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72 Gwydir Street

History of 72 Gwydir Street


Ellis Leach, head, 30, stonemason, b Suffolk

Sarah, wife, 29, b Suffolk

Ellis, son, 10, scholar, b Suffolk

Eleanor, daughter, 8, scholar, b Suffolk

Rosa A, daughter, 6, scholar, b Bicester

Edward W, son, 4, scholar, b Cambridge

Robert C, son, 2, b Cambridge


William Moore, head, 30, warehouse porter, b Cambridge

Elizabeth, wife, 32, b Cambridge

Arthur W, son, 8, scholar, b Cambridge

Frank G, son, 6, scholar, b Cambridge

Florence M, daughter, 1, b Cambridge


In 1899 Oswald George Smith was prosecuted for forgery. In 1891 the family had been living at 87 Mill Road.

He was an officer of the local Starr-Bowkett Society, a movement started in 1843 by Dr T E Bowkett.

CDN 7.2.1899 Rumour has been pretty busy during the past few days circulating a somewhat startling report anent the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of Mr O. G. Smith, the secretary of the Cambridge Star Bowkett Building Society. The time had arrived a fortnight ag. when the audit of accounts is usually undertaken, and day was fixed for the purpose, but the secretary failed to keep his engagement. The business of the Star Bowkett is conducted on lines similar in more respects to the methods employed by other building societies, and the payments of the members are made weekly at the office of the society at the Alexandra Hall. It is, of course, customary for the secretary to attend, receive these payments, which are usually small sums, ranging from one to  three or four shillings, and place the proceeds on the Monday following to the society’s account at the bank. It is a significant fact in connection with Smith’s disappearance that, though in the town he absented himself from a meeting of the society on Saturday. Jan. 24th. It was then in the air, however, that SOMETHING WAS WRONG with his accounts and the directors made an effort to secure his attendance at a meeting on the following Tuesday. Mr Smith was again absent as also was the case last Saturday.

CDN 8.2.1899 The Missing Secretary. Though the fact of the sadden disappearance of the secretary of the Cambridge Star Bowkett Building Society was known to but few before the circumstances surrounding O. G. Smith’s mysterious conduct were published in yesterday’s “Daily News,” the statement that he was missing and wanted occasioned little if any surprise in the neighbourhood, where he had become a well-known figure. It seems that for several months past his conduct had been questionable. The fact that he had, to some extent, perhaps, forgotten the obligations which were incumbent upon him as the head of a family to discharge to those dependent upon him, and the painful fact that for some time past his attentions had been bestowed upon a former landlady of the Durham Ox, were there can be no doubt, factors and circumstances that had not a little to do with the cause of his leaving with such suddenness. It is still impossible to state with any definiteness the extent to which the society will suffer by the secretary’s mysterious disappearance, owing to the reticence of those who only have it in their power to disclose the precise position of affairs. A report has gained currency in the town that he has left the country.

CIP 10.2.1899. CAMBRIDGE SECRETARY DECAMPS. A Warrant Issued. Considerable sensation has been caused in Cambridge during the past few days by the news that Mr. Oswald George Smith, the secretary of the Cambridge and District (736th) Starr Bowkett Building Society, had disappeared from the town. From enquiries made by a representative of this paper, it appears that Mr. Smith has not been seen in Cambridge since a fortnight  last Tuesday, the 24th of January. Part of his duties as secretary of the Building Society was to attend at the Alexandra Hall each Saturday night to receive the weekly payments of the members, in the presence of two Directors of the Society. He discharged those duties for the last time on the previous Saturday, the 21st of January, but omitted another important duty, namely, that of banking the cash thus received. This sum, it is said, does not exceed £10. On the following Thursday Mr. Smith was to have attended the audit of the accounts. The auditor was there, but not Mr. Smith. Saturday came, and the Secretary was not in his accustomed place. A meeting of the Directors was summoned to investigate matters on the following Tuesday. At that meeting


was deputed, with Mr. Charlton, the Society’s Accountant, to go through the accounts. The books were obtained from the Society’s safe, which was in the keeping of Mr. Smith, at his residence Gwydir-street. These are being carefully gone through, together with the books held by the members. The whole of the members’ books have not yet been sent in, and until they are, complete comparison with the ledger will be impossible. The actual result is not, therefore, yet known. Tha Society had the secretary insured in a Guarantee Society for £100. We are authoritatively informed, however, that accounts for a larger sum than this  require explanation. Having these facts before, them, the Directors considered the situation sufficiently grave to merit their applying for a warrant for Smith’s arrest. This was accordingly done on Thursday of last week, and armed with this document, the police are pursuing their investigations. It is not clear that any definite clue has been discovered, but the police have knowledge of at least one place visited by the missing man. The investigations of the Committee have brought to light evidence of several cheques having been tampered with by which members of the Society have suffered loss. It has been customary for cheques to be made out for sums due to members. These cheques are made payable to the person named, at the London and , County Bank, and are signed by two Directors as well as the Secretary. Members generally receive the cheques at the weekly meeting, but, in some cases, they do not attend, and in these cases the cheques have been left in the care of the Secretary. In several cases, members deny having received these cheques, yet the cheques have been presented the Bank and cashed, and have been endorsed with the name of the persons to whom they were made out. The members concerned repudiate the signature. In at least two cases the figures have been made to represent larger amounts than the cheques were made out for, by the addition of a figure. Mr. Smith had been the paid secretary of the Starr Bowkett Building Society for 12 years, and had won the confidence of the members. His good business qualities were also recognised by the Co-operative Society, as for several years he had been one of the auditors. He was at one time custodian of the Sturton Town Hall. Mr. Smith, who is a native of Cambridge, has a wife and four children. We now learn that the police have traced Smith to Wolverhampton and several other places, and it is believed that has left the country.

CC&J 24.3.1899 Star Bowkett Society: The annual meeting of the Cambridge and District Start Bowkett Society was held at the Alexandra Hall on Tuesday evening. Mr G Lever, one of the directors presided and there was a large attendance of shareholders.It was decided by 25 votes to 6 to exclude representatives of the Press from the meeting. It was stated that the defalcations of the late Secretary amounted to nearly £800, and it was resolved to call a special meeting of the shareholders to consider in what manner the Society should be wound up.

CDN 12.4.1899 Cambridge Star Bowkett Building Society: Lively Meeting Last Night: Confusion Worse Confounded: Some Plain Speaking: Full Report: The adjourned meeting of the members of the Cambridge 736 Starr-Bowkett Building Society was held on Tuesday evening in the large room of the Alexandra Hall, Cambridge, to consider what steps should be taken for the winding up of the society, as a sequence to the disappearance of the late secretary, Mr O. G. Smith, whose defalcations, as previously stated in the Cambridge Daily Newt, amount to something like £800. There was a large attendance, and Mr Lever, one of the directors, ‘was voted to the chair.’ …… [There then follows a lengthy report of a very bad-tempered meeting] ….. A REWARD. The Chairman said before the meeting closed there was one little matter he wished to bring forward. The question was – was it advisable to offer a reward for Mr Smith’s apprehension. Mr Brown: Is there a warrant out? The Chairman: Yes. Whether we shall be able to get him back without a reward is another question. Mr Flinders: Have you received the guarantee money yet? A Member: Yes. The Chairman: No. Mr Harrison: Shall we take steps to find the late secretary? Mr Wonfer: What use is that; it will cost you £100? …. it was ultimately decided to offer a reward of £10 for Mr O G Smith’s arrest.

O.G. Smith in Cheapside: After the meeting one of the directors, Mr Bennett, was heard by a reporter to say that he was in London that afternoon and whilst riding on a bus, actually saw the missing secretary walking along Cheapside……

CDN 5.5.1899: O G Smith At the Police Court. He will appear at the Assizes. Two Further Charges of Forgery. Oswald George Smith, the erstwhile secretary of the Cambridge Starr-Bowkett Society, made his third appearance before the Borough Magistrates this morning on two charges of forgery. Interest in the case appears to have dwindled somewhat, as the attendance of the general public in court was very little beyond the average. The first charge was one of forging and uttering “knowing the same to be forged, an indorsement to a certain order for the payment of money, to wit, a cheque for the payment of £12 18s  with intent thereby to defraud on or about January 7th, 1899. There was a second similar charge in respect a sum of £44 16s 6d, on or about 7th January.

The report then records how the Society operated with regard to payments. The directors discussed how O G Smith had use the identity of  members of the society by the name of J Jacobs and Herbert Tunwell  to whom cheques were made out and cashed. Smith was committed to the Assizes on both charges.

UK Calendar of Prisoners 1899: Oswald Smith was tried on 5th June 1899 charged with feloniously forging three cheques. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

CIP 1.6.1900: The Starr-Bowkett Trouble: The late directors and auditors made an offer of £200 without prejudice in full settlement of the claim of £800 3s made upon them by the present directors and shareholders. The meeting rejected the offer.


Oswald [George] Smith, 39, shoemaker, b Essex

Emily, 38, Hardwick

Harry P, 11, b Cambridge

Fanny E, 10, b Cambridge

Charles W, 8, b Cambridge

Jessie M, 6, b Cambridge

In 1911 the family were living at 6 Norfolk Street.


Leon Rothchald, 25, tailor, b Russia [? Jewish refugee from pogroms]

Ray Rothchald, 23, b Germany


Bernard Charles Denston, tailor


Henry J Heavens, b 1864, foreman wagon

Minnie, b 1876

Garnet R, b 1908, radio factory


Garnet Heavens


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