Edward Littleboy had been living in the Ber Street area (OS Map below and working as a railway porter, happily situated within walking distance of the two existing stations – Thorpe Station (later rebuilt as Norwich Station, the only train station to serve the city today) and Victoria station located on the corner of Queens Road and St Stephens Road, unsurprisingly next to Victoria Street. Also on Ber Street stands St John de Sepulchure: A beautiful 15th century, flint and stone church; here, Edward Littleboy and Harriet Scranchart wed in the summer of 1882.
Having gained 4 years experience working for Great Eastern Railway at Thorpe Station, the opening of M&GN stations - City, Hellesdon and Drayton - in 1883 offered new job opportunities in a better part of town. So, by August following their union, the couple were living and working in Drayton, celebrating the birth of their first son, Edward Jnr. Like many of us when starting a family, they may have yearned for fresh air and open spaces which central Norwich couldn't offer them.
The slums around Ber Street were some of the worst in the city. In 1801 Norwich had a population of 37,000, this exploded to 112,000 over the course of the 19th century. New terraces and cul de sacs went up in the Ber Street area, but failed to meet demand of the growing population. Dwellings were hastily erected in yards, often behind pubs, which is where we find Greyhound Yard. A small alleyway takes you behind The Greyhound Pub 102 – 104 Ber street, to a yard of slum housing. This was the home of Edward's brother William and his wife Sarah, who witnessed their marriage on the certificate above.
On the east side of Ber St - the entrance to Greyhound Yard, the home of William & Sarah Littleboy.
Opposite Greyhound Opening, on the West side, stood the Bulls Head pub with yard dwellings to the rear, showing typical conditions of Ber Street Yards, the sort of home the newlyweds would have lived in.
These courtyards were dark, crowded and foul smelling - outdoor toilets were shared between households and had no sewerage, this was a grim existance. The newly opened M&GN train line from Norwich City Station offered Edward respectable work in a booming industry and the chance to move out of the slums to the countryside – who wouldn't?! Greyhound Yard was demolished as part of the slum clearance works of the 1920s & 30s.
Now living at 32 High Rd Drayton, (also called "Upper Rd" which we can assume is the modern day Drayton High Road) they welcome babies Robert (1884) and then Charles (1887), although sadly Robert died soon after birth. Thanks to findmypast.com we can follow these intimate family moments closely, from the baptism records from St Margaret's Church in the heart of the village. By 1901 the family are living at 108 Fakenham Road, perhaps in a larger family house.
Since starting his career on the rails, Edward's pay would have steadily increased to reflect his age and experience. We get a snapshot of the pay of workers from Adrian Vaughan's book The Survey of Eastern & Midland Railway Staff 1893. [E&MR and GER were earlier elements of what officially became the M&GN in 1883, although multiple name changes were widely rejected by staff of all levels].
William Needs. Porter 16s/pw. Goods porter at Fakenham then at Yarmouth.
Indifferent. No ambition really.
Henry Charles Utteridge. Porter 15s/pw
Knows nothing of parcels, passengers accounts or anything.
Edward appears to be senior to these men in experience and attitude, reflected in his pay.
Edward Littlebury [Incorrectly entered into the record]
Goods porter 20s/pw. No rise [should be due for one]
Joined E&MR 6/9/83. 46 on 12/4/93. 5ft 8in. Married, 2 children.
18 years Goods Porter at G.E.Rly. Thorpe 4 years.
Stout and strong. Right stamp of a man for goods porter. Old soldier style. Plenty of confidence.
Heavy work in Drayton Goods. Paper mill sends paper for 'The Times'.
Edward's income would most likely have enabled them to move from a starter home to a larger family sized property in the village. Edward, "after leaving work... he called at the Red Lion for half a pint".
Here, in February 1903 Edward became involved in a disagreement with Curley Bennett over the sale of a dog. Bennett was in the pub offering a dog for sale at 10s. He was accompanied by Maud Huffey, a travelling saleswoman (the newspaper describes her, using rather loaded language, as a Hawker!) – who was travelling from Reepham Market, taking her onward journey with Curley. The EDP newspaper 31/10/1903: 'there were some words about a dog, and later on, the disturbance was renewed on the road'. Edward offered , and had had accepted, 2s for the dog, '...and was leading it when the prisoner [Maud Huffey] and Bennett asked him to get into their trap and drive up the hill. He refused remarking he felt safer on his feet, but when reached his house Curley cut the string by which he was leading the dog and called it away. The couple then set on witness [Edward] and he was knocked down and he subsequently learned that his clothing had been cut. Bennett jumped into his trap and drove off, witness chased him for three quarters of a mile to recover the dog.'
Having heard the commotion, Harriet went outside to help Edward. Edward Junior (now aged 20) hears his mother call out "I am struck", attacked by Maud Huffey with, the Norwich Mercury later enlightens us, a small shoemakers knife. 'She lost a lot of blood, the bodice she was wearing at the time was saturated'. Dr Darell: "found on the back of her head, two inches above the neck, a clean cut wound of the scalp. The wound extended downwards by the side of the skull to a depth of three-quarters of an inch. There had been a certain amount of bleeding... she was in a weak and nervous condition." Huffey fled the scene and was found 'in the direction of the Asylum' [Hellesdon Hospital] with no weapon, but this is soon found on the road nearby.
EDP 16/2/1903 : Charles Bennett alias Curley of Sun Yard St Miles was summoned for using obscene language at Hellesdon on February 4th. He was also summoned for driving without a light on the same date. Police Constable Roythorne proved both cases and the defendent was fined £1 including costs or 15 days for the first offence, and 10s including costs or seven days for the second offence.
Huffey was charged on remand with unlawfully and maliciously wounding Harriet Littleboy at Drayton on February 4th, she was sentenced to 4 months hard labour. At trial, His Lordship said 'he had never known a case before in which a woman had used a knife; but womens' rights were so extended that he supposed it must be expected they would follow the example of others' - an interesting peice of social commentary. In the 25 years prior, social change meant that women had more rights than ever before. 1878 brought the separation order, meaning women had the right to leave a violent husband for the first time in history. The University of London awarded the first ever Degrees to women in the UK in 1880, and in 1882 a woman could own property in her own right, separately from her husband. In October 1903, the year of the attack on Harriet Littleboy, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union, campaigning for women's sufferage. The WSPU are famous for using civil disobedience, perhaps this is what the judge had in mind when he made his comments.
By the end of Edward's career he was living back in Norwich with his wife, the children now grown and flown the nest, at 65 Russell Street just a few minutes walk from City Station.
Today, this area of Norwich is unrecognisable from when Edward and Harriet lived there, sadly the Littleboy's residence hasn't survived. Having spent most of his career as a Porter ("railway porter" in the 1881 census, and "porter on line" a decade later and then "railway goods porter" in 1901). Edward was now working at City Station as a Carman - unloading and possibly delivering the goods which had travelled on the train line via a horse pulled dray.
Work on the line was dirty, noisy, phyisically demanding and potentially dangerous. In 1909, aged 63, Edward tells Harriet that "he had narrowly escaped two serious injuries in less than a fortnight." Sadly on 26th April that year, Edward suffered a fatal injury at work.
An excerpt from the Eastern Daily Press tells us Robert Ramsey, a checker - 'heard the deceased, whom he had last seen standing on his trolley, calling to his horse as if to try to stop it. The deceased set his foot from the dray on the shafts in order to pick up his reins. The horse, however, came round suddenly. Locking the wheels and then halted. The deceased being unable either to reach his reins or regain his place on the dray; threw himself forward to grasp the harness; and from this position, after the horse had run about forty yards he fell to the ground striking his head, and one of the wheels passing over his leg.'
Although Edward had 30 years experience working on railways and was 'well acustomed to his work' the horse he was using at the time of the accident had been in his charge only about three months and Robert Ramsey "could only suppose that the horse was frightened by some shunting operations". (Click here to listen). The horses were extremely strong and muscular, standing at around 17 hands (173cm) and potentially weighing 1000kg(!) with the weight of bridlewear, the dray itself and the in-situ cargo in addition.
Edward was admitted to hospital, 'semoconscious, he moved about a little but could not speak' and was unable to recognise his wife. He died in hospital from his injuries - 'fractured left side of the skull to the bottom of it and extensive lacerations to the brain'.