Len Jewell’s Century

LENCARDLen2zeppelinDerinton69Of all the incredible and wonderful things that have happened in the 18 month existence of the Summerstown182 project, coming across Len Jewell from Tooting takes a lot of beating. Next weekend he will be one hundred years old. We’ve got a lovely day lined up for him including a trip to Summerstown to visit the beautiful church where his Uncle Fred’s name is on the war memorial. We are then taking him on a Summerstown182 circuit, stopping at the base of Chillingford House on the Hazelhurst estate, the location of his father’s family home at No10 Hazelhurst Road. We will visit Wandsworth Cemetery and finish off with pie and mash at Harringtons on Selkirk Road. This Tooting landmark is only seven years older than Len himself and a stone’s throw from 69 Derinton Road where he was born in 1915. The early years of the sprawling network of roads that make up the Totterdown Fields estate. Its where he recalls one of his earliest memories, a German zeppelin flying over Tooting. We confirmed this incident with the legendary ‘Mr Streatham’, John Brown who was able to identify the airship’s serial number and that it was on its way to drop its load on SW16. jewellgraveWe only met Len about a month ago and were delighted to be able to show him a photograph of Fred’s grave. It was one of six Summerstown182 graves in Belgium photographed by our man in Flanders, Bart Seynaeve, in the early stages of this project. It was the same day that he discovered the wreath on Louis Danzanvilliers grave at Vlamertinghe. After Christine and Sheila unearthed him, Len wrote us a lovely letter expressing his enthusiasm for our project and his amazement after all this time to find out that his uncle’s name was on a war memorial less than a mile from where he had lived and worked all his life. CorruganzaLen’s grandfather, Thomas Joseph Jewell was a carpenter and joiner from Sutton, married to Emily. His father Joseph Maurice was the oldest of eight children, six boys and two girls. Fred was the second youngest, born in 1893. In the 1891 census the family lived in Prospect Cottages, Point Pleasant. Maybe they toasted the birth of some of their children in the famous Cat’s Back. Quite what they would make of the luxurious development in this corner of ‘Riverside Wandsworth’ is anyone’s guess, but the only carpenters and joiners around there now will be ones who roll up in their vans to do their hammering, chiselling and sawing for someone else. By 1901 they were in central Summerstown at 4 Hazelhurst Road and seven of the children were still present. Three years later they would have had a birds-eye view of the construction of St Mary’s Church and its possible that some of the younger Jewells, including 11 year old Fred were among the six hundred Sunday School children whose names were written on a scroll and buried beneath a stone in the new church. By 1911 the family were at No10. Seven of them are listed as living here in four rooms. At the same address lived nine members of the Daniell family, George Nathaniel Daniell and his seven sons. Three of these sixteen people living at No10 Hazelhurst Road ended up on the St Mary’s war memorial. Fred was now a messenger for the local Government Board. Two of his brothers were glass blowers and a sister Ethel worked at Hugh Stevenson’s box factory. She was 21 and quite possibly was here three years earlier to witness the Corruganza girls’ strike. She might even be one of the ladies in the big floral hats who witnessed Mary Macarthur’s speech in Trafalgar Square. Meanwhile Len’s Dad Joseph married Clara Herbert in 1910 in Wandsworth and a year later his brother Maurice was born. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrederick Richard Jewell joined the army as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He was in ‘A’ Battery, 177th Brigade, attached to the famous 16th Irish Division at Messines. He was very likely involved in the actions there which saw the detonation of 19 enormous mines on 7th June 1917, These were the climax of over a year’s worth of work by the tunnelling companies at Messines Ridge and resulted in the largest man-made explosion in history. In a year of stalemate the subsequent advance at Messines Ridge was one of the few allied breakthroughs. Fred was killed on 22nd July 1917 and is buried in the cemetery at Dozinghem created as a casualty clearing station about four miles north west of Poperinghe. He was joined in this cemetery a month later by another of the Summerstown182, William Moorhouse from 16 Keble Street. Fred’s death occured in the days leading up to the Battle of Passchendaele, a grim mudbath which lasted five months and cost half a million lives without any gains made on either side. Just two days before Fred died, George Nathaniel Daniell who lived under the same roof at No10 Hazelhurst Road also lost his life at Messines. He is buried within sight of the Irish Peace Park, a significant symbol of reconciliation and hope, at the place when catholics and protestants of the 16th Irish and 36th Ulster Divisions fought and died together. signZepp posterBack in Tooting we haven’t found any record so far of Len’s father serving in the First World War, though an older brother Walter was in the Royal Fusiliers. He suffered shrapnel wounds on the Somme and was discharged from the army in 1917, shortly after his nephew’s second birthday.  In the Second World War, Len’s younger brother Douglas was a Sergeant in the Royal Artillery and was killed aged 23 in 1942. He is buried in Nicosia. dozinghem brit cem 1Len told us that he never remembered his father ever talking about his brother Fred and observed that in those days people weren’t so open in their family conversations. He has had a long and full life and we are looking forward to finding out more about it. He worked as a welder and over the years has rubbed shoulders with many of the great, the good and the ever-so-slightly naughty in south-west London. Len built aircraft in Battersea in World War Two and recalled being on the receiving end of the Luftwaffe in 1940 when he had to shelter beneath the snooker table in Tooting Conservative Club. He suffered from a rare bone disease and was the first person in Britain to be given penicillin. Not smoking and drinking and spending much of his life on a bicycle have kept him young and sprightly. Very sadly, Len’s wife of 73 years, Kitty, passed away a couple of years ago, so we’ll be calling in on her in Wandsworth Cemetery next week. He is a very special man, not least because he is the first person we have met who was actually alive at the same time as his Summerstown182 relative. Its quite a thought, but I have a vision of Uncle Fred in uniform, popping into Derinton Road before heading off to France. He patted his young nephew’s head and gazed up ruefully as Zeppelin L.31 slowly passed overhead. Len1Many thanks to Gerry for her kindness and generosity, introducing us to Len so we have been able to tell this story.

One thought on “Len Jewell’s Century

  1. Not many people can say they have had quite as long and interesting life as you. Happy birthday grandad from gavin and all the family

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