Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Three Feathers & The Old Witch: Two Deptford Fairy Tales

More English Fairy Tales  by Joseph Jacobs (1894) includes a tale called 'Three Feathers' which the author states was 'Collected by Mrs Gomme from some hop-pickers near Deptford' (presumably the folklorist Alice Gomme).

'Once upon a time there was a girl who was married to a husband that she never saw. And the way this was, was that he was only at home at night, and would never have any light in the house. The girl thought that was funny, and all her friends told her there must be something wrong with her husband, some great deformity that made him want not to be seen.

Well, one night when he came home she suddenly lit a candle and saw him. He was handsome enough to make all the women of the world fall in love with him. But scarcely had she seen him when he began to change into a bird, and then he said: 'Now you have seen me, you shall see me no more, unless you are willing to serve seven years and a day for me, so that I may become a man once more.' Then he told her to take three feathers from under his side, and whatever she wished through them would come to pass'.

She uses the feathers to wish for her work as a laundress to be done, and to trick various men out of  their money before the bird man reappears and the live happily ever after.

Another story in the same collection, The Old Witch is also described as 'Collected by Mrs Gomme at Deptford'

'Once upon a time there were two girls who lived with their mother and father. Their father had no work, and the girls wanted to go away and seek their fortunes. Now one girl wanted to go to service, and her mother said she might if she could find a place. So she started for the town. Well, she went all about the town, but no one wanted a girl like her. So she went on farther into the country, and she came to the place where there was an oven where there was lots of bread baking. And the bread said, 'Little girl, little girl, take us out, take us out. We have been baking seven years, and no one has come to take us out.' So the girl took out the bread, laid it on the ground and went on her way. Then she met a cow, and the cow said, 'Little girl, little girl, milk me, milk me! Seven years have I been waiting, and no one has come to milk me.' The girl milked the cow into the pails that stood by. As she was thirsty she drank some, and left the rest in the pails by the cow. Then she went on a little farther, and came to an apple-tree, so loaded with fruit that its branches were breaking down, and the tree said, 'Little girl, little girl, help me shake my fruit. My branches are breaking, it is so heavy.' And the girl said, 'Of course I will, you poor tree.' So she shook the fruit all off, propped up the branches, and left the fruit on the ground under the tree. Then she went on again till she came to a house. Now in this house there lived a witch, and this witch took girls into her house as servants. And when she heard that this girl had left her home to seek service, she said that she would try her, and give her good wages. The witch told the girl what work she was to do. 'You must keep the house clean and tidy, sweep the floor and the fireplace; but there is one thing you must never do. You must never look up the chimney, or something bad will befall you.'

So the girl promised to do as she was told, but one morning as she was cleaning, and the witch was out, she forgot what the witch said, and looked up the chimney. When she did this a great bag of money fell down in her lap. This happened again and again. So the girl started to go off home. When she had gone some way she heard the witch coming after her. So she ran to the apple-tree and cried:

'Apple-tree, apple-tree, hide me,
So the old witch can't find me;
If she does she'll pick my bones,
And bury me under the marble stones.'

So the apple-tree hid her. When the witch came up she said:

'Tree of mine, tree of mine,
Have you seen a girl
With a willy-willy wag, and a long-tailed bag,
Who's stole my money, all I had?'

And the apple-tree said, 'No, mother; not for seven year.'

She outwits the witch, but when her sister tries to do the same without being so helpful along the way she is caught and punished.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Catford Constitutional Club

I finally made it down last week to the Catford Constitutional Club, the pub in what was once the Conservative Club. The decor has a shabby period charm, rather like it was an abandoned outpost of a once powerful political party (OK they still run the country, but they have little presence in Lewisham).  A good place to eat, drink and put the world to rights, and the pub also hosts various comedy, quiz , film and music nights. 

Last Wednesday I was pleased to stumble across a room upstairs full of people playing the ukulele - Catford Charity Strummers seemingly surfing the South London uke wave that also includes Brockley Ukulele Group, Dulwich Ukulele Club, PLUC (People of  Lewisham Ukulele Club) and Goldsmiths Ukulele Society.

The pub is run by Antic, who for a while ran the nearby Catford Bridge Tavern ( (formerly the Copperfield/Railway Tavern) that was seriously damaged in a fire earlier this year. I gather the wooden bar in the Constitutional may have made its way from the CBT. 

Unfortunately the current pub tenancy only runs until October 2016, with the building itself (one of Catford's oldest) threatened by redevelopment plans for the area. With a question mark hanging over whether the Catford Bridge Tavern will ever reopen, the area can ill afford to lose another popular pub. There is a petition calling on Lewisham Council/Catford Regeneration Partnership to extend the tenancy. It says: 'The CCC building is part of planned re-development of the Catford Centre/Thomas Lane. The CCC strongly supports efforts to regenerate the heart of Catford however we feel this should not come at the expense of one of its  most historic buildings or a pub that is fast becoming considered a community asset as was its predecessor the Catford Bridge Tavern'.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Goldsmiths Sayes Court Institute: for 'bona fide artizans and working people' only (1896)

In the late 19th century, the Goldsmiths Institute in New Cross had a satellite 'Sayes Court Institute' in Evelyn Street, Deptford. According to the 1896 Goldsmiths handbook (a copy of which is in the Special Collections archive in Goldsmiths library), the building (pictured)  included a gymnasium hall, reading room/games room and four classrooms.

Membership was restricted to 'bona fide artizans and working people' only, with the benefits including access to Goldsmiths Library and Swimming Bath as well as classes.Use of the building was offered by W.J.Evelyn, who was one of the Governors of the College. Evelyn, a descendant of the 17th century John Evelyn who lived at Sayes Court, bought the site from the Government in 1869 and created what is today Sayes Court park. The building offered for the use of Goldsmiths was a former dockyard building. I'm not sure how long the Institute continued.

The building, also known as Sayes Court Hall, was originally built as a model making facility for the dockyard. It is shown on this 1914 map in the north west corner of Sayes Court Gardens.

1914 Map -source: Sayes Court wikipedia

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MDC - radical US hardcore veterans at New Cross Inn

US hardcore punk band MDC are playing at the New Cross Inn on 10 August 2015, supported by In Evil Hour, Choking Susan and The Decline.

The band started out as pioneering  Texas punk band The Stains in the late 1970s, with their best known track 'John Wayne was a Nazi'.  They then became 'Millions of Dead Cops', releasing their debut album under this name in 1982.  Later they became known as 'Multi Death Corporation' releasing material in the UK on Crass Records..

I had their Crass records EP back in the day, and the line that has stuck with me - from the track 'Selfish Sh*t' - is 'Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest of You'. I now know that they didn't invent it ('Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Poor' is a long standing meme), but I always think of it when I hear about the wealthy enjoying free hospitality while many others struggle to get by.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Linear Obsessional at Lewisham Arts Cafe

From his Hither Green HQ (OK house), Richard Sanderson has quietly and not so quietly been releasing a stream of experimental, improvised and otherwise quirky music on his Linear Obsessional Recordings. But other than his appearances with Blackheath Morris Men he rarely plays out in the Lewisham area.

All that is set to change on Saturday 15 August  (6pm to 8 pm) when Richard is curating an early evening 'concert of improvised and experimental music' at Lewisham Arts Cafe in Manor Park SE13.  Suggested donation £5.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Slam poetry at The Duke

Coming up at the Duke in Deptford on Sunday July 19th (5 pm - 9 pm), Platform 7 present:

'2014 UK & reigning BBC slam poetry champion, David Lee Morgan performing his brand new 2015 Full Edinburgh preview show, BUILDING GOD, 8:00pm [watch David from 2014 here]

With special guest, Bird Radio performing his stunning new album featuring the words of Walter De La Mare, OH! HAPPY ENGLAND (7:15 pm)

Confirmed poetry performance sets by:

Isabel White
Jah-Mir Early
Mell B. Nyoko
Nat Nye
and the inimitable Jazzman John Clarke'

The Duke is at 125 Creek Road, SE8 3BU

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Deptford and Lewisham on film, 1922

The BFI's new Britain on Film Archive, launched today, no doubt has many local treasures among its 25,000 films available to view online. My favourite so far is remarkable film tour of Lewisham in 1922, featuring lots of high street scenes, along with Deptford High Street, Ladywell park and other locations: 'This exquisitely detailed tour of the south-east London borough of Lewisham traverses town centre tramways and the Rivers Ravensbourne and Quaggy, gliding past ornate-signed outfitters and grander edifices like the Chiesman Brothers department store. We visit Deptford High Street and Catford, glimpse women workers leaving a Watney's bottling plant - and schoolboys practising their country dancing'. You can watch the whole thing here. Here's some stills to whet your appetite.

Ladywell Park Cascades

Children playing in the River Quaggy

Bray & Bray opticians, New Cross Road

Chiesman Brothers department store, Lewisham High Street

Munro & Co Drapers, 141-143 Deptford High Street

Sunday, July 05, 2015

American Football on Peckham Rye

Peckham Rye today was its usual summer smorgasbord of physical culture. There were runners, boule players and, on the Independence Day weekend, American footballers from London teams Olympians and London Blitz

Australian rules, Gaelic football and soccer are also available in SE15.