Jeanne Rathbone

South Battersea plaques walk

Posted in South Battersea plaques walk by sheelanagigcomedienne on August 6, 2021

I thought I ought to organise some Battersea plaques walks. The first one covers the south of Battersea. I decided on this as it is the 150th anniversary of the Wandsworth Common Act which is being celebrated by the Friends of Wandsworth Common this year. The Battersea Society agreed to unveiling a plaque to John Buckmaster at the Brighton Yard entrance to Clapham Junction Station.

Buckmaster spearheaded the campaign to prevent further encroachments of Wandsworth Common and to hand it over to trustees from Earl Spencer. It was already half the size it had been. Viscount Adrian Buckmaster his great grandson, unveiled the plaque, Sue Demont Chair of Battersea Society Heritage Committee, Sir Peter Hendy Chair of Network Rail and Lucy Mowatt Wandsworth Council Deputy Mayor spoke and I was MC. Afterwards we headed of to St Mark’s Triangle under the willow tree for refreshments with me leading them with my Down with the Fences placard. John Buckmaster was a fascinating man going from farm labourer aged ten, to Anti- Corn Laws paid agitator, to St John’s Teacher Training College in Battersea, teacher, lecturer, Battersea Vestryman, Wandsworth Common saviour etc. He lived in New Road/Prested Road which was taken over by the station development.

We met at the corner of Clapham Common Westside and Nightingale Lane on a very hot Sunday 18th July at 11.00 close to Hightrees House. In the Summer of 1962 I was staying with my sisters in Manchuria Road nearby and used to place tennis on the courts with a man who had a flat here.

Mad dogs and Englishmen came to mind although we were mainly women! Walk down Thurleigh Avenue for Gus Elen, Music hall comedian, back down Holmside to Nightingale Lane to number 40 for Henry Mayo Bateman cartoonist, then to 99 Elizabeth House on the opposite side of the road for Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, on to Nightingale House for Lord Wandsworth who donated the house and grounds to establish the Jewish Elders Home with a plaque to Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis world champion boxer, crossover to go down Hendrick Avenue to 24 Morella Road the home of Ida and Louise Cook, opera-loving Jewish rescuers, who do not have a proper plaque as the owners won’t agree to having one yet, and on to 26 Bolingbroke Grove which is now Northcote Lodge School, formerly Linden Lodge School for the Blind, which has the plaque to Sir George Shearing Jazz composer who was a pupil there.

 Gus Elen1862-1940 music hall performer and comedian lived at 3 Thurleigh Avenue from  1898. Plaque unveiled in 1979 by GLC. He achieved success from 1891, performing cockney songs including “Arf a Pint of Ale”, “It’s a Great Big Shame”, and “If It Wasn’t for the ‘Ouses in Between” in a career lasting over thirty years.

Born in Pimlico, he worked as a barman, a draper’s assistant and packed eggs for the Co-op before becoming a singer. He began busking at an early age and singing in a minstrel troupe. His solo success began in 1891 when he started performing in public houses, singing similar to costermongers, dressed in a coster uniform of striped jersey, peaked cap turned towards one ear and a short clay pipe in the side of his mouth,  adopted a persona of being constantly bad tempered and pugnacious.

In 1907 he starred in a short film called Wait Till the Work Comes Round. He was scouted to go to the US around the time of the Music Hall strike where he was  . He then made several appearances as a top attraction in music halls across London. He retired in 1914. He appeared on stage occasionally in the1930s, in the 1935 Royal command Performance. He was well known for his involvement in charity events, was a fiercely private person, bred poultry, took up photography, became a keen fisherman, and enjoyed shooting. He died in 1940 aged 77 and is  buried in Streatham Park Cemetery. There are some videos and recordings of him.

 Henry Mayo Bateman 1887 – 1970 20th century cartoonist and caricaturist at 40 Nightingale Lane

Plaque erected in 1997 by English Heritage. H M Bateman moved here from Clapham with his parents in 1910, at the age of 23. The area provided rich pickings for his satirical exposés of middle-class suburban manners. H. M. Bateman was noted for his ‘The Man Who…’ series of cartoons, featuring comically exaggerated reactions to minor usually upper-class social gaffes, such as ‘The Man Who Lit His Cigar Before the Royal Toast’.

Born New South Wales, soon returned to England, he was always drawing from an early age, consistently producing funny drawings that told stories, attended Forest Hill House School, studied at Westminster School of Art when 16 transferred his study to the New Cross Art school (Goldsmiths College).

  In 1908 aged 21 nervous breakdown, changed from illustrated jokes to funny self explanatory cartoons. rejected by the army in WW1 he went depressed to a remote inn on Dartmoor prodigiously producing strip cartoons that immediately gripped the public and the attention of his fellow artists by 1921 developed into ‘Man who series’ becoming the most highly paid cartoonist in the country, sought after by advertisers, engaged in America and Australia, published in Europe. battle with the Inland Revenue, gave up humorous art before WW2.

Married Brenda, two children, Diana, Cartoon Museum co-founder, Monica artist as are Tilly and Lucy grand daughters. I got in touch with Lucy and bought one of her watercolours that I said reminded me of Heaney’s poem Girls Bathing at Salthill 1965. Lucy is a prolific artist and runs art tours and courses.

Bateman lived at Curridge north of  Newbury Berkshire. After he stopped doing cartoons Henry travelled andpainted around Britain and overseas pursuing his old dream of becoming a “serious painter”. He left for Gozo alone  in the sixties. He died in his 82th year there, still painting every day. He lived simply and modestly in a quiet hotel, in a room with the finest view. Lucy went there with one of her groups and retraced and painted many of the scenes he painted and wrote an article about it.

A centenary celebration of his work was exhibited at the Royal festival hall in 1987. I shall be doing a talk in November at St Mary’s Church of three male plaque recipients including Bateman alongside playwright Sean O’Casey who lived at 49 Overstrand Mansions Prince of Wales Drive opposite Battersea Park and war sculptor Charles Sargent Jagger who lived at 67 Albert Bridge Road. The last two will also feature in a north Battersea plaques walk and blog.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon 1834–1892) was an English Particular Baptist preacher Helensburgh, built around 1864 by William Higgs for the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, replacing an earlier house of the same name. drawn by the area’s ‘secludedness’

Now Queen Elizabeth House, twelve flats for sheltered housing. By today’s standards, the house in Nightingale Lane would seem quite large enough for a minister and his family, but Spurgeon’s status as leading evangelical preacher  of the day demanded a considerable staff, moved to a palatial home called Westwood in what is now  Spurgeon Road, Upper Norwood, where he employed two secretaries, a butler, cook, maids, gardeners and a coachman. Up high,  its greater distance from the fogs of London helped to alleviate his chest problems.  The site is now occupied by a girls’ school.

Spurgeon was pastor for 38 years of the congregation of the New Park Street Chapel later the Metroplitan Tabernacle an  Independent Reformed Baptist church in the Elephant and Castle. It was the largest non-conformist  church of its day in 1861in London, with a 6,000-seat auditorium., burned down in 1898, portico and basement survived, destroyed again in 1957. The Tabernacle rebuilt, much smaller with surviving original features.

By 1970 the congregation had fallen left the Baptist union again on Dr. Peter Masters became pastor, same issues as as 1887. Numbers increased, and hosts an annual School of Theology, part-time Seminary, five Sunday schools, live-streaming of services. controversies with the Baptist Union of Great Britain left the denomination.

Spurgeon authored sermons, an autobiography, commentaries, books on prayer, devotionals,his oratory skills spellbound , remains highly influential among Christians known as the “Prince of Preachers”.

Spoke unrehearsed and freely. “Dramatic to his fingertips,” ,wandered the platform, acting out bible stories with graphic, emotion-packed language, his sermons are never unduly complex or flowery, but immensely practical and encouraging. They are full of wit and concrete examples. Some were offended by his sentimentalism and charismatic sensationalism called him “the pulpit buffoon.”Pulpit Buffoon or Finest Preacher of His Day.

Marriage was a loving and mutually supportive partnership, both endured their share of physical and mental struggles. a difficult delivery left her house-bound for much of her life despite seeing the best consultants and surgeons. She remained active in ministry, publishing several of her own books and overseeing a vast book distribution ministry that was a huge blessing to many pastors.

He also founded Spurgeons College to train men who had limited formal education, no academic requirements for admission. More than 150 years later, the theological centre still exists today. It was only six years after his own conversion in 1850 at the age of 16 that he founded the college that bears his name.   During his lifetime nearly 900 pastors trained at the College and almost 200 new churches were planted in Britain alone.  

He also founded Stockwell Orphanage, which opened for boys in 1867 and for girls in 1879, and which continued in London until it was bombed in the WW2 became Spurgeons Children’s Charity which still exists. Now, each year we will typically have contact with around 30,000 children and young people and protect hundreds from harm, supports around 800 young people through our young carers services in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. These young people are caring for a family member with an illness or disability. They have to grow up too fast.

His opposition slavery, lost support from the Southern Baptists he received scores of threatening and insulting letters as a consequence. The “Prince of Preachers” final sermon June of 1891. Six months later Jan 1892  he died. at Menton near Nice where he often recuperated, France. His funeral procession was witnessed by vast crowds, with flags at half mast and shops closed.   He enjoyed cigars and smoked a “F. P Del Rio y Ca.” in his last days according to his grandson. Spurgeon was survived by his wife and sons.

His remains were buried at West Norwood where the tomb is still visited by admirers, has a sculpted marble portrait and bible open at the text I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  This is directly in front of the entrance to the crematorium where I have conducted many Humanist funerals.

There are more titles by Spurgeon in print than any other Christian author/preacher living or dead.

Sidney Stern Sydney James Stern, 1st Baron Wandsworth, JP  1844 –912 was a British banker, Liberal MP, philanthropist and member of the Stern banking family. In 1907 The Home for Aged Jews moved to ‘Ferndale House’ which was bequeathed by Lord Wandsworth.

Sidney Stern Lord Wandsworth

He was educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge and was also admitted to the Inner Temple in 1874. He worked in his father’s firm of Stern Brothers. The Stern family traces its root back to the 17th century merchants of Frankfurt’s Jewish Quarter. In 1805, Jacob Stern converted the family business into a bank called Jacob S.H. Stern & Co., which became one of the most prominent banking institution in Germany. He sent his sons from Frankfurt to build banks in three of the most important European capitals, Paris, London and Berlin, where they prospered over the subsequent two centuries. David and Hermann Stern set up in London. Stern Bros. of 57 Gracechurch Street, London EC, were merchant banks and manufacturers of lubricating oils (suppliers of Sternoline). In 1869, King Luis 1 of Portugal conferred the noble title of visconde on David Stern in recognition of the work of Stern’s bank in floating Portuguese loans. In the United Kingdom, the family historically supported many causes, including social welfare in London’s East End, support for those affected by the First World War and other causes.  Herbert Stern, Lord Michelham, bequeathed the quadriga Wellington Arch 1912. In 1883, Baron Herman de Stern acquired Strawberry Hill House, Horace Walpole’s gothic fantasy, in Twickenham, Herbert Strawberry Hill saw countless magnificent gatherings.

Sydney Stern decided he wanted to go into politics. He unsuccessfully contested the Middle Division of Surrey in 1880 and 1884, Tiverton in 1885, Ipswich in 1886 MP for Stowmarket in a by-election in 1891, 19 July 1895 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Wandsworth, of Wandsworth in the County of London (he also held a Portuguese viscountcy by right of his father). His elevation to the peerage was a quid pro quo for donations he had made to Gladstone. The then Liberal Prime Minister Lord Rosebery was only willing to fulfill that promise (given his own commitment to Lords reform) after receiving a written request from Gladstone that he honour the deal. He was a Justice of the Peace Surrey and London, was awarded the rank of honorary colonel in the 4th volunteer battalion of the East Surrey Regiment . He served as vice-president of the London and Counties Radical Union.

He died at his London home, 10 Great Stanhope Street, Mayfair, on 10 February 191T. He remained unmarried. There is no information on his private life so I suspect he was gay. The Barony became extinct. He left an estate £1,555,985 and bequeathed to charity, over a million being given to found the Lord Wandsworth Orphanage.

In 1920 (after delays caused by  WW1) a preparatory school for boys and girls between 5 and 12 years old at Gosden House in Baramley Surrey was opened. Preference was given to the children of agricultural labourers of his Stowmarket Suffolk. Pupils would leave the school by the age of 13, the girls continuing their education in Guildfprd while the boys went on to the Lord Wandsworth Agricultural College in  Long Sutton Hampshire, which is now known as Lord Wandsworth College Alumni are known as Sternians. The school became fee-paying for students in 1946. The 1,200-acre site houses the College buildings, facilities and Stern Farm.

Nightingale had its origins the Hand in Hand Asylum for Decayed Tradesmen (founded 1840), the Widows’ Home Asylum (founded 1843) and the Jewish Workhouse also known as the Jewish 1871.

In 1904 Lord Wandsworth purchased a large mansion called Ferndale and its grounds in Nightingale Lane Balham for £5,200 and donated it to the charity.  

In 1907 the Home for Aged Jews moved from its existing premises in Hackney to ‘Ferndale’ at 105 Nightingale Lane, SW12. The plaque states: This freehold building and the land in which it stands were presented for the purposes of a home for the aged poor of the Jewish faith by the Rt. Honourable Lord Wandsworth in memory of his father David Viscount de Stern and his mother Sophia Viscountess de Stern. The lower plaque inscription : This stone was laid by the Right Honourable Lord Wandsworth on July 17th 1906.
Wm. Flockhart F.R.I.B.A. Architect.
Wm. Johnson & Co. Ltd. Builders.

In the 1970’s The Home for the Aged Jews officially became known as Nightingale House, in 1997 the Home was renamed Nightingale. The residents by then were much frailer and dependent requiring greater levels of nursing and paramedical staff. The average age of residents in 2001 was 88 years. There have been various additions – Clore Art and Craft Centre (1986) and Balint Wing (1987). In 1960s Nightingale House 105 Nightingale Lane, Wandsworth LB.

Ted Kid Lewis Ted “Kid” Lewis born Gershon Mendeloff 1893 –1970  in 2003 plaque unveiled by his son, Morton. 

Born Gershon Mendelhoff in October 1893, he was the third of eight children, his Jewish parents having fled persecution in their native Russia. The family lived in a gas-lit tenement on Umberston Street in Whitechapel, forming part of a growing Jewish diaspora in London’s East End.

Like much of the area’s population, both native and immigrant, the Mendelhoff family was poor. The young Gershon suffered at the hands of local Irish boys who goaded him about his Jewish heritage, and he fought back with his fists. It is said that a local policeman first steered the youngster towards the fight game, spotting the boy in a street brawl and recognising his latent pugilistic ability. Gershon soon joined the Judean Athletic Club and began competing as ‘Kid Lewis’, supposedly in homage to the great welterweight champion and fellow Jewish fighter Harry Lewis (Ted was not added until years later, when he travelled to America).

Lewis spent much of his early career fighting at the Judean, as well as the newly opened Premierland venue on Whitechapel’s Black Church Street. He turned pro aged 14 and competed almost fortnightly throughout 1910 and 1911 as he sought to hone his craft. 

His career soon took him overseas, with Lewis embarking on the long sea journeys to Australia and then on to America to find fights, his options having become scarce in Britain following the outbreak of World War I. When in Australia rather then returning home Lewis and Goodman headed off to America, the decision apparently made on the toss of a coin. “TK was later to wonder whether the coin that had been used was a double-tailed one”

It was in the U.S. that Lewis found his greatest success and, for a time, became a genuine celebrity. His breakthrough fight came in August 1915, when he headed to Boston to take on the Irish-American fighter Jack Britton, nicknamed ‘the Boxing Marvel’. Britton and Lewis were to fight another 19 times over the next 6 years, one of the great rivalries of boxing history Lewis emerged as the victor on points and thus claimed the world welterweight championship. In doing so, he became the first British boxer to win a global title on American soil. He met his future wife Elsie Schneider in New York, and became a close friend of Charlie Chaplin, who would act as godfather to Lewis’ son Morton.

He was in the US and encouraged by the British Embassy to remain as propaganda during WW1, signed up and became a boxing instructor with the US Army. He met and fell in love with Elsie Schneider and it was a very happy marriage of forty-five years until her death. They had their only child Morton who became a film maker and wrote his father’s biography referring to him as TK.

TK continued to fight until he retired  in 1929, he served as a boxing referee, some acting roles, a bookmaker, a purveyor of wines and spirits, a security officer, a travel agent and he also made numerous personal appearances as a celebrity. He loved it all according to Morton, who often accompanied his Dad as he was involved as a film maker especially of boxing documentaries.

In the early thirties TK became involved with Oswald Mosley who was chief of the New Party. Naive TK was mesmerised by the charisma and oratory of Mosley when he said he wanted to fight for the poor of the East End. TK was flattered when he asked him to be the physical instructor to the bodyguards. He was persuaded to stand as a candidate in Whitechapel in 1931. When TK was warned by his friends that Mosley was anti-semitic so he went to confront him about it. The account by Morton is very funny. When Mosley admitted it TK, who had brought young Morton with him, sent Mosley flying against a wall and knocked out the two brown shirted henchmen flat and left but took Morton around the corner and went back and did the same for the two bodyguards at the entrance.

The widowed TK lived from 1966 at Nightingale House and died there at the age of 76. after living there for four years. These were among the happiest years of his life, according to Morton, who unveiled the plaque in Nightingale House, He is buried in East Ham Jewish Cemetery.

Ida 1904 –1986 and Louise Cook1901–1991 lived at 24 Morella Road, no plaque yet, rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s, helping 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida’s writing. In 1965, they were honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel.

I have written a blog on them.

Ida and Louise Cook had lived in Sunderland where their father was a Customs and Excise Officer was based, then they moved to Alnwick where they were educated the Duchess’ School there opposite the castle . Eventually, they settled in 24 Morella Road SW12 and lived there for the next sixty years. Louise started to work for the Ministry of education and Ida followed her as a copy typist. The two civil servants became avid opera lovers, started following their stars to US, Germany and Austria.

This began when Louise came home excited from a lunchtime classical music concert and they decided to buy a gramophone and ten records two of which were of sopranos and one was by Amelita Galli-Curci . They went to hear her sing at the Albert Hall in a concert and resolved to go to hear her at The Met in New York where she sang in opera. it took two years saving up from their salaries and they made their own outfits for it. This was the start of their decision to follow their favourite stars. They became groupies collecting autographs and taking photos as they hung about at the stage doors. American Rosa Ponselle was the next singer with whom they became friends with. They became friends with bass Ezio Penza, Tito Gobi with whom Ida ghost wrote his biography and the conductor Klemens Krauss and his wife soprano Viorica Ursuleac.

This was financed by Ida who had written occasional articles for Mabs Fashions, was persuaded to give up her day job to become as a sub editor with the magazine by Miss Taft the editor. Ida was then encouraged to write short stories, then a serial Wife to Christopher when she was introduced to Charles Boon.

Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell for Mills and Boon.

It was in the thirties that they were approached by Clemens and Viorica . to help Jewish people to leave Austria and Germany as the Nazis were beginning to persecute and exclude them jobs. The first was the musicologist Frau Mayer-Lissmann. They developed a modus operandi. Louise learned German and they began making frequent trips back and forth to Germany, flying out of Croydon Airport on Friday nights, in an era when commercial air travel was not at all common, and returning by train and boat from the Netherlands, in time for Louise to get to her office on Monday morning.  verything you had, and when you came out you were checked again.” They adapted by entering at one checkpoint, wearing no jewelry, wristwatches, and leaving through another, positively glittering. That way, they wouldn’t see the same officials twice, “and there was no one to notice that we had become rather overdressed English girls with a taste for slightly too much jewellery.” If they got challenged they would claim to be two nervous eccentric opera lovers who didn,t trust their family to leave behind their jewelry.They also changed the labels for English ones on the fur coats that they wore. They organised paperwork, did a lot of fund raising and getting sponsors for the people they were rescuing. I was risky work but they got on with it. They got a flat in Dolphin Square Chelsea for people in transit.

Klemens would even allow them to choose what opera he would stage and they stayed openly in grand hotels often in close proximity to high ranking Nazis.

In 1966 to 1986 Ida was the second president of, the Romantic Novelists Association, in 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars, later re-edited as Safe Passage.

Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell for Mills and Boon, 1966 to 1986 was the second president of, the Romantic Novelists Association, in 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars, later re-edited as Safe Passage.

Film  Donald Rosenfeld discussed plans to make a film of the sisters’ humanitarian based on a biography of the sisters by investigative journalist Isabel Vincent. Cate Blanchett Emma Thompson. I do hope that the owners of 24 Morella Road will agree to allowing a Battersea Society plaque on the home that Ida and Louise Cook lived in quietly for nearly sixty years.

Sir George Shearing, OBE 1919 –2011) jazz pianist and composerwho led a popular jazz group of over 300 titles, including the jazz standards  Lullaby of Broadway had multiple albums in the charts the 50s-90s. The plaque was unveiled 2017 by Alyn Shipton at 26 Bolingbroke Grove Northcote Lodge School, Battersea attended by lots of George’s family with written tributes from Brian Kaye of the King Singers who was a neighbour of George and Ellie when they came in the Summer to stay in the Cotswolds and from David Blunkett MP and Roger Legate Head of Lindon Lodge now in Wimbledon..  Charlotte Kirwan pianist and organist played the duet she had played when George visited the school in 1962 when she was pupil. Two pupils played one of George’s compositions accompanied by their music teacher. I have written a blog on George.

George born at 67 Arthur Street, Battersea, blind from birth, youngest  of nine, father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains in the evening. He started to learn piano at the age he attended Linden Lodge School 4 years received training in classical piano, learned to read music by Braille.

He was offered several scholarships, opted to perform at pub Masons Arms Lambeth, for 225 bob a week”. He joined an all-blind band, Claude Bampton’s Blind Orchestra. He was influenced by the records of Teddy Wilsom and Fats Waller. He played on BBC radio after being befriended by Leonard Feather, with whom he started recording in 1937. In 1942 he was recruited by Stephane Grapelli (domiciled in London during WW”) to join his band, which appeared at Hatchets Restaurant in Piccadilly in the early years of the war, toured as “the Grappelly Swingtette” from 1943 onwards. He won six consecutive Top Pianist Melody Makers polls. In 1947 he emigrated to the US with his then wife Trixie Bayes from 1941 to 1973 and his daughter, Wendy.

Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, his last years split between New York and Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, where he bought a house with his second wife, singer Ella Geifert, whom he married two years after his dovorce. He continued to give concerts in the UK. In 2004, he released his memoirs, Lullaby of Birdland with Alyn Shipton.

Classical music performances with concert orchestras in 50s/60s, solos drew Satie, Delius and Debussy. His piano technique known as “The Shearing Sound”Shearing and Tormé two Grammys, one in 1983 and another in 1984.

He was appointed OBE in 1996. In 2007, knighted. “”the poor, blind kid from Battersea became Sir George Shearing. Now that’s a fairy tale come true.

 in 1992 he was the subject of This is Your Life with Michael Aspel at Ronnie Scotts.

George suffered a fall at his home and retired from regular performing. He died of heart failure in New York City, at the age of 91. He is commemorated in Battersea with the George Shearing Centre.

I think that is an interesting motley group remembered in that walk.

Jack Stanford Battersea’s Eccentric Dancer

Posted in Jack Stanford eccentric dancer by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 14, 2021

I had an inquiry about a Battersea variety dancer Jack Stanford. He was usually referred to as an eccentric dance or elastic dancer and the ‘The Dancing Fool’. This came to the Battersea Society from his daughter Jill who is an actor and lives in Streatham. She came over to see me with her ‘Jack-in-the-suitcase’ full of his memorabilia, especially his scrapbook of press cuttings, photos and programmes. She had put off doing something with her treasure trove of her Dad’s ephemera and I think this has kick started her acting on it. Jill has written this biography, agreed to me doing a post on Jack and she has started a Facebook page.

Obviously, I was happy to help publicise her Dad and his entertaining talent and adding him to our roster of significant Battersea folk.

Jack Stanford was born Charles Finnegan Williams in Colchester, Essex on 26th June 1900 to Harold Hearne Williams, a chemist and Eliza Finnegan. He had two sisters, Ida and Laurie. A lot of his boyhood was spent in Outwood near Wakefield and he thought of himself as a Yorkshireman although he settled in Battersea, South London in the thirties.

He first went on stage in melodrama, playing straight parts with no thought of being a comedian. Indeed his first ambition was to be a tragedian and make people cry. He started with a pierrot group troupe and used to do all sorts of comic turns, but gradually the eccentric dancing in his repertoire were requested more and more and so he concentrated on it. He played in concert parties, and eventually became a recruit in variety.

After a brief eighteen months in the army in Northern Ireland, his first big hit was in Monte Carlo in an Albert de Courville review in 1925, where he promptly lost all his money at The Casino! He then got a job at Capitole Cabaret where he remained until he danced back his losses. At the Cosmo Club on September, 19th 1926, he was billed as “The Pavlova of Comedy Dancing.”

By 1927 He was at The Folies-Bergere, Paris on the bill with Josephine Baker. Priscilla writing in The Tatler said, “a male dancer who looks like a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd absolutely to use the be-whiskered phrase, ‘brought the house down.’ An india- rubber puppet…but also such humour in his antics that were either too rapid to follow or else curiously rallentando-ed of a moving picture.”

By April 1928 he was in Greenwich Village Follies at The Winter Garden, New York. Agnes Wickfield in The (Book) World said, “This contribution, which is one of the most original and skilful that has appeared for several seasons, marks Mr Stanford’s first appearance on the New York revue stage.

Back in England, he appeared at The Brighton Hippodrome with The Houston Sisters. An amazing review in The Brighton and Hove Herald said,

“Jack Stanford is surely the greatest eccentric dancer of the day. He is at one time amazing and uproariously funny. If you have seen Ben Blue, you have seen good eccentric dancing. If you have seen Hal Sherman, you have seen eccentric dancing almost as good as it can be. But not until you have seen Jack Stanford have you seen eccentric dancing at its amazing best.”

This led to Charles B Cochran’s “And So We Go On” at The Trocadero where he topped the bill. Then The London Pavilion in December 1928. The Scala Berlin followed in 1929, Zurich, and then back to Paris and Ciro’s Club where his engagement was extended due to his great success. Other venues include Hotel Spendide Piccadilly, and The Cosmo Club.

By January 1930 he was in another Charles B Cochran’s show, “Wake Up And Dream,” at The London Pavilion with Sonnie Hale and Madeline Gibson which also toured. A review in The Birmingham Post, 29th April 1930 said, “the gayest time of all is when Mr Jack Stanford, who appears to be not merely double- jointed but treble jointed, gives an exhibition all by himself. He is a kind of Mickey Mouse, whose limbs wave with the most delightful freedom, so that he does not move about so much as flow. If the human form can ever become fluid, Jack Stanford is the anticipator of a new race. He has an excellent sense of rhythm, and a comic style, but like all perfect examples of art, his performance is really indescribable.”

He appeared at The London Palladium in June 1930 and on 13th May 1931 in The Royal Variety Performance in front of the King and Queen. The Performer said, “Jack Stanford “Jack Stanford billed as ‘The Dancing Fool’ is regarded as one of the foremost exponents in the country of the eccentric dancing style, alternatively described as ‘filleted footwork’ and ‘eccentric motion’.” And The News of the World said “Gracie Fields took the honours in the first half, and after that wonderful eccentric dancer, Jack Stanford, had done his bit, he shared the honours with her.”

Again at The Palladium in January 1932, The Savoy Hotel, The Holborn Empire in March and The Victoria Palace in August. A review at The Prince of Wales by W.J.B. said “Jack is an enormous success; his dancing is as brilliant as ever and he can act some, too!”

A review in The Manchester Guardian on 11th October 1932 from the show at The Hippodrome shows Jack in a slightly different light. “Jack Stanford’s eccentric dancing is very odd indeed. It is like a sort of contortionist folk-dancing of which the folk are all lost, or the display -dance of a bird of which only one example is known, or the fantastic self-expression of a mute brought up on an uninhabited island. At any rate it is a solitude of dancing, full of excellent mime. With this he does remarkable things alone. His partner in the Apache dance is invisible, but it is clear that she refuses him and dies on his hands, incomprehensively. So he cuts her up, as a rational savage would, and carries her off in his suitcase. One goes to the music-hall in the hope of finding something rich and strange. Here it is.”

It was in the mid- thirties that some of his work was filmed and can be seen on The British Pathe Website. In 1935, The King of Eccentric Dancers-Jack Stanford in one of his famous novelty dances, dancing to Hungarian Rhapsody. And in 1937 Going Places where you can also hear him sing.

In 2016 Greg Ohlback made a version of this to Bruno Mars Uptown Funk which can be seen on You Tube and has helped to bring him to notice again in the dancing world.

At some point in the 30’s Jack purchased a house in Battersea, 140 Mallinson Road and his parents lived there with him. At different times several family members lived there with him and it was not sold out of the family until 1984. At that time a World War 2 bomb was found under the front room!

Is this elastic dancer Jack? I think it is.

In 1935, Jack found himself In Bright Times at The Pier Pavilion, Llandudno where he first met Marjorie, one of the Volonoff Twins, who had appeared performing the mirror dance at The London Coliseum when they were only seventeen. She was thirteen years his junior and her mother disapproved. Soon after that he married Mary Carveth and his daughter Suzanne was born in August 1939. Sadly, Mary died during the war of TB and Suzanne was largely brought up by her grandparents in Bognor Regis. As soon as she could Suzanne made her life in San Diego where she still lives surrounded by her very large family. Unfortunately after leaving the UK she didn’t get to see her father again.

Jack started to appear in pantomime. In 1938 he was in Emile Littler’s Goody Two Shoes as “Muddles” at The Leeds Grand with Eddie Gray.

He kept working during the war. Notably, Apple Sauce a review which had to be withdrawn from the Holborn Empire due to enemy action. It reappeared at The Palladium with Vera Lynn and Max Miller. He appeared in a Royal Command performance at Windsor Castle, “as an added attraction” in front of King George, Queen Elizabeth and the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret and apparently everyone chatted so long afterwards that a matinee back in London was missed. Sir Oswald Stoll wrote about the bravery of Tommy Trinder, Eddie Gray, Artemus and Jack Stanford who performed at the Bristol Hippodrome, the night after the heavy raid there.

Another success was Panama Hattie, the Cole Porter musical. Max Wall, Richard Hearne and Jack Stanford played three British Navy sailors with Bebe Daniels and Claude Hulbert as the butler.

In 1946, Marjorie of The Volonoff Twins wrote to Jack. After a brief acting career as Marjorie Matthews following her sister Joan’s marriage to Derek Salberg, and reuniting with her to entertain the troupes with ENSA during the war, she had taken over the theatrical costumiers Sally Spruce in Greek St. A year later they married. He had a duodenal ulcer at the time which later seemed to be cured by a faith healer. In November 1950, his second daughter Jill was born when he himself was fifty.

In the 1950’s he continued to perform abroad. Tripoli, Malta, South Africa, Rhodesia. He topped the bill in Let’s Go Gay in Cape Town, “Jack Stanford had the audience rolling in its seats if not in the aisles.”

An ambition was to play Fagin in Oliver as he got older but sadly not to be. However, he did play the jockey in The Arcadians in 1955, playing at The Streatham Hill Theatre in the November, with his five year old daughter in the audience. The actor, Jonathan Cecil, a lifelong fan, did a moving tribute performance to him playing this role for The Max Wall Society and also at The Lancaster Hall Hotel for the British Music Hall Society on 8th March 2005 with an address from his daughter Jill.

On February 13th 1956, another Royal Command in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother at The Scala Theatre for the CAA. The actor Jonathon Cecil was a fan of Jack’s and appreciated his unique talent.

Jack continued to work mostly in pantomime and summer seasons for Cyril Fletcher until his health started to fail. Mostly performing his later life routines, the ‘Paul Jones’ burlesque and his ‘deckchair’ routine, a funny sketch about trying to put up a deckchair and failing. He appeared on The Des O’Connor show on TV briefly.

He died at his home in Battersea of lung cancer on April 29th 1968, aged 67 survived by Marjorie and his two daughters.

I am glad to share this information on Jack for Jill and will probably add more. In the meantime Enjoy.

Mary Tealby founder of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home

Posted in Mary Tealby founder of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 4, 2021

Mary was the founder of the Battersea Dogs Home and supporter of the RSPCA. Sadly, there is no photograph of Mary.

Mary Bates was born in 1801 in Huntingdon, the eldest of three children.  Her father was a chemist/druggist, so her provincial life was probably not very privileged, although her younger brotherw as sent to Clare College, Cambridge, and could look forward to clerical livings.  In her late twenties she was married on her 28th birthday, to a timber merchant named Robert Tealby.  The family firm had a number of businesses in Hull. She settled into married life there The couple had no children. She had long been a supporter of the RSPCA in Hull, and continued to contribute to the work of the charity.

At some point they must have decided to separate.  Mary moved from Hull to London in the early 1850s, probably in order to nurse her ailing mother, but temporary necessity became permanent separation by 1860.  Mary lived at her mother’s home, 20 Victoria Road, Holloway now ( Chillingworth Road), Holloway,with her father and her brother the Reverend Edward Yates. She kept her surname for convenience after she she divorced and apparently she talked of herself as a widow.

She cared for an abandoned dog that had been found by her friend Sarah Major, but it died despite her nursing and she decided to set up a place where abandoned dogs could be cared for initially in her scullery but as the number of dogs delivered to her grew and the Islington Gazette reported her view, having found so many starving dogs in that district alone, that ‘the aggregate amount of suffering amongst those faithful creatures throughout London must be very dreadful indeed’.

The home was located in stables behind 15 and 16 Hollingsworth Street (now occupied by Freightliners Farm and Paradise Park) and was opened on 2 October 1860. It is lovely that it has not been built over and eradicated. Freightliners City Farm is a 2.5 acres green space in the very urban London Borough of Islington. It is a small community farm where a diverse range of people take part in farming and gardening and people can visit and spend time in a countryside type environment in the city. Experience a working farm in action. Freightliner’s Farm has an animal village, rare breed animals, solar dome, straw bale building, bee hive and sensory garden.

The home was where lost dogs could be retrieved by their owners. As the rules made clear the home was to be neither a permanent home for ‘old, worn out favourites’ nor a hospital, but a ‘temporary refuge to which humane persons may send only those lost dogs so constantly seen in the streets’. This was she called “The Temporary Home for and Starving Dogs” funded by herself, her brother and Sarah Major. The costs were met by asking for donations and Mary and Sarah Major found several generous backers. In 1860 the RSPCA agreed to assist and the committee meetings were held at the RSPCA offices at 12 Pall Mall.

The first meeting of the committee running the home was held on 27 November 1860 at the premises of the RSPCA in Pall Mall, with Mary Tealby in the chair. She was not a wealthy woman and much of the committee’s early work focused on essential fund-raising. By 1861 she had become a life governor of the home. She formed a group of like-minded individuals.

However, her enthusiasm for helping stray animals did not curry much favour with Victorian society whose moral concerns were waking up to the plight of the city’s many poor, considered to be a far more important issue than the fate of ‘dumb and unwanted’ animals. The home was also roundly mocked by elements of the press. The Times launched a scathing attack on 18 October 1860. While praising advances in animal welfare, it scorned the home as a step too far: “From the sublime to the ridiculous – from the reasonable inspirations of humanity to the fantastic exhibitions of ridiculous sentimentalism – there is but a single step… When we hear of a ‘Home for Dogs’, we venture to doubt if the originators and supporters of such an institution have not taken leave of their sober senses.”

It was Charles Dickens who helped turn public opinion in Mary’s favour. In 1862 he wrote an article for a magazine entitled All the Year Round in support of the home. Two Dog Shows played on the notion of the peculiar British love of animals and praised Mary’s initiative, comparing it with the forerunner of Crufts Dog Show. Such was Dicken’s standing in Victorian society at that time that public opinion began to turn. The home acquired Royal patronage through Queen Victoria – Queen Elizabeth is its patron today.

The Amazing Battersea Dogs Home - LondonDucklings

When Mary became ill with cancer she went to stay with their cousin Mrs Robert Weale who lived with her husband at The Elms in Biggleswade (now demolished). It was a large Victorian House in extensive grounds at the corner of Dells Lane and London Road. Robert Weale was a poor law inspector and by all accounts they lived a comfortable life with five servants and two gardeners. She died in 1865 aged sixty-three so did not survive to see the home’s move to its now famous location in Battersea in 1871.

Her grave can be found in a secluded corner of the churchyard behind the Chapter House and is inscribed ‘Mary Tealby, widow born December 30th 1801 – Died October 3rd 1865’.. She and her brother were buried in the same grave in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Biggleswade. The dogs’ home committee recorded their loss, declaring Mary Tealby to be a ‘kind-hearted and generous lady’. Her grave has been restored in 2011.

There is a plaque commemorating Mary in Islington. Mary came top of he poll to decide which former Islington resident most deserved a plaque in their honour. the plaque was was unveiled at Freightliners Farm in Sheringham Road, close to the original site of the Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in Hollingsworth Street. Members of Mary’s family, the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and Freightliners Farm attended the unveiling the plaque on 2 October 2015 at Freightliners Farm. October 6, 2015

An Islington People’s Plaque to Mary Tealby

Edward Bates and Sarah Major continued with the home after its move to Battersea Battersea Cats and Dogs home has seen many changes and developments over the years.

“Battersea has always been known for our work with dogs and was originally set up to help dogs living on the streets of London.In 1883 that all changed. Following a donation of £500 by Mr Richard Barlow Kennett, Battersea began to welcome cats as well as dogs. Mr Kennett’s generous gift was entirely conditional on the organisation agreeing to start taking in cats, so that’s what we did. In that first year Battersea took in a total of 48 stray cats in addition to thousands of dogs.

The original cattery, Whittington Lodge, the world’s first purpose built cattery, designed by the renowned architect Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis still stands at the London centre today and is a heritage listed building.

In 2002, in order to reflect our growing feline intake we changed our name to ‘Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’. In 2018 we went one step further and rebranded as ‘Battersea.’

In our 160 years of history Battersea has cared for more than 3.1 million animals. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of our supporters. From our 1,000th volunteer to Paul O’Grady, take a look at some of the other milestones which have helped us to become one of the UK’s oldest and most famous animal rescue centres.

The Queen unveiled the plaque on the Mary Tealby Kennels  and paddocks which are for for the new dogs experiencing their first few days at in the dogs home. The new, world-class facilities are designed to minimise stress and infection and introduce a calming environment. These redesigned kennels help keep noise and anxiety levels to a minimum, have underfloor heating, lots of light, air and space and an outside run for each dog.

It is interesting to note that one of the only fields where women hold a a higher percentage of executive roles than men and dominate by sheer numbers is in animal welfare. Female legislators are also more likely support animal protection legislation, making women true allies of dogs on every front. Mary Tealby was a pioneer in animal welfare and challenging male cruelty to animals for gain as hunters, poachers and entertainment or sheer cruelty.

As we know Battersea has been prominent in animal welfare. Historian Dr Hilda Keen has written about Battersea and animal welfare and gave a talk for the Clapham Society on it. She is the former Dean of Ruskin College, Oxford.

Click to access clapham-society-battersea-talk.pdf

In the same year (1871) the Brown Animal Sanatory Institution was started, with funds from a trust set up in the will of Thomas Brown, on a site in Wandsworth Road, almost opposite the present Sainsbury’s at Nine Elms. This was a veterinary medical centre for the treatment (generally as ‘outpatients’) of all animals, but mainly horses in the early years. The centre survived until 1944. Under its pioneering first superintendent, Sir John Burdon-Sanderson, research was carried out into immunisation and rabies. The question of muzzling dogs, lest they spread rabies, was controversial and led to petitions and protests locally

The the anti-vivisection hospital was based here and it too as founded by a woman. Again there is no photo of her and we don’t know her first name. The hospital was founded in 1896 by Mrs Theodore Russell Monroe, secretary of the Anti Vivisection Society. It was based at 33 Prince of Wales Drive by the Sun Gate of Battersea Park at the corner with Albert Bridge Road.

The hospital was notable for not allowing animal experiments to take place in its facilities, and for refusing to employ physicians who were involved in or approved of animal research. It first opened for in-patients in 1903. It faced opposition from the medical establishment, who regarded the hospital’s existence as “a great slur upon the profession.” Because of difficulties attracting funding – its stance made it ineligible for grants from the King Edwards Hospital Fund – it lost its anti vivisection charter in 1935. It became Battersea General Hospital and absorbed into the HHS in 1948. Older Battersea folk recall visits to the anti-viv with cuts and bruises and treatment at the A&E.

Battersea was chosen as the location by the for the the statue of the Brown Dog.

The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection that raged in England from 1903 until 1910. It involved the infiltration by Swedish feminists Lizzy Lind af Hageby and Leisa Schartau of University of London medical lectures; pitched battles between medical students and the police; police protection for the statue of a dog; a libel trial at the Royal Courts of Justice and the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate the use of animals in experiments. The affair became a cause celebre célèbre that divided the country. The little terrier had become the focus of an anti-vivisection campaign directed against Professor William Bayliss and UCL by The National Anti-vivisection Society accused of torture and illegal proceedings.

Irish feminist Frances Power Cobbe founded the National Anti-Vivisection Society NAVS in London in 1875 and the British Union for the Abolitio of Vivisection (BUAV) in 1898; the former sought to restrict vivisection and the latter to abolish it.

The barrister Stephen Coleridge secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society was the son of the former Lord Chief Justice of England, and great-grandson of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His attention was drawn to the account of the brown dog. The 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act forbade the use of an animal in more than one experiment, yet it appeared that the brown dog had been used to perform surgery on the pancreas, used again by him when he opened the dog to inspect the results of the previous surgery, and used for a third time by Bayliss to study the salivary gland.. The protesters lost at trial. The brown dog statue was a memorial designed to help win the larger propaganda war.

The brown dog memorial in the Latchmere Recreation Ground, taunted scientists and medical researchers, provoking passions so high that thousands demonstrated against it. This eventually drew 24-hour police guards to prevent the memorial’s destruction.

On 10 December 1907, hundreds of medical students marched through central London waving effigies of the brown dog on sticks, clashing with suffragettes , trade unionists and 300 police officers, one of a series of battles known as the Brown Dog riots. Charlotte Despard and George Bernard Shaw avowed vegetarians spoke at a large meeting.

In March 1910, tired of the controversy, Battersea Council sent four workers accompanied by 120 police officers to remove the statue under cover of darkness, after which it was reportedly melted down by the council’s blacksmith, despite a 20,000-strong petition in its favour

In 1985, a replacement memorial was installed in Battersea Park by Nicola Hicks based the statue on her own terrier, Brock, and it was erected in the Park in 1985, but not here.This was unveiled by Battersea resident actress Geraldine James. Once placed prominently in the park, it was quietly moved to an inconspicuous corner where it remains today. In 1992 it was removed, apparently due to a park renovation scheme, and then re-erected at its current site, in 1994. The sculpture is a thought-provoking piece that stands on its own. However, some think it is more submissive looking compared to the original. We had a lovely presentation on The Brown Dog Affair by Ian Mursell for the Battersea Society telling about the monster meetings in Battersea Town Hall.

The plinth carries the following texts on bronze plaques.The text on plaque 4 is an exact copy of the words on the original memorial.The memorial is beside a narrow path through a small wooded area immediately to the east of the Old English Garden.

The London Remembers website noted: We had some trouble finding this statue, and given the story of the original statue, we think that may be deliberate.

{Plaque 1:}
This monument replaces the original memorial to the Brown Dog erected by public subscriptions in Latchmere Recreation Ground, Battersea, in 1906.The sufferings of Brown Dog at the hands of vivisectors generated much protest and mass demonstrations. It represented the revulsion of the people of London to vivisection and animal experimentation. This new monument is dedicated to the continuing struggle to end these practices.
After much controversy the former monument was removed in the early hours of 10th March 1910. This was the result of a decision taken by the then Battersea Metropolitan Borough Council, the previous Council having supported the erection of the memorial.

{Plaque 2:}
Animal experimentation is one of the greatest moral issues of our time and should have no place in a civilised society.
In 1903, 19,084 animals suffered and died in British laboratories. During 1984 3,497,335 experiments were performed on live animals in Great Britain. Today, animals are burned, blinded, irradiated, poisoned and subjected to countless other horrifyingly cruel experiments in Great Britain.

{Plaque 3:}
Funded by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Site provided by the Greater London Council.
Sculptor Nicola Hicks.
Unveiled on 12th December 1985.

{Plaque 4:}
In memory of the Brown Terrier dog done to death in the laboratories of University College in February 1903 after having endured vivisection – extending over more than two months and having been handed over from one vivisector to another till death came to his release.
Also in memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902.
Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?

Mary Tealby is one of the people responsible for Battersea becoming a globally recognised name.

Wihelmina Stirling Battersea House and De Morgan Collection

Posted in Wilhelmina Stirling Old Battersea House and De Morgan Collection by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 17, 2021

Wilhelmina Stirling was a a Battersea character, an author and founder of the De Morgan Collection and resident of Old Battersea House for decades and is one of my Inspiring Battersea Women. It was a such a shame that Wandsworth Council let go of the De Morgan Collection which it had inherited from the Borough of Battersea.

She was born in London in 1865, Anna Maria Diana Wilhelmina Pickering was the youngest daughter of Anna Spencer-Stanhope and Percival Pickering, Q.C. (1810-1876). She was the younger sister of Evelyn De Morgan. Over her lifetime Mrs Stirling assembled a substantial art collection that featured their work. When she died at the age of ninety-nine in 1965, she bequeathed her collection to be looked after in Trust for perpetuity.

Battersea House , the building was known as Terrace House until the 1930s. It was built for the “naval administrator”] Samuel Pett and was most likely completed in 1699. Battersea Council almost demolished the house in the 1920s and built St. John’s estate on the grounds of the house in the 1930s. In 1931 Mrs Stirling persuaded the council to lease it to her and to grant her lifetime tenancy of the building. She moved in with her husband Charles Goodbarne and she renamed it Old Battersea House.

Under her tenure the house served to house a collection of art by her sister, the Pre-Raphaelite painer Evelyn De Morgan and Evelyn’s husband, the potter designer William De Morgan and used the house to display their collection of paintings and pottery. This collection is now kept by the De Morgan Foundation.

Wilhelmina married Charles Goodbarne Stirling (1866-1948) in 1901, William De Morgan gifted the couple a leopard and stag dish as a wedding gift. Wilhelmina and Charles were huge collectors of art and antiques, with both delighting in hosting tours of their home Old Battersea House.

A Charger with a leopard and a deer on the bank of a river, painted by Charles Passenger, 1888-97 (ceramic) by Morgan, William De

Wilhelmina kept carefully documented records of all the treasures, one of them being a black oak cabinet by Morris and Co. hand decorated by William De Morgan in oils, of George and the Dragon. This cabinet is currently at The National Trust property, Standen House and Gardens used to display some of William De Morgan’s ceramics.

Mrs Stirling was an accomplished and prolific writer. Her most well-known work is her biography William De Morgan and his Wife (1922) which is the starting point for all researchers interested in the De Morgans today. Her other books deal with various subjects such as spiritualism and the lives and reminiscences of the British landed gentry.

I thoroughly enjoyed he book The Merry Wives of Battersea which featured the women who lived in the Battersea Manor house over the centuries.

Mrs Stirling also shared the progressive political ideals of many members of the Arts and Crafts movement. A letter from Emmeline Pankhurst in  the archives of the De Morgan Foundation) to Mrs Stirling, written in May 1911, says

“We all feel very grateful to you for having unearthed and published such a valuable piece of evidence that women voted prior to the Reform Bill of 1832.  Your help and interest lead me to think that perhaps you may some day ere long find time to come here and see something of our great organization.  I am sure that you will be pleased to see what progress is being made not only in the getting of the vote but in the work of preparing women to use it wisely when it is won. I am very truly yours, E. Pankhurst”

Mrs Stirling loved giving tours of the house, during which she would talk for hours on the artwork she exhibited and tell anecdotal stories regarding the house itself. For over 30 years she was the custodian and curator and her tours of the house could last as long as five hours and she continued to welcome visitors to her home well into her later years.

Previous curator Claire Longworth said “Even now I regularly hear from people who have fond memories of trips to visit the eccentric lady and her wonderful home; descriptions of Mrs Stirling, frail, but elegant, bedecked in jewels and vibrantly dressed in purple or red velvet dresses”

In 1961, at the age of ninety-six, Mrs Stirling was featured in a short film made by the director Ken Russell for the BBC’s Monitor television series. In the 17-minute long black and white film Old Battersea House, Mrs Stirling takes the visitor on a tour of the house and talks passionately about her support of the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.  While her manservant, Mr Peters, carries around a large lamp to illuminate the dark corners of the house, she tells stories about the alleged sightings of ghosts and a toad who modelled for the devil in one of her sister’s paintings. The programme gives glimpses of Mrs Stirling’s eccentric character and the wonderful possessions with which she surrounded herself.

There is a charming reference to Mrs Stirling and De Morgan tiles in Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker prize winning short novel Offshore about houseboat dwellers at Chelsea Reach on Cheyne Walk. She is one of my Inspiring Battersea Women. Fitzgerald had lived on one with her husband and children and it sank twice! This excerpt features two young sisters Martha and Tilda who, mudlarking on the shore near St Mary’s Church not far from Old Battersea House, find two tiles and take them to a Chelsea antique dealer. Martha knew they they were De Morgan tiles and their value!

The building was listed on 28 June 1954 and became derelict after her death in 1965. It was acquired by Malcolm Forbes in 1970 and housed some of his family’s valuable art collection.until 2011

I visited Battersea House just before it was sold to Forbes and I have spoken to Battersea people who remember her and have said what a wonderful character she was. The collection then moved to West Hill Library supported by the Hintze family hedge funders. The De Morgan Foundation opened the Centre to the public in 2002; however the local authority’s decision to terminate the charity’s lease as part of a cost cutting drive means that the Centre has to close. In 2007, Wandsworth Borough Council made the unpopular decision to close Wandsworth Museum and two local libraries due to a reduction in central government funding. The De Morgan Centre which was based in West Hill library was also given notice to leave. There was yet another campaign and objections by the local people and the amenity societies. It was shameful of the Council to lose such an asset. It then relocated to the Watts Gallery and we have seen it in all three places.

Sarah Hardy the Curator of The De Morgan Foundation came to give a talk in St Mary’s Church which is very close to Old Battersea House on the De Morgans. She currently gives and organises guest speakers talks on Fridays at 12.00 which are delightful.

This following is from the De Morgan website Mrs Stirling was born in 1865 and during her near hundred year life span she saw many changes; politically, socially, and artistically. Sir John Betjeman described  her as reminiscent of Miss Haversham, sitting in her faded pile, surrounded by the objects of a past life. However, this isn’t the image of Mrs Stirling which I have come to know and love over my ten years as Curator here at the De Morgan Foundation.

Mrs Stirling was an ambitious writer, publishing her first book of fairy tales by the age of 25, and she went on to author more than 30 other books during her career. She was an anti-establishment thinker and member of the Rationalist Press Association. A determined advocate for women’s rights – her efforts in this regard earned her letter of thanks from Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragette Movement. She was an enthusiastic historian and passionate collector and propagandist for her sister and brother-in-law’s work.

Mrs Stirling’s voice is still strongly heard here at the De Morgan Foundation. The main remit of our charity is (as per her wish) the “provision and maintenance of the collection for a public audience”. Her plummy clipped Standard English pronunciation (as heard on the infamous Ken Russell documentary filmed in Old Battersea House) often reverberates through my head as I relay her anecdotes to new visitors to the collection. Mrs Stirling’s hand written catalogues which detail her collection are invaluable in tracing the provenance of the works of art and bring to life her dedication as a collector. What I often find surprising, is not the lengths to which Mrs Stirling went to purchase pieces, but that so much of her collection was donated to her by others who supported her vision to create a collection of national importance. For instance a series of Peacock and Thistle tiles were given to Mrs Stirling by a Mrs Bullivant whose husband had acquired them over a number of years from an antique dealer and a gold lustre Peacock Plate was given to her by the Earl and Countess of Bathurst. Hand written labels also adorn many of the actual objects, giving further anecdotal information – for instance on the back of a ruby lustre plate decorated with bees Mrs Stirling writes “Said to be one of the first… if not the first plate made by William De Morgan and given to his Uncle Henry Frend” and on a palate knife she inscribes in indelible ink (a curatorial no-no today) that it was given to her sister by the Royal Academician G.F. Watts.

Mrs Stirling’s visionary efforts to preserve her sister and brother-in-law’s work during the 1920s to 1960s, when appreciation of Victorian art was at an all-time low, means the nation owes her an extraordinary debt and it is a great honour to continue her legacy of preserving the collection and facilitating public access to it. 

The published books of A.M.W. Stirling include:

  • The Adventures of Prince Almero (1890, as A. M. D. Wilhelmina Pickering)
  • Queen of the Goblins (1892, as A. M. D. Wilhelmina Pickering)
  • A Life Awry (1893, as “Percival” Pickering)
  • A Pliable Marriage (1895, as “Percival” Pickering)
  • The Spirit is Willing (1898, as “Percival” Pickering)
  • Toy-Gods (1904, as “Percival” Pickering)
  • Annals of a Yorkshire House, from the Papers of a Macaroni & His Kindred (1911)
  • Coke of Norfolk and His Friends: The Life of Thomas William Coke, First Earl of Leicester of Holkham (1912)
  • The Letter-Bag of Lady Elizabeth Spencer-Stanhope (1913)
  • Macdonald of the Isles: A Romance of the Past and Present (1914)
  • A Painter of Dreams, and Other Biographical Studies (1916)
  • The Hothams; Being the Chronicles of the Hothams of Scorborough and South Dalton from Their Hitherto Unpublished Family Papers (1918)
  • Pages & Portraits from the Past, Being the Private Papers of Sir William Hotham (1919)
  • William De Morgan and His Wife (1922), called “biased, limited and sometimes erroneous” despite its “valuable insight”[2]
  • Life’s Little Day: Some Tales and Other Reminiscences (1925)
  • The Richmond Papers from the Correspondence and Manuscripts of George Richmond … and His Son, Sir William Richmond (1926)
  • Fyvie Castle: Its Lairds and Their Times (1928)
  • The Ways of Yesterday; Being the Chronicles of the Way Family from 1307 to 1885 (1930)
  • Life’s Mosaic: Memories Canny and Uncanny (1934)
  • Victorian Sidelights (1954)
  • The Merry Wives of Battersea and Gossip of Three Centuries (1956)
  • Ghosts Vivisected: An Impartial Inquiry into Their Manners, Habits, Mentality, Motives and Physical Construction (1957/58)
  • A Scrapheap of Memories (1960)

Here is a list of her books.

Mrs Stirling died in August 1965, just a few days before her one hundredth birthday.

20 Inspiring Battersea Women

Posted in 20 Inspiring Battersea Woment by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 16, 2021

This is a handout for a talk I gave on International Women’s Day 2021 for Battersea Place Retirement Village opposite Battersea Park. Emma from the Heritage service had suggested me when she was approached by Ana, who is their events and entertainment executive, to do a talk on Battersea women for IWD.

I shall be compiling a booklet, I hope, this year for the Battersea Society. Have to have something to show for lockdown!

The first fifteen formed Notable Women of Lavender Hill walk. I have written blogs on them.

The walk starts at Battersea Town Hall/BAC as this was the site of Elm House the home of  1)  Jeanie Nassau Senior 1828-1877, first female civil servant, born Jane Hughes brother of Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. She was appointed by Local Government Board as Inspector of Workhouses reporting on the education of “pauper girls”. Was loved by her famous friends, Octavia Hill, Florence Nightingale, George Eliot, Anny Thackeray, George Watts etc. She died of exhaustion and cancer of the womb aged 48.

2) Olive Morris 1952-1979 came to Battersea from Jamaica in 1962, attended Lavender Hill Girls’s School, active anti-racist, Black Panthers, co-founded Brixton Black Womens Group, co-founded with Liz Obi 121 Railton Road squat.

3) Catherine Gurney OBE 1848-1930, born Normanby House Lavender Hill, non-conformist family, stenographers to Parliament. Via a bible class in Wandsworth Prison initiated the Christian Police Association, Police convalescent homes and orphanages in Brighton and Harrogate.

4) Charlotte Despard  1844-1939 funded Battersea Labour Party HQ where her plaque is sited at 177 Lavender Hill. Her biography tagged ‘An Unhusbanded  Life’- Suffragette Socialist and Sinn Feiner.  She wrote 10 novels, after she was widowed moved to Nine Elms Battersea, provided welfare facilities, suffragette with Women’s Freedom League, Labour candidate Battersea North 1918.

5) Caroline Ganley CBE 1879-1966 came to Battersea 1901, pacifist, active in suffrage campaigns. 1919 elected Battersea councillor, appointed JP, represented Battersea on LCC, first woman president of the London Co-op Society,  MP for Battersea South 1945-51.Battersea Society plaque on her home at 5 Thirsk Road.

6) Ethel Mannin 1900-1984  born 28 Garfield  Rd, a working class self-educated, prodigious author of a hundred books, including novels, memoirs, travel, childrearing etc. Political maverick, socialist, pacifist, anarchist and ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. Twice married, had a sexual relationship with Yeats and Bertrand Russell between husbands.

7) Deaconess Isabella Gilmore 1842-1923, Gilmore House 113 Clapham Common Northside when widowed trained as a nurse in Guys Hospital, asked by Bishop of Rochester to start a deaconate. Deaconesses were  “a curiously effective combination of nurse, social worker and amateur policemen”. She addressed the needs of the poor through working with girls and women. Plaque Southwark Cathedral.


8) Marie Spartali 1844 -1923 The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens.Pre-Raphaelite painter, During a sixty-year career, she produced 170 works, contributing regularly to exhibitions in the UK and the US. She studied drawing and painting under Ford Madox Brown. Painted by DG Rossetti, Burne Jones, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron.…/marie-spartali-pre-raphaelite-artist/  

9) Laura Barker 1819-1905, composer and violinist Lavender Sweep House with husband Tom Taylor playwright and Punch editor.…/laura-barker-1819-10905-composer/ 

10) Duval suffrage family lived at 97 Lavender Sweep. Emily and her children Elsie, Victor, Norah and Barbara were active and imprisioned. Emily 1861-1924 became Battersea Councillor Elsie WSPU, worked for Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement founded by her brother Victor. Tragically, Elsie, Barbara and Winifred died in the flu epidemic.

11) Edith, known as Biddy Lanchester 1871-1966, lived at 27 Leathwaite, socialist secretary to Eleanor Marx was kidnapped on announcement of living with her lover Shamus Sullivan, taken to Roehampton Asylum, supposed cause of her insanity was ‘over education’.

12) Elsa Lanchester 1902-1986, her daughter, trained as a dancer aged ten in Paris with Isadora Duncan, taught dance, set up her own theatre club Cave of Harmony, met and married Charles Laughton, moved to the US. Bride of Frankenstein(1935), made over a 100 films.

13) Violet Piercy 1889-1972 lived at 21 Leathwaite Rd. first recorded female marathon runner, 1926, she ran from Windsor to London finishing at Battersea Town Hall at 3 hrs 40 mins.  her record lasted until till Merry Lepper time of 3:37:07 Western Hemisphere Marathon Dec 1963.

14) Penelope Fitzgerald 1916- 2000 novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. Somerville College Oxford got a first in 1938, named Woman of the Year, included The Times list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. Her final novel, The The Blue Flower one of “the ten best historical novels’ lived at 25 Almeric Road when she wrote Booker prize-winning Offshore about houseboat dwellers in Chelsea Reach.  

15) Pamela Hansford Johnson CBE, 1912-1981 born 53 Battersea  Rise, wrote 27 novels. This bed thy Centre, coming-of-age first novel was based in Battersea, commemorated with a Battersea Society plaque. Married CP Snow.

16 )Hilda Helwett 1864– 1943 first British woman to earn a pilot’s licence in 1911, ran the first flying school in Britain and Omnia Works Aircraft factory Vardens Road 1912-14 with Gustav Blondeau.

17) Lady Battersea 1843- 1931Constance Flower, née de Rothschild, a society hostess and philanthropist established the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls, Women and Children.

18) Wilhelmina Stirling 1865-1965author of 20+ books on lives/reminiscences of landed gentry, founder of the De Morgan Centre at her home, Old Battersea House until her death, now at Watts Gallery.

19) Mary Tealby 1801-1865,founded The Temporary Home for and Starving Dogs in Islington in 1860, Dickens wrote about a “remarkable institution”, moved to Battersea in 1871.

20) Ida 1904-1986and Louise Cook 1901–1991 24 Morella Road SW12 were opera loving, civil servants who rescued Jews from Europe during the 1930s, funded mainly by Ida’s writing as Mary Burchill for Mills and Boon, honoured as Righteous among Nations by Yad Vashem.

Battersea Industrial Riverfront Walk

Posted in Battersea Industrial Riverfront between Wandsworth and Battersea Bridges by sheelanagigcomedienne on December 22, 2020

Battersea Industrial Riverfront from Wandsworth Bridge to Battersea  Bridge. This was due to be a walk as the Battersea Society contribution to the Wandsworth Heritage Festival 2020 postponed because of the dreadful pandemic. I will be doing a zoom talk in January for the Battersea Society. Details below of this free event.

Thursday 21 January at 6pm Talk on Battersea Riverside Industrial Heritage 

Discover the industrial heritage of Battersea with local historian Jeanne Rathbone.  The waterfront between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Bridge was home to major industries including Prices Candle Factory, Garton’s Glucose, Battersea Enamels, the Flours Mills, Morgan Crucible and Brunel’s Sawmills.   To book for Battersea Society events, please email  Zoom login details will be sent out 24 hours before the event. 

 Battersea Bridge to Vauxhall awaits! All of the industry has been obliterated since I came to Battersea in the early sixties and worked in Gartons Glucose laboratory when there was little access along the riverside. Candlemakers Apartments and Battersea Power Station are almost the only visible reminders of the indusry that was based here.

This is not the full length of the Battersea riverfront which stretches almost to Vauxhall Bridge. This will feature Gartons Glucose,  Price’s Candle Factory, Battersea Enamels, London Heliport,  Battersea Square/High Street,  Marc Brunell Sawmills and Morgan Crucible.

First a brief note about the Thames crossings. Until  Putney was opened in 1729, Kingston Bridge was the only crossing of the river between London Bridge and Staines.

Kingston Wooden Bridge

Kingston Bridge was wooden 1219, 1825 a new stone bridge widened 1914, 1906 taking trams.  

Richmond Bridge 1777 is the oldest oldest surviving bridge.  

London Bridge from Roman and Saxon times were wooden till 1209 when the first stone bridge was built. This famous old London Bridge had shops, a chapel and houses. A new bridge, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1831 Replaced in 1973.The old bridge is now sited in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, having been removed brick by brick. It is London’s widest with  6 lanes.

Proposals to build bridges across the Thames at Lambeth and Putney in around 1670 were defeated by the Rulers of the Company of Watermen. 60,000 rivermen who provided ferry services and a pool of naval reserve. List of crossings of the Thames comprising over 200 bridges, 27 tunnels, six public ferries, one cable car link.

London’s Bridges

Battersea  Wooden Bridge 1771, replaced 1890 Bazalgette,  Battersea Railway Bridge 1863 is the only railway bridge crossing the Thames that continuously has carried passengers and freight from the coast to the north of England, Vauxhall Bridge was built in 1816 and rebuilt in 1906.

Old Battersea Bridge showing the Malt Mill c.1805 Daniel Turner 1782-1801 Transferred from Weymouth Museum, Dorset 2017

Wandsworth Bridge, first a toll bridge built by Julian Tolme 1873, in expectation of western terminus of the Hammersmith and City Railway built 1864, problems with drainage on the approach road made access difficult for vehicles.

1937 Tolmé’s bridge was demolished. The present bridge, an unadorned steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Frank, opened in 1940.

Wandsworth Bridge opened 1940

All materials used in the construction of the new bridge were of British origin or manufacture. Painted in dull shades of blue as camouflage against air raids, one of the busiest in London, carrying over 50,000 vehicles daily, it has been described as “probably the least noteworthy bridge in London”. 9.1 m wide, crossing the river with five spans, it’s a lattice  truss bridge of wrought iron. Formally opened in a small ceremony in 1873, a celebratory buffet was provided at the nearby pub The Spread E. A ​12 d toll was charged on pedestrians, and carts were charged 6d. Tolls were abolished in 1880. In 1891 weight limit of 5 tons was introduced, and in 1897 a 10 mph. A217 built 1969. (Wandsworth Town Station nearby opened in 1846. It opened as Wandsworth when the Nine Elms to Richmond line came into service, renamed Wandsworth Town in 1903.)

Wandsworth Bridge now marks the boundary above which a lower speed limit on the Thames is enforced 12 knots (22 km/h)  downstream from Wandsworth but because of the number of rowers using the upper reaches of the river, all of the tidal Thames upstream of Wandsworth Bridge is subject to a strictly enforced speed limit of 8 knots.

Chelsea Bridge 1858 replaced 1937.

Albert Bridge was designed by Roland Ordish, built in 1873

Grosvenor Rail Bridge in 1863.

Except for Tower Bridge 1894, Albert Bridge is the only Thames road bridge in central London never to have been replaced.

Much of this info comes from All About Battersea by Henry Simmonds and the Battersea section of the Survey of London.

Panorama of the Thames: A Riverside View of Georgian London by John R. Inglis and Jill Sanders

has succeeded in digitally restoring Samuel Leigh’s 1829 panorama, which was 60 feet long. (It was produced in segments, mainly for the use of people using boats at a time when the river was still the major route for transporting goods)

The extent of the modern panorama extends 52 miles from Hampton to Tower Bridge. Leigh’s panorama covers 30 miles between Richmond and Westminster.

The river Thames has defined the course of economic and industrial development in Battersea, even after the coming of the railways in the 1830s. Seven water mills were recorded in the Domesday Book; inhabitants of the medieval parish of Battersea depended on fishing for a living, from the late 16th century the river’s fertile loam soil flood plain provided an ideal location for market gardening. Well before the Industrial Revolution, both raw materials and locally manufactured products were being transported up and downstream from Battersea wharves in barges and lighters, themselves often built in the local boat yards.

The Thames, Wandle and Falcon river water supplied the motive power for mills and steam engines, and subsequently enabled the establishment of numerous industries which relied on water- intensive industrial processes with watermen and lightermen, barge-owners, ships’ breakers, fishermen, boat-builders mostly situated at Nine Elms.

My walk starts at Wandsworth Bridge. On this stretch from the Panorama it had market gardens with two industries Wandsworth Distillery  and the Silk Factory which was on the site of York House.

This site housed a gin distillery, oil depot and warehouses.“Richard Bush founded Wandsworth Distillery on Gargoyle Wharf on the Thames around 1780. He was a promoter of the Surrey Iron Railway and also with his sons involved with mills along the Wandle. By 1874, the Wandsworth Distillery was under the names John and Daniel Watney.

Wandsworth Distillery and barges.

Gin history The crown attempted to curb imports of French Brandy into Britain, thus  creating a market for Britain’s homegrown alternative and put in place laws to make it easier to brew and sell gin. Gin quickly flooded the streets, gin was “the principal cause of all the vice & debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people” Gin popular with soldiers and colonials living in lands prone to malaria infections: gin was excellent at masking the unpleasant, bitter flavor of the anti-malarial alkaloid quinine Hence G&T

Guinness had acquired the land which was cleared in 1992 and lay derelict until 2002 when developers started construction, in 1996, the site was subject to a famous occupation by ‘The Land Is Ours’ group, creating the ‘Pure Genius!’ Eco Village. Here is a alink to video of it.

The Battersea Society, Wandsworth Society, Putney Society, Tonsley residents Association, West London River Group, Planning Aid for London, Gargoyle Wharf Community Action Group, Thamesbank and residents’ associations in Wandsworth were almost unanimously against the development and put out a joint statement of their objections.

The development is called Battersea Reach

The Berkeley Group blurb claims; Battersea Reach has become a thriving riverside community, offering contemporary designed apartments, relaxing open spaces and fast access to businesses, shops, entertainment and international travel.

The York House site had been a focus for industry since medieval times.

York House

Before York House the area known as Bridges or Bridgecourt had wharves where stone and other materials from the Reigate stone industry were brought by road from Surrey before being loaded onto ships for transportation to ecclesiastical and royal building projects, including Westminster and Waltham Abbeys, Windsor and Rochester Castles, and Westminster Palace.

There was a malt distillery of  Bell in 1741 then Benwell & Waymouth’s till 1820  close to York House which also fattened pigs and cured bacon, feeding the animals on the ‘wort’ left over from the distilling process. In 1743 the archbishop’s surveyor complained that two new houses built recently in the grounds would have been worth more ‘were there not a great distiller next to them who keeps in different stores a thousand hogs’.

When it closed In 1823–4 it was acquired by John Ford as a woolcloth manufactory, included 450ft of wharfage, warehouses, a dye house, counting-house, engine- and boiler-houses, foundry and blacksmith’s forge, and a residence for Ford. The three-storey brick-built woollen mill, over 150ft long, dominated the site and the riverfront. ( Each floor was supported on hollow iron pillars, to take gas tubes or pipes, gas at the time being introduced into textile mills for lighting. He must have had his own gas-making plant on site). Also   erected were a row of 39 four-roomed dwellings, known as Ford’s Buildings, doomed from the beginning and he was forced to sell everything.

It was purchased in 1826 by Ames & Brunskill) a City firm of silk and ribbon makers, until 1850,when another ribbon manufacturer, Cornell, Lyell & Webster took over. In 1875 the glove-making firm of Fownes Brothers, having outgrown their premises in Falcon Road, acquired the site, but increasing industrialization along York Road jeopardized their delicate wares, and by 1884 Fownes’s had removed to a new factory in their home town of Worcester, a centre of gloving’

Garton’s Glucose Factory was next to Price’s candles and the road in between them lead to the river where the lighters wharved. Again river transport brought the maize in lighters. Garton & Sons specialized in sugars for brewing, invert sugar, ‘saccharum’. Expanded to buildings occupying five acres. The firm later became part of the larger Manbré Group of sugar and starch producers.

Garton Hill & Co were sugar refiners who had moved production from Southampton to Battersea in 1882. Their products included a specialist brewing sugar, Garton’s Saccharum, described as fully inverted, free from impurities, and able to ‘brew Beer surpassing even Burton Ales in brightness and endurance’. The company would continue later under the name Manbré & Garton when taken over by Manbré of Hammersmith from 1926 with Richard Garton as Chair. From then on glucose production concentrated here while cane sugar was processed in Hammersmith until the Tate & Lyle takeover.

There was a tragic accident in Gartons in 1899. Thomas Griffin 21-year-old labourer suffered a fatal accident at the refinery. He was working in the hydraulic room when he heard an explosion. It came from a room where his colleague Fred Biggs worked, and he rushed into the steam shouting ‘my mate, my mate’. When he emerged a few minutes later, he was terribly scalded and soon died from his injuries. Awfully, his death was in vain: Briggs had already escaped unhurt. according to the Deputy Coroner at the inquest into it, “a peculiarly sad case”, as Griffin was due to be married on the 11th of the following month. Mr. Arbuckle, Factory Inspector. Mr. Harper, Barrister, appeared for Messrs. Garton, Hill and Co., sugar refiners, Southampton Wharf, Battersea and Frederick Biggs, engineer at Messrs. Garton, Hill. and Co.’s works, said that Griffin worked under him as a fitter.

Harper told the inquest, reported the Evening Standard on 18th April 1899 that, “His clients fully realised the splendid conduct and the high motive which prompted the deceased which prompted the deceased to act as he did.”The Deputy Coroner was, so the newspaper reported, in full agreement and he closed the inquest by telling the court:- “The conduct of a man like him deserves to be recorded.

This tragedy was recorded with a memorial in the Postman’s Park St Martin’s Le Grand, London EC1A. ( St Paul’s Underground)

Devised in 1887 by artist George Frederic Watts, it was first unveiled in 1900 with just four plaques installed. Additions took place in fits and starts (Watts died and his wife took over the project, then the plaque designer quit to work on his novel, with the 53rd tile added in 1931.After a 78-year hiatus, another plaque was finally added in 2009, in honour of Leigh Pitt.

In 1944 a flying bomb caused damage here and after the war Gartons invested heavily in a modern starch-processing plant. I worked for Gartons in the laboratory in the mid sixties testing the starch products. Birds Custard was one customer. I also remember that perfumes and watches were offered for sale by the lightermen!

Many will remember the Battersea Smell. Left-over fibre was piped across the yard, was superheated to make cattle feed. It was this process that created the odour. I really didn’t notice it whilst at work. It was described as a cloying, unpleasant stench that hung over the area for nearly 30 years. Local residents complained of chest illnesses and applied for rate cuts, and though they spent £4 million reducing the nuisance, little improvement was noticeable.

This 1972 video from BBC archives interviews locals about the smell.

Tate & Lyle bought Gartons for £44 million in 1976. I found this Hansard entry where our Battersea North MP Douglas Jay, asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection Roy Hatterseley on what grounds his Department decided not to refer to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission the proposed merger between Tate and Lyle and Manbre and Garton.

Mr. Hattersley Primarily because a unified cane sugar refining industry offers the best prospects of keeping the loss of jobs on rationalisation to a minimum, particularly in areas of high unemployment.

The factory had closed by 1980 and most of its buildings were demolished shortly afterwards for the Plantation Wharf housing and office development.

West of Gartons another starch factory, established in 1848 Orlando Jones & Company, holders of a US patent for a process to manufacture starch from rice or corn. Jones’s patent rice-starch was effective in laundering.

When it relocated to Battersea from Whitechapel it was taken over by two men from Bath, William Evill and John Kemp Welch, who had in 1834 bought and successfully developed J. Schweppe & Company, the soda-water manufacturers. They were joined by William Evill Jr also an engineer. Prior to that wheat was used but was becoming scarce it was legislated against for starch manufacture.

Henry Simmonds in All about Battersea 1882 wrote: The process of manufacturing starch from rice was discovered and patented about the year 1840 by Mr. Orlando Jones, founder of the house of the same name. His invention consists in the treatment of rice by a caustic alkaline solution during the steeping, grinding and macerating of the grains. The alkali used is either caustic potash or soda, of such a strength as to dissolve the gluten without destroying the starch; it must consequently vary with the character of the grain and hence the utmost nicety is required. The Battersea Works of Orlando Jones & Co. were built in 1848, the firm having previously carried on their manufacture in Whitechapel, they are situated on the banks of the Thames near the works of Price’s Patent Candle Company, and occupy ground extending from the river to York Road; thus the firm possesses facilities of conveyance both by land and water—this latter is particularly valuable to them to enable them to save all dock, landing and warehousing charges. A large new store has been recently built on their wharf to which rice is barged direct from the ship. From the wharf also the manufactured article itself is conveyed to the docks for shipment to the Continent and our Colonies, with which a large trade is carried on. As an illustration of the extent of Orlando Jones & Co.’s operations it may be added that the box making department is a little factory in itself, and the machinery employed for the various purposes of sawing, dusting, cleaning, lighting, pumping, stirring, and grinding is driven by steam engines. It will be obvious that the manufacture of rice starch on a large scale requires no little capital and skill, and takes high rank among those industrial enterprises which are so peculiarly the characteristic and the glory of our age and country. Messrs. Orlando Jones & Co’s manufacture has been awarded nine prize medals at International Exhibitions, and the grand distinction of the gold medal of the Académie Nationale of Paris. These medals have been awarded ‘for introduction of the process,’ ‘for excellence of manufacture’ and ‘for large production.

William Evill 1821-1905 William Evill – Graces › William_Evill worked on the construction of the Great Eastern Railway, a member of the The Institution of Civil Engineers (for 67 years exceeding that of any of his fellow members), designed and erected, and enlarged, the extensive works of the company. He became a JP, Tory candidate for Battersea, wrote“Journey to Rome and back,” and “Rambling Records of a Long and Busy Life,” a mine of entertaining and instructive reminiscences.

William Jr lived in Lyncombe Villa(named ‘after the beautiful valley in which my wife lived in Bath’) on St John’s Hill near the railway bridge. As Evill’s family grew to twelve children he took over parts of the villas’ gardens, made additions to Lyncombe House, including a ‘capacious’ music room, where his huge musical brood and associates from St John’s College formed an orchestra. One such extension, in 1875, was designed by E. C. Robins, architect of three Battersea churches.The sites of Lyncombe House and its neighbours have been occupied by the Peabody Trust’s Clapham Junction Estate since the 1930s.

The company was acquired by Colmans, the mustard manufacturers who transferred to their Norwich works in 1901. Interestingly, I found some correspondence in 1879 between William Evill with Colman’s Record – Unilever › Record querying their right to claim Cross of the Legion of Honour was for the company!

Next engineers Archibald Dawnay & Sons Ltd, founded in 1870, bought the site and demolished most of the buildings, spending £2,000 on a new a giant open iron-and-steel shed . An even larger workshop was added alongside in 1924. The Evills had also built workers’ cottages (Starch Factory Road) lining the short access road to the factory. This was renamed Steelworks Road in 1907 and eventually demolished in the 1960s for an office block. ‘Archibald Dawnays Ltd, constructural steelworks company founded in 1922 at Battersea. it was one of the oldest Structural engineering concerns. It supplied the Steelwork for some of the largest buildings in England – the Stock Exchange, the Baltic Exchange, some of the largest cinemas in the country,, the Shepherd Bush Pavilion, and the Brixton Astoria, the Central Hall, Westminster; the School of Hygiene in Bloomsbury, theatres, telephone exchanges, post offices, power Stations, railway Stations, road and railway bridges. Dawnays left around 1970 and the site was cleared in the mid-1980s, partly to help accommodate the enormous Plantation Wharf development spilling over from Gartons next door, partly for a trading estate and hotel on Gartons Way and York Road.

There were two riverside plots Sherwood Lodge and York House—set in extensive grounds, with a deep creek at the mouth of the Hydeburn or Falcon brook flowing into the Thames and forming a natural boundary between them. Industries were drawn to the area in the 1740s and ’50s, and eventually both sites were swallowed up to form the factory of one of Battersea’s biggest and best-known companies, Price’s Patent Candle Company.

Battersea Enamels were based in the grounds of York House. It was short-lived but historically important factory producing objets de vertu and other wares in what became known as Battersea enamel. It was based in the grounds of York House. Sir Stephen Theodore Janssen, who owned the premises, and funded the venture, was an aristocrat and entrepreneur. He brought in the expertise of two Irishmen, Brooks brought expertise in the printing processes and Captain Henry Delamain who was a potter but both had left the partnership by 1754. They traded initially as Janssen, Delamain, and Brooks.

Battersea Enamel ware were small luxury items—snuff-boxes, patch boxes, bottle tickets, watch- and toothpick cases, coat buttons and miniature paintings—moulded from thin copper and applied with a white vitreous coating, which when fired gave the appearance of porcelain.

Fine-quality engraved illustrations, usually of royal portraits or picturesque scenes, were then inked on to paper and transferred to the items by a special process, and fixed by further firing. Finally, additional details in enamel colour were applied by brush. The relatively cheap materials and partly mechanical nature of the processes allowed for production at speed and on a considerable scale, the intention being to undercut the trade in similar but expensive items in gold and porcelain from the Continent. As well as enamels, the factory also produced decorative earthenware tiles known as ‘Dutch tiles’.

Janssen was a man of wide artistic and business interests and had a high social standing. Sir Stephen Theodore Janssen, 4th Baronet was an English Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London in 1754. He was also the MP for London from 1747 to 1754 and Chamberlain of London from 1765 to 1776. In 1749 he was appointed one of the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia. John Brooks, was a Dublin-born mezzotint engraver and publisher, was a pioneer and possibly inventor of the revolutionary transfer-printing process that was fundamental to the factory’s output. Delamain, a former captain in the Duke of Saxe-Gotha’s army, was owner of Ireland’s foremost Delftware factory, and a potter with a particular expertise

French-born artist and engraver Simon François Ravenet, who had come to London in the 1740s to engrave part of the Marriage à-la-mode series for William Hogarth. Ravenet has also been credited with developing the transfer process, and was certainly responsible for engraving many of the copper-plate illustrations used on Battersea enamel wares. I think his engraving of designs for the Battersea Enamel wine labels of the cute putti quite charming and would like to own some! They sell for a few thousand.

Vitreous enamel has many useful properties: it is smooth, hard, chemically resistant, durable, scratch has long-lasting colour fastness, is easy to clean, and cannot burn. Enamel is glass, not paint, so it does not fade under ultraviolet light.

In 1755 Horace Walpole listed ‘a kingfisher and ducks of the Battersea enamel’ in his catalogue of specimens at Strawberry Hill and sent to a friend “a trifling snuff-box only as a sample of the new manufacture at Battersea which is done with Copper plates.”

The Anti-Gallican Society was formed around 1745 to counter the influx of French goods and the pervasive cultural influence of France to promote British manufacturing. Janssen, was an early Grand President of the Society. The first enamel medallions were produced at Battersea, continuing at Birmingham after 1756. The society met in London four times a year.The society continued in being until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In the centre is a painted enamel of the arms of the Society St George on horseback spearing flag of Royal Arms of France.The escutcheon is supported by a yellow lion and a grey double-headed eagle.A blue enamelled scroll with a motto For our Country.

1756, after only three years in operation, Janssen was bankrupt, and all of his personal property as well as the factory and stock were put up for auction.

The dispersal of materials and workmen to provincial centres, especially Bilston, Birmingham and Liverpool, saw a flowering of Battersea-style enamels, often bearing the same printed decorations. This has made the authentication and dating difficult. The book by Egan Mew of Battersea Enamels published in 1926 has a description of the auction sale contents. Amongst the lots at Jannsen’s bankruptcy sale in 1756 were ‘Bottle tickets with Chains for all sorts of Liquor, and of different subjects…’. There appears to be seventeen different designs and around forty different recorded titles.

Lady Charlotte Schreiber left her collection of Battersea Enamels to the V and A in 1884. She was a fascinating women who as an accomplished linguist, and the wife of a foremost Welsh ironmaster John Guest, she became a leading figure in the study of the wider Welsh Renaissance of the 19th century. She had ten children and took over her husbands business when she was widowed. With her second husband Charles Schreiber, her children’s tutor and they became avid collectors. She became a well known Victorian collector of porcelain; their collection is held in the V&A. She was noted as an international industrialist, pioneering liberal educator, philanthropist and elite society hostess.

PRICES Candle Factory

It was essentially a family business but there was no Mr Price. It was  founded by William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster and run by Wilson and his two sons George and James for much of the nineteenth century, called Edward Price & Company in its original form, the name apparently taken from a relation of Lancaster’s to preserve his and Wilson’s anonymity, candle-making at the time being generally considered a low undertaking. were snobbish about being associated with an industry that was considered a low class trade associated with dead animals and unpleasant smells.

Prices Candle Factory School

Wilson was a Russia broker dealing in tallow and acquired a patent for hydraulically separating coconut oil into its liquid and solid latter (stearine) as a cheap and cleaner substitute for tallow in candle manufacture, the former as a lamp oil. Made the candles for Queen Victoria’s wedding thus gaining a royal warrant. In order to secure regular supplies of raw materials bought a plantation in Ceylon and erected steam-crushing mills there so that the oil could be processed before export. Later William’s son George experimented with mixing strong alkalis with vegetable or animal fats which caused the liquid to separate from the solid components. This process, known as saponification, was already used by soap makers. Further distillation using heat and high pressure to produce a harder, pure fat known as stearine. This was excellent for candle making as it burned brightly without smell or smoke.

By-products of the stearine process included light oils and glycerine. Price’s soon found uses for these by-products, which made valuable contributions to the company balance sheets. Using the new process, candles could also be made from other raw materials including skin fat, bone fat, fish oils and waste industrial grease. The original Edward Price & Co. became the Price’s Patent Candle Company in 1847 joint-stock enterprise with about 84 staff.

The need to minimize the risk of fire the buildings were long, single-storey structures of yellowish stock brick, with large Venetian or recessed semi-circular windows. Only a few—generally the road-front subsidiary buildings—had any upper floors; and nearly all were topped with giant curving roofs of fire-resistant galvanized corrugated iron.

Drawing by James McNeill Whistler of Prices Candle Factory

Twenty-five years later had become a national household name employing 2,300 staff of which 1,200 were boys. Later they imported palm oil from West Africa as a way of providing work which would prevent natives being sold off as slaves. By the end of the 19th century it was the world’s largest manufacturer of candles exporting to all parts of the empire.  Price’s was a benevolent company, introduced an educational programme for staff, a profit-sharing scheme in 1869 and in 1893 a contributory employee’s pension scheme. The provided free breakfast club and canteen to facilitate shift workers. Price’s was one of the biggest employers in Battersea and a global company even in the Victorian era.

In 1877 it produced 147 million candles, 32 million night lights, almost one million gallons of lamp oil and a large range of household and toilet soaps. New buildings for printing, cardboard-box making and other activities replaced the old structures at the west end of York Road, thereby improving the main frontage. Price’s was now at its height, exploiting by-products such as benzine and kerosene. By 1900 paraffin wax candles had a 90% share of the market and their Motorine oil dominated the UK motor oil industry in the early 1900s .

Widespread use of gas and electric lighting led to a reduction in the use of candles, and the company branched out into motor oils, soap and white spirit and opening subsidiary factories in Africa and Asia.

UK demand went in 1910 Price’s set up candle factories in Johannesburg, Shanghai, Chile, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Morocco, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka to serve local demand.

The Mayor of Battersea in 1912 Thomas Brogan first Irish nationalist and Catholic mayor in London was a Price’s employee who mentored John Archer who was the first Black mayor of a London borough the following year. In was informed that one of Thomas’s sons went to work in Price’s in South Africa.

Price’s was taken over by Lever Brothers in 1919, wanting to diversify into a wide range of fat-based products. After the war, bomb-damage and a changing market saw Price’s contract. Two V1 rockets hit the factory in 1944 and several buildings had to be reconstructed.

British Petroleum (BP), one of a consortium of oil companies that had owned Price’s since the 1920s, removed the motor-oil side of the business to Grangemouth in 1954, prompting the sale of the bomb-damaged north-eastern half of the Battersea site and its redevelopment as a heliport and small industrial estate.

In the early 2000s the factory became upmarket apartments, known as the Old Candle factory and Candlemakers former cardboard-box factory, paper wicks and night-light store, of 1891–2, on the corner with York Place, now with a modern third storey and French-style pavilion roof. These are only a remnant of the complex of buildings that were here.

Hilaire is a poet and member of the Battersea Society Heritage Committee. London Undercurrents is a delightful anthology consisting of poems by her and Joolz about women, Hilaire’s reference south of the river. She reads her poem Wickers about the girls who put the wick in the night lights in Price’s—NvQwJPiwjv2nUzElGxA6YaKiWMMj1R5QGYJdZm-4fzNGnZY6CM


The Festival of Britain 1951 on the South Bank site had a site which was temporarily earmarked by the Ministry of Aviation for flights from 1952 which closed in 1957. The Helicopter Association of Great Britain promoted a report setting out guidelines for a heliport within fifteen minutes’ drive of central London but recommended no sites.

The application from Westland Aircraft for an ‘interim’ heliport in York Road, Battersea was successful when in 1958 Henry Brooke, Minister for Housing and Local Government, guided by London County Council advice, approved the Westland scheme for a provisional seven years.

The London Heliport Ltd was the brainchild of (Sir) Eric Mensforth, chairman of Westland Aircraft and the man most responsible for the successful production of Sikorsky-type helicopters in Britain. It was originally promoted as an advertisement for Westlands, not hitherto flight operators, under the slogan ‘Westland gives London a heliport’; according to the Helicopter Association, ‘no profit is to be expected’.

It is a very small site, making use of a jetty to provide a helipad for take-off and landing, and onshore parking for three to four aircraft, depending upon their size. The heliport provides landing, parking and refuelling services between 08:00 and 21:00 (flights are permitted between 07:00 and 23:00), albeit parking is normally restricted to smaller helicopter categories.

The small portion of the Belmont Works site off York Road acquired allowed little room for buildings or operations. The T-shaped concrete slab stretching into the water consisted of a 65ft stem and a crossbar 125ft by 53ft, capable of withstanding both the single-engine helicopters then operating and the heavier double-engine machines projected but not yet in service.

On land the space was mostly given over to parking helicopters, but to one side was a single-storey building for passengers and staff, and a store with a timber control centre on top, managed by International Aeradio Ltd. The planning and structure were in the hands of H. J. B. Harding of Lewis & Duvivier, engineers, architectural features being provided by Caroline Oboussier.

The heliport was opened on St George’s Day 1959 by John Hay of the Ministry of Transport and Civil aviation, who arrived in a Port of London Authority launch and departed in a Westland Widgeon. With other options still being considered, Hay was cautious in his predictions for the heliport, thinking it too far from the centre of London for regular passenger services. BEA and Sabena, the civil airlines most interested in helicopter operations, pronounced themselves ready to fly there occasionally, but the main users anticipated were hospital patients, businessmen, and ‘aircraft carrying news and pictures for London newspapers’.

Traffic in the early years was limited to daylight hours, emergencies excepted, with 1,515 movements recorded in the first year. The numbers did not rise much till 1966, when turbojet helicopters for executives started flying. By then the seven-year option on the site had been extended; this was repeated recurrently until permanent planning permission was granted in 1995. After the number of flight movements climbed, an annual upper limit of 12,000 was fixed in 1977. By the end of 2006 this had been exceeded, against a background of a growing population along the Thames corridor used for the majority of flights and increasing concern over noise levels. By that date the heliport was owned by Weston Aviation.

It has been much replanned; none of the original buildings survives. In 2003 London Heliport was acquired by Weston Homes. In 2012 it was bought by the Reuben Brothers, who also own Oxford Airport.

Its strategic location provides the ideal launch pad for celebrities, business people, heads of state, and other weathy folk and dignitaries as well as air ambulance and aerial police units. The Children’s Air Ambulance was launhed in 2012 by Simon Le Bon.

Since 2013 it opened up for sightseers who want to get a bird’s eye view of London — provided they can afford it and special trips for the fashionable events including Royal Ascot, British F1 Grand Prix, Festival of Speed/Revival Meetings at Goodwood, Cowes Week, Wimbledon Tennis and inbound for the Chelsea Flower Show.

Paparazzi photos inform us that Tom Cruise, Kendall Jenner, and Mariah Carey are among the celebs who’ve recently flown in here — and apparently the facility is also particularly handy for footballers needing to get places quickly on transfer deadline day. The site of the heliport can only be seen easily from the riverside walkway in Fulham.

On 16 January 2013 a helicopter diverting to London Heliport in adverse weather collided with a construction crane and then crashed into the street near Vauxhall Tower, killing the pilot and one person on the ground. This was the first fatal helicopter crash anywhere near the heliport since records began in 1976.

Edmiston, the luxury yachts, announced in August 2019 that they would be taking over the title sponsorship of the heliport with a restyling of the interior & exterior areas as well as repainting the helicopter landing apron.

View London from 1000 feet above the Thames! See all the major attractions that have made London one of the greatest cities in the world.Approx 60 mins with 30 mins flying. From £99 per person!

So what was set up as a temporay enterprise is still there and it is London’s only heliport.

Beyond the Heliport towards Battersea Square which was the old village of Battersea were a few industries Whiffen’s from1850s made strychnine and quinine at Lombard Wharf, by 1933 had moved to Fulham, fire-brick and sanitary ware manufactory of West Brothers, 1870s until the 1950s.

Walter Carson & Sons paint and varnish works the Grove Works, was the longest lasting, surviving into the 1960s.

Before Battersea Power Station in 1901 Battersea Borough Council’s constructed an electricity generating station beside the Caius Mission till 1972. There was boat- and barge-building mainly from the 1870s at Albion Wharf, beside the White Hart Inn. At Valiant Wharf was a ready-mixed concrete plant 1955–8 by Ham River Grit Co. Ltd, processing cement and aggregates brought by road and river from Kent and Essex expanded into marine aggregates and in 1968 was taken over by the Ready Mixed Concrete. The wharf closed and were replaced by Valiant House flats,

Albion Works of Thomas Hunt & Sons, millwrights, a dye-works at Althorpe House (1850s); a cigar factory in the High Street (1875), Allen and Ernest Lambert, sons of the founder of Lambert & Butler. It became a pipe factory Ductube Company Ltd which closed in the 1950. , E. Wolff & Son Pencils in Battersea the High Street were absorbed into the Royal Sovereign Pencil Co. Ltd, when production moved to Neasden.

Victoria Granaries warehousing and stables,at Battersea Square converted to dance studios for the Royal Academy of Dance. Ship House at Nos 34 & 35 became offices in 1989–91. The Royal Academy of Dance is moving and and has been bought by Thomas’s School to build a secondary School there. Will the young royal children continue their education here?

In Church Road from 1834 was the May & Baker factory perhaps the area’s biggest and best-known chemical company as suppliers to pharmacists of bismuth, camphor, ether and ammoniacal preparations. The firm’s riverside site at Garden Wharf, acquired in 1841, remained its headquarters until 1934.

Bolingbroke House next to St Mary’s Church was the manorial house. In the 1740s it had been home to the famous politician and philosopher Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke.

Bolingbroke House

The house is particularly associated with Henry St John, first Viscount Bolingbroke. Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678 –1751) was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories supported the Jacobite rebellion 1715 escaped to France but was allowed to return to England in 1723. It was his childhood home, and he died there in 1751. Both Bolingbroke’s grandfather, Sir Walter St John (1622–1708), and father, the first Viscount St John (1652–1742), lived there for much longer periods.

Memorial to Viscount Bolingbroke and his wife Mary Clara with inscription N

Most of it was pulled down in the late eighteenth century, leaving the north wing and stables (later occupied in connection with the adjoining flourmills and demolished about 1925.

However, the next structure on the site was the horizontal mill built in 1788 by Thomas Fowler. It was one of Battersea’s first power stations. The two paintings below are by two non related Turners and both are in Tate Britain. The Swan is the pub in Daniel’s painting around 1805. with the old Battersea Bridge erected 1771. Daniel lived and worked in Horseferry, Millbank, just a few moments’ walk from where the present-day Tate Britain stands.

It had been built in 1788 for Thomas Fowler, an oil and colour merchant, and first used for crushing linseed for a few years before, in 1792, being annexed to the extensive adjacent maltings and distillery owned by John Hodgson, and being put to use grinding corn and malt. The white tower contained a forty-metre-high machine, comprising horizontal ‘floats, as in the wheel of a water-mill’ which when the shutters were opened turned to generate power, ‘even where there is little wind. This strange gasometer-like horizontal windmill monopolized the skyline around the church for forty years and built on land reclaimed from the river in front of the formal gardens of Bolingbroke House.

The idea that Bolingbroke’s home had become the site of an industrial windmill horrified one former visitor, who wrote in 1817:“This house, once sacred to philosophy and poetry… is now appropriated to the lowest uses! The house of Bolingbroke become a windmill!.. yesterday, this spot was the… seat of enjoyment of Bolingbroke, Pope, Swift… (now) vanished; while in their place I behold hogs and horses, malt-bags and barrels, stills and machinery!” (Rev Daniel Lysons 2nd Edition 1811).

The management of the mill changed from Hodgson to Thomas Dives probably coincident with the change from wind to steam power, which occurred before 1833.

It worked by wind until 1825, when the windmill was dismantled just , leaving the base which was removed in 1849 but the site was used for milling, using other machinery, until 1882. The mill was supplemented by a steam engine and Pitt the Younger is said to have shown great interest in the whole enterprise. Thomas Dives was succeeded by his son Frederick on his death in 1880.

Frederick took James William Mayhew into partnership some time before 1890 and the Mayhew family eventually took over control (1894) though Frederick Dives retained an interest until at least 1901.

Mark James Mayhew (1871-1944 was born in Battersea and in 1891 was living at 1 Spencer Park, Wandsworth with his parents and described as a Miller’s Assistant. He became a great motoring enthusiast rather like Viscount Curzon 1884-1964 the MP for Battersea South who became a racing driver winning the 1931 24 Hours Le Mans race. Served as President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club which he co-founded in 1928 and served as its President until his death in 1964.

Mayhew once stood as a Radical parliamentary candidate for Wandsworth, was an unusually enlightened owner, drawing rebukes from the Master Millers’ Association for paying his workers more than was usual in the trade at the time when he reduced their working hours for the same pay.

As a Yeomanry officer he has made considerable use of horseless vehicles during manoeuvres, and also in conducting staff officers, and frequently the Commander-in-Chief himself, on official inspections. He organised the Corps of Automobile Volunteers. One of his Captains was Charles Rolls of Rolls Royce.He participated in the great Continental Road Races of the day -the Paris to Bordeaux races and the ‘Gordon Bennett’ series. He is the owner of, and drove, Benz, Panhard, Mors, New Orleans and Napier cars. In May 1902, he spent what was probably the first recorded motoring honeymoon – in Wales. Soon afterwards his wife was photographed behind the wheel of her own Baby Peugeot.

He also was, of course, keen on the use of motor vehicles in the milling industry. He was quoted in this mechanical-haulage-for-millers article in 1905 when he tells us about his fleet of lorries .

In 1914 when Mayhew’s business was acquired by Joseph Rank Ltd, the leviathan of British flourmilling, primarily as a vehicle for Joseph’s second son Rowland to practise his own theories on modern milling. This was a time of tremendous growth for the family firm, and increasing involvement and responsibility for Rowland and his two brothers, James and J. Arthur Rank. It was said that but for Rowland’s death in 1939, the success of his firm—which kept the name Mark Mayhew Ltd—might have rivalled that of his father’s.

Rowland began reconstructing the mills on Rank family lines, using his father’s architects, Sir Alfred Gelder and Llewellyn Kitchen. In 1915–18 land was reclaimed from the river to add to the wharf, the remnants of the old horizontal mill were demolished, and a new range of mill, silo and screens buildings erected. Within a decade a second, larger range of buildings for the old maltings site was cleared and its wharf extended into the river. Taller than hitherto, with silos over 110ft high, the new mills could only be raised under waivers from LCC building regulations. Gelder, a veteran of British mill design, complained that he had never ‘been subject to such severe conditions.

The additions, which connected to the existing range at its north and south ends to form a sort of quadrangle, were made c.1934–7. The great height of the buildings—in particular the grain silos—was deemed necessary to enable an entire barge of imported grain to be unloaded at one time. From the silos it was taken to the adjoining screens for washing and purifying, then crushed in the mills by steel rollers powered by coal-fired steam-engines.

The business was incorporated into the Rank company which, in 1962, acquired Hovis McDougal to become Rank Hovis McDougal. All buildings on the site remained until the 1970s. The flourmills finally closed in 1992, and were sold and demolished in 1997 to be replaced by Montevetro which was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership which took six years to build and finished in 2000. I think it an interesting juxtaposition. Both building dominate the charming St Mary’s Church which is grade 1 listed .

We move along to the site that was dominated by Morgan Crucible but was built on the site that was occupied by Marc Brunel’s Sawmills and boot factory. Morgan’s Walk now occupies that area which is on a modest scale compared to Montevetro apartments alongside of Richard Rogers Partnership’s towering over St Mary’s. As part of the planning agreement an intended private riverside walk was made public, and the site of the disused fire station at Battersea Bridge incorporated into the scheme and landscaped as a public open space.

Battersea was graced with the genius of Brunel who set up his sawmills a little way along from Battersea bridge. Marc Brunel 1769-1949 was a French-émigré engineer and inventor who solved the historic problem of underwater tunnelling. He is best known for the construction of the Thames Tunnel and as the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was born in Hacqueville Normandy on the family farm. At the age of eleven he was sent to a seminary, where they allowed him to learn carpentry and sketch ships in the local harbour. As he had no interest in the priesthood he was sent to relatives in Rouen where a family friend tutored him on naval matters and he became a naval cadet in 1786, visited the West Indies and made an octant for himself from brass and ivory.

Marc and Sophia Brunel

He had fled to the United States during the French Revolution as he was a a Royalist sympathiser. In 1796, he was appointed Chief Engineer of New York City where he built many buildings, improved the defenses of the channel between Staten Island and Long Island, and constructed an arsenal and a cannon foundry. He moved to London in 1799, where he married Sophia Kingdom from Plymouth. They had met when she was a governess in Rouen in the early 1790s, she was arrested as an English spy, and daily expected to be executed. She was only saved by the fall of Robespierre and returned to London 1795 and was able to leave France and travel to London. Marc remained in the United States for six years, sailing for England in February 1799. He immediately sought and found Sophia and they married in November that year.

He had heard of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had in obtaining the 100,000 pulley blocks that it needed each year which were made by hand. Brunel quickly produced an outline design of a set of machines that would automate their production. In 1802 Brunel’s block-making machinery was installed at Portsmouth BlockMills. A pulley-block has four parts: the shell, the sheave, the pin for locating the latter in the shell and a metal bush, or coak, inserted into the sheave to save wear between it and the pin.His machine could be operated by unskilled workers, at ten times the previous rate of production. Altogether 45 machines were installed at Portsmouth, and by 1808 the plant was producing 130,000 blocks per year. Unfortunately for Brunel, the Admiralty vacillated over payment, despite the fact that Brunel had spent more than £2,000 of his own money on the project. In August 1808 they agreed to pay £1,000 on account, and two years later they consented to a payment of just over £17,000.They started the age of mass-production using all-metal machine tools and are regarded as one of the seminal buildings of the British Industrial Revolution. They are also the site of the first stationary steam engines used by the Admiralty.

Brunel’s Battersea sawmills evolved from this pioneering mechanized block- and sawmills projects for the Royal Navy and he planned to to capitalize on Portsmouth’s renown by establishing his own private block factory and sawmills to serve the merchant navy. He had began experimenting there with new types of circular saws, made to his designs by Henry Maudslay. He had by then acquired business partners and the the intended location for this factory had shifted to Battersea, to a riverside works a little west of Battersea Bridge by 1806.

This appealed to Brunel greatly, principally for its proximity to Chelsea and good transport links: ‘476 feet along the River and contiguous to two Turnpike Roads will always be of great value’, he wrote to his partners, ‘where can you meet with such [a] spot’? He may also have been influenced by his connection with the 2nd Earl Spencer—lord of the manor and major local landowner—and his wife the Countess Lavinia, whom Brunel considered his friends. It was the Earl who, during his tenure as first Lord of the Admiralty, had been instrumental in securing Brunel’s contract at Portsmouth.

Marc and Sophia came to live in Lindsey House in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea directly opposite his sawmills in 1808 1826. So, it was not far for him to walk to work. By then they had their three children Sophia, Emma and Isambard who was born in 1806. Isambard was Marc’s second name.

Lindsey House has quite an illustrious history of occupants. It was built in 1674 by the third Earl of Lindsaey on the riverside site of St Thomas More’s garden and thought to be the oldest house in Kensington Chelsea. It was extensively remodelled in 1750 by the German aristocrat Count Nicholas von Zindendorf, head of the Moravian Church who intended to make it the centrepiece of a religious settlement. Lindsey House originally stood directly beside the river, but when the Chelsea Embankment was built in 1874 to create a modern sewage system for London the house found itself well away from the water.

The house was later divided into seven dwellings: five in the main range and one smaller house in each of the two-storey wings at the ends. The terrace of seven houses thus created was renamed Lindsey Row. Today, it is known as Nos. 96 to 101Cheyne Walk. Whistler was a later resident. Behind the house is a small garden designed by Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll which features a lily pond and a mulberry tree, surrounded by a colonnade, with ornamental statues. That section of Cheyne Walk left over Battersea Bridge housed Turner at and Walter Greaves was the hoalso

Of all Brunel’s sawmills, that at Battersea was probably the most sophisticated architecturally, being in a severely simplified, astylar mode of Neoclassicism He placed his sawing-machines in the main central mill area, with ‘pavilions’ to either side—one a boiler- and engine- house, the other workshops.

Brunel explained in a letter to Earl Spencer, the origin of the boot factory was when he was approached in 1810 by a ‘respectable’ Army clothier to invent an apparatus for making military shoes,presumably with a view to entering into partnership. When the clothier withdrew shortly afterwards, Brunel decided to pursue the project alone. In this he was encouraged by Mudge, whom Brunel credited with the idea of employing only invalid not certain that Brunel had an official contract for supplying the Army’s footwear. Following a few tentative purchases by the government, he claimed later to have been ‘prevailed upon and induced’ by ‘flattering encomiums’ and verbal promises from high-ranking visitors to the factory— including Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of York, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces—to invest in expanding the business to supply the whole army with new boots and shoes, increasing production from about 100 pairs a day in 1810 to 400 by 1812; Wellington’s troops at Waterloo are said to have worn boots made by Brunel at Battersea but when peace came in 1815 the British government had no need for Brunel’s boots on such a scale, leaving him with a stock of some 80,000 unwanted pairs.

Brunel’s desperation had been compounded by further misfortune in August 1814 when the Battersea sawmill was almost entirely consumed by fire. Much of the stock of timber and veneer was rescued but the rsult was the destruction of all but the right wing of the sawmill and its steam engine. Brunel the optimist just made improvements. The sawmills were rebuilt and were fully operational again by 1816., similar to its to its predecessor – a central mill-house with flanking pavilions which had pediments and it was retained like that until its demolition in the late 1970s by Morgan Crucible Company which they used it as a store and workshop,.

By then he got invloved in,new private ventures, including a circular-frame knitting-machine, an experimental rotary printing-press, and the manufacture of a new type of decorative tinfoil. and had acquired new business partners, Samuel Shaw, a personal friend in the decorative tinfoil scheme and William Hollingsworth of Nine Elms a wealthy merchant and brewer, with one of his brothers, only in the sawmills.

Brunel patented his tinfoil process in 1818. By smoothing a thin layer of foil on a heated plate, applying additional heat, he was able to produce a delicately crystallized surface, which was then varnished and used to decorate all manner of objects from small items such as snuff or patch boxes, to lamp columns, urns and cabinets, even coaches. He presented the Prince Regent with a screen made of the patented tinfoil, and some of the rooms at Brighton Pavilion were apparently decorated in the material and it was also exported to Madras and Calcutta. However, the new foil process was widely pirated, and failed to bring the economic success he had hoped.

In 1828 these sawmills were acquired by John and James Watson and sawyers and veneer-cutters, who remained in business there until about 1849. By then the site had become part of a the steamboat yard Its boats plied between London Bridge and Chelsea becoming in 1875 the London Steamboat Company which were In 1897 were acquired by the Thames Steamboat Company, owned by Arnold Hills which eventually failed and its Battersea yard was acquired around 1905 by the Morgan Crucible Company.

Brunel is mostly known for designing and building the first Thames tunnel, between Wapping and Rotherhithe, which is now part of the London Overground. This, the world’s first underwater tunnel through soft ground, was begun in 1825 and – despite many difficulties and disasters – was completed in 1843.He is known above all for designing and building the first tunnel under the Thames, between Wapping and Rotherhithe, which is now part of the London Overground. This, the world’s first underwater tunnel through soft ground, was begun in 1825 and – despite many difficulties and disasters – was completed in 1843. This engineering marvel, had 24 million pedestrians pass through before it was converted to rail use for the Underground in 1865.

Sir Marc Brunel was a remarkable engineer and inventor who certainly left his mark on industrial Britain but Battersea can boast that he came here when he left Portsmouth to set up his sawmills and his later enterprises until bankruptcy when he served time in the King’s Bench Prison in Southwark and his other ventures took over. I am sure the young Isambard must have also crossed over Battersea Bridge with his father from his home in Cheyne Walk and was inspired by what he saw in his Dad’s business.

He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1814 and .knighted for his contribution to engineering in 1841. He died on December 12th 1849 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery London as was Sophia and Isambard in 1859. It is one of the Magnifient Seven Metropolitan Cemeteries and well worth a visit. I am familiar with it as I have conducted many a funeral in West London Crematorium, including a memorial service there at newly constructed mausoleum in the cemetery.

Morgan Crucuble Company is the final great industrial venture on this part of the Thames near Battersea Bridge. It was very much a family business founded by six Morgan brothers – Thomas, William, Walter, Septimus, Octavius and Edward.

The business began in 1850 with William Morgan’s acquisition of the City firm of a family friend, importing and exporting druggists’ sundries and ironmongery; by 1855 the other siblings had joined him in Morgan Brothers. Among the items of stock-in-trade they inherited were crucibles of imported graphite (or ‘plumbago’), used by metallurgists and jewellers to melt precious metals. William who was in London working for the National Provincial Bank, the Morgan Brothers became sole agents for crucibles from Joseph Dixon and Co, a New Jersey manufacturer of these crucibles,before long decided to establish their own factory. It offer metal smelters ‘a saving of more than 50 per cent in time, labour, fuel and waste‘ and were soon selling well all around the world.

In 1856 they acquired the small riverside crucible factory of E. Falcke & Sons at Garden Wharf, midway between Battersea Bridge and St Mary’s Church. The Falcke business dated back to about 1823, when the potter Wilhelm or William Gottlob Falcke (d. 1849) took a lease of land here. Trading initially as the Patent Plumbago Crucible Company, the Morgans added new kilns, factory-warehouses, chimney shafts and a wharf wall in the 1850s–70s; much of this work was overseen by the engineers R. M. Ordish and William Henry Le Feuvre. Ordish designed and built Albert Bridge in 1873

In 1872 the Morgans bought up houses standing between their works and the main road, enabling them to erect a large six-storey extension. Italianate in style, with a 100ft-tall clock-tower, the factory dominated the Church Road frontage and remained the focal point of the works throughout its 100-year history.   As business grew, the brothers whenever possible acquired adjoining properties and expanded the works. In 1876–80 the wharves to the east, formerly of Condy’s Fluid Company and the Bolingbroke Oil Works, were annexed, a large chunk of riverfront was reclaimed and embanked, and a concrete wharf wall constructed. In 1881 The current name of the company, the Morgan Crucible Company, was adopted. It became a limited company in 1890.

During the early 1900s they continued to expand along the riverfront. To their east in 1904–5 they bought up the former boatbuilding yard of the Thames Steamboat Company, including 330ft of river frontage and Brunel’s sawmills followed soon after by housing in Church Road and Little Europa Place.

The buildings that took their place included a five-storey office block of 1907, built alongside the 1870s clock-tower factory, and several mill buildings of 1911–14, of ferro-concrete construction. They acquired the Phoenix Wharf in 1910 and also the old maltings site beside the church so that by the mid 1920s only the Battersea Flourmills and May & Baker’s chemical works stood between Morgan’s and complete dominance of the riverfront from St Mary’s Church to Battersea Bridge.

1904 The company diversified into carbon brushes. The youngest and last surviving brother, Edward Vaughan Morgan, died in 1922. Members of the following generation continued the Morgan involvement in the business. In 1929 the Russian authorities closed the Leningrad factory and arrested its director after many years in which he defended this private company against the pressure exerted by the regime.  

Morgan’s expanded by acquiring other firms and diversification, including May and Bakers chemical works the last run of terraced housing at the east end of Church Road and new products such as refractory materials and electrical carbons. In 1934–7 they built large-scale reinforced-concrete factory buildings.

The 1951 film The Man in the White Suit with Alec Guinness was filmed along Church Road by Morgans. I often say how important these clips will become in reminding us what was there before development. This is why the Battersea Society screens a film annually at the Royal College of Art with Battersea locations.

Between and after the wars Morgan’s set up subsidiaries abroad to supply a growing world market. By 1960 the reorganisation of the group that had been underway for 12 years was completed with the creation of 4 new subsidiaries, bringing the total to 11 home subsidiaries and 12 external ones. In 1961 Morgan Crucible ceased to be a trading company; new UK trading subsidiaries were created: Morganite Carbon, Morganite Crucible Morganite Electroheat, Motganite Research and development. It was now a parent of 19 subsidiaries employing 8,000 people and were manufacturers of carbon brushes, carbon products, crucibles, furnaces, foundry plumbago, refractories; electrical and engineering products, radio and heavy duty resistors; bronze oil retaining bearings and sintered metal products. In 1964 they became one of the first businesses in the UK to computerise its financial records.

I worked for a briefly in 1966 in the laboratory of one subsidiary of Morgan’s called Graphite Products Ltd which was based in point Pleasant Wandsworth SW18 which produced lubricants and specialist paints using graphite.

The congested site left the firm little scope for expansion, in 1967 Morgan’s decided to transfer production to an existing second factory at Norton, Worcestershire, which had started as a ‘shadow factory’ during the war, and a new 40-acre complex at Morriston near Swansea. Unemployment around Swansea was high, and the move there in 1969–72 was sanctioned by Douglas Jay, Battersea North’s MP, President of the Board of Trade and a keen supporter of regional development. In 1977 they closed the carbon fibre venture at Battersea because of the lack of domestic demand. Morgan Crucible Co plc changed its name to Morgan Advanced Materials plc in 2013 and it is now a global engineering company, listed on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 250. They manufacture in 30 countries and employ approximately 8,800 employees. They continue to manufacture products from carbon and ceramic (including crucibles.

We can’t finish this history of Morgan crucible without mention of the wonderful mural of Brian Barnes MBE noted Battersea citizen and campaigner. Brian’s mural most famous mural is The Good the Bad and The Ugly, also known as The Battersea Mural, designed in 1976 and painted by a group of local people from 1976 to 1978. The 276-foot mural was demolished in 1979 by the Morgan Crucible in the middle of the night.

Here is a video of Brian which is one of the 1000 Londoners and is made by Battersea based Chocolate Films. I also feature as one of the 1000 Londoners and one of the four in Nine Elms.

Built by the London County Council, Battersea Bridge river station was located by Battersea Bridge on the River Thames. It was one of four Metropolitan Fire Brigade river stations. It remained open until 1937. It was demolished by Morgans.

After much debate plans for a private housing development by Wates Ltd for the vacated site were approved in 1978. Morgan’s Walk was completed in 1984. This was first big private housing development in Battersea on a prominent, formerly industrial riverside site, and seen as a harbinger of the area’s gentrification. However its the modest scale and architectural conservatism of its buildings is in stark contrast to the towering Montevetro apartments alongside.

Battersea Bridge The bridge’s creation in 1771–2 encouraged industrial development but its narrow timber spans hindered riverborne trade, collisions with barges being frequent enough to merit throwing four of the central spans into two in 1795. But by the early 1800s factories and wharves were appearing in larger numbers: in addition to Brunel’s works, chemical production, soapmaking and a pottery were established, and by the time of the general building boom of the 1840s, the riverfront here was fully built up. Collisions with barges being frequent enough to merit throwing four of the central spans into two in 1795.

With such importance attached to river transport, Battersea Bridge was further modified to aid navigation, Rowland Ordish in 1875 enlarging the central waterway from 31ft to 75ft and also increasing the size of openings towards the Chelsea end. It was eventually rebuilt in 1886–90 with the existing bridge, designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and built by John Mowlem and Co. There have been a few incidences with the bridge partly because of its position on a bend but we live with it and get great views from from the bus coming from Chelsea.

Here endeth this trip along the much altered Battersea riverfront. The views from Cheyne Walk by residents and the artists who painted from there, the two Turners, Whistler and his pupil, some say imitator, Walter Greaves certainly enjoyed the views and prompted me to check the houses and plaques of their illustrious residents over the years. I went with my list and friend Joan to take the snaps. I passerby, Clara who lived in the Greaves/Belloc House, kindly toook pics outside her place and Turner’s House. Secret London post was helpful.

If you have stayed with this till the end I hope you feel you learnt a little of the industrial heritage of this stretch of the Battersea riverfront but sorry that it is long and somewhat rambling but it is because I feel that so much has been obliterated of this heritage and replaced by luxury housing. The only upside is that we now have access to the Thames riverfront.

If you are interested in Battersea past, present and future do consider joining the Battersea Society. The aims of the Society are to strengthen Battersea’s sense of identity and community, stimulate interest in its geography,history, and architecture, and to promote excellence in new developments whilst conserving the best of the past. The Society organises talks, social events, walks and visits, and publishes a quarterly magazine, Battersea Matters. Find Battersea Society on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @batterseasoc.

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Battersea’s commemorative Plaques

Posted in Battersea's Commemorative Plaques by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 9, 2020

I began researching famous people connected to Battersea which had been a progressive Borough from its inception. I am a member of the Battersea Society Heritage Committee. I have lived in Battersea since I came over as a teenager in the sixties from Ireland and revel in its radical history and lament that it got subsumed into Wandsworth.

In 2018, the centenary of some women getting the vote, I started blogging on notable women and developed a walk of Notable Women of Lavender Hill and have blogged on each of them. I am happy to arrange a walk for groups.

I had also prepared an industrial Battersea riverfront walk for 2020 Wandsworth Heritage Festival which I am scheduled to do as a zoom talk in January. I do hope to do one IRl eventually!

Thursday 21 January at 6pm 

Talk on Battersea Riverside Industrial Heritage 

Discover the industrial heritage of Battersea with local historian Jeanne Rathbone.  The waterfront between Wandsworth Bridge and Battersea Bridge was home to major industries including Prices Candle Factory, Garton’s Glucose, Battersea Enamels, the Flours Mills, Morgan Crucible and Brunel’s Sawmills.   To book for Battersea Society events, please email  Zoom login details will be sent out 24 hours before the event. 

I quickly discovered that there were sixteen LCC/English Heritage plaques all of which commemorated men. In August 2020 another man has been commemorated – Sir Robert Hunter co-founder of the National Trust. The Battersea Society has stepped in with our own plaque scheme and we have unveiled six.

There are plaques pending – Marie Spartali Pre-Raphaelite artist lived at The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens, Penelope Fitzgerald Booker prizewinning novelist of Offshore who lived at 25 Almeric Road when she wrote it, Jeanie Nassau Senior first woman civil servant when appointed Inspector of Workhouses who lived at Elm House on the site of Batteresea Town Hall and Ethel Mannin prolific author who was brought up in 28 Garfield Road SW11 but lived at Oak Cottage 27 Burghley Road Wimbledon SW19.

Some plaques are in the north of Battersea centred near the mansions and the others are south of Lavender Hill. These next few are south of Lavender Hill.

Edward Thomas (3 March 1878 – 9 April 1917) was a poet, essayist, and novelist. He is considered a war poet although his career in poetry only came after he had already been a successful writer and literary critic. In 1915, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the war and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras. in 1917, soon after he arrived in France. His plaque is on 61 Shelgate Road SW11 near Battersea Rise

John Walter (1 January 1738 – 17 November 1812) was an English newspaper publisher and founder of The Times newspaper, which he launched on 1 January 1785 as The Daily Universal Register. His plaque is on Gilmore House 113 Clapham Common Northside SW4. He lived there when he was a coal merchant and he went bust but the house which became the deaconate under Isabella Gilmore was saved from demolition by her as she had acquired it in her name. She was a sister of William Morris and the chapel which was designed by architect Philip Webb has a window designed by Burne-Jones. Alas my bid for an EH plaque to her was unsuccessful. DEACONESS ISABELLA GILMORE | Jeanne › 2018/03/12

Fred Knee (16 June 1868 – 8 December 1914) was a British trade and socialist politician. In 1900 he became an alderman and the chair of the Housing Committee, instituting a major programme of construction, producing some of the nation’s first council housing. He also has a plaque in Frome which was unveiled by Lord Alf Dubs who our Battersea MP. His plaque is on 24 Sugden Road SW11.

William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was a politician, philanthropist and a leader of the movement to abolish the trade of black slaves from Africa. In earlier years he became an habitué of gambling clubs such as Goostree’s and Boodles in Pall Mall. The writer and socialite Madame de Stael described him as the “wittiest man in England”. He lived at Battersea Rise House, the home of fellow his friend banker Henry Thornton and it became a base for the Clapham Sect. He later moved to Broomwood Road on the west side of Clapham Common, where another plaque commemorates the site of his former home 111 Broomwood Road SW11.

George Alfred Henty (8 December 1832 – 16 November 1902), a prolific English novelist and war correspondent, is best known for his historical adventure stories that were popular in the late 19th century. He wrote 122 works of historical fiction. Henty’s novels were racist and xenophobic towards non-British people and many objected to his glorification of British imperialism. The pub in Lavender Gardens called The Cornet was named after The Cornet of Horse: A Tale of Marlborough’s Wars. His plaque is on 33 Lavender Gardens SW11.

John Burns (20 October 1858 – 24 January 1943) was a trade unionist and politician, particularly associated with London and Battersea politics and He was a socialist and then a Liberal Member of Parliament and Minister. His plaque is on 110 Clapham Common Northside SW4.

Ted “Kid” Lewis (born Gershon Mendeloff; 28 October 1893 – 20 October 1970) was an professional boxer who twice won the World Welterweight Championship. He was a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and became a friend of Charlie Chaplin’s. Strangely in 1931 he stood for parliament with Mosley’s New Party! He died at the Nightingale Jewish Care Home at 105 Nightingale Lane SW12.

Gus Elen (22 July 1862 – 17 February 1940) was a musichall singer and comedian. He achieved success from 1891, performing cockney songs including “Arf a Pint of Ale”, “It’s a Great Big Shame”, and “If It Wasn’t for the ‘Ouses in Between” in a career lasting over thirty years. He dressed as a costermonger. He spoke of the living conditions of ordinary workers and about the cramped housing conditions of the East End and was well known for his involvement in personally organised charity events. His home was 3 Thurleigh Avenue SW12

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (19 June 1834 – 31 January 1892) was a British Baptist preacher. He remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations, among whom he is known as the “Prince of Preachers”. He was a prolific author of various types of works which were translated into many languages during his lifetime. Thousands flocked to hear him speak. His tomb is at West West Norwood Cemetery. The plaque is at 99 Nightingale Lane SW12.

Henry Mayo Bateman (15 February 1887 – 11 February 1970] was a cartoonist and , humorous artist. He was born in Australia. noted for his “The Man Who…” series of cartoons, his work can be read as a social history of Britain in the first half of the 20th Century. He made radical contributions to the art of the cartoon and became the most highly paid cartoonist in the country, sought after by advertisers in America, Australia and was published in Europe. He left for Gozo, Malta to paint and avoid the taxman where he died. His plaque is on his home 40 Nightingale Lane SW12

Charles Sargeant Jagger (17 December 1885 – 16 November 1934) was a sculptor who, following active service in WW1sculpted many works on the theme of war. He is best known for his war memorials, especially the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner and the Great Western War Memorial at Paddington Station. He lived at 67 Albert Bridge Road SW11.

Edward Adrian Wilson (23 July 1872 – 29 March 1912) was was an English physician, polar explorer, natural historian, painter and St George’s Hospital Medical School, London and undertook mission work in the slums of Battersea in his spare time. Scott wrote ” I believe he really is the finest character I ever met.” He died in the polar expedition. He lived at 42 Vicarage Crescent SW11.

Short Brothers. In 1908 Eustace (17th June 1879-3rd April 1932) and Oswald (16th January 1883-4th December 1969) were into ballooning which is why they were based near the gasholders. They joined by Horace (2nd July 1872- 6th April 1917) when it became apparent that heavier than air crafts were the future of flight. They registered their partnership under the name Short Brothers. The American Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, assigned the new company the British rights to build the Wright Flyer for six aircraft thus becoming first aircraft manufacturing company in the world. The plaque is on arch 75 Queens Circus SW11 which was unveiled by Jenny Body OBE, the first female President of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Sir Robert Hunter (27 October 1844 – 6 November 1913) was a solicitor, civil servant and co-founder of the National Trust. He was a leading figure in safeguarding the protection of open spaces and historic places in Britain. He is commemorated with a blue plaque at 5 Louvaine Road SW11 where he lived between 1869 and 1872 – a short but significant period of his life, both professionally and personally.

Norman Douglas (8 December 1868 – 7 February 1952) was a British writer, now best known for his 1917 novel South Wind based in Capri. His travel books such as his 1915 Old Calabria were also appreciated for the quality of their writing. He was accused of paedophilia and jumped bail. He had literary friends and lived with the publisher Pino Orioli. He lived in 63 Albany Mansions, Albert Bridge Road SW11.

John Archer (8 June 1863 – 14 July 1932) was a politician and political activist. In 1913 he was elected Mayor of Battersea, the first black mayor in London. He was a notable Pan-Africanist and the founding president of the African Progress Union. He was Labour Party election agent for Shapurji Saklatvala, a Commmunist Party activist who became Battersea North MP, one of the first Indian MPs in Britain. The plaque is on his former home 55 Brynmaer Road SW11.

Seán O’Casey; 30 March 1880 – 18 September 1964) was an Irish dramatist writing about the Dublin working classes at a time of political upheaval against British colonisation and the ensuing civil conflict in Ireland. His plays include ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ (1923),’Juno and the Paycock’ (1924), ‘The Plough and the Stars’ (1926), and ‘The Silver Tassie’ (1928). Situated at 49 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive, SW11.

Battersea Society plaques.

Hilda Hewlett (17 February 1864 – 21 August 1943) was an early aviator and aviation entrepreneur. She was the first British woman to earn a pilot’s license. With her business partner Gustave Blondeau she ran the first pilot’s training school in Brooklands, taught her own son to fly and he became a captain in WW2. They ran the Omnia Works aircraft Factory 1912-1914 in 4 Vardens Road SW11.

Donald Ibrahím Swann (30 September 1923 – 23 March 1994) was a Welsh-born composer, musician, singer and entertainer. He was one half of Flanders and Swann, writing and performing comic songs. Michael Flanders used to rib him for living in Battersea! His plaque is on his home 13 Albert Bridge Road SW11.

Sir George Shearing (3 August 1919 – 14 February 2011) was a jazz pianist from Battersea, the youngest of nine children. For many years he led a popular jazz group that recorded for Discovery Records, MGM Records and Capitol Records The composer of over 300 titles, including the jazz standards “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Conception”. He played with Claude Bampton’s newly formed, all-blind stage orchestra in 1937. He went to the US in 1947 forming his quintet, later a sextet, with its trademark “Shearing sound” and performed for three US presidents. He returned most summers to the Cotswold house he had bought with his second wife, the singer Ellie Geffert, avidly following cricket on BBC Radio’s Test Match Special. Alyn Shipton jazz broadcaster had co-wrtten George’s biography and he unveiled the plaque which is on what was Linden Lodge School for the Blind which he attended now Northcote Lodge Prep School on Bolingbroke Grove SW12.

Katherine Mackay Low was born in Georgia, USA (9 July 1855- 2 January 1923). Her many friends created a memorial to her which would also further the kind of service to which she had devoted herself to in Peckham. On 17 May 1924 the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) declared open the Katherine Low Settlement. KLS supports children, young people and their families, older people, women and refugees and newly-arrived communities. KLS is a listed building situated on Battersea High Street.

Pamela Hansford Johnson ( May 29, 1912,- June 18, 1981), was a novelist and critic. She treated moral concerns with a light but sure touch. Her debut novel This Bed Thy Centre (1935) was set in Battersea/Clapham and was a popular and critical success. Among her most fully realized novels are Too Dear for My Possessing (1940), An Avenue of Stone (1947), and A Summer to Decide (1948), a trilogy that follows the fortunes of a group of friends from the 1920s to the end of the 1940s. She cane from a theatrical family, attended Clapham County School, was first girlfriend of Dylan Thomas and her second husband was CP Snow. She was brought up at 53 Battersea Rise SW11.

Caroline Selena Ganley (16 September 1879 -3 August 1966) CBE, JP, Labour Party member of the London County Council elected 1925 1934 for Battersea North. She became the first woman president of the London Cooperative Society, served as a Battersea Councillor (1919–25, 1953–65) and as Member of Parliament for Battersea South 1945-51. Her biography was written by Sue Demont, secretary of the Battersea Society. Mrs Ganley lived at 5 Thirsk Road SW11.

Charlotte Despard (née French 15 June 1844 – 10 November 1939) was an Anglo -Irish suffragist, socialist, pacifist, Sinn Feiner and novelist. She was a founding member and President of the Women’s Freedom League, Women’s Peace Crusade, and the Irish Women’s Franchise League and an activist in a wide range of political organizations over the course of her life, including among others the Women’s Social and Political Union, Humanitarian League Labour Party Cumann na MBan and the Communist Party of Great Britain and secretary of the Friends of Soviet Russia. She was widowed and childless. She came to live in Nine Elms Battersea amongst the people she helped and set up facilities including a canteen, clinic and classes. She was imprisoned four times for her suffragette activism and she continued actively campaigning for women’s rights, poverty relief and world peace right into her 90s. Her plaque is on Battersea Labour Party HQ 177 Lavender Hill which she helped to fund.

That’s all folks. Enjoy the Battersea plaques trail.

Four 18th Century Houses near Lavender Hill and their occupants

Posted in Four 18th Century Houses near Lavender Hill and their occupants by sheelanagigcomedienne on August 3, 2020

This was the title of a presentation for the Battersea Society which I was due to give for the Wandsworth Heritage Festival 2020 in Battersea Library on Lavender. Hill. I did present it, via Zoom, for the Battersea Society and it was our first one in lockdown on 16th June. This evolved out of the notable women of Lavender Hill walks/talks that I have been doing as I promote these inspiring women in my immediate neighbourhood.

I did a zoom talk for the Battersea Women’s Institute which had technical difficulties so that they couldn’t show Powerpoint so I did another walk on Sunday 20th July pointing out, as always, that there are 16 English Heritage/LCC blue plaques in Battersea none of which commemorate at woman and I am on a mission to redress it.

We now have three Battersea Society plaques commemorating Hilda Hewlett at 4 Vardens Road, first woman to gain a pilots licence in 1911, Caroline Ganley OBE on 5 Thirsk Road who was Battersea MP 1945-1951, Pamela Hansford Johnson CBE novelist and critic on 53 Battersea Rise and a Labour Party one to Charlotte Despard Socialist, Suffragette, Pacifist and Irish Nationalist on 177 Lavender Hill and there is one proposed for Jeanie Nassau Senior on Battersea Town Hall.

The Lavender Hill Clapham Common area of Battersea was where the larger villas were in the 18th Century.  I am focusing on four of them which featured in my walks/talks of notable women of Lavender Hill.

The villas were up the hill and near Clapham Common. The majority were City men, attracted by the common’s rural environs, open outlook this area as it became developed was, generally regarded as an offshoot of Clapham.

With the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1540 the manor returned to crown ownership, and was eventually sold to the St John family. At the end of the eighteenth century it passed into the hands of the Spencer family. From the early seventeenth century to the early nineteenth Battersea was best known for market gardening supplying vegetables, fruit and flowers to the London markets, as well as plants to the colonies in America.

The village itself was by the river, close to the parish church, and there was a scattering of industry along the riverside. The construction of railways in the Victorian period hastened the suburbanisation of London and the population of Battersea increased from 6,000 in 1841 to 168,000 by 1901, by which time it had become a metropolitan borough.

After 1870 when Victorian building expansion began as the villas with gardens near Lavender Hill towards the commons were demolished, with ex-carpenter Alfred Heaver being one of the bigger developers who worked with the Conservative Land Society. Social conditions in the north of the parish were severely impoverished and industry was being developed along the river.

I live in Lavender Sweep and the house opposite us has the fanlight from the original Lavender Sweep House which was the home of playwright Tom Taylor and his composer wife Laura.

84 Lavender Sweep

This started me on finding out more about the history of the immediate area and the interesting people who lived here. Much was revealed in The Survey of London Battersea chapters and this is how I became familiar with my previous near neighbours that I wish to share with you, but there is no gossip involved. 

 The first of these 4 older houses is Elm House on Lavender Hill now on the site of Battersea Town Hall home to Jeanie Nassau Senior, the first woman civil servant. Jane Hughes known as Jeanie, whose brother Thomas Hughes MP, author of the popular novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays describes their early family life in the first few chapters of it.

Her friend Tom Taylor wrote In Memoriam to her when she died and another friend and admirer the artist George Watts who also painted wrote in anger to his sexist patron:  I think when you read the biography of “That Woman”, for it is one that will be written, you will find that very few canonized saints so well deserved glorification, for all that makes human nature admirable, lovable, & estimable, she had very few equals indeed, & I am certain no superior.

The image is from the Millais painting entitled The Rescuer with Jeanie as the model.

Sadly, it took 130 years before her biography was written. It was only published in 2008. Her biographer Sybil Oldfield draws on sources released only in 2000. Some of you will have come to the lovely talk on Jeanie given by Sybil last October in Dimson Lodge.

The cache of letters and ephemera found in the attic of her great, great grandson Graham Senior-Milne, with whom I am in contact, included letters written between her and her only child Walter and a network of friends, including George Eliot, who wrote about her as the model for Dorothea in Middlemarch, Millais, who painted her, Julia Margaret Cameron, who photographed her, Jenny Lind, the Swedish soprano, who sang with her, Lord Tennyson, Florence Nightingale, Octavia Hill, co-founder of the National Trust, Prosper Mérimée, the author of Carmen, who tried to seduce her and her neighbours the Taylors of Lavender sweep House and the artist Marie Spartali of the Shrubbery, Marianne Thornton at Clapham Common,. Kate Dickens and Anny Thacheray were close friends and confidantes The letters feel very contemporary and the ones to Walter at school and university were very frank, especially when mentioning his father.

There are no photos available of Elm House. The Survey of London states: In the 1860s, when a typical villa might let for £100–200, the Senior family managed to afford their residence at Elm House by means of Jeanie Senior’s own £400 a year, a £300 allowance from Nassau’s father, and £300 contributed by her mother, who lived with them. This allowed a staff of up to six servants, though no carriage. But theirs was an unusual household, its financial stability shaken by the failures of an unemployed husband and the commitments of an energetically philanthropic wife. His father disinherited him when he died.  

Annie Thackeray

Her friend Anny Thackeray, Lady Ritchie, recalled In ‘From The Porch’ (1913) that Elm House in those days had the : long, low drawing-room, with its big bow-window opening to a garden full of gay parterres where lawns ran to the distant boundary, while beyond again lay a far-away horizon… the vast plateau of London, with its drifting vapours and its ripple of  housetops flowing to meet the skyline. The room itself was pleasant, sunny, and well-worn. There were old rugs spread on the stained floors (they were not as yet in fashion as they are now); many pictures were hanging on the walls; a varied gallery, good and indifferent; … and then, besides the pictures, there was a sense of music in the air, and of flowers, and of more flowers. The long piano was piled with music books. ……Stately and charming people used to assemble at Elm House. It is an odd saying that people of a certain stamp attract each other. It was a really remarkable assemblage of accomplished and beautiful women who were in the habit of coming there, that home so bare, so simple yet so luxurious.’

Jeanie, born in 1828, was the only daughter among her six brothers and was brought up in Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire.

Donnington Priory now Drweatts UK auctioneer of Fine Art etc

 Jeanie, described as winsome and vivacious with a golden halo of hair, had a magical singing voice.

Devastated with grief after the death of her next oldest brother she became involved with Nassau John the only son of Nassau William Senior who was a well known political economist and close friend of her father. Jeanie later was to come into conflict with her father-in-laws social and political views. It was he who had drafted the harsh New Poor Law of 1834, and believed, for example, that “a well-regulated workhouse” was the best way to prevent pauperism because the “dissolute poor hate its cleanliness. She was 20 when she married.

The couple spent the early days of their married life at her father-in-law’s house in Hyde Park Gate, London, where Jeanie met many, of the leading religious, political and cultural figures of the day including Jenny Lind as Nassau Senior was her legal advisor. Her musical training as a serious singer makes her a great social attraction at the dinner parties of her eminent father-in-law who paid for her lessons. She was asked to test the acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall.

Jeanie’s husband turned out to be lazy and workshy. He could never hold on to the opportunities she secured for him. He apparently, loved Turkish baths. But his indolence condemned her to a lifetime of financial worries. She gave singing lessons. She juggled the family finances by the income from the various lodgers she accommodated including her mother and mother-in-law.

Yet she still had energy and emotion to spare especially for those whom her father-in-law had scorned. She visited workhouse inmates, supported a local industrial school for girls, and assisted Octavia Hill  in her housing project for the poor in Marylebone.

This picture by George Watts is in Wightwick Manor (National Trust) in Staffordshire.

Jeanie, wrote of providing soup with her mother Margaret to the people of Latchmere down Pig Hill. She wrote a letter to The Times arraigning the Wandsworth Board of Works about the dreadful sanitation at the foot of Battersea Rise which had an open sewer the Falconbrook but she wrote in her husbands name for her first foray into political life!

She was involved in provisions for Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 which led to her co-founding the British Red Cross, whose medal she received, and the scheme she set up  Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants, ‘had  wide-reaching and beneficial results.’

Wandsworth Workhouse Infirmary St John’s Hill

These are two local institutions she probably visited.

Latchmere Dispensary

She was approached, via Octavia, by James Stansfeld MP, President of the Local Government Board, and he appointed her as Assistant Inspector (and later Inspector) of Workhouses. They became great friends. She wrote an official report on pauper schools. ‘Report by Mrs. Senior on Pauper Schools’, in January 1874 which was inevitably critical of the existing arrangements. Carleton Tufnell, the Chief Inspector of Workhouses, tries to make Jeanie withdraw her Report before publication. Her report caused a public furore with a lengthy battle with the vested interests in the ‘workhouse establishment’, carried out largely through the letters columns of The Times. Jeanie bravely stood her ground but she had to  resign as a result of ill-health as she had ovarian cancer in December 1874.

She fought from her bed, with the backing of Florence Nightingale, who said she was a noble army of one, but it was too much. She died on the 24th March, 1877 aged 48. We can but wonder what she might have achieved if she had lived.

BAC had an immersive children’s show Return to Elm House inspired by Jeanie and her vision of fostering children and BAC have agreed to have a Battersea Society commemorative plaque on Battersea Town Hall when we can. It is the least that this remarkable and gritty woman deserves.

Lavender Sweep House

Lavender Sweep House was home to Tom and Laura Taylor and was one of four grand houses with a curved carriageway called Lavender Sweep, between Lavender Hill and Battersea Rise with a lodge at either end. Lavender Sweep house had its own carriageway entrance.

The back of the house seems so much larger than the front. The house had been expanded much by the time the Taylors bought it.

The back of the house before the further extension

 From the Survey of London; a billiard room on its north-west side, 30ft by 20ft, joined to the conservatory by an unusual flight of steps within a glazed, sloping passageway. A magnificent detached 42ft conservatory to the north-west of the house, with semi-circular ends in the manner the Palm House at Kew, reached by a tiled and glazed passage were added when the Taylors moved in  1858 when the house was sold the house to its final occupants. Taylor added a large study ‘to his own design’. A visitor in the 1870s found every wall in the house, even in the bathrooms, covered with pictures; a pet owl perched on a bust of Minerva; and a dining room ‘where Lambeth Faience and Venetian glass abound’.

It seems enormous compared to the front of the house.

The back of Lavender Sweep House after the further extension.

Ellen Terry In her autobigraphy said ‘it clearly became the home from home for the people from all the walks of literary, artistic and theatrical life that Taylor was part of”. 

Lavender Sweep was a sort of house of call for everone of note…At Lavender Sweep, with the horse-chestnut blossoms strewing the drive and making it look like a tessellated pavement, all of us were always welcome…The atmosphere of gaiety which pervaded Lavender Sweep arose from his kindly, generous nature, which insisted that everyone could have a good time…. …his house was a kind of mecca for  pilgrims from America and from all parts of the world….. Yet all the time occupied a position in the Home Office and often walked from Whitehall to Lavender Sweep when his day’s work was done…

Friends and visitors to Lavender Sweep included Dickens, Thackeray, Henry Irving, Tennyson and Lewis Carroll who took photographs of the house,  politicians like Mazzini and touring musicians like Clara Schumann, violinist Joseph Joachim, his wife soprano Amelia and Jeanie Nassau Senior and probably his neighbours the Spartalis.

 The soirées were presided over by Taylor himself dressed in ‘black-silk knee-breeches and velvet cutaway coat.

Tom Taylor had quite a CV.

Tom had an extensive CV.

He was a playwright, critic, journalist, editor of Punch, Professor of English Literature at London University, a barrister, a civil servant.  Tom was the son of a brewer who had been a farm labourer. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. B.A. in 1840 in mathematics and in classics, in 1842 he was elected a fellow of Trinity, got M.A. in 1843. He co-founded the Old Stagers which is recognised as the oldest amateur drama society still performing. For two years was professor of English in the London University. Meanwhile, having kept his terms as a law student at the Inner Temple, he was called to the bar in  November 1846. For a while he went the northern circuit, on the passing of the Public Health Act, in 1850, he was appointed assistant secretary, then  secretary of the Board of Health. When that was absorbed in the Local Government Board his post became that of secretary to the sanitary department.

But Tom Taylor owed his fame and the greater part of his income to other occupations. He engaged in journalism on the ‘Morning Chronicle’ and the ‘Daily News’ as a leader-writer. art critic for the ‘Times’ and the ‘Graphic and had started his connection with ‘Punch,’ and until 1874 he was an active member of the staff becoming editor in that year and he held that office till his death six years later.

His intention was to create plays his audiences would enjoy, and many of his works were adaptations of existing French plays, or dramatisations of the novels of Charles Dickens or other popular novels of the time and in thirty-five years he supplied more than seventy plays to the principal theatres of London. He played several parts as an actor. Our American Cousin, the play President Lincoln was watching in 1865 when he was assassinated.

Laura Wilson Barker, Mrs Tom Taylor and Wycliffe

He married Laura Barker in 1855 when she was 36.

Laura was born in 1819 was a musician and composer from Thirkleby  Yorkshire, was the sixth daughter of a vicar and was a descendant Wycliffe, the 14th century theologian, and religious reformer. Laura and her sisters had an upringing like the Brontes. Her father was an amateur musician and painter and.  Her first musical instruction in violin and piano came from her parents and then studied private composition and piano with the composer and pianist Philip Cipriani Potter, who became  principal of the Royal Academy of Music in 1832 1859

Laura met Paganini, with whom she played aged 13, who it said ‘was much astonished at her power in rendering—entirely from ear—his wonderful harmonies upon her violin’  which was a Stradivari which was later inherited by her future husband the playwright Tom Taylor which was owned by and played by the virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell.

Her father had sent Louis Spohr one of her compositions in 1937. Shemet him after a concert and he invited her to become his pupil at Kassel.  That year Her Seven Romances for voice and guitar were published, then an album of six songs for a voice and piano. Many of her compositions are based on texts by Tennyson.

She taught music at the York School for the Blind from 1843 until she married Taylor. Her great, great grandson Rupert, an actor living in Cork wrote to me as he wouldlove to resurrect her reputation as he thinks she was a sensational musical talent. He has several of her compositions for the Piano and Organ but said that when his parents sold their family home the early 70s another five or six volumes of her work were, for some reason, put into auction and have disappeared into a collection somewhere. He adds if one could only get some brilliant young up and coming female pianist to champion her cause, I am sure she would once again be restored to her place as one the top British women composers  In the late 1800’s she had as big an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography as her husband.

Dame Ellen as Juliet. in the Balcony Scene by Laura Barker

She was an excellent water colourist and so were her sisters. They were all very talented in several artistic directions and were called ‘the phenomenons’ by their contemporaries. Some of her watercolours are on display in Ellen Terry’s Smallhythe Place. 

Kate Terry, as ‘Beatrice’ and Dame Ellen Terry as ‘Hero’ in William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by Laura Taylor.

She had two children Lucy and Wycliffe. During her marriage there were few compositions except collaborations with Tom and incidental music to plays. She published again after he died. A reviewer in 1899 said she was an amateur of far more than ordinary ability. She died in 1905 having moved to Colsehill Berkshire.

Tom Taylor died at Lavender Sweep on 1880. The house was demolished but it it was the 1,200ft of frontage to Lavender Sweep/Battersea Rise that were the pull for the developers. Our house was built by 1882.

Laura went to live in Porch House Coleshill Bucks with Lucy. I was contacted by Dr Peter Helps who now lives in the house  and is a great, great grandson of Tom and Laura and Sir Arthur Helps, who was Clerk of the Privy Council, serving under 5 Prime Ministers and confidante of Queen Victoria worked with Tom Taylor. 

I would like to see a Battersea Society plaque commemorate the Taylors at 84 Lavender Sweep.

Marie Spartal 1844-1923, a prolific Pre-Raphaelite artist lived in The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens.

The Shrubbery

It is now a large house in a small garden, divided into 16 flats with St Barnabas Church in front added in 1897. When first erected it was a smallish house with a 7-acre garden that stretched from Clapham Common to Lavender Hill. In those days the house’s only immediate neighbours were Akerman’s Sister Houses to the east and West Lodge which once housed the gentleman thief known as Adam Worth, reputedly the inspiration for  Moriarty – Sherlock Home’s nemesis.

In 1764 Robert Lovelace, of Child’s Bank, had bought the land from 1st Earl Spencer,  to build then in 1796, Railton lived at The Shrubbery, his son William was the architect designer of Nelson’s column. Next George Scholey, distiller, was Lord Mayor in 1812.

Next John Humphery, in 1845 after extensions, which included a suite of three grand reception rooms on the north (garden) front—a dining room, circular drawing room and state drawing room, together nearly 100ft in length—the central one with a double-height bow to its exterior, embellished with giant-order Corinthian half-columns hall. The hall is topped with a saucer dome, open in its centre to a galleried hall above, lit by a hexagonal cupola, all decorated in and out with vigorously modelled Italianate plasterwork and stucco typical of the era. His family retained owership for the next forty years.  He was Lord Mayor of London in 1842.

Next owner in 1864 was Greek magnate in shipping Michael Spartali, who became Greek Consul. The Spartalis went bankrupt in 1885 and in the sale of furnishings were Old Master paintings, carved oak furniture, tortoiseshell cabinets, large chandeliers etc. It was described as an ‘Italianate mansion’ . As well as Humphery’s ‘richly decorated’ reception rooms, there was on the ground floor a second dining room and billiard room, either side of the entrance hall and vestibule, as well as a library and conservatory. The first floor had nine principal bedrooms, three dressing rooms, two bathrooms, a boudoir and morning room, with the second floor given over to servants’ accommodation.

The estate was acquired in 1885 by Heaver, who laid out Lavender Gardens in the grounds Rev. Francis Henry Baring, of the banking family, resided at the Shrubbery for a few years. the Vicar of Battersea, Canon Erskine Clarke, bought the house and moved his Vicarage School here in 1887. The the old mansion remained in use as a parish hall for nearly 40 years. One of my children went to playgroup there in 1980. An application by the church to demolish it was refused in 1969, and when it was sold in 1985 was in ‘a very dilapidated state’.

The foyer of The Shrubbery Lavender gardens.

Marie Spartali

was probably the most prolific and significant female artist of that movement. During a sixty-year career, she produced over a hundred works and seventy works, contributing regularly to exhibitions in Great Britain and the United States.

The Spartali’s friends the Ionedes were patrons of Rossetti, Watts, and Whistler. This is how Marie and her sister met them and were i asked to pose for them. On meeting Marie  Swinburne said “She is so beautiful that I want to sit down and cry”. Marie was an imposing figure6 ft 3 in tall. Beautiful throughout her lifetime she became more valued for her role as an artist’s model. She became a close friend of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones and alongside her cousins Maria Zambaco and Aglaia Coronio, collectively came to be known as The Three Graces.

Marie as Mnemosyne photo by Julia Margaret Cameron

 All featured in the recent Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Exhibition. She sat for numerous paintings by Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, James McNeill Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. She was the ideal as the mythical women and iconic heroines of early Italian literature They also had a home on the Isle of Wight decorated in the Aesthetic taste; There they were mixing with Tennyson and his visitors and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron who photographed her.

The Three Graces Marie and her cousins Marie Zambaco and Aglaia Coronio

Dante Gabriel Rossetti describing Marie Spartali Stillman in a letter to Charles Eliot Norton,in  1870′ She is a noble girl, in beauty, in sweetness and in artistic gifts, and the sky would seem very warm … and the road in front bright and clear … to him who starts on his life’s journey foot to foot and hand in hand with hand” 

Marie as Fiametta by DG Rossetti

Unhappy with being purely the recipient of male gazes, she desired to become an artist herself, and in 1864 studied drawing and painting under Ford Madox Brown for six years. She chose to work in a mixture of watercolor, gouache, and graphite, innovating her own technique with the addition of heavy, opaque pigments and additives that gave her work an overall quality of an oil painting.

Fiammetta Singing by Marie Spartali

Her paintings adapt the typical Pre-Raphaelite themes of female figures and literary characters, in addition to traditionally ‘feminine’ subjects of landscapes and floral still lifes. Her paintings of women ‘revised the way Pre-Raphaelite women were represented.

Love Sonnets.

She exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1867, the Grosvenor Gallery the Royal Academy and at various galleries in the USA between 1867 to 1908. A retrospective show there in 1982, and another one at the Delaware Art Gallery in 2015 and at the Watts Gallery Compton in 2016. Dr Nick Tromans, Curator of Watts Gallery, comments: “Like Mary Watts and Evelyn De Morgan Marie Spartali is part of the first wave of British women who were able to train as professional artists

Marianna by Marie

Marie married an American widower William Stillman who had three children. His wife had committed suicide and her parents disapproved so they did their courting in Elm House as she was a great friend of Jeanie’s.  He was an art critic, friend of Ruskins and a foreign correspondent. In 1874, they moved into No. 44 Altenburg Gardens briefly in what Stillman called ‘that delightful neighbourhood’. The house backed on to the garden of the Shrubbery.

Marie’s son Michael is the page boy

She and William had three children, living in Florence from 1878 to 1883, and Rome from 1889 to 1896, also travelled to America.

Marie’s daughter Effie, short for Euphrosyne

She went on to travel to the United States in the early 1900s where she exhibited her work at Curtis and Cameron’s Gallery in Boston, as well as in New York, making her the only Britain-based Pre-Raphaelite artist to work in the United States. Throughout her career, she consistently exhibited several pictures a year and sold work regularly.

Early Spring in Umbria 1893/4 by Marie Spartali

William died in 1901. Marie was good friends of William and Jane Morris and visited them often at Kelmscott Manor.

Kelmscott Manor by Marie Spartali

The Enchanted Garden by Marie Spartali

Marie died in 1927 cremated at Brookwood Cemetery. There is a Spartali Mausoleum at West Norwood cemetery.

She featured in the recent Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Exhibition at the NPG, as did her her cousins Maria and Aglaia. An application for an EH plaque to her by residents has been successful.

Gilmore House 113 Clapham Common became the deaconate established by Deaconess Isabella Gilmore 1842-1923.

Gilmore House Clapham Common Northside

She was an English church woman who oversaw the revival of the Deaconess Order in the Church of England. She served actively in the parish of Battersea one of the poorest in south London for almost two decades from 1891.

Sister Houses hence the name of the avenue nearby.

For nearly 150 years these two villas and their grounds formed one of the area’s great landmarks, built by the Akerman family to preserve the view from their home later known as Battersea Rise and the home of William Wiberforce. It was  across the small part of Clapham Common. The gardens ran to Lavender Hill. These villas acquired the name Sister Houses, or the Sisters; they were later known individually as Sister House and The Sisters which became Gilmore House.

This is Gilmore House taken from Clapham Common

 It is on the corner of Elspeth Road, facing Clapham Common, now private apartments. There is a GLC plaque to John Walter, coal buyer, who lived there for a few years 1774-1782  till he became bankrupt but later founded The Times

Deaconess Gilmore was born Isabella Morris in 1842 at Woodford Hall, Essex. She was one of ten children. She was educated by a governess before attending a private school in Brighton and a finishing school in Clifton in Bristol.When her father died the family moved to Water House, Lloyd Park Walthamstow E17 ( from 1848-1856) now William Morris Gallery and then to Leyton House in Leytonstone.

She met naval officer Lieutenant Arthur Hamilton Gilmore who was ten years older than her but she liked him for his kindness and humour and they had a happy marriage. She was widowed at the age of 40. Childless, she began training as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital which caused a lot of misgivings in the family. Two years later, she took on as her own, eight orphaned nieces and nephews from her late brother Randall. 

The biography of Isabella by Janet Grierson

In 1886, she was recruited by Bishop Thorold of Rochester, via the matron Miss Jones at Guys, to revive the female deaconate in his diocese. Reluctantly at first she accepted the challenge He was  regarded her as a woman of high intellect and strong will, with the rare gifts of sympathy with the souls of the very poor, and of courage to face the misery into which their misfortune or their faults had depressed them.

Deaconesses were to be “a curiously effective combination of nurse, social worker and amateur policemen” They established a training house for Deaconesses at Park Hill Clapham where she was ordained in 1887.

Most left after a shorter or longer time as the job proved too challenging. She insisted that the women were taught basic theological principles in order to be ready for parochial duties, trained in basic nursing skills and some were given the opportunity to train for six months at Guy’s hospital. The strict discipline weeded out the unsuitable candidates quite quickly and after a couple of years, the house was full of dedicated professionals. They provided a soup kitchen, donated clothing, looked after the sick, taught religion and basic sanitation.

One of Isabella’s less likeable duty was fundraising but was very good at it and in 1891, the institution could move to a larger house on the north side of Clapham Common

She wrote As we crossed the Common on Sunday afternoons, we came out at the top of Battersea Rise, near the front gate of a beautiful house called “The Sisters.” For a long time we called it “Our house”; but it was just a little bit of fun. One day during the hot summer of 1891, seeing a furniture van at the door, I was curious enough to ask if the people were leaving. “Gentleman dead,” was the reply. A fortnight later a board appeared, “This house to let.”. We found out that a Mr. Wallis had bought it, who lived in the other Sister house. I was shown into a magnificent library. “Come in, I know all about you.” “That is so nice, because I want you to let us have the house next door.” “Of course I will!” However, though he was willing we should have the house, his lawyers were not. I asked if he would take me for his tenant, giving him my banker’s address. I got it, on a seven years’ lease It was a stately mansion with acres of garden–no iron fence but a “ha-ha” . There are two busts in niches of Milton and Shakespeare which I think is pretentious

She was lucky again as when Wallis died a Mr. Shepherd Cross MP bought it. It transpired was a friend of Isabella’s mother’s and she persuaded him to sell her the house and he had the Sister House demolished.

She established many heavily subsidized forms of philanthropic organization, such as the provision of clothing for small loans, provident clubs, an industrial society, and girls’ preventive home.  She hated alcohol and deaconesses were expected to break up fights. Alongside their parochial visiting they liaised with different agencies: the relieving officer, the school attendance officer, the local doctor, local hospitals, and charities.

She set up The Girls Preventive Home, provided care or girls from abusive or neglectful family circumstances received a basic education and training to prepare them for domestic service or seamstresses, adjacent to the Deaconess Institution and run by a series of matrons. To support the Home, Isabella travelled on separate fundraising appeals. Jane Morris contributed to the Home annually in her own name (the only Morris family member to do SO).  

Chapel at Gilmore House designed by Phillip Webb. When (1894), Isabella’s mother died, she  left her a substantial sum which she decided to use on a chapel. Philip Webb designed a simple chapel in the arts and crafts style, as well as the furniture and a cross for it. It has Burne Jones designed windows.

The altar of Gilmore House Chapel

Though the chapel survives, unfortunately it was stripped of most of its furniture in the 1970s. and more recently was converted to a studio apartment as part of the 2007–8 redevelopment scheme. 


The apartment that was formerly the chapel of Gilmore House
The apartment that was formerly the chapel with the Burne-Jones designed window.

Gilmore House continued training till 1970 before becoming a student hostel. She served under three bishops who fortunately were supportive though she was trepidatious every time a new one was installed. Deaconess Glossop, of Lucknow writes of her. She was a most capable woman, abounding in zeal and devotion for her work amongst the poores tin the slums of South London. She never spared herself, and certainly her love for the sick and for children won them. Her keen sense of fun and real enjoyment of all the experiences that came to her and to us brought plenty of life and brightness into the House. There was never anything narrow or ‘goody-goody’ about her, and she had boundless sympathy. One Deaconess said ‘what impressed me most was her dealing with the people she visited, her humour, her tenderness, her shrewdness, and her knowledge of human nature’

Her “insistence on rigorous standards in training, and on the independent status of ordained deaconesses, who were paid (her own services were given free), had important implications for the professionalization of women’s work.Isabella was a member of the first executive of the National Union of Women Workers..” Morris is said to have remarked to his sister once, “I preach socialism you practice it’

In 1906, when she retired from the Rochester Institution she had presented forty-five of her students for ordination.

In 1914, moved to Kew the two nieces. She died on 15 March 1823 and was buried at St. Michael’s, Lyme Regis, beside her husband.

Isabella deserves to have a commemorative plaque on Gilmore House but a recent application to English Heritage was turned down which seems unfair to me as the house wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for her. She paved the way for the ordination of women. She is remembered with a commemoration in the Calendar of Saints and a bas-relief plaque in Southwark cathedral which was set up the following year.

Me on the Jerry Springer Show

Posted in Me on the Jerry Springer Show as a Humanist Wedding Celebrant by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 25, 2020

I was revisiting some of my blog pages and came across this one about the time I appeared on The Jerry Springer Show on ITV when he took over the Jeremy Kyle Show. Apparently, it was only for four weeks, according to Jeremy. Both shows are now history. The Jerry Springer Show finished in 2018 and Jeremy Kyle Show was cancelled permanently May 2019 after a participant died shortly after appearing on the trashy exploitative daytime show.

I found this item about Jerry V Jeremy and a bum tattoo. Jeremy Kyle makes shock dig at TV rival Jerry Springer.

Turning to the camera, Jeremy ranted: “With the greatest of respect for a man that was the number one daytime talk show in America for 19 years… But he only lasted four weeks over here.” In fact, The Jerry Springer Show ran for 27 years in the US from 1991 to 2018, starting when Jeremy was still a radio presenter.


Of course, we could also point out to Kyle that there was Jerry Springer the Opera which was a great success and got much publicity but no one bothered with an opera homage to his second rate English imitator.

I was contacted as a Humanist Celebrant, via the British Humanist Association, sometime in the noughties by the Jerry Springer team who were putting on an edition of  THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW in the Jeremy Kyle Show slot. There were to be two couples, each with one of the pair a transsexual,  who were committed to each other and wanted to have a wedding commitment ceremony on the show. Back then, before civil celebrants, we were the obvious go to for a secular wedding commitment ceremony. The BHA knew that I would probably be up for it having done some solo comedy. But, being the Jerry Springer Show there also had to be an extra slant to this too, involving some discord from their families.

Anyone who puts themselves forward for that show is seeking/happy for the publicity and their few minutes of TV exposure. As well, they would be getting a little trip to London,  a stay in a hotel, receive a makeover and be supplied with a wedding outfit from wardrobe department. But they did also have to bring along their modicum of  ‘family dynamics’ involving some disapproval, of course.

I was asked if I would act as celebrant and agreed that I would if I thought the couples were genuinely committed to each other- as much as one can make such a judgement about folk wishing to undergo the ‘Jerry Springer’ treatment. I asked that I be given the opportunity to talk/interview the couples to ensure that they did want to make a commitment to each other as well as getting to understand more why they wanted a  public ceremony and what the dissenting ‘issues’ were around it. I also have to ask if any of them are virgins as I do not marry virgins as I would deem it irrational to do so! They assured me that they were not virgins. This got me into bother with Humanists UK and the Ministry of Justice. That’s another story.

In the first case it was the woman X whose mother objected to her daughter’s relationship  because her partner Y had been a man when they first started to go out together. Mother was not going to budge on this and was not going to give them her blessing.

With the second couple there was hardly a problem but they manufactured one by getting the transsexual female’s son to state that he could not call his Dad ‘Mum’ but he was prepared to be the best man. His Dad was not asking him to call him Mum despite Jerry trying to stir it up!  The son had, of course, accepted the situation, seemed to like his Dad’s partner  and obviously was glad to see his Dad happy.

Here I am supporting Equal Civil Partnerships.

Outside the Supreme Court with the Equal Partnership Campaigners. They are now lobbying to have all the postponed registrations done online.

I helped the couples to write their own vows for the show as I refuse to do a formulaic repeat-after-me scenario as this is a hangover from a time when many people were illiterate. Instead, the couples write and read their own vows to each other. We had some fun preparing their promises/vows. We all had our makeover done. I thought I looked okay in a heavily made-up sort of way and it was evident that my tendency to become flushed was not apparent. Three of the four got their virginal white wedding dresses and veils and looked suitably bridal with bouquets as befits a JERRY SPRINGER  wedding event.

The first part of the show was about the ‘set-ups’ with their families, then I performed a very brief ceremony, they duly read their vows to each other  and I pronounced them wedded and gave them permission to kiss –  as you do. There was whooping and cheering as there usually is. Then they got Xs mother to storm off shouting obscenities to her daughter and her bride whilst the bestman son congratulated his ‘Dad’ and her husband. And we all went off to enjoy some ITV champagne.

JERRY SPRINGER SHOW is daytime and the only person who told me he saw it was Roger who was a local gay friend.  For me it was just another interesting event in my life as a Humanist celebrant.

The ITV Televison Centre was only recently sold to Mitsubishi. According to an article in the Architects Journal.

Make Architects has been selected to redevelop the former ITV headquarters building on London’s South Bank by its new owner Mitsubishi Estate in an all-cash transaction, reportedly worth £146 million, in November last year. Managing director and chief executive Yuichiro Shioda said: ’The size and South Bank location of this site present a unique opportunity to create something that is truly a destination in its own right.‘While our exact plans for the site are still being finalised, we will be working towards a scheme that contributes to both the local community and cultural focus the area enjoys, and will be seeking an open dialogue throughout with Lambeth Council.’ There are objections to the scheme.

Jerry Springer the Opera started life at BAC and we were there when it was ‘scratched’ with Richard Thomas and collected a lot of tins of lager which Joan and I insisted were shared around. Richard said; ” In February 2001, I performed a late-night lecture called How to Write an Opera about Jerry Springer. I spoke for about 40 minutes and I also bought several crates of beer to give to the audience in return for some feedback and ideas. This went down well.Alone at the piano, he invited members of the audience ( double figures on a good night) to make suggestions for the show’s content.

I would have gone under without them' | Stage | The Guardian

By May 2001, I had written the first-half libretto and about 20 minutes of music. I had four singers perform it and I also sang at the piano. I am a terrible singer but the material still worked well. That was a good sign. The evening attracted great press and some investment to pay singers and move the project forward. It also attracted Stewart Lee (who was also thinking about giving up), who came on board as co-librettist and director.

In August 2001, we performed a one-act version at the BAC Opera festival. This went stupidly well, but we still carried on trying new material because we wanted to do a two-act show.

In August 2001, we performed a one-act version at the BAC Opera festival. This went stupidly well, but we still carried on trying new material because we wanted to do a two-act show.” The critics have pronounced it as “triumph, tragedy and trailer trash, as high art meets low”, “utter, impure theatrical pleasure” and “an exhilarating foulmouthed fiesta”.

Of course, there were objections from the religious prigs shouting blasphemy and how it offends them. As ever they are told they don’t have go to see it but can’t prevent others from enjoying such entertainment.

The show was then performed in concert at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002, selling out. Jerry Springer came to see the show and endorsed it, stating, “I wish I’d thought of it myself.” Following the Festival run, Nicholas Hytner offered to include the show in his opening season as director of the National Theatre in London.

It is still being revived. it was staged at the Hope Mill Theatre Manchester last August.

Jerry Springer the Opera at Hope Mill theatre, Manchester.

In the age of Trump, certain lines jump out. “You could run for Senate or even president,” Jerry’s warm-up man tells him, greeted with a chorus of bitter laughs. The show’s questioning of the moral responsibility of TV also feels newly pertinent after the axing of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Ethel Mannin 1900-1984

Ethel Mannin was a popular British novelist, travel writer, political activist, socialist who was born in 28 Garfield Road off Lavender Hill. She was of Irish descent and had inherited her socialist values from her father Bob who was a postal worked. She is now one of the Notable Women of Lavender Hill. She was a prodigious author of over a 100 books!

Ethel bought Oak Cottage 27 Burghley Road Wimbledon in 1929 and lived there till 1974. I went to check it out on a hot day in July 2020 and took photos from the street but then knocked on the door. The Japanese man answered, I told him why I was there, he produced some of Ethel’s books and said his wife would probably be interested in speaking to me but she was having a bath. He took me to their Japanese style back garden where I waited and his wife Alison came and we had a long chat! She is Director of the Royal Asiatic Society. I will apply for a plaque for Oak Cottage rather than for the Garfield Road house.

Oak Cottage 27 Burghley Road Wimbledon 2020

This working class self-educated woman born in 1900 was a lifelong political maverick, was a pacifist, an anarchist, and an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause was. She was twice married and had a sexual relationship with Yeats and Bertrand Russell who featured in Impressions  as Portrait of a First Class Mind. These affairs were between husbands and this time and her views came back to haunt her later.

She was described in The Socialist Review as ‘a successful author, activist and fighter for sexual liberation, has truly been hidden from history. She moved in the same circles as George Orwell, CLR James and other radicals in the 1930s, yet few have heard of her today.’……. an opponent of censorship, a champion of sexual liberation and of progressive child-centred education.

I was amused that she was miffed at Isadora Duncan referring to herself as the ‘female Casanova of America’ stating that I have been called “a modern George Sand”(“but so much better looking, my dear”) but I have never gone about making a sort of slogan of it. She appears in most photos with a severe hairstyle with a middle parting.

Ethel when young

Ethel Edith was the eldest of the three children of Robert Mannin, a postal worker and Edith Gray, a farmer’s daughter from Devon. Her father Bob worked in the Post Office. She wrote a piece about Lavender Hill on a Saturday night, when she was in a little wooden pushcart, in her first memoirs Confessions and Impressions written in 1930. This is the only book of hers that I have read so far.

She talked of the ‘flairs on the street stalls, red as fire against the night-dark sky…..The crowds were more dense too which was an added excitement… the yellow  glare of lights from the shop fronts, the warm smell of the people pressed close together , the bunches of walllflowers stacked on barrows, the pungent smell of oranges and the great glowing blaze of their colour, the bunches of grapes, white and black suspended like Japanese lanterns from the awnings, the white nakedness of the scrubbed celery heads gleaming wantonly in the flicker and shadow, the rhythmic rows of shining apples And the black shawled gipsy-looking women who sold these things and their rough men-folk and brass earrings in their ears… infinitely romantic….clutching string bags costers shouting prices, a din of traffic… myself safe being pushed through it all like a dexterously  manipulated ship on a dark sea, in my little chair on wheels.’

There was a lovely post office opposite the library on Lavender Hill which got demolished. Perhaps that is where Bob was a mail sorter. Her father was also a fan of John Burns MP and she writes about walking on Clapham Common with her Dad as a young girl and them meeting Burns with his son.

And coincidentally she also has a chapter on actors Elsa Lanchester and Charles Laughton – Portrait of a Strange Pair. She probably didn’t know that Elsa also grew up near Clapham Common in Leathwaite Road and was also aware of John Burns and seeing him when she walked along Clapham Common Northside on her way to school.