The New Road

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With Charles Booth’s damning critique of Summerstown ringing in his ears, Reverend John Robinson’s ministery at St Mary’s Church did not get off to the best of starts, ‘A region of mists, low-lying on heavy clay soil, exceedingly depressing one should suppose to health as it undoubtedly is to the imagination.’ With no church and a disgruntled congregation he must have wondered what he had let himself in for in a parish ‘serving as a refuge for the rejected from elsewhere’. It would appear that Reverend Robinson was appointed ahead of a popular temporary incumbent. He was also faced with a debt of £700 over the building of an iron church would had replaced the original version, demolished in 1894. He took the decision to close this structure and laid plans for the building of a new one. A local newspaper sternly intoned ‘To close a church is to incur a grave responsibility, it is hoped that the present unfortunate state of things will not be of long continuance’.

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They need not have worried. On 4th April 1903 Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Christian laid the foundation stone and a year later the new St Mary’s Church was opened for business. Alongside it, a new street was constructed. On our Friends of Summerstown182 visit to the London Metropolitan Archives a few months ago we looked at drawings and plans for ‘the new road’. It cut a swathe through a triangle of land known as Drunken Bridge Field, connecting Garratt Lane with Wimbledon Road. The old church had sat at the northern tip of this, built through the generosity of a retired merchant called Joshua Stanger in 1840 and enlarged in 1865 to accomodate 500 worshippers. Unfortunately its foundations were inadequate and a dry summer in 1893 caused severe subsidence. After much debate it was demolished a year later. Also built adjacent to the church by Joshua Stanger was a school, which after the demise of the tin church was for a while used for services.

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This new road which was given the name Keble Street was first populated in 1904. The electoral roll of 1905 gives a fascinating glimpse into its first residents, though not all the houses seem to have been filled. Albert William Iles living at No44 was the builder, so no surprise then that he got the biggest end house. Its interesting to see the name of Edward (E.W.) Mountford on the drawings. He was a renowned ecclesiastical architect who most famously designed The Old Bailey and Sheffield and Battersea Town Halls. He was also responsible for St Andrew’s Church in Earlsfield which dates from 1890. Moving in to No16 Keble Street was a James Henry Moorhouse and family. A painter and paperhanger, he may very well have decorated the houses in his new street or perhaps even worked on the church. He lived here with his wife Caroline and their six children, the eldest of which was fourteen year old William. William Moorhouse was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele, one hundred years ago this summer. His family would have an extraordinary connection with the road that lasted almost forty years. James died in 1919 but his mother lived on at 16 Keble Street with daughter Louie for another twenty years. She passed away in March 1939 aged 79.

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James Henry Moorhouse was born in Holborn in 1860. His father was also a painter and decorator and had the same name. He was intruigingly ‘born at sea on a voyage to Dublin.’ James Junior was the eldest of nine children living at 62 Blondel Street, Battersea in 1881. He was married on 4th November 1889 at St Saviour’s Church, Battersea Park Road to Caroline Annie Victoria Paget. They were both aged 30 and apparently set up home at 69 Blondel Street. William Henry was born on 22nd Sepember 1890 and baptised at St Saviour’s on 16th November. In 1891 Caroline’s Mother, May Alma Paget, a laundry washer woman also appeared to be living with them. William started at Holden Street School in October 1895 when it would appear they had moved to No27. Some time around the turn of the century the family relocated to Earlsfield and in 1901 were living at 12 Thorndean Street with additional offspring; Frank, Louie, Grace and Ada. Another very good location for The Sea Horse chippy. From here it was a short hop down Garratt Lane to the newly constructed Keble Street. By 1911 James and Caroline and their family of six children were well settled at No16. William now 20 was a general labourer, Frank 18 was a restaurant liftman, Louie 17 worked in a cardboard box factory, 15 year old Grace was a domestic, Ada and Eric were still at school. There would have been plenty of work for James with all the building going on around at the time but their existence was soon to be shattered by the outbreak of war in August 1914.

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We can’t be certain when William Moorhouse joined the 19th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment but by the summer of 1917 he was with the 16th. Following the highly successful attack on the Messines Ridge in June 1917 – the occasion when unionist and nationalist soldiers from the island of Ireland famously fought together for the first time, attention turned to Passchendaele. The main battle commenced on 31st July 1917 and stretched on until 10th November. The failure of the French Offensive in May, followed by mutiny spreading throughout the French army, persuaded Haig to press ahead with plans for a major British attack in late summer. Following a warning that the current level of shipping losses would prevent the British from sustaining the war into 1918, the aim of the campaign was to be the destruction of German submarine bases on the Belgian coast. Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres would result in half a million casualties.

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William was killed on 18th August 1917, one of 3,240 burials in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, north-west of Poperinghe. He is in good company. Here lies fellow Summerstown182, Fred Jewell from Hazelhurst Road who was killed less than a month earlier. Dozinghem was outside the front held by Commonwealth forces in Belgium during the First World War, but in July 1917, in readiness for the forthcoming offensive, groups of casualty clearing stations were placed at three positions. The names were popularly recited by troops, Mendinghem, Dozinghem and Bandaghem.

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The War Diary of the 16th Middlesex indicates that they were camped at Elverdinghe on 5th July 1917. This location and date are highly significant to me. At dawn on this day, close to this location, a young soldier from Sunderland called Robert Hope of 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was executed for desertion. I discovered that my Great Uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum had been tasked with organising the firng party. He declined, a decision that lead to him being courtmartialed and forfeiting rank. It is a moving and complicated story that involved Robert’s young widow from Derry and ten children from her second marriage that were never told. To add to the confusion, Robert was serving under his Grandmother’s maiden name of Hepple. A Belgian organisation called VIFF (Friends of Flanders Field Museum) heard about it and organised a ‘Remembrance’ in 2013. In a few weeks time we will be commemorating this soldier again on the centenary of his death. Over three hundred other soldiers suffered a similar fate but all were officially pardoned in 2006. One of the saddest stories is perhaps that of a young Jamaican called Herbert Morris of the British West Indies Regiment.. One of 15,440 soldiers who volunteered to serve with the battalions raised in the British Caribbean. Undoubtedly traumatised and shellshocked, he was shot on 20th September 1917. It was not long after his seventeenth birthday. He is buried in Poperinghe.

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William Moorhouse would have been aware of the heightened discipline in the British Army in the summer of 1917 due to the French mutiny and a growing sense that there was no end in sight of this conflict. A number of soldiers from his own regiment suffered the same fate as Robert Hope and Herbert Morris. On 6th August the 16th Middlesex moved into a reserve trench relieving the 1st Dublin Fusiliers. A few days later they were in the front line attack on Passerelle Farm, Langemarck. 32 men were killed on these days and 87 wounded. The heaviest rain in 30 years had churned the Flanders lowland soil into a thick muddy swamp and the artillery bombardment had ripped up the ground making it barely impassable for advancing troops. An improvement in the weather from 16th August lead to four days of fierce fighting but minimal gain. On that day the 16th Middlesex were in action again and their Commanding Officer, Lt Colonel Frank Morris DSO was killed. He had only taken command two days earlier. On 18th they relieved the 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers and attacked with the French on one side, the 1st Dublin Fusiliers on the other. William may well have been alongside Alan Lendrum who in the wake of his courtmartial had cross-transfered to the Dublins on 8th. In the diary of that day, it was recorded that 16 men were killed and 67 wounded. Among these was 26 year old William Moorhouse from 16 Keble Street. ‘He is not dead, such spirits never die, he only sleeps’.

Thanks to Bart Seynaeve who visited William Moorhouse’s grave in Dozinghem a few years ago and took these photographs.
BOTTOM OF GRAVE

'The Deserter'

Walk The Lane

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One of the highlights of the summer will surely be last Saturday’s, ‘Industry of Garratt Lane’ Guided Walk. About fifty people formed a procession from Mapleton Road to Summerstown, a massive three hour historical ramble which helped raise funds to put up a plaque recalling one of Summerstown’s greatest sons, Robert Rook Sadler. The remainder of the money was contributed by last years ‘Historic Earlsfield’. Additional donations came from friends and supporters who appreciate our efforts to raise the profile of the significant history of this corner of south west London. Bless you all and thank you to Wandsworth Heritage Festival for including us in your programme.

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Promoting this walk was very informative. In the weeks beforehand we made a real effort to engage with as many shops and businesses on Garratt Lane as we could. We wanted to learn a little bit about them or perhaps enlighten them as to who or what their premises had once been. After all, each of them in some way are part of the story. We asked them to put up a small poster in their window or door for a few weeks and many were more than happy to oblige. It gave us a real lift to see such a show of community spirit and we must mention one memorable case which went beyond the call of duty. Step forward Garratt Lane newcomer Ramtin of Eclectic Coffee who put our leaflet in a beautiful silver frame and tastefully placed it next to an ornate lamp in his front window. Classy. Do look out for his collection of fittings straight from the Althorp Estate, and we are talking Princess Diana’s stately home here, nothing to do with Bob Sadler.

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It would surely though have been in a nod to the ancestral seat of the Spencer family that the headquarters of Robert Sadler’s pedestrian initiative was named Althorp Lodge. We finished the walk here at Burmester House, where on the 16th September we will put up a plaque recalling the extraordinary Copenhagen Running Grounds. Just a few doors away is 733 Garratt Lane which was still a butchers shop when I moved here about twenty years ago. Its had a few different reincarnations since then and for a while was the HSL Head Shop. Its now ‘Vape on the Lane’ and doubling-up as a florists. The shopfront is bordered by the most exquisite decorative tiles which wouldn’t be out of place in Art Deco Lisbon. They would no doubt have been admired in 1911 by Patrick John Moylan an ‘assistant butcher’ who lived here with his wife and two small children. He was killed less than a month before the end of the war on 11th October 1918.

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Patrick’s roots lay across the water and his father Jeremiah Moylan was born in Castlemagner, Cork, Ireland in 1844. He left the Rebel County and came to London and settled in the Fulham area where he found work as a general labourer. Here he married Caroline Garratt at St John’s Walham Green in 1869. They tried living in Kent for a while and their first two children Katherine and Deborah were born in Sevenoaks where Jeremiah was an agricultural labourer. The 1881 census shows the Moylans back in their old south London stamping ground and living at Bullow Road, Sands End, which was where the youngest of five children Patrick was born in 1880. This was an extremely poor area off the Wandsworth Bridge Road but close to the Imperial Gas Works where Jeremiah may have been employed. Booth refers to the area as ‘Irish, noisy, poor, a few criminals… windows broken and patched, children playing on mud heaps’. By 1891 they were at 24 Telcott Road, not too far from where the Lots Road Power Station ‘The Chelsea Monster’ would soon pop up. Patrick now had a younger brother called Thomas. Jeremiah was still a gas stoker in a burgeoning industry which had now become the biggest employer in this corner of south west London.

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In the spring of 1902 Patrick got married in Fulham to Alice Mary Harding from Southgate. For whatever reason they chose to set up home across the river and in 1903 William John was born in Earlsfield. Half way between Wandsworth and Tooting, this area had developed rapidly following the opening of the Earlsfield and Summerstown railway station on the Waterloo to Southampton line in 1884. Between 1890 and 1900 the population doubled from 6,000 to 12,000. The following year the Moylans were living at No2 Isis Street and in 1907 at No28. The name comes from the old manor house on All Farthing Lane, pictured below. This was purchased by Robert Davis in 1868 and named Earlsfield House. Some say this was after his wife’s maiden name, others because he had connections with the Earlsfield estate in Ballymote, County Sligo. The house there which was once owned by the Gore-Booth family still stands and is a convent and home to The Sisters of Mercy. There is no trace of Earlsfield House on All Farthing Lane.

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When they were at No2 they would have been very close to No446 Garratt Lane, then the location of fishmonger John Barber. One hundred years later, fish are still on the agenda here but served fried, not wet, courtesy of the magnificent Sea Horse. Kathleen Norah Moylan was born in 1908. Slowly they edged towards Summerstown and from 1909 to 1911 were at 69 Littleton Street. After that they took the big leap across Burntwood Lane into the Promised Land and from 1911 to 1912, would appear to have been living at the butchers at 733 Garratt Lane. The 1913 index has this address listed as the business of James Eagles and in the twenties it was run by a Harold Birch.

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At some stage in 1912 the Moylans were back in Earlsfield at 13 Headworth Road and from 1915 they lived at 49 Quinton Street. Their extraordinary tour of what estate agents would have us believe are some of the most desirable streets in this area appears to have ended in 1918 at 4 Ravensbury Terrace on the fringe of Southfields. It backs up against the Wandle, just off Penwith Road in the shadow of the massive recently-constructed Banham premises, now probably the biggest employer in this area.

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In the middle of all this extraordinary transcience something happened which perhaps precipitated some of the movement. In the summer of 1913, Alice passed away aged 37, leaving Patrick with two children, William now ten and Kathleen five. He moved fast and on 25th May 1914 in Wandsworth Register Office he married Beatrice Elizabeth Taylor. Patrick was now 34, widowed and remarried with two young children, he would have been ready to settle down to a quiet suburban life when war broke out.

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Patrick was in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. They was formed at Chichester in September 1914 and were part of Kitchener’s New Army. After formation the battalion went into camp on the South Downs around Brighton and in April 1915 they moved to Shoreham and then on to Woking in Surrey. The 9th Battalion landed in Boulogne on 31st August 1915 and within a few weeks of arrival suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Loos. Its unlikely given his age and family situation that Patrick would have volunteered. All we know is that in the Autumn of 1918 he was with the 9th Royal Sussex as the Germans were pushed back in the area to the east of Cambrai. The attack in which he was almost certainly killed began at 5am on 10th October at a place called Avesnes-les-Aubert supporting an attack by the 13th Middlesex Regiment. Although at first it appeared that the opposition was light they were met with heavy machine gun fire and gas. The German Army was forced back to the River Selle but at a heavy cost. Casualties were recorded in the war diary on 14th October as ‘10 killed, 84 wounded, many by gas’. The 37 year old butcher from Earlsfield was among them. Also killed on 11th October and in the Middlesex Regiment serving alongside Patrick Moylan was George Brown from Turtle Road. He is buried in St Aubert British Cemetery.

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Delsaux Farm Cemetery is near the village of Beugny, 19 kilometres south-west of Cambrai on the Bapaume to Cambrai road. Patrick is one of 400 who are buried here. After his death Beatrice lived on at Ravensbury Terrace and then moved to 90 Trinity Road in 1933. She died in Chichester in 1971 aged 81. William got married in 1925 and lived at Bickley Street and Brudenell Road in Tooting. Jeremiah and Caroline lived on in Fulham at 180 New Kings Road. He died in 1916.

 

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Anyway, back to our ‘Industry of Garratt Lane Walk’ and thank you to all who attended and helped raise over £200 towards our plaque. We hope you will all be there to see it unveiled by the descendants of Robert Sadler on 16th September. Thank you also to all those ‘industries’ on the Lane who demonstrated such support and encouragement. Lets give them a shout. The Seahorse, Furniture City, Barry Louvaine, Perry’s Furniture, Lola and Sidney, Tony’s Barbers, Tracey Antiques, Vape on the Lane, St Nicholas Pattisserie, Sainsburys, Eclectic Coffee, Wandsworth Oasis, St John’s Church, St Andrew’s Church, The Grosvenor Arms, The Radiator Gallery, La Pernella, Banksy House Clearance, Amaranth Too, Goodfellas, Sultans Cafe, The Old Sergeant, Casbah Coffee, Classic Corniche, Smart Set Dry Cleaners, E-Cig Shop, Andreas Barbers, 11 Technologies, Patbros News, TW Austin Lawnmowers, La Galleria, Gatto Tools, Luxe Nail Spa, Patel News Agents, Krugers, London Glass Works, Earlsfield Power Tools, Manuel’s Bakery, Radiant Dry Cleaners, Garratt Lane News. Apologies if I’ve left anyone out – who knows, in one hundred years, somebody might be walking the Lane, talking about you.

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Come Fly With Me

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John Barbary came from a family whose roots were very firmly in the Battersea area, not very far away from the railway arches, somewhere that witnessed some of the fledgling activities of the aviation industry, pioneered by the Short brothers, Tommy Sopwith and Hilda Hewlett. Appropriately then, this young man ended up in the Royal Flying Corps, one of four of the Summerstown182 to bear their wings. The Short brothers’ association with Battersea began in June 1906 when they moved their premises from Tottenham Court Road to the railway arches, where the location of their workshop is marked with a blue plaque. With his Dad working as a fitter its very likely young John grew up knowing about these remarkable innovations that were taking place on his doorstep.

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The family came from streets now submerged beneath the massive Doddington and Rollo estate, the building of which got Wandsworth Council leader Sidney Sporle into such hot water. With dubious links to T Dan Smith and John Poulson he spent some years at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in the early seventies for taking bribes from contractors. Sporle Court on the Winstanley estate is a 22 storey reminder of his folly. In the midst of all the concrete and glass, there are though still visible echoes of the past; the church, the school, the tabernacle, the building that was once one of the largest laundries in London.

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Battersea in the last decade of the nineteenth century was a tough world of railway yards, steam laundries and great hulking riverside factories belching their filth into the Thames. John Burns had been elected to parliament in 1892 and was organising labour and flexing his political muscles to pave the way for the likes of John Archer, Shapurji Saklatvala and Charlotte Despard. There is a plaque a little further down Battersea Park Road where Archer lived and worked as a photographer. In 1913 he became Britain’s first black Mayor and one hundred years later he appeared on a commemorative postage stamp. Edward Barbary, John’s father worked with iron and engines – this was an environment fired by a combination of hot metal, grime and grease, long hours of hard manual work was demanded of a workforce who lived under a pall of coal smoke. The various Barbary addresses were close to the London & Provincial Steam Laundry Company Ltd in Battersea Park Road, also known as the Old Imperial and said to be the largest laundry of its type in the world. It was built in 1880 by Scrivener & Co. and a 400ft-deep well in the drying and bleaching yard provided it with 15,000 gallons of water a day. It closed in 1983.

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In ‘Love and Shillings’ Reg Coote describes the London & Provincial in the inter-war years. ‘The dormitories were up on the top of the laundries where the little girls used to sleep and go down to work. They worked bloody hard. Most of them were orphans. Two rooms right at the top at Battersea were where they slept. On the wall was painted ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. There were probably 20 girls staying at Battersea. The girls must have started at 13 or 14.’

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Edward Charles Barbary, born in Lambeth in 1875 was the son of a coal porter. In 1891 the family were living in Sheepcote Lane and he was working as a fitter’s mate. He married Minnie Perry from Stratford on Christmas Day 1897 in All Saints Church, Battersea. This was located close to where the roundabout is now, on the south-east corner of Battersea Park. It was destroyed by fire in 1969. He gave his job as a checker and his address as 54 Longhedge Street. He was 22 and Minnie was five years older. Their three sons were all born in Battersea, John on 18th November 1898, Edward in 1900 and Henry in 1904. John was baptised at St Saviours Church, Battersea Park Road on 18th December, by which time the family were living at 13 Blondel Street. This road still exists but all the old houses are long gone. He attended Battersea Park Road School in 1902, the register indicates Edward was a blacksmith and the information that they now lived at 27 Kilton Street, just across the road from the school roughly where Battersea Park Library now stands. The school became Chesterton Primary School in 1951. A stunning Imperial War Museum photograph shows women and children attending a VE-Day street party in front of an air raid shelter in Kilton Street. On the school register there is another Barbary alongside John. Lily a month older, lived at Edward’s old 54 Longhedge Street address. This was just around the corner, up against the railway line and was still clearly a Barbary dwelling. Also living here was a Lucy Barbary, probably John’s Aunt who married Henry Earl and also ended up living in Summerstown. Henry’s brother Thomas was the double gallantry medal winning ‘Buffalo Soldier’ whose name is on our memorial. The family moved to Henley Street directly opposite the laundry in 1908 and around 1910 relocated in Summerstown at No35.

VE DAY CELEBRATIONS IN LONDON, MAY 1945.

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By 1911 the Barbarys were at No18 Summerstown, the old much-changed road that borders the dog track. The three boys were growing and it would appear that Minnie’s father was now with them in their four room cottage. Thomas Perry was aged 71 and listed his profession as ‘cowman on a farm’. Their home is just about visible on the extreme right of the above photo which looks up the road towards The Corner Pin. They were now of course just a few doors away from the formidable Henry Washington, the man in charge of the pub. Whether the little Barbary lads got to play in his summer house is very doubtful. Henry Washington was the grandfather of Daisy Harriet Drew. She married David Clarke who managed the pub for a while after being invalided out of the army in 1916. David was the older brother of Summerstown182 Albert. Henry Wright who lived at No6 just the other side of The Corner Pin had also joined the Royal Flying Corps as an Air Mechanic 2nd Class. ‘Balloon Man’ Thomas Milton was at No25. They may also have influenced young John’s choice of service.

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The Royal Flying Corps was formed on the 13th April 1912 and comprised a Military Wing, Naval Wing, Central Flying School and the Royal Aircraft Factory. The Naval Wing split from the RFC on 1st July 1914 to become the Royal Naval Air Service (‘RNAS’), under the control of the Admiralty. On the 1st April 1918 the RFC merged with the RNAS to form the Royal Air Force (‘RAF’). John joined up on 9th February 1917 at South Farnborough, aged 18 years and three months and giving his occupation as a fitter. He attained the rank of Air Mechanic 2nd Class. Just over ten months later he was dead, a week before Christmas he died after an operation for appendicitus in the Grove Military Hospital in Tooting, just ten minutes walk down Blackshaw Road from his home. Francis Warrington also died in the Grove but was buried near his family’s home in Mortlake. I couldn’t help noticing that close to the site of his childhood home is a pub in Battersea is a pub called The Grove.

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Its hard to say why John wasn’t buried locally but ended up thirty miles outside London, a considerable distance for any visits. His parents Edward and Minnie lived on at 18 Summerstown for another twenty years. Brookwood Cemetery near Woking was established by the London Necropolis Company in 1849 to house London’s deceased, at a time when the capital was finding it difficult to accommodate its increasing population, of living and dead. Brookwood Military Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the United Kingdom, covering approximately 37 acres. In 1917, an area of land there was set aside for the burial of men and women of the forces of the Commonwealth and Americans, who had died, many of battle wounds, in the London district. One of these was nineteen year old John Barbary from Battersea and Summerstown – ‘Here lies one beloved of all, who answered to his country’s call’.

Tufton Street

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Margaret Thatcher had just won a third election and the first brick-size mobile phones were entering yuppie hands when I first came to London in 1988 and started working for a design company in Westminster. Tucked behind the Abbey and adjacent School, it was surrounded by worthy organisations with ecclesiastical connections such as J Wippell & Co, clerical outfitters who were next door and the Mothers Union HQ just across the road. The address was No9 Tufton Street and although its past was concealed beneath a veneer of eighties gloss, befitting the premises of a company that practised interior design, we were aware that the building had some kind of military history. There were about seventy employees and the high street retail boom was in full swing. That Christmas we were each given six bottles of champagne. In that distant pre-computer era, our work stations were dominated by enormous drawing boards and with its super-size meeting-room tables, frosted glass partitions, sparkling white walls and Dynasty extras as receptionists, this was the epitome of eighties designer swagger. We played softball and many people worked long hours and went home in taxis. A few years later it all came crashing down and I won’t forget the site of a stack of those drawing boards piled up outside the building in the wake of mass redundancies. It never crossed my mind in those hedonistic self-absorbed times to question what had gone on in that building some 70 years before when a teenager from Garratt Lane was getting his marching orders for the Western Front.

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In 1901 the Brown family lived at 46 Seaton Street in Chelsea. That disappeared off the map when a number of roads were cleared in 1969 and the World’s End Estate was built. The above photo was taken just before that happened and footballer Peter Osgood is referenced in some graffiti. Frederick Brown was a mechanical engineer and iron turner, originally from Trafalgar Street in Walworth. This particular road was notable for its erection of a wooden ‘street shrine’ during the First World War. This was a popular way of neighbourhoods marking-up volunteer’s names and visibly demonstrating patriotism and loyalty to the cause. Reportedly 175 residents had enrolled by the end of July 1915, 200 by mid-September and 300 by October 1916. Perhaps that explains why his son Arthur joined up so quickly. The shrines usually had a crucifix in the centre and a shelf below for flowers. If someone serving died, their name would be marked with a red cross. As they were of a temporary nature, many were lost when streets were demolished in slum clearances or bombing in the Second World War. Others would have been taken down when something more permanent was erected.

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Fred’s wife Alice was from Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. In 1901 there were five children under ten and Arthur aged five and born in Chelsea was the second oldest. Around 1903 they moved across the river into Wandsworth and by 1911 they were in a five room house at 618 Garratt Lane, between Maskell Road and the Prince of Wales pub, not far from the home of Louis Danzanvilliers. There were now seven children, three of whom were now working. Arthur and his younger brother Fred were both errand boys. The eldest of these, nineteen year old Olive was a box maker and could very well, given her age, have been one of the young women who stood up to Hugh Stevenson at the Corruganza Works a few years previously. Certainly there would have been plenty of errands for young Arthur on this busy stretch of Summerstown which looked very different from how it does today.

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Drill halls, somewhere to meet, train and perhaps store equipment, originated as a building type following the formation of the Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1859. They are associated most specifically with the British Army’s Reserve Forces, known until recently as the Territorial Army. They became a common sight in almost every English town and city. The drill hall in Tufton Street was built as the headquarters of the 23rd Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1899. They transformed into the rather grandly titled the 2nd (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in 1908. It was here, where I would later sit and design salad dressing labels, that Arthur Brown was mobilised in August 1914 when war broke out. His name is one of the very first listed as serving in the army in the roll of territorials produced by Reverend Robinson in the October 1914 parish magazine. He appears alongside Sunday School teacher James Crozier and the Clarke brothers. The 2nd Londons were first assigned with guarding the Amesbury-Southampton docks railway, before sailing for Malta and ultimately the Western Front. They arrived at Marseilles on the 6th January 1915 and joined the 17th Brigade, 6th Division on the 21st February in the line east of Armentières, close to the Belgian border. In June 1915 the 2nd Londons moved to the Ypres Salient and a place called Hooge.

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From the final days of the Battles of Ypres and Festubert at the end of May, until the September opening of the Battle of Loos, there was no general movement on the Western Front. It was a period of static warfare, where the Army suffered an average loss of 300 men a day from sniping and shellfire. On 30th July 1915, near Hooge Chateau, (the name means ‘high’ in Flemish), the Germans chose to launch an attack aided by the use of flamethrowers. It was referred to at the time as ‘liquid fire’.

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News of Arthur‘s death at the age of nineteen was relayed quite swiftly and was announced in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine in September ‘We regret to have to report that Arthur Frederick Brown (2nd London Regiment) was killed in Flanders on Sunday August 15th, while acting as stretcher bearer to his company’ On his grave the date of Arthur’s death is indicated as 16th August 1915. He is buried at Bedford House Cemetery, just a few miles south west of Ypres. Bedford House was the name given by the Army to the Chateau Rosendal, a country house in a small wooded park dotted with moats. Although it never fell into German hands, the house and the trees were gradually destroyed by shell fire. In time, the property became largely covered by small cemeteries and 5,139 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War are buried or commemorated in its enclosures, 3,011 of them are unidentified.

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Also in Bedford House Cemetery are the first Indian casualties of the war. Sepoy Mehr Khan of 57th Wilde’s Rifles was killed on 28th October 1914, just a few days after his comrade Khudadad Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross. Sepoy Fazl Dad and Jemedar Muhammad Khan of the same regiment died a day later. All perished less than 48 hours after entering the trenches. These graves lie in two rows close to a Chattri-style mausoleum. In 1921 a slightly smaller version of this was built on the South Downs overlooking Brighton on a site where 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers from the local hospitals were cremated. On the second Sunday of June a memorial service takes place and a few days ago we attended. Given what has happened in the past few months, it was reassuring to see such a display of respectfulness, togetherness and sheer love of humanity. We will return many times I hope.

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Having lost their oldest son, a better day for the Brown family occured the following year on 27th September 1916 when at St Mary’s Church, Summerstown, Olive Brown married Albert Hewitt, a soldier and former signal lad from 60 Penwith Road who also came from a family of seven children. They went on to have three children. In the 1939 register Olive pops up with her elderly parents living at 42 Geraldine Road in Wandsworth.

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The Drill Hall at 9 Tufton Street was an extraordinary location to work, especially for someone straight off a National Express bus from Moss Side. In a way it also knocked me into shape, making me fit for purpose to work as a graphic designer. When the London Regiment was broken up and the battalions reallocated to other units in August 1937, the hall became the home of the 9th (2nd City of London) Battalion The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). In April 1946 they were temporarily suspended and the premises fell vacant. It was then converted for commercial usage and The Jenkins Group were there between 1987 and 1992, designing corporate brochures, shop fronts and margarine packaging. The building is now occupied by the Westminster School Music Centre.

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