On 8 October 1909 The Shipley Times and Express carried a court report under attention-grabbing headlines.
When the name of “Clement Mitchell” was called at the Bradford Police Court a week ago there tripped into the dock, to the amazement of all present, quite a coquettish female. “She” glanced saucily and defiantly round the Court, put out her hand to straighten her coiffure, and seemed aggrieved to find “herself” there in such a position. But the make-up was but a disguise – a clever one it is true – used by the man Mitchell in his career of thieving.
Clement lived in Gashouse Row, Bradford, as a married woman separated from her husband, worked in a mill as a woman, and the dresses he made won prizes in carnivals. In women’s disguise he was known to stop men in the street – but, as nobody had ever complained about being propositioned, the court set this behaviour aside and concentrated on the thieving. Quite why Clement had joined the Seaforth Highlanders the previous year, only to desert a few months later, was not considered. The Stipendiary took a previous conviction for a felony into account and sentenced Clement to two months in jail, with hard labour.
I could find the birth of only one Clement Mitchell registered in Bradford in the years 1881 to 1883 – and therefore close to the reported age of the “masquerader” – and he is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard, Filey.
“My Dear Husband” isn’t enough on its own to suggest that this can’t be the cross-dressing Clement. However, the nearby grave of his brother, Herbert Warren MITCHELL, helps to identify his birth family with certainty, born in Pudsey to William Marshall Mitchell and Ada GREENWOOD. Find them on FamilySearch Tree.
In 1885, another Clement Mitchell was born in Bradford and at age 15 he was working in a mill as a worsted spinner. He had three sisters.
Pudsey Clement does not have a wife on FST so I went in search of her.
In 1901 Clement was working as an apprentice joiner in Fulneck, Pudsey. Ten years later, he had married and crossed the Pennines. His occupation was given as “manual instructor”, employed in Littleborough by Lancashire County Council. His wife was Eva Lena, daughter of German immigrants, Frederick BEERMAN and Lena TINKEL.
Clement and Eva married in 1909 and their daughter, Florence, was born in Littleborough, Rochdale Registration District, in the 3rd quarter of 1914.
When the 1939 Register was taken, Clement was still teaching in Littleborough but the woman carrying out unpaid domestic duties in 3 Mount Avenue, was “Ivy M BUTTERWORTH (Mitchell)”. Ivy was 14 years younger than Clement but seems likely to have been his second wife.
Further investigation showed that Eva Lena had died in Rochdale in 1920, aged 34 in the GRO Index.
About 18 months later Clement married Ivy M DAVIS in Rochdale. Perhaps this was her second marriage too, though she was only 24-years-old.
The question I’m unable to answer is, “Why are these two Pudsey brothers buried in Filey?”
Herbert Warren Mitchell’s wife died in 1942 and was interred at York. Herbert died seven years later just outside that city but was brought to Filey for his eternal rest. Eight years after that, his younger brother joined him in St Oswald’s churchyard.
And the other Clement?
When leaving the dock, Mitchell’s face became wreathed in smiles, and he patted himself on the head.
Yorkshire Evening Post 5 October 1909
Given his entertaining performance in court, it is not a great surprise that this Clement decided to tread the boards after his release from prison. Curiously, his adventures as a Music Hall artiste took him to Burnley, about 15 miles from Littleborough. With another female impersonator, James HARRISON, he entertained in the evenings as one half of “The Two Deans” and found ways of obtaining articles “by other than honest means” during the day. One of his landladies was relieved of some particularly valuable property and Clement was hunted down and found in Manchester where he was performing as Fanny Leslie, soprano. Harrison was also apprehended. Both men received six months with hard labour.
In 1915 he found another partner in crime, one Thomas McKitton. In November, they were both sentenced to six months for failing to register for army service, and also for stealing a travelling bag, overcoat etc, valued at £5, from their digs in Great Ardwick Street.
Meanwhile, handicraft teacher Clement spent the war in Littleborough successfully appealing conscription into the army.
And then –