The Boy in the Bottle

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OLD CHURCH

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Archibald Dutton lived at 8 Hazelhurst Road in 1911. It is long demolished, but would have been roughly where 14 storey Chillingford House is today. Next door at No10 were the Daniell and Jewell households, home to a combined total of 16 people, three of whom ended up on the Summerstown182 memorial. His own abode wasn’t exactly overflowing with space either. Census records indicate that James and Mary Dutton had ten children, though very sadly five had died. Only three are present in 1911 and 15 year old Archibald was working as a factory errand boy. The family had been in the area a long time and were living at No5 in 1881 when James was listed as a bricklayer. Its quite possible James Dutton may have built some of the houses which some sixty five years later would be destroyed by a V2 rocket. In 1901 the family lived at 65 Summerstown with six children, four girls and two boys. James was a general labourer born in Wapping, Mary and two of the girls worked in one of the laundries. By 1891 and living at the same address, he is listed as a bricklayer’s labourer. With the original St Mary’s Church at the end of his road and starting to crumble, its quite possible that he cast a professional eye on its shaky foundations and wondered about its future. Two years later, after a particularly dry summer had weakened its structure beyond repair, the decision was taken to abandon and demolish the 1835 structure and build a new church at the other end of Keble Street. It took eleven years for that to happen and the Duttons would have seen it all. In 1903 when the foundation stone for the new Church was laid, nine year old Archie Dutton may have been one of almost six hundred Sunday School children and Bible Class members whose names were placed in a bottle and laid under the stone at the front of the church.

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To earn their place they had to raise funds which would in turn be presented as a ‘purse’ to Her Royal Highness, Princess Christian, the third eldest daughter of Queen Victoria who had been tasked with doing the honours. She was a kindly and benevolent soul who performed a great many public duties and was one of the founding members of the British Red Cross. On the afternoon of Saturday 4th April 1903, HRH was escorted down Earlsfield Road by the Surrey Imperial Yeomanry. The cortege passed through the flag-festooned streets of Garratt Lane, Summerstown and Wimbledon Road to the new Church site. Here a guard of honour provided by the 4th Battalion East Surrey Guards awaited her. On a raised platform at the west end of the site, HRH then proceeded to place the bottle containing the childrens names beneath the stone, along with a copy of The Times and ‘some coins of the realm’. After laying the stone with a silver trowel presented by the architect, Godfrey Pinkerton, she then took tea in the vicarage with various dignitaries including the Bishop of Kingston and the MP for Wandsworth, Henry Kimber.

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I think of the glass bottle and who might be in it every time we have gathered near the foundation stone at the beginning of one of the Summerstown182 Walks. No one would ever have considered on the day it opened, that some fifteen years later, the west nave end of the magnificent new church would be devoted to a stone memorial bearing the names of 182 local men lost forever to their community. Just how many of the Sunday School children in that bottle are also on the war memorial is impossible to say, but in that period of ten to fifteen years when they grew up, there are bound to be many. Certainly, just over one year later, on the day the church was consecrated, 30th April 1904, the names of some of the choirboys mentioned have a familiar ring; Archer, Mace, Ibbott, Cooper, Marshall, Richmond.

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From his service number, 6662, its possible to tell that Archibald Dutton joined up sometime after 7th July 1916. His First World War experience would begin and end on the Somme. A battalion of the territorial army, the 1/21st (County of London) Battalion (First Surrey Rifles) were formed in Camberwell and like so many others moved to France in March 1915, landing at Le Havre. By the end of the war, their total dead numbered 58 officers and 988 other ranks. The 1/21st which became part of the 47th Division, served continuously on the Western Front from March 1915 until the end of the war. On 15th September at the battle of High Wood on the Somme, the Battalion were almost completely annihilated. Out of 19 officers and 550 men who went into the attack that day, only 2 officers and 60 men came out unscathed. Two boys who Archibald might have known, Arthur Clarke from Franche Court Road and George Collyer from Headworth Street lost their lives on that day. They were also in the London Regiment but serving with different battalions and are buried close to each other in the London Cemetery at Longueval. The 21st Battalion’s next attack was on 8th October at a place called Warlencourt.
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On 8th October, a German garrison was spotted at ‘Diagonal Trench’ on the road approaching the infamous ‘Butte de Warlencourt’ by the crew of a reconnaissance aircraft. An ancient pine-covered mound dating from Roman times, the Butte de Warlencourt was one of the most famous locations on the 1916 Somme battlefields. It was close to the monastery of Eaucort L’Abbaye, an attack on which was where Edward Lorenzi, the hairdresser’s son from Maskell Road lost his life just a week earlier. Riddled with tunnels and cloaked in razor-sharp barbed wire, it was a highly-prized and fiercely defended vantage point, that was fought over almost constantly for the duration of the war. It was recently saved for preservation by the Western Front Association who purchased the site and have established a permanent memorial there. Here, the First Surrey Rifles were ordered to attempt a surprise attack on the trench. However, plans were changed at the last moment and a one minute ‘hurricane bombardment’ now preceeded the assault, the battalion crawling forward to rush the German position as it lifted at 9am. Unfortunately this blitz had alerted German resistance and machine gun fire rained down on Archibald Dutton and his comrades. These included a young welshman from Himley Road, Tooting called Reginald Thomas who is also on our war memorial. Both Archie and Reg were twenty years old. Whilst Archie Dutton’s body was recovered and he is buried in Warlencourt British Cemetery, Reginald’s body was never found and his name is one of the 75,000 missing written on the Thiepval Memorial.
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On 1st July this year there will be a huge Somme Centenary commemoration event at the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing. Sheila applied for tickets and John has very kindly stepped aside to enable me to go. I’m very honoured. We will pay tribute to all of the Summerstown182 whose names are among the 75,000 inscribed; Edward Lorenzi, George Benfell, James Chenery, Henry Foley, Robert Govan, Harold Hatcher, Ernest Haywood, George Hope, William Ibbott, Thomas Meikle, Ernest Pelling, Reginald Thomas and William Wood. There are at least a dozen others like Archibald Dutton who died on the Somme battlefield over those summer and autumn months and are buried in cemeteries nearby. My Grandfather, a Royal Irish Fusilier, seconded to the 108th Machine Gun Company was fortunate to escape that day with a wound which ended his active participation in the war. I will be wearing his gold cufflinks on 1st July to remind me how fortunate he and the subsequent generations who followed him were. When we were last in Thiepval, in October, the memorial was cloaked in scaffolding as it got spruced up for the grand event. I never imagined that I might be going back on the big day. We looked at the names of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and saw the name of a fellow Lieutenant that our Grandad would certainly have known. Two families later connected by marriage. Also on 1st July this summer, Geoffrey St George Shillington Cather will be honoured by Lambeth Council with a commemorative paving stone at the site of the Streatham War Memorial. On 1st July 1916 he ventured into no-man’s land and saved many lives before losing his own. He was awarded the Victoria Cross. No paving stone or gallantry award for Archibald Dutton from Hazelhurst Road. We can’t even be sure whether he is a boy in the bottle or not, but he will be in our thoughts on 1st July 2016.

https://www.royal-irish.com/persons/geoffrey-cather-vc

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Burntwood Lane

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Burntwood Lane marks the northern perimeter of the St Mary’s parish boundary. The country road that the poet Edward Thomas took his bicycle down in his ‘Pursuit of Spring’ in 1913, may be shorn of its rustic demeanour, but is still a route of some distinction. For three quarters of a mile, it arrows its way downhill from the heights of Wandsworth Common to the Wandle Valley and Summerstown. In the 15th century this area was densely wooded and a popular hunting ground of Henry VII. During his reign the woods were destroyed by fire and henceforth the passage acquired its name, though another theory points to a local charcoal burning enterprise in the middle ages. Along its way it passes the soon-to-be-developed Springfield Hospital site, the sporty pastures of the Spencer Club and Battersea Ironsides and the site of the famous 18th century mock elections on Garratt Green. Its current jewel is the magnificent Burntwood School, once the location of a number of farms scattered on this road, now deserved recipient of a clutch of internationally acclaimed architectural awards, most notably the Stirling Prize. As it levels out and prepares to meet Garratt Lane and the Burtop estate, on the right hand side, in an address now used as a Chapel of Rest by the Cooperative Funeralcare company, is No9, once home of one of the 182 names on our war memorial, Henry Wilberforce Trotman.

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In 1901 the Trotman family lived at 5 Lambourne Road in Clapham, a few minutes walk from the famous Holy Trinity Church. This was a focal point for the activities of a group which became known as The Clapham Sect and one of their most famous members very likely bequeathed his name to six year old Henry Wilberforce Trotman. One hundred years earlier William Wilberforce had relocated from Hull to London to fight against slavery. He worshipped at Holy Trinity where the vicar, Reverend Henry Venn had founded a group of vociferous social reformers. Their main aim was the abolition of the slave trade and reform of the penal system. They were also very keen on spreading their brand of evangelical christianity in India and Africa and due to their efforts, Freetown in Sierra Leone was founded. An act of 1807 banned slavery in the British Empire but total emancipation wasn’t achieved until 1833, shortly before Wilberforce’s death. Another of the leading members was his cousin, a banker called Henry Thornton whose home, Battersea Rise House on Canford Road, demolished in 1907, was The Clapham Sect’s main meeting place. The site is commemorated with one of Wandsworth Borough Council’s nine Green Plaques. Henry Thornton had a local school named after him which was once attended by the recently deceased Jimmy Hill. The school relocated to Balham and is now Chestnut Grove Academy.

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The Trotmans had an interesting background with an ancestry steeped in curious vocations. His Great Grandfather, also Henry was a master hairdresser from Kensington and his Grandfather, the quaintly-named Sanders Trotman was an ‘inventor and manufacturer’ who appeared to specialise in indoor fountains ‘for drawing rooms and boudoirs, with mechanical pressure forcing water through a jet and the addition of a musical arrangement’ which he showcased at The Great Exhibition of 1851. Who would not want to have such a device in their home? Another document indicates him giving a talk in Ipswich in 1870 on ‘Tunneling the Channel, the practicality of connecting England and France’. Clearly a man ahead of his time. His son, also Sanders was a foreman in a tea grocers. Sanders had at least seven children, two boys, William Havelock and Frederick were much older than Henry and had followed their father into the grocery business. Henry also had four elder sisters. Other relatives had gone to Australia and a 2nd Lieutenant George Leopold Sanders Trotman, a school teacher from Melbourne was killed on 17th April 1918 and is buried at Hazebrouck. His photograph and records have been preserved courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Archive https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P05248.139

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By 1901 the older boys had probably moved on and there were five children listed, Henry aged six and his four older sisters; Esther 21, Edith 19, Gertrude 12 and Eleanor 10. Its not hard to imagine how they must have doted on their little brother. Sanders passed away in 1907 aged 52 and the family were now living at No9 Burntwood Lane, Earlsfield in 1911. They were close to where the road meets Garratt Lane, the intersection of two vital Summerstown arteries and not far from Garratt Green and Burntwood School. Only one of the girls was present, Eleanor was now twenty and working as a clerk, but his Aunt was on the scene, so Henry, now a grocer’s assistant was still surrounded by female company. The address is now part of the entrance to the Cooperative Funeralcare company’s Chapel of Rest. Their main premises are round the corner on Garratt Lane. No9 is the first number on the left hand side and the building is a newer build, adjacent to a number of substantial houses with decorative architectural features. Many of the pathways are beautifully tiled with their own coal holes. Some of the houses have extended porches, elegantly supported by collonades trimmed with lattice ironwork. Others bear small rectangular stone tablets inscribed with picturesque place-names such as Tregenna, Tregadra and Knaresborough. They are older and more substantial than most of the terraced houses in the surrounding area and would most certainly have been lived in by people of note. One of these houses was at one stage owned by St Mary’s Church. Susan Trotman lived on in Burntwood Lane for a number of years before moving to Bassingham Road in Wandsworth. She died aged 95 in 1950.

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On 25th November 1915, Henry Wilberforce Trotman married Winifred Alice Fleming in St Mary’s Church. Just five days later there was a commemoration service there for Sunday School teacher James Crozier of the 23rd London Regiment, one of the soldiers we refer to as ‘The Sunday School Three’ who had been killed at Loos. Henry was 20 and his wife, aged 22. It may have been a consideration that with an acute shortage of manpower, conscription was looming and Henry would very likely soon be needed in the army. His wife had been living in Sandmere Road, Clapham and working as a book folder and clerk. Their married address was now 3 Headworth Road, the other side of Garratt Lane and one of the ‘lost streets’ damaged beyond repair by the floods of 1968 and now submerged beneath the Burtop Estate. After Henry’s death she lived on here until 1922 before moving to 15 Vanderbilt Road, the other side of Earlsfield railway station, where she was until at least 1928. She died in 1931 aged 36. Just across the road, she would have witnessed the last years existence of Summerstown Football Club’s ground before it made way for the Henry Prince Estate.

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Henry Trotman served as a gunner in ‘B Battery’ of the 189th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. Lost in the German Spring offensive, his date of death was given as 21st March 1918, though its likely his sisters and wife probably waited weeks, months, perhaps even years to get confirmation. On that day Genetal Erich Ludendorff lead an attack bolstered by half a million troops relieved from the Russian front in a bid to win the war. In the space of five hours the Germans blitzed the British line firing one million shells and following it up with an attack spearheaded by flame-throwing stormtroopers.

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By the end of that day 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and the Somme battlefield, fought over in 1916 was surrendered. This furious advance could not be sustained by the German army, casualties were crippling and American forces were now pouring into the Western Front and soon the tide turned again. Henry’s name is one of 35,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Arras sector between 1916 and 1918 and have no known grave.

There is a 1914-1918 ‘Roll of Honour’ in a bound book, kept in St Andrew’s Church, Earlsfield. There are 367 names in it, painstaking written out in script, four entries to a page. All done quite recently because the original was stolen in 1987. Sixteen of the names are also on the St Mary’s war memorial and one of them is ‘Harry W Trotman’. Its our man all right, and assuming the information was provided by his family, I felt a little bit of a warm glow to find out that this was how his nearest and dearest referred to him.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/oct/15/burntwood-school-wins-2015-stirling-prize-and-offers-lessons-for-all