Leonard Hunt Hargrave (1860-1938) and Jessie Mary Eugenie Bonner (1867-1945) were publicans and hotel keepers. They married in Paddington in 1889 and had four children, the first three born in Paddington and the youngest in Leicester: Leonard Oswald (1890-1976); Oswald John (1891-1969); Gordon George (1893-1974); Alan Evelyn (1908-1987).
In 1891 the Hargraves kept The Mitre, 13 Edgware Road, Paddington. Leonard was a licensed victualler. His mother Eliza Ann lived with them, as did Jessie’s sister Mary Elizabeth and two barmaids, a barman and two domestic servants. By 1893 they had moved to 26 Chippenham Road and by 1897 were settled at The Rose Hotel, Folkestone. In November 1897 moved to The Bell Family and Commercial Hotel at 26 Humberstone Gate, which Leonard purchased at auction in January 1897 for £16,000, taking out a £12,000 mortgage with the Stamford, Spalding and Boston Banking Co Ltd. It was a complex operation: In 1901 24 servants and other hotel workers looked after the Hargrave family, guests and boarders. Leonard Hunt was licensed victualler and Jessie was manageress. There were 37 bedrooms, a coffee room, commercial rooms, bars, two billiard rooms and a large banqueting room which was mostly used for auction sales and the meetings of the Chambers of Agriculture, Boards of Directors etc.
The Hargrave family were very keen on sports. Father Leonard played golf at Birstall and his sons all played cricket, hockey and football. As they grew up they took different career paths – Leonard trained as an accountant, Oswald as a machine repairer and Gordon as a razor maker. Leonard Hunt Hargrave occupied quite an important position in Leicester and was nominated for various roles such as Vestryman at St Margaret’s. However, in December 1914 Leonard was charged with allowing gambling to take place in the vaults of The Bell. Although he had a clean record of over 17 years at The Bell, Leonard was convicted and fined £5 and his barman £10 plus costs. The Barman – Clarke – seems to have been chiefly, if not wholly, responsible for the gambling but Leonard’s lack of supervision and position of responsibility meant that he had to be fined. This was a serious offence which would have affected Leonard’s reputation, so perhaps it is not a surprise that by 1918 he had left The Bell. Leonard and Jessie seem to have lived in various seaside towns including Skegness and Torquay before settling in St Leonard’s on Sea, where they both died. They were buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London along with their eldest son and his wife.
Oswald John Hargrave was born in Paddington on 20th September 1891. He attended Kempston School, a middle class boarding school in Bedfordshire between March 1905 and March 1907. He seems to have been captain of at least one school sports team. After leaving school he lived at home and worked as a machine repairer. He played Rugby Union for the Leicester Team between October and December 1913. Early in 1914 he went to the Malay States, presumably for work, arriving at Penang. Oswald’s father had given him a ring which he had found at Birstall Golf Course as a parting gift. Whilst in Penang Oswald encountered another Englishman who spotted the ring on his finger and claimed it as his own – he had accidentally put the ring into Leonard’s pocket in the changing room, thinking it was his own coat.
After war broke out Oswald returned to England was appointed temporary Second Lieutenant in the 4th Leicestershire Regiment alongside his brother Gordon from February 1915. He was promoted Lieutenant in the 2nd Garrison Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in July 1916. He then served with the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force) and was promoted to the position of Flying Officer in November 1917. A few weeks later on the 14th of December 1917 Oswald was invalided back to England, unfit for any duties for four weeks and only fit for light duties for another eight. In 1918 he was out of action for 4 weeks and on leave for a further three before returning to light flying duties in May. By February 1919 he was on the RAF “aeroplane officers” list and by December 1919 was on the RAF “unemployed” list.
In 1918 Oswald married Edith Annie Jobling (1889-1967) in Newcastle upon Tyne. Edith worked for herself as a milliner in Newcastle. She lived with her parents and sisters in a nine roomed house which they shared with five young male boarders. Edith and Oswald had no children together.
After 1919 Oswald returned to civilian life, working for the British United Shoe Machinery Co Ltd at Union Works in Belgrave Road. During the 1920s he and Edith lived in Northamptonshire. He remained an exceptionally keen sportsman, playing football, golf, cricket and squash.
In October 1938 Oswald was caught committing adultery with Mrs Doris Evelyn Watkins (1895-1971), wife of William John Watkins, at Tinkle Lane near Northampton. Both Edith and William used this as grounds to divorce their spouses in November 1939. Edith moved to Whiteley Bay and Oswald married Doris in Leicester in 1941. Doris had two children by William Watkins – Iris Brenda (1923-1996) and Betty Maureen (1927-1995), who lived with her and Oswald. Edith did not remarry.
Oswald and Doris lived at The Brown House, Brixworth from 1947 to 1955. Oswald worked as a director and often travelled abroad. He died at St Matthews Nursing Home in Northampton on 18th June 1969. Doris died two years later.
Gordon George Hargrave was born in 1893 and baptised at St Peter’s, Paddington on 17th April 1893. He followed brother Oswald by being part of Howard house at Kempston School, beginning in March 1907 just as Oswald was leaving and also being captain of a sports team. In 1911 Gordon worked as a razor maker, living at home. In December 1913 he played Hockey in the Leicester team against Nottingham at Aylestone. He also played football for Leicester. At some point Gordon lived in France and learned to speak French well.
He enlisted as a Private in the 4th Leicestershire Regiment on 10th August 1914 and was appointed temporary Second Lieutenant alongside his brother Oswald from 26th February 1915. An article appeared in the Leicester Chronicle on 27t February 1915:
LEICESTER FOOTBALLERS COMMISSIONED
Following upon the announcement that we were able to make a few days ago, that Gordon Salmon had been commissioned as second lieutenant in the army, we are now able to state that O J Hargrave and Gordon Hargrave, sons of Mr Hargrave of the Bell Hotel, have been offered and have accepted commissions of lieutanants in the army.
He served in France from July 1915 and was promoted to Lieutenant in the 9th Leicestershire Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps. He spent six months at Brooklands flying training centre and a further three at Hendon. In November 1917 he was promoted Lieutenant. He was admitted to Paris Stationery Hospital for a week in April 1919, perhaps suffering with influenza. He returned twice in July of that year. In October he transferred to the unemployed list.
In 1926 Gordon married Ailsa Mary R Craig (1901-1979) in London. They settled at Greenlands Farm in the village of Prestwood in Buckinghamshire, taking an active part in village life. Gordon entered prize vegetable competitions and acted in amateur productions in aid of the village hall – of which Gordon was treasurer of the management committee. He was also an extremely keen golfer. Gordon worked as an advertising consultant.
Gordon served his country again during the second world war. In June 1941 he was appointed Sqaudron Commander of Amersham and Chesham Squadon Air Training Corps. By 1946 Gordon was Flight Lieutenant.
Gordon died on 30th May 1974, still living at Greenlands Farm. Ailsa died in 1979.