Welcome to Summerstown182

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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 the 182’ 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.  

We launched our new lottery-funded status on Saturday 24th September with an event at St Mary’s Church, Summerstown. The afternoon started with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque outside the Tooting home of Sidney Lewis, believed to be the youngest soldier to have served in the British Army in the First World War. It was an astonishing community event witnessed by about 500 people. You can read a full account of it here. If you live locally or not too far away, we would love you to be a ‘Friend of the 182’ and attend our quarterly meetings or library-based family military history roadshows. The next meeting will be at 730pm on Tuesday 4th April at St Mary’s Church Hall (entrance from Keble Street) when we will be doing an oral history workshop, learning how to capture memories and stories using cameras and sound.
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We have a regular programme of events, walks and talks – have a look at the list above to see what’s coming up. Among our activities planned for 2017 – a commemoration on Monday March 13th for ‘forgotten teenage soldier’ William Mace in Streatham Cemetery. March is Women’s History Month and our unique walk on Saturday 11th March will focus on the role of women in the First World War in this area. The mothers, wives and sisters of the Summerstown182 who worked in the munitions factories and kept food on the table. With much of its male population removed, the effect on this area is hard to imagine. ‘Women of Summerstown’ will be a very special walk and if anyone can add any stories or contributions to this, about life on the home front, please do get in touch. A very special guided walk on Saturday April 22nd will honour the centenary of Tooting’s most famous dustman, ‘Tiny Ted’ Foster, awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry on 24th April 1917. We are also planning talks to highlight the much overlooked contribution of Indian soldiers in the First World War and the role played by soldiers from the Caribbean. On Saturday May 27th we will follow up our highly successful ‘Tracing your First World War Ancestors’ event with another of our heritage roadshows at Tooting Library.
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Many of the Summerstown182 would have grown up hearing stories about Robert Sadler’s extraordinary Copenhagen Running Grounds which were located off Garratt Lane between 1853 and 1864. Contemporary knowledge of this was practically non-existent until local historian Kevin Kelly wrote a book about it a few years ago. We hope this year to further publicise this remarkable story by placing a plaque at the site, opposite Tesco, near the junction of Garratt Lane and Burmester Road.
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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 walk on Saturday 25th February will be a rather special one. ‘James Hickey’s Waterloo Sunset’ uses the Charles Booth maps to re-trace one family’s movements in the Waterloo/Lambeth area.

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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.

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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?

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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 have just begun 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 art-working a Summerstown182 timeline. Geoff Simmons is the Heritage Coordinator of this project and can be contacted at rgbsimmons182@gmail.com.