At 6pm on Saturday 10th January 1981, an event “unique in the annals of Leeds civic entertainment” took place: “nearly 400 young folk – ranging from tiny mites … to maidens and lads of sixteen” attended a Juvenile Fancy Dress Ball in the Victoria Hall of Leeds Town Hall.
The ball was the last in a series of New Year events celebrating the mayoral inauguration of Mr Alf Cooke, who had been appointed Mayor in December 1890. It was hailed as “one of the greatest successes recently chronicled in social circles” and a photograph album showing almost 200 guests – many of whom belonged to prominent local families – was presented to the Mayoress in commemoration of her silver wedding anniversary. This album showcases a selection of the many “beautiful” costumes on display that evening; an artist’s sketch of some of the costumes was also provided in a report of the event in a 12th January edition of The Yorkshire Evening Post too.
Four of the Loe children are photographed in the Mayoress’s anniversary album, but in fact, James Scarborough Loe had nine children in total. James’ first wife, with whom he had five children, died young; he married his second wife, Margaret Lawson Whalley, in 1877 at the age of 45. Together they had James Leslie Loe (1878), Ada Frances Hannah Loe (1880), Nora Bowen Loe (1883) and Richard Arnold Loe (1884). James’s other children were all grown up at the time of the Ball in 1891.
James Scarborough was a significant social presence in Leeds. An illustrated biography of his life, which drew particular attention to his charitable and voluntary work, was produced in The Yorkshire Post after his death in April 1902. Given his roles as both a City Councillor and, later, an Alderman, it is likely he had a close relationship with Alf Cooke at the time the Ball took place. His may well have been one of the more prominent families permitted to sit with the Mayor and Mayoress on the stage in the Victoria Hall. The Yorkshire Post’s article suggests he was an admired figure in Leeds. However, at least one man didn’t think so: in 1886, a former surgical assistant of James’s broke into his house one night whilst he and his family were away and did 40 shilling’s worth of damage. The man had been fired from James’s employ shortly before.
From leaving school until his early thirties, James’s eldest son, James Leslie Loe, was a mechanical engineer. At some stage, he moved to Baku (the capital of Azerbaijan), which was then a Russian territory. We know this because he married his wife Florence Aldred, the daughter of a steel merchant, at the British Consulate in Baku; the marriage certificate specifies his residence as ‘Baku, Russia’.
He cannot have lived in Baku very long, because he was listed as Manager of Dilfields, Leeds, in a 1911 census. James Leslie Loe and Florence Aldred had three children. One of their children, Norman Scarborough Loe, a travelling salesman, was the father of Judy Loe and the grandfather of Kate Beckinsale, two famous actresses. Kate Beckinsale, who has starred in films such as Underworld, Pearl Harbour and Van Helsing, has an eighteen-year-old daughter, Lily Mo Beckinsale-Sheen, with welsh actor Michael Sheen.
Less is known about Ada Frances Hannah and her sister, Nora Bowen Loe. Ada was a short-hand typist at a solicitor’s office; this was a popular profession for young women at the turn of the century. She married Arthur William Potts, a draughtsman, in 1920 at the age of 39. It is not known if they had any children; due to their late age of marriage, it may have been unlikely. It appears that Nora followed in her father’s footsteps; she became a sick nurse. She continued to live at the family home (119 Roundhay Road, Leeds) until her death in 1944; she never married and left her effects (about £1100) to The Yorkshire Penny Bank Limited.
The youngest Loe, Richard Arnold, was, like his brother James, an engineer. He is listed as an ‘electrical engineer worker’ at the age of 14 in a 1901 census. He emigrated to North America in 1909, where he continued to work as an electrical engineer in Boston, Massachusetts. He served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during WW1 as part of the 236th O. S Battalion, which was informally known as ‘The New Brunswick Kilties’ or ‘Sir Sam’s Own’. In 1923 he married Velma D Ellis; they had a daughter called Doris Loe in 1926. In 1942, at the age of fifty-eight, Richard’s details were registered in the ‘Old Man’s Draft’, an American registration service that recorded the occupations of older men to establish whether or not they offered useful skills for the war effort. However, he did not participate directly in the conflict of WW2 due to his age. It is not known what contact Richard maintained with his family in England. However, other affluent families in Leeds made visits to America and Canada to see relatives, so the Loe family may well have visited occasionally.
By Joshua King, WRoCAH funded researcher.
Read Curator of Social History Kitty Ross’ blog on the 1891 Juvenile Fancy Dress Ball here.
For more information on our Social History collection, visit our website.