History Monthly: Stone street names part 4

This month Philip Leason, chairman of Stone Historical Society, continues to look at Street names associated with people. Find out about President Kennedy’s visit to Stone (when he was a young Washington Post reporter), the filming of a silent movie in the town in 1916, the building of the market hall (now Stone library) and lots, lots more. Thanks Philip – fascinating as usual!

Billy Wells was the heavyweight champion of Britain when he starred as a boxer in a silent movie that was filmed in Stone in 1916. This still is from a later film starring Wells, The Ring from 1926. Photo credit: British Film Institute (click photo for more information)

A local historian in Stone was George Pearson (PEARSON DRIVE). He was a painter and decorator by trade but extremely interested in the history of Stone. He was always willing to help anyone with their researches and had an interesting collection of artefacts associated with the town. He wrote the book “Memories of Stone” in a conversational style reflecting his recollections of the town.

One of the most interesting of George’s recollections is the fact that a silent sports film was shot in Stone…

“In 1916 a film was made in and around Stone. The title was, ‘Kent – the fighting man,’ and the man who played the role of Kent was Billy Wells, who at the time was heavyweight boxing champion of Great Britain. When the film was being taken, Lichfield Road was closed to traffic. I stood with the crowd in St. Michael’s churchyard watching events over the wall. We saw Mr Kent (Billy Wells) stop a runaway horse which was running along the street pulling a gig. As part of the film there was a circus in the field next to the cricket ground. Another character in the story was a fat man who worked in the circus. This man was drinking in the old Black Horse (where Costa Coffee is today) when Mr. Kent walked in for a drink.

“The fat man made some insulting remark to Mr. Kent and an argument started which was building up to a fight. The landlord said he would have no trouble on his premises, so the circus bully sayi they would fight at the circus in a boxing ring. Crowds went to watch this fight and I went with a friend of mine, Fred Stockton. We stood at the front with our hands on the ropes. I think the fight went to three rounds before the bully was supposedly knocked out, and every one cheered when this happened. Later this film was shown in our Town Hall. The runaway horse ran like a racehorse, but the most exciting thing for me was to see Fred and I standing by the ropes of the ring watching the fight.”

I wonder how many people knew that Stone was the venue in an early silent film…

Anyway, let’s go back a few hundred years now. There’s a lot of detail before we get to the street name associated with this, but it’s a great story!

When Earl St. Vincent died, as he had no heirs the title of Earl died with him but his title of Viscount St. Vincent of Meaford passed to his nephew Edward Jervis Ricketts (his mother was the Earl’s sister Mary). The Earl had stipulated that whoever received the title must have the surname Jervis. So Edward changed his name by Royal Licence to Edward Jervis Jervis. His daughter was the Honourable Mary Anne Jervis (1812-1893) who was said to have an excellent singing voice and entertained the Duke of Wellington on several occasions. She married the Anglo-Indian Col. David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre on 26th September 1840.

He was the great grandson of a mercenary soldier Walter Reinhardt alias Sombre, whose second wife was the famous Begum Joanna Nobilis Sombre, popularly known as Begum Samru who made her grandson-in-law George Sombre, and then his son Dyce Sombre her heirs. She was an amazing character who started life as a dancer but eventually became the ruler of the small principality of Sardhana near Meerut (a Bollywood film has been made about her life). In January 1837 she became a devout Roman Catholic. On her death she left a vast fortune which David inherited. On 26th September 1840 David married Mary Anne Jervis.

Soon into the marriage it was obvious that David was irrationally jealous of his wife, accusing her of having several lovers and challenging them to duals. He bribed his way to being elected M.P. for Sudbury (the first Anglo-Indian to sit in Parliament) but the election was overturned and he was described as a “Chancery Lunatic” and committed to an asylum. It was also suggested that he had tried to kill his wife.

He eventually escaped from the asylum and went to France where he found doctors to confirm that he was sane and eventually returned to England to challenge the diagnosis. However a few days before his case was heard he died on 1st July 1851 of a septic foot and was buried quite quickly in a secure grave although it is also suggested that his body was returned to India and buried in Sardhana.

He had disinherited his wife from his will but she contested it on the grounds that he had been insane. She eventually won the case in about 1856 and became the richest women in England.

On 8th November 1862 Mary Anne married George Weld-Forster who was a Conservative politician. Although she had inherited a large amount her late husband’s estate had not been settled. Apparently the Indian Government had withheld property that should have been inherited by Begum Samru and in turn by her late husband. So she took on the Indian Government and won the case and used the money to extend Meaford Hall. A plaque in the grounds of the hall reads “The old part of this house was renovated and the new erected with money gained from the Government of India in 1872 (in a suit entitled the “Arms Suit”) unjustly withheld by them from the time of Her Highness The Begum Sombre’s death 27 January 1836. Dedicated in affectionate remembrance of this who have gone before by the Right Honourable Mary Anne Forster.”

In 1874 George Weld-Forester succeeded his brother and became 3rd Baron Forester and of course Mary Anne became Lady Forester. (FORESTER ROAD).

Lady Forster used her fortune to benefit the people of Stone and Meaford. She contributed to the new channel at St. Michael’s Church, towards the new Allyenes Grammar School etc. She also built a market hall in memory of her father which is today the library. (out interest note the name of Lady Forester’s father the 2nd Viscount St. Vincent. You will see his name on the plaque outside the library as Edward Jervis Jervis which as I explained earlier his original name was Edward Jervis Ricketts and he changed his surname to receive the title).

Lady Forester died on 7th March 1893 and is buried in the Jervis mausoleum at the rear of St. Michael and St. Wulfads Church. Although she did a lot to improve the town there is no monuments to her accept the street name. There is a portrait of her as a young lady of 18 in the collection at Shugborough and a portrait of David Dyce Sombre is in the reserve collection at the City Museum and Art Gallery in Hanley.

Continuing with the nobility and the Duke of Sutherland (SUTHERLAND ROAD) had a residence and estate at Trentham and was a major landowner in the area. Many of the traders in Stone where “purveyors” to the Duke and advertised this fact.

Moving on now to more ‘ordinary’ people who have contributed to the life of Stone and in whose honour streets have been named.

Dr. Edward Fernie (FERNIE CLOSE) was Medical Officer of Health for Stone who did much to improve the town’s sanitation and living conditions. He was Chairman of Stone Local Board 1876-81. On his death in 1907 a trust fund was established to “elevate and help those suffering from consumption in Stone.” There is a monument to him in Christ Church.

Sir Ernest Johnson (JOHNSON CLOSE) pottery manufacturer was born in 1881 and was educated at Rugby School. He married Anna Shepard Boote of East Orange, New Jersey whose ancestor was one of the original Pilgrim Fathers. They lived in the house Altona (ALTONA CLOSE) in Lichfield Road. He was Chairman of Stone Urban District Council 1925-1926, 1926-27, 1927-28 and on completion of his third term of office he presented the council with the gold chain and badge which are worn today by the Town Mayor.

Robert Featherstone Goodill (GOODHILL CLOSE) was a Councillor on Stone Urban District Council from 1925 for a number of years. He was the manager for the Pidduck’s, the jewellers in Hanley. He was involved in the design and manufacture of the gold chain given by Sir Ernest Johnson mentioned above. At the time Stone did not have its own crest and Mr Goodill worked with the designers at Pidduck’s to produce the crest (the original art work is in the Town Council office). He was also involved in the production of the Hales Trophy manufactured by Pidduck’s and which is the prize for Blue Riband Contest for the fastest crossing on the Atlantic by a passenger liner.

Mrs Constance Eveline Meakin (MEAKIN CLOSE and MEAKIN HOUSE) from Darlaston Hall was the wife of James Lionel Meakin. She was the first lady to serve of Stone Urban District Council in 1921 and from 1920 was the County Council for Stone for many years. On her election as County Alderman she presented a grandfather clock made by Hayes of Stone to County Buildings in Stafford where it still stands to the left of the grand staircase today.

Lawrence Mercer (MERCER AVENUE) was again a former Chairman of Stone Urban District Council and was actively involved in many of the town affairs. On his death his wife Trudi carried on his work and she too was a Chairman of the UDC and got involved with many aspect of the life of Stone includ8ing becoming President of Stone Division Girl Guides.

Norman Griffiths (GRIFFITHS WAY) was a builder and although he was only a Town Councillor for a short period before he sadly died he always took a keen interest in the town and whilst on the council he proposed that Stone should have its own bonfire festivities.

George Lane (GEORGE LANE) was Stone councillor and town mayor 1983-84 and by profession was the landlord of the “Three Crowns” at Little Stoke.

Mrs. Phylis Hawley (HAWLEY CLOSE) was the first lady Chairman of Stone Urban District Council in 1964.

Mr George Barklow Haddon (HADDON PLACE) was a tobacconist by trade, a councillor and Chairman of Stone Urban District Council from 1911-1913. He was also interested in the development of sport on the town particularly foot races and soccer. He also established the Stone Cinema in the old Town Hall (where Chantilly, and the Catherine House Shop are today).

Frank Jordan (JORDAN WAY) was an ambulance driver, councillor and former Chairman of Stone Urban District Council. He was also the first Town Mayor of Stone following local government reorganisation on 1974. He was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1953 and it is in his honour that the Frank Jordan Centre is also named.

Mr. John Moore (MOORE CLOSE) was a tailor by profession and although never a Councillor as far as I can discover, he was involved in the political life of Stone. In 1921 he started the Stone Rate Payers’ Association. He later became the Conservative agent for the town and as such was involved in election campaigns. Following the 2nd World War the “Washington Post” sent a young reporter to Stone to report on an English election campaign. The reporter worked very closely with Mr. Moore. Years later this reporter went on to follow his own political career in America – his name J. F. Kennedy (later President). Mr Moore was also involved in many of the exhibitions and events in Stone and he received the M.B.E. in recognition of his public works. On reaching his 100th birthday Mr. Moore received greetings from many of the leading members of the Conservative Party.

Stanley Goodall (GOODALL CLOSE) was a Councillor on both Stone Town Council and Stafford Borough Council. He was Town Mayor 1990-91. During his time on the Borough Council he got them to purchase two fields off Trent Road for a nature reserve. Following his death the Council unanimously decided to name them in his honour as the Stan Goodall Meadows.

William Bowers (BOWERS COURT) was an historian and collector. He had the foresight to record items relating to the history of the town (including its folklore) and his note books and collections are deposited in the William Salt Library and are a valuable source for researches today. He was also co-author of the book “Researches into the History of Stone” published in 1929.

I hope that you have enjoyed this further research into the origins of street names in Stone. Someone once said: “It is outstanding to receive a honour but the greatest honour is to have a street named after you in the Stone where you have lived and served.”

I am sure that this is true for many of the people listed here.

Nest month we will conclude by looking at names associated with industry and the canal.

Philip Leason

The Stone Historical and Civic Society meets on the third Wednesday of each month from September to June in St Michael’s Hall, Lichfield Street, at 7.30pm. For further information contact Philip by emailing p.leason@btinternet.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles