Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An Easter tragedy - drowned on the Bromley Road pond 1887

A sad tale from 1887 (South Wales Daily News, 14 April 1887):
Mysterious case of drowning - On Tuesday morning, between six and seven o'clock, the body of a young lady of respectable appearance, and apparently about eighteen years of age, was dragged out of the mill-pond, Southend, near Beckenham... The young woman, in company with another female and two young men, had been driving out on Easter Monday, and when returning home to Deptford, about nine o'clock, the stopped at the Green Man Inn, Southend, for refreshments. The three other occupants of the conveyance left the deceased by herself for a few minutes, and upon their return she could not be found. Subsequently the body was discovered in the pond which is situated immediately opposite the inn. The body was removed to Brockley, there to await identification and the coroner's inquest'.
The mill-pond referred to is still there, albeit remodelled as the pond in front of the Homebase store on the corner of Bromley Road and Beckenham Hill Road. It was once part of Southend village, the last rural area of Lewisham before it was urbanised in the 1920s.

The pond in front of Homebase store
(picture from Geograph © Copyright Philip Talmage and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

The Old Mill and its pond in 1905 (from Ideal Homes)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Northern Soul Night in Camberwell

No better time than a bank holiday weekend to start a new Northern Soul night.  'Together'  launches
on Saturday March 26, 7:30 pm to 12:30 pm at Longfield Hall, 50 Knatchbull Road SE5. Sounds great:

'Peckham Soul and Longfield Hall proudly present ‘Together’ - Camberwell’s new monthly night of Northern Soul Togetherness.

With events taking place across South East London, Together will be spinning all the best in Northern Soul - from Motown classics to new soul discoveries. It will reflect the unity of the original scene, welcoming both aficionados and newcomers into the beguiling world of rare vintage soul. This is a soul party playing life-affirming music, and absolutely everybody’s invited.

Together welcomes a very special guest for its Easter bank holiday launch. Bassman with the Paul Weller band and Acid Jazz recording artists, Andy’s DJ C.V. is truly impressive. Resident DJ at the seminal Brit Pop ‘Blow-Up’ club, and a DJ whose guest slots have taken him round the globe, a better debut guest really would be difficult find. Joined by Peckham Soul’s Craig Jamieson and guests, expect some serious heavyweight soul action.

A beautiful rotunda space, Longfield Hall is a truly impressive venue. A Grade two listed Victorian building, its ample sprung wooden dancefloor makes it the perfect destination for authentic Northern Soul dancing.

Convenient public transport links. Buses to Camberwell Green – 12, 35, 36, 40, 42, 45, 68, 148, 171, 176, 185, 345, 345, 436, 468, 484 (10 minute walk to venue). Rail links from Denmark Hill'

Next month (April 30th) they've got Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian DJing.

Tickets available at Resident Advisor

Monday, March 21, 2016

NHS Cleaners strike at four South London mental heatlh units

Domestics and hostesses employed by private contractor Aramark at four sites of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM) are out on strike today, seeking a living wage of £10per hour and an end to two tier arrangements on sick pay and shift allowances. The strike involves GMB members at  the Maudsley, Lambeth, Bethlem and Ladywell mental health service sites - the latter at Lewisham Hospital, where strikers were joined on the picket line by the indefatigable Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Deptford & Rotherhithe: 'The Eastern Part of London' (1852)

'Katharine Beresford; Or, The Shade and Sunshine of Woman's Life: A Romantic Story' by Hannah Maria Jones Lowndes  is a novel from 1852. Not particularly remarkable but browsing through it I noticed that some of the action takes place at the St Helena Tea Gardens, the pleasure gardens which stood on the Lower Road from 1770 to 1881 (see post at Rotherhithe Blog). Also of interest is the fact that, as seems to have been quite common in that period, Deptford & Rotherhithe were described as being in East London rather than South London.
Here's the relevant quote:

'I don't suppose you know much about the Eastern part of London - Rotherhithe, Deptford, and thereabout?'

Milly replied that she had never heard of the places he named.

'No, I thought not,' he replied. 'Well, you see, Miss Shelburne, there are, on the other side of the river, over London Bridge, in fact in Surrey, very respectable places I assure you, and so quiet. Rotherhithe - Redriff some call it, but that's vulgar, I never call it so myself - Rotherhithe is remarkably quiet, a capital place...

There is a most delightful place of amusement, you see, at Rotherhtihe, or rather on the lower road to Deptford, - the Lower Road as it is called, for there are two roads - called the St Helena Tea Gardens... The Eastern Vauxhall, we call it. One of the loveliest places you eyes ever beheld. More romantic and much more select than any of the other places in London. There's a Ball-room and a Orchester, and such a Organ, it's worth going, if it's only to hear that'
Later there is a description of the St Helena gardens:
'an arbour scented with honeysuckle and jessamine, where a peep through the sweetbriar hedge commanded a view so rural - including a windmill with revolving sails, cottages, fields with cattle fielding, a secluded lane green as an emerald; altogether a scene which might have persuaded you that you were a hundred miles from the Great Metropolis; while on the other side were to be seen the masts of vessels rising above the green hedges, indicating the vicinity of the mighty Thames'.

St Helena Tavern and Tea Gardens (from Ideal Homes)

Monday, March 07, 2016

The end of the (old) Brockley Jack

The Brockley Jack in around 1868
(source: Lewisham Heritage)
The current Brockley Jack pub dates back to 1898 and replaced an older building demolished not long before. The pub had actually only been known by that name since 1863 - prior to that it was called The Castle. It is described in Walter Besant's London South of the Thames (published 1912, but written in the 1890s):

'on the west side of the road is the Brockley Jack public-house. It was named after Jack Cade and was formerly frequented by Dick Turpin and other highway- men, and is a good specimen of the English wayside tavern of the last century. The taproom and the whole architecture of the place with its old buildings are curious, and the sign nailed to the stump of an old elm in the yard is painted on a mammoth's bone which was dug up in the railway cutting behind the house. The Croydon Canal was acquired by the Croydon Railway in 1836, and it was in deepening this that the bones, of which the sign is one, were found. The old farm south of this inn will soon be built over, and houses are already appearing in the lane to Honor Oak, but most of the ground is still pasture' (Jack Cade was a leader of the 1450 Kentish uprising).

The demolition of the old building was opposed by some, as indicated by this report from th Illustrated London News, 16 October 1897:

'The Jack Inn, Brockley: The vandal is generally more inclined to spare a public-house than he is to spare a church; but it is the old Jack Inn at Brockley, in Kent, that is now marked down for demolition. Many a cyclist following the course of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway from London Bridge will miss the welcome which the inn continued to give from the old world; but the growth of suburban London is imperious in its demands. Brockley is within the Parliamentary borough of Deptford; but the little boundaries and isolations of London are rapidly disappearing in that direction, and much beside the Jack Inn will disappear ere long in front of London's immense army of occupation'

Judging by the number of paintings made of the old pub, it was something of an iconic building.

A painting dated 1898 and sigend G.C.,  held by  Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre

The pub painted in 1897 by Philip Norman
(from Museum of London)

The Brockley Jack around 1885 (Lewisham Heritage)

The Brockley Jack befire 1880  by Mr Corcoran (Lewisham Heritage)

The Old Brockley Jack - Arthur  Harding Norwood (1897)

photo of old pub from Pub History

The new pub, pictured in around 1905

Saturday, March 05, 2016

St Patrick's Day Ukulele Session at Catford Constitutional Club

I don't think I have played a ukulele in public since the ancient 'night of the long ukes' split in Brockely Ukulele Group (it's OK, we're all friends again now). But I must admit I am tempted to pick up the four stringed wonder once again on St Patrick's Night (15th March) when Catford Charity Strummers are having an Irish-themed strumalong upstairs in the Catford Constitutional Club. All are welcome, you don't need to have played before and in fact you don't even need to bring your own uke. There is a suggestion donation to raise funds for local charities. 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

An 1890s Indian Visitor to Crystal Palace - and New Cross?

The Reverand Thomas B. Pandian of Madras (sometimes known as T.B. Pandian or T.B. Pandiyan) was a Hindu convert to Christianity who came to England in 1893 to raise awareness of the plight of low caste 'Pariahs'. His travels in this country inspired his book 'England to an Indian Eye, Or, English Pictures from an Indian Camera' (1897), which is available to read for free at It is  a work that includes lots of interesting observations such as his remark that 'the rage for cycling has taken full and fast hold of the people of England, as is evidenced by the fact that London is simply  over-run by "wheelers" of both sexes'. 

While describing London as 'the most remarkable city on the face of the globe' he did not overlook its miseries, such as the plight of the homeless: 'scores of such can, when darkness sets in, find no better resting-place than that afforded them by the doorsteps of public buildings, and obscure angles forming the junctures of adjoining structures  of one kind or another. Foodless, half-clothed, lying through the live-long night on the bare surface of these stony  bedsteads— so cold, so damp, so hard— life to the houseless poor of London must seem nothing more than an intolerable  condition of agonizing cursedness! What wonder, then, that so many of these wretched beings daily call in the angel  of death to relieve them before their appointed time, ending their earthly miseries by plunging themselves headlong into  the unclean waters of their Father Thames!'

Pandian describes a visit to the Crystal Palace:

'No sight-seer will think of leaving London without looking in at the world-famed 'Palace of Glass' in Upper 
Norwood, where John Bull and all his household disport themselves in a hundred different holidays. The Crystal Palace hall is capable of accommodating several thousands of people, and it is here that popular 
concerts and musical entertainments, organised on a large scale, are held, and it is here also that monster meetings of all sorts take place, when they are intended to present the character and significance of a national demonstration. So grandly beautiful is the appearance of this magnificent structure that I could well imagine a Christian villager from India regarding the edifice as a prototype of one of the 'many mansions' he has been taught to believe in as being  'prepared' for those who follow the teachings of the Heaven-sent Master he has learnt to serve. In a word, the  Crystal Palace of London is best described as being a splendid exhibition in itself, such as cannot be found in any  other part of the globe. It is, moreover, a complete and comprehensive index to England's commercial wealth and greatness'.

In a post earlier this week I featured a photo taken in that period at the New Cross studio of photographer R.F. Barnes. I am wondering whether this might actually be T.B. Pandian himself. There's some discussion at a family history site which suggests a link between Pandian and this photo- the key is the book he is holding. On highest resolution I could see that the last word on title is 'Peninsula' and others have spotted that the other visible word looks like 'Heroes'. Pandian was the author of a book entitled 'The Ancient Heroes of South Indian Peninsula', published in the year of that visit to London - 1893. Why else would he be holding that particular book in the photograph unless he had written it himself?

(Pandian's account is mentioned in Sukhdev Sandhu's excellent 'London Calling: how Black and Asian writers imagined a city', Harper, 2004)

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Telephone box children's library launches today

The telephone box library on Loampit Hill has been going for a couple of years, but now it has been joined by a companion library not far away for children - on the corner of Lewisham Way and Wickham Road

In fact today (Wednesday 2nd March) sees it official opening at 4 pm, with children's author Amanda Swift cutting the ribbon (she wrote The Boys’ Club, Big Bones and Anna/Bella, and co-wrote Guinea Pigs Online and Puppies Online with Jennifer Gray).

The phone box is already stocked with some good children's books, the format being the same as the other telephone box library - passers-by can simply choose a book and take it away, preferably swapping it for a book of their own that they have finished with.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Refugees Welcome Here meeting in New Cross

Tonight (Tuesday 1st March, 7 pm), Stand up to Racism South East London is holding a 'Refugees Welcome Here' public meeting in Room 137a, main building (RHB), Goldsmiths University, New Cross, SE14 6NW

Speakers include:

Imam Shakeel Begg - Lewisham Islamic Centre
Vicky Foxcroft, MP - Labour, Lewisham Deptford
Shakira Martin - NUS Further Education Vice President
Denis Fernando - Stand up to Racism (Chair)
Maya Goodfellow - Journalist, Independent & LabourList
Laurie Heselden - Southern and Eastern Regional TUC
Jenny Leow - Student health worker, NHS Bursaries campaign
Marcia Rigg - Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign & co-chair United Family & Friends
Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild - Tzelem (Rabbinic Voice for Social and Economic Justice)

The meeting takes place in the lead up the 'Refugees Welcome' national demonstration in London on 19 March:

Victorian New Cross Studio Photographs

Some more vintage studio photos from the New Cross area. Frustratingly there is no detail about the subjects, but they tell us plenty about London hair and clothes styles in late Victorian London.

The first  few were taken at R.F. Barnes's studio, Mortham House, Lewisham High Road, New Cross. According to Photo London, the full address was 144 Lewisham High Road, and the studio was opened by Robert Freeman Barnes in 1874. On his death in 1898, he was succeeded by his wife Matilda Sarah Barnes who kept the business going until 1907. So in all likelihood these photos were taken in the late 19th century.

An Indian resident (or visitor) in New Cross (some inconclusive discussion about him here)

The next two portraits of children were taken by A.C. Clements, 'artist and photographer' based at 3 Amersham Road. Albert Charles Clements (1865-1938) ran the studio there from 1887 to 1895.

Finally there's this finely bearded gentleman 'From Kirby's Studios, Peckham and New Cross'. The photographer was Theophilus Claudius Kirby (1829-1907). The Peckham studion was at 85 Hill Street (from 1879 - 1895) and the other studio at 346 New Cross Road  (from 1888 - 1891). So this photograph must have been taken in the 1888-1891 period.