The story from the past.
Until the end of the 19th c. the land in Clarendon Park was part of Knighton village . There were a few houses around the intersection of Avenue Road and Queens Road, but Queens Road then became a footpath down to Knighton. The Cradock family were the biggest landholders in Knighton. In the past they had been influential in both business and politics in Leicester and Leicestershire, but as time went on they became more removed from their Knighton roots, and lived elsewhere.
In 1877 Edward Hartopp Cradock sold 120 acres of his estate (he held on to Knighton Hall and it was finally sold in 1931 by one of his descendents) to three Leicester businessmen,
Samuel Francis Stone (a solicitor), Charles Smith (a Manufacturer) and Alfred Donisthorpe (A spinner), who combined the land they bought from Cradock with another 15 acres they bought from another old Leicester family called Freer. ( It has long been thought that these three men formed a limited company, and indeed the Leicester corporation thought they were dealing with a single entity, but it become apparent on their deaths that their holdings were dealt with as personal property, and not a limited company. )
Their approach to estate development was different from the methods of Jelson or Wilson. They had a master plan of roads and house plots, but then sold the plots (individually or in groups) either to individual private buyers, to builders, architects or to Freehold Land Societies. Houses built in Clarendon Park in its early development are more diverse than those found on a more modern estate where the number of builders and building plans involved is much smaller.
Progress was slow on this large undertaking.
One report from 1880 indicated that only ‘a half-dozen houses’ had yet been built. The developers were building houses in the parish of Knighton which were clearly going to be lived in by people who worked and used Leicester facilities, and so there were constant negotiations with the Leicester Corporation over roads, kerbs, sewerage. Leicester Councillors claimed that residents from Clarendon Park Estate were ruining Victoria Park and proposed erecting an unclimbable fence to keep them out!
Along with the constant adverts for plots on Clarendon Park Estate for sale either by auction or private treaty, there was an annual advertisement for ‘grass-keeping’—which one assumes represents the acres of unsold ‘accommodation land’. Nineteen years after the first advert for plots on Clarendon Park Estate there were still 34 acres of grass-keeping being offered on an annual basis (i.e 25% of original estate).
In 1881 Stone, Smith and Donisthorpe mortgaged 54 acres of Clarendon Park Estate (including the present Queens Road Allotment site) to the Leicester Permanent Building Society , in order to raise £20,000. It is not clear why this mortgage was arranged, but one historian suggested that it may have been necessary to raise money for roads and sewerage to facilitate ongoing development. It may also explain why the allotment site remained unsold as building land while the mortgage was unredeemed.
We know that there were allotments on both east and west sides of Queen’s Road. Those on the west side are clearly marked on the 1885 ordnance Survey map. Timber was offered from trees standing on the eastern end of the Clarendon Park Estate, adjoining the allotments gardens in an advert from 1886. The Leicester Chronicle advert for the timber requested interested parties to ‘meet at the allotments on Queens Road’ . This reference to the allotments is the earliest we have so far, and predates other evidence by some 20 years.
After the deaths of two of the original three owners of the ‘Clarendon Park Estate’, the remaining portion was sold on to Thomas and Arthur Smith who formed Clarendon Park Limited.
No Clear evidence
We do not yet have any clear evidence as to why the allotments were included in the Clarendon Park Estate. One possibility is that one of the land developers shared what might be called a Victorian paternalistic view that working on the allotments was an improving activity , and therefore should be provided for by setting aside some land. We know, for example that S F Stone one of the original investors in the Clarendon Park Estate was the President of the Knighton Floral and Horticultural Society and gave the prize for the best kept garden allotment by a Knighton resident at the 1884 Knighton Show. Another possibility is that the market for building land became so weak, that the developers decided to cut their losses and sell off smaller plots for garden allotments. It is not clear when ‘Puffer’s Close was divided into garden allotments—they are indicated for the first time on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1903. The plots were offered for private sale by Clarendon Park Limited in 1926—however there is some evidence that the individual plots had existed prior to this time and may have been let out.
MC Aug 2013