Joseph, Albert and John



There are two really outstanding photos that we’ve come across in this project. Once tucked away in private family collections, they can now be viewed by all, allowing us a very privileged insight into the world of the people who lived in this area one hundred years ago. One is at the top end of Summerstown, a view of a group of people outside The Corner Pin in 1916 which includes Private Albert Clarke. The other is an extraordinary gathering of family and neighbours including the sailor John Henry Wood, which we now believe was taken in a house at the other end of this road.

A few weeks ago whilst unravelling the Blakeley family for our last story I worked out that their Summerstown neighbours at No90 were the Woods. Luci Hammond who provided the photo, taken in 1918 some time before John Henry Wood’s deadly Zeebrugge mission is coming on a Summerstown Walk next weekend. She told me that made sense as her Great Grandmother, Lucy Louisa Wood had married Albert Hammond from No92. The boy next door. Well, to be honest he had moved a few doors down to No68 by the time they tripped down the aisle at St Mary’s, but he was next door from at least 1911. The Woods being resident at No90 meant that the location of the classic photo of them all, previously assumed to have been 596 Garratt Lane, was in fact the back yard of No90 Summerstown. To add to our impression of this location, roughly opposite The White Lion pub, we already had a view of the area backing up to these houses, currently part of the forecourt of Wimbledon Stadium. It is captured in an extraordinary photograph of a gypsy caravan settlement which is in the Merton Archives collection. To complete this fascinating portrait of Edwardian Summerstown, Kevin Kelly located a photograph of the exterior of Nos88-90 in the London Metropolitan Archives. Dominant in this is a grocer’s shop by the name of Scott’s.

Casual labour associated with the cultivation and selling of lavender and watercress lead to a strong Romany presence in the area, though focused more on Mitcham. The horse slaughtering yard and dependent industries off Garratt Lane had attracted a similar settlement in the Wardley Street area. This was portrayed recently in the delightful film ‘Ethel and Ernest’ an animated daption of the story of the author and illustrator Raymond Briggs’ parents. A very vivid scene shows Ernest stepping out of his Lydden Road home into a world of horses and carts.

Edward Thomas noted the Romany presence when he cycled through Summerstown in his 1913 book ‘In Pursuit of Spring’. He was a little bit snooty about this area, describing it as ‘flat and low, suitable rather for vegetables than men’. He very specifically refers to ‘the dirty backs of Summerstown’ and ‘high advertisement boards behind which lurked three gypsy vans, a mixture of the sordid and the delicate in the whole was unmistakable’. Funnily enough, one hundred years later there is still an advertisement hoarding in roughly the same place. The traffic is usually static so perhaps its not surprising.

These revelations prompted a memory of the family running a saddler’s shop and there being a rumour that the Woods were of ‘gypsy stock’. Apparently Lucy even kept a wooden caravan at Canvey Island for many years through the fifties and sixties. Most interesting of all was a photo of two men in uniform, Albert Hammond with his younger brother John. We think he may be the ‘J Hammond’ on our war memorial. However, there is a bit of a twist due to the existence of an older brother, Joseph James who could also possibly be the person commemorated in St Mary’s. Certainly this particular name has caused us more headaches than most – the main reason is that we haven’t been able to find a Commmonwealth War Graves Commission record for either brother.


John was the younger brother of Luci’s Great Grandfather, killed in the war and after whom both her father and grandfather were named. Joseph was discharged from the army and died on 6th December 1918. Like Charles Moss and Arthur and William Mace, he has no Commonwealth War Graves Commission recognition. No record of his sacrifice on the database, no name carved into the soft white stone.

James Hammond Senior was born in Westminster in 1871. It would appear that he was resident at an Industrial School in Winchester around his tenth birthday. Perhaps it was here that he formed the interest in pottery from which he was later able to earn a living . He was resident in East Street, Walworth, home to one of south London’s great markets when he married Rosina Stocks at St John the Evangelist in Walworth in 1892. Joseph was born in 1893 and Albert three years later. We can’t find a record for John. In 1901 the family were at 8 Crumsden Place in Brixton and Joseph and his brother Walter both worked as potters for Doultons in Lambeth. This was the heyday for this company, given a Royal Warrant by Edward VII and conducting their business from grand premises on the Albert Embankment, near Lambeth Bridge. The census accounts for two children, Joseph eight, Albert five and a one week old baby. By 1911 things had changed considerably for them. They had relocated to four rooms at 92 Summerstown, at the end of the street, opposite the pub. The infant had died but a new addition to the family was eight year old Rose. Joseph Senior was still with Doultons but his oldest son had joined the army and at this time was billeted in Kingston Barracks. A year later Albert added a couple of years to his age and joined him. Both were in the East Surrey Regiment as Special Reservists. Joseph gave his profession as a casual labourer, Albert as a file finisher. Joseph Senior died in 1929 and Rosina in 1957. She lived at 68 Summerstown until her death in 1957 aged 83 and the below photo was taken about a year later. In the centre of the picture is Gothic Lodge with its distinctive roof and tall chimneys and to its right is the last surviving building on the main part of this road.


The three Hammond brothers had a choppy military career. Note the wound stripes on their cuffs. Three on Albert, two on his rather more fresh-faced brother John. These were instituted in 1916 and were permitted to be added to the uniform of anyone whose name appeared on a casualty list. Bearing in mind Albert’s discharge in 1917, his were all acquired in the space of a year. Albert was invalided out of the army with a Silver War Badge in the summer of 1917. According to family legend he threw himself on top of a grenade to save his comrades but as a consequence ‘was picking lead out of himself till the day he died’. A few months after that he married Lucy.


J Hammond is regularly listed in the St Mary’s parish magazine with Albert and rightly so as they were in the army before the war. His final mention states that on 6th December he died of influenza. ‘J. Hammond East Surrey Regiment, who had been invalided from the army after being gassed, died from influenza on December 6th’. His death certificate contradicts this, giving the date of death as 12th December but confirming that 25 year old Joseph, working as a boot repairer had died of influenza, toxaemia and heart failure. His Aunt was present at his death at 90 Summerstown, the Wood household. He is listed as resident at No68. We haven’t been able to find yet where he is buried.

No service papers exist for the brothers but Chris has pieced together a very thorough picture of the two oldest’s military careers from medal index cards and the Surrey Recruitment Registers. Joseph’s medal documentation indicates that he transfered from the East Surreys to the Hampshire Regiment and was declared a deserter on 4th November 1915. Whether he was apprehended or handed himself in or how long he was AWOL for remains a mystery. There are no records to say what happened to Joseph after November 1915. He was though a lucky lad, a year later such conduct might have had very dire consequences. As a pre-war regular, assuming he was always in the 2nd Battalion he would have spent time in India, not returning to the UK until after the outbreak of war. He first went overseas on 19th January 1915 and would have been present at the ‘St. Valentines Day Massacre’ in February 1915 which claimed the life of fellow Summerstown resident Charles Norris. During the desperate fighting in the Ypres Salient in the first weeks of May 1915 he may have been wounded and returned to the UK. Once fit for duty he would have first been posted to the 3rd Battalion, a training reserve for those men recovered from wounds. It is here the records come to an end, apart from the stark statement of desertion.

Albert Edward Hammond would appear to have transfered from the East Surrey Regiment to the Border Regiment in October 1915. Pre-war he would have been in Ireland and was still there when war was declared. He first went overseas on 7th October 1914 and was present at both the 1st and 2nd Battles of Ypres, and would have been at Hill 60 in April 1915. Around this time there is a record of him receiving two doses of Field Punishment No1 and for a while he was reported missing. The strain was showing on both brothers. Many of their friends would have been killed and they must have wondered what they had got into. By November Albert was back with the East Surreys and the following year was in action at the Somme. He was discharged on 12th June 1917 and came home to Lucy and a job in munitions.

There is no record then of Joseph’s discharge, but the fact that his profession is noted as a ‘boot repairer’ on his death certificate indicates that he had found a new trade and suggests that some time had elapsed since he left the army. There is no record of his military service on this piece of paper and nothing in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database to indicate that Joseph James Hammond had spent at least four years as a soldier, serving in the outposts of the empire and fighting in some of the fiercest battles of the First World War.

And what of John, photographed above. He is known within the Hammond family, preserved in photographs and after whom two generations were named, but apparently missing from both census and military records. We have not so far been able to find any reference to Rosina and James having a son called John, but who’s to say they didn’t and he’s just slipped past the official records? One theory could be that they unofficially ‘adopted’ someone – perhaps in view of losing an infant? Or he could have been a relative who lived with them as one of their own and who Albert regarded as a brother? My Grandmother was one of twelve children from Co Wicklow, but lived with an aunt because the family simply couldn’t look after them all. Also the Hammonds were a relatively small family and possibly in a better position than many to ‘help’.

Thankfully though, Reverend John Robinson had the foresight to put a name on the St Mary’s memorial and because of that we are writing about them today, we are proudly showing John and Albert’s photograph and ensuring in years to come, that both he and James will be remembered. Which one is J Hammond? It really doesn’t matter.

Many thanks to Luci and John Hammond for allowing us to share their family’s memories and these very precious photographs. Also to Chris, Sheila, Christine, Marion and Kevin who have all helped tell the story.

War of the Roses




The extraordinary Summerstown road which bends its away around the Wimbledon Stadium complex never fails to throw up a good story. This is the wild frontier between the boroughs of Wandsworth and Merton. A road so loaded with history that it takes the breathe away, yet a road now so choked with traffic and industry, that to even pause there for a moment and reflect on the past is difficult. It is a road that will soon be further choked with diggers, trucks and construction industry accoutrements, as the great plan to re-establish the home of Wimbledon’s football club gets underway in the next few months. Formerly Church Road with the original St Mary’s at its northern end, this winding village street which formed the genus of the settlement of Summerstown, will enter another chapter. Robert Sadler had his name all over this road in the last half of the 19th century, from his connections to its many pubs, to his ownership of a number of properties including Sadlers Cottages. Sometime between its  ‘village on the Wandle’ status and the start of its decline into the polluted mess it is today, the Blakeley family were resident at its southern end at No88. The above photo shows the shop at No90, so their home was just past the entrance on the left, a little further on from where the figure is standing. This is from the London Metropolitan Archives collection, believed to date from 1914. Living not far across the road from The White Lion pub, Charles Henry Blakeley was one of at least 15 of the Summerstown182 who once inhabited this fascinating thoroughfare.



Charles Henry Blakeley was a private in 1st/5th Battalion of The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His date of death is listed as 9th December 1917 and he is buried in Honnechy British Cemetery, about fifteen miles south of Cambrai. We visited him one late autumnal afternoon a few years ago. His final resting place is close to that of his Summerstown neighbours, Francis Baker at Bethencourt and William Bonken and Harry Keatch at Premont. Honnechy was part of the battlefield of Le Cateau in August 1914, and from that time it remained in German hands until the 9th October 1918. It had been a German Hospital centre, and from its capture until the end of October it was a British Field Ambulance centre. The village was inhabited by civilians during the whole of the War and for that reason perhaps it has a very different feel from a lot of other cemeteries.



There is no mention of Charles Blakeley in the parish magazines in the early part of the war when the vicar was still publishing a roll call of those who ‘were serving their King and Country’. This was soon replaced with a list of ‘those who have died in the service of their country’. What can be read into the dropping of King and the capital C? His name first appears in the February 1918 issue ‘Charles Blakeley of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was reported wounded and missing on November 20th.’ The following month a simple sentence, spells out in no uncertain terms what happened next. ‘With great regret we have heard that Charles Blakeley of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who was first reported wounded and missing, then a wounded prisoner in Germany, has died in hospital in Germany after an operation’. The date of his death was later established as 9th December 1917. We can’t imagine the horror of the final weeks of his life or the distress this news would have caused his family. There are accounts of a POW camp at Honnecourt and this location is mentioned in the North Lancashire war diary in the days before the attack. Close to a combat area, conditions would have been at best primitive.




The date of his capture leaves no doubt as to where he was fighting. 20th November 1917 was a day of great significance for my great uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum, then with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was awarded the Military Cross for organising a wiring party at Fontaine-les-Croisilles, somewhere close to where the above photograph was taken. The date is etched on the reverse of his medal, preserved in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Museum. This was famously the first day of the Battle of Cambrai and the first time tanks were used to any significant effect. The attack began early in the morning and initial advances were remarkable, famously heralding the ringing of church bells in Britain for the first time during the First World War. The North Lancashire war diary is quite matter-of-fact, ‘630am Heavy bombardment opened followed by attack by British troops. Division of about 8 miles! Attack highly successful’. Within a few days the Germans were given a chance to regroup and there was extensive fighting around Bourlon Wood where 69 of the local 13th Wandsworth Battalion perished in a disastrous attack. Among the wounded was Edward Foster VC. He received a bullet through the wrist which eventually lead to his discharge. Much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost and Charles Blakeley and many others were in enemy hands.


Charles was originally in the East Surrey Regiment but ended up with the Loyal North Lancashires. Perhaps he had enough of the company of southerners and hankered to be around people from his home turf. The 5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were formed in August 1914. It was Bolton’s own territorial battalion, and the town’s equivalent of a ‘Pals’ battalion. Albert Lucas from Bertal Road was also in this regiment and died on 30th November 1917. Both these Summerstown boys are among over one thousand names on the splendid ‘5th Loyals’ Memorial in Queen’s Park, Bolton. He’s actually one of five Blakeleys on there. We are grateful to Jim Robinson of Bolton History Centre and Bolton War Memorials Project for sending us these photographs. If you look closely, Charles Blakeley’s name is in the extreme right hand column.


There are no next of kin details in Charles Blakeley’s Commonwealth War Graves Records but his soldiers effects documentation indicates that he left his estate to a Jessie Williams. Jessie aged 33 was the mother of his two sons, Charles born in 1914 and Leslie the following year. They lived at 88 Summerstown, next door to the family of John Henry Wood who had  a saddlers shop which we believe is ‘Scotts’ in the 1914 photograph. They were there for another twenty years until the start of the Second World War.


The Blakeley name is very common in the north of England and its probably for that reason that Charles joined the Loyal North Lancashires. He was born in Manchester, possibly Chorlton. We first picked up his parents living in Cemetery Street in Leeds in 1861. Both parents were from Yorkshire, father Joseph was a plasterer born in 1835, his mother Sarah Ann Abraham was born in 1836. She was 44 when Charles came along in 1879, the youngest of seven – five boys and two girls. They were still in Leeds in 1871 at 11 Ritter Street. Joseph was at that point a master plasterer ‘employing two men and one boy’ so it sounds like the family were doing quite well and he may well have travelled in his work, perhaps explaining his absence in subsequent census records. There were five children and eldest son Samuel was also a plasterer and might have worked for his Dad. Ten years later they had crossed the pennines and were in Openshaw, Lancashire. Once a village a few miles to the east of Manchester, it had by now been sucked into the city’s late-Victorian industrialised expansion. Never a pretty place, its now not too far from the Etihad Stadium. The 1881 census intruigingly tells us that young George Blakeley was born in ‘Washington, America’ in 1875. Did the family emigrate there and then return home? Was his name a nod to the President after whom the city is named? In any case, the lure of the White Rose was too strong and in 1891 they were back in Leeds, Charles was eleven and they lived at the prophetically named 16 Verdun Terrace. Arthur was now a plasterer.


What happens next is all a bit vague but we think Charles appears again in the 1901 census as a visitor at Asquith Street in Leeds, working with his Dad as a plasterer. We lost track of him completely after that. Sometime over the next fifteen years he came to Summerstown. With houses springing up all over the area, a plasterer’s skills would have been in demand and its not even inconceivable that he might have worked on the new St Mary’s Church. Romance was also in the air, on the banks of the Wandle, as he hooked up with Jessie Williams and started a family.



Charles Blakeley was thirty five years and seven months old when he was conscripted on 31st October 1916 and joined the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in Kingston. He gave his occupation as a window cleaner. What a dark time this must have been for Jessie. The Battle of the Somme was still raging and everyone was aware how bad things were. They had two very small boys. It would have been an extremely sad goodbye at 88 Summerstown. It must though have formed a special bond between mother and sons that explains perhaps how they stuck together for the rest of their lives. Jessie does not appear to have remarried and retained the name Blakeley. The family were at 88 Summerstown for another twenty years until the start of the Second World War. After that Jessie and Leslie moved to Clapham and then Streatham. She died in Sutton in 1970. Leslie appeared to live with her until her death and he passed away in 2002. The fate of the other son Charles, intruigingly remains unknown. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a record of a soldier who died in Germany a few months after the end of the Second World War. It indicates that a Charles Henry Blakeley of the Pioneer Corps died of an accident on 10th December 1945, aged 31. He is buried  in Reichwald Forest War Cemetery in the town of Kleve close to the Dutch border. A father and a son, lost in two different wars, a generation apart. What a blow that must have been to Jessie, almost exactly 27 years to the day after the death of his father. We can’t be sure yet if it is him, but the name, age and birthplace/residence which are indicated as ‘south west London’ seem to suggest it may be. Sometimes you just have a feeling.

Bois Quarante



Alston Road really makes for a most delightful stroll if you are coming from Summerstown and heading in a Tooting direction. Particularly in summertime when the legacy of its horticultural past springs forth. This was once of course daffodil land, the home of Bell’s Farm with its exotic nurseries and bountiful allotments. In fact, Miss Bell of Park Hill who owned most of this and a good deal of Tooting was known as Lady Bountiful. Smallwood School may no longer hand out their daffodil-growing certificates, but there are some giant sunflowers at the northern end of the road and a lot of fruit dangles over the pavement from the gardens as you reach its southerly point, close to the Recreation Ground. On more than one occasion its been described as ‘provençale’. By me, most likely.


Born in 1871, William Bolton senior was an engineer’s labourer and in 1901 he lived with his wife Sarah and five children at 26 Etruria Street in Battersea. This has now disappeared from the map, but was off the Wandsworth Road, near what is now the site of New Covent Garden Market and an area soon to be dominated by the new American Embassy. William Henry, born in 1893 was the eldest of five children. By 1911 they had moved to Summerstown and were at Alston Road, there were now eight children, five boys and three girls. The first stretch of houses on the left at the Smallwood end of Alston Road, including No8 where the Corbens lived for 99 years, are at an angle to the road. After No26 things even out a bit and No40 directly faces Bertal Road. The photo with the horses dates from 1905-07 and was taken on the other side of the road from the junction of Rostella Road. The door with the ‘Glass Cut’ sign is No33, the house with the sunflowers. William had moved from machinery to stone and now worked as a mason’s labourer. With all the building going on and the proximity of so many cemeteries, he hopefully wasn’t short of work. William Junior, now 18 was employed as a van boy and his brother Edward was a tailor. They would have certainly known the Baseleys at No18, young Charlie Corben at No8, Butcher’s Boy Alfred Quenzer just across the road in Bertal Road and William Warman who lived almost opposite him. All these lads would soon be measuring themselves up for a uniform.


Q 2819
William Bolton joined the 12th (Bermondsey) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in Kingston. We know from the 1918 electoral roll that his two oldest brothers, Edward and Frederick were also in the army. Edward in the Royal Engineers, Frederick in the Royal Fusiliers. William was fatally wounded in an attack on a place called Bois Quarante on the German-held Wytschaete Ridge, south of Ypres, near St Eloi. He died a few days later on 7th September 1918, just over two months before the end of the war. This was ground well known to the 12th Battalion who had been part of the great Messines attack of 7th June 1917 when 19 huge mines were simultaneously exploded.

By the late summer of 1918 the Americans were in the thick of it and the tide was turning. But there was still grave danger to be faced and a large number of the Summerstown182 were killed in this period. The 12th Battalion war diary tells us that on 1st September the battalion moved to Abeele on the Franco-Belgian border. This was the site of an aerodrome from where Jamaican born, William ‘Robbie’ Clarke, the first black British pilot flew out. The following day the Battalion moved east to relieve troops of the American 27th Division. There is a very vivid account of what happened next in ‘The History of the 12th (Bermondsey) Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment by John Aston and L M Duggan. Clearly there is a cloud hanging over what went on in the next few days but it was in the attack on Bois Quarante that I believe William Bolton was fatally wounded. ‘We left the billets at Wippenhoek in the gathering dusk on 2nd of September and soon were amazed to see American troops passing us in little bunches. ‘Go on, Tommy, we’ve got them on the run!’ was how some of them greeted us as they passed. Private Snell of D Company tells how one of the ‘Yanks’ shouted that we should need running shoes to catch up the Boche’.

It wasn’t to be. William Bolton and his mates discovered that there was no proper handover or guide to what was going on. Ground that was supposed to have been cleared was found to be strongly held. Communication was further thrown into disarray when their command HQ was gassed on the 3rd September, putting a number of key personnel out of action. Aston and Duggan were in no doubt where the fault lay ‘The fact was that most of the American troops at the time were quite unused to war, and their staff work was hopeless’. Two companies began their attack on Chinese Trench that night, moving through to Bois Quarante. They met with stiff and determined resistance which resulted in over 200 casualties. In the space of twenty four hours, the Battalion’s strength was reduced by a quarter. Although no gains were made, Aston and Duggan were full of praise for the younger new recruits ‘It is to the great credit of the 12th, particularly the younger soldiers who had only been with us a few months, that in the face of such opposition they accomplished what they did’. William ‘died of wounds’ and he must have been moved to one of the casualty clearing stations behind the lines where he passed away a few days later. This was the pretty village of Esquelbecq.


In a quite remarkable aside, Adolf Hitler had a very strong connection to Bois Quarante, also known as Croonart Wood. In his book ‘Walking on the Ypres Salient’ historian Paul Reed mentions a story told by a local resident who for many years ran a museum on the site. Hitler had been awarded his Iron Cross near here in 1914 and returned in 1916 only to be wounded. Apparently he was placed in a concrete bunker awaiting evacuation. Later that night there was a British trench raid and an officer entered the bunker. He pulled back the blanket and drew his revolver, but the sight of the pathetic sickly figure beneath it made him pause for reflection. ‘I won’t shoot you, you’ll do no harm’. Hitler lived, William Bolton was mortally wounded, the rest is history.


William’s family lived on at 40 Alston Road until the late sixties. With their connection to St Mary’s Church they would have witnessed the excitement of the building of a new Sunday School Hall just a few doors down the road from them. Seemingly the 1921 census had revealed a need for the Parish of St Nicholas in Tooting to shed some of its flock and as a result, the Fairlight area was passed to St Mary’s. To establish a presence in the district it was felt that a new Sunday School was needed. Reverend William Galpin now had 14,000 people to look after but he seemed to revel in the task and his propaganda machine went into overdrive to finance it. In one memorable plea for funds he produced an advert linking his new building’s construction very deftly to the knocking down of the nearby ‘Dust Destructor’ chimney. This was the site of the council’s refuse incineration facility. Very familiar with that place was ‘Chief Inspector of Dust’ and another East Surrey man, Corporal Edward Foster AKA ‘Tiny Ted’. He lived just round the corner at 92 Fountain Road. Look out for our walk commemorating the centenary of the award of his Victoria Cross on 22nd April. We are calling it ‘Tiny Ted’s Tooting’ and it will climax with a visit to his grave in Streatham Cemetery.



The ‘Dust Destructor’ site was started in 1898 on the site of a clay quarry and brickworks. Its 153 foot high chimney was a great local landmark and jobs ‘on the dust’ were much coveted. Fountain Road Recreation Ground was laid out in 1932 as a scheme for the relief of unemployment. The adjacent Anderson House is named after the Rector of Tooting, John Hendry Anderson who was a champion of such schemes, most famously in the case of what we now call Tooting Bec Lido. Amidst much excitement in Alston Road, Alderman Cresswell laid the foundation stone for the new hall on 8th June 1931 and it opened in September. Sadly the new Sunday School Hall didn’t last long and in 1970 it relocated to the wooden construction behind the church and a Shaftesbury Housing block emerged on Alston Road. In this process the ‘Sunday School Three’ tablet rather bafflingly found its way to the bottom of the St Mary’s vicarage compost heap. Fortunately eagle-eyed Reverend Roger Ryan came to the rescue and the ‘Sunday School Three’ have been restored to their former glory.




William Senior died in 1949 aged 78 and his wife Sarah passed away four years later aged 81. Some of William Bolton’s siblings lived on at the property until the late sixties. There were still Summerstown182 connections in the street then, half a century after the end of the First World War. The names Leicester, Corben, Baseley, Hayter, Port and Jeffries all appear on the electoral roll. William’s two youngest sisters, Louisa and Ivy both lived to a very great age. Louisa married Edward Thurbon in 1927 and died aged 92 in 1994. Ivy married George Wood in 1936 and passed away aged 95 in Bournemouth in 2006.

We thought it would be easy to find William’s cemetery at Esquelbecq on our last trip to France in October. Its only about 25 kilometres from Dunkerque and close to the Belgian border. Various delays at the port coupled with some very confusing road closure signs soon scuppered that idea. It seemed they were digging up the village square and all roads in and out of the town were marked with ominous big yellow signs which rather put us off the scent. We abandoned the car and went searching on foot. We found it eventually and as always, it was well worth the effort. The sun came out and dazzled the graves and the golden leaves glowed in the late afternoon autumn sun. A little spider ran up William’s grave as I took one photo and there were some very splendid scarlet roses just starting to shed their petals in front of it. The care and dedication that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission take to look after these special places never fails to move me. No respect to any of the 182 who share their memorial or cemetery with their fellow Summerstowners, but it always feels right when one of them has a graveyard to themselves. Somehow it then belongs to them forever. Lance Corporal William Bolton from Alston Road will always be Esquelbecq.



King of the Track




Alight from any of the buses heading down Garratt Lane from Wandsworth and Earlsfield to Tooting, and just past the Tesco roundabout is the stop they call ‘Summerstown’. A century and a half ago this would have been the perfect place to get out if you were attending an event at the Copenhagen Running Grounds. It would have also dropped you off right outside the home of one of the Summerstown182, William Pater. The son of a silk dyer, he grew up opposite the original St Mary’s Church, in the cottages beside Kwikfit, just across the road from the garage. He was baptised in that church and when it had to be demolished, he probably helped build the new one at the end of Keble Street. His story dovetails quite splendidly with that of significant locations relating to Robert Sadler and his running grounds, a major south London athletics venue between 1853 and 1864, when the sport of competitive running was known as ‘pedestrianism’. Very few people know about this extraordinary venture and it deserves a much greater airing. On a very sunny evening in July 2012, hundreds of people gathered at this spot on Garratt Lane to watch the triumphant passage of the Olympic Flame. Would any of them have known that some of the greatest athletes of the age had competed here 150 years before? One of these was the celebrated American Indian runner known as Deerfoot. Its very unlikely. Let’s put up a commemorative plaque up on Burmester House so they are not in any doubt in future.



The Pater family would have been neighbours and quite possibly more than nodding acquaintances of the Sadlers. William Pater was born in 1880 and would have remembered, possibly even attended the funeral in 1896 of the great man who lived just a few doors along from him in Copplestone House. Anyone who lives around here will have watched in bemusement over the past few years, as this was knocked down and remained a huge gap in the road for a long time. Suddenly an identikit house emerged from behind a blue tarpaulin, seemingly constructed from polystyrene bricks pasted onto plasterboard. Converted into flats, these of course all sold for huge amounts, though whether they will last a hundred years like the original is debatable. Robert Sadler really was a person of extraordinary energy and enterprise. His headstone in Wandsworth Cemetery says it all, ‘A man who was loved by all, despised by none’. Silk printer, pugilist, pedestrian promoter, publican, property developer and the man behind The Wellington Inn and the Copenhagen Running Grounds. If ever there was a Mr Summerstown, Robert Sadler would surely be that man. Though its doubtful if he ever built his houses with polystyrene bricks.



Thomas Pater, born in 1840 in Hackney was a generation younger than Robert Sadler but would very likely have known him. Whether he made it over to Summerstown in time to catch a race at the tail end of the life of the Copenhagen Running Grounds in 1864 is debatable but he was definitely in Wandsworth in 1871. His fourth child, William was born on 11th May 1880, baptised at the old St Mary’s Church and married twenty five years later in the new one. He was one of ten children seven of whom survived. For at least twenty years the Pater family lived almost opposite the church on a stretch of Garratt lane between Burmester Road and Huntspill Street. They were sandwiched between two key Sadler locations, Althorp Lodge and Copplestone House and with easy access to two other significant places in his story, The Corner Pin and Prince of Wales pubs. One continues to thrive, the other is currently in the hands of Tesco. In 1881 they were at 3 Alton Terrace and Thomas was working as a silk dyer. They were then at No2 and No4 St Mary’s Terrace. There was a fair bit of name and number-changing going on at this time and it may well have been the same property. Thomas died in 1887 and in 1891 his widow Elizabeth was working as a washing laundress. At this stage there were seven children, ranging from 24 to 3 years old and three of these worked in the garment trade – Thomas 24 was a dyer, Elizabeth 22 an ironer and Alice 17 was a washer. William aged 10 is listed as a scholar. Just a few doors along from them was the 77 year old Bob Sadler who quite possibly had his washing sorted by the Paters. It must have been incredibly difficult for Elizabeth and to add to this crowded household there were also two lodgers. By 1901 she was still a laundress but working from home. There were now five children present, William was working as a saw mill labourer and Eliza two years younger was a laundress. In 1911, Elizabeth Pater’s address is listed as 779 Garratt Lane and she was still working, now aged 65. Two of her sons George and Charles were still with her and also at the same address was Eliza now married to a compositor called Percy Mountain. The houses have survived, an expansive entrance leads to four separate flats in each property. In spite of being widowed so young and a lifetime of laundry work, Elizabeth lived to a great age passing away aged 92 in 1938.

One thing for sure, young William would have grown up with a very good impression of the elusive Althorp Lodge which briefly re-named The Wellington Inn was Robert Sadler’s home and the headquarters of the Copenhagen Running Grounds. Although it stood at this prominent central Summerstown location for one hundred years, on the site of where Burmester House is now, it seems that no photograph or illustration of it exists. The nearest we can get is a drawing produced by Colin Fenn, for local historian Kevin Kelly when he was writing his book ‘Robert Sadler and the Lost Copenhagen Running Grounds of Garratt Lane’.


Meanwhile William Pater, now 25 and working as a plasterer’s labourer had married Clara Priscilla Hewitt in St Mary’s Church on 26th February 1905. The Church had been functioning for less than a year and considering his skills and how close he lived to it, its unimaginable that William Pater was not in some way involved in its construction. By the time of the 1911 census, William and Clara were just around the corner, living in two rooms at 24 Bellew Street. They had two children, Ellen Clara, born 1905, who died aged 99 in 2004 and William Thomas, born 1906, who died in 1983. A third child Elsie was born in 1915. Clara worked as a laundry ironer. Electoral rolls show she was still living at 24 Bellew Street until her death in 1967. Incredibly to this day, there are memories of William Pater’s siblings and the names Mountain and Pater on neighbouring Huntspill Street where some of the family moved to sometime before the Second World War. Wiliam’s older brother George was there in 1946 and Eliza lived there until at least 1970. We came across an excellent postcard of the Hubbard family, residents of 28 Bellew Street from September 1907 which gives a glimpse into the world of the street at that time. Very possibly just a couple of doors along from them were William and Clara and their young family. Another door on from them on the other side was the Clarke family. William would have been most certainly aware of the death of his neighbours, 16 year old Henry Ollive at No18 and Albert Clarke at No30.



Aged 36 and with a wife and three young children, it appears that William Pater was conscripted for service in 1916 and was fortunate to be in uniform just as the worst of the Somme was over. He was a Royal Fusilier, briefly with the Royal West Kent Regiment from 31st October to 22nd November 1916 and then 13th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) until his death at the Second Battle of the Scarpe on 23rd April 1917, St Georges Day. This was part of the Battle of Arras, the first great offensive of 1917, considered to have been relatively short, but very sharp. Our Summerstown182 research suggests that 12 of the names on the war memorial in St Mary’s Church were killed in this particular battle and one of them was 37 year old William Pater.

Through most of April the 13th Battalion Royal Fusiliers had been involved in the advance eastward from Arras, including participation in the Battle of Monchy le Preux. Here the 10th and the 13th battalions were highly praised for their courage, tenacity and skill. A Colonel Layton reported ‘I consider that the battalion behaved magnificently, and I have nothing but praise for every one in it’. But losses were heavy and by the evening of 10th April after advancing on Monchy the 13th had ‘only 3 officers, the CO and adjutant left’. There wasn’t much time to recover from this bruising encounter and another offensive south of Gavrelle was launched. An eye witness from 7th Borders who were also in this attack recounts in the book ‘Cheerful Sacrifice’ ‘April 23rd 1917, St George’s Day, the day when very few of my pals came back. It was my first and last action. I was totally terrified but the lads tried to buck me up a bit but it felt like you were about to commit suicide. It was sheer murder. I panicked and dived into a shell hole and stopped there until dark’.



William’s body was lost amidst this chaos and his name is inscribed on the Arras memorial. Visited by us in October 2014 where we searched for his name and took these photographs. For a long time he was listed as missing and it was only in the February 1918 issue of the St Mary’s Church magazine that Reverend Robinson finally relayed the grim news. ‘With deep regret we have to announce that William Pater, of the Royal Fusiliers, who was reported missing, is now assumed to have been killed on April 23rd’. Aware of what had happened to neighbours Albert Clarke and Henry Ollive, what unimaginable horror and uncertainty for his mother, wife and older children, aged 11 and 12 to have had to endure.


Kevin Kelly, a Wandsworth historian with a lifelong passion for athletics discovered the location of Robert Sadler’s ‘Copenhagen Running Grounds’. You can read all about this in his terrific book ‘Robert Sadler and the Lost Copenhagen Running Grounds of Garratt Lane’. (Look for it on Amazon or get it directly from Kevin). The 2012 Olympic connection was not lost on him when he snapped this photo of Mr Bolt on Garratt Lane looking like he’s about to sprint up Burmester Road towards Bob’s track. This is an extraordinary story that I’ve told many times on Summerstown182 Walks and it delights young and old. But its one that we feel strongly more people should know about. For that reason, we would like to put up a plaque at the location. Commemorating not just the track, but celebrating the enterprise and energy of Robert Sadler and as a reminder of the unique sporting heritage of the Borough of Wandsworth. Look out for more details about this over the coming months as we plan what we hope will be a very special occasion.