Herbert and Lionel were the only children of Harry Herbert (1851-1929) and Sarah Elliott (1854-1931) of 13 High Street. Harry was a watch maker and Sarah was a jeweller who had previously worked as a pupil teacher and a governess. They lived and worked in the High Street until sometime after 1901
when they moved premises to 116 Granby Street, remaining there for the rest of their lives. Harry’s sister Fanny lived at 13 High Street too, and gave dance classes for children. Harry was one of the first shopkeepers in Leicester to use electric lighting in the shop frontage, displaying rings, bracelets and plate to advantage.
Harry and Sarah were members of St Martin’s congregation. Harry was a sidesman from 1909 until shortly before he died and Sarah contributed regularly to the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society. She helped with the St Martin’s stall at the Mayor’s Bazaar in 1917. There was a professional connection too – in April 1918, not long before the death of his son, Harry was paid £1 10s for repairs to the church clock, a half-price discount on his usual charge.
Younger son Lionel Sidney Burton– known as “Leo” – was born in 1889 and attended Wyggeston Boys School between 1902 and 1904. After school Leo worked as a highly promising ‘hosiery traveller’ – sales representative – for Messrs Farner and Co of Northampton Square from leaving school until war broke out. He was also a regular forward for three seasons in the Leicester Rugby Football Club “The Tigers” – he was the first member of the club to be killed in action. He was “a keen and fair player and his inherent gentility, both on and off the pitch, won him troops of friends.” The Illustrated Police News reported that he “had enjoyed the esteem alike of his colleagues and of opponents.”
Leo married Sarah Lilian Burchnall (1886-1970) in Norfolk two days before he left for the front on 1st November 1914. Sarah, who was an audio typist for a hosiery manufacturer, had lived in Aylestone Road with her parents before the war and must have travelled specially to Norfolk with Leo. They were married for only a few months when Lionel was killed at the second battle of Ypres. He had joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry “B” Squadron 1/1st at the beginning of the war and was serving in France by November 1914. He was killed on 13th May 1915 on the last day of the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, which included a gas attack by the Germans on 10th May. During this battle 94 officers and men of the Leicestershire Yeomanry were killed. The Leicester Chronicle reported on 22nd May that
“The Leicesters were bombarded for three hours in the trench and then attacked by the Germans in force. The enemy got into the trench and in the same party who were killed was Major Martin, Major Herbert, Lieut Brooks, Lieut Peake and Troopers Hickling and Adams. “Harry” was wounded and Sergt Burton killed. Sergt-Major Swain adds that it was a sad roll-call on Saturday.”
Sergeant Cookson wrote to Lionel’s father to break the news of his death and tried to give comfort in saying that death was instantaneous, whilst Leo had been doing his duty in the trenches. Sadly this may not have been true; it was frequent practice to spare relatives the awful truth of life and death at the front. A survivor said afterwards “We came out a broken regiment.”
Lionel is commemorated at Menin Gate and also at St Mary Magdalen, Shearsby, where his parents married in 1883. Harry Herbert installed electric lighting in memory of his son, also installing this memorial:
Sacred to the memory of Lionel Sidney Burton Troop Sergeant Leicestershire Yeomanry/ died for his country Menin Road Ypres 1915 aged 26/ beloved son of Harry Herbert and Sarah Burton, and loving husband of Lilian.
Sarah, known as “Lilian”, remarried in 1918 to Charles Hulls who had survived the war. She died in 1970.
Older brother Herbert Stewart Burton was born on 9th March 1885 in Leicester. He began life as an apprentice watch maker to his father and then assisted in his building and jewellery businesses. In June 1915 Herbert was granted a loan of £100 from Sir Thomas White’s and Parker and Heyrick’s Charity.
Despite his younger brother’s death, on St Valentine’s day, 1917 he joined the Royal Navy as a motor driver, beginning his service on shore bases at Wormwood Scrubs and the Crystal Palace. He was then sent to HMS Pembroke II, which was turned over to the RAF in April 1918. Herbert transferred to the RAF for a brief time between January and March 1918. He served on land for the duration of the war, demobilising in February 1919.
After the war Herbert returned to work for his father as a jeweller. He became a Freemason of The Granite Provincial Lodge 2028 by 1927. He married Marguerite French (1898- 1986) in 1928. Their son, John, was born in 1929 and baptised at St Martin’s on 15th January 1930. Geoffrey Stewart (1934-1960) was baptised on 20th August 1934. Herbert continued working for the family business for the rest of his working life but also had a side line as a farmer and grazier.
Herbert and Marguerite lived at 16 Lancaster Road in 1930-4, and thereafter at Grey Lodge, 717 Welford Road for the rest of their lives. Herbert died in Leicester on 8th February 1963 and was buried in Shearsby Churchyard on St Valentine’s day, next to his parents’ grave.