The DEXTER family – Private DEXTER, George Harry (1887-1926)

Plumber’s labourer Robert Dexter (1851-1926) married Mary Anne Cartwright (c1846-1911), a framework knitter, in Leicester in 1871.  They had ten children:  Four boys Robert (1876-1933), John William (1881-1947), Frederick Henry (1882-1956), George Harry (1887-1926) and six girls Annie Louisa (1871-1915) Alice Dinah (1872-1945), Ada Kate (1875-1943) Mary Amelia (1878-1927), Florence (1884-) & Gertrude Ellen (1890-1953).  Between 1873 and 1887 the family lived at The Friars, 25 Ruding Street.  By February 1891 they had moved to 26 Sycamore Lane (which was afterwards slum cleared to make way for Great Central Street) and by 1894 to “The Old Town Hall” now known as Leicester Guildhall.  The family acted as caretakers for the building.

Old Town Hall and St Martins
The courtyard of The Old Town Hall (now Guildhall), with St Martin’s in view

During the 1870s Robert was a detective in the Leicester police force.  He was promoted to Inspector in 1881 and later to Detective Superintendent.  He retired from the force in April 1900.  In 1909 Mr and Mrs Dexter were members of the St Martin’s congregation (though they hadn’t been when the children were young) and their son Frederick Henry went on to conduct the bells during the 1920s.  Eight of the ten children were married at St Martin’s, between 1894 and 1920.

Youngest son George Harry Dexter was born in the parish of All Saints Leicester in 1887.  He was baptised privately at St Nicholas’s Church, where his siblings were also baptised, on 10th November 1887.  As a young man George served for four years in the Royal Horse Artillery but by 1911 worked as a gas fitter for the corporation in Leicester.  He was 5’8” tall and had fair hair. In 1911 his mother Mary died and he also married Eliza Burden (1884-1922) at Holy Cross (Roman Catholic) church on 24th December 1911.  George and Eliza moved in with Eliza’s parents at 40 Newtown Street.  George worked as a filler.

When war broke out George signed up with the Territorial Army at Leicester on 29th August 1914, but he but was discharged on 14th November to join the regulars.  He joined the Army Supply Corps attached to the North Midlands Supply Corps on 14th November 1914 in Luton, aged 27 years.  He was given the role of batman and cleaner to an officer.  George served at home until 25th February when he boarded the SS Queen Empress at Southampton, bound for Le Havre, presumably with his officer.  He served in France until 15th January 1916 when he returned to England due to a wounded face.  He was presumably able to meet his first child, daughter Eveline Mary (1916-1989) who was born on 7th August 1916.  By the end of November George had recovered and returned to France but almost exactly a year later, during the very last days of the war, George received a fractured leg.  He was sent by ambulance train to 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester (now the Fielding Johnson building, part of the University of Leicester) where he recovered.

5th Northern General Hospital
Patients relaxing by the fish pond at 5th Northern General Hospital

George returned to Eliza and to 40 Newtown Street.  In August 1920 he was awarded a pension due to bronchitis aggravated by service – 6s 10d weekly until March 1921.  On 16th August 1922 Eliza gave birth to their second daughter, Monica (1922-1984).  Sadly she died a month later, aged just 38, and was buried on 23rd September at Welford Road cemetery.  George also died while his children were young, on 26th April 1926.  He was buried alongside his wife.  Orphans Eveline and Monica went to live with their father’s sister Alice Dinah and her husband Ambrose Tomkins.

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