The model village in Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne, Australia is looking rather the worse for wear these days, with bits crumbling off the houses, the church steeple missing and the tops gone from the oast houses. The model village has been there for over fifty years now and after my first visit to Melbourne to visit my son in 1998, I did some research about it in the Lambeth Local Studies Library.
During the Second World War in London the Borough of Lambeth, suffered heavy bombing raids as German planes and doodlebugs tried to reach the seat of government in Westminster. The sirens sounded on 1,224 separate occasions during the war and the most severe raids were in April and May 1941. Many people were left homeless and hungry at the end of hostilities. The Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India began to send food supplies to the people of London.
In 1948 the Mayor of Lambeth received 1.712 cases (approximately 55 tons) of foodstuffs which was distributed to the senior citizens on a fair but strict rota system. A typical parcel contained:-
1 tin jam
1 tin meat content
1 tin dripping
1 pkt Quaker oats or pudding mix
1 pkt dried milk or fruit
Parties were also organised for the children and in December 1947 the Agent-General for Victoria, the Hon Norman A Martin, attended a distribution of food parcels and a children's party at Lambeth Town Hall. In 1948 the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Melbourne, Sir Raymond and Lady Connelly, and also the Right Hon Robert Menzies, then Leader of the Opposition in the Australian government, paid visits to Lambeth and presented gifts of food and woollen clothing from the people of Victoria, brought over by the Australian test cricket team.
When discussing a suitable way to show their appreciation to the people of Melbourne for their generous gifts the Lambeth Council decided in 1947 to present a complete Kentish Tudor village constructed out of reinforced concrete by pensioner Mr Edgar Wilson of Hamilton Road, West Norwood. Councillor J W Simpson opened a special fund to raise the £80 8s 6d needed to transport the gift to the Antipodes. In his letter of thanks the Lord Mayor of Melbourne wrote:-
"Mr Wilson's gift is to be placed in close proximity to Captain Cook's cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens on a site which has a typically English setting with a terraced garden background and a small creek winding through the area, and I feel sure that it will not only be a great attraction for the people for generations to come, but will serve as a constant reminder of the close ties that still exist between us and the Motherland."
I published a version of this article in the Norwood Society’s quarterly review and a Mr Gent from West Dulwich wrote in as he had visited Mr Wilson’s garden as a small boy in 1945 and had seen some of the model houses.
In our last newsletter I noticed that there was a GLIAS guided walk around the Surrey Docks on Wednesday July 16th so at 6.30 that evening I joined about thirty other enthusiasts at Canada Water underground station. Our group leader was a young man of rather eccentric appearance wearing a floppy tennis hat with copious amounts of curly blond locks escaping from under it. Every 500 yards or so he would mount a collapsible stool and balance precariously on it, much to the amusement of some of the younger residents who followed us around on their bikes, while showing us maps and aerial photographs of the different stages of the area’s colourful history. He certainly knew his stuff, however, and after only a short while even I began to make sense of the layout of the dockland area, and realised the enormity of the task facing the developers when the area was re-developed.
Most of the area now contains low-level housing developments, which are tastefully landscaped with young trees, waterside walks and safe pedestrian areas for the new generation of residents to enjoy. The developers have been careful to retain as many of the original dock walls, bridges, lock gates and hydraulic machinery as possible. In some places you can still see the markings measuring the water level in the dock basins as well.
At one point at the northern end of what would have been the Russia Dock an artificial hill called Stave Hill, which looks a bit like the mound at Waterloo near Brussels without the lion, has been created. The view of London from the top is spectacular and there is a very useful relief map of the Surrey Docks to help you get your bearings. Looking from there across at the Isle of Dogs, where yet another skyscraper office block is being built in the cluster at Canary Wharf, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps for once the South Bank had got it right. The whole of the Russia Dock has been transformed into an ecological park and woodland, obviously greatly appreciated by many of the joggers, young families and dog walkers who were out in force enjoying a beautiful summer’s evening. The ducks seemed very happy there too!
One thing that strikes you is how peaceful it is – only a mile or so from the city of London the silence of this oasis of virtually traffic free streets, young trees, gentle breezes and vast stretches of calming water, the peace broken only by the occasional jet overhead on its way to land at Heathrow or City Airport, is almost magical.
Set into the ground alongside the Russia Dock is a round metal plaque showing the distances to Greenland, Canada, Russia and other countries who used to ship goods to the Surrey Docks in its heyday. Timber was the main import but whale blubber and exotic spices were also unloaded here.
Having come straight from a hectic day at work I’m afraid I had run out of steam by about 8.30. As I left the group and walked back along the full length of the Greenland Dock towards Surrey Quays Station I passed a well-patronised pub on a ship called the Wibbly Wobbly! What better way to relax on a summer’s evening sitting out on deck with a chilled glass of wine surrounded by sky and water, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday London life.
If you have not yet ventured in to this area may I recommend that you join one of the Sunday walks which leave Rotherhithe Station at 1.30 every Sunday during the summer. You can get full details on their website at www.thestreetsoflondon.com or call them on 020 8906 8657.
(Lewisham Local History Society Newsletter Autumn 2003)
I had no idea what a treat was in store when I set out for North London on Sunday 1st June. I had never been to Alexandra Palace before, but was especially interested to visit it as I live near the site of the Crystal Palace which has always been a magical place for me. It was also my first chance to attend an event organised by the CTA as I am a new member. Driving up to the Palace from Wood Green on the bus I was struck by how similar the two palace sites are and it was comforting to see the Crystal Palace TV Transmitter on the southern horizon.
I was completely bowled over by the sheer size of the building and was encouraged by how much of the complex was actually in use for some activity or other. There was no fair being held in the Great Hall that day so we were able to roam freely through this vast majestic space. The only other space in London to come anywhere near it is the turbine hall of Tate Modern.
We had our first quick visit to the theatre after we had visited the TV studio, which hopefully one day will be re-furbished in an appropriate manner to house the impressive collection of old television sets and TV camera equipment. The theatre was magical and I felt very underdressed as I entered its portals for the first time. The décor dates from the early 1920s when Walter James Macqueen-Pope was manager. Although it was very sad to see it in its present state I felt optimistic that one day it could be restored to its former glory and used as a venue for live theatre and cinema shows again.
Revived by tea and biscuits we entered the theatre for a second time and it was then that the magic show really began! CTA Chairman Richard Gray introduced David Eve of the CTA’s Northern Division who had rescued some old reels of film in an emporium in Workington. He had sent them to the States to be restored and was very excited that they were to be shown publically for the first time at Alexandra Palace as no films have been shown there for nearly eighty years! The enclosed projection box which can still be seen on the balcony dates from 1907.
We were treated to nearly two hours of films dating from 1905 until 1920. Some were shorts from the Clarendon Film Company in Croydon, others were from America, and there were also some amazing stencil colour films from the Pathe Studios in France. Perhaps the most beautiful film was of blossom time in Japan in 1915, but each film shown had its own unique charm. Some of the slapstick and comedy pre-dated Chaplin by only one or two years so some of the tricks and timing seemed very familiar as did some of the actors – you almost expected Charlie to pop out from behind a pillar or a bush at any moment. I’m also positive I spotted Stan Laurel in one of the films. He went over to the States around the same time as Chaplin so anything is possible.
The musical accompaniment by John Sweeney of the NFT was as always excellent, although he did tell me off for letting my membership of the NFT lapse!
As a member of both the Edith Nesbit Society and the Octavia Hill Society I often wonder if the two women, both of whom I admire, ever in fact met? Edith Nesbit, of course was famous as the author of children’s books such as “The Railway Children”, and Octavia Hill, most famous as a provider of social housing in London, was also a founder member of the National Trust. The women were contemporaries, who both spent the most active phases of their lives in London. Octavia lived mostly in the Marylebone/Notting Hill area of London and Edith Nesbit in SouthEast London in Eltham and Lewisham but they moved in the same circles concerned with social reform which included Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta in Whitechapel, and Emma Cons (founder of the Old Vic and Morley College) and the Fawcetts in Lambeth. Both Henrietta Barnett and Emma Cons had been on Octavia’s team of housing managers. Edith’s husband Hubert Bland was one of the original founder members of the Fabian Society, through which they met George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells.
Through my contacts in the Octavia Hill Society I have been asked by Robert Whelan, Deputy Director of Civitas, to contribute footnotes to an edited edition of Octavia Hill’s “Letters to Fellow Workers” due to be published shortly. I have been researching the “Open Spaces” in London saved through the hard work of Octavia Hill and her colleagues in the Commons Preservation Society, such as Henry Fawcett, William Morris and Robert Hunter, who later founded the National Trust with Octavia Hill and Canon Rawnsley. These worthy people spent many hours “memorialising” (or sending memos) to Parish vestries, and after 1889 to the newly formed LCC’s Parks and Open Spaces Committee, to ensure that many acres of London’s rapidly dwindling open spaces were preserved as “open air sitting rooms” for the poor. After most London churchyards were closed to burials in the eighteen fifties they fought especially hard to save these from being built on, or being purchased by one of the railway companies. We have a lot to thank them for as Londoners continue to enjoy these open spaces or “Lungs of London” today.
At least two of these open spaces were visited by Edith Nesbit. Edith walked to Hilly Fields in Brockley near New Cross from her home in Elswick Road, Lewisham and referred to the area in “Wings and the Child”. ‘Once there were nightingales that sang in the gardens in Loampit Hill. Now it is all villas. Once the Hilly Fields were hill fields where the children played, and there were primroses.’
In her article “Space for the People” (1883) Octavia shared Edith’s concern about the “acres of villas” spreading all over south east London. When visiting tenants in Deptford one day, Octavia Hill noticed a vase of freshly picked flowers. On being told they had been picked on Hilly Fields, she set off to visit the area the same day and as a result became instrumental in raising subscriptions to save Hilly Fields from being built over. The list of subscribers ran to thirty-one pages and includes William Morris and F D Mocatta, a well-known Jewish philanthropist. Generous benefactors included the Duke of Westminster and many of the City Livery Companies, such as the Goldsmiths’, Fishmongers’ and Leathersellers’. Sir Arthur Arnold, chairman of the LCC, which had spent £4,685 on laying out the grounds, opened the park to the public on 16th May 1896. Sir Robert Hunter, in his capacity as chairman of the committee set up to save Hilly Fields, attended the opening ceremony and paid tribute to Octavia Hill’s hard work. ‘So well-known to many of them by reason of her public- spirited labours, in the course of her work in Deptford’.
St Nicholas’ burial ground in Deptford, now known as Charlotte Turner Gardens, is next to the Hughes Field primary school where Edith Nesbit and her friends held their Christmas parties for the poor children of Deptford. Her book “Harding’s Luck” is set partly in Deptford. Octavia Hill managed houses in Deptford from about 1883 onwards so it is quite possible that they met, but it would be lovely to find some evidence of this. Many of the poor children of Deptford that Edith entertained would probably have been Octavia’s tenants. According to the Kentish Mercury of July 11th 1884 Miss Octavia Hill was certainly present at the opening ceremony of the burial ground as a public park and playground. The Victualling Yard nearby lent them flags for the occasion and the Reverend Brooke Lambert said that as the playground was “under the shadow of the church of St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, there could scarcely be a better place for a playground than this.” Some members of the Edith Nesbit Society visited this area during a history walk around Deptford in 2000.
Octavia had strong links with Toynbee Hall, the university settlement in Whitechapel. Stepniak, the Russian author in exile, who appears briefly in “The Railway Children” as Schapansky, and many members of the Fabian Society gave lectures there, so it is also possible that the two women might have met there.
By a stroke of fate both women were also buried in Kent! Octavia Hill died in 1912 and is buried in the churchyard at Crockham Hill near Westerham, close to Toys Hill and Ide Hill, some of the first pieces of land purchased by the National Trust. Edith Nesbit died in 1924 and is buried in the churchyard at St Mary-in-the Marsh on Romney Marsh near Dymchurch. Both societies make an annual pilgrimage to these churchyards in August to pay homage to these two exceptional ladies.
During the summer in Kent this sign is often seen on roadside verges near farm entrances, most often during the strawberry-picking season. My crops, however, are of a very different kind.
My great-great grandfather was Charles Crop, who became a well-respected clay pipe maker in Homerton, East London, in the 1850s. His unmarried sons carried on the business until the 1920s when Charles Junior, John and Samuel retired to Clacton-on-Sea. My father remembered visiting his great-uncles, and indeed a few family snapshots survive of a visit taken when my father was a bout twelve years old.
I remember that Dad kept a red clay head on a shelf in the shed for years, but when I cleared out the family home in 2005 I did not find it! Knowing what I know now I’m pretty sure it was a ‘Crop’ head.
One day after checking some details in the Family Tree I decided to do a ‘Google’ search on ‘Charles Crop’. Through a link I contacted Heather Coleman down in Devon who put
me in touch with Peter Hammond. He seemed very excited to have found a real live Crop descendant as he has been researching my family for years! It was Charles Crop Senior’s eldest daughter Elizabeth who became my great-grandmother on my father’s side. Peter sent me some copies of Crop-related papers and in return I sent him copies of some family photographs.
In July I went back to East London to visit Brooksby’s Walk, where the pipe factory was located, and Abney Park Cemetery. The factory building still exists at the rear of 52 Brooksby’s Walk but a young man on duty there was adamant that I should not take any photos so I beat a hasty retreat. I had more luck at Abney Park. A volunteer had already trimmed back the ivy round the Crop grave but unfortunately the headstone was so badly weathered virtually no lettering has survived – but at least I know where they are!
I decided to join SCPR and attended the Annual Conference in London in September 2006, where I was thrilled to be able to purchase an original Crop pipe head. I also met descendants from two other pipe-making families, the Burstows and the Henscher or Henshers. As a direct descendant of Charles Crop Peter has kindly asked me to write the foreword to his book about my family.
I first visited Ramsgate when I was eight years old and remember my father pointing out a house on the East Cliff to me because it had his initials WHW on the drainpipe. My father’s name was William Henry Willatts and East Court, the green tile-hung house on the corner of Brockenhurst Road was built for William Henry Wills, later Lord Winterstoke,in 1889. Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, the niece and adopted daughter of Lord Winterstoke lived there from 1911 until her death in 1932.
Dame Janet Stancomb Wills was Ramsgate’s first lady mayor and its greatest benefactress.She was said to have had a strong character but was very kind. In a letter quoted in Roland Huntford’s biography of Shackleton she was described as:-
“A formidable head of an impressive household – she was extremely well-built- had an upright carriage and an ample chest which showed off jewellery to good effect.”
As she was a Wills by hyphenated adoption, rather than by birth or marriage, other members of the Wills family took care, on her somewhat dreaded visitations, to pay formal respect to her rank, and due deference to her accomplishments.
eginnings in Bristol
She was listed as being 17 years old in the 1871 census when she was living in the Clifton area of Bristol. Following the early deaths of her father and elder brother Janet and her younger sister Yda were adopted by their uncle, Sir William Henry Wills. When Lord Winterstoke died in January 1911 Dame Janet and her sister Yda were heirs toabout £1million, a vast fortune in those days.
In these days of political correctness it is perhaps right for us to consider for a moment exactly how the Wills family amassed their vast fortune. The family had made their fortune in the 18th century in the tobacco trade when slave produced tobacco was imported to Bristol from the AmericanRepublic. They gradually bought up existing Bristol firms and by the late 18th century were involved in a number of charitable activities in the Bristol area.
Sir William was said to have had a powerful physique and a twinkling eye! He had been engaged in the tobacco and snuff business since he was eighteen. He worked hard and had visited America on several occasions to study the production and treatment of tobacco. It was he who led the family firm throughthe bleak years of the American Civil War of 1861-65 when the tobacco harvest was largely left to rot as the southern states were embroiled in war. It was not until the Crimean War that cigarettes were smoked in any great quantity by the British, and they generally became popular in 1870. This was the age when it was not considered “the done thing” to smoke in front of ladies, and there was no smoking on trains.
In 1901thirteen British tobacco businesses including WD and HOWills formed the Imperial Tobacco Company to successfully fend off competition fromthe American Tobacco Company. Sir William Henry Wills was chosen as their first chairman. He held this position until his death in January 1911. Sir William had been created a baronet in 1892 and was elevated to become Baron Winterstoke of Blagdon in 1906. He was thenceforth known as Lord Winterstoke. Blagdon is a village in the Mendip Hills about 20 miles south of Bristol where Lord Winterstoke owned a 3,000 acre estate. Death came to Lord Winterstoke suddenly in his 81st year in January 1911 with Dame Janet at his bedside.
A life serving Ramsgate
Dame Janet inherited her uncle’s house in Ramsgate. She also inherited his 513-ton steam yacht Sabrina and his London residence at 25 Hyde ParkGardens. Dame Janet also inherited Baron Winterstoke’s collection of diamonds, plate and paintings, 24 of which were handed over almost immediately to the BristolArtGallery, given to the city by her uncle.
Dame Janet spent the first half of 1911 sorting out her uncle’s affairs but was anxious to move on. She decided to sell the yacht Sabrina “ as I shan’t have the heart to use her.” She moved to Ramsgate later that year and was always a commanding presence in the town being driven round in one of her Rolls-Royce cars.
In the early decades of the twentieth century Ramsgate was a very different place with a busy harbour full of trawlers and Thames barges,andlots of holiday makers. Dame Janet obviously loved the town and devoted the rest of her life to looking after the people of Ramsgate.
Encouraged by a local vicar to join the Education Committee Dame Janet was the first lady member to be appointed to Ramsgate Town Council in 1913. Councillor Bradley decided to resign rather than stand against her in Moses Montefiore Ward because in opposing her he would not be behaving as a gentleman ought towards a lady!
On 17th December 1920 a sculpture called Destiny, by the sculptor Gilbert Bayes,was unveiled in AlbionGardens as the Ramsgate Peace Memorial which was presented to the town by Dame Janet. Destiny sits with her eyes closed ‘looking’ as her sculptor said ‘beyond to a greater vision of the future’. This Grade II listed memorial was restored in 2004.
In January 1922 The Mayor of Ramsgate Borough Council, Alderman Arthur Larkin,proposed that Dame Janet be given theFreedom of the Borough “in recognition of the signalservice which she has rendered to this borough” and for “the many acts of benevolence and generosity towards the people of Ramsgate” and for her “noble example displayed in the difficult days of the war”.Mayor Larkin praised Dame Janet’s bravery in remaining in the town during the First World War despite the fact that her house was especially exposed to danger from air raiders and bombardment from the sea. She also provided comforts and essential items for those who sought shelter in the air raid shelters in the cliffs.
Dame Janet was to bepresented and in establishing a Roll of Freemen of this Borough a double honour would be bestowed upon her as she would be the first name to be inscribed upon it. The Council unanimously carried the resolution and it was suggested that townspeople could subscribe towards the cost of the casket which would contain the scroll. A small panel on the front of the casket displayed the Borough Coat of Arms, and on the reverse the Star of the Order of the British Empire conferred on Dame Janet in 1919 for her generosity to the war effort in helping to fit out ships for the Royal Navy.
After the handing over of the casket the Mayor referred to Dame Janet’s many acts of generosity to Ramsgate and her tireless efforts to collect artefacts for the town’s museum above Ramsgate Public Library which opened in October 1912. The museum unfortunately perished in August 2004 when the Ramsgate Library was burnt down. Dame Janet’s casket wassaved but badly damaged.
Dame Janet’s interest in the Fire Brigade had begun in May 1915, when the first Zeppelin raid made her aware of Ramsgate’s inadequate provision against fires. She presented the first motorised fire engine for Ramsgate in October 1915 and named it Lord Winterstoke after her uncle. The fire engine made a ceremonial tour of the town amazing the inhabitants by its ability to climb hills at a full 30 mph. The fire brigade appointed Dame Janet an honorary Chief Fire Officer.
Over two thousand townsfolk attended the opening of the WinterstokeGardens on Ramsgate’s Eastcliff on June 20th 1923. Special attention had been paid to the choice of plants, scented varieties being favoured so that blind war veteransmight enjoy the gardens as well.
A fitting tribute
When Dame Janet became the first woman Mayor of Ramsgate in November 1923 she focused on the two most pressing issues – unemployment (especially during the winter months) and whether Ramsgate Corporation should take over the running of the RoyalHarbour.
At a banquet to honour the ex-mayor in November 1924 Dame Janet announced that in commemoration of her year in office she was giving Jacky Baker’s farm to the town. She hoped that the name Jacky Baker’s would always be associated with the land as it had been known by that name for at least 200 years. Dame Janet hoped that “ In providing the ground for the young people of the town a new lung had been added to the borough which would be appreciated not only by those alive now but by their children’s children.”
In thanking Dame Janet Councillor Larkin, the Deputy Mayor, said “ She had done so many things for Ramsgate that it was perhaps not altogether surprising that her year in office was to be commemorated in such a gracious way. Ramsgate was the first Kentish Borough to choose a lady mayor and it had been a fine experiment.”
The Nurses’ Home at Ramsgate GeneralHospital was opened in August 1927. Itcontained 30 bedrooms and offices was built at Dame Janet’s expense. Then atthe end of January 1931 Dame Janet’s sister Mrs Richardson officiallly opened the new maternity ward. HM Queen Mary had given a cot cover to place on the first baby born in the new ward.
Good causes to the end
Of course Dame Janet did not just have interests in Ramsgate, she continued to support many of her uncle’s charities and good causes, especially in the Bristol area, but also found many worthy causes of her own to support.
Dame Janet befriended Sir Ernest Shackleton and helped to fund many of his expeditions to the Antarctic. He frequently put in at Ramsgate to see Dame Janet and their conversations were often interrupted by the sound of gunfire from Flanders drifting through the window.The amounts of money Dame Janet gave to Shackleton have never been disclosed. Dame Janet remained his confidante until his death in the South Atlantic in 1922.
Dame Janet’s health began to fail in the late 1920s and she was forced to resign from some of her committees. Shedied in her bedroom at East Court in Ramsgate in August 1932. Following her funeral service at St. George’sParishChurch in Ramsgate she was cremated at Golders Green crematorium.
Unfortunately Dame Janet did not live long enough to see another of her projects completed. The DameJanetSchool in Newington Road was opened in September 1933 by Mrs Florence Dunn, Mayor of Ramsgate, who had been a close friend of Dame Janet.. Amazingly the school still have all the admission books dating back to 1933!
This school which bears her name is one small reminder of all that this incredible woman did for the town.
Planning a long journey using your free bus pass is not for the faint-hearted! So be warned. If you are of a slightly nervous disposition or don’t like taking steps of faith into the unknown this type of activity is definitely NOT for you. Even if you have a computer trying to find all the bus timetables you need, and working out which bus company runs which route is not easy. As for trying to contact them to confirm timetable information you will need a really strong constitution not to fall at the first hurdle.
As you will soon find out – whoever you actually think you are telephoning most lines eventually lead to Traveline who are great at confirming bus times but if you step slightly out of line and ask questions about whether a particular date is a school day or non-school day they direct you back to the bus company , who of course when you listen to their list of options want to direct you back to Traveline. If you hang on trying to speak to an operator they tell you all the lines are busy and to ring back later – well I did warn you this was not for the faint-hearted!
I decided after reading about two women in Lady magazine who had travelled free from Penzance to Lowestoft using their senior bus passes that I would try and travel from Ramsgate to Tewkesbury to visit a friend. I knew I would have to stay overnight en route but that was the easiest arrangement to make.
Whichever route I tried to plan I was bound to come unstuck sooner or later so I decided to just go armed with my provisional itinerary, pack my bag and see what happened. I knew I had a room waiting for me at a hotel near HeathrowAirport that night but how I was going to get there was anybody’s guess. I packed some boxed drinks and muesli bars as emergency rations and set off.
Although my bus pass in East Kent was valid from 9am the first bus from Ramsgate to Canterbury did not leave the harbour until 9.39. The sun was shining as we left on time which I felt was a good omen. I travelled from Canterbury then on to Ashford.It was great turning off the main road through pretty villages like Wye. An old man boarded the bus here greeting everyone with the comment “Morning all – another day nearer the grave!” He was off to Ashford for a drink in his favourite pub! Another passenger gave me a useful tip to go through the back entrance of McDonalds and use their toilets as there were no public ones where we had to change buses.
The trip from Ashford to Tunbridge Wells passing through Tenterden, Cranbrook and Goudhurst was delightful. Unfortunately once I got to Tunbridge Wells I had a long wait for the Bromley bus as that day was the first day of the new term time bus timetable. I decided to take the first bus to Sevenoaks and wait there where there was a café and toilets at the bus station. Chatted to a friendly young lady called Louise who was also waiting for the Bromley bus which arrived twenty minutes late! Finally got to Bromley South station atabout 7.30pm where I caught the train to Victoria and then the Underground to Heathrow. By the time I had caught the right Heathrow Hoppa bus to my hotel it was nearly 9.30pm – I had been travelling for twelve hours!!
Chatting to other hotel guests who were off to North Vietnam or South Africa, or had just returned from Roumania,it was quite amusing to see their faces when they asked where I was flying to and I replied that I was just passing through and would be catching a bus to Swindon in the morning!
The next morning I caught the National Express bus from Heathrow to Swindon as I could not find any local bus route to cover that stretch of the journey. There was a decent café and toilets at Swindon bus station. The bus from Swindon to Cheltenham went through some charming villages but the most attractive place en route was the ancient town of Cirencester, which I hope to return to one day. As I arrived in Cheltenham the clouds burst and I had to quickly don my cagoule while looking for the bus stop to Tewkesbury. I actually managed to catch the bus before the one I was expected on so when my friend arrived at Ashchurch Station to meet me I was already there waiting – travel weary and a bit bedraggled but on the whole I had enjoyed my trip.
Next time I get itchy feet I think I’ll start my bus journey from London and may be branch out in to Essex, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire – care to join me anyone?
Lewisham Pensions Team newsletter November 2008, Old Brockenian Dcember 2008, About Ramsgate October 2008
On Easter Monday I decided to walk to the Ramsgate cemetery in Cecilia Road as I was looking for one particular grave from the First World War which I wanted to photograph. The cemetery was looking particularly lovely in April with pink and white blossom on the trees and wild primroses scattered all over the grass. I found the grave I was looking for in plot B of the newer section. The grave just states E M Lee but in fact this grave is unusual as it is one of two women buried in CWGC or Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves.Elsie May Lee from Winstanley Crescent in Ramsgate died aged 24 in November 1918, a few days before the end of hostilities. She had been a worker or private in the QMAAC or Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps. These women were largely employed on unglamorous tasks such as cooking and catering, storekeeping, clerical work, telephony and administration, printing, and motor vehicle maintenance. Formerly called the WAAC the QMAAC was under the control of the War Office and was a part of the British Army. Sadly there is no clue as to whether Elsie died in action, or whether she might have been a victim of the Spanish influenza which swept through the country in 1918 and 1919 killing many civilians, and also many returning Tommies, whose resistance was weak after years in the trenches on an appalling diet in filthy unhygienic conditions.
The other woman is Rose Jane Turmaine from Margate Road, Ramsgate, who was in the Women’s Royal Air Force and worked down at the secret port of Richborough.Her grave is in Plot D. Again she died just as the war was ending so could have been a victim of the influenza pandemic. There was certainly influenza down at the salvage yard by then as another worker Lilian Florence Voss of Shaftesbury Street caught influenza on Armistice Day and died of pneumonia shortly afterwards. I believe she is also buried in RamsgateCemetery but I have no further details at present.In Plot LA close to the war graves plot with the WW1 cross are the graves of the thirteen men of HMTB No 4 killed in an explosion in RamsgateHarbour in May 1917. The seamen came from all over the country including Bristol and Plymouth. The explosion caused a fire to break out on the ship which later sank, but luckily before the magazine was reached sailors and firemen managed to remove most of the ammunition to the fish market on the harbour crosswall. Many houses and shops along the seafront were damaged but without the quick action of the men who moved the ammunition, at considerable risk to themselves, the damage to the town could have been much worse. Unfortunately a month later a Zeppelin bombed the fish market. The ammunition continued to explode for several hours and large pieces of shrapnel flew in all directions. 200,000 windows in the town were broken and Albert Street and Addington Street up on the edge of the West Cliff were left in ruins. In the centre of the town every shop was damaged and the demand for wood to block up damaged windows was greater than the supply. Despite all the devastation casualties were remarkably light. Only three people were killed and eighteen injured. On the left in Plot HC as you walk past the chapel are the graves of the Trowbridge family. They lost two sons in the Great War and with the help of the 1914 Street Directory and the 1911 census I was able to find out quite a lot about them.The Trowbridge sons were listed on the 1911 census as still living at home in Sussex Street. Arthurhad been a coach painter before the war. He worked for Mr F J Wraight in Eagle Hill, who later built the Ambulance donated by the people of Thanet for use on the Western Front.Thanet Advertiser October 8th 1915Ready for the frontAll who subscribed recently to the fund for the provision of a Thanet Motor Ambulance will be gratified to hear that the vehicle is complete and ready for duty at the Front. The ambulance will leave the premises of MR F J Wraight, coachbuilder, who fitted the body, on Monday and will be taken to Ramsgate Fire Station for public inspection before being taken to London.The vehicle is built according to the latest model and will accommodate a driver, attendant and eight patients. It bears the distinctive word Thanet on both sides.
Arthur was serving as a Royal Engineer and was wounded at Loos in September 1915. He lost the sight of one eye, had eight teeth blown out and was wounded in the head and both his legs. He did not recover from his wounds so was dismissed from the army in July 1916 then brought back to Ramsgate where he died in the General Hospital aged 25 in October 1916. I found a photograph of Arthur in the local paper but it was too fuzzy to reproduce here.
His brother Charles Henry Trowbridge had been a lamplighter before the war! He served with the 1st East Kent Buffs and died aged 23 at Ypres in April 1916. Previously employed at Ramsgate Gas and Water Works once he arrived in France with the Expeditionary Force he wrote to Mr Coleman, a corporation official, that he had arrived safely and was looking forward “ to get to work.”
In Plot EA, the Roman Catholic section of the cemetery, beyond the chapel to the left are the graves of two young seamen from Newfoundland who were in the Royal Naval Reserve. Patrick Curran accidentally drowned in October 1915 aged 23 and teenager Joseph Benoit was tragically killed by his best friend in a freak accident with a rifle on the deck of the HM Drifter Loyal Star, which was operating out of RamsgateHarbour in May 1915.
Buried separately are two casualties of the explosion aboard HMS Princess Irene which took place in May 1915 in Sheerness dockyard. These Ramsgate men, Frank Adams (Plot DA) and Hilary JB Farley (Plot GC) were well-known local shipwrights who were seconded to Auxiliary Ship Princess Irene to undertake Government work were on board the vessel, which was undergoing re-fitting. Mr Farley, who left Ramsgate about five months ago, left a widow and one little boy. He had been in the employ of the Board of Trade, at Ramsgate, and lived at Boundary Road. Mr Farley died on his twenty-eighth birthday.
Mr Frank Adams, who was 29 years of age, was a married man but left no family. He had been employed by Messrs Strevens and Stone, at Ramsgate, before leaving for Sheerness, and lived at Olive Grove, Trinity Place, but his wife had recently moved in order to be near him. Three other Ramsgate men died in the explosion but are not buried in Ramsgate cemetery.
Laura Probert (Between the Lines - newsletter of the Western Front Aossociation's East Kent Branch, Summer 2009)
On my recent visit down under I was not intentionally following a WWI trail but it started in Singapore when I stayed in a hotel in Kitchener Road, off which there were turnings named Verdunand Tyrwhitt Road. I arrived in Brisbane city centre in the middle of the following night so it wasn’t until much later in the day that I wandered into a tourist information kiosk and saw one of the assistants still wearing her poppy on what was by then 13th November. Her poppy was smaller than ours and had a more frilly black centre but she had the same problem keeping it on. When I told her about my interest in the First World War she told me she had attended the Armistice Day service on the 11th and suggested that I visit Brisbane’s Shrine of Remembrance. Then she asked where I was staying and I discovered that quite by chance I had booked a room in a hotel right next to Brisbane’s Anzac Square.
The Queensland War memorial, which was dedicated in 1930, occupies a two-level site opposite the Central Station. The top level consists of a seating area around a memorial rotunda, which is open to the sky.If you put your hand on a little metal column by the steps a suave Australian voice booms out a detailed three minute commentary about Anzac Square to anyone who is passing. An eternal flame of Remembrance for the 60,000 Queenslanders who fought in WWI is surrounded by a colonnade of 18 classic Doric columns topped by a frieze on which are written the names of Anzac WWI battle areas such as Villers-Bretonneaux,Amiens, Ypres, Messines, Bullecourt, Pozieres and the Hindenburg Line. Jerusalem was also mentioned but interestingly I do not remember seeing the name Gallipoli up there. As the Remembrance service had recently taken place some wreaths of artificial poppies and others of tropical Queensland flowers were still there.The steps leading down from the rotunda form the focus of the three radial pathways in the lower park area where there are monuments to other wars such as WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Second Boer War.In the subway below leading to the Central Station are the Shrine of Memories and the Crypt. The Crypt contains tributes for Australian and allied participants. Sadly by the time I got there the shrine was closed and the subway was full of Brisbane office workers anxious to get home. Later I found a leaflet from Australia’s RSL or Returned Servicemens’ League tucked in a neon sign outside an office block in the CBD or Central Business District. Their website is at www.rsl.org.au. Among the souvenirs on offer this year were “Lest we forget” wristbands, and metal poppy wreath badges which can also be used as tie-pins.I noticed three books for sale in Australia which may be of interest:-5 Star Registry CleanerCrownCare.com.au/TreeRemovalThe Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker (Penguin 2009)In the The Ghost at the Wedding novelist Shirley Walker shares the story of her husband’s family as they endure the loss and suffering brought about by the First and Second World Wars.Set in the cane fields of rural northern New South Wales, the streets of Sydney and the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Western Front, and the Kokoda Track, The Ghost at the Wedding focuses primarily on Jessie Walker and her parents, brothers, husband, in-laws and sons – and their loss, heartache, sacrifices and the incredible strength of character that enables them to continue to live and love in the aftermath of war.The Other Anzacsby Peter Rees (ALLEN and UNWIN 2008)When Australian and New Zealand men went to fight in the Great War, they entered the pages of Australia’s history, rightly earning the tag of heroes. But wherever the men fought, there were also women, bravely risking their lives to tend the wounded, the ill and the dying. The Other Anzacs is an in depth account of the lives and contribution of the nurses who volunteered to go to war and provide nursing support to not just Australian and New Zealand troops, but also to the wounded from other Allied nations, and even enemy soldiers. Using the unpublished diaries, letters and photographs of these women, as well as carefully researched facts, author Peter Rees provides not just a history of these women, but an insight into their emotions and sacrifices as he provides their firsthand accounts of the war. With approximately 3000 Australian and New Zealand women having served during the war, and forty-five killed and over two hundred decorated for their service, this isan important piece of Anzac history which must be preserved. Gallipoli Heroes by Graeme Massey 2004A tribute to the men of Western Victoria who gave their lives for their country.For details look at firstname.lastname@example.org