Monday 1 February 2021

A recap - the Characters and Locations that my series is based upon...


Who and what are 'The Borough Boys'?

Who is Samson Shepherd?

This is the commissioned artwork by Simon Marchini that forms part of the cover for my 'Borough Boys' series of novels. This is the man I wanted, just as I wanted him to look! Copyright Simon Marchini (c) 2013

Constable Samson Shepherd will become the central character of my present series of stories, and in my first novel he makes his initial impact on Policing in the Borough of Leicester.

Samson was brought up in Sutton Bonington, just over the Leicestershire border inside Nottinghamsire, where he lived with his parents and siblings.

His father, a heavy drinking and violent agricultural labourer, has caused Samson to learn to fight, and Samson has become a seasoned pugilist, primarily to protect himself, his mother and his siblings.

A keen artist and fisherman, he moved to Leicester, to join the Borough Police. This was as a result of the death in service of his uncle George, one of the original fifty constables in the Force, during Chartist riots in 1842.

Samson is tall, red headed (don't call him ginger), strongly built, with a sharp brain, and hard hands. A twice broken nose gives him a noticeable appearance, young and soft, but with something more hardened suggested.

Keen to learn, quick to observe, and with an impressive memory, he is destined to become one of Leicester Police's finest.

Teamed up with his mentor, John Beddows, a rugged copper, previously reduced in rank for a fondness of 'the drink', they are to make a formidable pairing. Beddows is a street hardened cop with loads of experience, and knows all the ropes.

They will learn from each other and grow into a notable crime fighting team!

Also, meet the real coppers of 1850's Leicester, Robert Charters, Francis 'Tanky' Smith, 'Black Tommy' Haynes and co, who add colour to my stories.

Who is John Beddows?

John Beddows is one of the original fifty officers employed by Leicester Borough Police in 1836.

Promoted to a Sergeant for his exemplary courage and knowledge, he was previously 'busted' to Constable second class due to his thirst for Ale, as was so common a curse in this period of Leicester's history.

Now a hard but fair detective sergeant  he is Sam Shepherd's mentor, and he takes Sam under his wing, demonstrating the skills Sam would need to not only thrive, but to survive, in a pretty lawless and violent emerging Industrial Town.

Stocky, craggy, battle-scarred and hard, he is a fearsome adversary, and backs down to nobody.

My real 'Crushers' - Francis 'Tanky' Smith, 'Black Tommy' Haynes & Robert Charters.

Not only was Tanky Smith Leicester's first private detective, he began his career as one of the first Police Detectives in The Borough of Leicester Police. 

He and his partner in crime, Thomas 'Black Tommy' Haynes feature in my series 'The Borough Boys'. 

It is thought by many that because of his mastery of disguise, to infiltrate Leicester's Victorian gangs, he was the basis for much of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

Tanky Smith ultimately left the Borough Force and became a Private Investigator, of note, but he will feature accurately in 'The Borough Boys' series until the timeline says otherwise!

'Black Tommy' (The name sounds really sinister, but there is nothing to substantiate anything sinister at all) will feature, likewise.

Robert Charters joined The Borough Force in January 1840, on recommendation from The Metropolitan police, and served as Head Constable (The Borough's equivalent of Chief Constable), until October 1871.

From Peelers to Pandas

Image copyright Ben Beazley
Much of my research would not have been possible without the help of a former colleague of mine, Ben Beazley, who sadly passed away recently.

Not only did Ben help with background information, but also with actually writing and publishing considerations.

Ben wrote a wonderful account of Leicester Borough Police, and its transition to Leicester City Police, and ultimately through its merger into Leicestershire Constabulary (what would be Leicestershire Police, as it is today).

My respect goes out to Ben for his endeavours, which have helped me tremendously, working out what these guys must have gone through, from the humble beginnings of 1836.

Ben's book can still be purchased via the link below. It is full of brilliant facts and information covering the whole timeline that 'The Borough Boys' will live through!

Sandacre Street - the communal water conduit ca1920

A site for great images of what Victorian Leicester really looked like...
'Leicester Past & Present'

Click here

Thanks to Terry at the website for allowing me to reproduce / share images from his site, including the gallery below.

The Rookeries

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Leicester, the area that I am going to portray in many these stories is now long buried under the fa├žade of a modern industrial City.

If you look at a modern street map or plan of Leicester, search for Abbey Street (See map above).

Abbey Street was in many respects, the centre of the Rookeries, and divided the Irish immigrants from the remainder of the area’s inhabitants.

Mansfield Street still exists, which runs between Churchgate and Abbey Street.

Part of Sandacre Street still exists, and that runs between Mansfield Street and what is now Gravel Street, and the location of the current St. Margaret’s Bus Station.

The original Sandacre Street dog-legged and was thus, longer than it is today, the road turning right towards Abbey Street, before meeting up again on the old Gravel Lane.

Cock Muck Hill would have stood underneath the Factory and Office blocks (Mansfield House) between Mansfield Street and Belgrave Gate, across to the end at Abbey Street. Baker Street ran parallel to Abbey Street and would have sat under what was the old Odeon Cinema site.

Bateman’s Row and Bateman’s Yard and ‘The Rats Castle’ would have stood near to the corner of what is now to the left of Sandacre Street at its junction with what is now Gravel Street, on the opposite side of Sandacre Street to the old bus depot.

Green Street and Lower Green Street, the heart of the Irish population, would have stood beneath what is now the multi-story car-park leading up to the old ‘Abbey Motor Hotel’, within the confines of Orchard Street and Garden Street, which still exist today.  About 900 Irish immigrants lived in this small area in 1851!

Sadly, none of the old housing that formed The Rookeries can be seen today. Ned Newitt, in his book ‘The Slums of Leicester’, paints probably the best picture of old Leicester, and has images of some of the slums that made up these streets.

It is important to remember that these were the smallest, cheapest, poorest houses that one could imagine. Often no more than two rooms, about 6’ to 10’ square, built around tiny yards, with their privies and dirt, full of all the least able in society.

To get to the yards, the alleyways formed a network or maze, running in and out and joining each other up as a dark and foreboding route in and out of the hovels. 

The airiness and space of modern Leicester hides its dark and dismal past.

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