Is there a spelling mistake on the Skegness Clock Tower, which has gone un-noticed for over a century?
You’ll probably be aware that I am a local historian and my latest task has found me studying the Skegness Clock Tower, particularly the laying of the foundation stone and the opening ceremony in August 1899. To illustrate this article, I visited the Clock Tower to secure a picture of the engraving on the stonework on the north side, which depicts the names of the Clock Tower Committee.
Picture secured, I was re-touching it on my computer when I noticed the spelling of Mr C Houghton, member of the Local Board.
It’s spelt Hougton – missing the second ‘h’!
The question is now raised – Is the ‘Mr. C. Hougton’ chronicled on the Clock Tower a different person to the Mr C (Charles) Houghton, member of the Clock Tower Committee and the Council, or is it an unfortunate spelling mistake?
Let’s refer to the list of the Clock Tower Committee as documented in the original newspaper coverage of the Opening of the Clock Tower Ceremony:
We’ve highlighted the name of C Houghton – which includes the second ‘h’.
So how come the list of the Clock Tower Committee above is as long as your arm when only fourteen members have their names inscribed on the Clock Tower?
Well, let’s listen to a reading about a number of councillors who were discussing the stone slab and the inscription just after its installation:
(You will need to increase your speaker volume as I was obliged to speak quietly whilst attempting to read from the antiquated microfilm reader. Please enter the password ‘skegness’).
So it appears from the council meeting that only the names of the sub committee were inscribed on the Clock Tower slab.
Now we’ve determined the person to whom the inscription ‘Mr. C. Hougton’ refers, a member of the Clock Tower Sub-committee, we are faced with another question – Which of the two spellings is correct?
I can produce evidence of hundreds of instances where Mr. C Houghton is referred to in the Skegness Herald, but for obvious reasons I will cite merely the one instance below – a photo of the original 1888 Skegness Herald, where the Chairman of the Local Board is addressing (Councillor) Mr Houghton. (Note the spelling).
Okay, we’ve proved that it was a Mr C Houghton who sat on the Council, and was a member of the Clock Tower Sub-Committee; when you’re next in the Skegness Town Council Chambers, have a look at the picture on the wall of the Local Board, taken in 1887 (reproduced below) – the caption to this photo spells the name with the extra ‘h’. Mr Charles Houghton is extreme left on the back row.
But can we prove once and for all that there wasn’t, in fact, a Mr C Hougton?
The Clock Tower Opening Ceremony was performed in 1899. If we can refer to a census report, or a street directory for 1899, then surely that would strengthen our evidence.
Unfortunately, we can’t! But what we can do is look at the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census reports for Skegness and consult a 1894 Skegness street directory.
I performed searches on all three of the said censuses for a Hougton in Skegness and every one returned a negative result. However, a Mr Charles Houghton can be found on all three censuses: (Click on the thumbnails)
The image below is taken from the 1894 street directory for Roman Bank, Skegness:
Well ‘Mr C Hougton’ apparently didn’t exist in Skegness!
What about in the whole of England, from 1837 to 1918?
I performed a search of the Births, Marriages and Death Index for the surname ‘Hougton’ in England between the above dates. (Check it out yourself).
Ah! At last we have found a male C Hougton listed as a marriage in 1893 – a Charles Henry Hougton, albeit in Liverpool! But. alas, on clicking to view the original document lodged at the General Records Office, we see that, in fact the name has been transcribed wrongly and the correct version contains the additional letter ‘h’. I have included the appropriate entry as an image below:
So there was no Mr C Hougton in England, let alone in Skegness!
After examining all the evidence, I am tending towards there having been a spelling mistake on the inscription on the Skegness Clock Tower!
But how come this ‘mistake’ has gone undetected for over 100 years?
And what about Mr Charles Houghton himself, who incidentally is an ancestor of my sons; did not a little pride creep into him, enough to make his eyes linger on his own name long enough to notice the ‘mistake’?
I have extensively scrutinized documents in the archives for some years now and I have never found a reference to, or a complaint about this ‘mistake’, but don’t worry – I shall keep on looking…
The whole thing is a great mystery to me!
What about you?