William LEADBETTER (1828-1887)

The mound-unmarked and common graves.
Photo credit: Leslee Barron-digital artist

Life story retold by Jan Clark

William was born in 1828 and baptised in St Giles on 12 October. In 1841 he was living in Southampton Street with his father William who ran a grocer’s shop, his mother Martha and his brother and sister, Mary Ann, 20, Adelaide, 10, and Joseph, 7. Twenty years later at the time of the 1861 census, William, now 32, was still living at home, next door to the grocer’s shop. He was working as an architect and surveyor.

In 1863 he married Sarah Biddle at St Giles Church on 16 April.

A report in the Berkshire Chronicle on 17 April 1869, entitled ‘A pitiful Case’ described how William, a ‘respectably dressed man’, appeared in court, charged with creating a disturbance in Albion Place. It appears that he had been drinking following the death of his father in his presence the previous day. He had behaved violently towards his wife and young daughter, threatening them with a sword and turning them out of the house. He then went outside wearing only his trousers, assaulted a policeman and ‘made a great deal of noise’.

His wife said that he had been ill for some time and was in the care of a doctor, Mr Harrison, for rheumatic gout. His wife said he’d been ordered whisky for the complaint and on the day in question he had drunk about a pint.

He was charged with committing a breach of the peace.

By 1871 William, Sarah and their seven year old daughter Adelaide were living in Amity Road and William was described as a clerk.

In the ten years following there was a drastic change in William’s life. A report in the Berkshire Chronicle on 6 July 1878 reported that he had been charged with leaving the workhouse with the Union’s clothing on 29 June. He said he had had a day’s leave and had forgotten to go back in again. He was discharged promising to go back to the Union.

So, William was now an inmate at the workhouse.

In the 1881 census he is described as ‘architect’ and ‘imbecile’. This term was applied to anyone with a mental illness or indeed epilepsy. The cause of his illness is unknown.

There is no further trace of his wife in the census records but in that same year his daughter Adelaide married John Hockey in Islington on Boxing Day. She was now 19. Tellingly, the marriage record describes her father as ‘deceased’. In fact William died in 1887, and was given a pauper burial on 6 October. He was 55 years old.

Buried in Section 25, mound