Oranges and Lemons

almshouses

Marshall1

Sidney Howard Marshall, a soldier in the Canadian Infantry, died on 24th April 1915. He is one of 54,000 names on the famous Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. So far he is the only one of the Summerstown 182 to have lived in one of the almshouses that cover a vast six acre section on the corner of Garratt Lane and Wimbledon Road. He resided with his Mother, Sarah Annie Marshall at No 8, Holborn Estate. This curious collection of ornate red-brick buildings, complete with landscaped gardens, pergolas, holly hedge, mature fruit trees and a chapel is like a walled country estate, nestling incongruously between the Hazelhurst Estate and Streatham Cemetery. Officially known as St Clement Dane’s Almhouses and also Diprose Lodge, the development was provided by the Church of St Clement Dane’s on The Strand in central London. In order to spread some of their great wealth around, they set up The Holborn Estate Charity in 1552, initially to distribute alms to the poor. Schools and houses followed. They even supposedly gave out oranges and lemons to children – think of those bells and the famous rhyme. In 1848 they purchased farmland in a pre-industrial green and verdant corner of south-west London called Summerstown. Beautiful new homes for the deserving elderly and orphans of the parish. The Queen Mother even visited in 1952 to unveil a plaque. One hundred and sixty years later, whilst all around them has changed, the almshouses survive in almost all their glory. There are about 40 homes, a gate lodge, the gardens – and whilst the chapel is still existant (if not exactly functioning), an ornate fountain has disappeared. They have been in the hands of the Council since 1967 and are a mix of privately-owned properties and council homes. The almshouses back onto a small strip of convenience stores and the Tasty Chicken take-away on Wimbledon Road. The sight of discarded fastfood wrappers and urban detritus makes for an interesting contrast to the gentle pastoral scene of pears and apples hanging off the trees at the back of Diprose Lodge. Maybe not quite oranges and lemons, but near enough.

Marshall2

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