and took from his right-hand side trouser pocket a folded-up piece of newspaper in which were the 126 stamps produced. He applied chemical test to them, and then said to the prisoner, “I can identify the whole of these as being those which I enclosed in the missing letter I’ve been asking you about, and it will be my duty to give you into custody for stealing the letter containing them, the property of Postmaster-General.” Prisoner replied, “I’m sorry; I never to a letter before.” He was then arrested. — David Astill postmaster, of Loughborough, said prisoner been employed there for nearly twenty years, performing the duties of letter carrier and stamp&. About a quarter-past three o’clock on the 13th inst. he received a letter from the last witness with certain instructions. He kept it until about half-past nine o’clock in the evening of the same day. At that time, all persons employed in the Post-office had ceased duty. He stamped the letter with the Loughborough mark, dated the 13th, leaving it in the office all night. Soon after five o’clock on morning of the 13th inst. he unlocked the office and re-took possession of the letter, and at about six o’clock placed it with the letters which were addressed to the town of Loughborough. Prisoner was there at the time, and the whole of the letters to sort for delivery by the other carriers and himself. As the letter in question was addressed to Longborongh, and not Loughborough. it would have been the prisoner’s duty to take it back to him. He did not, however, do so, but at seven o’clock left the office in the usual course of his delivery. He (witness) in his absence made a careful search, but could not find the letter addressed to Mrs. Shipworth. If the prisoner had taken it with him, he ought to have given it up on his return to Miss Hare, the assistant on duty. Prisoner returned from his delivery at 9.22, and the time was entered by Miss Hare. Subsequently he (witness) made second search for the letter. Prisoner brought one letter that he could not deliver. but that, he believed, was addressed to “Mr. Baxter, Baxter-gate.” He left his delivery pouch in the office, that being the only receptacle in which he was allowed to carry letter, but it was empty. In consequence of these circumstances, he made communication to Mr. Howson. Prisoner was afterwards taken into his private residence, and be saw the postage stamps found in his possession. — Prisoner denied that the letter he returned was directed to Mr. Baxter, Baxter-gate, and said it addressed Miss Clarke, of Leicester-road, but she was not at home. — Alice Amelia Hare, an assistant engaged at the Post Office, produced the letter carriers’ attendance book, in which the times of their departure and return were recorded. She was, she said, on duty on the 13th inst., and, on reference to the entries in the book, she found that prisoner was dispatched at seven o’clock, and returned at 9.22 a.m.; she made the entries in the book to that effect, and prisoner signed his initials. Any letters he had not delivered ho ought to have given up to her. He gave her one, remarking that it was to go out again in the afternoon. It was addressed “Mr. F. Baxter, 22, Baxter-gate, Loughborough.” — By prisoner: He signed his initials in the book to the time that he went out, but she added the time of his return when he came in. — Supt. Peberdy said about 11.30 a.m. in the morning of the 13th inst. he was on duty in Baxter-gate, when he was called into the Post Office by Mr. Howson. Prisoner was there at the time, and they all went into the private room. Mr. Howson told prisoner that a certain letter would have to pass through his hands that morning which had not been delivered; he also named the address which it bore, and asked him, as suspicions attached to him. if he objected to being searched. Prisoner replied “No”; but to a further question as to whether he had any postage stamps with him. he did not make an answer. He (witness) searched the prisoner, and in his right-hand trousers pocket he found the 126 postage stamps, wrapped in a piece of newspaper. Mr. Howson applied the chemical test to them, and afterwards told prisoner that he would be charged with stealing them. Prisoner began to cry, and said “I’ve never took a letter before”. He also found two other letters on prisoner, addressed Miss Ruth Hardy, Post Office, Melbourne, Australia; and another, stamped, addressed “Messrs. Jacobs and Kennard, Atlas House. Leicester.”

This concluded the first case, and in reply to the usual caution, said he had nothing to say. He was then formally committed for trial at the ensuing assizes.

His subsequent trial took place at the Leicestershire Winter Assizes, which was held in the Crown Court, Town Hall, Leicester on Monday, 1st November, 1880[4]:

COUNTY PRISONERS.
Crown Court, The Castle—Monday.

The Court opened at half-put ten There were fourteen prisoners for trial from Leicestershire. And a similar number from the county of Derby, the calendar for Rutland being empty. The following gentlemen were sworn on the

Grand Jury. — Sir A. Hazlerigg, Bart., Sir F. T. Fowke, Bart., Sir C. Ricketts, Bart., Hon. F. P.A. Hastings, H. L. P. Keck. R. de Capel Brooke, E. H. Cheney, F. Palmer, I. Harrison. T.C.D. Whitmore, H. Packe, G. T. Mowbray, W. U. Heygate. J. S. Crossland, W. Brookes, H. O. Woodcock. G. Shaw, A. W. Arkwright, H. E. Smith, G. W. L Johnson, C Smith, R.G. Pochin, T. Artur, and W.B. Paget, Esqs.

………………………………………

Robbing the post office at Loughborough

Fredk. Cunningham (41), postman, was charged with stealing a letter containing 126 penny postage stamps, value 10s. 6d, the property of the Postmaster-General, at Loughborough. on August 13th. and pleaded guilty. —He was charged with similar offences under tow other counts, and pleaded guilty to one, and not guilty to another. — Mr. Bullock, for the prosecution, withdrew the case in which prisoner pleaded not guilty. —Mr. Jacques appeared for the prisoner, and said there were one or two facts which he felt it his duty to lay before his Lordship, and which would lead to a mitigation of the punishment usually awarded for such offences as those to which his client had pleaded guilty. He understood that the prisoner had been in the service of the Post-office for twenty years, and for the greater portion of that time he had fulfilled his duties faithfully and satisfactorily. Three years ago, however, he became insane, and was removed to lunatic asylum, where he was confined for three months. Any errors which the prisoner had committed had occurred since that time. He was not in a position to set up a defence of insanity as against that particular offence, but the fact remained that the man had been insane, and confined to an asylum, and when he was apprehended he bit his tongue nearly through, and a surgical operation had to be performed while he was in custody. He thought that curious fact should be brought before his lordship’s attention. — Mr. Jacques then called Dr. Arthur Eddowes, of Loughborough, who said he believed he attended prisoner two or three years ago, when he had an epileptic fit, and bit his tongue nearly through , and he had to stitch it up. — Mr. Jacques: I understand that you attended him in August. —Witness: I don’t remember: may I ask the prisoner? (Laughter.) — His Lordship said it was a rather extraordinary that a medical man should say he attended a man three years ago, and could not remember whether he attended him a few months since. — Dr. Eddowes said he was a very busy man, and not taking notes for his cases was not able to give exact particulars. — Supt. Peberdy said prisoner was apprehended on August 13, and in custody at Loughborough for several days after. While in custody he bit his tongue through, and witness called Dr. Eddowes, and assisted him to stitch it up. — His Lordship[5] expressed his regret that a man who had been in the employ of the Post Office for twenty years should be guilty of that nature. A person in his position had great facilities for committing robberies, and detection was not easy. When cases were detected, it nearly always happened that the offenders had stolen letters before, and the sentence, therefore passed upon persons found guilty of the offence was very heavy. He accepted the statement of Mr. Jacques that the prisoner had been confined to an asylum, though the fact had not been proved; but he did not see in it any reason why there should be any mitigation of the punishment usually awarded in such cases, while the circumstances that he had an epileptic fit when apprehended might have been brought about by the knowledge that at length his misdeeds had been discovered. He would be sentenced to five years’ servitude.

 

Nos. 42A-D, Wood Gate, Loughborough

Whilst Frederick was serving his sentence, part of which was served at Pentonville Prison[6], London, Mary, with her 5 children were, in 1881[7], still living No. 42 Wood Gate[8]. Mary was working as a “seamer of cotton hosiery”; John, aged 15, as a time keeper at a cotton factory; three of other four children were all at school – Harry, 9, William, 8 and Louisa, 5; the youngest child was Flora, aged 1. Their eldest daughter, Clara, 22, had left home and was working, as one of four live-in domestic servants for William Woolley in Forest Road, Loughborough.

 

Nos. 42A-D, Wood Gate, Loughborough

After Frederick’s release, the family remained in Wood Gate until the late 1880s[9]. By 1891[10], with Frederick now a “house painter”, the family, including their two daughters, Louisa and Florence and two sons, Harry, now working for the firm as a clerk and William, a building merchant’s clerk, were living at No. 3, Charnwood Road; a substantial semi-detached brick built property in an ‘up-market’ part of town.

 

Nos. 1 (right) & 3 (left), Charnwood Road, Loughborough

The family remained there for a little under ten years and by 1901 they had all, with the exception Frederick, moved to No. 90, Derby Road, close to Leopold Street. Harry was now the nominated head and still working for the firm as an invoice clerk; his brother William, was a timber merchant’s clerk, possible at Griggs & Co.; Florence was working as a dressmaker.

 

No. 90, Derby Road, Loughborough

In 1906, Harry married Alice Hilda Froggatt, the daughter of James and Jane, was born in Hull in 1875. The family had moved to Loughborough prior to 1891[11] when they were living in Falcon Street, when Alice was working as a warehouse girl and her father as an engine fitter. By 1901[12] they had relocated to Ashby Road, when he was working as a millwright foreman.

Following their marriage Harry and Hilda Cunningham moved into No. 4, Curzon Street, where they remained until their respective deaths. Alice Hilda dying on 23rd December 1950 aged 74 and Harry on 9th April 1960 aged 88[13]. Harry left an estate valued at £4,706 3s. 9d. with Kenneth John Cunningham, an engineer’s buyer and Cyril Harry Cunningham, an engineer’s fitter as executors[14].

 

No. 4, Curzon Street, Loughborough

By 1901, when his parents were living in Charnwood Road, John Cunningham had already left home, having, in 1885, married Lara Elizabeth Parkinson, the daughter of John and Annie Parkinson. Lara was born in 1865 in Radford, Nottingham, although by the late 1860s her parents had moved to Loughborough and in 1881 were living in Cambridge Street when Lara was working as a hosiery machine stitcher.

 

No. 62, Toothill Road, Loughborough

In 1891, John was already employed by Messenger & Co., as an estimating clerk; a position he held well into the 1920s (see chapter one). John and Lara were living, with their five-year-old son, Harold, at No. 62, Toothill Road, Loughborough, a recently built substantial property standing on the corner of Rectory Place, just across the road from Lara’s parents in Cambridge Street. The family remained here for about 10 years[15], before moving to No. 75, Station Street; another deceptively large residence, standing on the corner of Station Street and Storer Road and significantly closer to the firm’s Cumberland Road works, than Toothill Drive. The house was built as part of a terraced row fronting Storer Road, although sitting slightly back from the pavement behind a small front garden protected by a small low brick wall; however, sitting on the corner of the two roads it has it’s ‘front entrance’ on the gable end side fronting directly onto Station Street. Indeed. The property is visibly narrower than the rest of the terrace because there is no front entrance and associated hallway. Even more intriguing is that numerically it is both No. 75 on Storer Road and Station Street, surely not an accident. It appears that the property was referred to in the local directories as being in Station Street upto around 1950[16], whence forth it has been referred to as being in Storer Road. Interestingly, in 1901 John Cunningham was initiated as a freemason, joining the Howe and Charnwood Lodge, No. 1007. His address is given as Storer Road rather than Station Street.

 

No. 75, Station Street, Loughborough

In 1901, the John and Lara were living there with Harold, their 15-year-old son, Elsie Dorothy, aged 9, Lilian Annie, 8 and Cecil Smedley, 1. The family were still there in 1911, when only two of the children were still at home; Else, 19, an infant teacher and Cecil, 11, at school. The couple had had seven children, although only three had survived to 1911; Nora died, aged 16 months on 26th November, 1895[17]; Lilian Annie had died in 1909, aged 16; Harold had married Florence G. Grudgings in 1912. Lara died in 1944, aged 79; John Cunningham who was still living at No. 75, Storer Road in 1951[18] died 0n 25th March 1961, aged 95, residing at No. 19, Springfield Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham[19]. He left effect valued at £4,809 19s. 2d., with his two sons, Harold, a retired schoolmaster, and Cecil, a cost accountant, as executors.

 

No. 75, Station Street, Loughborough

 

References:

  1. Gray’s Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory for 1873.
  2. 1851 Census Return.
  3. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury,28th August 1880.
  4. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury,6th November 1880.
  5. Lord Justice Baggallay.
  6. 1881 Census Return.
  7. Census Return.
  8. No 42 Wood Gate originally consisted of 5 terraced houses (42, a, b, c, d and e) in a row of at 11 or 12 houses (Nos 39-46). Nos 42a-d are still extant today (2017).
  9. Wills’ Loughborough Almanac & Street Directory for 1888.
  10. Census Return.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Loughborough Cemetery, Leicester Road.
  14. Probate Records.
  15. Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1900.
  16. In the 1951 Loughborough Street Directory, John H F Cunningham is reference as living at No. 75, Storer Road. There is no No. 75, Station Street.
  17. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 30th November 1895.
  18. 1951 Loughborough Street Directory.
  19. Probate Record.