87 to 97 Woodside Road
87 to 97 Woodside Road March 2012
87 to 97 Woodside Road, also known as Flint Cottages from their external appearance, make an attractive row. They are 19th century in date and originally each dwelling comprised two rooms upstairs and two downstairs.
One of the houses saw a terrible event. The Luton News of 10th December 1896 reported "ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AT WOODSIDE" as follows: "The inhabitants of Woodside and Slip End were horrified on Thursday last by the news, which spread quickly, of the shocking attempt by one of their neighbours on his own life. Unfortunately, the report was only too true, and since then the man has been, and is at the present time, in a most critical condition. His name is William Fensome, a man well advanced in life, having reached the age of 63 years. For thirty years he has been employed as a labourer on the same farm and consequently is very widely known in the district. The father of a large family, he has lived respectably and quietly at Woodside and the probability of him making an attack upon his own life was never dreamt of. But of late he had been worried about pains in his head. He appeared to suffer a great deal, and his actions were at times a trifle strange, though his nearest friends had not the least suspicion that he was likely to harm himself. Until very recently he lived in the Bedfordshire portion of Woodside, when he removed to Lower Woodside, occupying with his wife and one son and two daughters (the others of the family having married) on of the Flint Cottages, opposite the Harrow. About the same time he left the employment of Mr. T. Brigg at Woodside Farm, where he had laboured for so long, and went to work for Mr. David Clark. However, after about a month's change he returned to his former employer, but after one day's work he was obliged to take a rest, the pains in his head necessitating this. He had been on the sick list about a fortnight, when last Thursday morning [3rd December] he announced his intention of returning to work. This was about seven a.m. and while his wife was busy with the breakfast, he went out to the back of the house. Some minutes later those indoors were startled by a noise, and a son named Isaac, who lives at Aley Green, but who was there at breakfast, ran out to see what was the matter. The door of the w. c. [sic - these premises seem to have had earth closets - see below] was found to be closed, and on opening it a ghastly sight confronted the horrified gaze of the son and the others who had followed. The father was discovered lying down with an awful gash on the head. Blood was issuing profusely from the wound, and in fact there were bloodstains on the walls and a pool on the floor, and by the side of the man was a large axe. The only conclusion was that in a moment of insanity the poor man had tried to take his own life by hacking at his head with the chopper. At once the insensible form was carried indoors, and medical aid was summoned. Dr. McGlachen of Markyate Street, was soon in attendance, and he found the patient in an almost hopeless condition. The wound was of a terrible nature, being about 2½ inches in length by 1½ and part of the brain was protruding on to the forehead. All that medical aid could do was brought into requisition, with the result that there is now some hope of the patient recovering. Later in the day the Hertfordshire police, who happened to be at Hemel Hempstead that morning, were appraised of the occurrence and P. C's Perry (Markyate Street) James (Kensworth) and Barron (Flamstead) proceeded to Woodside, where they have continued, at eight-hour turns, in attendance on the patient, in order to see that he does not again attempt to destroy himself. The actual form of insanity with which Fensome is afflicted seems to be religious mania. The greatest sympathy is felt, and is expressed on all hands, for the family in their trouble".
The Christmas Eve edition of The Luton News reported: "It was reported on Monday [21st December] at the meeting of the Board of Guardians that William Fensome, who recently inflicted upon himself terrible injuries with an axe while in a state of insanity, had been admitted to the Three Counties Asylum. His condition was such that he was accompanied there by Dr. McGlachen".
He never came out. The male case book [LF31/13] notes: "A thin, spare man who appears very depressed. Heart sounds feeble, pulse weak, tongue furred. Eyes grey, pupils equal. Breathing quiet and normal. Left arm paralyzed. On the vertex of the skull is a suppurating wound. The bone is absent and durum matter protrudes". He would not answer questions and simply lay on his back, not responding to commands. It is a wonder that he lived as long as he did but at 4.20 a.m. on 7th February 1897 he died.
In the 1891 census he is living with his family in the Hertfordshire portion of Woodside. He was then 56 and an agricultural labourer, having been born in the Hertfordshire portion of Caddington, as had his wife, 54 year old Sarah. Living with them were: 24 year old Laban, a groom; 17 year old Elizabeth, a straw hat maker; 15 year old Arthur, a straw hat worker and 12 year old Mary.
The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the row [DV1/C18/67-72] found that it was owned by Henry Abraham, owner of Woodside Farm. The individual cottages were summed up as follows:
87 Woodside Road: occupier A. Thorne having his rent accounted for in his wages; he had a living room and kitchen with two bedrooms above. Outside was a washhouse attached to the house and a weather-boarded and corrugated iron earth closet. "Water from RDC well" noted the valuer; 89 Woodside Road: occupier A. Clark paying rent of 3/4 per week for a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms with a weather-boarded and corrugated iron earth closet and a brick and slate coal barn attached to the house; 91 Woodside Road: occupier M. Crawley who paid rent of 3/9½ per week for accommodation identical to Number 89; 93 Woodside Road: occupier E. Hart whose rent was accounted for in his wages – his accommodation was the same as Number 89; 95 Woodside Road: occupier A. Burgess paying 3/4 per week for accommodation identical to Number 89; 97 Woodside Road: occupier J. Muskett who paid 3/4 rent per fortnight for accommodation identical to Number 89.