Scarlet and Blue

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Pensioners

One of the most delightful aspects of the Summerstown182 project has been all the connections we have made over the past three years. One of these has been with the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. We’ve been fortunate to visit a couple of times, made some good friends and were delighted when three of the residents, Marjorie, Steve and Ernie attended our Sidney Lewis plaque unveiling last September. Its been great now to discover that a member of a Summerstown182 family was once one of their number.

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Lucas family roots were in Ireland and Hugh Lucas was born on the world famous Shankill Road, Belfast in 1833. In November 1854 he joined the British Army in Armagh, just in time for the Crimean War. Irish soldiers made up around a third of the British army in 1854, and it is estimated that over 30,000 of them served in the Crimea. My own Great Grandfather, Robert Simmons was one of them. His twenty one and a half years service entitled Hugh to a pension, along with a red jacket and a place in the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. A long time before that he married Margaret Campbell in Cork in 1859. Three years later Hugh’s soldiering had taken the family to Chatham in Kent where the first of their eleven children, Susan was born. Their third child William Lucas was born in the garrison town of Aldershot in Hampshire on 22nd March 1868. One of the census records pinpoints his birthplace as ‘South Camp’.

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On 2nd May 1876 Hugh was discharged and headed to London to start his new civilian life. In 1881 the family were living in Soho and 13 year old William Lucas was working as an errand boy. On 9th September 1888 in Westminster, he married Annie Elizabeth Fallowfield from Marylebone and their first son, William John was born in 1889. They both appear to have worked in some kind of military tailoring. Given his father’s Chelsea Pensioner status, perhaps they were employed at the Royal Hospital? In 1891 they lived at 11 Hopkins Street Westminster with two small sons, William and Edward. This was close to Berwick Street market. Very sadly, tragedy appears to have struck and both boys died in 1893, William was four and Edward three. The 1901 census finds them at 11 Bateman Buildings in the parish of St Anne, Soho. That’s just south of Soho Square, between Greek Street and Frith Street in today’s parlance. There were now four more boys, all under ten; Hugh, Anthony, Albert and Joseph. They must have lived in Hendon for a while as Albert was born there and baptised in Stonebridge on 22nd June 1896. Annie is listed at this time as a shop assistant and tailoress. Sadly though there was more heartache to come when Anthony aged seven died in 1902. Hugh also passed away that year at the age of 69.

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Perhaps jolted by these losses, or simply part of the movement of people from overcrowded central London slums to the wide open spaces south of the river, in the early years of the new century the Lucas family relocated. The 1911 census saw them living at 29 Bertal Road in Summerstown. The house is still there, tucked in between the Hazelhurst estate and Lambeth Cemetery. It must have been a delight for the Lucas family to be surrounded by newly-built streets, trees and some room to breathe. William appeared to have made a complete career change and now worked as a silversmith’s porter, the same profession as his 18 year old son Hugh. Albert, now 14 was a brass finisher and errand boy. Eleven year old Joseph was still at school. There were three additional children; Daisy, Rose and George. The two youngest are listed as having been born at 11 Gambole Road, Tooting so we can assume the family had been in this area from 1904 at the latest.

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Like his two brothers, Albert joined the army and served first in the East Surrey Regiment before transfering to 1/5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashires. They was based in Bolton when war broke out in August 1914 and became known locally as ‘the Bolton pals’. In the late autumn of 1917 they found themselves ten miles east of Arras, pitched into a battle which would initially be claimed as a great victory, though soon turned on its head. Haig described the object of the Cambrai operations as the gaining of a ‘local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it’. With no preliminary bombardment, tanks would be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages. The attack began early in the morning of 20th November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable. Across Britain, Church bells rang out in triumph for the first time in the war. By 22nd November, a halt for rest and reorganisation was made, fatally allowing the Germans to reinforce. After fierce fighting around Bourlon Wood the Germans launched a major counter attack and much of the ground gained in the early attack was lost.

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On 30 November 1917, the 55th Division including Albert Lucas and his Bolton pals faced this offensive. The losses for the 1/5 Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashires that day were huge, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission recording at least 87 names. Albert, aged twenty one, would be one of three of the Summerstown182 to perish on the 30th. Alongside Eric Tibbenham from Thurso Street and William Dell from Pevensey Road, his name is carved on the Cambrai Memorial at Louveral. The memorial commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and whose graves are not known.

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A bit of googling a few years ago took me to the website of the Bolton War Memorials Project and the realisation that Albert’s name is on a memorial in a park in the famous northern town associated with Peter Kay and Nat Lofthouse. I got in touch with project coordinator Jim Robinson who explained how Private Lucas is commemorated in Bolton on the ‘5th Loyals’ Memorial, located by the Chorley New Road entrance to Queen’s Park. He very kindly made a visit and took a close-up photo of Albert’s name. Jim agreed that he could find no other link between Albert and Bolton. It is likely that he never even saw the town, yet for almost a century his name has appeared with almost 1017 others on this memorial. He is not the only one who in answer to some military need, ended up serving in these otherwise predominantly Boltonian units. Two other members of the Summerstown182, Charles Blakeley and Arthur Leicester were in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

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In recalling my own family’s First World War involvement, Cambrai is a word we remember with pride. My Great Uncle, Captain Alan Lendrum, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers lead 300 men in a wiring operation and was subsequently awarded the Military Cross. A few years ago we walked the fields near the village of Fontaine-lès-Croisilles where it all happened early in the morning of 20th November 1917. Also fighting near here at that time was our good friend Corporal Edward ‘Tiny’ Ted Foster, back in the front line with his Wandsworth mates and wounded in the hand at Bourlon Wood. For Annie Lucas though Cambrai spelt the beginning of more heartbreak. Having lost two of her boys, young William and Edward thirteen years earlier, history would cruelly repeat itself. Less than six months later, Albert’s younger brother Joseph Frederick Lucas serving in the Gloucestershire Regiment was killed in Flanders. His name is written on the great memorial at Tyne Cot. Annie’s husband William died in 1921. She passed away in 1947 aged 81 having outlived five of her sons.

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The house at 29 Bertal Road, Annie’s home for nearly forty years was lived in by the Lucas family until at least the early seventies, possibly later. Albert and Joseph’s brother George lived at the address with his wife Violet and their brother Hugh was next door at No31 until his death in 1970. Hugh Lancelot Lucas born in 1892, got his unusual middle name from Annie’s father. He is present on the absent voters list of 1918, a rifleman in the London Regiment. He probably moved into No31 after he got married in 1927. George died in 1996 aged 89. Both brothers would surely have been aware of Albert’s Bolton connection. No31 Bertal Road is currently for sale and the garage adjoining it is lit up with a dazzling early autumnal blaze of scarlet foliage which must surely be a nod to Albert and Joseph’s Chelsea Pensioner Grandfather.

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The Iron Man

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Wendelsworth

Whilst preparing for the ‘Industry of Garratt Lane’ Walk in June, I spent a lot of time on the Wandsworth section of this historic route, just up a bit from Southside, near the Wendelsworth Estate adjoining All Farthing Lane. This was one of two Wandsworth Heritage Festival ‘Earlsfield’ walks which raised money to put up a plaque commemorating Kevin Kelly’s extraordinary story about Robert Sadler and his mid-Victorian running ground. Surely one of the most industrious of all Garratt Lane habitués, Robert’s Great Great Grandson Robin came over to unveil the plaque in a memorable ceremony on Saturday. We started that walk at the site of what was once James Henckell’s iron foundry, forging weapons of destruction which were used at Trafalgar and Waterloo.

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David Hughson in 1808 gave a dramatic description of the activities carried out at the mill: “At these mills are cast shot, shells, cannon, and other implements of war; in another part of it the wrought iron is manufactured, and the great effect of mechanical power is exemplified in all their operations, in the splitting of iron bars of prodigious length; in a pair of shears which will rend asunder pieces of iron more than two inches in thickness; and in the working of a hammer, which weighs from five hundred and a half to six hundred pounds; the timbers employed are of an enormous size, and the wonderful powers of all the elements are here made subservient in the production of various tools and implements necessary for man in the arts of war and peace.” Its an extraordinary spot, tucked in between the Wandle and Garratt Lane, home to all sorts of industry and activity over the years. Iron was soon followed by paper and parchment, then gas mantles and cookery ware. The names of Veritas and Benhams are all writ large into the social history of this area and many thousands of local families passed through the workforce.

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Many of these workers would have slaked their thirst in one of Youngs most popular pubs ‘The Old Sergeant’ still proudly facing All Farthing Lane and doing a roaring trade. Close by, and echoing past industrial activity, a street called Iron Mill Road cuts through the Wendelsworth estate, all utterly changed of course. The Forrester pub was until very recently the headquarters of Wandsworth Mind where we gave a memorable Summerstown182 talk earlier in the year. Close to that Frank Bruno helped the Mayor of Wandsworth plant a ‘Wishing Oak Tree’ to celebrate the Millenium. He was brought up very close by and once trained at the same Earlsfield Boxing Club from where Olympic medalist Joe Joyce has emerged. A bit further up All Farthing lane is the site of the house from which Earlsfield got its name. We are still working on Robert Davis’ connection with Ballymote Convent in Sligo, so watch this space.

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One family who came from this area were the Jones. It looks like there were four brothers who served in the First World War and one of them James, is on the St Mary’s Church war memorial. He was killed on 1st July 1917, just a few weeks short of his twenty-first birthday and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres. He served in the same 23rd London Regiment as the Sunday School Three. James’ father, William Henry Jones, who was the son of a Thames lighterman, worked as a gas fitter, possibly at the enormous Wandsworth Gas Company. He married Mary Ann Wright in St Ann’s Church, Wandsworth on 7th September 1884. It was a stone’s throw from his home in Iron Mill Road. They were still there, living at No6 when their first child William Henry was born in 1886. George was born in 1889, Annie in 1892 and James on 15th July 1896 when they lived a little further up Garratt Lane at 23 Wardley Street. William and Mary were blessed with two further children, Ernest born in 1899 and Jessica in 1905.

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In the 1891 census they were at 14 Lemuel Street, adjoining Iron Mill Road. It is listed in my 2008 A-Z but seems to have disappeared off the map today. William was now working as a gas lamplighter and Mary was a washer and ironer, presumably in one of the many nearby laundries. Her father George was also living with the family. The 1894 map above shows how close they were to William McMurray’s paper mill, (in the bottom left corner) now on the Henckell site. His legacy lives on in the naming of Esparto Street, a grass used in the manufacturing process, grown on McMurray’s estates in North Africa and Spain. By 1901 it would seem the Jones family had moved two roads along from Wardley Street to 31 Bendon Valley. A huge fire at the paper mill saw most of the buildings destroyed and 160 people put out of work, the business never recovered and Benhams and the Veritas Incandescent Mantle company moved onto the site. Henry now worked as a labourer and five children are listed, only the eldest William was employed, working as a carman. The Harrison and Barber horse slaughtering yard and its noxious attendant industries were nearby and would have been in full swing. The 1894 map below shows this place indicated as a ‘Chemical Manure Factory’. It was a nasty business, too taboo seemingly to even be marked on a map. Also close by were the Riversdale Fireworks Factory where three young women were killed in an accident in 1888. This was a rough, tough neighbourhood, a world of horses, drinking, gambling, trading, casual labour and dangerous dirty work.

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A move to the other side of the relatively new railway tracks was definitely desirable and the 1911 census saw the family living at 34 Burtop Road. William now aged 48 had forsaken his career in gas and was working for the council as a ‘road scavenger’ and may possibly have brushed shoulders, if not streets with the likes of ‘Tiny’ Ted Foster and the Tooting dustmen. The family had clearly formed a connnection to St Mary’s Church, Summerstown, because Anne married the unusually named Harris Hazael Edwick there in May 1914. On the same register page is George Kitz from 36 Hazelhurst Road. He was one of the ten children of Summerstown Anarchist, Francis who on this document is listed as deceased. He actually lived for another ten years! James other sister Jessica married an Eric Hodson and went on to live at 12 Squarey Street, next door to the widow of Reginald Knight, another Summerstown182 soldier, buried in Ferozepore, India.

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Its hard to read the date on James’ attestation but it looks like he signed up in late May 1915 at St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction. This was around the time of the regiment’s terrible losses at the Battle of Festubert. Whether he was unaware of that or joined as a result, we can’t be sure. Very soon the local paper was full of a list of the dead including William Mace and George Boast. It was referred to as the ‘Gallant Charge of the 23rd’. George Keeley, father of our good friends, V2 survivors John and Arthur, was one of those who came through. In the October 1915 issue of the St Mary’s Church parish magazine, the vicar lists the next batch of ‘men connected with this parish serving their King and Country’. Among them are James and William Jones of 23rd London Regiment and George Jones of the Royal Garrison Artillery. There is no more news of any of them until the October 1917 edition reports that ‘James Jones of the 23rd London Regiment was killed in action on July 1st’.

 

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As part of the 47th Division, James Jones and the 23rd London Regiment moved into the front line at Damm Strasse, an area which had been captured earlier that month in the Battle of Messines. They remained in these trenches until relieved on 8th July. The battalion war diary is not particularly forthcoming or indeed accurate about what they did in their time there. The entry for 1st July reads simply that one man was killed and another three wounded. Other records indicate that at least three men were killed on this day and that another two died of their wounds. One of those killed was James Jones, most likely as a result of shell fire. His oldest brother William was a farrier in the transport section of the same regiment. Ernest served with the Northamptonshire Regiment and George Jones was possibly in the Royal Field Artillery. Two of these are listed in the 1918 Absent Voters List, along with brother-in-law Harris Hazael Edwick who was a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Ernest and Harris were living at No34, William at No32. We believe the George Jones living at 71 Bendon Valley when he attested in January 1915 may be the other brother. Quite a contribution from one family.

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34 Burtop Road continued to have a Jones connection for many years and in the 1939 register, Annie, working as a laundry hand, her husband Harris and mother Mary, aged 75 are listed. Annie Edwick, then aged 76 was still on the electoral roll living at 34 Burtop Road in 1969. She would probably have been one of the many people rehoused after the Wandle burst its banks after two days of heavy rain over the weekend of 14th and 15th September 1968. Two hundred families were evacuated as the waters rose and the local paper reported one old lady in Burtop Road who refused to leave without her cat. ‘A neighbour kept the old lady company in the upstairs rooms of her home, while several feet of water swirled through the ground floor’.

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