The Boy in the Bottle




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.


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.




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.


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.

WFA memorialPhoto by K Cartwright

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.

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.

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