Horse and Groom

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In a pivotal olde-world Tooting location, separated by the cobbled Salvador passage-way from Macdonalds and the great hulk of the Tooting Granada Bingo Hall, this ancient inn has seen a lot of history. And a lot of drinking. Tooting has always been renowned for its pubs and many of them still survive though not necessarily with the same name. Always a bit of a rough and ready old-school boozer with something of a reputation, the Horse and Groom has been rejuvenated by the Antic company whose Tootopia festival creates such a buzz around here every September. Its now the Graveney and Meadow, a rather nice gentle name, conjuring up pastoral visions of a tinkling brook running through fields of lavender and camomile. Very much in keeping with the field mushrooms, eggs benedict and carrot hash on its brunch menu. If that’s not your thing, how about some Graveney House Beans on toasted sourdough with sriracha ketchup. In the effortless Antic manner its been done-up just enough to make it a comfortable place to drink or eat, yet preserving some of the rough edges of the past. The low dark timber ceiling and the odd exposed crumbling brick make it easy to transport yourself back to the mid-nineteenth century when the Brigden family were pulling pints for the good people of Salvador.

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One of the names on our war memorial at St Mary’s Church in Summerstown is Henry John Brigden, who died in the final weeks of the war on 2nd September 1918, one hundred years ago. He was born at 1 Smallwood Road on 29th October 1888, the fifth and youngest child of William Brigden, a postman from Wandsworth and his first wife Mary Ann. Very sadly, when Henry was only eighteen months old, his mother died on 21st April 1890 at the age of 36. She left behind four other children; 13 year old William, 11 year old Alfred, 9 year old James and 8 year old Elizabeth.

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William married again four years later at St Saviour’s Church in Southwark. His second wife Ann Bloom was a widow from Carlisle and on the certificate he gave his profession as a house painter. The 1901 census sees them living at Elizabeth Cottages, 3 Smallwood Road, right in the eye of the dramatic building development engulfing the area. In 1906 this may have become 98 Smallwood Road, a house that William Brigden was still living at in 1933. He died a year later aged 79. Henry was probably one of the first pupils at Smallwood School.

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Rewind two generations and his Grandfather, also Henry and originally from Buckinghamshire had relocated to Wandsworth. Here he married and worked as a ‘letter carrier’. The 1861 census indicates a change of career. He was now a beer retailer with a family of six children, resident at the Horse and Groom pub in Mitcham Lane, Tooting. Henry was probably familiar with another local publican up the road in Summerstown. Indeed he may well have gone there to place a wager at one of the contests at Robert Sadler’s running grounds. The Brigdens were still there ten years later. William aged 15, like two of his siblings was ‘employed at home’ so very likely helping out at the pub. There were now seven of them, five boys and two girls. A decade later William had assumed his father’s earlier trade and was working as a ‘letter carrier’. He married Mary Ann Hussey in 1875 and they had four young children; William, Alfred, James and Elizabeth. Henry Senior died in 1872 but the family were still on Mitcham Road at No22. William’s older brother Henry ran the corn-chandlers shop at No37. The Horse and Groom was now listed as No21 and managed by the Boulter family. An Irish widow called Jane Boulter ran the show with her four daughters and a son.

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The Brigdens had a big stake in mid-Victorian Tooting. A map of 1860 shows a still largely rural area and how even a generation later it was still far removed from what it would become in the early years of the twentieth century. Most of the building was along Tooting High Street with a cluster of development on Church Street leading to St Nicholas. Around Salvador, the Horse and Groom is just about visible on the map. New Road hadn’t yet become Garratt Lane and leads through the fields to Wandsworth. There was no hospital, no Streatham Cemetery, just a great swathe of open ground all around the Surrey Lunatic Asylum. Below this were the fishponds, once possibly the moats of the medieval manor houses which dotted this area. One of these, roughly where Selkirk Road now stands is believed to have been visited by no lesser person than Queen Elizabeth 1st, en route to Nonsuch Palace.

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The main residential areas appear to be around Tooting Grove and Salvador. In the decades that followed these, would become densely populated and the most notorious of the Tooting slums, eventually cleared in the 1930s. The Fairlight area was also identified as a slum area but apart from a few properties, wholesale demolition was avoided – that was left to a V2 rocket and sixties development. In Salvador’s case the houses were replaced by Sidney Bernstein’s massive Granada Cinema. The Horse and Groom quietly observed it all; Frank Sinatra, Beatlemania, the coming of the bingo age. By the early 1880s the open spaces were filling up and familiar road names appear. Selkirk, Graveney and Defoe Roads. The railway line skirts Lambeth Cemetery and runs alongside Longley Road. Certainly there were now plenty more local drinkers to keep the beer flowing in the Horse and Groom.

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By 1911 the family had moved away from the hustle and bustle of Tooting and were living at 98 Smallwood Road with 22 year old Henry working as a butcher’s assistant. His father’s occupation was listed as a general labourer. No98 was Henry’s pivotal address, it would have been just to the right of the Schoolkeeper’s Cottage, most likely demolished in Sid Sporle’s sixties purge. We left a candle at the nearest house and a little card in his memory when we did our Remembrance Walk last November. I was amazed to get a reply on Twitter from the resident saying how much the gesture was appreciated.

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Two of Henry’s aunts, who would have probably grown up helping in the Horse and Groom ended up living just a few doors along Smallwood Road from William and his fmily. His younger sisters Eliza and Agnes neither of whom ever married lived at No92. Eliza died aged 79 in 1944. Agnes passed away in 1944 aged 76. In the 1891 census, Henry Brigden their two year old nephew is present with them at 6 Elizabeth Cottages, Smallwood Road. Quite possibly his Aunts were looking after him as a consequence of his Mother’s death. They were both dressmakers at that time. With his Dad now settled with a new wife Henry was back at No3 with them in 1901.

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Living so close to the school, its impossible that Henry would not have attended there and he probably worked in one of the butcher’s shops in the area. His name does not appear in any of the lists of those who joined up in the early years of the war which appear in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine, nor is he in the ‘Old Smalls’ booklet published in 1916. This would suggest he was conscripted in the later part of the war. He enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery in Wimbledon and died of his wounds on 2nd September 1918, whist serving as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, a few months short of his thirtieth birthday. His soldiers effects record show no sign of a wife. He left everything to his father. Henry was in ‘Anti-Aircraft Battery L’ at the time of his death and is buried in St Martin Calvaire British Cemetery, St Martin-sur-Cojeul, a village about eight kilometres south-east of Arras It contains only 228 Commonwealth burials. His death ‘killed in action’ was reported in the December issue of the St Mary’s Church parish magazine. As for the old Horse and Groom, its enjoying its new lease of life at the centre of Tootopia and if you are passing, have a look at the old gable wall on the Tooting Broadway side of the building and you can still see the name (or at least half of it) painted onto the bricks. Better still, try looking out for it from the top of a passing bus.

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The Broken Spur

Written and researched by Chris Burge. His website is dedicated to the memory of the 587 individuals named on the Mitcham War Memorial.
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This is the story of seven young lads from neighbouring streets in the Fairlight area of Tooting who volunteered to join a Welsh Yeomanry unit in 1915. This was no glamorous adventure, just a hard slog in Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine and finally on the Western front in France. Nor did it have a happy ending, as at least three of them did not survive the war; John Burke, Arthur Mace and Walter Tappin are all on the memorial in St Mary’s Church, Summerstown. Their story may well be unique in the history of the unit they joined, The Welsh Horse, a unit which itself would cease to exist by early 1917 when it was absorbed into a battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

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The Welsh Horse Yeomanry was formed early in August 1914 initially in Cardiff. Its existence was due almost entirely to the energy and passion of one man, Arthur Owen Vaughan, better known as ‘Owen Roscomyl’. He was a charismatic figure who had been a cowboy adventurer in America during the 1880’s. He had served as a soldier in Egypt and the Sudan and in irregular cavalry during the Boer War. A fierce Welsh Nationalist and author, it was his dream to establish a regiment of Welsh Cavalry. Plans were already in place before the outbreak of war, and on the 4th of August 1914 some 160 men enlisted at Cardiff. Official War Office recognition followed but also plans to restrict numbers and a bureaucratic tangle overall saw them designated a territorial unit and command passed to Lord Kensington. In November they left Wales for Diss in Norfolk. They were still a highly regarded unit, the Navy and Army Illustrated Magazine, issue 24, dated 30th January 1915, included a feature on the ‘Welch Horse’, their glowing description accompanied by a number of photographs. ‘The Welch Horse is one of the finest mounted Regiments in Great Britain. I have inspected none better’. They were now part of the East Coast Defence Force. Invasion threats were being taken seriously after what happened on the north east coast at the end of 1914 and in the spring of 1915 several towns in East Anglia were bombed by Zeppelins.

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Incredibly, in March that year, at least seven lads from neighbouring streets in the Fairlight area joined The Welsh Horse almost ‘en masse’. Indeed six of them must have literally packed their bags and travelled together to the sleepy market town of Diss on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. Here they stood in line and signed up one after the other as they have consecutive service numbers. Three of them lived in adjoining houses on Pevensey Road (above) – Sidney Carpenter at No52, John Burke at No54, John Soane at No56. Another two were in neighbouring Thurso Street. Charles Bodset at No14 backed onto the other’s houses, Walter Moore was across the road at No17. Walter Tappin lived round the corner at 19 Fountain Road. Arthur Mace from 2 Thurso Street would appear to have been the catalyst for this, joining first on 7th March 1915. A few weeks later the others followed; the six Tooting lads were now: 1120 Carpenter, 1121 Soane, 1122 Tappin, 1123 Burke, 1124 Bosdet and 1125 Moore of the 1/1st Welsh Horse.

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The St Mary’s Church parish magazine of May 1915 listed John Burke and his neighbours Sidney Carpenter and John Soane as joining The Welsh Horse. Burke, Tappin and Bodset declared their age as 19 and gave their occupation as porters. Walter Tappin had lived all his life in Tooting, just as his father had. The Mace brothers spent their early years in Kent, John Burke in St Pancras, and Charles Bosdet in Camberwell. The Mace family had come to Tooting in around 1905 as had the Burkes, the Bosdet family closer to 1910. While Walter Tappin and John Burke may have known one another as boys, their friendship with Charles Bosdet must have started later. The nature of their work seems to be one thing the trio had in common.

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John’s father, Alfred Burke was born in the St Pancras parish in 1870. In December 1889 he married Alice Harris. Two years later in the 1891 census they were living in Kentish Town Road with infant daughter Flossie. Alfred worked as a ‘mineral water traveller’. Over the following decade the family expanded; Alfred was born in 1892, Charles in 1895, Sidney in 1896, John in 1897 and Robert in 1901. They were now living at 99 Arlington Road, St Pancras where John may have come into the world. Two more daughters, Dorothy in 1902 and Rose in 1905 were born in Peckham. The Burkes, with their seven children at this stage, must have decided that a better future lay in ‘the brighter borough’ and 1911 found them in Wandsworth, at 54 Pevensey Road. Alfred now 41 was still a salesman and his eldest son worked as an electrician. 14 year old John was an office boy. Two ‘memorials’ give a clue to his life – he is on the one in the Fairlight Christian Centre, once the location of Fairlight Hall, so he must have been connected to that in some way. Along with his brother Charles, John also appears on the roll of ‘Old Smalls Serving their Country in His Majesty’s Forces’ from Smallwood School. Fairlight Hall opened its doors in 1905 and did extraordinary work for almost eight decades, catering for the social needs of those in the streets around it, many of whom had very little. The below photo was taken in 1914 a year before John Burke joined the army. Its just possible he could be one of the older lads in the photo.

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Only Robert Burke, was too young to serve in the early years of the war. One older brother, Charles Maurice Burke had a chequered military career. In the 1911 census he is listed as a private in the Middlesex Regiment based at Hendon. But after John had joined the Welsh Horse in March 1915, Charles Burke volunteered to join the Royal Field Artillery at Lambeth. He signed up on the 10th July 1915 describing himself as a ‘machinist engineer’. Charles was declared a deserter in November after absenting himself from barracks in Aldershot, on 30th October with all his kit. In fact, he had already joined another unit and enlisted again with the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars on 2nd November 1915. They had been in Gallipoli since August 1915 and moved to Egypt in December. Charles remained in the UK until 11th September 1916 having attended a machine gun course in June 1916. Its possible he may even have crossed paths with young Sidney Lewis when he was at Grantham. He was transferred to the newly formed 17th Mounted Machine Gun Corps at the beginning of 1917 and like his brother John, took part in the campaign in Palestine. After the war, Charles Burke returned to work for the Morgan Crucible Company in New York.

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John’s older brother, Alfred Albert Burke had married Florence May Baker in mid 1914 and they were soon expecting their first child. They were living in Smallwood Road, Tooting, literally, round the corner from the Burke family home in Pevensey Road. Alfred would finally join the War after responding to the appeal of the Derby Scheme late in 1915. Alfred attested at Wandsworth on 10th December 1915, and was posted to the Royal Garrison Artillery. Alfred survived the war having been promoted Corporal at some stage. His name appears on the Wandsworth Absent Voter’s List in 1918 at 99 Smallwood Road, Tooting, next door to ‘Smallwood Stores’.

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Whatever the reason for joining the Welsh Horse, it must have been something of a culture shock. The nearest they had probably been to a horse was being careful about what they trod in as the dodged the London traffic. Then there were the foreign Welsh accents of men they rubbed shoulders with, many of whom were old soldiers with years of cavalry experience. Just how would the young London boys have fitted in?

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In September 1915 they were ordered to ready themselves for foreign service and to hand in their horses. They were bound for Gallipoli and sailed from Liverpool on board SS Olympic (a sister ship of the Titanic) on 23th September 1915. They arrived at Mudros, a port on the Greek island of Lemnos on 8th October. Insult was added to injury when the men of the Welsh Horse discovered they had effectively swapped horses for shovels. They were given the task of digging trenches, saps and mines under the Turkish positions, dangerous and strenuous work. Less than two weeks after arriving at Gallipoli, Arthur Mace became so ill that he had to be evacuated back to England, arriving on 19th Novenmber 1915. He never recovered from TB, and passed away on the 1st October 1918, almost exactly three years after he had landed at Gallipoli.

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There is no record of Tappin, Burke or Bosdet falling sick while at Gallipoli, but it was reckoned that some 75% of all men who served there suffered from what the soldiers called ‘the Gallipoli trots’. After evacuation from Gallipoli the Welsh Horse arrived in Egypt at Christmas 1915 at the sprawling Sidi Bashr base. Any hope of being reunited with their horses was dashed as in early 1916 they were used to dig trenches in the sand as part of strengthening the Suez Canal defences. A casualty form indicates that on 14th June 1916 John Burke was ‘awarded five days forfeiture of pay for hesitating to obey an order’. A re-organisation of the Army in Egypt involved the creation of a new 74th division. The Welsh Horse were now the 25th (Montgomery & Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Still together, Tappin, Burke and Bosdet were given new consecutive army numbers and new insignia. Mindful that the 74th Division comprised of dismounted Yeomanry, the division’s commander chose the ‘Broken Spur’ as its badge. The irony was not lost on the men.

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The division took part in the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917, the Battle of Beersheba in October, the Third Battle of Gaza in November and subsequent Battle of Jerusalem. Walter Tappin was killed at the Battle of Tell ’Asur in March 1918. He is buried in Jerusalem War Cemetery. His grave was visited this year by local Summerstown resident Colin Davis who was welcomed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission stonemason, Nader Habash. Walter’s parents requested for his headstone, the words ‘ALTHOUGH FAR AWAY – STILL NOT FORGOTTEN’.

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A week before the Battle of Beersheba, on 24th October 1917, John Burke was appointed a Lance Corporal. He was on the sick list repeatedly at the end of 1917 through early 1918, suffering from scabies, impetigo and tonsilitis. The great German Spring Offensive of March 1918 had placed the Western Front in a state of crisis and the 74th Division including John Burke and Charles Bodset were required in France. They withdrew to Egypt, and after a rapid refit embarked at Alexandria on May 2nd, bound for Marseilles. They were given six weeks to acclimatise and receive the all important training required for operations on the Western Front. The Army of 1918 was very different to that of 1914. John Burke was absent again for several weeks during this period, hospitalised with fever in June 1918.

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In mid-July the 25th Royal Welsh Fusiliers went into the line at Merville near the Franco-Belgian border. This was John Burke and Charles Bosdet’s first experience of front lines trenches in France. The early days of August were quiet in this sector but as the month progressed there was increasing activity and probing forward movements. Gas shelling resulted in a number of casualties in the second half of August. John Burke has been away from the front, having being granted 14 days leave on the 4th August. It had been over three years since he left his home in Tooting and sadly this was the last time he would see it.

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August 1918 had seen a complete reversal of the spring crisis on the Western Front. The Allies had launched their own offensive east of Amiens on 8th and advanced over seven miles on the first day. By the end of August the 74th Division received orders to move south to the old Somme battlefields. John Burke returned from leave to find his battalion is on the move. On the night of 31st August they were at Trigger Wood, south of Fricourt, fighting alongside the 2nd Australian Division. The first days of September saw heavy shelling and on the 5th patrols pushed forward to locate the enemy. The 25th Royal Welsh Fusiliers War Diary coldly recorded: ‘No great opposition encounter enemy shell fire and M.G. fire accounts for 1 OR killed and 10 ORs wounded’. John Burke’s war had ended, just eight days after his return from leave. His name is carved on Panel Six of the Vis-en-Artios Memorial, a few miles east of Arras. We visited there on a dazzling Autumn day in 2015. Charles Bosdet survived the war and is recorded as being discharged on 23rd June 1919. He appears on the 1918 Absent Voters List at 14 Thurso Street, next door to the Tibbenham family.

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Part of the Burke family were still at 54 Pevensey Road in 1920, when John’s mother Alice Mary Burke took her W5080 form to the ‘War Pensions Committee’ at Gatton Road Tooting to be countersigned by the committee’s secretary. One of John’s brothers. Alfred Albert Burke, would live in Smallwood Road for many years after the War. Alice remained at 54 Pevensey Road until she passed away, aged 82, in 1953. Her husband Alfred died in 1949 at the age of 79. The houses at the top end of Pevensey Road are largely unchanged, they have a uniform look and stand in line, looking one way towards St Georges Hopsital, the other to Smallwood School. Who could ever pass them and not think of the seven Welsh Horsemen, their journey to Diss and the faraway places it would eventually take them.

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Nine Elms

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When you enter Wandsworth Town Hall Civic Suite, the first thing that you see is an impressive marble war memorial. Beneath the council’s crest, it states that 333 members of its staff served in the First World War. It then lists the names of 31 of those ‘who made the supreme sacrifice’. Two of these are known to us – David Baldwin from Tooting and Frank Tutty from Earlsfield. Three on the list are librarians, most worked for the Borough Engineer’s Department’ – roadsweepers, dustmen, gardeners, caretakers, general labourers, fixing and repairing, keeping the wheels of Wandsworth turning.

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Sandwiched between Battersea and Vauxhall ‘Nine Elms’ is tucked away in the north-eastern corner of the borough of Wandsworth. Huge amounts of foreign money have poured into the development here currently marketing itself as London’s ‘greatest ever transformational story’. The area is home to Battersea Power Station, slowly disappearing behind a cloak of glass and steel. New Covent Garden Market will be re-invented as a gastronomic food hub and the moated fortress that is the new American Embassy, braces itself for the visit of Donald Trump in a couple of months. The family of Wandsworth’s most famous soldier and another council employee, Tooting dustman Ted Foster originally came from this area. Currently its a world of cranes, towers, construction trucks, high-security and homes that are way beyond the reach of dustmen, librarians, council workers and pretty much everybody else.

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One of 28 of the Summerstown182 whose remains lie on Belgian soil, Frank is buried in Nine Elms British Cemetery, to the west of the town of Poperinghe, about 45 minutes drive from Calais. There were a number of casualty clearing stations based in this locality dating from 1917. It is the final resting place of a notable New Zealander, born in Co Donegal, who was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele on 4th October 1917. Dave Gallaher was the first captain of the touring All Blacks rugby team who played in Ireland in 1905. When we visited the cemetery in 2015, I didn’t know anything about him but unwittingly spotted a grave that was festooned with kiwi tributes so I took a photo. There is a story that my Grandfather played against the touring in All Blacks in 1905 in which case he might have come up against Big Dave.

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John Tutty, born in Hackbridge in 1851 was a proper Wandle dweller, working the river as a printer and labourer. On 13th November 1870 in Croydon he married Emma Manning and they had seven children, one of whom was Frank Ernest Tutty. A year later the census picks them up at Dixon’s Cottage, Mitcham and a son Alfred had been born. Ten years on, they were in Martin’s Cottages with two more children, Harriet and Albert. John’s occupation is listed as a ‘journeyman silk printer’. Three other sons followed; Sidney in 1882, Frederick in 1885 and Frank in 1887. The 1901 census finds them still in Mitcham, at 4 Lock’s Lane, just to the south of Figges Marsh. Emma was working as a laundress and Albert like his Dad was a silk printer. Four sons were present, Alfred had joined the navy in 1890 having settled with his wife in Portsmouth. Harriet had married a Thomas Weller and lived next door. Very sadly she died, quite possibly in childbirth.

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Frank meanwhile went to work for Wandsworth Council and in 1907 married Edith Emily Smith from Kandahar Road in Battersea. She was born in 1885, so was two years older than Frank. Edith’s family, originally from Norfolk, edged along Garratt Lane towards Summerstown via Inman Road and Aslett Street. In the 1911 census, Frank and Edith were living with the in-laws at 11 Franche Court Road. One of a nest of houses at the Garratt Lane end of the road with Summerstown182 connections. The stories come thick and fast whenever we pass this stretch on our guided walk; Tickner, Kirkland, McMullan, Chapman, Danzanvilliers.

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Fred was just round the corner living at 833 Garratt Lane, then No3 Squarey Street (above) where he would have been a neighbour of Reginald Knight. Sidney married a girl from Rostella Road but appears to have emigrated to California shortly afterwards. Also present was four year old Frank Ernest, other children followed, Arthur in 1912, then Mabel. At some stage the Tutty family moved to No10 Squarey Street (below), before alighting at 81 Summerstown. This would have been at the Wimbledon Road end of the street, close to the White Lion pub. Their home was one of a stretch of twelve small houses known as Sadler’s Cottages. These are long gone and soon the area will be completely transformed with the building of the new AFC Wimbledon stadium. X marks the spot where the Tutty homestead was once located.

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Frank and Fred, both married with children, were conscripted under the Derby Scheme in 1916. Frank attested in Wandsworth on 5th June 1916 into the 3rd Battalion of the Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was just short of his thirtieth birthday and gave his occupation as a labourer. Fred, also married with children joined the 15th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. At some stage Frank transfered to the 1st Battalion of the West Surreys. They were in the Ypres sector in the early months of 1918, so avoided the main thrust of the German Spring Offensive at the end of March. At 7am on the morning of 12th March, whilst inspecting the line, their commanding officer was killed by a shell. The splendidly named Lt-Colonel St Barbe Russell Sladen had only assumed command of the battalion at the beginning of February. A partner in a law firm and from a notable family, his death prompted a telegram from Buckingham Palace.

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It is likely that Frank was killed or wounded and subsequently died in one of the retaliatory raids in the days after Lt-Colonel Sladen’s death. These were organised by a 2nd Lieutenant Morgan, who lead a fighting patrol of 15 men in an attack on a machine gun post near the village of St Jean. On the 13th they withdrew with two men wounded. The following night a smaller group of nine went out again at midnight but upon seeing a large party of Germans they assumed an attack was imminent and withdrew. They held their line in the following skirmish but in doing so two men were wounded and one killed. Its very likely one of those was Frank Tutty, possibly taken to one of the casualty clearing stations near Poperinghe where he died of his wounds.

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News of his death came through fairly quickly and was reported in the July issue of the St Mary’s Church parish magazine. Mentioned in the same paragraph was the death of Mark Archer and also Albert Ball, whose name curiously does not appear on the war memorial. Terrible news for eleven year old Frank and his younger siblings, Arthur and Mabel. Edith was 32 and faced an uncertain future. She is listed as living at 81 Summerstown the year Frank died. Between 1923 and 1933 she appears to have moved back to 11 Franche Court Road, probably to be with her parents. After a brief spell at Lidiard Road she then went to 48 Burntwood Lane.

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After nearly six decades of widowhood, Edith died aged 91 in June 1977. Frank junior married Emily Bailey and they lived in Bellew Street before settling at 46 Freshford Street. He passed away in 1980, his wife in 1999. Fred Tutty survived the war and died in 1953 aged 68. When I called by to take the photo of the house on Burntwood Lane I bumped into a long-term resident who remembered ‘old Mrs Tutty’ and also recalled other family living in the next street. One of Frank’s grandsons, Colin has been on a number of our walks. Such encounters make the world of one hundred years ago feel so much closer.

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Thanks to Chris Burge for kindly researching Frank’s story. Please look at his website dedicated to the memory of the 587 individuals named on the Mitcham War Memorial.

Mrs Brown’s Boys

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I’ve always liked the sound of Frank Churcher Brown, two very straightforward simple names sandwiching a more unusual middle one. As was the fashion at the time, it was the maiden name of a mother and often more than one child had the privilege. Frank was the older brother of ‘Ambulance Man’ Albert Frederick Brown, who died in 1920 and was added to the war memorial a decade later. Two other Brown boys, Charles and Edgar appear to have survived the war. Their father Hugh Brown was born in Warminster, Wiltshire in 1865 and like his Dad was a railway signalman. By 1887 he was living in Hammersmith, west London and it was here on June 4th that he married Kate Eliza Churcher from Worthing. In 1891 the couple had settled at 32 Cambridge Road and they had two small children, Fanny Helena and Charles Henry. Hugh’s widowed father was with them along with three children of his own. The golden age of rail had apparently pulled them all into the teeming metropolis. From around the turn of the century the Brown family were in Summerstown at 20 Burtop Road. In the 1901 census there were five children, Frank Churcher Brown was born in 1892 and Albert Frederick two years later, both in Hammersmith. Only the youngest boy Edgar was born in Wandsworth, indicating that the family moved to the area in 1898.  In that 1901 census, Charles now eleven is listed as being ‘engaged in the milk trade’. There were certainly plenty of dairies around, farms on Burntwood lane, cows grazing on the common.

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It would seem that in 1906 the Browns shifted two streets along and alighted at 11 Maskell Road where they would reside for at least the next three decades. This is one of what I have dubbed ‘The Lost Streets of Earlsfield’, wiped off the map after the River Wandle burst its banks in September 1968. Maskell Road does of course live on in name only but its neighbours have disappeared beneath the Burtop Road estate. Only two of the boys were present on the 1911 census. It looks like the 17 year old Frederick working as a builder’s labourer was in fact Albert and Edgar was thirteen. Oldest brother Charles Henry Brown, now aged 22 was already in the army, seving with Prince Albert’s Somersetshire Light Infantry in Malta. There is no sign of 19 year old Frank but its very likely that he too was already also in the military. His service records do not exist but his number indicates that he joined up around 1910. Some medical records and looking at soldiers with similar service numbers help define his movements. He would most certainly have been involved in the war from the start and seen action at many of its greatest battles. At the end of May 1915, he was in Malassis Hospital near St Omer, suffering from german measles.

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Frank Churcher Brown, serving with the Royal Field Artillery, 9th Battery, 41st Brigade, died of his wounds in the Southern General Hospital, Birmingham on 24th April 1918. He is buried in Magdalen Road Cemetery, Earlsfield. His soldiers effects records indicate that Frank was married, very sadly possibly less than six months before his death. It would appear that he wed Alice Davies in the third quarter of 1917.

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The War Diary of the 41st Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery gives a frank and unusually readable account of the events of that spring which lead to Frank Churcher Brown losing his life. It finds them at a familiar place in March 1918, Villers-Plouich, liberated a year earlier by Ted Foster and the 13th Wandsworth Battalion – now back in German hands. On 12/13th March mention is made of heavy gas shelling and the ‘area near Beaucamp full of gas’. It was noted that the gas was not clearing and shortly afterwards ‘Owing to gas casualties and the want of rest the 9th Battery were replaced by 16th’. All this was a prelude to the firestorm unleashed by the Germans just a week later. Over the following days Frank’s battery were in the firing line as the German advance pushed them back over the Somme battlefield, through places that were probably very familiar names to him; Sars, Gueudecourt, Bazentin-le-Petit. On 27th March at Bouzincourt the diary very frankly recorded the extent of this retreat. ‘Out total retirement from La Vacquerie to Albert, 25 miles between the night of 21/22nd and night 25/26th – fighting continuously all the time’. At this point the attack appeared to have been held and the 9th Battery was able to get some rest at Varennes before joining the Canadian division on the Arras front on 9th April. They were here at Blagny, near Feuchy from 16th April until the end of the month. On 18th the diary lists the names of eleven men in the 47th Division who were awarded Military Medals. Frank is not one of them and by this stage was probably either already in hospital in Birmingham or on his way there. Whether he was wounded in the retreat, the ‘harrassing’ and ‘sniping that followed it, or the earlier gas attacks is impossible to say.

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In October 1914 the very first list appears of ‘men serving their King and Country who have gone forth from this parish’ appeared in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine There were 124 names and Frank is included with his two brothers, under the heading ‘Regular Army’. They were there from the start and came so close to surviving but very sadly two of Mrs Brown’s Boys didn’t made it through to the end. Thankfully Edgar Brown survived the war. He was in the Royal Engineers and is indicated on the 1918 Absent Voters List. On the 1920 electoral roll he’s there alongside Albert and his parents. Hugh and Kate were still living at 11 Maskell Road in 1939 when they were both in their mid-seventies. Fanny was also present, presumably looking after them. She died in Warminster in 1972, aged 84.

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What a sad day it must have been for the family in the spring of 1918, Frank’s body presumably arriving by train from Birmingham to be taken for burial in Magdalen Road Cemetery, one of 477 burials here from the First World War. I wonder how many times they came to look at the war memorial screen and read his name. Four names above him is George Batson from Blackshaw Road who died the same year in another hospital. Its possible Albert might even have visited here if he had any leave before the end of the war and when he died, in September 1920. The guns might have stopped firing but tragically the Brown family would have to go through it all over again.

The Drummer

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Many years ago when soldiers were at battle in the field with no altars on which to hold religious services, they would pile their drums neatly to make an altar, perhaps draped with regimental colours or a flag. A clergyman would then consecrate the ‘altar’ and celebrate religious services. In modern times the tradition of the Drumhead Service of Remembrance lives on. In the quiet stillness of the dark November night, I always like to slip into St Mary’s Church, Summerstown on the eve of Remembrance Sunday. The drums will have arrived earlier that evening and make a splendid sight, red, black and pristine shiny, they bristle with anticipation, evocative of the eve of battle. They also remind us that amongst the ranks of privates, gunners, sailors and aircraftmen that make up the Summerstown182, there is one who stands alone in being classified as a drummer. Its George Henry Cooper of Huntspill Street and Swaby Road, who was in the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. He died aged 27 of pneumonia on 7th May 1918, just under two years after his brother Reginald was lost in the Battle of Jutland. He is buried in Wandsworth Cemetery.

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Henry Benjamin Cooper, a baker from West Molesey, near Hampton Court, married Rose Readings from Stoke Row, Oxfordshire in Chelsea in 1889 and in 1891 they were living at Queen’s Terrace in Fulham. Their oldest child George was born in Parthenia Road, Parsons Green the previous year. Its close to Eel Brook Common at the northern end of Wandsworth Bridge Road. A sister Maude was born in 1892, Reginald two years later and Winifred in 1896. By the time Gertrude arrived the following year, they had relocated via Wandsworth Bridge Road to Huntspill Street, Summerstown. Henry Cooper was doing very well in his bakery business based at No3 Pont Street, Belgravia, now one of the grandest, most exclusive parts of London. In 1901 there were five children and they were all still there in 1911, though another record would seem to indicate that George was abroad in the army. 17 year old Reg worked as a fishmonger. Unusually this census record indicates the streets that all the children were born in.

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It would appear that Henry and Rose moved into a new road near Earlsfield in 1914. They were very likely one of the first residents of Swaby Road, part of a planned garden suburb, the Magdalen Park Estate. A wonderful photo from 1915 shows children playing in the newly built street, looking south towards Burntwood Lane. The Cooper abode at Nos 142 and 144 would be roughly where the horse and cart is, not far from the junction with Littleton Street. Currently one of these is for sale and the other in the process of a major refurbishment and shrouded with boards. The large circular plinths on the gable-ended houses are visible in the photo and these still exist. A decorative outer laurel motif suggests something might have been intended to be added in the middle – that remains oddly empty and plain, so perhaps the money ran out.

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Across the road in the old photo is open ground and although the building of houses here was delayed by the war, a large section between the roads which were named Openview and Fieldview were retained for sporting activity. Originally this land was owned by Magdalen College Oxford and the good quality Edwardian housing designed in 1911 by builders, the Holloway Brothers, on the west side of Swaby Road, Burntwood Lane and Magdalen Road were the start of an ambitious project that was never completed as originally planned. The Council’s ‘Magdalen Park Conservation Area Appraisal’ describes it thus; ‘The west side of Swaby Road is made up of three long terraces, each composed of two building types in a Neo-Georgian style. In all, there are 81 two storey buildings and each has been designed to contain two flats, one on the ground floor with another on the first floor, making a total of 162 separate dwellings. This is a very fine composition with a style that is unique and possibly one of the finest examples of domestic architecture of its period within the Borough’. Reg’s next-of-kin details indicate his parents lived at 144a Swaby Road, two years later, George’s have them next door at 142a. Sadly Rose didn’t have very long to enjoy this splendid location, perhaps heartbroken at the loss of her two sons and a married daughter, she died in 1919 aged 63. Henry passed away in 1931, he was only 73 but lived longer than four of his children.

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Rose never saw a road on the other side of the street being named after the Mayor of Wandsworth, Sir Archibald Dawnay. He was eleven years in office, right the way through the war years and when it came to drumming up recruitment fever he was right at the forefront, very much the driving force behind the local 13th Wandsworth Battalion, part of the East Surrey Regiment. Quite how she felt about having Dawnay Road, a permanent reminder on her doorstep of a man who may have stirred her lads into action, we can’t be sure.

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George’s military headstone in Wandsworth Cemetery is placed unusually, but not uniquely on top of an existing family grave. Records indicate this was only authorised in 1987 and put in position in 1993. The family headstone is now almost unreadable but its possible to decipher mention of his brother Reginald being lost at the Battle of Jutland. He was a ‘First Class Stoker on the famous HMS Invincible. Her destruction at the climax of the Battle of Jutland, resulting in the death of all but six of her crew of 1,031 was captured dramatically in some very famous photographs. In 1991 a British expedition marking the 75th anniversary of the battle located the wreck. The war years saw wedding bells for the Cooper family, Gertrude married in 1916 and Maud a year later, both in St Andrew’s Church by its long-serving vicar, Reverend Douglas Tudor-Craig. Reginald, most likely in uniform, married Blanche Violet Warren on 2nd October 1915 in Balham. Eight months later he was dead and Blanche would be a widow for 40 years. She died in Wandsworth in 1956.

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Maud and Gertrude Cooper both married servicemen. Maud wed Stanley Weller who was in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Among the 82 names on the Swaby Road Absent Voter’s List, he is at No142, apparently serving on HMS Canterbury. Maud and Stanley lived on at 142a Swaby Road until her death in 1928. Gertude married Joseph Marcantonio from Eltringham Street in Wandsworth, the son of an ice cream maker. He had been invalided out of the 23rd London Regiment after two years service following a gunshot wound in 1915. Sadly after a little over two years of marriage, Gertude died aged 22 in December 1918. This was a very black year for the Cooper family. Her name is just about readable on that family headstone in Wandsworth Cemetery.

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Although his military records have been lost, George’s army service number is consistent with a 1908 recruit into the East Surrey Regiment, when he would have been 18. Although he is listed at home in the 1911 census, another record places places him with the 2nd Battalion of the East Surreys in Burma. A long way from Huntspill Street. He would have returned from India at the start of the war and should in theory have gone to the western front in early 1915. One thing is certain, from the end of March, through April 1918, the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment suffered terribly in the wake of the German Spring Offensive. In the mayhem of a retreat, with gas and shells exploding over him on top of terrible weather, its unlikely George would have had much chance of doing any drumming. Its most likely that in the midst of this madness he was wounded and taken back to hospital in England.

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The ‘soldiers effects’ form tells us that George died of pneumonia in a Shrewsbury War Hospital in Shropshire and left an estate of £22 to his father. This may have been Berrington Hospital which was converted from an old workhouse and appeared to treat many soldiers who suffered from respiratory diseases, many of which were caused by the effects of gas. A desire to provide the patient with ‘fresh air’ may also have been a factor in choice of hospital and certainly Shrewsbury must have had a much better air quality than London in those days.

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When the family lived at Huntspill Street there must have been a connection with St Mary’s Church but the move to Swaby Road very much took the family into the orbit of St Andrew’s. In October 1914 the very first list appears in the St Mary’s parish magazine of ‘Men serving their King and Country who have gone forth from this parish’. There are 124 names on the list, both Cooper brothers among them. One woman is included, Nurse Ethel Willoughby under ‘Hospital Service’. Twenty of these names would eventually appear on the war memorial. In June 1918 George’s death was announced in the parish magazine and that it was as a result of him being gassed.

Horse and Plough

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One of the saddest deaths of all of the Summerstown182 must surely be that of Henry William Ward He passed away at the Grove Military Hospital, Tooting just five days before the Armistice, on 6th November 1918. Not only that, but the fact this happened at home seems to make it even harder to bear, just half a mile up the road from his family home – so close yet so far. He is buried just another half mile or so, in the other direction, in Wandsworth Cemetery on Magdalen Road, Earlsfield.

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Henry lived at 74 Summerstown, at the Plough Lane end, on the other side of the road from The White Lion, Sadler’s Cottages and Gothic Lodge. He would have been very familiar with the Hammonds, the Bakers and the Woods, living on the last stretch of this pivotal road, a location long favoured by those with Romany roots and a fondness for caravans and horses. He worked as a blacksmith and served as a farrier-sergeant in the Royal Field Artillery. They were in charge of smaller mobile field guns, positioned close to the front line and moving frequently using teams of horses. Henry would have been making and fitting shoes, attending to the majority of the veterinary and husbandry needs of a horse and inspecting every horse in his charge twice a day.

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This corner of the Wimbledon Stadium complex, still the home of a beautiful willow, sadly earmarked for the chop, was until just under a year ago, the location of Simon’s Diner, providing sustenance to the greyhound racing fraternity, market and car boot sale shoppers. Now its enclosed with Galliard hoarding awaiting the coming of luxury homes and AFC Wimbledon. I just had to smile a few weeks ago when as if some giant cheeky mouse had visited, a hole suddenly appeared opposite Lidl and there were police reports of a caravan being impounded. Very naughty of course, but it seemed a bit like tradition was being upheld.

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What changes would take place here in the following decades as the traces of calico ditches and watercress beds were replaced in 1928 by a greyhound racing stadium. Then came speedway, bangers, monster trucks and on a bizarre day in 1978, sixty five naked women riding bicycles in Freddie Mercury’s video. Now we eagerly await the return of the football club who Henry Ward may well have watched when they came to the other end of Plough Lane in 1913.

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Henry was born around 1885 into a part of Surrey with long-standing military connections. His parents were Thomas Henry Ward from Ash, near Aldershot and his wife Mary Keen, a native of Farnham. They married on 14th November 1880 at a place called Tongham, just off the famous A31 Hog’s Back road. In the 1891 census the family lived at 7 Pembury Place, on the High Street in Aldershot and Thomas worked as a grocer’s assistant. There appear to have been only two children, William and his sister Emily, born in 1890.

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A decade later, presumably having decided that London provided a better future, they were at 32 Selkirk Road in Tooting, one of the great historic roads in the area, overlooked protectively by the famous old Defoe Chapel. Legendary Tooting worthies, Joshua Oldfield and Bevill Allen are connected to this building though Daniel Defoe’s involvement remains unconfirmed. At No3 is one of Tooting’s most long-established businesses, Harrington’s famous Pie and Mash Shop. Bertie and Clara set up there in 1908 and its still going strong. Henry was now a blacksmith’s mate and his father a labourer. Five other people lived at the address including George Squire, indicated as an assistant barber. He quite possibly worked at one of three nearby barbers shops, assuming they were in operation at the time. Another extraordinary tonsorial connection was forged a few years ago when Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop was dramatically transformed into a theatrical venue. In the winter of 2014, Tooting Arts Club decided to stage Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical Sweeney Todd there. Eight actors, three musicians and an audience of thirty two people squeezed into the tiny shop. Exceptional reviews followed and on the last night a visit from Sondheim himself. Sir Cameron Mackintosh took it to the West End and the show is currently playing on Broadway with the existing cafe set at 3 Selkirk Road re-created for its Big Apple audience. Whatever would Henry Ward have thought of that?

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The following ten years saw dramatic events which took the family up Garratt Lane to Summerstown and allow us to identify Henry as the H W Ward on our war memorial. In April 1907 Thomas, still resident at Selkirk Road died at the age of 44. In December Mary re-married to Cornelius William Walker and moved to 74 Summerstown. They certainly didn’t hang around getting hitched as Cornelius’ first wife Elizabeth only passed away in September of that year, leaving him with six children.

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One small episode which happened in 1908 was found in the online records of a trial of one William Sheldrake at the Old Bailey. It would appear that Cornelius Walker described as a ‘tar traveller’ had supplied materials to the defendant ‘whom I knew, and had arranged to make the end carriage of a van for me’. The Walkers had previously lived at 11 Summerstown, another house with 182 connections. Sheldrake was acquitted of the forgery and deception charge but the extract gives a tiny glimpse into the world of horses, trading and travelling life that Henry now orbited. A world remarkably of which there are still traces, over one hundred years later. On the 1911 census, Henry indicated as ‘Harry’ is 26 and listed as a stepson, working as a carman. Ernest Walker a nineteen year old son from Cornelius’ first marriage was also a tar traveller. In June 1910 Emily had married George Figgest a gardener in the cemetery and they now lived at the same address. There were Figgest family living round the corner at No8 Keble Street where William and John may well have been George’s brothers.

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It’s not possible to say too much about Henry Ward’s military service other than that he was a farrier-sergeant in the 179th Royal Field Artillery at the time of his death and that he also served with the Royal Horse Artillery. He enlisted in Camberwell and it would seem from other similar service number records relating to 179th Royal Field Artillery that he volunteered in June 1915 at Deptford, so possibly he was living at this time in south east London. The only other thing we know is that he died on 6th November 1918 and his name is on the screen in Wandsworth Cemetery. In January 1919 his death was noted in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine, ‘We regret to hear that Henry William Ward of the Royal Field Artillery, died in hospital on November 6th 1918’.

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A key fact in tracing the family of Henry William Ward was in his Soldier’s Effects record which shows his mother as his sole legatee. Mary Walker was left nine pounds, eighteen shillings and sixpence. This fact enabled us to trace his parents and find out that his mother had re-married. It also stated that he died in the Grove Military Hospital, now the site of St George’s Hospital.

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The Absent Voters List of 1918 makes interesting reading with two Walker brothers, Henry Ward and George Figgest all listed as serving soldiers at 74 Summerstown. Ernest Walker was in 1/5th East Surreys, Alfred Walker in the Army Service Corps, George Figgest a ‘wheeler’ in the Royal Field Artillery and Henry Ward a sergeant-farrier. Familiar names of Earl, Baker, Nicholls, Woodley and Wright all feature in the list and round the corner, Robert and William Figgest at 8 Keble Street.

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Cornelius died in 1925 at the age of 74. Henry’s mother and married sister Emily were still at 74 Summerstown according to the 1958 electoral roll. This photo from 1958 shows the road shortly before its transformation and No74 would have been one of the houses on the left. Across the road is the beautiful Gothic Lodge at No73, the building immediately to its right is the only original house on the main section of this road which still stands today. It would appear that Emily and George Figgest had a son in 1920 called Harry John Figgest. Its quite possible that he was named after her recently deceased brother. We will perhaps never know.

Movement of Jah People

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Persistent rumours have abounded in SW17 circles over the past few years that Bob Marley spent some time in Tooting. He laid down some grooves at the recording studio above the Mixed Blessings Bakery on Mitcham Lane. He courted a nurse from St George’s Hospital. He was spotted on a bus in Blackshaw Road. As much as we would love it all to be true, our investigations, including conversations with those who would surely know, have failed so far to come up with conclusive proof. It is though well documented that Bob spent quality time just a few stops up the Northern Line in Kennington. Playing football in the park, hanging out at the Rastafarian temple on St Agnes Place and recording Exodus. This was released by Island Records on 3rd June 1977. St Agnes Place was London’s longest running squat from 1969 to 2007.

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We’ve already established one fabulous Bob Marley connection with the Summerstown182. His father Norval spent some time at a convalescent camp in Shropshire in 1918 where William Caudle from Garratt Lane was also a patient. Now we have another. Kennington was very much the orbit of William James Wood. The lad lived in nearby Smith Street and inspired by tales of FA Cup Finals at the nearby Kennington Oval, he probably kicked a ball on the same patch of grass as Bob, Bunny and the rest of the Wailers. I’ve also got fond memories of playing football in Kennington Park, most especially scoring a 30 yard screamer against the Wandsworth Warriors on my fortieth birthday match. Its not far from the imposing St Mark’s Church where the war memorial has over 400 names. This was once a place of execution where 21 Jacobite rebels captured at Culloden were hung drawn and quartered in 1745.

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Frederick William Wood, a labourer and his wife Mary Ann had their roots firmly in this Lambeth area. They had nine children, five boys and four girls. Frederick their eldest was born in 1881 and John two years later. At least three of their boys served in the First World War and two of them, William and Robert were killed and are on our war memorial in Summerstown. Their third child, Elizabeth Jane was born in August 1884 when the family lived at 9 Clark’s Row, part of a small enclave of streets between Brixton Road and Clapham Road, near St Michael’s Church on Stockwell Park Road. Lilian Baylis who famously managed the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres lived here. Van Gogh also spent a year just round the corner and has a plaque and a road named after him. Its all very close to the elusive Type Archive which I never seem to be able to locate.

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The Woods were still there when William James was born on 2nd May 1886. His father is listed then as working as a general dealer. By the 1830’s Stockwell Park was an exclusive early Victorian neighbourhood with many imposing villas. The coming of the railways, and the opening of Stockwell Underground station in 1890, attracted more working people and smaller terraced houses and mansion blocks sprang up. Stockwell Gardens Estate was built in the 1930s, and the Studley Estate in the 1950s. In 1944 a V1 destroyed a number of houses on the corner of Stockwell Park Road and Lorn Road, killing 11 people. Clark’s Row and Halstead Street were demolished in the fifties and are now submerged beneath the Slade Gardens Adventure Playground. By the way, that’s Slade as in the Art School, nothing to do with Noddy Holder. St Michael’s Church dating from 1841, survived extensive damage from this bomb and is still going strong. There are some lovely houses in the area with decorative ornamentation seemingly matching the pinnacles on the church.

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This area does have some ‘purple’ on the Charles Booth map. He visited in 1899 and despite its suburban pretensions, described this location as ‘very poor and rough; children dirty’. In 1893 when Fanny was born the Wood family were at 44 Halstead Street. Robert is noted as having been born in Kennington in 1897 so they were probably still in this area. They would most certainly have been around in 1896 to see Reverend Begbie replace the pinnacles on the church and repair the tower.

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The 1901 census indicates they had moved a little bit further north and were at 70 Smith Street, off Camberwell Road, not too far from the Oval Cricket Ground. There were nine children at this point, ranging from 20 year old Frederick to two and a half year old Charlie. William was sixteen and working as an errand boy. This venue had been hosting the FA Cup Final until just a few years before. The 1893 final saw West Brom beat Aston Villa 3-1 in front of 33,000 people. Close to Kennington Park this was a crowded area but probably a bit more pleasant. Booth noted nearby Kennington Terrace as being ‘very respectable, all with servants’. Interesting then to note that St Agnes Place where Bob later hung out, was also a road of 22 houses purpose built for the families of servants who worked at Buckingham Palace. Since the 2007 evictions its been completely reshaped into a row of oddly characterless Georgian-style townhouses, contrasting so sharply with its former existence.

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Child mortality was of course rife in the early years of the century but all nine Wood children appear to have survived. Only the four youngest were still at home in 1911 when the family pitched up in Summerstown, at 56 Smallwood Road. Fred and Mary had now been married for 32 years. Phoebe and Frances, aged 21 and 19 were working as domestic servants, 15 year old Robert was an errand boy for a chemist and the youngest George was 12. We don’t know where William now 26 could have been and with his army records also unattainable, the rest of his life is speculation. A note in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine from August 1917 states ‘We have heard this month that Robert Wood of the Northamptonshire Regiment and his brother William Wood of the Royal Fusiliers have been killed in action’. This was certainly a long time to wait for confirmation of his death. Identifying him as the person on our memorial took some time but we are almost certain that he was killed on 7th November 1915 and is buried at Fricourt, near Albert. Indications are that he lived in Brixton and a William Wood is one of forty names listed as being on the lost St Michael’s Church ‘War Shrine’.

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Raised in Hounslow, the 11th (Service) Battalion (London Regiment) of the Royal Fusiliers were part of the 18th (Eastern) Division of General Kitchener’s Second New Army. Their early days were rather shambolic with few officers to train the new volunteers and no organised accomodation or equipment. They were initially located in the Colchester area but moved in May 1915 to Salisbury Plain where King George V inspected them on 24 June. They were fortunate to avoid Gallipoli and went to France in July 1915 and moved to Flesselles, near Amiens. There are no indications of them being involved in a major attack until the Somme the following year so it appears likely that William died in some isolated action whilst both sides were settling down to the prospect of trench warfare.

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A few miles outside Albert, Fricourt was attacked on the first day of the Somme offensive, by then William Wood was already dead. Point 110 Old and New Military Cemeteries are either side of a track to the south of it and named after the contour on the map. Point 110 Old Military Cemetery contains 100 Commonwealth burials of the First World War including William Wood. A small wood on a ridge, the Bois Francais is just beyond these cemeteries, the enemy lines relatively close together as neither wanted to concede the high ground. The trenches near here had London names like Park Lane, Old Kent Road, Duke Street and Shooters Hill.

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William Wood may have been settled into his own life by the time the rest of his family came to Summerstown. Certainly he appears more connected to the Stockwell and Kennington area. But his family now living in Smallwood Road placed his name on the war memorial alongside his brother Robert and thats how we’ve come to know about him. When I went to have a look at St Agnes Place I chatted to a very nice lady who told me that her father had worked with Bob Marley during his time in the area and should be able to confirm or deny the Tooting rumour. I’m hoping very much to hear from her. Whenever I go past there in future I’ll certainly think of William Wood along with the movement of jah people.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/when-bob-marley-joined-the-bloomsbury-set-6230422.html

A Cleaner Tooting

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Joseph Frederick Thomas Lucas was born in Willesden at the dawn of the twentieth century into an age of optimism. A few years later his family came to live in Tooting in the early years of the reign of Edward VII. There’s a good reason why the King’s statue is outside Tooting Broadway. Related to most of its royalty he was known as the ‘Uncle of Europe’. As people flooded into the area and new streets and amenities emerged almost overnight, this was the birth of the bustling, hustling Tooting we know today. The trams came in 1903 and with them three future kings to inspect the progress of the emerging Totterdown Estate. A library was built and great well-intentioned public meeting places like Fairlight Hall and the Central Methodist Hall would soon emerge, followed by the cinemas. There was even a new St Mary’s Church in Summerstown. Public baths were constructed, then a great ‘bathing lake’, now the world famous Lido. Not only was Tooting getting bigger, it was getting cleaner.

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The Lucas family had a strong military pedigree. Joseph’s grandfather Hugh was a Chelsea pensioner from Belfast, his parents worked in military tailoring and his brothers Albert and Hugh served alongside him in the First World War. Albert was killed at Cambrai and less than five months later eighteen year old Joseph, serving in the 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment also lost his life in the wake of the German Spring Offensive. His name is on the great memorial at Tyne Cot in Flanders. The Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing is the largest cemetery for commonwealth forces in the world. The Memorial bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.

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Their first residence in Tooting was 11 Gambole Road, the street that diverts sharply off Garratt Lane just before its last stretch and heads to St George’s Hospital before turning into Coverton Road. Not far down here, No88a was the childhood home of the legendary comic actor George Cole. This last stretch of Garratt Lane would at that time have been called Defoe Road and the hospital was the Fountain Fever Hospital. Just a short walk away Sidney Lewis was born in 1903, another young lad who ended up in uniform before he should have done. The pressure to join up in the early war years was intense and halfway down, Gambole Road is met by the extraordinary Gibey Road and its record-breaking Absent Voters List roll call of 137 out of 99 doors. There are only 40 doors on Gambole Road but still 37 names. They include a George Slaughter at No28 and someone at No5 who was on the quaintly named ‘HMS Inflexible’. At No40, next to the hospital were three members of the Henson family including one who was a Sergeant in the Chinese Labour Corps.

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No11 is now gone. The even-numbered houses on the north side are all preserved but the south side peters out at inflexible No5 before it meets Gilbey Road. For whatever reason, where it should have been appears to be a parking space. Around this point is surely one of the oddest doorways in Tooting, No98a Gilbey Road actually fronts onto Gambole Road and has a great big gaping windowless wall all to itself. At the Garratt Lane end of the road is a chiropracter and a shabby corner retail premises which should be a prime location but has been empty and boarded-up for as long as I can remember.

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The 1911 census saw them living at 29 Bertal Road in Summerstown. A delightful street of about 40 original houses, tucked in between the Hazelhurst estate and Lambeth Cemetery. Eleven year old Joseph was still at school with two younger sisters Daisy and Rose. His name does not appear on either the Smallwood or Fountain registers, though its hard to believe he didn’t go there given the proximity – he probably didn’t make the 1916 ‘Old Smalls’ booklet because he was not yet in the army. The Absent Voters list for here also makes interesting reading for Joseph you would think should be on it. His brother, 25 year old Hugh Lancelot Lucas of 21st London Regiment is. The reason is that Joseph was too young to vote – like thousands of others not captured on this register because they were under twenty one. Other familiar Bertal Road names are John Warman at No27, brother of William. George Quenzer at No2, brother of another underage soldier Alfred, who died with the East Surreys at Villers-Plouich. Walter Matthews at No11 was connected to the Kitz family and the maternal grandfather of our great friend Lynda Biggs. He survived the war but was badly gassed.

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Joseph was in the 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, killed on 18th April 1918 when the battalion were retreating in the face of the great German Spring Offensive. No wonder the tone is a bit brisk and to the point, they must have been terrified. The Gloucesters war diary indicates that they ‘relieved the Australians in front of Messines’ at the start of the month and were now in front line trenches. There was an extensive enemy barrage on the 10th forcing them back to a place called Stinking Farm. On 14th they were at Rossignol and trenches near Beaver Corner. The diary note on 18th reads ‘Orders were received from Brigade to commence to withdraw the battalion back to a field near Wippenhoek Siding about two miles east of Abeele’. This was a place where the previous year a young Jamaican pilot called William Robinson Clarke became the first black airman to fly for Britain. They remained here for three days before moving to Proven. There is no mention of any attack or further shell barrage but the young man from Bertal Road was some how lost in this period. Heartbreak for his mother Annie who less than six months earlier had lost an older son Albert at Cambrai. Annie’s husband William died in 1921. She passed away in 1947 aged 81 having outlived five of her sons.

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We remembered Joseph Lucas this summer along with two of his Summerstown182 mates, Albert Dell and Eldred Henden whose names are all on the memorial at Tyne Cot. We were there to attend the Passchendaele centenary commemoration event, standing among the headstones precisely a century after the battle began on 31st July 1917. It was a curious oddity that none of our Summerstown threesome died in that battle but all the following year. We placed a little cross at the foot of screen wall where his name is inscribed, close to the top of the middle column of Gloucestershire Regiment names. There was quite a collection of tributes so there must have been plenty of people there that day with connections to the regiment.

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Later that evening we went to Artillery Wood Cemetery, just a few miles outside Ypres to remember someone who did die that day. Killed by a shell just a short walk from where he is buried, Francis Ledwidge was a poet and Irish patriot who served with the Royal Inniskiling Fusilers. The Friends of Flanders Field Museum in Ypres have done great work over the last twenty years to bring his legacy to public attention and this year his face was on an Irish postage stamp. All our Belgian pals were there; Bart and Sabien, Gilbert from VIFF, Tracey and Richard doing the music. Also present were members of the Ledwidge family, representatives of the Irish government and a coachload of people from the poet’s home town in Slane, County Meath. One of his best known poems ‘To One Who Comes Now and Then’ was written a week before his death on 22nd July 1917. That was the day Fred Jewell died so we made a trip to his grave the day before and recited it.

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Sadly we know very little else about young Joseph Lucas. We don’t know what job he had, can’t be sure about his school or when he joined ths army or any detail about how he was killed. We have so far not been able to contact anyone from the Lucas family. All we have is a little early family background. For more on that, read the story about his brother Albert. However, he is in our thoughts and if we are passing 29 Bertal Road on our Summerstown182 ‘Walk of Remembrance’ next month, we’ll be sure to leave him a candle.

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Bob Sadler’s Plaque

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Between 1853 and 1864 there was an extraordinary athletics venue just off Garratt Lane. This was still largely an area of fields and farms adjacent to the small mill communities of Garratt and Summerstown, but crowds in their thousands flocked regularly to attend sporting spectacles at Robert Sadler’s Copenhagen Running Grounds. A few drinks and a wager on some of the biggest sporting celebrities of the age played a large part in this and Bob slaked thirsts and ran his enterprise from Althorp Lodge, opposite Tesco on the site of what is now Burmester House. Once, a prominent location on the sporting history map of south London, there is now no trace of it and for many years local historians, although aware of its existence, could not pinpoint precisely where it was. The runners, known then as pedestrians, came from all over the country and much further afield, most famously the native North American known as ‘Deerfoot’ who ran in his traditional costume. As well as the elite runners of the era, there were all sorts of odd challenges and events to witness; a man running against a horse, barrel-rolling events, even competition between disabled athletes. The founder of this establishment, Robert Sadler, was a man of many hats, a Garratt Lane entrepreneur whose contribution to the area’s life, industry and development of Summerstown will hopefully now be more widely known and appreciated.

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Robert Sadler’s plaque unveiling, part of the Summerstown Celebration on 16th September was a joyous occasion that showed the presentation of community history at its best. The story of this ‘lost’ running ground, which was ‘found’ so splendidly in Kevin Kelly’s book, has always got a mention on our Summerstown182 Walks and people can scarcely believe the tale. The tranquil millenial housing estate which now occupies this site, between the Anglo American Laundry and Garratt Green, gives away no clues to its former existence but its possible to close your eyes and imagine this birthplace of the world of athletics ‘track and field’ that we know today.

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Remarkably in the summer of 2012, the Olympic Flame passed by the site on its way down Garratt Lane. Hundreds of people packed the streets that evening in a scene which would not have been dissimilar to that at one of Bob’s big events a century and a half before. As the sporting historian Simon Inglis put it so magnificently in his speech at the unveiling ceremony ‘Everytime you go past this spot, just imagine you can hear the roar of the crowd as Deerfoot comes round the bend and hundreds of your ancestors lose vast amounts of money’.

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Kevin Kelly is in regular contact with descendants of the Sadler family and it was no problem persuading his Great Great Grandson, Robin to come over from the Isle of Man to perform the unveiling. He was joined by his wife Margaret and daughter Ruth, herself once a keen athlete. Also there for the grand unveiling was local wordsmith John Byrne to read a few verses he had penned especially for the occasion. The Victorian pedestrian community was represented by the Great Great Grandaughter of Teddy Mills, once the most famous runner in England who had graced this circuit so many times.

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After the unveiling we trooped up Keble Street to St Mary’s Church to showcase some of the work we’ve done in our year of Heritage Lottery Funding. Much of this involved local schools and a short film made by students from Burntwood School featured The Corner Pin pub, once managed by Bob Sadler, his family living in the cottage next door. His legacy is everywhere. Anyone need to pop into Tesco? This was for one hundred and fifty years The Prince of Wales public house and the Sadlers were once in charge there. The day rounded off with a Beer Festival at By the Horns – yes, Bob was once there too as this was the site of the Sir Jeffrey Dunstan where post running ground, the great man dispensed local ales to thirsty Summerstowners.

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We identified this story as worthy of a plaque and funds to pay for it were raised via two Wandsworth Heritage Festival walks which attracted over one hundred people. One of these was called ‘The Industry of Garratt Lane’ and fitted the bill perfectly as few were more industrious in this area than the versatile Bob; a pugilist, printer, pedestrian promoter, publican, property developer – he did the lot and if one name deserves to be remembered for his part in the development of this Wandleside hamlet, then Robert Sadler is the man.

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We had a lot of fun promoting it and come the glorious day there must have been two hundred people outside Burmester House to witness a few short speeches followed by Robin and Ruth unveiling the plaque. The family really enjoyed themselves that weekend, running the full gamut of former Sadler locations; The Corner Pin, By the Horns, Tesco Express. They even followed up on his printing and dyeing career with trips to Merton Abbey, the site of the Garratt Printworks next to the Wandle and the Liberty shop in Regent Street. They also called in on his splendid grave in Wandsworth Cemetery. ‘Here lies a man who was loved by all and despised by none’.

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Its wonderful now that in an era when promoting physical activity is more relevant than ever and in an area where so many families live, that we now have this permanent reminder of our sporting heritage. The fact that we have chosen to celebrate and remember it sends out a powerful message to anyone who cares to look up and read it. A big thank you to all the councillors who supported this initiative, the residents and businesses who rallied round to promote it, the people who came on the Walks and some who didn’t but chipped in anyway to help pay for it. Once again we were blessed to have the support of Integral in Wallington who held cake sales and dress-down days to add their contribution. Thanks also to Tooting PRSS, Wandsworth Radio, Wandsworth Borough Council and Brightside who pumped out the publicity.

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Althorp Lodge was demolished around 1900 and Kevin Kelly and a possee of local historians have searched fruitlessly for some kind of image or impression of it. An artist’s interpretation on the back cover of the publication is as far as they’ve got, but it would be wonderful if we could locate an illustration or photo. There must be one out there, the building graced this site for nearly one hundred years and played such a significant role. In the mean time though, the plaque will do, informing many more people of the running ground’s existence and introducing a whole new generation to its remarkable story.  Simon Inglis had some advice to youngsters when they see such a reminder of the past ‘Stop! Read it, have a little think, because its plaques like these and stories like Kevin’s that bind us all to the past and help to give us greater appreciation of where we live.’ Most important of all then, thank you to Mr Kevin Kelly who through his dilligent research and extraordinary publication has given us all the priceless gift of this extraordinary piece of Wandsworth history. Go on… if you haven’t done so already, show your appreciation by buying a copy of his book, details below. 

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The Daily Grind

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Trying to envisage the world inhabited by the Summerstown182 families is sometimes very difficult. This was the late Victorian age of industry when polluted over-worked cities were choking many of their populace and life for many people was an almost intolerable daily grind of hardship and struggle. It has been heartening then to discover how one family found a way out of all this. From the mean streets of Southwark and Bermondsey via Lambeth they made their way to Summerstown. This was the journey of one family, a member of whom was a soldier called Sidney David Giddis of the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed aged 24, just over a month before the end of the war, on 3rd October 1918. He is buried in France, in a cemetery called Flesquieres Hill near Cambrai.

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David and Alice Giddis had eleven children in total, six boys and five girls, Sidney was the third child and oldest son born in 1892. They ended up at 865 Garratt Lane, not so far from St Mary’s Church but now lost beneath the block at the front of the Aboyne estate. They would have been pretty much directly opposite the Summerstown Dental Centre who have become great supporters of this project. My dentist always enjoys getting an update on whats going on before I lean back in the chair. They’ve also been great displaying our posters in the surgery. Reading about Bob Sadler’s plaque or a proposed trip to the Chattri sure takes the mind off gum hygiene technique.

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David William Giddis was born in 1864 in Bermondsey. On 20th March 1887 and working as a labourer, he married Alice Elizabeth Parker at St Luke’s Church. They were living at 10 Edward Street. A few years later the 1891 census finds the Giddis family living at 8 Leyton’s Buildings near Borough High Street. David was now working as a furrier’s machine grinder and they had two small girls, Alice and Clara. Their first son, Sidney David was born on 15th August 1892. He was baptised at St George the Martyr, Southwark in October 1894 along with his brother David George who very sadly died just two years later. Their residence was now 199 Leyton’s Buildings. Charles Booth’s map shows what a tough area this was. The dark blue refers to ‘very poor, casual, chronic want’, the black to ‘lowest class, vicious, semi-criminal’ and Leyton’s Buildings were encircled by plenty of these ominous hues.

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More children followed; Ernest in 1897, Violet in 1898, David in 1901. In that year’s census they were living at 79 Bermondsey Street, south of London Bridge Station. They were still surrounded by inner-city grime, with the leathermarket on one side and the workhouse on the other. A world of tanneries and glue factories. But something had happened and very excitingly David was now a coffee house keeper. Perhaps his previous grinding skills holding him in good stead. There were now six children and even someone listed as a servant, Annie Sunken who worked as a waitress. Things had really looked up. Located between the evocatively named Black Swan Lane and Gun Alley, the location is now the home of the Fashion and Textile Museum. A school register record picks up young Sidney at Webb Street School in 1899.

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In the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century a major impact on London life was made by the numerous coffee houses, which began to populate the city. The forerunner of the modern cafe, they were great places for a mostly male clientele to meet, chat and do business. The best known example was that owned by Edward Lloyd which evolved into the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. In the 1880s the temperance movement tried to revive the coffee house scene in an attempt to divert the working man from the demon drink. A good example of this in Tooting was the highly devout Eliza Jane Bell AKA ‘Lady Bountiful’ commandeering The Bell Public House on Upper Tooting Road (on the left in the above photograph) and turning it into the Bell Coffee Palace in 1888. Its likely that a coffee house in an area densely packed with trade and industry such as Southwark would be more of a workers cafe than a palace.

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Another of Sidney’s school register records a few years later finds him at Heber Road School and it would seem the family were now living at 43 Landells Road in leafy East Dulwich. They were still here when Alfred was born in 1903. This really was a dramatic contrast from Bermondsey but they were soon on the move again. From 1906 they appear to have been at 111 Wandsworth Road and would seem to have settled there for almost a decade. The 1911 census indicates David was still a coffee house keeper and Alice was helping to run the business. It may have been an extended family affair as oldest daughter Alice is listed as a waitress and second oldest Clara as a domestic, both working ‘at home’. Ten children are listed including rather oddly two who had died and have their names crossed out. One of these Doris died as an infant in 1909 and two years later Alice passed away aged only 24. Sidney was 18 and working as a railway porter. The family were still at 111 Wandsworth Road in 1915.

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Incredibly this address where the Giddis family lived for around ten years still stands, in the middle of the Nine Elms regeneration tangle of cranes and tower blocks. On the corner of Miles Street with St George’s Tower on one side and the new American Embassy sprouting on the other. Back in the early years of the twentieth century in spite of its proximity to the riverside industries, this was a location positively glowing with prosperous pinkness on the Booth map. The railway yards and wharves would have no doubt provided a regular stream of thirsty customers to swell the Giddis coffers.

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We can’t be sure why they were on the move again in the early years of the war. William was in his early fifties, so still a fair bit away from contemplating putting his feet up. Maybe they just wanted a gentler existence. Sometime between then and Sidney’s death, the Giddis family located to 865 Garratt Lane, Summerstown. Sidney and his younger brother Ernest are on the electoral roll at this address in 1918 and also the Absent Voters List. The house is gone but several adjoining four storey properties survive at the junction of Garratt Lane and Aboyne Road. This includes No857, the home of the Caudle family. They too had made good through business, in their case the bootmaking trade.

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A wonderful photo from 1900 gives a clue as to how this area looked. All you can really see are the gateposts and trees to the right of the carriage but these houses had a grandeur that dwarfed most of those in the surrounding streets. The houses in the background all still exist in their original form, the beer shop at No849 is now ‘Nibbles’ chicken shop and Garratt Green Supply Stores is a hairdressers. Across the road, the plot of land where the dentist is now located, has a ‘for sale’ sign. The Giddis family were here for at least twenty years, the versatile William, far from contemplating retirement was according to the marriage certificates of two of his daughters, now working as an interior decorator. Maybe he even advised on the decor for the house that became the dental surgery. Curiously just a few doors along, some years later, No734 was the headquarters of Albert Percy Weston, artificial teeth manufacturer.

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It is really hard to know exactly when Sidney joined the army but given his younger brother Ernest became a soldier in 1915, its quite likely he was involved from around the same time. Ernest who was a printers errand boy in 1911 survived the war and died in 1962. Sidney was a gunner in the 74th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He is buried at Flesquieres Hill British Cemetery, near Cambrai, not too far from where Tiny Ted Foster performed his heroics a year earlier. It is famously close to where a recovered tank, ‘Deborah’, is located in a barn. It passed through the village of Flesquieres on the 20 November 1917 and was hit by mortar shells and put out of action close to where the cemetery is located. The tank was found buried there in 1998. Fierce fighting in this area started in mid-September 1918 through a series of very large scale offensive operations aimed to break the Hindenburg Line system. It was a very dangerous time and tragic that so many who had been through so much would lose their lives in these last weeks. It wasn’t until February 1919 that Sidney’s death was announced in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine. It was mentioned in the same paragraph as his neighbour William Caudle and the sailors Charles Moss and Harold Glassett.

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Three of Sidney’s siblings, Dora, Alfred and Violet lived on until the 1970s. In 1933 there were six Giddis family members resident at No865, Sidney’s parents and three of his brothers. They probably knew chiropodist Leonard Lumbers and his wife Aspasia living across the road at No742, now home of the Summerstown Dental Centre. Sidney’s father David died aged 75 in Kingston Hospital in 1939, Alice four years later. It was probably good that David and Alice did not live to see history repeat itself. On 20th August 1945 his younger brother Leonard, aged 34 and too young to have made it onto the 1911 census, died in Egypt whilst serving with the Hampshire Regiment. He is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at Heliopolis just outside Cairo, close to the airport. Another Giddis killed so tragically at the tail end of a major conflict.