Putney to Mortlake

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I combined a recent visit to the extraordinary tomb of the Victorian explorer and translator of The Kama Sutra, Sir Richard Burton, with the slightly more modest final resting place of one of our Summerstown182, Francis Warrington. They are both buried in Mortlake, separated by the Putney to Richmond railway line. This slices through a nest of tight-knit streets filled with beautifully preserved workmen’s cottages, the current value of which would undoubtedly prohibit any workmen from living there today. Someone tending a grave in Old Mortlake Burial Ground commented that his white van was not a common sight in this locality.

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There are only a few of the Summerstown182 whose final resting place is close to home. One of those is Francis George Warrington who lies in this lovely old cemetery, just a short walk from the address given to the Imperial War Graves Commission by his widow Ellen. On the next-of-kin documentation she gave her residence as 17 Trehern Road. She lived there with baby daughter Ellen when Frank died in the Grove Military Hospital in Tooting on 24th April 1918. His grave is on the western side of the cemetery and in 1928 his father Edward was also buried in it. A gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery who had been seconded to the Army Veterinary Corps, Francis Warrington’s death was announced in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine in August 1918 ‘Francis George Warrington of the Army Veterinary Corps died in hospital last April from the effects of gas poisoning’. The fact that this happened four months after the event and that there is no mention of his service in the parish magazines throughout the course of the war indicates that his name is on the war memorial because of a family connection to the church, possibly via one of his sisters.

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Born in 1859, Edward Albert Warrington came from Worksop in Nottinghamshire. He married Rachel Thatcher in Bethnal Green on 28th August 1880. He was then working as a butcher. In 1881 the couple were living in Wimbledon where Edward is listed as a soldier. Given what was happening in the world at the time, its quite likely that he saw overseas service in Africa or India. Their first child Beatrice was born in 1883 in Wandsworth and Francis George arrived three years later. That was also the year they moved across London to West Ham where Edward joined the police service. In 1891 they were resident at 46 Plaistow Grove, West Ham and now had two other daughters, Alice and Florence.

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From at least 1896 the family were back in Wandsworth living at 34 Burr Road in Southfields. The 1901 census is the closest we can get Francis to St Mary’s Church and even then its a good 20 minute walk away. Burr Road is an odd industrial connection between Kimber Road and Merton Road on the edge of King George’s Park – you’d use it if you were going to the Leisure Centre behind Southfields Academy. It was presumably turned upside down in the thirties when Coleman Court was built and that now dominates the road alongside Jack Barclay’s gargantuan Bentley service centre. There is no residential housing there and part of the school stands where once was No34. Here lived Police Constable Edward Warrington, his wife Rachel and their four children. Beatrice 18, Francis 15, Alice 13 and Florence 11. Francis was working as a builder’s labourer. Very sadly in the autumn quarter that year Rachel passed away at the age of 41. They were here until 1903 before going to 157 Norroy Road, Putney and moving two years later to nearby Lifford Street.

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A Francis Warrington joined the 4th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment on 4th December 1902. He gave his age as 18 years and three months and it was indicated that he had been working for the West Hill Dairy in East Putney. Was this a reaction to the death of his mother? He just missed the Boer War but perhaps his military involvement explains why we can’t find him in the 1911 census. Francis’ widowed father Edward and sister Beatrice, now married with one child were still at 39 Lifford Street in Putney at this stage. This road nestles gently in the quiet conservation area to the west of Putney High Street. The area has a genuine rustic charm and many of the houses appear to have changed little in a hundred years or more. His pension register shows that Edward retired from the police force in 1911 with a healthy pension of £53 a year after his 25 years service. He died in 1928 and is buried in the same grave as his only son. Aged 29, Francis married Ellen Shepherd in Fulham in the June quarter of 1915. They had very little time together as his medal index card shows that he entered France on 16th October that year with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

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The Royal Army Veterinary Corps were responsible for the medical care of animals used by the army, predominantly horses, mules and pigeons. The above photo in the Imperial War Museum collection shows one of their number on the Western Front, bandaging a wounded horse at No5 Veterinary Hospital at Abbeville, dated 22 April 1918. Two days before, another of them died in a hospital back in Tooting. Its likely that Francis Warrington, having survived most of the war, was caught up in the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 and hospitalised back to England after that. The figures are astounding, in a few weeks the allied forces lost over a quarter of a million men. Advancing over forty miles, the Spring Offensive delivered stunning success for the German Army and almost turned the course of the war.

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Francis died in the Grove Military Hospital in Tooting on 24th April 1918, now part of the world famous St George’s Hospital. During the First World War the fever hospital was requisitioned in 1916 by the War Office and became the Grove Military Hospital with 550 beds, treating both officers and other ranks. Under the command of Colonel Goodall, sections of the Hospital were designated for infectious diseases, TB of the lung, and dermatology – scabies and venereal disease. The military hospital opened in November 1916 and closed in September 1919. During its operational lifetime, it treated 2,499 officers and 13,459 enlisted men. The specialist venereal disease section of the hospital catered for 144 officers and 100 men. During the First World War, VD caused 416,891 hospital admissions among British and Dominion troops, roughly 5% of all the men who enlisted in Britain’s armies during the war became infected. That figure can be judged alongside a total of 74,711 cases of ‘Trench Foot’ treated by hospitals in France and Flanders during the whole of the war. Trench Foot came to symbolise the squalor of the conflict but the reality was that a man was more than five times as likely to end up in hospital suffering from syphilis or gonorrhoea.

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Old Mortlake Burial Ground is a small classic Victorian cemetery not far from the tip of the great bend of the River Thames negotiated each year in the University Boat Race, a course followed in some way by the Warrington family in their journey from Putney to Mortlake. Charles Dickens’ eldest son is buried here and also his housekeeper. We visited Francis for the first time few years ago just as the daffodils were emerging. Now in high summer, the headstone is almost submerged behind a tangle of weeds and in need of a little loving. Francis is one of 21 Commonwealth War Commission graves there, 19 of them from the First World War.

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Back across that railway line is the St Mary Magdalen churchyard and the breathtaking mausoleum in the shape of an Arab tent containing the coffins of Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isabel Arundell. They can actually be viewed by climbing an iron ladder at the back and peering through a window. Explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat, Burton was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. He possessed a curiosity about life in the little known Arab world and persuaded the Royal Geographical Society to fund a series of adventures including one for the source of the Nile.

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Francis’ soldiers effects record indicates that he had a child called Ellen, born in the spring quarter of 1917. This is very likely the Ellen Frances Warrington who married a Frank Craig in Fulham in 1937, born on 13th May 1917. She passed away in Crawley in 1995 but her sons, Brian, Peter and David Craig may well still be living, the three grandsons of Frances George Warrington.

https://cemeteryclub.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/the-burton-mauseoluem-an-adventurers-tomb-in-a-quiet-suburb/

The French Connection

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The Bishop of Kingston came to St Mary’s Church last week and I was very pleased to take him on a short Summerstown182 Walk. We went over to the Hazelhurst estate where I showed him the green plaque and told him all about the brilliant ‘Hazelfest’ which passed off so splendidly this weekend. We then moved across Garratt Lane to the tranquility of the Huntspill Steet enclave where we stood outside the former home of one of the Sunday School Three, William Mace. The Bishop was so supportive of what we are doing in this community and our efforts to reach out to everyone, whatever their faith or lack of it. He understood the importance of ensuring that the story of those who came from faraway lands to fight alongside our Summerstown boys one hundred years ago is heard. One of those who would have ecountered Asian soldiers in the trenches of Ypres in the early months of 1915 was William Smith from Bellew Street. He was killed in the fighting at ‘Hill 60’ not far from the location where Indian soldiers first went into action on the western front in October 1914. At this site a memorial to them was unveiled in 1999. On our recent visit to the First World War battlefields we were honoured to take a floral tribute from our Tooting Sikh community which we placed at this location, on the edge of a field near the village of Hollebeke. This is also the site of where Khudadad Khan became the first Muslim recipient of a Victoria Cross.

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The first foreign influence in this corner of the borough were probably the Dutch who came over to make frying pans in the 1630s – they were also involved in copper working and dying, industries that were most certainly practised on Copper Mill Lane and at the Garratt Printworks at the end of Riverside Road. Bellew Street and Franche Court Road are two streets in this area that most certainly owe their monikers to the Huguenot presence in Wandsworth from the late seventeenth century. Being artistically inclined, the French refugees would certainly have approved of the decorative floral detailing around the window fronts on the north side of Bellew Street. Not a lot of that on Franche Court Road.

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Reverend William Galpin speculated in the St Mary’s parish magazine in 1929 that Bellew Street may have been named after a much earlier association. ‘Our district was part of the estate of the Prior of Merton; in their very first entry now remaining – 1150-1160 occurs: Robert, Prior and Convent of Merton granted to the Heir de Belewe, their mill at Sumerton for 24s 8d per annum’. From 1680, large numbers of Huguenots arrived as refugees in response to Louis XIV revoking the Edict of Nantes which had granted them liberty from persecution. It is believed almost half a million Huguenots fled to other Protestant countries in Europe and further afield. They are so intensely bound to the history of this borough that the ‘tear-shapes’ on the Wandsworth Borough Council crest are symbolic of their sad plight.

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The Huguenots set up their own industries and established a french-speaking church. Many of them are buried in the famous Mount Nod Cemetery on East Hill. Their new skills and trades, coupled with an outstanding work ethic meant they were largely welcomed. With its free-flowing Wandle, described in 1805 as ‘the hardest worked river for its size in the world’, this area had always been a centre of textile-finishing. Scarlet dying was just one of the new techniques added by the Huguenots. It was said that the scarlet dye was much prized by the Cardinals of Rome as the colour was so fast it could be guaranteed not to run down the face in the rain. Calico printing was almost certainly introduced to Wandsworth by the Huguenots and practised in this area on the site of the Corruganza Factory which before cardboard boxes took over was the Garratt Print Works, churning out 25,000 items of cloth a year at its height in 1850 when it employed over 100 people. Robert Sadler’s father James was a silk and calico printer and Bob who was a dyer and his two brothers almost certainly worked there. Hat making, feltmaking and leather work were all trades that the Huguenots introduced to Wandsworth, playing a huge part in the development of industry in the Wandle Valley. You can hear more about that on our ‘Industry of Garratt Lane’ Guided Walk on 10th June as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.

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Lance Corporal William Smith from Bellew Street died on 15th February 1915 aged 37. This was in the same ‘Valentines Day Massacre’ that claimed the life of another Summerstown man, Charles Norris. They were both in the 2nd East Surrey Regiment and their names are carved onto the Menin Gate in Ypres. William’s father Archibald was born in Dumbartonshire, Scotland in 1842 and worked as a carpenter. In the 1881 census the Smith family were living at 14 Hindon Place, Westminster and Archie was married to Ellen and working as a joiner. There were eight children, five of whom were born in Pimlico including three year old William. Although the streets in this area are blue on the Charles Booth map, we should be relieved to see that the great man notes ‘no sign of squalour’ in relation to Hindon Place. Ten years later they were at the same address and thirteen year old William was a telegraph messenger. Archibald first appears on the electoral roll at 10 Bellew Street in 1899 and in 1901 he and Ellen are present there with one son Thomas and a grand daughter. William was 23 by then and had already seemingly upped and left the nest. By 1911 Ellen had been widowed, she was 65 and working as a maternity nurse. Her daughter Ellen, now Mrs Parmiter was also present with one of her children.

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In February 1915 the 2nd East Surreys were south of Ypres and became involved in attempts to capture a much-prized German stronghold called Hill 60. This was a 150 foot high spoil heap created by earth dumped from the creation of a nearby railway cutting which provided observers with an excellent view of the Ypres area. Captured by the Germans during the First Battle of Ypres in November 1914, it was taken briefly in April, but lost again shortly afterwards. It remained in German hands until the great Battle of Messines mine assault of June 1917. On Sunday 14th February at 2pm, the 2nd East Surreys set out with the objective to capture a lost trench on the southern side of the Ypres-Combines canal. The War Diary records how the attack was over open ground and very exposed. A and C Company lost nearly all their officers. Eight rank and file were killed, 106 wounded and significantly 37 listed as missing. In total 44 men from the East Surrey Regiment lost their lives that day. The attack recommenced the following day with further disastrous results. Five killed, 37 wounded, 14 missing. Somewhere amongst these was Lance Corporal William Smith.

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We know very little else about him. Its unlikely William was married due to his ‘soldiers effects record which tell us something quite significant about his character. Most of these indicate the deceased soldier leaving whatever money was due to him to a wife or parent. William Smith carefully divided his estate between all his brothers and sisters who are listed on the form; Alexander, Archibald, John, Thomas, Sarah, Ellen and Isabella. He left behind thirteen pounds, fourteen shillings and nine pence. This was split nine ways between his widowed mother, seven siblings and sister-in-law. Surely that says something and suggests that William was part of a closeknit family and even though he wasn’t around for a couple of census records and we can’t find any traces of him, they were all still very much in touch and on good terms. Given his age and the tradition of local men joining the East Surreys, its just possible William Smith was a fully signed-up soldier for some time before the War, possibly stationed in faraway places like South Africa, maybe even India. One thing for sure, the connections run deep – look out for the Far From the Western Front exhibition coming to St George’s Hospital Tooting in September and our other initiatives to promote knowledge of the extensive involvement of Asians soldiers and non-combatants in the First World War.

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Round the Bend

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If there’s a shop on Garratt Lane that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and a skip to the step, it’s the most splendid Lola and Sidney, named after a couple of rabbits. Phil is always ready for a chat and has been an outstanding supporter of our Summerstown182 project and historical initiatives, always ready to pop a poster in the window and drop a few Quid for Sid. When we were looking for money for the boy soldier’s plaque, he kindly donated £1 from the sale of his stock of Tooting tote bags. Many people have recollections of 812 Garratt Lane as a post office on the corner of Rostella Road, probably fifteen years ago or more now, but in a much earlier guise it was the location of ‘Jas. Hy. Bailey, billiard cue makers’. A vision of still sits rather well, the emerald baize, the hushed lighting, the sense of theatre. If Joe Davis came out of the back room in a velvetine waistcoat waving a cigar, it would not be out of place in this retro paradise. We love it and since a giant striped duck started a wave of multi-coloured polyresin critter creations imported from Belgium, we love it even more. We just wish people would show some affection in return by not leaving their rubbish on the pavement – a blight on this particular stretch of our adored Garratt Lane. We gotta look after it folks!

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One lad who lived not to far away from here and orbited the world of chalk, cue and the gentle crack of bakelite was Harry Percy Keatch. He worked as a ‘billiard marker’ at a licensed victuallers and very likely dropped in to Mr Bailey’s establishment to admire the cut of his cue. Colin, a local lifelong resident, born on Rostella Road and still living nearby recalls his father telling him about the hum of the lathe turning the billiard cues. It would seem the business was around until sometime before the Second World War.

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Billiards was an extremely popular game in the early part of the twentieth century. Played in dedicated halls, pubs, hotels, or club houses of other sporting organisations, it required someone to keep score of the match and ensure the drinks were flowing. It was a job for all ages but boys as young as twelve or thirteen were often employed. Not far up the road was the famous Fountain Hotel where young Harry might even have chalked the cue of Tiny Ted Foster. He may possibly have worked at the Sylvan Billiards Hall at 569 Garratt Lane next to St Andrew’s Church, now home of Earlsfield Snooker Club. Its even possible that he did a spot of marking at the renowned Tooting Conservative Club. It was here, on a magical afternoon a couple of summers ago, that Len Jewell, in his one hundredth year demonstrated his range of trick shots whilst looking for the snooker table there that he recalled sheltering under from a buzz bomb in 1944.

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George Keatch was the son of a millwright born on Garratt Lane. A ‘trading engineer and fitter’,  he was living in Battersea when he married Annie Wagland in 1885. Harry was their third child, baptised at the old St Mary’s Church on 29th March 1891. This would have been around the time its foundations were starting to quake and two years later it was demolished. The family’s address at the time was Park Terrace, Summerstown – part of a stretch of houses on Garratt Lane. By 1901 they were living at 6 Franche Court Road and starting a thirty year association with this popular L-shaped street. It runs east off Garratt Lane then diverts sharply to the left before connecting with Burntwood Lane. Emily was then aged 14, Alfred was 13 and Harry was ten. Electoral rolls indicate they were at this address until 1909. When Emily married Josiah Wilson at St Mary’s Church that year they were resident at 733 Garratt Lane and soon afterwards they moved round the bend to No88. Given his job and the proximity of the developing Anglo American Laundry at this time, its inconceivable that George Keatch didn’t witness the placement of one of its boilers. Julia Creeke provided this extraordinary photograph above of the boiler being transported down one of the streets on its way to Burmester Road. By 1911, Harry was the only child at home when the census was taken. He was now aged 20 and working as a billiard marker. It appears the family moved during the war to No62, then back to No88 for a while before finally settling at No66 where they resided into the mid-thirties. It would seem then that they relocated to Worthing where George died in 1936 and Annie in 1953.

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Leaving the world of laundries and billiard halls behind, aged 22, Harry went in search of a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. He is picked up on a passengers list sailing from Liverpool to Canada in 1913. He arrived in Quebec in August 1913 and indicated his profession as a waiter. Did he return to London to join the war effort or was it because of the charms of a horse bus driver’s daughter from Lewisham? One thing for sure, he was very likely in uniform when he married Ellen Agnes Bartlett there in the final quarter of 1917. At the time of the 1911 census she was 21 and working as a housemaid at The Empress Club at 35 Dover Street. One of the first of London’s ‘ladies’ clubs’, exclusively for ‘ladies of social position’ at one time The Empress had 70 bedrooms available to its 2700 members. On the night of the 1911 census the number of live-in staff had shrunk to 25 (including Ellen) and only 14 guests (all women) were registered as staying the night. Founded in 1897and named after the Queen-Empress herself, this grand venue, boasted ‘two drawing rooms offering a choice between the Louis Quinze or the Venetian style, a dining room, a lounge, a smoking gallery and a smoking room, a library, a writing room, a tape machine for news, a telephone, and a staircase decorated with stained glass windows depicting Shakespeare’s heroines.’ The building survives appropriately enough now the flagship Jimmy Choo store.

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Harry was aged 27 when he died on 9th April the following year so he and Ellen had very little time together as man and wife. His grave registration document on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website indicates that he died of pneumonia rather than being killed in battle. His military record indicates that he was living in Catford and had enlisted in Fulham. His next-of-kin was his wife Ellen Agnes Keatch of 75 Sangley Road, Catford. This was her parents address.

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In the spring of 1918 the German Supreme Command committed itself to a series of large-scale surprise offensives against the Allied lines, an attempt to break the deadlock on the Western Front before the US Army arrived. After initial successes and some significant ground gained, the German ‘Spring Offensive’ ran out of steam, mainly due to an inability to resupply frontline troops with sufficient food, equipment and reinforcements. Considering where Harry Keatch is buried its likely he avoided the first phase of this onslaught. The attack in the Aisne area came the following month and took the Germans to within 80 miles of Paris. This was also when the Americans joined the fray and the tide soon turned.

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At the time of his death Harry was serving with the 517th Field Company of the Royal Engineers. He had a number of different army service numbers and one was the Army Cyclist Corps – something in common then with Arthur Clarke who lived just round the corner at No45 Franche Court Road. All these houses are on my regular bike route to work and I can’t help thinking about that when I whizz past (at less than 20mph of course). Harry is buried in the same small isolated Premont British Cemetery as another of the Summerstown182, William Bonken. A few years younger than Harry, they may never have met. William died the same year it was in a battle some months later. It was close to this cemetery that we found our famous ‘war horse’ shoe which has done the rounds of local schools this year as part of our Lottery Funded project.

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Harry’s widow Ellen was left in Catford. Sangley Road is just round the corner from the giant Catford Centre moggie on the South Circular. She was still living at the address with her brother George until the mid-1930s. Ellen never remarried and died in Braintree Essex in 1972 aged 82. We always look out for the big cat on our trips to Dover and it puts any of Lola & Sidney’s polyresin animals in perspective. It now has a new meaning and we’ll salute it next time and think of the young billiard marker from Garratt Lane and the housemaid from The Empress Club.

Catford Centre, Catford, London 14/6/2013

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