Horatio’s Columns



Horatio Nelson Smith ended up living just a mile or so from a place strongly connected to his namesake. The Hero of Trafalgar lived with Lady Hamilton down the road in Merton Park. The area is still strongly linked to him, with a number of streets and pubs named in his honour and various church connections. Our Horatio was born into a very different world in 1899 in Southwark. It was 94 years after Admiral Nelson saved the nation from French invasion but its easy to see how it would have been a popular and patriotic name. In the 1911 census the family lived at 53 Hazelhurst Road, Summerstown – a street running directly south from the church. There were seven of them in total living in three rooms. His father was a porter and his older sister worked in one of the local laundries. He joined the London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) and would have seen action at the Somme. The date of his death, 9th September 1916 makes it very likely he died at the Battle of Ginchy. He is buried at the nearby cemetery in Guillemont, roughly halfway between Arras and Amiens. He was only sixteen, yet four years older than a young lad from Tooting, Sidney Lewis who was recently revealed to have fought in the same battle. Battersea Reference Library has a beautiful small bound notebook from Fountain School, (now Broadwater Primary). There is no text and it simply contains in elegant handwritten script, the names of over a hundred pupils and teachers who served in the First World War. Amongst these are twenty one written in red ink who didn’t come back. One of them is HN Smith. Hazelhurst Road, possibly because of its proximity to St Mary’s was home to more of the Summerstown 182 than any other street. So far there are twelve names of soldiers who lived there. It has has seen some great changes since then and most of the 1914 houses were demolished in a massive 1930s slum clearance. On the morning of 19th November 1944, a V2 rocket landed on houses near Smallwood School killing at least 35 people and destroying 40 homes. In 1970, Summerstown’s very own twin towers, Chillingford House and Hayesend House were constructed and are the tallest buildings around here. Since I heard about this young lad I like to think of them as ‘Horatio’s Columns’.



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