Harry Charles Beeby (1854-1937) and Julia Watts (1859-1937) married at St Margaret’s church on 26th June 1880. They had four children: Ethel (1881-1958); Wortley (1882-1954); Nellie (1885-1966) and Charles Stuart (1889-1918). All were baptised at St Margaret’s which is not surprising as their home was overlooked by the church – Wortley on 27th August 1882 and Charles Stuart on 4th August 1889.
Between 1881 and 1894 the family lived at 25 St Margaret’s Street, a few doors along from Julia’s parents. Harry worked as a warehouse manager for shoe manufacturers Walker, Kempson & Stevens. By 1898 Harry had been promoted to Managing Director and the family moved firstly to Elm Leigh, Narborough Road and then to The Firs, 35 West Leigh Road.
Charles Stuart Beeby attended Hanley Castle Grammar School and from 1892 Wortley attended Wyggeston Hospital Boys’ School. Charles enjoyed playing cricket; Wortley enjoyed tennis and was a member of Higham Ferrers Tennis Club. As the children grew up the boys went into the shoe manufacturing business with their father at Walker, Kempson & Stevens, and the girls married eligible employees. They worshipped (and married) at St Martin’s. Harry Charles was a Freemason, belonging to Golden Fleece Provincial Grand Lodge Golden 2081.
In May 1915 Charles Stuart Beeby enlisted as a private in the Inns of Courts Officers’ Training Corps and after completing his initial training with the 3/4th Leicestershires in September 1915 he joined the 1/4th Battalion (Territorial) Leicestershire Regiment as second lieutenant. He began his overseas service in Marseilles on 14th January 1916, arriving with three other junior officers. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant twelve months later. He survived the taking of Gommecourt in February 1917, serving under Captain Nugee. There was some light relief in July 1917 when the battalion held athletic games at Orlencourt and on 19th December 1917 when the battalion football team won a football match against the “Springboks”, but conditions were otherwise as expected. Gas was used extensively against the battalion by the Germans in December 1917 – on 12th December mustard gas was deployed and the men required respirators for over two hours. Another British Division nearby deployed mustard gas against the Germans at 9pm on Christmas Eve. On 10th January 1918 the Sergeants of the battalion held their Christmas dinner followed by a “smoker”, which the officers (presumably including Charles) attended. 800 Francs were collected for St Dunstan’s Hostel.
More gas attacks came in April and May 1918, which the medical staff described as causing a serious influenzal malady resulting in a large number of men being hospitalised with high temperatures. The 26th May was relatively quiet. The battalion relived the 1/5 Leicestershires in the trenches at Gorre, completed at ten to midnight. At 12.15pm on the 27th May around fifteen 18” shells were fired by the Germans at Loisne and at 6.30pm German aircraft flew overhead but were held back. The night was spent in improving defences and wiring. By the end of this day Charles was pronounced missing presumed killed in action. Charles is remembered at Soissons, the memorial to 4000 men who fell during the battles of Marne and The Aisne who have no known grave. He is also commemorated on Hanley Grammar School memorial.
A notice was printed in the Leicester Mercury on 10th June 1918 which read “Mr and Mrs Beeby, of The Firs, Westleigh-road, have been officially informed that their youngest son, Lieut. C S Beeby, Leicestershire Regt., has been reported missing since May 27th 1918. He joined the LO Court OTC in May 1915, and has been in France since January, 1916.”
Probate was granted to his father; Charles left £1663 3s 6d.
Wortley Beeby was born on 27th June 1882. He was trained to follow in his father Harry’s footsteps as a senior figure in the boot and show industry. After school he was sent to board in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire 1900-1904, where he was clerk to a shoe manufacturer. He took City and Guilds qualifications in boot and shoe manufacture in 1902 and at some point after 1904 returned to Leicester to work as an assistant to his father. On 19th November 1912 he married Margaret Violet Staynes (1886-1961) at St Martin’s Church. A daughter, Doreen Margery (1915-1993) was born shortly before Wortley joined the 1/28th (known as the Artists Rifles) London Regiment as a private in September 1915. Six months later Wortley’s battalion entered France. He transferred to the Leicestershire Regiment and was commissioned second lieutenant in September 1917. He served for the remainder of the war with the 11th (Service) Battalion. Extracts from the diaries of this battalion show that Wortley was likely to have worked on constructing light railways in Dickesbusch and Ypres, which was dangerous work as the men were under constant attack from the Germans with shells and mustard gas, as well suffering the constant rain and inadequate shelter. Every day more men were killed, wounded or became sick.
After the war Wortley and Margaret returned to “The Shrubbery”, College Street, Higham Ferrers where they lived until 1951. They had a son, Michiel Owen (1919-2010). Wortley and Margaret were great golf lovers – Wortley taking after his father, who was also a keen golfer, and Margaret presented “The Beeby Cup” to Rushden Golf Club. After Wortley died on 4th March 1954 Margaret returned to Leicester and died in 1961 whilst living in Clarendon Park.
The rest of the Beeby family remained in Leicester after the war. Harry Charles stayed working for Walker, Kempson & Stevens until his retirement in 1936. These years cannot have been easy; the business went into voluntary liquidation in 1937. The factory was demolished to make way for The Athena cinema. Harry Charles and Julia died within a month of each other, at the end of 1937.