Wednesday, February 29, 2012

History Corner: 'Colour Bar Pub' in Forest Hill 1964/5

Everyone surely knows about the US civil rights campaign against racially segregated lunch counters, such as the famous 1960 Nashville sit-ins. Sad to recall though that similar campaigns were still necessary in 1960s London, with a pub in Forest Hill being a key battleground in the last year before racial segregation of social spaces was finally banned.

The Dartmouth Arms (Dartmouth Road, SE23) was the focus of protests in 1964/65 as a result of its policy of banning black people from its saloon bar. In September 1964 'four coloured businessmen' (three Caribbean and one from  Hong Kong) staged a sit-in in the saloon bar, refusing to leave after they were refused service.

Peace News, 18 September 1964

Matters came to a head in December 1964 when anti-racists staged a sit-in at the pub and in January 1965 when the Brockley International Friendship Association organised a picket of 50 people outside the pub. The demonstrators included the curate of St Hildas Church in Crofton Park and eight members of the Church's youth club.

'We deplore the colour bar at the Dartmouth Arms'

A few days later the Mayor of Lewisham, Tom Bradley, was refused service in the pub when he tried to buy a drink for Melbourne Goode of the the Brockley International Friendship Association: 'He had ordered a drink for himself and a friend but had never received them. The reason: his friend was coloured. And the publican, Mr Harold Hawes, refuses to service coloured people in the saloon bar' (Mercury, 29 January 1965 - clippings below are from same paper).

Later in 1965 The British government made it illegal to refuse to serve black people in pubs and other ‘places of public resort’ when it passed Britain’s first Race Relations Act (a year after the similar US Civil Rights Act). 

The pub is still there of course and today all are welcome. 

[post updated February 2024 with additional Peace News clipping]

See also:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Telegraph Hill Festival Map

The Telegraph Hill Festival (SE14/SE4) takes place from 13 March to 1 April 2012, with a full programme of arts, music and other events. I love the map of the area that has been produced for the festival by Polish artist Anna Wojtczak.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Music Monday: Fekky

Lewisham's own Fekky has been making waves, with a well-received mixtape (available on It's a Madness) and getting name checked by Skepta amongst others. The video for She Loves Me features your actual Catford cat, Catford station and other local landmarks.

His big track Shine On (aka Ring Ring Ring Trap) has had a new remix. Seems the Government's plea for young people to come off unemployment benefit and start their own business has been taken to heart: 'Make Money, why the f*ck would I sign on?' (careful what you wish for David Cameron).

h/t Simon for this one. 'Music Monday' highlights current/newish music from the South East London area. Let us know by email or twitter if you have any suggestions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Three-sided football

Sure football's fine, but don't you sometimes get tired of the two-sided game? How about giving three-sided football a go? I have actually played this a few times, but I will leave recollections of the legendary Association of Autonomous Astronauts game on One Tree Hill for another day.

But how do you play it? What are the rules? Well it's all quite simple, just turn up tomorrow morning (Saturday), 11:00 am  in Deptford Park and you can find out all about it. All welcome. 

(update: see report of match here):

Christopher Marlowe: Fear and Loathing in Deptford

The great playwright Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in Deptford ‘at the house of Eleanor Bull, widow’ on 30 May 1593. He was buried at St Nicholas Church - nobody knows quite where but they have a plaque in the churchyard. The records of the Church record  'the burial of Christopher Marlowe slaine by Francis Frezer, 1st June 1593' (the date of his funeral). 

Various theories have been put forward as to the circumstances of his death, with suggestions that he was caught up in the power struggles of the Elizabethan secret state and that he was a heretical freethinker. After Marlowe's death Richard Baines, an informer, claimed in a note to the Privy Council that Marlowe had said that "all they that love not tobacco and boys are fools" and persuaded “men to Atheism… utterly scorning both men and his minsiters” (Steane). He was said to have proclaimed the heresy “That Saint John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom; that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma”.

Such speculation informs Anthony Burgess’ fictionalised life ‘A Dead Man in Deptford’ (1993), in which Marlowe is ‘soothed by the noise of the waterside taverns, where there was much hard drinking’ in an imagined 16th century Deptford with ‘the shipbuilders early awork. The chandlers’ shops busy. Hounds from the Queen’s kennels howled bitterly. A faint stink from the Queen’s slaughterhouse. But was not the whole land her slaughterhouse? A firmer stink from the tanneries. Inland gulls wove over the waters and crarked. Sails, sails, a wilderness of them”.

A more outlandish fictionalisation by Rosemary Laurey, ‘Walk in Moonlight’ (2000), has Marlowe as a vampire!

Now there's Fear and Loathing in Deptford by K.A. Laity, in which Marlowe meets a fairly joyous end after a night of sex and psychedelic potions: 'How I am glutted with this cheap Spanish venom. Why, why this night? What desperate enterprise brought me hither, to drink, to danger, to the damp smells of this dim hostelry? Jack is crawling through the dust, murmuring a wild soliloquy of blistering loss and betrayal. Jack, oh yes. We had begun the afternoon in his cheerless study, surrounded by the parcels and bottles of his trade, the rank stench of his potions and unguents. As usual, he was bubbling with servile enthusiasm for a new discovery, the latest translated from some book of Cornelius Agrippa. Having canvassed every quiddity thereof, he swore this would be the best yet. I remembered too well, however, the last miracle, the one that left us barking like dogs and then retching like them too'.

Give it a read at The World SF Blog (thanks to Richard S. for spotting this).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Police shooting in Forest Hill

On Sunday morning (19 February), a 25 year old man of Ghanaian origin was shot and critically injured by police in Stanstead Road, SE23.

With the last police shooting in London - the killing of Michael Duggan in Tottenham - sparking widespread rioting, the police have gone into public relations overdrive. The police held a public meeting about the incident on Monday night (see report at The Multicultural Politic) and Lewisham Community Police Consultative Group is holding another one on Saturday (25.02.12) at Kilmorie Primary School, Kilmorie Road, London, SE23 2SP, starting at 1pm. Naturally the police will want to put across their version of events, but it is important to be clear that the facts of what happened have not yet been independently established. In many previous cases the first version of events reported in the press has turned out to be incomplete and misleading.

Previous Cases

Let's recall the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, the young Brazilian man shot dead by police at Stockwell Station in July 2005. In the aftermath of this, police officers made a number of statements on or off the record which were subsequently found to be untrue. They also allowed press stories which they knew to be untrue to go unchallenged. Many people would have gained the false impression from this that Jean Charles was acting suspiciously: that he was wearing bulky clothing on a summer's day (in fact he was wearing a denim jacket), that he jumped the ticket barrier (the CCTV showed he used an oyster card) and that he ignored police warnings (the jury at the inquest concluded that no warning was given).

Likewise in the Mark Duggan case, it was suggested that he had fired at police. It was later disclosed that this was incorrect and that a bullet that lodged in a policeman's radio had in fact been fired by another officer.

What happened in Forest Hill?

Many people have already made up their mind about what happened in Forest Hill on Sunday. To quote a commenter at Brockley Central.  'The man was running round with a machete. Tasers didn't work. What's to discuss?'. This may or may not be correct. This is what the police statement said:

'At around 05:40 hrs on Sunday 19 February, police were called to reports by members of the public of a man attempting to break in to a car in Elsinore Road, SE23. Local officers attended and attempted to approach the man who then threatened them with a large bladed weapon.  The officers retreated and called for further units to assist including firearms officers.The man then approached officers on Stanstead Road threatening them with the weapon.

Firearms officers attended the scene, and both taser and firearms were deployed. Subsequently the male received gunshot wounds having been shot by police...The circumstances will now be subject of an investigation. There are no further details at present but we can confirm a number of knives have been recovered from the scene'.

The scene of the shooting, with tasers and clothes on the ground

The Independent Police Complaints Commission statement says:

'An independent investigation was immediately launched by the IPCC after Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers’ tasered and shot a 25-year-old local man.The incident started in Elsinore Road shortly after 5.40am when officers responded to an emergency call. Additional officers, including firearms teams, arrived at the scene and the man was tasered. Firearms officers discharged five bullets three of which hit the man. He sustained abdomen, leg and hand injuries and remains in King’s College Hospital receiving treatment. A young man remains in hospital but with help from eyewitnesses we can piece together bit-by-bit as much information as possible to form a clear sequence of events. I would urge anyone who can provide information to contact the IPCC by email at or on freephone 0800 096 9077.'

What about witnesses? The Standard reported (20 February 2012) 'Witnesses on a residential street have described the chaotic scenes after a ‘madman with a sword’ was shot by police'. The source? 'Dad-of-one Jason Dempsey, 30, said: “I was told the guy had a sword' - so not actually a direct witness at all.

'Council worker Laura Wilkinson, of Stanstead Road, said: “I heard the gunshots and there were quite a lot of them. There were three in quick succession followed by three more. I got up and looked out the window. The police were screaming and shouting. They were shouting ‘get down, stay where you are’...I was relieved to see lots of police out there because obviously waking up to gunshots wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was mad.” The 26-year-old added: “It does seem like a lot for someone with a knife.”'

So far I have only seen reports of what people heard, or heard from others, whether any other direct eye witnesses have come forward is unclear.


People running round the streets waving blades need to be restrained, but that doesn't mean they should be routinely shot. There are a number of key questions in this particular case.

- what exactly was the nature of the threat to police? - was it a sword, a machete or a knife? How close did it come to injuring anybody?

- what was the exact sequence of events? - did police use the taser, and when this failed, open fire? Or were they used more or less simultaneously? Why did the taser fail? How many officers fired shots? Did they all take the same action, or did one literally jump the gun? Did they follow their own rules and procedures?

- assuming it was a matter of a 'madman with a sword', a whole lot of other questions come into play not just for the police but for other health and social care agencies. Because the actions of such a person would suggest not a career criminal but a vulnerable adult, for instance with mental health and/or drug & alcohol problems.  If that were the case, questions might include whether the person was known to other agencies and whether they had received the support they needed.

In events like these it is right that the facts should be independently investigated, rather than the police investigating themselves. Whether the IPCC is up to this job is another matter - their investigation into the death of Smiley Culture in a police raid last year was criticised by his family, because among other things the IPCC was not even able to formally interview all of the officers involved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

History Corner: Nights Out in South East London 1939

Last week on Deptford Market I found a crumpled copy of the South London Advertiser dated April 21st 1939. War was in the air, and indeed the paper reported that 'When Ellen Hamilton Williams (72), a widow, of Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham, heard over the wireless that the Italian troops has occupied Albania she was upset. Later she took an overdose of medinal and died'.

But still, people needed to enjoy themselves and the paper's adverts give a fascinating snapshot of South East London social life in that period.

The Cinema

Going to the cinema seems to have been the popular option. One of the biggest in the area was the New Cross Kinema (now the Venue nightclub) which had a cafe restaurant and a Palais de Danse as well as showing films. Like most cinemas it has a Saturday morning 'Kiddies Club'.

The East Dulwich Odeon was next to where Goose Green Primary School now stands on Grove Vale.

The Gaumont Palace in Lewisham was on Loampit Vale had live performances as well as films - with Billy Cotton and his Band playing at this time - they were one of the biggest dance bands of the period.

Peckham cinemas included the Odeon (on the High Street near to the current Job Centre) and the Tower cinema on Rye Lane (part of the latter building is still there).

Camberwell Odeon was on Denmark Hill near the Coldharbour Lane junction. It later became Dickie Dirts jean store in the 1980s and then was squatted for a while before demolition in 1993.

Forest Hill cinemas included the Astoria on Wastdale Road and the Capitol - the latter now the Weatherspoons pub on London Road.

The paper reported that a new organist was starting at the Capitol - Rudy Lewis, apparently far famed after stints at Lewisham Gaumont, Luton, Dagenham and Grimsby (where he said he was mobbed by autograph hunting girls). He wrote his own songs: 'The number - the words are his own -which he has been playing much to the delight of the Capitol audiences this week is "Doing the Gas Mask Walk"'. Born Rubin Lipshitz, he seems to have ended up in Washington DC where he died in 1990. I suspect he was also responsible for Rudy Lewis and The Sputniks who released a single in 1960 (not to be confused with a different Rudy Lewis who was in The Drifters).

The Rink cinema in Sydenham was on Silverdale. It was originally opened as a roller skating rink, then converted to a cinema. It closed at the start of the war and never re-opened, though the building survived until the 1990s.

Going to the dogs

There was greyhound racing in New Cross three nights a week. The stadium was near to the present Millwall football ground, off Ilderton Road (see photo here). 

There was also greyhound racing at Crayford and Charlton.


The New Cross Empire was a theatre and music hall. In April 1939 The Court Players were performing Lot's Wife, 'A saucy comedy about charming people'. The paper reported 'Now that the Players have settled down at New Cross they are growing increasingly popular with the patrons and many people go week by week mainly to see their favourite performers'. It interviewed 'Leslie Handford, who is making a great success in light comedy parts at the New Cross Empire' following stints in the army and with the circus as a clown. He went on to have minor parts in 1950s TV and cinema

Eating Out

The Amersham Hotel (now the Amersham Arms) was advertising 'four course luncheon' in its restaurant and a 'first class snack bar... for those in a hurry... something tasty always ready'

In Forest Hill, The Swiss Cottage was advertising 'The Luxury and Comfort of the West End in the Suburbs'.


Politics everywhere was dominated by the question of war and peace. A meeting was held at Lewisham Town Hall called by the 'Congress of Peace and Friendship with the USSR'. The speakers included Hewlett Johnson, the famous 'Red Dean' of Canterbury Cathedral and Arthur Skeffington, later a Labour MP for Lewisham. Johnson has been accused of apologetics for Stalinism as he loyally followed the twists and turns of Soviet foreign policy in this period, though ultimately his call for Britain to ally with Russia against Germany was to become government policy in the Second World War.

Anyone know more about R.W. Usher, the organising secretary who lived at 257 Sydenham Rd?

[source for all the above: South London Advertiser, 21 April 1939]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public Protest in the Blue

Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public has called a lobby in Bermondsey at the office of Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes to call on him to oppose his Government's Health and Social Care Bill.

It will take place on Saturday 25th February at 12 noon by 4 Market Place, off Blue Anchor Lane, SE16 3UQ  (facebook details here). They promise a sound system and a choir.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Music Monday: Hi Life Connection

Hi Life Connection's No Way was recorded in Turin and is a slice of Italian-style reggae. But a key figure in the band is Marlon Mansano, who works as Transport Officer for Lewisham Hospital, arranging to get patients to and from their hospital visits (see Lewisham Health, Winter 2011). Marlon also helps run internet radio stations Urban Noize and DnBnoize.

Hi Life Connection

Marlon Mansano in his day job at Lewisham Hospital (image from Lewisham Health)

Oh and his dad was reggae producer 'Joe The Boss' Mansano , who had a record shop in Granville Arcade, Brixton

Friday, February 17, 2012

Downtown Soulville/South London Soul Train

Determined as I am to actually do some more dancing this year, I am spoilt for choice on Saturday March 3rd with two great nights within walking distance of home.

Downtown Soulville is the occasional Northern Soul/Funk and (old skool) R'nB night at the Old Nun's Head, Nunhead Green SE15. I gather the last one was pretty busy. Details on facebook. Trouble is with Northern Soul once I've had a few drinks I imagine that I can actually do spins, flips and drops - and I shoudn't be allowed to try in a public place.

South London Soul Train is a regular event on the first Saturday of the month, held at the CLFArt Cafe in the Bussey Building in Peckham. Hosted by Jazz Head Chronic (DJ Mickey Smith), it offers funk/soul/rare groove and motown.

I think both events are free or as good as, so no excuse, get your dancing shoes on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Angela Carter, Transpontine author

Angela Carter (1944-1992) died twenty years ago today, one of the great Transpontine writers. She spent her childhood in Balham, had an early job on the Croydon Advertiser, and lived her last years in Clapham.

The South London question is a recurring theme in her writings, none more so than in her 1991 novel Wise Children set in a fictional Bards Road in Brixton (presumably based on Shakespeare Road). The opening paragraphs go straight to the heart of the matter:

'Q. Why is London like Budapest?
A. Because it is two cities divided by a river.

Good morning! Let me introduce myself. My name is Dora Chance. Welcome to the wrong side of the tracks. Put it another way. If you’re from the States, think of Manhattan. Then think of Brookly. See what I mean? Or, for a Parisian, it might be a question of rive gauche, rive droite. With London, it’s the North and South divide. Me and Nora, that’s my sister, we’ve always lived on the left-hand side, the side the tourist rarely sees, the bastard side of Old Father Thames.

Once upon a time, you could make a crude distinction, thus: the rich lived amidst pleasant verdure in the North speedily whisked to exclusive shopping by abundant public transport while the poor eked out miserable existences in the South in circumstances of urban deprivation condemned to wait for hours at windswept bus-stops while sounds of marital violence, breaking glass and drunken song echoed around and it was cold and dark and smelled of fish and chips. But you can’t trust things to stay the same. There’s been a diaspora of the affluent, they jumped into their diesel Saabs and dispersed throughout the city’.

And of course she knew how to use the word Transpontine! In a review of Iain Sinclair's Downriver (London Review of Books, 1991) she compared Sinclair's East London to her more familiar territory:

'But I never went to Whitechapel until I was thirty, when I needed to go to the Freedom Bookshop (it was closed). The moment I came up out of the tube at Aldgate East, everything was different from what I was accustomed to. Sharp, hard-nosed, far more urban. I felt quite thecountry bumpkin, slow-moving, slow-witted, come in from the pastoral world of Clapham Common, Brockwell Park, Tooting Bec. People spoke differently, an accent with clatter and spikes to it. They focused their sharp, bright eyes directly on you: none of that colonialised, transpontine, slithering regard. The streets were different - wide, handsome boulevards, juxtaposed against bleak, mean, treacherous lanes and alleys. Cobblestones. It was an older London, by far, than mine. I smelled danger. I bristled like one of Iain Sinclair's inimitable dogs. Born in Wandsworth, raised in Lambeth - Lambeth, “the Bride, the Lamb's Wife”, according toWilliam Blake - nevertheless, I was scared shitless the first time I went to the East End'.

In a 1977 essay published in New Society, D'you mean South?, Carter reflected at length on growing up in South London (you can read the whole thing in Expletives Deleted: Selected Writings, published in 1993), including the girls' fashion styles:

'The girls, I remember, always had wild aspirations to style. Around their fifteenth summer, they spread out all their petals -- like flowers with only one season in which to cram all their blossoming. I recall a giggling flock of girls, some white, some black, at the tube station entrance in 1959. They must have assembled there in order to go "up west" (i.e., to the West End). They were as weird and wonderful as humanoid flora from outer space, their hair backcombed into towering beehives, skirts so tight you could see the clefts between their buttocks, and shoes with pointed tips that stuck out so far in front they had to stand sideways onthe escalators. There was a shoemaker in Brixton who custom-built these shoes to the girls' requirements.

It was a style they had invented all by themselves. They were shackled by those skirts,crippled by those shoes, as if the clothes they had selected symbolised the cramped expectations of their lives in the cruel confinements of sex and class. Their dandyism triumphed over the limitations of their circumstances, and made them objects of bizarre and self-created beauty, a triumph of mind over matter. My mother would never have let me go out looking like that. Hadn't I gone to a direct grant school?

After an absence, I now live in south London again. And the girls, I see, still do have a style all of their own. Last autumn, it was ankle-length, knife-edged pleated tartan skirts, with ankle socks and plastic sandals. This summer it seems to be a decorous punk - tapered jeans,rouge, and a lot of chains everywhere - as if to indicate that, however much things might seem to have changed, everything remains fundamentally the same'.

She also reflected in the same essay on the gentrification of Clapham, presumably in its early stages in 1977:

'When the bourgeoisie got priced out of, first, Hampstead and Highgate - how long ago it seems! - and then from Camden Town and Islington, and the alternatives got priced (who'd have thought it?) out of Ladbroke Grove, there was nowhere else for all, repeat all, the poor sods to go, was there? That's typical south London usage. Every statement is converted to a rhetorical question'.

Local Currency Conference in Deptford

Utrophia Project Space (Deptford High Street) is hosting a Local Currency Action Conference on Saturday 18th February (11 am to 7 pm). They say: 'The Local Currency Action-Conference will look at the role of money in an economy, and how a local currency can be harnessed to promote small businesses, entrepreneurship and a stronger local economy and identity... The aim of the action-conference is to provide an informative and lively introduction to community finance to those interested in listening, and then developing a concept of a local currency that could be rolled-out in Deptford and New Cross for those interested in doing. At the end, it is hoped that we will have a blue-print to start working on making a local currency a reality'.

Previously Utrophia artist Stephen Molyneux has designed a prototype Deptford Pound to get people thinking about this.

Local Pounds for Local People?

Molyneaux's 'Deptford Pound' talks of 'Helping small businesses and a strong local economy in times of global economic meltdown'. I do understand that in a world where many people's livelihoods feel threatened by impersonal global economic forces there is an attraction in apparent local solutions. Personally though I am sceptical about some of the radical claims made for currency reforms and local currency schemes and would like to see more debate about some of the underlying premises. For instance:

- is there really such thing as a discrete local economy? - currency schemes seem to posit a shopkeeper utopia of small businesses trading with each other in the local area, but this can obscure the real economic relations that underpin the 'local' economy. Even the simple cup of coffee sold in the local cafe is the end product of the labour of countless people on farms in Latin America, on ships crossing the oceans, in roasting factories, packaging plants and warehouses in Europe.

- is keeping it local necessarily a good thing? - isn't there something rather selfish about the desire to keep money circulating in limited areas amongst comparatively privileged people (e.g. small business owners). When I go to my local corner shop I know that some of the money I spend there is probably going to help relatives in Sri Lanka, and indeed money sent home by migrants (remitttances) constitutes a major financial inflow to many of the poorest parts of the world. A lot of the money spent in shops, restaurants and takeaways in South East London goes to other parts of the world in this way - good thing too.

- are small businesses intrinsically more socially beneficial than larger ones? Do they always treat their staff better for instance, pay better wages, recognise unions... Anyway today's small business may be tomorrow's big one - after all Tesco's started out as a market stall in Hackney.

Well I could go on,  I 've been reading Marx's Capital alongside attending John Hutnyk's lectures on this at Goldsmiths, which are open to non-students like myself. The interesting thing is that around 100 people have been attending most weeks, the majority of them out of personal interest rather than for course credits. There is clearly a thirst to understand what's happening in the world economy, even if the reading is sometimes hard work.  Trying to get to grips with what money is and what it does is complex but important, so thinking about what it all means for an area like Deptford may be good. But can global problems be solved at the local level, or even the national level?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

History Corner: The Indian candidate for Deptford, 1885

The latest edition of Lewisham History Journal (no. 19, 2011) includes an interesting article by Ray Thatcher on ‘Lal Mohun Ghose and Politics in Victoria India and Deptford’. Ghose fought two election campaigns in Deptford as a Liberal Party candidate in 1885 and 1886, standing on a moderate Indian nationalist platform of greater self-rule for India within the British Empire as well as supporting Home Rule for Ireland.

Funds were raised in India to support the campaign to secure the election of Indian representatives to the British parliament from British constituencies on the basis that while the British government ran India, Indian voters had no vote in elections. Deptford appears to have been selected as the battleground because its radical working class base were thought more likely to be sympathetic (this was before the formation of the Labour Party of course, when there was still a radical liberal current). His supporters included Florence Nightingale, who met him and invited his wife to her house.

Ghose was a figure at national Liberal gatherings in this period, including meeting Prime Minister Gladstone as part of an Indian delegation, and he took part in a mass meeting in Piccadilly against Britain's war in Sudan (Times April 3 1885). He was originally selected as a prospective candidate for Greenwich before switching to Deptford in time for the 1885 election.

In the 1885 general election campaign, Ghose attended many meetings across the area, ‘Accompanied by his son and daughter and brother’. He ‘spoke at a large open-air meeting in a field opposite New Cross Gate Station in June, presided over by Mr Osborne Morgan MP, who, according to Reynold’s Newspaper “referred to the fact that he was the first native Indian gentleman who had ever aspired to win… an English constituency"’ (Thacker). Other meetings took place at the New Cross Public Hall, St Peter’s Hall in Brockley, the Lecture Hall in Deptford High Street, and at Deptford Green.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the count at the St Paul’s Vestry Offices in Tanners Hill, where it was initially announced that Ghose had won. However in the final count he narrowly lost, securing 47.5% of the vote against the victorious Conservative candidate Evelyn (52.5%). In 1886, he again polled well with 3,055 votes (45.3%) against Evelyn’s 3,682 (54.7%). This was a very respectable result given the nature of the campaign against him, with the local paper arguing: ‘We retain all the objections we have ever expressed to the intrusion of this Oriental gentleman into our home politics and we know that his birth and religion [he was a Hindu] form a strong and natural objection in the minds of a large number of intelligent Christians in this country to his assuming a position of a parliamentary representative’. Never mind he intrusion of Britain into Indian home politics!
The Graphic reported (10 July 1886) that the victorious Conservative candidate received an 'ignomious reception' on the streets: ‘Our forefathers would have been rather astonished, not to say scandalised, at the idea of men with dusky complexions, and non-Christian religious views, putting up for seats in the House of Commons. But nowadays we are accustomed to all sorts of queer things, and so our equanimity is not disturbed by the fact that our Indian fellow-citizens have on two occasion during the present election tried to scale the walls of St Stephen’s… The peculiarity about the Deptford election, as witnessed by our artist, was that Mr Evelyn was apparently less popular than his Asiatic rival, the former, though a winner, being pelted; the latter, though a lose, being cheered. Perhaps it was a case of the classes against the masses’.

Ghose returned to India in January 1887 following a big meeting at the New Cross Public Hall (Times, 8 December 1886). Technically he may not have been the first person of Indian descent to stand for parliament - Ochterlony Sombre, of mixed Indian and Scottish descent, was elected to parliament in 1841. But Ghose was the first fully Indian candidate to stand for the British parliament. While he was unsuccessful he paved the way for the election of the first Indian MP, Dadabhai Naoroji, who pursuing the same Indian nationalist strategy was elected as Liberal MP for Finsbury Central in 1892.

Interestingly William John Evelyn, who defeated Ghose in 1885 and 1886, himself resigned as  Conservative MP for Deptford in protest against the 'execrable tyranny' of coercive British rule in Ireland. And in the 1888 general election the Conservative candidate came within a few hundred votes of being defeated by another radical liberal candidate, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, who was in prison in Ireland for his Home Rule activities. So perhaps in contrast to any assumptions about the xenophobic patriotic masses in Victorian London, half the population in Deptford voted for an Indian nationalist and then a pro-Irish prisoner in three successive elections in the 1880s.

Illustrations from The Graphic, 10 July 1886. See also a previous post on this episode at Caroline's Miscellany.

Lewisham History Journal is published by Lewisham Local History Society. It isn't available on-line but you get copies if you join the society - or you can read it in most Lewisham libraries.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Buon Compleanno Brockley blogs

It's anniversary time in the prolific world of Brockley blogging.

Brockley Central

Brockley Central is the local water pump where all matters relating to said parish are discussed by the good, the bad and occasionally the ugly.  To say it has put Brockley on the map would be an exaggeration - Brocca's village is shown on ye ancient manuscript of etc. etc. - but it has arguably shifted many people's mental geography. As a near neighbour I certainly didn't used to have such a sense of it being a distinct place - I am afraid I used to consider it just as that bit on the way to Hilly Fields. Or say 'you know, where Moonbow Jakes is'. Now it is spoken of as if Brockley was a third sibling of the great SE London twin cities of New Cross and Deptford (and Moonbow Jakes has been replaced by Brockley Mess).

Brockley Central is five years old today. I note that the very first post was on Valentine's Day 2007. I can only hope Brockley Nick was having a quiet day at work, otherwise it may have been the first time (but surely not the last) that his partner uttered the words 'you're not on that bloody blog again?'.

London SE4

But actually the oldest Brockley blog pipped Brockley Central to the post with a launch in January 2007 and is still going strong (if sometimes sporadically), having recently moved from the soon to be deleted Blogsome to Wordpress. London SE4  covers London art, culture and everyday life, but has lots of local SE London content. If you don't know it that may be because it is in Italian, but hey use Google translate if you don't speak it. Anyway the pictures are great. Check out her posts on The Montague Arms, a ghostly face in the Ashby Road snow or a Brockley suffragette meeting.

London SE4 found this flyer at the Museum of London for a meeting
 of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) held at the Presbyterian Church Hall in Brockley
 on March 25 1909. The meeting was held to welcome back Brockley suffragette Caroline Townsend,
on her release from Holloway prison where she had been imprisoned
 for a month for a 'votes for women' protest.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Lewisham houses occupied

Lewisham People Before Profit has occupied 5 houses which Lewisham Council was planning to sell of at auction today. They say:

'In a bid to stop 5 family houses being sold off at auction today (Monday 13th February) activists entered and peacefully took control of the houses earmarked for "disposal" by Lewisham Council. All of them would be suitable for family's to rent if they were refurbished, one only needs a lick of paint and the installation of a bath or shower - someone could move in there tomorrow!

There are around 50 families in Bed & Breakfast accommodation at the moment, paid for by us, the council tax payers. A further 350 are in hostels and around 1000 families are in temporary accommodation here in the borough of Lewisham. With such a shortage of affordable homes for rent is it a disgrace that the council is considering selling off these homes, and with reserve prices way below current market levels.

The Auction catalogue can be viewed here,  and the affected houses are lot numbers 41, 64, 84, 85 and 123. If the council won't live up to its responsibilities in refurbishing them Lewisham People Before Profit will consider taking on that task, employing and training unemployed young people from our borough to fit new bathrooms and kitchens where necessary. There will also be carpentry and plastering work. All the roofs are in good repair'.

The properties concerned are:

- 58 Friendly Street, SE8 (complete with an old WW2 shelter in back garden);
- Angus Street, SE8  (the ex-Deptford Green caretakers house);
- 81 Etta Street, SE8

- 128 Albyn Street, SE8
- 61 Lampmead Road, Lee Green, SE12

Music Monday: Ren Spits at Magpies

Ren Spits at Magpies is a Peckham-based acoustic singer whose sweet sounding tunes disguise a spiky feminist/anarchist/punky intent. She is to be found strumming and singing on the radical benefit gig circuit, and indeed she is playing at the New Cross Inn next month as part of an International Women's Day event (of which more below). She's on facebook and has a tumblr site which also documents her art student activities.

The (slightly early) International Women's Day gig is on 7th March at the New Cross Inn and will be a benefit for Women's Aid put on by Rudegirl Reckless. As well as Ren Spits at Magpies, performers will include:

- Perkie: 'acoustic folky piano awesomeness'

- Effort: 'liberated noise with swelling harmonies battling frantic guitar riffs and heart-bursting drums'.

- Colour Me Wednesday: 'DIY ska and punk from West London'

- Jezabellezza: 'Manchester's very own pink-haired piano player'-

- Frances Salter: 'Folk/acoustic rock'.

£4 on the door towards Women's Aid. Check the event out here:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kit and Cutter February

Kit and Cutter have another of their always excellent 'Adventures in Pre-Modern Music' folk nights at The Old Nuns Head on Saturday 18th February (doors 7.30pm, £5).

Guests include Cath & Phil Tyler, 'Purveyors of Anglo-American folk music using guitar, banjo, voice and fiddle bought together musically through a shared love of traditional narrative song, full voiced sacred harp singing and sparse mountain banjo'...

...and Rún (pronounced Rooooon), 'close-harmony arrangements of songs in Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton dialects. The four strong all - female group bring new life to old Celtic songs about one-horned cows and gigolos, blackbirds and bogeymen, drinking and debauchery, ardor and arable farming'.

Don't worry if you think folk music's not your thing, if you like good tunes beautifully sung in a lovely atmosphere you cannot beat Kit & Cutter. Tickets available on the door or at:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

No Borders Convergence in New Cross

The No Borders network is a movement in favour of freedom of movement and challenging immigraion controls, detention and deportation. Next week they are holding an event at Goldsmiths in New Cross. They say: 

'London NoBorders, along with Goldsmiths students and other groups, are organising a week-long convergence to be held in London between 13 - 18 February 2012. The aim is to get together to share our knowledge and experiences in relation to people's freedom of movement and the restrictions on it, and to share skills, network, strategise and take action. From Monday 13th to Wednesday 15th there will be a series of workshops and seminars, at Goldsmiths University in New Cross, south east London. Then from Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th there will be demonstrations and actions against migration controls, concluding with the No Borders Carnival at midday on the Saturday'.

The full programme is here. All workshops are free-of-charge and you do not need to book. There's also music and film in the evenings. And on Monday 13th February, 5pm-6pm, I will be contributing to a session on the history of  'Borders and migrants in New Cross and Deptford' covering subjects including land and maritime border points, slavery, prison ships, 1970s anti-fascism, the 1981 New Cross Fire campaign and more. It's in  the Richard Hoggart Building (RHB), Room 343. That's upstairs in the old main building.

'Stop Deportations to Nigeria' banner in Peckham, January 2012

A couple of weeks ago (26 January 2012), No Borders staged a small but visible protest in Peckham against the mass deportation of Nigerians scheduled later that night and in support of one man's 8-day hunger strike in protest against his deportation. They say 'Just hours before the deportation an inquiry by MPs was published that warned potentially lethal force and racist language is used by security guards during the removal process. And on arrival in Nigeria, these men and women face a deteriorating security situation spreading from the north as Boko Haram increase in strength. Human Rights Watch claim that the militant Islamist group killed 235 people in the first 3 weeks of 2012. Mass deportation has become regular policy in the governments efforts to "crackdown on immigration". Deportations to Nigeria happen every 6 weeks with 75 people forcibly deported by 150 private security guards on a plane specially hired by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Each flight on average costs £150,000 of public money. UKBA uses mocking and sinister code-names for these deportations such as ‘Operation Majestic’ , whilst using coaches branded ‘Just Go’ to drive deportees to the airport. Since 1991 six Nigerians have died during deportations from Europe – the highest number of fatalities from any one nationality- demonstrating the deadly nature of these operations. Most recently, Nigerian man Joseph Ndukadu Chiakwa died on a deportation flight from Switzerland'.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

History Corner: Surrey Docks 1925

Another treasure from the BFI Archive - Port of London Authority Aquatic Sports Gala Day in 1925, with dockworkers, families and friends swimming, diving and playing water polo at Surrey Commercial Docks.
Some great 1920s haircuts, especially woman second from left
who also seems to be modelling Burberry

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Dickens in New Cross and Nunhead

Charles Dickens would have been 200 years old today, as he was born on the 7 February 1812. His connections with various parts of Southwark are well documented, but some of his activities in South East London in the later years of his life were rather secretive.

A number of biographies mention that during the 1860s he had rooms in New Cross which he used for writing and who knows what else. Jack Lindsay writes in 'Charles Dickens: a biographical and critical study' (1970): 'His habit of wandering round in strange places at strange times of the day or night went on; and he had a secret retreat in an apartment close to the “Five Bells” at the corner of Hatcham Park Road'. Ian Cunningham's 'A reader's guide to writers' London' (2001) states that he had a 'set of lodgings, opposite the Five Bells pub on the corner of New Cross Road and Hatcham Park Road, for some years as a place where he could work in peace'. The exact address isn't stated, but if it was directly opposite the Five Bells pub it would be this building at 157 New Cross Road, currently housing Winkworth estate agents.

157 New Cross Road - did Dickens write some of
'Our Mutual Friend' here?

Dickens pictured in 1867
This would have been in the period when he was working on 'Our Mutual Friend' (1865), in which an area that is clearly New Cross is described as 'the flat country tending to the Thames, where Kent and Surrey meet, and where the railways still bestride the market gardens that will soon die under them'. In an 1868 letter, Dickens mentions that he will 'come to Gad's by some train from New Cross' (Gad's Hill Place was his home at Higham, near Rochester in Kent).

Dickens famously had a long term affair with the actress Ellen Ternan, the cause of his separation from his wife in 1858. In July 1868, Dickens rented a house for her, Windsor Lodge, in Linden Grove, Nunhead, where he was a frequent vistor. Indeed it has sometimes been conjectured that Dickens actually died there in 1870, but that his body was moved to Gad's Hill to avoid a scandal. The source of this story was evidently the caretaker at Linden Grove Congregational Church, opposite Windsor Lodge, but it is not generally accepted by biographers. It is discussed in detail in 'The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens' by Claire Tomalin who leaves open the possibility that he may have been taken ill in Nunhead and then returned to Gad's Hill to die.

The house no longers stands, but was at 31 Linden Grove. Old maps show that the church was next door to where the dental surgery now stands at 42 Linden Grove, so Windsor Lodge was presumably more or less opposite that. 

Ellen Ternan
Various Dickens activities going on, including tonight 'Happy Birthday Mr Dickens', an evening of readings and musical interludes performed by Jonathan Kaufman's company, Spontaneous Productions at St Bartholomew's Church in Sydenham. Tickets available in advance, £10 (£5 under-16s) from Kirkdale Bookshop or on the door. Also various things at Southwark Cathedral, including a talk tonight by Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Music Monday: Deptford Goth

'Deptford Goth' is Daniel Woolhouse. As featured in the Guardian last summer, 'Deptford Goth is a solo artist from Peckham, and we have no idea why he didn't opt for Peckham Goth, because it would be no more or less appropriate considering the sound he makes. Put it this way, it's not goth, unless we are to use that genre as a catch-all term to denote "mysterious" and "dark", which this music sort of is, although there are several indications that it comes from that part of south-east London, if indeed we are to accept that area as dubstep's home'.

His debut EP Youth II was released last year  by Merok Records (Klaxons, Crystal Castles etc), and has been variously described as 'spectral R'n'B' and 'folky sound with an electro edge'.

DEPTFORD GOTH - YOUTH II from Merok on Vimeo.

He has also been busy remixing other people's works, such as Vancouver's Blood Diamonds

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Words at the Hill Station

The next 'Words at the Hill Station' (Kitto Road, SE14) takes place on Wednesday 8th February from 6 pm to 8 pm. It's a chilled alcohol-free spoken word/acoustic music open mic: 'Come to the Hill Station and tell us a poem that you have written, sing us a song, read us something or just come and listen'.

If you fancy taking part, Ian Convery from the cafe would appreciate you letting him know in advance: