There have been many wonderful Summerstown182 moments but 25th March 2015 was hard to beat. That was when we welcomed Len Jewell to St Mary’s Church, just a few days short of his 100th birthday. He reckoned that it was his first visit since being dipped in the font in 1915. Dave Mauger from Tooting PRSS and Rud from Wandsworth Radio were there to meet him, also Maureen Pitts the only current parishioner with a relative on the First World War memorial – it was a very special occasion. As if that wasn’t enough, we had a surprise visit from a woman called Doreen, all the way from Dartford in Kent. Her Grandfather, Francis Raymond is on the memorial and she showed us her mother’s birth certificate and some lovely photos of her own wedding to Brian at St Mary’s in 1965. We sent her over to Franche Court Road where she had a cuppa with her old mate Alan Gardner.
Francis himself was also hitched in St Mary’s. He was 26 when he stepped down the aisle with Emma Elizabeth Wickens from Foss Road on 25th April 1915. That was the day of the Gallipoli landings and also a period in the wake of the sinking of The Lusitania when Peter Jung’s bakery at Tooting Broadway was coming under attack. Lets hope he hadn’t been tasked with the catering. Emma was the eldest girl in a large family at 92 Foss Road. Twelve children are noted on the 1911 census but four had died. They lived in just three rooms. Frank gave his profession as a newsagent. Above then in the St Mary’s marriage register were a couple who had tied the knot just a week earlier; Hilda Mullinger Mace and the jockey, Dick Durham. Hilda was a sister of the Mace brothers and her two children Ivor and Joan attended our Remembrance in Streatham Cemetery a few weeks ago. Almost a year to the day later, a daughter Mary Ann was born. In 1937 she married Doreen’s Dad and the rest is history.
Francis’ father was a John Robert Raymond, born in 1860 and whose roots lay in the Mile End and Stepney part of east London. The family relocated to south London and were in Penge by the time of the 1871 census. On the 14th May 1882, at the age of 22 and working as a blacksmith, John married Mary Ann Sophia Willis at All Saints Church in Upper Norwood. In 1891 they were living with three children at 11 Triangle Place, Clapham. Francis, three months old, only just makes it onto the census. Robert Thomas was eight and Lily was two. They were still there in 1901 and John had now become a tram driver, very timely with trams about to come all the way out to Tooting. Frank also now had a younger brother called Alfred. Very sadly John Raymond became sick with consumption and died in a Fulham hospital in 1903 aged just 43. He is buried in Norwood Cemetery. Frank appears as a visitor in the 1911 census, at the home of his brother Robert at Carfax Square, Clapham. Now aged 20, the census tells us he was a newspaper cyclist. Robert had followed his father’s calling and was an LCC ‘electric tram driver.’ Carfax Place is just the other side of the main road so they were literally next door and Frank was probably still living in this area. Booth visited in 1899 and described it as ‘rather poor and dirty’.
The old houses are long gone but Triangle Place still exists, off Clapham Park Road, just behind the big Sainsburys store near Clapham Common tube station. Its part of a large 1930’s development called the William Bonney Estate. He wasn’t Billy the Kid or even a pirate, but the Mayor of Wandsworth from 1938-1944. I have recollections from about twenty years ago of the pub at the end of the road being called The Auld Triangle. Then for a long time it was a nightclub called The White House. Its now a French restaurant, Le Petite Bretagne, rather appropriate given whats happened this week.
Francis enlisted in the army in Tooting on 10th December 1915 joining a training battalion, the 27th Middlesex. He was posted to France with the 16th battalion sometime in 1916. His daughter Mary Alice Louisa was born on the 15th April 1916 and the certificate indicates he was a private in the Middlesex Regiment, so his promotion to Corporal must have come some time after then. He gave his profession as a ‘carman, selling mineral waters’, a good step up in a few years from delivering papers on his bike. Frank and Emma gave their address as 21 Foss Road. His regiment was rather grandly known as 16th (Public Schools) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own). It was raised in London on the 1st September 1914 and trained initially at Kempton Park racecourse. In July 1916 they went into action on the Somme and the following year were extensively involved in the The First, Second and Third Battles of the Scarpe during the Arras Offensive. It was here that Francis Henry Raymond was killed on the last day of May 1917 near Monchy-le-Preux.
The 16th Middlesex war diary at this time is very matter-of-fact but gives a few pointers as to what happened in those last months. In April 1917 the battalion moved from the Somme to Arras and from 15th-18th were ‘engaged in making new defences at Monchy’. This was clearly dangerous territory and in the process of this they suffered 72 casualties. At Arras on 22nd, one of their Lewis guns brought down an aeroplane. Between 24th and 25th they endured another 104 casualties in the assault on Monchy. After a few days recovery at Souastre they were back near Monchy digging strong points on 10th April. By the 20th they were in the front line trenches and up to their neck in defending the village. On 30th, ‘under intense artillery barrage’ a contingent of 11 officers and 230 men joined the Lancashire Fusiliers in an attack on Hook Trench. ‘All were driven back by counter-attacks, with the exception, as far as can be ascertained of two officers and some 30 to 40 men’. Whether Frank made it through in these few days the battalion sustained almost 250 casulaties with 32 killed. The following day they were relieved and moved back to Arras, on that day Frank Raymond must have succumbed to his wounds. His name is inscribed on Bay 7 of the Arras Memorial.
Back in south London Emma was left with a child just over a year old. There was no mention of Frank Raymond in the parish magazines over the war years and his name never appeared in the roll of honour, nor was his death announced. Emma may have had to wait some time before hearing the bad news. She remained in Foss Road and in September 1919 in Croydon she married John Raymond Wyeth from Colliers Wood. From at least 1924 the couple lived in Foss Road at No39, her parents just up the road, still at No92. She would have been there when the V2 rocket landed on the next street in November 1944. A number of homes would have been badly damaged by the blast but No39 was at the southern end of Foss Road, not too far from the back of the Keeleys at No44 Hazelhurst Road. She was there until her death aged 67 in 1959. So many familiar names surrounded her; the Hammonds, the Warmans, the Byatts, the Duttons, the Steers, the Sandys, the parents of Maureen Pitts who were at No22. Next door at No41 were the Paskells and it was Brian Paskell who stepped down the aisle with Frank Raymond’s grandaughter Doreen in 1965.