Tuesday, April 29, 2008

May Day Green and Red

Over a hundred years ago, the photographer Thankful Sturdee took this photograph in Deptford of the Fowlers Troop with their May Day Jack in the Green. Their present day descendants will be taking the Deptford Jack in the Green out for his annual walk on Thursday 1st May, with a focus this year on the South Bank area. The meeting place and route for this Thursday are shown below (all times are subject to change, depending on beer and climate).

10.30 - 11.30: Borough Market – Market Porter, (Free House) Stoney Street, London SE1 9AA,
Deptford Jack prepares, and leaves at 11.30 sharp.
Stoney St, Clink St, Bankside, Jubilee Walkway
11.40 - 11.50: Globe Theatre
11.55 - 12.35: Founders Arms, (Youngs) Hopton Street, SE1 9JH
12.35 -12.45: Tate Modern, Bankside
Hopton St, Upper Ground
12.55 - 1.35: Gabriels Wharf (various refreshments) & National Theatre
Upper Ground, Waterloo Road
1.45 - 2.40: Hole in the wall, (Free House)5 Mepham Street, SE1 8SQ
Exton St, Roupell St, Meynott St, Blackfiars Rd, Union Street
2.55 - 3.45: Charles Dickens, (Free House) 160 Union Street, SE1 0LH
Union St, Pepper St, Doyce St, Clenham Street
4.00 - 4.40: Lord Clyde, (Free House) 27 Clenham St, SE1 1ER
Marshalsea Rd, Great Dover Rd, Silvester St
4.45 – 5.45: Royal Oak, (Harveys) 44 Tabard Street, SE1 4JU
Borough High St, Stoney Street
6.00 – 11.30? Market Porter (again) – Thank you and Good night
Basically its a procession with English folk music and a frame decorated with spring foliage - a dancing bear might also be in attendance, or at least a grown man dressed as one. If you've never made it to this, you really should.
Also on Thursday, The Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir are hosting their annual May Day event at Brockley Social Club, 240 Brockley Road, SE4, with a collection of socialist songs for international workers day. All welcome from 7:30 pm.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton & Camberwell Jazz

When I was putting together my recent Camberwell mix, I did think about including Humphrey Lyttelton, who died this week. For he did go to Camberwell Art College on being discharged from the army in 1946. The obituary in The Independent covers the crucial South East London phase of his career:

'“When I got out of the army I was 25 and didn’t feel like going back to anything very academic, so I went to Camberwell School of Art for a couple of years and round about the same time started playing jazz in various low dives,” he recalled. “I’m sure there was a buzz in the family going round about me, but I was oblivious, sloping off to places like the Nuthouse on Regent Street with my trumpet and a dirty mac over my uniform.” He soon found the required subjects at the School of Art tiresome and concentrated on the comic drawings that came so naturally to him. But his devotion to the trumpet grew ever stronger. Wearing his army battledress, now dyed navy-blue, and sporting a beard and sandals, he played at jam sessions with professional dance-band musicians and began to travel to the Red Barn, a pub in Bexley in Kent, where the pianist George Webb’s band played every Monday night'.

In March 1947 he joined the George Webb Dixielanders and his professional career as a jazz musician was underway. Also in the Dixielanders was another ex-Camberwell student, Wally Fawkes, with whom Lyttelton formed the first Humphrey Lyttelton Band in 1948. Incidentally another important figure in the post-war trad jazz scene, clarinetist Monty Sunshine, went to Camberwell School of Art too.

(picture shows Lyttelton, right, at the Hammersmith Palais in 1951)

Stop the BNP

Just got back from the Love Music, Hate Racism festival in a rainy Victoria Park. In a week's time it is possible that the British National Party will have a member of the Greater London Assembly.

The paradox is that the far right remain organisationally very weak in London. The BNP couldn't even put forward a candiate for the Lewisham consituency. Its candidates are a laughing stock - Richard Barnbrook shagging immigrants in a flat in Blackheath, and its second choice on its London list being dropped for his comments on rape (more South London shame here - Nick Eriksen used to be a Conservative councillor in Southwark). As for the National Front, when they 'marched' in Eltham last week - an area they might have thought of as a far right heartland - a mere 22 people turned up, a number of whom were later 'acquainted with the pavement' by Antifa when they went on to another fascist gathering in Victoria later the same day.

Nevertheless it is possible that the BNP will secure 5% of the London-wide vote and secure an official foothold in London politics - for information check out the Hope not Hate London website.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Latin Americans targeted at Elephant and Castle

We have received this call from the Ecuadorian Movement in the UK for a protest against a Borders Agency raid at the Elephant in which 15 people were arrested:



On Thursday, April 24th, in Elephant and Castle – the heart of the Latin American community – the HOME OFFICE and BRITISH POLICE entered Ecuadorian business in an unprecedented operation.

The police forced their way in hunting for undocumented workers. This is happening in the country where human rights are supposedly respected. Children looked on as armed police pushed their parents against the wall, broke through doors and intimidated all those they found in spots known to be frequented by Latin Americans, the majority of whom are Ecuadorians. This unusual scene is something that has only been observed to date in cases of “terrorism.”

This must be rejected by the Ecuadorian community. We need to use all the possible channels open to us within the law to denounce this act of abuse of authority against immigrant communities such as the Ecuadorian community.

We are placing the entire community on alert. We must join in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, and unite also with the campaigns that are unfolding [in various migrant communities now under attack.]

We will express our protest this Sunday at Fusion, in front of Elephant and Castle, starting at 15h00, where the candidates are scheduled to debate proposals for the Mayor of London. We will take banners and flyers condemning this stance by the British government.



Friday, April 25, 2008

Transpontine TV 3: Camberwell

The latest broadcast is themed around Camberwell... (if any of the tracks don't show in your viewer, click on here to watch the lot)

1. House of Love – Shine On – Camberwell indie darlings from 1990

2. KLF - 3am Eternal –KLF HQ was Jimmy Cauty’s house in Camberwell.

3. Pink Floyd – See Emily Play – early Floyd with Syd Barrett, some time Camberwell Art College student

4. Basement Jaxx - Red Alert – they once recorded a track called ‘I live in Camberwell’, sure at least one of them did too.

5. Withnal and I – the famous Camberwell Carrot scene.

6. Joe Jackson – It’s different for girls – apparently lived at 69 Camberwell Grove in the early 80s and sometimes drank in the Grove Tavern.

7. Roxy Music - Virgina Plain – started out rehearsing in a Camberwell bedsit

8. Kode9 & Spaceape – 9 Samurai –Kode9, hippest thing in Camberwell 2008

9. Mystery Jets - Young Love – two of them went to Camberwell Art College, this is their latest single ‘Young Love’, featuring Laura Marling.

10. Mixmaster Morris – Mr Nubient, SE5. This is a Japanese animated video of his remix of Julia by Nuno Felipe (2005).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Denny Wright - Brockley guitar hero

Denny (Denys Justin) Wright (1924-1992) was an influential jazz and skiffle guitarist, born in Deptford and growing up in Brockley - at some point he apparently lived at 36 Brockhill Crescent.

Denny Wright played at various times with Stephane Grappelli and Lonnie Donegan (including on the latter's record, Cumberland Gap), and in 1945 opened London's first bebop jazz club, the Fullado in Old Compton Street. Check out Denny's fantastic guitar solo on Cumberland Gap (you can hear Lonnie Donegan shout 'Denny' just before it):

Deptford Soul City

In autumn 1966 the first specialist soul records shop in Europe opened at no. 21 Deptford High Street, with a speech about freedom by novelist Brigid Brophy. The shop, Soul City, was the brainchild of 'an Esperanto-speaking vegan-anarchist from Bexleyheath, Dave Godin' (see here) and his friends David Nathan and Robert Blackmore.

The shop attracted enthusiasts from all over the country in search of soul obscurities, and later in 1967 (apparently after a burglary in the Deptford shop) it moved to Monmouth Street in Covent Garden).

Dave Godin (1936 -2005) was a key figure in promoting soul music in the UK through his shop, record labels and writing in Blues and Soul magazine. Born in Peckham and raised in Lambeth and Bexleyheath, he has been credited with introducing soul music to Mick Jagger at Dartford Grammar School and with coining the term 'northern soul'. As well as the record shop, Soul City was also a record label for a while.

The image above of the Deptford shop is reproduced from 'The In Crowd: The Story of the Northern and Rare Soul Scene' by Mike Ritson and Stuart Russell. The bottome picture shows Trevor Churchill, later of Chiswick and Ace Records (left) and Dave Godin (centre) outside the Deptford shop.
As with all our history material on this site, we'd love to hear more - anybody out there remember the Deptford shop?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dennis Bovell and Studio 80, SE1

Thanks to Music Like Dirt's musical map of London , I have come across another South London musical landmark: Dennis Bovell's Studio 80 at 6/8 Emerson Street, London SE1. Bovell is renowned as a musician, producer and sound engineer who started out with UK reggae outfit Matumbi.

In 1979 he produced Janet Kay’s lovers’ rock hit Silly Games, and maybe it was the proceeds that helped him open the studio the following year (I am guessing from the name it opened in 1980). According to Roots Archives, reggae albums produced there by Dennis Bovell included his own Brain Damage (1981), Janet Kay’s Capricorn Woman (1982), I Roy’s Outer Limit (1983) and Linton Kwesi Johnson’s LKJ in Dub Vol.2 (1983) and Making History (1984). But Bovell has also worked with lots of non-reggae musicians, just about everyone in fact - The Slits, The Thompson Twins, Bananarama, Fela Kuti, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Edwin Collins and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Of these I have so far only confirmed that the latter’s B-2 Unit was recorded there in 1980, which of the others graced the streets of SE1 remains to be seen.

There’s also Dennis Bovell’s Brockley connections with Lovers Rock, but that will have to wait for another post.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black Music Hall Performers

The black presence in music hall entertainment is often overlooked, so I was interested to come across a report of a show at the South London Palace, a Victorian music hall in London Road (north of Elephant and Castle). One night in September 1889 the bill included 'J.H. Maxwell, negro comedian and one-armed juggler' and 'Bennett and Harley, negro comedians' (South London Observer, 29.9.1889). Anybody know anymore about them?


I enjoyed the new Mike Leigh film Happy-Go-Lucky. It's really a north London movie - driving round the mean streets of Finsbury Park, dancing in Koko (Camden Palace) etc. But the opening scene sees main character Poppy cycling across the river to Lower Marsh, behind Waterloo station, where she visits a bookshop. This scene was filmed in the fine Crockat and Powell bookshop there. I can report though the people who work there are a lot more friendly and forthcoming than the fictional bookshop worker in the film who steadfastly ignores Poppy's ceaseless attempts at jolly communication.

Oh yes, the film also features New Cross-based actress Sylvestra Le Touzel as the flamenco-dancing headteacher in the school where Poppy works.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adelle Stripe/Entertaining Mr Sloane

Here's Brutalist poet Adelle Stripe reading her poem Veronica - which is all about a grave in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Forest Hill Road/Honor Oak. She mentions Joe Orton in this - the 1970 film version of his play Entertaining Mr Sloane was filmed in the area, including in the gatehouse to the cemetery.

Kath (played by Beryl Reid) comes across Sloane (Peter McEnery) lounging in the cemetery.

She invites him to come and stay with her, pointing out the cemetery gatehouse where she lives and saying 'lovely piece of building that'.

(Post updated November 2012. While the Keepers Gatehouse in the film is definitely in Camberwell Old Cemetery, someone who visited earlier this year said he couldn't find the graves shown and wondered whether those scenes were actually shot somewhere else. See also discussion at Reel Streets, where it is suggested that the graves are in Camberwell Old Cemetery and that the now demolished chapel there can be seen in that scene, behind Reid in the first of the stills above. What do others think?)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Last tram in London: New Cross 1952

Some lovely footage of the last tram journey in London coming to an end at New Cross depot on Saturday 5th July 1952. But wait was it really the last tram? Apparently the one featured in the film was a "ceremonial tram" bringing Lord Latham, Chairman of London Transport and other VIPs from Charlton to New Cross depot. Thousands turned out on the streets to cheer.

But, according to the Kentish Mercury, the last tram from New Cross to Abbey Wood (the 72 route) actually left later at 11:33, driven by 'William Crosk (28 years service) of 140 Dursley Road, Blackheath' with 'His conductor... Mr John Whitehead (33 years service) of 131 Alabama Street, Plumstead'.

The last tram was burnt on a "funeral pyre" at Penhall Hall Depot at Charlton on Wednesday 15th July (sources: from Kentish Mercury, 4th July 1952; 18th July 1952).

This is how the US Time Magazine reported in July 1952:

'One day last week, as a fierce hot wind swept the city, London's last regularly scheduled tram made its way along the Old Kent Road to New Cross Depot. Old passengers, some in nostalgic fancy dress, lined the route to bid the old red double-decker farewell with chalked signs, "We Want Trams." Pennies were placed in the tracks to be flattened as souvenirs. Others crowded aboard for a last ride. "They are all mad," screamed the conductress at Motorman William Fitzpatrick. "They have taken the light bulbs; they are ripping up the seats. Why don't you stop when I ring the bell?" But the bell had been stolen as a keepsake. On ran the tram, heady and glorious. It was clanking along at 40 m.p.h. when a motorcycle cop threatened a summons. "We were driving 50 easy," boasted the driver.

When at last the tram reached New Cross, every one of its windows was shattered, every loose object was gone. It didn't matter. The whole thing was soon to be burned, its metal sold for scrap. A transport inspector pocketed the driver's rear-view mirror. Motorman Fitzpatrick sighed. "I'll have to be getting home," he said. "Tomorrow at 9 I'm driving a bus."'.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

South Eats London May 2nd

Friday 2nd May, South Eats London are at the Deptford Arms (52 Deptford High Street) for a night of 'Post-election fun... featuring the hotbrass exuberance of Danny Fontaine and the Horns of Fury, grimy London ballads from Joseph and the Jellied Eels and cracked lilting poetry from Gabi Garbutt and the Breadstealers. Plus Live Karauke (yes,that's karaoke AND ukuleles) and the burning of the Wicker Mayor,whoever that may be".

Since I started playing the uke all of of two months ago and strumming along with the Brockley Ukulele Group (B.U.G), the Karauke naturally intrigues me - presumably it entails a uke player banging out the backing track for somebody to warble over. Come to think of it that is pretty much what we do with B.U.G. as we murder versions of New Order, Radiohead and Bright Eyes songs.

Walking New Cross (7): the Surrey Canal Wasteland

I think it was Jean Genet who said that the sewers of heaven still stink. Every area of human habitation needs a place where all the waste gets taken care of. For New Cross, and indeed the wider borough of Lewisham, that place is Surrey Canal Road.

As the name suggests, the road replaces the old Grand Surrey Canal; it still has a feel of a sunken canal with the road surface several feet below the level of the footpath (the former canal tow path). In fact there were two canals, the Croydon canal joining the Surrey canal where Mercury Way joins Surrey Canal Road. Nowadays it is dustcarts rather than canal boats that pass up and down.

Many of the names round here aspire heavenward, even if their business is very much earthbound. There is Juno Way, Mercury Way, the Orion Business Centre and the Gemini Project industrial estate. The nearest anything gets to the stars is the 100m chimney of the Landmann Way incinerator or, to give it its full title, South East London Combined Heat and Power Ltd. waste to energy plant, opened in 1994.

Rubbish gets burnt here in vast quantities to generate electricity. There have been protests by environmentalists about emissions from SELCHP, including a Greenpeace occupation which closed it for several days in February 2002. It would obviously be preferable if less rubbish was produced and more recycled, but given that the rubbish exists there is also an environmental argument that it is better to dispose of some of it this way than to drive it outside of London to dump in landfill sites. NHS studies of the health impact of SELCHP have not found any evidence of an increase in illness in the local area, but equally they acknowledge that if there was an impact it would be difficult to identify and not become apparent in the short term.

On the corner of the same road is the Lewisham dump or again to use official titles, Household Waste Reuse and Recycling Centre. Outside it is this tasteful colour coded assemblage of rubbish. There are other private sections of the rubbish industry. On Landmann Way there is also the Deptford Waste and Recycling Centre. On Mercury Way there is Wellings scrap metal, a car yard and Economic Skips, the latter a three sided warehouse into which skips are emptied into a huge pile.
Not everything round here is rubbish. On Juno Way there's the Elizabeth Industrial Estate, 'on the site of the Mazawattee Tea Company, which here produced chocolate and cocoa from 1901 to c.1955' (Darrell Spurgeon, Discover Deptford and Lewisham, 1997). No drinking chocolate today, but organic chocolate brownies are made here in the bakery of Flour Power City. The tower below is a leftover from the tea company.
North of Surrey Canal Road a track leads under rail bridges towards Surrey Quays station, passing the New Den, home of Millwal on one side and a bleak car pound on the other.
At the moment there are road closures in the area because of work on the East London Line. For at least 150 years this zone has been shaped by transport routes, by railways, canals, roads and the spaces they generate between and beside them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wiley in New Cross

NO PAIN IN POP have another top night coming up at the Amersham Arms in New Cross on Friday with none other than "Wiley, the godfather of grime, rolling deep live. Expect all the grimey hits, new single Wearing My Rolex". 9:30 start, £6 in. The following month (May 16th) looks good too, with Kode9 and Benga.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Walking New Cross (6): Cold Blow Lane

Cold Blow Lane is one of the older roads in this part of London. Stanford’s map of London (1862-1871) shows that even after the birth of the railway most of the area north of New Cross Road was still fields and market gardens, but Cold Blow Lane is there heading to Cold Blow Farm, which was more or less on the site of Sanford Housing Co-op.

The brick tunnel under the railway lines still has a feel of the past – it was built in around 1854 as part of the Croydon Railway and until about five years ago the road was still cobbled.

The brick walls feature a veritable museum of graffiti – football (the inevitable ‘Millwall’), politics (the old anarchist ‘Never Work’) and music (‘T.Rex’ – the latter must be over thirty years old). There used to be a nice piece of an angel on a swing by contemporary graffiti artist Arofish, but most of this has been pointlessly painted over. I don’t hold with the idea that graffiti pieces should be indefinitely preserved – ephemerality is part of the nature of graffiti - but in this context of a deserted tunnel it seems plain spiteful to eradicate it.

The Sanford Housing Co-op on Sanford Mews features a 1980s anti-war mural. 'Riders of the Apocalypse' by Brian Barnes (1983) includes images of Margaret Thatcher, Michael Heseltine and Ronald Reagan on cruise missiles.

Off Cold Blow Lane on the other side of the railway tracks, the newish Joseph Hardcastle Close is named after the slavery abolitionist who once lived nearby in Hatcham House. On the other side of the road, the modern flats of John Williams Close, Myers Lane, Bridge Meadows and Samuel Close were built in the 1990s on the site of the old Millwall Football Ground. Millwall played here from 1910 until they moved in 1993 to the New Den nearby.

John Williams Close includes the Manley Court Nursing Home, where Magda Pniewska worked and near to which she was shot dead on her way home last year. There is still a candle and a picture of her on the stairs which lead up to Bridge House Meadows, a green open space where once stood another sports venue – the New Cross Stadium (1913-1969), famous for speedway and, for a short while, stock car racing. The graffiti below is on a Transport for London box on the Meadows - next to it you can see my walking companion.

Charles Parnell, the Irish National League and South London

The Irish National League was established by Charles Stewart Parnell (pictured) in 1882 and became a major movement for Irish home rule, with branches not only across Ireland but in England - including in South London.

In Deptford, support for Irish Home Rule pre-dated the formation of the League. On 2 October 1876 a public meeting in Deptford was attached by anti-Home Rulers, recalled in the memoirs of T.D. Sullivan : 'They invaded a hall where a Home Rule meeting was being-held; they "stormed" the platform, and made a determined endeavour to capture the Home Rule banner which was there displayed. But the flag was bravely defended, and after some fierce fighting, the attacking party were ejected from the building'.

In the 1880s, the Irish National League rallied at Sayes Court in Deptford and the Post Office Directory lists a United Irish National League and Club at 35 Albury Street, Deptford in 1911 (secretary Jas. Heirhly).

The Peckham club seems to have its own grounds judging by this report from the South London Observer (Camberwell and Peckham Times), 14 September 1889:

Garden Party of the Peckham Irish National League

On Monday last glorious weather favoured the promoters of the garden party held in the grounds of the League in Downs-street, Peckham Park-road. Too much praise cannot be accorded to the worthy president, the stewards and others for the energy displayed to make the occasion worthy of success and judging from the large numbers present, nearly 300, their efforts to meet the comfort and pleasure of the company were themes of conversation… The grounds were beautifully illuminated with Chinese lanterns, and around the walls were arranged coloured oil lamps, and at the extreme end of the garden a platform was erected, bunting giving the scene a pleasant aspect. An excellent band, under the conductorship of Mr. T. Rayman, efficiently discoursed sweet music, to which a large number of the guests , who were fond of the ‘light fantastic’, indulged to their hearts’ content to a late hour. During the course of the evening, Mr Neale gave some excellent impersonations of ventriloquism and was much applauded. Mr Mildinhall, of the North Camberwell Progressive Club, seemed to be quite at home with his audience, and at the conclusion of his song was greeted with well-merited applause.

Refreshments were provided for the visitors in the grounds, and at the conclusion of the evening’s amusement, Mr Harris, the president, proposed a vote of thanks to the stewards and officials who had worked hard to administer to the wants of those present, and who had contributed to the pleasure of the evening. Mr Blake briefly seconded the proposition, and the vote having been put to the meeting, was unanimously carried with acclamation.

A novel feature of the party was a ‘Strikers’ Fund’ box
[this was at the time of the 1889 Dock Strike] , displayed to the majority of the visitors, and judging form the jingling of the money, must have been well-patronised. The following is the programme fo the music – Waltx, ‘Sweetest and Dearest’; quadrilles, ‘Paddy’s Wedding’; schottische, ‘Enchantment’; lancers, ‘Pelican’; polka. ‘Love Light’; waltz, ‘Song of Ireland’; Irish jig, ‘National’; Caledonians., ‘Marie Stuart’; waltz, ‘Rescue’. The following gentlemen were the stewards – Messrs. Corby, Bryant, McAuliffe, Jeffery, Grannell, and Beare, Mr R. Cavilla efficiently acting as MC’.

There is another South London connection to Parnell. In 1890, Parnell was cited in a divorce case having been in a relationship with Katherine O’Shea since 1880, and indeed having children with her. She had been separated from her husband - another MP - all along, but the scandal was enough to split the movement, and Parnell died in 1891 shortly after marrying Katherine in the wake of the divorce.

At some point during the relationship, they lived at 112 Tressillian Road, Brockley, he under the name Clement Preston in an attempt to conceal his identity. They also lived in Eltham in a house called Wonersh Lodge.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green

In the ongoing series of South London Songs, here's a popular music hall ditty from 1915, written by Lionel Monckton (1861–1924):

Once up to London I went for the day
Everything there seemed so lively and gay;
I met a fellow, a regular swell,
Said I was looking so rosy and well.
He whispered kindly: “Now don’t make a fuss,
We’ll have a ride on the top of a bus.”
Up came the bus and in front could be seen
“Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green”.

Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green, all on a summer’s day;
Up we climbed on the motor bus and we started right away.
When we got to the end of the ride, he asked me to go for a
But I wasn’t Camberwell green by a very long chalk.

Up on a bus it’s so lovely to ride,
Specially if there’s a chap by your side.
There we were sitting, it really was grand,
Half of the time he was holding my hand.
He said: “There may be pickpockets, or worse,
So I had better look after your purse.”
But I remembered the words I had seen;
“Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green”.

Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green, all on a summer’s day;
Up we climbed on the motor bus and we started right away.
When we got to the end of the ride, he asked me to go for a
But I wasn’t Camberwell green by a very long chalk.

You can hear this song on an album called London Pride, sung by Catherine Bott.

Goldfrapp in Camberwell

The video for the new Goldfrapp single, Happiness, was filmed in Addington Square (off Camberwell Road). Watch out for the opening shots of Burgess Park tennis courts and Southwark Council bins!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Walking New Cross (5): Hatcham Conservation Area South

The area bordered by New Cross Road, Brocklehurst Street, Sainsburys and Avonley Road is, like the Telegraph Hill Area on the other side of New Cross Road, a conservation area of Victorian housing developed under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, who owned the land. The Hatcham Manor Estate (as it was originally known) was built between 1848 and 1894 on land that had formally been the grounds of Hatcham House, with most of the housing intended for working class people

The building of houses in Hatcham Park Road started in 1848, following the rebuilding of the Five Bells pub in 1840 (the present building, now grade II listed). There had been a pub on this site for many years before however, in fact before it was renamed in 1850, Hatcham Park Road was known as Five Bells Lane (as was Besson Street on the opposite side of New Cross Road). I believe that Gary Oldman's 1997 film Nil by Mouth was shot in the pub, he did after all grow up round the corner.

I'd never explored Hatcham Mews before this weekend - the sign saying 'private road - owned by GLE Properties Ltd' doesn't invite passers-by to stroll in.
I was surprized how much is up there - the back of the post office sorting office, some modern flats with interesting design and the Hatcham Mews Business Centre in converted Victorian builidings. A glance at the list of tenants outside Block A says a lot about the South London labour market - five of the nine firms listed are security guard companies.
Nettleton Road has been explored at Transpontine several times before with its housing co-ops and myriad musical/sub-cultural connections, so for now I will simply note the Rubbish Fairy magic caravan parked there, reading 'recycle or die', 'rubbish fairy' and Syph - the latter apparently decorated it for a trip to Glastonbury last year.
Not much to say about Hart's Lane other than it is dominated by the wall that separates it from the Sainsbury's car park, the wall predating the superstore so presumably being a relic from the railway yards that used to be there. Off Hart's Lane there is a small terrace, Brighton Grove, that was built in 1858 for the employees of the London & Brighton Railway.

Monday, April 07, 2008

East Dulwich Jug Band

I went down to the Plough in Lordship Lane last Wednesday for the second of the monthly East Dulwich Jug Band 'Plough Sessions'. The premise is to have an open access night on the first Wednesday of every month with everyone invited to come along to write, record and perform a song on the same night (all acoustic instruments welcome except guitars). After a year there will be a whole album of new songs and it will be time to think of a new project. So far the songs have had a local theme. The first session wrote a song about Spring Heeled Jack, a Victorian phenomenon of sightings of a man/creature able to jump over walls and scare the hell out of the residents of South London and other places.

2nd Plough Session

Last week's song theme was Peckham Rye, and the final song included lines that alluded to William Blake, Only Fools & Horses, Harriet Harman's recent Peckham walkabout and the supposed UFO sightings last year - the chorus was 'It's a long way from Rye Lane, to the Stars and back again'. All performed by a 31-piece band featuring most of Dulwich Ukulele Club, three fiddles, percussion, kazoo, banjo, mandolin (that was me), slide guitar and various singers. There was a jug but nobody seemed to know how to play it, so there's definitely an opening there for the next session on May 7th at 8 pm! By the way, they are performing as the South Bank Jug Band at the Festival Hall this Wednesday at 11 am.

All of this is adding nicely to that great body of South London Songs.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Walking New Cross (4): Jerningham, Ommaney, Musgrove, Troutbeck and Arbuthnot Roads

Starting out from the bottom of Jerningham Road (opposite Sainsburys) we are in the Telegraph Hill Conservation Area. On the right stands Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham School, the girls school opened in 1891 to supplement the original school buildings higher up the hill in Pepys Road. Robert Aske was a haberdasher who bequeathed funds to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in 1688 - two hundred years later they bought land with it and built a school in his name on the site.

Everybody with a child within a five mile radius of this school has incredibly strong opinions about it - generally consisting of parents slagging it off while trying desperately to get their children into it. The school too has a very high opinion of itself, with Hogwarts-lite gowns and a school motto of 'serve and obey' which has not been altered in the light of twentieth century horrors inflicted by those who thought unquestioning obedience was a virtue. Still sometimes I have to remind myself - and would like to remind both the school and some of its critics - that it's only a comprehensive school in New Cross for god's sake.

Further up the road, on the corner of Ommaney Road, this wall features children's hand prints in white paint.

A bit further up again, on the left, is a secret garden or so I see it. Behind a barbed wire-topped wall trees and bushes are in bloom. In fact it's a reservoir, but for how much longer is unclear. Thames Water have sold the site to St James Homes (a company they originally set up) who have put forward plans to build housing there.

60+ people attended a public meeting in September 2006 to discuss alternative uses for the site, but I'm not sure what the current status of plans is.

Arbuthnot Road runs across Telegraph Hill all the way from Jerningham Road to Gellatly Road. The top end, between Pepys Road and Jerningham Road, features the original Victorian railings that most of the houses in this area would have had at one point.

In most other roads these have all but disappeared, apparently scrapped early in the Second World War when the government encouraged people to donate metal for the war effort.

There is further evidence of the war on Ommaney Road with the council blocks of Jerningham Court replacing war damaged housing.

Like Ommaney and Arbuthnot, Musgrove Road runs between Jerningham and Pepys. I have always been intrigued by the wall at this house on the corner of Musgrove and Pepys, it has what appear to be bricked up windows - but why?

Near the Jerningham Road end there are some Aske's school outbuildings, apparently built on the location of a house where the poet Robert Browning lived. In the 1840s, this was still set in countryside. Browning ‘could hear lambs bleating in the fields… From his window he could see the chestnut tree by the pond, the holly hedge along the lane, the shrubs in the garden and the fruit trees overhanging the garden wall’.

It was from here that Browning sent love letters to his fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett prior to their elopement, sometimes including a rose from the garden. There is a plan to place a plaque for Robert Browning somewhere on the school site, surprising that is hasn't been done before.

Troutbeck Road runs from Musgrove Road, a short street of 1930s housing which features a grade II listed building - this K2 telephone kiosk. There are two other similar boxes in the area, on Jerningham and Waller Road.

The Robert Browing information comes from 'Robert Browning’s London 1812 – 1889', Browning Society Notes, Vol. 19, 1989. This article identifies the location of the Browning family home as on the site of 4-6 Musgrave Road, now demolished like Browning's home before it.

Tim Whelan

Terrence Baker, a former resident of Sanford Housing Co-op in New Cross, has been in touch and confirmed that when he was living there in the late 1980s, so was Tim Whelan. So we can now add two more great bands to the South East London Hall of Fame.

Tim Whelan was the guitarist in Furniture, who had a hit with their single Brilliant Mind in 1986 and split up in 1990.

He then went on to form Transglobal Underground. Their first single Templehead was a big club hit in 1990, it really reminds me of going to the Whirl-y-Gig at Shoreditch Town Hall. I know the video below is just one of those home-made cut and paste fan jobs from Youtube but at least you get to hear it:

Heathrow Expansion

It might seem a long way from New Cross to Heathrow airport but of course it's not by plane. The projected expansion of Heathrow will have a big impact on South East London with even more air traffic overhead. In fact, as Sue notes at Green Ladywell, it is planned that flights coming into Heathrow will join their final landing path as far east as Woolwich and Bexley and then fly in two parallel paths to Heathrow: the 'northern' flight path going Greenwich – Peckham – Camberwell – Vauxhall and the southern flight path Blackheath – Deptford – Dulwich – Stockwell/Brixton.

There is a public meeting happening happening in Blackheath about this, with speaker John Stewart from aircraft noise campaigners HACAN. It takes places on Wednesday 23rd April, 7.30 pm, Recital Room, Blackheath Halls, 23 Lee Rd, SE3 9RQ. In the meantime as my contribution to the campaign to Stop Heathrow Expansion I would like to put forward an alternative vision for Heathrow - the picture below is from London Marches On (1947):

Friday, April 04, 2008

Harry Quelch (1858-1913), Nunhead Socialist

In between writing about the history of health service trade unionism and jogging round South London, Michael Walker has been sending us some interesting bits and pieces of local labour history which we are following up. It's thanks to Michael that we have found out about Harry Quelch and his local connections.

Harry Quelch (1858-1913) was a key figure in the British socialist movement before the first world war. Working in factories from the age of 14, Quelch taught himself German and French and became a convinced socialist after reading Marx's Capital in French. He joined the the Social Democratic Federation in 1881, later being elected to its executive in 1883 and then becoming the editor of its paper, Justice, for 27 years. He was active in supporting the 1889 London Dockers' Strike in the South Side Strike Committee which organised the strike south of the Thames, and then helped establish the South Side Labour Protection League as a union for dock workers. In 1900, Quelch represented the SDF at the meeting that established the Labour Representation Committee (although he later left because he viewed their policies as non-socialist) and in 1905 he was the Chairman of London Trades Council.

He was buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Forest Hill after a huge public funeral, reported in the Times (22 September 1913):

"Several thousand Socialists and trade unionists attended the funeral on Saturday of Mr Harry Quelch, the interment taking place at Forest Hill Cemetery. Outside his house in Limesford-road, Nunhead, a procession was formed nearly a quarter of a mile long, including representatives of the British Socialist Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Fabian Society, the London Trades Council, the Labour Protection League, and numerous trade unions, who carried the banners of their organizations. At the head was the band of the Amalgamated Musicians' Union, followed by about a hundred wreath bearers.

Immediately preceding the hearse was a group styled 'The Old Guard of the SDF' in which walked Mr H.M. Hyndman, Mr Herbert Burrows, Mr J.E. Williams, and other former comrades of Mr Quelch. Mr Keir Hardie, Mr W.C. Anderson, Mr Ben Tillett, Mr Jack Jones, Mr Victor Fisher, and representatives of the International Socialist Bureau were also in the procession. The family mourners included Mrs Quelch , five sons and two daughters.

After the singing of the Socialist war song, The Red Flag, outside the house, the procession marched through Peckham Rye to Forest Hill Cemetery. Here the choir sang 'The Comrades's song of hope' and funeral orations were delivered by Mr Hyndman, Mr Burrows and others. The ceremony concluded with the singing of 'The International'".

(See also: 1890 demonstration on Blackheath)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chris TT

Following Russell Brand’s recent New Cross drug tales, singer Chris TT has recalled his days in the New Cross Venue in this week’s Time Out London (3 April). He says: ‘I tried speed off a toilet here when I was 15. I was sold it by a Quaker girl which is quite incongrous. I think it was an NME night with Cornershop and The Auteurs’. Quaker dealers? Whoever said that SE14 lacks a spiritual side.