Summerstown182 in partnership with Big Up Films have been awarded Heritage Lottery Funding. Now we are developing our project and are working with local schools, have set up a ‘Friends of Summerstown182’ history group and are aiming to involve a wider section of the community in learning about the First World War period and how it affected our area.
Summerstown is an historic area between Earlsfield and Tooting in south west London, close to the River Wandle and sandwiched between Wimbledon Stadium and Burntwood School. On this site, over the next two years, as we commemorate the centenary of the First World War, we will attempt to build a picture of this much-changed community as it stood one hundred years ago. This will be through the stories of 182 men whose names are inscribed on the 1914-18 war memorial in St Mary’s Church on Wimbledon Road. We have promoted it on the streets, through a popular guided walk which goes past many of their homes and key locations. Our next local walk is on Saturday 22nd April but we will be reprising our successful ill be our ‘Waterloo Sunset’ Walk on Tuesday 18th April.
Have a look at the map where they lived and see if any came from your road – a poppy marks the home of each soldier or sailor and most of them are just five minutes walk from the church. There are now 168 of them on the map. In three years we have identified a connection with this area for 179 of them, only three remain unidentified. Scroll down the Roll of Honour and see if you recognise any names. Beneath the names and personal details are links to the stories that have been written so far, of their lives and deaths and of the effect their loss had on this neighbourhood. Over this four year commemoration period, we are dedicated to researching and writing something about each of them.
One local soldier who did come home, was thirteen year old Sidney Lewis from Defoe Road, Tooting who a few years ago was recognised by The Imperial War Museum as the youngest British soldier known to have served in the First World War. We wanted to publicly acknowledge this incredible story and organised a campaign called ‘A Quid For Sid’ to raise money to place a plaque on his old home. Due to the outstanding generosity of local people this was achieved in a very short time and on Saturday 24th September, Sidney’s son Colin unveiled it for us on what was an extraordinary and very special day. Last year a similar initiative resulted in Wandsworth Council placing a Green Heritage Plaque at the site of a Second World War V2 incident in nearby Hazelhurst Road. What next?
If you would like to get involved in this project, help with some research or can add something to the knowledge we’ve already discovered, it would be great to hear from you. We have been in touch with quite a number of relatives and new information is constantly emerging. We have also established contacts in Germany, Belgium, Turkey and Australia. Significantly we have discovered that at least two of our men, discharged from the army through illness are buried locally in unmarked graves and their miltary service has no formal recognition. We are very pleased that recently this has been rectified for one of them, Arthur Mace, who lived on Thurso Street. We are always keen to raise awareness of the project and more than happy to talk to schools, workplaces or community groups about it. We recently collaborated with Ernest Bevin College as part of their submission to BBC School Report and were thrilled at how engaged the young people were. Have a look below at the brilliant short film they made. We are working on an extensive project with Burntwood School which will see Year 9 students learn about and contribute to communicating the First World War history of this area through creating digital outputs and artworking a Summerstown182 timeline. Smallwood Primary School did a First World War trail of the streets around their school and are putting together a map of the route. They were also heavily involved in creating artwork for our ‘Remembrance’ of a ‘forgotten’ Tooting soldier William Mace.
Geoff Simmons is the Heritage Coordinator of this project and can be contacted at email@example.com.