Jeanne Rathbone

Inspiring Women of Battersea Book Launch

Posted in Inspiring Women of Battersea by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 13, 2022

Inspiring Women of Battersea book has been launched with a jolly do at Battersea Arts Centre, appropriately as many of the women featured would have had occasion to visit Battersea Town Hall.

The launch was a sterling team effort with Sue our Chair introducing. It was Sue who encouraged me to produce the book as she knew I had led walks, presented talks and blogged about these inspiring women. As a trustee she persuaded the Battersea Society to fund it for which I am grateful as there is no way I would have even considered it. Decades ago when I was reshearching for an exhibition on Charlotte Despard at Battersea Arts Centre by Irish Women in Wandsworth I was contacted by The Manchester University Press who were publishing a series on women’s history and contacting researchers. I had been looking into the history of Irish women as nationalists and suffragettes especially Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and was told that a biography on her was due to be published but if I had a specific angle on her they would be interested. I contacted her daughter-in-law Jeanne which was lovely but decided I was not prepared to do proper research and wasn’t cut out for book writing. Four decades later I did a walk on Notable Women of Galway which included Hanna’s grand daughter Micheline Sheehy Skeffington who was was a lecturer in NUI Galway and had taken out a gender discrimination grievance against them and won. It was much easier than writing a book/biography.

Thanks to Penny ‘The Georgians’ Corfield for agreeing to interview me not an easy task as I monologued and rambled- about myself, my life in Battersea since I first came here in 1962 including performing Sheela-na-Gig and dancing naked in Trilogy at BAC and, of course, the inspiring women of Battersea who have become like friends.

Writing their pen portraits felt like writing a Humanist funeral/memorial script which I have been doing for the past twenty five years.

Thanks to our heritage committee Chair Sue for her support for it and  persuading the Battersea Society to publish it and Battersea Poet  Laureate Hilaire’s expert editing and introduction. Sadly, Hilaire got covid and unable to  read her two poems inspired by Charlotte Despard and artist Marie Spartali. Thanks to Viv for stepping in so gracefully to read them and to Team Battersea Heritage for organising the launch. 

The poems come from London Undercurrents which is a gorgeous book jointly written with Joolz writing about Islington women,  known and unknown, and Hilaire on Battersea women. 

We are so lucky to have Suzanne Perkins as designer to turn files into a lovely illustrated book and delighted that Guardian journalist Zoe Williams wrote the foreword. 

Some of the inspiring Women I had known about for decades eg the Lanchesters and socialist activists Charlotte Despard and Caroline Ganley (not in the book as she has her own biography Battersea’s First Lady by Sue Demont).

I blogged about them, then the first talk was Significant  Women of Battersea on International Women’s Day 2018 the centenary year of women getting the vote. This turned into a walk Notable Women of Lavender Hill and finally into Inspiring Women of Battersea. The twenty women I had blogged about got whittled down to twelve addresses as some doubled up – the Lanchesters, the extraordinary Duval suffrage family of Lavender Sweep and the opera-mad, Jewish refugee rescuers Ida and Louise Cook funded by Ida’s writing for Mills and Boon as Mary Burchell. 

The book is available from the Battersea Society website at £8.60 inc p&p or £7.00 from me or at Battersea Society events. It has a map designed by Karen Horan at the back so that it can serve as a trail, the first eight are around Lavender Hill which is a shorter walk! I shall probably have to do another Notable women of Lavender Hill walk even though I find I can’t walk and talk simultaneously anymore.

Hilda Hudson Mathematician and Inspiring Battersea Woman

Posted in Hilda Hudson Mathematician Inspiring Battersea Woman by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 2, 2022

I have been alerted to another inspiring Battersea woman by Philip Boys from the Friends of Wandsworth Common. She is mathematician Hilda Hudson 11th June 1881 -26 November 1965. She is another Hilda H with a Battersea connection. She lived in Altenburg Gardens with her family in 1901 when she would have been attending Newnham College. By then her mother had died. She went from Clapham High school with a Gilchrist scholarship in 1900 to Newnham.

Hilda Hudson was born into a family with great mathematical talents. Her father was William Henry Hoar Hudson 1838 – 1915 who had been educated at King’s College London and St John’s College, Cambridge. In 1862 he was appointed a Mathematical Lecturer at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge and later at St John’s College, Cambridge where he taught from 1869 to 1881. He was in his final year of holding the mathematics lectureship at St John’s College when his daughter Hilda Phoebe Hudson was born and shortly after the family moved to London. William Hudson was appointed Professor of Mathematics at King’s College London in 1882 holding the post until 1903. During this same period he was also Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, London, holding this post until 1905. While he held these posts he published works such as Notes on the first principles of dynamics (1884); On the teaching of elementary algebra (1886); and On the teaching of Mathematics (1893).

Hilda’s mother was also a mathematician who had read mathematics at Newnham College, Cambridge, so perhaps it was not entirely surprising that William and his wife should have had children with outstanding mathematical talents who went on to study mathematics at Cambridge.

Her mother was Mary (born Turnball) and she died when Hudson and her three siblings were young. Apparently, Hilda was interested in the link between mathematics and her religious beliefs. Her father took on the parenting role and she published a simplified Euclidean proof aged ten in the journal Nature.

According to the 1901 census They lived at 15 Altenburg Gardens, William HH Hudson 62 Professor of Mathematics at King’s College London, Winifred 22 is at Newnham College, Edith 20 at Holloway College
Hilda 19 is  a student at Newnham. The house has been demolished. Number 17 exists and what would have been next to is is number 9 which is one of four pastiche houses built in 2001 when the Victorian St Andrews Church was rebuilt which faces Battersea Rise. The grey door is number 17 Altenburg Gardens and the black door next to it is 9 and they were built over a hundred years apart!

Hilda had an older brother, Ronald, who was considered in his day to be the most gifted geometer in all of Cambridge. He attended a school which was run by John Condor one the campaigners for saving Wandsworth Common. His life was cut short when he died in a mountaineering accident at the age of 28, but his posthumously-published book Kummer’s Quartic Surface allows mathematicians today access to his work. He was Senior Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge in 1898 while her sister was bracketed with the 8th Wrangler in the Mathematical Tripos of 1900. What pressure, then, on Hilda to shine when she arrived at Newnham in that same year. Like her family before, however,she rose to the challenge. At this time only the men were ranked in the Tripos Examination but women who took the examination were made aware of their place by being told they were placed between the nnth and (n+1)(n+1)st man or equal to the nnth man. The fact that Hilda’s sister was bracketed with the 8th Wrangler meaning that she had come 8th equal among the First Class students. A Wrangler is the name given to someone graduating with a first class degree in Mathematics from Cambridge University. The Senior Wrangler was the person with the highest marks, followed by the Second Wrangler and so on down the list. This method of classification lasted until 1909, since when the lists have been published in alphabetical order.

Hilda entered Newnham College, Cambridge in 1900, the year in which her sister sat the mathematical Tripos. In the examinations of 1903 she went one place better than her sister when she was bracketed with the 7th Wrangler meaning that she had come 7th equal among the First Class students but, as was still the custom, her achievement was still not officially classed. In the following year, 1904, there was tragedy for the Hudson family when Hilda’s brother died in a mountaineering accident in Wales. This cut short what had promised to be a stunning mathematical career with his brilliant book Kummer’s quartic surface being published by Cambridge University Press in the year of his death.

After leaving Cambridge, Hilda went to Germany for a year spending the time studying at the University of Berlin with Schwarz, Schottky, Edmund Landau and others. According to Tony Royle It is likely that Schwarz and his colleagues were major influences in developing Hudson’s interest in con-formal transformations, a topic initially introduced to her by Arthur Berry during her time at Cambridge, and one that would eventually dominate her mathematical research. http://oro.open.ac.uk/56392/1/TONY%20ROYLE%20HISTORIA%20ARTICLE%20.pdf

She returned to Cambridge in 1905 when she was appointed as a lecturer at Newnham College. After holding this position for five years she was appointed Associate Research Fellow at Newnham. In 1912 the International Congress of Mathematicians Hudson was Associate Research Fellow at Newnham College until the end of the academic year 1912-1913, but she spent this last academic year at Bryn Mawr College, a private women’s college founded in 1885 in Pennsylvania in the United States. Charlotte Angas Scott, who had studied under Cayley and shared Hudson’s interests in algebraic geometry, was Head of the Mathematics department there. It was a remarkably productive period for Hudson who published her first paper in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society in 1911, followed by three papers in 1912, and six papers on topics such as Cremona transformations, nodal curves, pinch-points, and algebraic surfaces in 1913.

After spending the academic year 1912-13 at Bryn Mawr, Hudson returned to England. Trinity College Dublin awarded her an ad eundam MA (a process often known as incorporation) and later a DSc, in 1906 and 1913, respectively. She was appointed as a lecturer at West Ham Technical Institute where she worked for four years. One interesting monograph which she published during this time was Ruler and Compass in 1916. This was a work ]:… in which [Hudson] included a lot of elegant geometry in an exposition of the range and limitations of ruler and compass constructions.

She was an Invited Speaker of the International Congress of mathematicians in 1912 at Cambridge UK.[2] Although Laura Pisati who had been invited to the 1908 ICM, but had died just before the start of the conference, so Hudson became the first female invited speaker at an ICM

World War I started during her years at West Ham Technical Institute where she prepared students for London University degrees. Although inspiring to the mathematically gifted, she was not an especially successful teacher and, while the War was still underway, she joined the Civil Service to undertake work for the Air Ministry. The government had been actively running recruitment drives to draw women into the vacuum created in the traditionally male-dominated professions by conscription, which had been introduced for men in 1916. She was immediately drafted into the Admiralty to mentor a group of women that would become an essential cog in the wheel of the Stressing Section of the Structures office. She was slightly older and more experienced than most of her female colleagues and had the presence and work ethic to set a fine example, soon earning herself the title of Sub-section Director. She also demonstrated her mathematical flexibility, temporarily casting aside her passion for, and expertise in, geometry to enter the applied world of moments, stresses and strains. In addition to acting as the linchpin between the key men in the department (Berry, Pritchard and Pippard) and the women assigned to assist them. Tony Royle’s article has interesting sections on the other women in the team Letitia Chitty and Beatrice Cave-Brown-Cave.

It was after the war that Hilda published her two notable pieces. Already while at West Ham Institute she had worked on applied probability problems, and now while working for the Air Ministry she published two papers in 1920, one on The strength of lateral loaded struts in The Aeroplane, the other on Incidence wires in the Aeronautical Journal.


In 1919, after the war had ended, Hilda was appointed as a technical assistant at Parnell and Company in Bristol. After two years she retired from this position to devote herself to writing the treatise Cremona transformations in plane and space which was published in 1927. She dedicated this work to her brother who had been so tragically killed in 1904. 

John Semple describes this book: https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Hudson/

This was indeed her magnum opus, the culminating achievement of many years of scholarly research, in which she gathered into one connected account all the essential elements of what had long been a fashionable field of research and supplemented it with an impressive bibliography (37 pages and 417 items) covering sixty to seventy years of publications on the subject.


Hilda published work with Ronald Ross on epidemiology and the measurement of disease spread. Sir Ronald Ross 1857 – 1932 was a British medical doctor who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902 for his work on the transmission of malaria, becoming the first British Nobel laureate, and the first born outside Europe. “The classical susceptible-infectious-recovered model, originated from the seminal papers of Ross and Ross and Hudson in 1916-1917. In his preface to Part II Ross wrote:
In June last, the Royal Society was kind enough to give a Government Grant for providing me with
assistance in order to complete the paper, and for carrying on further studies upon the subject; and Miss Hilda P. Hudson, M.A., Sc.D., was appointed for the work from May 1, 1916. The continuation of the
paper has accordingly been written in conjunction with her; and I should like to take the opportunity to express my obligations to her for her valuable assistance, especially in regard to Part I I I. The maths she provided still underlies the modelling of epidemic diseases which is ever topical. It is interesting to note that Wandsworth connection as The Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, founded in 1926 and established at Bath House, a grand house with keeper’s lodge and large grounds adjacent to Tibbet’s Corner at Putney Heath. This was later incorporated into the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. This is why a primary school nearby is named after him which I had wondered about when I worked in adult education in the 90s nearby with the late Teri Riley at the Wandsworth Centre in Southfields.

During the years in which she was writing her major treatise Hilda returned to publishing on Cremona transformations and algebraic surfaces. There had been a special meeting of a committee of the
Accademia dei Lincei, chaired by Luigi Cremona (1830-1903), whose birational transformations inspired Hudson’s defining work. Sadly, Cremona’s death coincided with Hilda completing her degree, so he would never witness her post-war homage.

She essentially gave up publishing mathematics after her treatise appeared in print, except for one notable exception which was an article on Analytic geometry, curve and surface in the 14th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica published in 1929.

According to John Semple: Miss Hudson was a distinguished mathematician, of great erudition and integrity; and she was also, throughout her long life, a woman of high ideals and standards. She will long be remembered by the mathematical world for her contributions to geometry and by Newnham and Cambridge as one of their distinguished alumni.

where she prepared students for London University degrees. Although inspiring to the mathematically gifted, she was not an especially successful teacher.

In 1917 Hudson took a wartime civil service post, heading an Air Ministry subdivision doing aeronautical engineering research. Her work on the application of mathematical modelling to aircraft design was pioneering, and a tribute to her versatility. She continued this line of research with Parnell & Co. of Bristol until 1921, and then retired from salaried work to write the treatise for which she is remembered, Cremona Transformations in Plane and Space (1927).

Although she published several papers in applied mathematics (1917–20) and a well-received monograph, Ruler and Compasses (1916), most of Hudson’s work was in the area of pure mathematics concerned with algebraic surfaces and plane curves. Cremona transformation, an analytical technique for studying the geometry of these, was her special interest. Though now displaced by powerful tools of abstract algebra, it was then a subject of considerable activity. Her exceptional geometrical intuition led her by basically elementary methods to solutions of quite difficult problems (reported in seventeen articles, 1911–29), and her much-quoted treatise, the culmination of nearly two decades of scholarly work, presented a unified account of the major elements of the field, supplemented with an extensive annotated bibliography.

According to the Oxford A small woman, light of step and bright-eyed behind thick-lensed glasses, Hilda Hudson enjoyed hockey and swimming when young. Her life was simple, almost austere, though she had many friends. She never married. Deeply religious, she sought to unite her intellectual with her spiritual concerns, and increasingly found in mathematics an unending revelation of the glory of God. She was long a supporter of the Student Christian Movement, and honorary finance secretary of its auxiliary movement in 1927–39.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National biography www.oxforddnb.com › view › 10 Hilda was a small woman, light of step and bright-eyed behind thick-lensed glasses, Hilda Hudson enjoyed hockey and swimming when young. Her life was simple, almost austere, though she had many friends. She never married. Deeply religious, she sought to unite her intellectual with her spiritual concerns, and increasingly found in mathematics an unending revelation of the glory of God. She was long a supporter of the Student Christian Movement, and honorary finance secretary of its auxiliary movement in 1927–39. She wrote: “To all who hold the Christian belief that God is truth, anything that is true is a fact about God, and mathematics is a branch of theology”.

As a distinguished mathematician she was one of the few women of her time to serve on the council of the London Mathematical Society, and in 1919 she was appointed OBE for her war work for pioneering the mathematical modelling of air flows over aeroplane wings.

Early onset of severe arthritis left Hilda Hudson progressively more disabled; latterly she moved into the Anglican St Mary’s Convent and Nursing Home in Chiswick, where she died on 26 November 1965, at the age of eighty-four.

There is very little about her private life and the long gap between her publishing in 1929 to her death in 1965. I really would like to know what happened to her in the intervening 36 years. It is mysterious.

Three Battersea Women Authors

There are three women authors featured in my Notable Women of Lavender Hill walks. Pamela Hansford Johnson and Ethel Mannin were born in Battersea and Penelope Fitzgerald wrote her Booker Prize winning novel Offshore, which is about houseboat dwellers in Chelsea Reach, Cheyne Walk, whilst living in Almeric Road SW11 with her daughter.

They are included in my book Inspiring Women of Battersea which will be launched at Battersea Arts Centre on 7th June 2022 as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.

As a funeral celebrant one becomes intensely focused on the person being celebrated and remembered and they become like your new precious friend whilst you are researching and writing about them. Likewise with my Notable Women of Lavender Hill I am quite proprietorial and feel like I am their agent promoting and representing them! So, I would like to introduce you to these three former neighbours who happen to be authors. One has a Battersea Society plaque and the other two were not successful in the English Heritage plaques scheme which is a lottery. An application is put before the panel which meet three times a year and those not chosen are simply told interesting but apply again in ten years. They only unveil twelve each year. Although women are 50% of those considered by the panel each year they will never mange to catch up as in 2016 women were only 13% represented with plaques in London. I am now convinced that we need to have a women’s blue plaques scheme like the Nubian Jak scheme which was set up to memorialise Black and ethnic minority people in plaques and sculpture as they have been overlooked because white men predominate.

I have blogged on each of these women authors and attaching the link to the posts and it is their connection with Battersea that I am interested in and with Ethel Mannin also her Galway/Connemara link.

The first is Ethel Mannin 1900-1984. I had heard of her as one of her novels was popular in Ireland because it was a about a priest! Ethel was a popular novelist, travel writer, political activist and socialist born on 6 October 1900 in 28 Garfield Road off Lavender Hill which is in Battersea but online articles always claim she was born in Clapham. She was of Irish descent and had inherited her socialist values from her father Bob who was a postal worker. She was a prodigious author of over a 100 books! https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/ethel-mannin-1900-1984/#jp-carousel-13207

Connemara cottage near Clifden

This working class self-educated woman was a lifelong political maverick, a pacifist, an anarchist and an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause. 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.

After leaving school she found employment as a typist for the advertising agency, Charles F. Higham Ltd and was soon promoted to copywriter. Having made connections with publishing she decided that she would aim to write two books a year one fiction and the other on travel and topics reflecting her interests and stages in life. Her first book launched her career. I bought it and discovered exactly where she lived and was brought up just off Lavender Hill.

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 wallflowers 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.

Her father was 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. Elsa went on to become Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 when they had moved to Hollywood. She probably didn’t know that Elsa also grew up nearby in 27 Leathwaite Road (as it wasn’t mentioned in her interview with them) and also got excited at encountering Burns who lived on Northside. Of course, Elsa is one of my Notable Women of Lavender Hill. https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/elsa-lanchester-hollywood-actress-and-notable-woman-of-lavender-hill/

She attended Wix’s Lane School Primary saying it had litlle connection with real life, she failed to get a scholarship to secondary school but had begun writing stories and the first of these appeared in the Lady’s Companion in 1910. In 1915 she won a scholarship to attend a commercial school.

‘At sixteen I was writing advertisements, running two house-organs – business magazines – and when I was seventeen was publishing my own stories, articles, verses, in a monthly magazine which Higham bought and left to me to produce.” Her employer was to have a great influence on her career.

She soon married became John  Porteous, the general manager at Highams and they married in 1919 and soon after gave birth to her only child Jean. She began to work from home writing advertisements and editing journals. Mannin was a supporter of progressive education and sent her daughter to Summerhill School.

In 1929 Ethel and John Porteous separated and that’s when she bought she bought Oak Cottage Wimbledon. In 1938 she married the Quaker pacifist writer Reginald Reynolds. He was a critic of British Imperialism in India, collaborated with Gandhi for his 1937 work The White Sahibs in India and was the New Statesman’s weekly satirical poet.

In the years after 1945, Ethel  traveled around the globe for material for new books. She first spent time in Ireland and writing of Connemara Journal (1947). Ethel lived near Clifden in the late 1930s and early 1940s. My eldest sister Ida remembered our mother pointing out Ethel’s cottage on car trip.

Her other Irish connection was her affair with WB Yeats in the thirties, apparently [Norman] Haire had enlisted Ethel specifically to reassure Yeats about the success of the Steinach operation. Brenda Maddox, Yeats’s Ghosts: Secret Life of W. B. Yeats  writes: ‘Ethel Mannin was a rationalist and skeptical, he mystical and credulous. … She was left-wing, his leanings were firmly the other way. But that hardly mattered when, as a companion, she was brilliant, fun, and full of the salty talk that Yeats adored.

A stay in war-ravaged occupied Germany resulted in German Journey (1948), while a number of other books were based on visits to Brittany, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, and Sweden.

Ethel was a woman with so many facets and phases to her life politically and as a writer. Her earlier life which helped inform her political views, early motherhood, her lifestyle and affairs in her thirties, her anarchist phase, her marriage to a pacifist Quaker, her socialism, Spanish civil war, the travel after the war and all the time churning out books and it seemed to have become a way of life for her. She could write about her cat, children’s books, she could speak at meetings, join Reg in his work, writing magazine articles. She must have spent so much of her time at her typewriter in her study in Oak Cottage.

At the end of her writing career, when she was in her 70s, she moved to “Overhill”, Shaldon, Devonshire, in the 1960s – a house found for her by Jean to be near her.  In 1976, she published her last novel, The Late Miss Guthrie. The next year, she published her final book, a last volume of autobiography, Sunset over Dartmoor: A Final Chapter of Autobiography (1977)

I admire her for her political convictions, for her self belief, her strong work ethic and prodigious output but I am not sure I would have liked her!

Pamela Hansford Johnson (1912-1981) was the author of 27 novels, a critic and a Proustian scholar.

https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/category/pamela-hansford-johnson-battersea-born-novelist/

She was an English novelist, playwright, poet, literary and social critic. The New York Times obituary described her as ‘one of England’s best-known novelists.’ Anthony Burgess, the novelist and critic, once described Miss Johnson’s novels as ‘witty, satirical and deftly malicious.’

As a child Pamela lived at 53 Battersea Rise SWII. Her absentee father was a colonial administrator who worked on the Baro-Kano Railway. He died suddenly when she was 12, leaving Pamela and her mother penniless. Her mother had been an actor and singer with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. Their home had been bought in the 1880s by Pamela’s grandfather, who was Sir Henry Irving’s Treasurer. She described it in the first of the autobiographical essays in her book Important to Me as ‘a large brick terrace house’, filled with memorabilia reflecting the family’s theatrical background. By the time she was born ‘the railway had come, and the houses had been built up right over the hills between it and us. Not pretty, I suppose.’

Pamela attended Clapham County Girls Grammar School, where she excelled at English, art history, and drama. She left school at 16, took a secretarial course, and worked for several years at the Central Hanover Bank. She said ‘to a creative writer, a university education would have been nothing but a hindrance.’ 

She began her literary career by writing poems and was briefly engaged to Dylan Thomas. Her first coming-of-age novel, This Bed Thy Centre, was published in 1935 when she was 22 and is set around Battersea Rise and Clapham Common. The area has a Woolworth’s, a draper’s, a hairdresser offering ‘Perms from One Guinea’, and a set of traffic lights which, recently installed, are an innovation and a talking-point. There are cafes where you can enjoy ‘a hearty meal of kidneys on toast’ and the local workers push barrows, pull pints or work shifts in the candle factory.

In 1936 she married an Australian journalist, Gordon Stewart, with whom she had two children. She subsequently married C.P. Snow and had a son with him.They became a celebrated literary couple, travelling widely, fêted in academic circles in the USA and the USSR, but also seen as pretentious. Pamela remained a committed Labour Party member. She was also an influential and powerful figure in the world of literature. She was part of the British Council’s networks and a regular panel member on the acclaimed radio programme The Critics.

In 1957, dining with her second husband, C. P. Snow, at the Governor General’s residence in Malta, she recorded in her diary an ‘exceedingly glamorous’ evening; ‘lights in trees, beautiful garden—starry night—oh, a long way from Clapham Junction’. When visiting Eton after Philip, her son by Snow, had won a scholarship there, she observed: ‘O, a long way from Clapham Junction!’

The fictional genres she used ranged from romantic comedy (Night and Silence, Who Is Here) and high comedy (The Unspeakable Skipton) to tragedy (The Holiday Friend) and the psychological study of cruelty An Error of Judgement. Her last novel, A Bonfire, was published in the year of her death, 1981. She was a critic as well as a novelist and wrote books on Thomas Wolfe and Ivy Compton-Burnett. Her Six Proust Reconstructions (1958) confirmed her reputation as a leading Proustian scholar. She wrote a work of social criticism arising out of the Moors Trial, On Iniquity (1967). She received honorary degrees from six universities and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  

There have been two recent biographies of Pamela Hansford Johnson. Wendy Pollard’s Pamela Hansford Johnson: Her Life, Work and Times was published in 2014, with the approval and cooperation of her children, using unpublished diaries and letters. In 2017 Deirdre David published Pamela Hansford Johnson: A Writing Life. 

A Battersea Society plaque at 53 Battersea Rise was unveiled by her daughter Lady Lindsay Avebury. 

Penelope Fitzgerald was an English Booker Prize -winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. 

In 2008,  The Times included her in a list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012 , The Observer named her final novel, The Blue Flower one of “the ten best historical novels.

She was one of the most distinctive and elegant voices in contemporary British fiction. Her novels, spare, immaculate masterpieces divide into two sections; an earlier group loosely based on her own experiences, and a later group, in which she moves to other countries and periods. In 1979, she won the Booker Prize for her novel Offshore.

She was educated at Wycombe Abbey and Somerville College, Oxford, to which she won a scholarship. Her father was son of the Bishop of Manchester, her mother the daughter Bishop of Lincoln.

There is a great lengthy review of her http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2014/12/04/victory-penelope-fitzgerald/     written by Alan Hollingsworth ‘Just before Penelope Knox went down from Oxford with a congratulatory First in 1938, she was named a “Woman of the Year” in Isis, the student paper. She wrote a few paragraphs about her university career, dwelling solely on what had gone wrong. She’d come to Oxford expecting poets and orgies, and had seen few of the one and none of the other…..I have been reading steadily for seventeen years; when I go down I want to start writing.”

There would be no biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, of course, if she hadn’t done so, and it’s part of the unusual interest of her story that the promised start was deferred by nearly forty years. She published her first book, a biography of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, when she was fifty-eight; her first novel appeared when she was sixty. She was, as she said, “an old writer who had never been a young one.”

She married Desmond Fitzgerald, an Irish soldier who she met at a wartime party, in 1941. He became an alcoholic. “A profile of Penelope Fitzgerald in these years,” Lee writes in a pivotal passage, “might describe her as a middle-aged teacher, recovering from a traumatic period of homelessness and deprivation, living in a dreary council estate in south London with a disgraced alcoholic husband.” But this, Lee cautions, was “only the bleakest version of the story. Something else was bubbling under the surface.”

In the early 1950s she and her husband lived in Hampstead. Soon afterwards Desmond was disbarred for “forging signatures on cheques that he cashed at the pub.” The end of his legal career led to a life of poverty for the Fitzgeralds; at times they were even homeless and lived for four months in a homeless centre. They lived for eleven years in a council flat. To provide for her family during the 1960s Fitzgerald taught at the Italia Conti Academy, a drama school, and at Queens Gate School where her pupils included Camilla Shand Duchess of Cornwall.)She also taught “at a posh crammer where her pupils included Anna Wintour and Helena Bonham Carter. She continued to teach until she was seventy years old. She also worked in a bookshop in Southwold, Suffolk. For a time she lived in Battersea on a houseboat that sank twice and later with her daughter in Almeric Road.

She launched her literary career in 1975, at the age of 58, when she published a biography of the  artist Burne-Jones.This was followed two years later by The Knox Brothers, a joint biography of her father and uncles in which she never mentions herself by name. Later in 1977 she published her first novel, The Golden Child, a comic murder mystery with a museum setting inspired by the Tutankamun  mania earlier in the 1970s. The novel was written to amuse her terminally ill husband, who died in 1976.

She worked for the BBC during the war and began writing in the 1960s, although her first novel, The Golden Child, was not published until 1977. Her early fiction drew on her own life and working experiences, including a period running a bookshop, which inspired the Booker-shortlisted The Bookshop (1978); time spent living on a barge on the Thames at Chelsea Reach, Cheyne Walk which she wrote about in Offshore (1979), winner of the Booker Prize; and her experiences teaching at the Italia Conti stage school in London, which gave her the material for At Freddie’s, published in 1982.

She was regarded as an oddity and an outlier when she won the Booker. They didn’t know what to make of this other worldly older woman novelist. She liked to mislead people with a good imitation of an absent-minded old lady, but under that scatty front were a steel-sharp brain and an imagination of wonderful reach. Of the three of these women novelist she is undoubtedly my favourite. As she lived yards from where I lived can wonder if I ever passed her in the street, waiting at a bus stop or in Arding and Hobbs. The application by the owners of 25 Almeric Road to English Heritage plaque scheme was unsuccessful – it is such a lottery and they suggest to try again in ten years! I do hope that she will receive a Battersea Society plaque.

North Battersea plaques walk

Posted in North Battersea blue plaques Walk by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 27, 2022

There are 17 EH/LCC plaques in Battersea – all commemorating men. There are seven blue plaques in north Battersea. The walk I have devised begins with the Short Brothers aviators at arch 75 Queens Circus, Sean O’Casey playwright at 49 Overstrand Mansions, John Archer Pan-Africanist and first Black Mayor in London 55 Brynmaer Road, Donald Swann musician 13 Albert Bridge Road, author Norman Douglas 63 Albany Mansions Albert Bridge Road, Charles Sargeant Jagger war memorial sculptor 67 Albert Bridge Road, Edward Wilson ornitholigist and arctic explorer 42 Vicarage Crescent and Wihelmina Stirling founder of the De Morgan Foundation at Old Battersea House Vicarage Crescent whose Battersea Society plaque is due to be unveiled September 24th 2022.

The Short Brothers

Oswald Eustace and Horace . The Short Bros early aviation history in Battersea began when Oswald and Eustace rented arches 75 and 81 from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1906. The plaque reads THE SHORT BROTHERS HORACE 1872-1917 EUSTACE 1875-1932 OSWALD 1883-1969 Aeronautical Engineers worked in arches 75 and 81 The arches are behind the petrol filling station on Queenstown Road roundabout  opposite the Rosery Gate into Battersea Park.  They had set up Short Brothers in 1897 when they purchased a used coal gas-filled balloon, with the intention to develop and construct other such balloons. The arches were situated next to the Battersea gas-works, making it easier to get gas for their balloons.  known as “The Field”, for balloon launches. They were appointed as the Aeronautical Engineers to the Aero Club and made balloons for many well-known early aviators, a contract from the British Indian Army for three balloons, built the entry flown by Charles Rolls for the first Gordon Bennett international balloon race, began aeroplane construction when built a glider for the aviator and later cabinet minister J Moore-Brabazon, to his own designs.

When the American aircraft pilots Orville and Wilbur Wright came to Europe to demonstrate in Le Mans in France in 1908, Oswald exclaimed “this is the finish of ballooning; we must begin building aeroplanes at once, and we can’t do it without Horace.” who was their brilliant engineer elder brother. They obtained the British rights to build copies of the Wright design thus becoming the first aircraft manufacturing company in the world to undertake volume aircraft production.

They soon had to move to expand their aircraft production although their ballooning   continued until 1919. They went on to become a world-famous name in aviation. Short Brothers was bought by Bombardier in 1989, and now owned by Spirit Aerosystems and is the largest manufacturing concern in Northern Ireland. Their plaque on arch 75 was unveiled by Jenny Body OBE, the first female President of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Sean O’Casey 1880 1964) was an Irish dramatist and memoirist.

Here is the link to my blog on himhttps://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/2021/11/15/sean-ocasey-battersea-plaque-man/

He lived at 49 Overstrand Mansions Prince of Wales Drive.

His plaque reads: SEAN O’CASEY 1880-1964 Playwright lived here at flat No 49. O’Casey was a committed socialist, he was the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes, best known for his first three plays – Shadow of a Gunman (1923) revolutionary politics on the working class people of Dublin, Juno and Paycock (1924), deals with the Civil War and The Plough and the Stars (1926). dealt and the Easter Rising and depicting the lives of the slum dwellers.Silver Tassie In 1929, his great anti-war play showing the devastating impact of WW1 on an Irish footballer and his friends.

He was the last of five surviving children out of thirteen of Michael and Susan Casey, staunch Protestants both,  father worked as a clerk for the Irish Church Missions on Townsend Street. His father died when Sean was 6, leaving the family impoverished and living a peripatetic life thereafter. As a child, he suffered from poor eyesight, which interfered somewhat with his education, but O’Casey taught himself to read and write by the age of thirteen. He joined the Gaelic League in 1906, learned to speak Irish, changed his name to Sean O’Casey, learned to play the Uileann Pipes  joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, became an ardent socialist, was general secretary of the Irish Citizen Army, and, began to write. He became involved in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union influenced by labour leader Jim Larkin. He lived through troubled and turbulent times; the 1913 Lock-out and Strike, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War. He became disillusioned with the Irish nationalist movement because its leaders put nationalist ideals before socialist ones.

 Having suffered a number of personal attacks due to the content of the third, he left Dublin for London  to receive the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and also give publicity for The Plough and the Stars. It was during casting he met and later married Eileen Carey and married Eileen Carey in 1927 and they moved to Battersea. Though consistently published, he struggled to match the quality of the output of his earlier career in Ireland and regularly upset audiences with the overtly Socialist content of his writing. He eventually left Battersea in 1938 and died in Torquay in 1964.

His daughter Shivaun, who became an actress and director can clearly remember the moment when she realised just how much some Irish people hated her father. It was 1955 and the 15-year-old had made her first trip to Ireland for the premiere of Sean’s new clerical drama, The Bishop’s Bonfire. “Get out, ye dirty Protestants!””It was a very exciting evening,” recalls Shivaun

The chapter heading on their life in Battersea is entitled A Drive of Snobs in which he writes scathingly about what he perceived as English class snobbery.

The O’ Caseys moved to Totnes Devon in 1938 with his two sons Breon and Niall,. on the advice of their friend George Bernard Shaw who suggested that the boys should attend Dartington Hall School. Among letters of  congratulations were Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw and future British prime minister Harold Macmillan.

Niall tragically died of Leukaemia, aged 21. His son Breon became an artist, a jeweller, weaver, etcher, printmaker, engraver, painter and sculptor who had been apprenticed to Barbara Hepworth

Sean wrote a further 15 plays. These, however, were less realist and more symbolic and expressionist..Sean died aged 84 in 1964 was cremated at Golders’ Green Crematorium while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was filming ‘Young Cassidy’ (1965), a movie based on his autobiography,staring Rod Taylor. Shivaun herself had a cameo role as Lady Gregory’s maid in it and very recently his great grand daughter Agnes O Casey, Shivaun’s granddaughter  is starring in Ridley Road. So the theatrical gene continues.

John Richard Archer (8 June 1863 – 14 July 1932) was elected Mayor of Battersea in 1913, becoming the first black mayor in London. He was a Pan African activist.

Plaque at 55 Brynmaer Road his former home. English Heritage plaque was unveiled in November 2013

He was a notable Pan –Africanist and the founding president of the African Progress Union. He was born in Liverpool in June 1863 to a Barbadian ship’s steward and an Irishwoman Mary Burns He moved to Battersea with his Canadian wife Margaret in the early 1890s. Margaret appears to have died in the late 1910s as Archer married Bertha White in 1923; there were no children of either union. Archer had many different jobs – the 1901 census records that he was a professional singer, and he may also have been a student of medicine.

Archer entered local politics after attending the Pan-African Conference held in London in 1900, where he met leading members of the African diaspora. In 1918 he became the first president of the African Progress Union working for “advanced African ideas in liberal education”. In 1919 he was a British delegate to the Pan African Congress in Paris and two years later, chaired the Pan-African Congress in London.

He was elected councillor in 1906 and when he was nominated for Progressive candidate for Mayor in Battersea in November, 1913 the newspapers made something of a fuss, as the first Catholic and Irish nationalist mayor Thomas Brogan, had been John Archer’s mentor prior to his election -both had Irish mothers. https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/black-atlantic/information/john_archer/

In 1918 he was election agent for Charlotte Despard. In 1922, he gave up his council seat to act as Labour Party election agent for Shapurji Saklatvala a Communist Party activist standing for parliament in North Battersea. He convinced the Labour Party to endorse Saklatvala and he was duly elected one of the first Indian MPs in Britain. He and Saklatvala continued to work together, winning again in 1924 until the Communist and Labour parties split fully. In the 1929 , Archer was agent for the official Labour candidate who beat Saklatvala. He felt somewhat betrayed by Saklatvala who wanted to eliminate the Labour Party!

Archer served as a governor of Battersea Polytechnic, president of the Nine Elms Swimming Club, chair of the Whitley Council Staff Committee and a member of the Wandsworth Board of Guardians. 

He was again elected in 1931, for the Nine Elms ward. At the time of his death in 1932, he was deputy leader of Battersea Council. His legacy continues in Archer House, part of the Battersea Village estate, constructed in the 1930s. There is a John Archer Way SW18 and in Liverpool, a John Archer Hall. In 2004, John Archer was chosen for the 100 Great Black Britons list. In 2010, Archer was commemorated with Nubian Jak Community Trust plaque on his photographic premises in Battersea Park Road directly behind his home. In April 2013 Archer was one of six people selected by the Royal Nail  for the “Great Britons” commemorative stamp issue.n March 2018 the Ark Academy Network renamed High View Primary school in Battersea as Ark John Archer Academy

I

Donald Swann Ibrahim Swann 1923 –1994) plaque is at 13 Albert Bridge Road.

He was was a Welsh-born composer, musician, singer and entertainer. He was one half of, writing and performing comic songs with Michael Flanders

His father was a Russian doctor of English descent ( Muscovy Company mother, Russian nurse from Turkmenistan,refugees from the Revolution. His great-grandfather, emigrated in 1840 and married the daughter of the horologer to the tsars. The family moved to London, where Swann attended  Dulwich College Prep and Westminster College was at the latter that he first met Flanders. In 1940 they staged a revue called Go To It. went their separate ways during WW2, later to establish a musical partnership, Flanders providing the words and Swann the music.

He registered as a conscientious objector and served with the Friends Ambulance in Egypt, Palestine and Greece.

After the war, Swann returned to Oxford to read Russian and Greek. Married twice. his second wife was the art historian Alison Smith. Donald continued to give solo concerts and to write for other singers. He also formed the Swann Singers and toured with them in the 1970s.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, performing in various combinations with singers and colleagues, then ‘discovered’ Victorian poetry and composed some of his most profound and moving music to the words of  William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde and hymn tunes others. which appear in modern standard hymn books. It is estimated that Swann wrote or set to music nearly 2,000 songs. For many years Donald spent long retreats with the Quaker community at Pendle Hill, Philadelphia.

 In 1992 he was diagnosed with cancer. He died at trinity Hospice in South London on 23 March 1994.

On 12th October 2013 The Battersea Society unveiled plaque hosted by Alison, his archivist Leon Berger and his daughter Natasha Etheridge, also present was composer Joseph Horowitz.

In November 2021 the Battersea Society held a delightful An Evening with Flanders and Swann with an exclusive performance by actor and pianist Stefan Bednarczyk at St Mary’s Church.

Norman Douglas 1868 –1952) was a British writer, now best known for his 1917 novel South Wind. His travel books, such as Old Calabria (1915), were also appreciated for the quality of their writing. Unfortunately, he is now remembered as a paedophile.

He was born in Thuringen Austria, His mother was Vanda von Poellnitz. His father was John Sholto Douglas (1838–1874), manager of a cotton mill, who died in a hunting accident when Douglas was about six. He spent the first years of his life on the family estate, Villa Falkenhorst, in Thüringen. He  was brought up mainly at  Tilquhillie Deeside, his paternal home in Scotland, educated at  Yarlet Hall and Uppingham School in England, and then at a grammar school in Karlshrue. He started in the diplomatic service in 1894 based in St Petersburg, but was placed on leave following a sexual scandal. In 1897 he bought a villa (Villa Maya) in Posillipo, suburb of Naples.

The next year he married a cousin Elizabeth Louisa FitzGibbon (two children, Elsa was two months pregnant and the marriage was arranged very quickly. They lived in Italy, where their first child, Archie, was born, and a second son, Robin, the following year. Douglas obtained a divorce in 1904 on the grounds of Elsa’s adultery and gained custody of their two sons.

He moved to Capri, began dividing his time between the Villa Daphne there and London, and became a more committed writer. Nepenthe, the fictional island setting of his novel  South Wind (1917), is Capri in light disguise, worked for The English Review, met DH Lawrence through this connection. D. H. based a character in his novel Aaron’s Rod (1922) on Douglas, which led to a falling out between the two writers.

Douglas sent his sons to boarding-school in England. In January 1908 he moved to London where he successfully contesting his wife’s attempt to regain custody of her children on the grounds of her husband’s paedophilia. According to Mark Holloway, the author of Norman Douglas : A biography (1976), his wife claimed in court that he was involved in a “rather faunesque pursuit of young boys”.

In 1916, British prosecutors charged Douglas with sexually assaulting a sixteen-year-old boy, and in 1917 he was charged with indecent assault of two boys, one a 10-year-old and the other aged 12. Douglas was granted bail and fled the country for Capri, Italy. He was also forced to flee Florence in 1937 following allegations that he raped a 10-year-old girl.

Further scandals led Douglas to leave Italy for the South of France in 1937. Following the collapse of France in 1940 Douglas left the Riviera and made a circuitous journey to London, where he lived from 1942 to 1946. He returned to Capri in 1946 and was made a citizen of the island. His circle of acquaintances included the writer Graham Greene, the composer Shaourj Sorabji and the food writer Elizabeth David. Gracie Fields said she moved to Capri after reading his book.

 https://evelynwaughsociety.org/2019/norman-douglas-forgotten-author/ There are other alleged child abusers who have died and whose works, once considered great, have faded into obscurity, in no small part because it is almost impossible to memorialize them without creating the impression of condoning their behaviour. The writer Norman Douglas is a prime example. When the truth about his sexual relations with children was fully exposed after his death he became an impossible figure to memorialize. The fact that Douglas has been ignored by biographers may have more to do with the fact that he was an unpleasant or, in the end, uninteresting person.

Douglas died in Capri, apparently after deliberately overdosing himself on drugs after a long illness (see Impossible Woman: Memoirs of Dottoressa Moore, ed. Greene). His last words are reputed to have been: “Get those fucking nuns away from me.

Charles Sargeant Jagger MC (Military Cross, ARA (17 December 1885 – 16 November 1934) sculptor who, following active service in the WW1, sculpted 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 Railway War Memorial in Paddingron Station and a designed several other monuments around Britain and other parts of the world. The plaque erected in 2000 by English Heritage is at his home at 67 Albert Bridge Road. His biography is by Ann Compton. The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger.

Here is a link to my blog on him as he featured in a talk I gave for the Battersea Society on The Battersea Plaque Men alongside HM Bateman cartoonist 40 Nightingale Lane SW12 and artist and Sean O’Casey playwright 49 Overstrand Mansions https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/2022/03/18/charles-sargeant-jagger-battersea-plaque-man/

Charles was the son of a colliery manager, Enoch Jagger and his wife Mary Sergeant and born in Kilnhurst South Yorkshire and was educated at Sheffield Royal Grammar School. His older sister Edith and brother  David became artists and all studied together at Sheffield Technical School of Art.

There is also a plaque which was unveiled in his home village, Kilnhurst by the Rotherham District Civic Society in October 2018

A fascinating article written in Studio International. In 1915. Rising British Sculptor: Charles Sargeant Jagger written by I G Allister

He wrote:  His first introduction to plastic art was an incident of his childhood which stands out in his memory very clearly. Wandering with his father on Whitby Sands one day they came across a man modelling a sphinx in the clay indigenous to the locality, and as they watched the process the idea arose in the boy’s mind that he must be a sculptor, and he distinctly remembers the thrill of happiness which accompanied a decision from which he never once wavered. His school-days however were an ordeal to him,

At age 14 in 1889 he became an apprentice metal engraver with the Sheffield firm Mappin and Webb who made beautifully crafted silverware  and fine jewellery and had Royal warrants  and commissions from Monarchs around the world, In 1887 Granted a Royal Warrant as Silversmiths to Queen Victoria.

He studied at the Sheffield School of Art, learnt drawing, then  modelling in the daytime, and taught drawing at evening-classes, producing some remarkable work such as Man and the Maelstrom and Prometheus Bound, both of which were created before he was eighteen.

He won a scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art 1908-11  under Edouard Lantieri. National Art Training School at its new home in South Kensington.

In 1914 he won the British Prix de Rome scholarship in sculpture but couldn’t take up because of the war, he decided to enlist in the Artist Rifles instead. Other members of the regiment included  Edward Thomas, Nash brothers,  John Lavery and in 1915 he was commissioned in the Worsestshire Regiment. He served in Gallipoli  and on the Western Front, and was wounded three times.

On 5th November 1915, he was shot through the left shoulder and evacuated first to a hospital in Malta and then back to England. Once recovered he married Violet Constance Smith in 1916 whom he met in 1911. Charles paid for singing lessons for her and she went on to become a concert singer and pianist they had a son Cedric and they divorced in 1924. He was sent out to the Western Front where he was wounded again in 1918.

Whilst convalescing from war wounds in 1919, he began work on No Man’s Land, a low relief which after being cast in bronze it was presented to the Tate in 1923.

Jagger’s sculptor style tended towards realism, especially his portrayal of soldiers, his figures were rugged and workman-like.

Royal Artillery Memorial (1921–25) at Hyde Park Corner in London is one of his best-known works. It features a giant sculpture of a howitzer surrounded by four bronze soldiers and stone relief scenes, and is dedicated to casualties in the British Royal Regiment of Artillery the war.  When Jagger was commissioned he remarked to the Daily Express the “experience in the trenches persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth”.

He completed war memorials over the next seven years Manchester Britannia Hotel, in  (1921); Southsea (1921); Bedford (1921); Great Western Railway War Memorial (1922); Brimington (1922); Royal Artilley  (1921–5); Anglo Belgian War Memorial Brussels (1922–3); Nieuwpoort (1926–8 Port Tewfiq Egypt Crouching Lion   (1927–8); commemorated 4,000 officers and men of the Indian Army killed during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign during the  war at (1927–8)  destroyed by retreating Egyptian troops during the Six Day War of 1967 and later relocated to the Heliopolis War cemetery in Cairo.

During this period Charles Jagger produced statues of the Duke of Windsor future King Edward V111 1922), Lord Hardinge Viceroy Governor General India  (1928) and Ernest Shackleton (1932). 

Alfred Mond the founder of Imperial Chemical Industries, commissioned four large stone figures symbolic of industries for the company headquarters in Millbank. construction (The Builder), marine transport, for agriculture (The Sower), and chemistry and figures – four directly associated with ICI and its predecessors, Ludwig and Alfred Mond, Harry McGowan Alfred Noble and Justus Vobn Leibig Joseph Priestly Antoine Lavoisier and Dimitri Mendelev.

This is a commission called Scandal in the V Bronze relief and cast-iron fire basket set, 1930, commissioned by Henry Mond (Baron Melchett;) son of his patron and his wife Gwen, for his drawing room at Mulberry House, Smith Square, and was an important feature of its celebrated Art Deco interior. It is about their ménage à trois with the author ( Gilbert Cannan), mocking the tittle-tattle. The  firebasket, wall label, the “two snarling cats and a parrot apparently Jagger had a fierce macaw called and there is a photoofit on his shoulder while working’. This is in the V&A Museum.

As a fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, he was twice a gold medallist for Royal Artillery and figures of St George and Britannia at the entrance to Thames House, Millbank.

Edith and David’s work. Edith Jagger (1880-1977) was an exceptionally gifted painter of flower subjects and still lives. However it is her work as chief designer for the ground-breaking charitable organisation, Painted Fabrics in Sheffield which proved offered occupational therapy for injured British servicemen, It went on to produce fabrics and clothing of fashionable design and high quality for decades.  ‘Work Not Charity’ was the companies motto. Twenty-eight of her paintings were included in The Art of Jagger Family, an exhibition which toured to seven towns and cities across the Midlands and North of England during 1939-40.

David Jagger (1891-1958) was a skilled and successful portaitist which included Queen Mary, Lord Baden-Powell, Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh and Dame Nellie Melba and also worked in advertising for J Walter Thompson.

Gillian Jagger his daughter became a sculptor in the US. She was  was only 4 when her father died suddenly of pneumonia in 1934. Her mother remarried an American and went to the States.  

Being a workaholic, his relentless work rate and old war wounds probably contributed towards his untimely early death in 1934. His studio in Anhalt Road nearby Albert Bridge is now owned by the quirky artist Chris Orr RA.

Dr. Edward Wilson (1872-1912) BA, MB (Cantab.) physician, polar explorer, natural historian, painter and ornithologist was as an influential figure of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, being chiefly remembered today as the artistic scientist who died with Captain Scott.

He was born in Montpellier Parade, Cheltenham on 23 July 1872. His childhood was full of news from his Wilson and Whishaw relatives, from the far flung corners of Imperial Russia, the British Empire and beyond.From the age of three his parents noted that Wilson liked nothing better than to lie on the floor drawing. This resulted in his mother giving him drawing lessons.  Described as “clever but boisterous”. At Cheltenham Proprietary College for Boys he excelled at games, art and in the activities of the Natural History Society, being secretary of the ornithological section for some time and whilst that he received the only systematic art lessons.

He was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge However, in the Oxford and Cambridge exams he obtained his certificate with honours in science. It was decided that he would enter Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge to pursue a career in medicine, like his father. Natural History and art were clearly seen as subjects for hobbies.

Later joined St. George’s Hospital, London which involved long hours of hard work and he was soon immersed in anatomy, physiology and surgery. Nevertheless, he found time to play football for the hospital and also to row. He took lodgings in Paddington and walked to and from St. George’s which was at Hyde Park Corner. His long hours of work and his experiments with asceticism soon started to take their toll. He moved his lodgings, taking up residence in the Caius Mission house in Battersea. Here he became engaged in youth clubs and Sunday school classes for the children of the slums. The children suffered from fleas, lice and numerous medical afflictions. He continued to walk the 3 miles each way, through Battersea Park and along the Thames to the hospital, every day. It was at the Mission house, one afternoon, that he first met Miss Oriana Souper in 1897. She was a friend of the Warden’s wife. After tea, Wilson excused himself to go and run his boys’ classes and then retired to his rooms to work. Later, he stole down the stairs to quietly listen to Miss Souper sing. Their friendship was to develop slowly.

He contracted tuberculosis from his mission work and had to recuperate taking time out from his studies and got engaged to Oriana. He recovered and was appointed as the Assistant Surgeon and Vertebrate Zoologist to the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-1904) aboard Discovery, under Commander Robert Falcon Scott. Three weeks before the Expedition sailed, Wilson married Oriana. Their honeymoon was dominated by Antarctic preparations but they were blissfully happy.

Upon return he was appointed Field Observer to the Grouse Disease Inquiry and illustrated wildlife books. In 1910 he returned to the Antarctic with Captain Scott aboard Terra Nova as Chief of the Scientific Staff.

 One by one they became frost-bitten, Oates so badly that he committed suicide in a bid to save his companions, walking out of the tent with the words “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Badly frost-bitten, dehydrated and short of food and fuel, Wilson, Bowers and Scott perished in their tent 11 miles short of their main One Ton Depot. The following Spring they were buried upon the Great Ice Barrier by a search party, which also recovered their scientific specimens, their diaries and the final sketch books of Edward Adrian Wilson. He died with his comrades on the return from the South Pole in 1912.

‘Life has been a struggle for some weeks now on this return journey from the Pole… Today may be the last effort… I shall simply fall and go to sleep in the snow, and I have your little books with me in my breast pocket… God be with you – my love is as living for you as ever…’

Wilhelmina Stirling 1865-1965 author and De Morgan Foundation founder.

Wilhelmina Pickering was born in London, was the younger sister of Pre-Raphaelite artist Evelyn De Morgan and niece of the painter Rodham Spencer Stanhope.

In 1901 she married Charles Goodbarne Stirling. She assembled a substantial art collection that featured Evelyn’s work and that of Evelyn’s ceramicist husband William De Morgan. Wilhelmina was a significant art collector with a preference for paintings by Victorian artists such as William Holman Hunt and John Waterhouse, and decorative arts including a sizeable collection of furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries.

When she died aged 99, she bequeathed her collection in trust in perpetuity for public enjoyment. Her biography William De Morgan and his Wife (1922) is the starting point for all researchers interested in the De Morgans today. She also wrote reminiscences of the British landed gentry and on subjects such as spiritualism. The Merry Wives of Battersea is very entertaining, featuring the women who lived in the Battersea Manor House over the centuries.

In 1931 Wilhelmina and her husband moved into Old Battersea House, which had been threatened with demolition by Battersea Council. They were granted a life tenancy and used the house to display their art collection. Known as Terrace House until the 1930s, it was built for the naval administrator Samuel Pett and was most likely completed in 1699. It is the finest example of seventeenth century domestic architecture in Battersea. After a campaign to save the house, Battersea Council built St. John’s estate on its grounds in the 1930s.

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

In 1961, aged 96, she featured in a short documentary made by Ken Russell, Old Battersea House, and talks passionately about her support for the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.  She loved giving tours and regaling visitors. She could talk for hours on the artworks and tell anecdotal stories about the house itself, for example about sleeping in the bed that had been slept in by the naughty Lord Rochester. Her butler, Mr Peters, carried around a large lamp to illuminate the rooms, as she spoke about the alleged sightings of ghosts.

In 1957 she wrote the book Ghosts Vivisected. Sir John Beteman described her as reminiscent of Miss Haversham, surrounded by the objects of a past life, but a curator at the De Morgan Foundation observed that this wasn’t the image of Mrs Stirling that she had come to know and love.

In 2007 Wandsworth Council unfortunately let go of the De Morgan Collection, which it had inherited from the Borough of Battersea, and was based in West Hill Library. The collection was dispersed to the Watts Gallery, the De Morgan Museum at Cannon Hall, Barnsley, Wightwick Manor and collection displays at other museums.  

After Mrs Stirling died the Forbes family took it over and restored it. Visitors included Liz Taylor and Ronald Reagan. When they sold it was bought by Pugachev who was accused by Russian government for embezzling loans from the government to his Mezhprombank. He fled Britain and his assets frozen. The new owner lives there with his young family. I was lucky enough to visit Old Battersea House before it was sold by the Forbes and again recently whilst organising the installation of a Battersea society plaque to Mrs Stirling in September 2022.

In Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker Prize winning novel Offshore the houseboat-dwelling young sisters come over the bridge to St Mary’s foreshore and find De Morgan tiles to flog to a Chelsea antique dealer. They recount a ‘visit to the very, very old lady in Old Battersea House’.  

So,that is the trail of the blue plaques of north Battersea for any one to enjoy, especially when the warmer weather comes. I shall be leading one in the Autumn after unveiling the Mrs Stirling one but will be organising a walk of Notable Women of Lavender Hill after my booklet Inspiring Women of Battersea is launched on 7th June at Battersea Arts Centre as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.

Charles Sargeant Jagger Battersea plaque man

Posted in Charles Sargeant Jagger war memorial sculptor by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 18, 2022

Charles Sargeant Jagger MC (Military Cross, ARA (17 December 1885 – 16 November 1934) sculptor who, following active service in the WW1, sculpted 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 Railway War Memorial in Paddingron Station and he designed several other monuments around Britain and other parts of the world. The plaque erected in 2000 by English Heritage is at his home at 67 Albert Bridge Road. The Inscription: CHARLES SARGEANT JAGGER 1885-1934 Sculptor lived and died here. Charles Sargeant Jagger’s blue plaque was unveiled by the art critic, Richard Cork in February 2000 alongside Gillian Jagger, his daughter.

His biography is by Ann Compton. The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger. Prior to living on Albert Bridge Road, Charles and Connie, his first wife, lived at Tite Street, Chelsea in a property belonging to the American portrait painter, John Singer Sargeant.

Charles was the son of a colliery manager, Enoch Jagger and his wife Mary Sergeant and born in Kilnhurst South Yorkshire and was educated at Sheffield Royal Grammar School.

His older sister Edith and brother  David became artists and all studied together at Sheffield Technical School of Art. There is also a plaque which was unveiled in his home village, Kilnhurst by the Rotherham District Civic Society in 2018.

David Jagger distanced himself from his Northern working-class upbringing and thrived as a society portrait painter in London. Unlike his brother he was a pacifist and did not fight in the war. 

Edith’s work in 1940 was included in the ‘Art of The Jagger Family’ at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield.

This photo of the two brothers was taken about 1910 at 21, Wentworth Road, Kilnhurst, when their father Enoch died and mother Mary had to vacate the tied Pit Manager’s house (Glasswell House).  Enoch’s father David seems to have been in charge of sinking the pit but was killed in one of the many accidents.  Charles 25 was already living  in Sheffield then and Mary ran a shop at 70 Millhouses Lane.

A fascinating article written in Studio International. In 1915. Rising British Sculptor: Charles Sargeant Jagger by I G Allister

He wrote: The Royal College of Art is noted for the high achievements of its pupils, and this year it has again added to the triumph of Englishmen in Rome by producing the winner of the Grand Prix in the person of Mr. Charles Sargeant Jagger.

 His first introduction to plastic art was an incident of his childhood which stands out in his memory very clearly. Wandering with his father on Whitby Sands one day they came across a man modelling a sphinx in the clay indigenous to the locality, and as they watched the process the idea arose in the boy’s mind that he must be a sculptor, and he distinctly remembers the thrill of happiness which accompanied a decision from which he never once wavered. His school-days however were an ordeal to him,

At age 14 in 1889 he became an apprentice metal engraver with the Sheffield firm Mappin and Webb who made beautifully crafted silverware  and fine jewellery and had Royal warrants  and commissions from Monarchs around the world, In 1887 Granted a Royal Warrant as Silversmiths to Queen Victoria.

He studied at the Sheffield School of Art and made rapid progress. He first of all learnt drawing, then he turned to modelling in the daytime, and taught drawing at evening-classes.

He was leading a very strenuous life at this period, for he was also learning to express and develop his own work and he soon produced some remarkable work such as Man and the Maelstrom and Prometheus Bound, both of which were created before he was eighteen.

He won a scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art 1908-11  under Edouard Lantieri. National Art Training School at its new home in South Kensington. Edouard Lantéri was Jagger’s Professor at the Royal College of Art, where he was revered by his students. In 1896 it became the Royal College of Art. The RCA was the birthplace of The New Sculpture movement in Britain whose early sculpture showed a fanciful treatment of classical and literary themes.  Jagger worked as Lanteri’s assistant He speaks very gratefully of the seven valuable years that followed. Prof. Lantéri has a rare genius for teaching.

The essay by IG McAllister continues:  My first impression of his work was received three years ago, during his student days under Prof. Lantéri. He was then busily engaged on a sculptural relief, illustrating Rossetti’s Blessed Damosel which struck me as possessing certain qualities quite apart from the ordinary, and when writing at the time on modem sculpture I expressed the conviction that Jagger was destined to occupy a high place amongst sculptors at no very distant date. This prediction is now being verified in a series of poetical themes, showing an individual and vigorous personality.

 Mr. Jagger gained several prizes, and the Travelling Scholarship for a bronze door design, made for a private art collection. He spent some months in Rome and Venice, and one can imagine what a joy this visit must have proved to the young sculptor: 

The illustrations show examples of Mr. Jagger’s skill in various mediums, for he does not limit himself to any one branch, but expresses his ideas in clay and marble, engraving on metal, drawings in pencil and chalk, in silver, as the Design for a Shield, and he delights in making jewellery but except as a pastime he is not likely to do much of this class of work, for larger and more serious things claim his attention.

Mr. Jagger has many things in his favour: it is an excellent sign that he delights in hard work — he is always learning. He will therefore do greater things yet, for he has not come to his full strength.

In 1914 he won the British Prix de Rome scholarship in sculpture but couldn’t take up because of the war. On the outbreak of the First World War he decided to enlist in the Artist Rifles instead. Other members of the regiment included  Edward Thomas, Nash brothers John Lavery and in 1915 he was commissioned in the Worsestshire Regiment.

Jagger served in Gallipoli  and on the Western Front, and was wounded three times. Awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, he was shot through the shoulder at Gallipolli and later gassed in the trenches and wounded once again in Flanders. Near the end of the Great War, he was appointed Official War Artist by the Ministry of Information. With this first-hand experience of war, he was commissioned to make the Great Western Railway War Memorial in Paddington Railway Station and the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. 

 On the 5th November 1915, he was shot through the left shoulder and evacuated first to a hospital in Malta and then back to England. Once recovered he married Violet Constance Smith in 1916 .

Constance, known as Bobby, first wife of Charles Jagger painted by David Jagger 1917

In 1917 David painted this portrait of his sister-in-law. She and Charles met  in 1911. Charles paid for singing lessons for her and she went on to become a concert singer and pianist. They divorced in 1924 they had a son Cedric.

Charles was married twice, secondly to Evelyn Wade, the daughter of his tutor at RCA. He was sent out to the Western Front where he was wounded again in 1918.

No Man’s Land 1919-20 Charles Sargeant Jagger 1885-1934 Presented by the Council of British School at Rome 1923 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01354

  “We have got many men who fought in France and I believe they would sell their souls almost to get back to Flanders again. You people at home have no idea what sort of Hell this is. It strikes me as being the home of the damned.”

 Whilst convalescing from his war wounds in 1919, he began work on No Man’s Land, a low relief which after being cast in bronze it was presented to the Tate Gallery in 1923.

It depicts a “listening post”, a technique of trench warfare in which a soldier would hide among the corpses, broken stretchers and barbed wire of No Man’s Land, in order to listen for the enemy. He completed this work while he was at the British School at Rome. It had grown out of his own war experiences at Gallipoli and reflects his feeling that “sculpture could treat subjects previously dominated” by painters”

Jagger’s work as a sculptor tended towards realism, especially his portrayal of soldiers. When Jagger was commissioned he remarked to the Daily Express the “experience in the trenches persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth”. Monumental works of the period used symbolic figures rather than actual depictions of soldiers. Furthermore, during the war years, a government edict had banned images of dead British soldiers. The fashion at the time was for idealism and modernism in sculpture, but Jagger’s figures were rugged and workman-like, earning him a reputation for ‘realist’ sculpture. Although Jagger was commissioned as a sculptor of a variety of monuments, it is for his war memorials that he is chiefly remembered.

The National Army Museum has a small collection of drawings from his time in Gallipoli, depicting one of his fellow officers, Lieutenant Leslie Goold.

Royal Artillery Memorial (1921–25) at Hyde Park Corner in London is one of his best-known works. It features a giant sculpture of a howitzer surrounded by four bronze soldiers and stone relief scenes, and is dedicated to casualties in the British Royal Regiment of Artillery the war. 

 His obsessive concern for detail, shared by the regimental committee who commissioned the work, reached its zenith in the stone replica of a howitzer, which surmounts his vivid representation of war as hard and dangerous labour.

  When Jagger was commissioned he remarked to the Daily Express the “experience in the trenches persuaded me of the necessity for frankness and truth”.

Monumental works of the period used symbolic figures rather than actual depictions of soldiers. Furthermore, during the war years, a government edict had banned images of dead British soldiers. Jagger defied both these conventions by creating realistic bronze figures of three standing soldiers and the body of a dead soldier laid out and shrouded by a greatcoat. The Gunner became the inspiration for a hero in the children’s fantasy novel Stoneheart by Fletcher where London statues talk and intereact.

 He completed war memorials over the next seven years Manchester Britannia Hotel, in  (1921); Southsea (1921); Bedford (1921); Great Western Railway War Memorial (1922); Brimington (1922); Royal Artilley  (1921–5); Anglo Belgian War Memorial Brussels (1922–3); Nieuwpoort (1926–8he Nieuport Memorial commemorates 552 Commonwealth officers and men who were killed in Allied operations on the Belgian coast 

Tewfiq Egypt Crouching Lion   (1927–8); comemorated 4,000 officers and men of the Indian Army killed during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign during the  war at (1927–8).(  designed by Scottish architects John  Burnetand Thomas Tait)   destroyed by retreating Egyptian troops during the Six Day War of 1967 and later relocated to the Heliopolis War cemetery in Cairo.

 Cambrai Memorial 1928 in the Louverval Military Cemetery, to the memory of 7,000 British and South African soldiers who died without a grave. (designed by H Chalton Bradshaw)

During this period Jagger produced statues of the Duke of Windsor future King Edward V111 1922), Lord Hardinge Viceroy Governor General India  (1928) and Ernest Shackleton (1932). 

Alfred Mond the founder of Imperial Chemical Industries, commissioned four large stone figures symbolic of industries for the company headquarters in Millbank. construction (The Builder), marine transport, for agriculture (The Sower), and chemistry.

ICI Building designed by (Sir Frank Baines)in the neoclassical style of the inter-war years, and constructed between 1927 and 1929a portrait carved into the keystone and their name carved onto a balcony – four directly associated with ICI and its predecessors, Ludwig and Alfred Mond, Harry McGowan Alfred Noble and Justus Vobn Leibig Joseph Priestly Antoine Lavoisier and Dimitri Mendelev.

Below was a commission called Scandal in the V Bronze relief and cast-iron fire basket set, 1930. V&A which is very different from his monumental sculptors. I love the story behind it.

The set was commissioned by Henry Mond (Baron Melchett;) son of his patron and his wife Gwen, for his drawing room at Mulberry House, Smith Square, and was an important feature of its celebrated Art Deco interior. It is about their ménage à trois with the author ( Gilbert Cannan), who was a former lover of Gwen’s but had precarious mental health. The work was mocking tittle-tattle. The  firebasket, wall label states the “two snarling cats and a parrot’. Apparently Jagger had a fierce macaw called and there is a photo of it on his shoulder while working.

As a fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, he was twice a gold medallist for Royal Artillery and figures of St George and Britannia at the entrance to Thames House, Millbank.


Whilst the Jagger’s lived at Albert Bridge Road, Charles had his sculpture studio nearby, on Anhalt Road (Anhalt Road Studios). Evelyn and (Sir) William Reid Dick (R.A.) acted as studio assistants. Both his daughters would play with clay in the studio and make their own little sculptures, which their father would place in the kiln and fire for them. Charles Jagger died young. Being a workaholic, his relentless work rate and old war wounds probably contributed towards his untimely early death in 1934 aged 48. A touring memorial exhibition was organised by two of his chief patrons in 1935–36 Freda, Lady Forres and Henry Mond 2nd Baron Melchett.

Edith Jagger (1880-1977) was an exceptionally gifted painter. Her oil paintings of still lifes and flower subjects were exhibited internationally throughout the 1930s

However it is her work as chief designer for the ground-breaking charitable organisation, Painted Fabrics in Sheffield which proved offered occupational therapy for injured British servicemen, It went on to produce fabrics and clothing of fashionable design and high quality for decades.  ‘Work Not Charity’ was the companies motto. Painted Fabrics became a limited company in 1923, received national press coverage and the continued support and patronage of the Royal family.  The companies wares were sold across the country, including Liberty’s and Claridges Hotel.  Starting with small items such as tea cosies and table mats the range of goods was eventually extended to dresses, scarves, lingerie, furnishing fabrics and leather goods. Although hand stencilling using paints remained a mainstay of production, screen printing, block printing and spray painting with dyes were also used.

Twenty-eight of her paintings were included in The Art of Jagger Family, an exhibition which toured to seven towns and cities across the Midlands and North of England during 1939-40

David Jagger (1891-1958) was a skilled and successful portraitist which included Queen Mary, Lord Baden-Powell, Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh and Dame Nellie Melba and also worked in advertising for J Walter Thompson.

David was a conscientious objector and this caused some friction between the brothers.

He regularly exhibited at the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists His paintings brought him both critical and commercial success, which enabled him to set up his own professional portrait studio in Chelsea, south-west London. After the Great War finished, he met and fell in love with Katherine Gardiner, she immediately became his muse and features in many key work from the period. The couple married in 1921.

Throughout the 1930s his austere and highly finished portraits were in great demanded by London’s elite, for which there was often a waiting list. A major solo exhibition David Jagger was held at the J. Leger Galleries in London (1935). The display was an informal retrospective and featured sixty-six paintings. The exhibition received glowing reviews and was extended due to popular demand.

Cedric Jagger went on to be a leading authority on horology, writing several notable books on clocks and watches. Charles and Violet divorced acrimoniously, she took her divorce petition to the high court in 1924. 

Gillian Jagger became a sculptor in the US. She was friends with Andy Warhol from their student days together.

She was  was only 4 when her father died suddenly of pneumonia in 1934. Her mother remarried an American and went to the States. Together they had two daughters, Gillian Jagger, who forged a successful career as a sculptor in the US and . The Jaggers’ other daughter, Evelyn Mary died in Canada as a teenager, the result of meningitis. 

Gillian Jagger was an artist guided by a deep-seated connection to nature and best known for imposing sculptures and installations that often incorporated tree trunks and animal carcasses. She died in 2019 in Ellenville, New York. She was 88. Her death was confirmed by her wife and only survivor, Connie Mander.

Jaggers studio was close by to his home around the corner in Anhalt Road. The building had been the coach house attached to The Albert Bridge Flour Mills.

I went to see it when I was checking out for my talk on Three Battersea Plaque Men. As I was talking a photo of it a man came out and it turned out to be Chris Orr but I didn’t know that at the time until a couple at the talk in St Mary’s Church told me afterwards. I mentioned to him what I was doing and that the studio had been Jaggers! He, of course, had attended the plaque unveiling and had met Gillian. I told him sadly that she had died in 2019.

Chris Orr was born in Islington London 1943. https://www.chrisorr-ra.com/about He was a student at the Royal College of Art 1964-1967. He subsequently taught in many Art Schools. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1995 and made Professor of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art 1998-2008. He was awarded an MBE and made Professor Emeritus in 2008. As Treasurer of the Royal Academy 2014-18 he was involved in the Burlington project.  He exhibits annually at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the London Original Print Fair. I always enjoy seeing his busy paintings at the Summer Exhibition. His work is funny and distinctive. The Battersea Society is organising a talk with him for the Autumn which should be great. Perhaps we might have a visit to his studio.

I do need to organise a Battersea north plaques walk which will ,of course, include Charles Sargeant Jagger.

It will begin with the Short Brothers aviators at arch 75 at Queens Circus roundabout, playwright Sean O’Casey at 49 Overstrand Mansions, John Archer London’s first Black Mayor 1913 at 55 Brynmaer Road, Donald Swann composer performer with Flanders, 13 Albert Bridge Road, Norman Douglas author Albany Mansion and Jagger at 67 Albert Bridge Road, Edward Wilson naturalist and explorer at 42 Vicarage Crescent and finishing with Wilhelmina Stirling on Old Battersea House.

Henry Mayo Bateman, cartoonist and artist, Battersea plaque man

Posted in HM Bateman cartoonist/artist Battersea plaque man by sheelanagigcomedienne on February 14, 2022

Henry Mayo Bateman 1887 – 1970 was a cartoonist, caricaturist and artist. His English Heritage plaque erected in 1997 is at 40 Nightingale Lane. Bateman was included in my south Battersea plaques walk in 2021 and in my Three Battersea plaque men alongside Sean O’Casey playwright and Charles Sargeant Jagger war memorial sculpture.

Bateman had moved there from Clapham with his parents in 1910, at the age of 23 till 1914. The area provided rich pickings for the satirical exposés of middle-class suburban manners that he was noted for in 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’.

He was amazingly prolific and inventive, everything he saw became material, so that his work can be read as a social history of Britain in the first half of the 20th Century and, to an extraordinary degree, as a kind of autobiography. His family and friends; his trips to the fair, to the seaside, abroad; his passions for the Music Hall, for tap-dancing, for boxing, for fishing, for golf; his desperate experiences in the First World War; his car, his house, his vacuum-cleaner; his triumphs and disasters over many years – all find their way in to his cartoons.

Henry Mayo Bateman, the son of Henry Charles Bateman, was born to an English family in Sutton Forest in New South Wales in 1887. His father owned an export and packing business in Australia but in 1889 the family returned to England. His parents were Henry Bateman and Rose Mayo. His father had left England for Australia in 1878, at the age of 21, to seek his fortune, then returned to England briefly in 1885 before going back with an English wife. Soon after Henry was born, his strong-willed mother insisted that they return to London ‘and civilisation’. He had one sister, Phyllis, three years younger. He attended Tulse Hill Primary School.

Bateman was always drawing from an early age, consistently producing funny drawings that told stories. He was inspired by comics, had a keen critical eye, and was enthusiastically drawing at every available moment. At the age of 14, he had already decided that he would draw for publication.

In 1901, the cartoonist Phil May (died 39), in response to a letter from Rose, showed interest in his drawings.

and that year he was inspired by an exhibition of black-and-white art at the V and A.

His father had initially decided that his son should follow him into business, but eventually, after many arguments between him and Rose, his father financed his study at the Westminster School of Art which he commenced at the age of 16 which had been encouraged by Phil May.  He did well but was bored by the lifeless “life” classes. It was located at 18 Tufton Street, Deans Yard, Westminster, and was part of the old Royal Architectural Museum. Bateman described it in 1903 as:”… arranged on four floors with galleries running round a big square courtyard, the whole being covered over with a big glass roof. Off the galleries were the various rooms which made up the school, the galleries themselves being filled with specimens of architecture which gave the whole place the air of a museum, which of course it was.”After qualifying there he transferred his study to the New Cross  Art School which later became Goldsmith Institute and then College.

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, one of the most powerful of London’s ‘City Livery Companies’, purchased the site and buildings after the Naval School moved out in 1889. Two years later, The Goldsmiths’ Company’s Technical and Recreative Institute opened. For 13 years, the Company ran a hugely successful operation. At its peak over 7,000 male and female students were enrolled, drawn from the ‘industrial and working classes’ of the New Cross area. Nine of our alumni and staff have been Turner Prize winners and a further 24 have been shortlisted. Among these is Steve McQueen, the first Black director to win Best Picture Oscar for his 2014 film 12 Years A Slave.

This was on the recommendation of  John Hassall illustrator known for his advertisements and poster designs and a key member of the London Sketch Club. J.In 1900, Hassall opened his own New Art School and School of Poster Design in Kensington where Bateman is listed among his students. Hassall also recommended that Bateman join the studio run by Charles Van Havermaet who was an artist and teacher for practical experience which was nearby.

Bateman’s first cartoons appeared in The Royal Magazine and The Tatler. He began contributing to Punch in 1906.

Baby’s new tooth

So what were his influences. The Bateman website states: There are certainly two major influences that are immediately apparent, as well as certain moments and developments in his life and work that help to point the way. The first of these influences was the fantastic proliferation of comic papers that sprung up in Britain when he was a child. He was an obsessive devotee of the halfpenny comics, of Comic Cuts and Chips and Larks and Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday and Fun and many others. http://www.hmbateman.com/

In fact, his earliest surviving drawing, done when he was perhaps eight or nine, was done in imitation of Fun, a title page with lots of funny little characters and the inscription: “You are requested to keep dirty fingers off the page – by order…”. From the very beginning, when he started to sell cartoons and sketches to the magazines in his early teens, there was a noticeable tendency for his cartoons to relate more than just a single incident, to have little additional strips appended under the main cartoon or to be made up of a number of separate scenes. He wanted to tell a story. And certainly, by 1910 or 1911, he can clearly be seen to be drawing proto strip cartoons, not quite yet the mature strip cartoon, still including some words and speech or text, but very definitely narrative and cinematic.

His first solo exhibition in 1901 was at the Brook St Gallery Mayfair. His first contract was in 1904, for ten drawings and two illustrations in a four penny monthly magazine called The Royal. At the age of 17, his style was already that of a mature artist.

His style developed and changed radically over the years. From the graceful and rhythmical lines of his earlier work to the stark brilliance of his strip cartoons and the furious energy of his “Man Who …” series, his essential qualities of superb draughtsmanship, astonishing observation and a profound appreciation of humanity’s foibles, are always married to a wonderful wit and narrative perfection. He told marvellously funny stories in pictures.

He then progressed to a contract with The Tatler and many other magazines besides, including the Illustrated Sporting News and Dramatic News founded in 1874, Pearson’s Weekly and Punch. Bateman was selected by Percy Bradshaw for inclusion in his 1918 The Art Of the Illustrator which presented a portfolio for each of twenty illustrators. His work was also part of the painting event in the art competition at the 1928 Summer Olympics.

Bateman made three great and radical contributions to the art of the cartoon in this country. The first came in 1908 when, aged 21, he suffered a nervous breakdown probably caused by the dreadful choice he had to make between pushing forward with his career as a cartoonist, already much in demand, or trying to become a “serious” painter.

This derangement, coupled with an absolute devotion to the surreal madness of Music Hall comedians, seems to have given him a new intensity, a highly charged way of working. At a stroke he did away with the conventional stillness – not to say stiffness – of cartoon figures and, as he himself put it, “went mad on paper”. Until this time conventional cartoons had been illustrated jokes – drawings with a few lines of text or dialogue underneath. Take away the dialogue and the drawing becomes meaningless, the joke lay in the words. From 1909 onwards he drew no more illustrated jokes and so changed profoundly the art of the cartoon, invested it with a new freedom of line and expression.

The drawing became funny in itself, self-explanatory. He made emotion the subject of his cartoons and the characters became actors expressing feeling, rather than illustrations to an idea. This was a new, histrionic, hyperbolic creative method and its effects are still apparent amongst some of our greatest cartoonists today.

The second great and innovative contribution Bateman made to the art of the cartoon came during the First World War. He had enlisted with the London Regiment  but after falling ill with rheumatic fever in 1915 he was discharged.

This rejection affected him and he retreated ill and deeply depressed to a remote inn on Dartmoor. But he worked prodigiously and started to produce, in 1916, astonishing strip cartoons that immediately gripped the public and the attention of his fellow artists. They dealt with life in the armed services and became immensely popular, especially with serving soldiers and sailors. Eventually, towards the end of the war, the War Office realised what a potent source of inspiration and morale these cartoons had become, and sent Bateman off to the Front, to gather material for his work and to entertain the troops with demonstrations of his drawing, making caricatures and cartoons of subjects they chose for him. This had a wonderful effect on Bateman, doing as much for his own sense of self-worth as it did for the troops.

Over the next few years Bateman had cartoons published in  Punch, The London Magazine, ( England’s oldest literary periodical from 1732. The Bystander, (1903 until 1940, when it merged with The Tatler) The Strand Magazine (1891-1950) and the Humorist (1922-1940). http://www.magforum.com/general_weekly_magazines.htm

Comic strips till then had wonderful comic characters but relied again on the story underneath, or speech-bubbles within, and were childish and simple. What Bateman did was to create self-contained strip cartoons without words, brilliant, innovative, cinematic comic stories, adult, often harsh and macabre, and frequently – at this period – to do with themes of guilt, punishment, retribution and death. Cartoons like The Boy Who Breathed on the Glass at the British Museum, The Guest Who Filled his Fountain Pen with Hotel  Ink or Mexicans at Play are all wonderfully humorous but also harsh and complex and they come as shock amongst the predictable pages of Punch or The Tatler. Nothing like them had been seen in this country before.

Sometime just before the beginning of the War, probably on one of his many trips to France, Bateman had came across the work of the great French cartoonist Caran d’Ache which was the pseudonym of Emmanuel Poiré, born 1858 in Moscow died in Paris. He was a 1909 a caricaturist and illustrator and early exponent of the episodic strip cartoon technique. The name Caran d’Ache transliterates the Russian word for pencil.

His work became the second decisive influence or source of inspiration for Bateman’s strip cartoons, Years later, in 1933, he wrote the introduction to a collection of Caran d’Ache’s cartoons published by Methuen (who had published Bateman’s own various collections.  In the introduction he wrote that Caran d’Ache “combined perfection in telling a really droll story with superb draughtsmanship and an astounding observation and knowledge of humanity. For me he defies criticism. I simply admire. He was the most trenchant and illustrious of all designers of what we now call “the comic strip”.

His third major influence on the history of the cartoon came in 1921 and continued for many years. It is, perhaps, the most famous of all his contributions and profoundly changed the landscape of humorous art: he started on his great series of “Man Who” cartoons. Looking back through his work it is apparent that he had been playing with this idea for many years, but the publication of The Guardsman Who Dropped It by The Tatler as a full colour centre-spread caused a sensation and engendered a series of cartoons that lasted for the rest of Bateman’s career.

The majority of the Man Who cartoons describe some terrible social misdemeanour, some solecism or offence against accepted custom and behaviour.

They contain those repeated descriptions of anger, consternation and disgust that became the hallmarks of the Bateman cartoon: eyeballs popping out of sockets, contorted bodies, figures prone or airborne. The protagonist is shown recoiling in horror from his actions and the attention focused on him, or else blithely carrying on, innocent of the outrage he has perpetrated and the world’s indignant roar. The cartoons single out for scrutiny not only the individual who has caused such offence but, perhaps more interestingly, the society that condemns him.

The man who gave cook notice

Bateman became the most highly paid cartoonist in the country, sought after by advertisers, engaged in America and Australia, published in Europe. All this time, certainly until the late 1920s, he was producing his brilliant strip cartoons and a huge amount of other work in many different and interesting styles, but the Man Who cartoons came to define him, captured the public imagination and passed into the mythology of the nation. These are still in great demand and some older folk would be familiar with the phrase a Bateman situation. He  was one of the first graphic artists to adopt a cinematic approach. One critic has argued that Bateman episodic format was “closely parallelled in the silent movie, such as the slow build up to a climax or denouement, and a new emphasis on gesture and facial expression”.

The man who paid of his mortgage

  After the war Bateman became one of the highest paid cartoonist of his day and produced a considerable amount of work for advertising. This included campaigns for  Wills Cigarettes, Guinness, Shell and Lucky Strike.. By the 1930s Bateman was recognised as one of Britain’s leading cartoonists and was earning over £5,000 a year for his work.

Bateman published several books including A Book of Drawings (1921), More Drawings  (1922), Bateman  (1931)  The Art of Caricature (1936) and On the move in England (1940). During the WW2 he produced several posters for the government.

Bateman married Brenda Collison Wier and they had two children, Diana and Monica. Diana became a Cartoon Museum co founder. Diana was married to Richard Willis who was also an artist. His two granddaughters Lucy Willis www.lucywillis.com and Tilly Willis www.tillywillis.com are artists. I made contact with Lucy and bought one of her watercolour paintings of bathers.

Astonishingly, right at the height of his fame, still in his forties, a few years before the Second World War, Bateman gave up all humorous art completely and slipped off quietly, alone, to pursue his old dream of becoming a “serious painter”. In later life, Bateman carried on an increasingly acrimonious battle with the Inland Revenue.

His final years were spent on the island of Gozo Malta. He died in his 84th year, still painting every day,  out walking in the sunshine on Gozo, where he had lived simply and modestly in a quietly in The Royal Lady Hotel, in the room with the finest view in Ghajnsielem, overlooking the quaint harbour of Mgarr and the splendid views of the Gozo-Malta channel.

When he reached the age of forty, at the height of his fame, he decided to retire from cartooning and fulfil his lifelong ambition to become ‘a real artist’, as he’d hankered to be since his early art school training. He took his painting equipment out into the English countryside and began to travel abroad in search of inspiring subject matter.

A genius in his own field of cartoons he struggled modestly for the rest of his life to master the art of colour and light. Not long before he died he wrote in The Artist “If you are a confirmed sketcher, as I am, you will have learned that it is always better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I shall be out again tomorrow!”

Diana, his daughter wrote about his series the Colonel in 2007 November Oldie. A centenary celebration of his work was exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank in 1987.‘When he died in 1970’ said Diana Willis, ‘the Malta-Gozo ferry refused to allow his remains to be transported to Malta on their vessel for burial. However, a very kind Father Hili offered to convey the coffin on his boat and we were very grateful to him. Henry Bateman died whilst out for his daily walk and Diana found a small pencil in every jacket ready for use.

In one of her art based projects Lucy went In my Grandfather’s footsteps https://www.lucywillis.com/projects/21-in-my-grandfather-s-footsteps (published in The Artist magazine May 2012). ‘This year sees the 125th anniversary of the birth of the cartoonist.  Arguably the most influential and widely published comic draughtsman of the early 20th century he was always just grandpa to me.’

Lucy met a fisherman who had found Bateman when he died and others who had known him: boat-builders who had chatted to him, out painting every day; his doctor who recalled the impromptu cartoon of the two of them, drawn on his prescription pad. Most rewarding of all was the response to the paintings themselves, which have been hailed in Valetta as a rare and precious record of a bygone era on the islands: the brightly coloured houses, the fleets of extravagantly painted fishing boats and the donkey carts, now all but gone’ .

The sketch he did of his doctor.

Nicoline Sagona B.A. Manager Gozo Museums and Sites with Heritage Malta coordinated Heritage Malta’s exhibition on Henry Mayo Bateman’s sojourn in Gozo in 2012. Henry Mayo Bateman holds a special place in the Gozo art scene of the 1960s. His Gozo landscapes are all about light and colour, charming and delightful, portraying the pristine beauty of a yet unspoilt environment. A mere half a century later they have become nostalgic scenes of a landscape that has diminished in quality and beauty, giving way to insensitive construction. https://www.perry.com.mt/fine-art-malta-hm-bateman-perry-magazine-issue58/

Lucy wrote:’  Painting in all weathers   During his last years there, having turned eighty, my grandfather wrote at least four articles for The Artist (I had no idea about this until recently and, having been writing articles for the magazine myself for 20 years, was amazed at the coincidence). One of his pieces discussed the hazards of painting out of doors. How many of us would recognise these sentiments’.

My grandfather’s out-put in his final years was as prodigious as always and his dedication to learning his craft was relentless. Not long before he died he wrote in The Artist If you are a confirmed sketcher, as I am, you will have learned that it is always better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I shall be out again tomorrow!”

Lucy has a London exhibition coming up 8-26 March 2022 that I am really looking forward to. I just love her colours, locations and they make me feel warm. It is entitled Memories of the Outside World and it is at the Piers Feetham gallery at 475 Fulham Road SW6 IHL

I do hope that you enjoyed the introduction this fascinating cartoonist and wonderful artist Henry Mayo Bateman and will do a bit more searching out of funny cartoons and evocative paintings of Gozo. I am writing this on Valentine’s day so I think he must be my valentine just for today. I am sure Dave won’t mind

PS I got an invite to Lucy’s solo exhibition in Fulham in March 2022. It looks sumptious and makes you feel warm as you bathe in the heat and shade of warmer climes.

 The Alleyway, Tunisia   watercolour 42 x 60 cm
View Exhibition Catalogue
  View Piers Feetham Gallery Website Copyright © 2022 Piers Feetham Gallery, All rights reserved.

Violet Van der Elst

Posted in Violet van der Elst campaigner against the death penalty by sheelanagigcomedienne on January 11, 2022

I first saw saw this striking photograph when I went to visit the Wandsworth Prison Museum where Stewart Mc Laughlin is curator. He is a warder and admirably runs the bijou museum  voluntarily and wrote the history of the Prison in 2001. The photo is of a woman with a memorable name Violet Van der Elst whose birth name was Violet Ann Dodge. She funded activism against capital punishment and her own campaigns for election to Parliament. She was a strident woman who conducted public protests, wrote books and newspapers, composed music and symphonies, and practiced séances in an attempt to communicate with her deceased husband.

She was given a standing ovation in the House of Commons on the passing of the abolition of the Death Penalty in 1965 aged 84.

In her heyday Violet was regarded as one of the most colourful eccentrics of the 20th Century. According to wiki she was an ‘entrepreneur and campaigner best remembered for her activities against the death penalty’.

She was much more and I don’t think she is remembered and that is why I have decided to do a blog on her. The blurb on cover of her biography by Charles Neilson Gatley reads: ‘Back Street Girl to Millionairess, Anti-Hanging Campaigner, Occultist, Business Tycoon, Social Reformer, The Most Colourful Eccentric of the Century.’ How come this The Most Colourful Eccentric of the Century has been forgotten in the 21st century.

She was described as a ‘stout, golden-haired, cream-complexioned woman’ when she was 83 by the Church Times. In typical sexist terms she was called a battleaxe in one blog and a lioness in another. These blogs were about her role in the ending of the death penalty.

Mrs Van der Elst was born Violet Ann Dodge. She was the daughter of a washerwoman and her father is usually described as a coal-porter. (George Shearing’s Dad was also a coal -porter which got lost in translation in the US as a coal miner!) However, the blogger Chrissy Hamlin who writes the Hidden History blog wrote one on Violet and her extraordinary life. She found that census records actually show that Violet’s father John to be an Agricultural Worker in 1871, a Garden Labourer in 1881 / 1891 and a labourer in a Timber Yard in 1901 https://chrissyhamlin.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-extraordinary-life-of-mrs-violet.html

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is violet-younger.jpg

Not much of her early life is known. She was an ordinary working class girl from Feltham, West London and from a large Victorian family. She was the second youngest child. John and Louisa Dodge’s first two children had died in infancy in 1867 and 1868. Violet’s older sister Rosa Mabel was born in 1870, followed by Edward John in 1872, Samuel Robert in 1875, Lillian Florence in 1877, Charles William in 1879, Violet herself in 1882 and Ella Louise in 1887.

In 1903, when she was 21, Violet married 34 year old Henry Nathan, a civil engineer from Wanstead, Essex, who was known as “Harry”. Apparently she had began making and selling her own cosmetics, creams and lotions – using her kitchen to manufacture her products. She ended up founding a company that developed the first brush-less shaving cream for men. It was called “Shavex” and today the brand is worth millions. Violet became a very successful business woman and was especially concerned with the marketing of all her products.

was especially concerned with the marketing of all her products. She personally oversaw every single detail of any advertisements that were created .

As an employer and boss she was strict. She sacked her aristocratic young secretary Lord Edward Montagu for embezzlement, after he had been arrested. There is little information as to how the business became so successful as it transitioned from kitchen to factory.

Her husband Harry died on November 1927 and four months later she married Jean Van der Elst, a Belgian who had been working for her as a manager but who was also a painter, traveller and composer. In 1934 he too died suddenly and it was in his memory that she dedicated the rest of her life to campaigning for the abolition of capital punishment.

Mrs Van der Elst was born Violet Ann Dodge. She was the daughter of a washerwoman and a coal-porter. She became rich as a business woman and bought a magnificent manor house called Harlaxton Manor thus saving it from demolition and as vociferous campaigner saved the condemned from the gallows. Her name and story should be much better known.

Not much of her early life is known. She was an ordinary working class girl from Feltham, near Staines in West London and came Violet came from a large Victorian family. She was the second youngest child. John and Louisa Dodge’s first two children had died in infancy in 1867 and 1868. Violet’s older sister Rosa Mabel was born in 1870, followed by Edward John in 1872, Samuel Robert in 1875, Lillian Florence in 1877, Charles William in 1879, Violet herself in 1882 and Ella Louise in 1887.

In 1903, she married Henry Arthur Nathan, a civil engineer 13 years her senior. She developed cosmetics including Shavex, the first brush-less shaving cream and became a successful businesswoman. Violet had began making and selling her own cosmetics, creams and lotions – using her kitchen to manufacture her products. She ended up founding a company that developed the first brush-less shaving cream for men. It was called “Shavex” and today the brand is worth millions. As an employer and boss she was always a force to be reckoned with. Violet sacked her aristocratic young secretary Lord Edward Montagu for embezzlement, after he had been arrested.

Four months after her first husband died on 15 November 1927, she married Jean Julien Romain Van der Elst, a Belgian who had been working for her as a manager but who was also a painter, traveller and composer. Jean had been a Captain in the First World War, worked for Henry Nathan and lived with them at 30 Belsize Park. In 1934 he too died suddenly and it was in his memory that she dedicated the rest of her life to campaigning for the abolition of capital punishment.

She was an outsider not part of the official campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty. She tried to enter politics and stood three times, unsuccessfully, as a candidate to be a Member of Parliament. Firstly she fought for the Putney constituency at the 1935 General Election as an Independent, then she stood for the Southwark Central constituency in the 1940 by-election as the National Government candidate and lastly, she fought for the Hornchurch constituency at the 1945 General election as an Independent, no doubt hoping to achieve her goal that way. So she adopted her won way of campaigning. She wrote the book On the Gallows in 1937 as part of her efforts to eradicate the death penalty. As part of her campaign work, Violet fought to keep Ruth Ellis and Charlotte Bryant from being executed – to no avail. After Bryant was hanged, Violet helped find her children a suitable orphanage, and set up a fund to help children who had lost parents because of the death penalty.

There have been few blogs on her more recently. One was posted in 2019 by an MA at Leeds University student Joe Tollingtonhttps://livingwithdying.leeds.ac.uk/2019/10/25/violet-van-der-elst-on-the-gallows/ He notes that whilst her name has since faded into relative historical obscurity. On the Gallows presents the anecdotes and eccentric philosophies that propelled Van der Elst into the limelight and dozens of newspaper headlines. Most importantly, however, it is a source that sheds light on a neglected dimension of the abolitionist movement as well as the forms and approaches to protest in pre-war Britain.

He continues: ” Whilst Van der Elst largely campaigned alone, the abolitionist movement had grown and broadened in Britain significantly from the 1920s. The National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty (NCADP), led by Roy Calvert, was established in 1925. This organisation sought for abolition to be achieved through legal means and did produce a prolific amount of propaganda, although they did not engage in public protest…Instead of working with her, individuals like Roy Calvert derided Van der Elst for her exhibitionism and claimed she damaged the abolitionist movement with “futile emotion and sentiment” (Tuttle, 1961). Van der Elst cannot therefore be considered part of the mainstream abolitionist movement, but a fringe activist, determined to use her wealth to protest in a style that she believed was effective. She may have alienated other campaigners, but more importantly she captured significant public and media attention on an issue and a debate that had otherwise been largely contained to political circles in pre-war Britain.

He points out that Lizzie… Seal who is Professor of Criminology School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex and author of five books. She is one of the few scholars who has paid Violet any attention in her treatise Violet Van Der Elst’s Use of Spectacle and Militancy in her Campaign Against the Death Penalty in England https://core.ac.uk/

She wrote: “Violet van der Elst launched her campaign against the death penalty in the mid 1930s. She employed direct action tactics outside prisons on execution morning, such as leading the crowd in song and breaking through police cordons. These were not only designed to engage and
include the crowd that was present, but also to grab the attention of newspaper readers. Her approach to campaigning made deliberate use of spectacle and, coupled with her direct action techniques, can be understood as a form of post-suffragette militancy. This article explores the influence of the legacy of the suffragette movement on Violet van der Elst’s style of penal activism.”

Two other blog I came across examines

Another blogger Argumentative Penguin compares the roles that Violet and Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain, played in the abolition of the death penalty in two posts entitled The Lamb and the Lioness Two very different women who ended the 1000 year tradition of capital punishmen and The Bombshell and the Battle-Axe. “Two women who never met each other had a huge part to play in the abolition of the death penalty. Both from humble beginnings, their lives, their loves and their losses have been largely overlooked by history. But what was it about these two women that overturned a thousand years of tradition? And why has history largely forgotten them?” https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/the-bombshell-and-the-battle-axe-two-women-who-killed-the-uk-death-penalty-2f873cfdec23

The first was Woodingdean House which she and Jean bought in 1929. The history of the house, which was a large Georgian mansion situated in what is now Ovingdean Close, Ovingdean, is on the Brighton and Hove Archives which noted: ” The house was then sold to a rather colourful character, Violet Van der Elst, known as ‘the richest woman in Brighton’, who owned the house for the next ten years.  She was reputed to have fifteen servants and three Rolls Royce motors cars. She was well known in Brighton as an eccentric. The next owner from 1939 until 1945 T.H. Sargeant – better known as Max Miller -the ‘Cheeky Chappy’ and it was demolished in 1965″.

After Jean had died Violet bought Harlaxton Manor in Grantham Lincolnshire which she renamed Grantham Castle .

She rescued the 1830s building when she bought it for £90,000 in October 1937, after seeing an advertisement in Country Life. It had become derelict and faced being reduced to rubble without a wealthy new owner. It had been rumoured that the Duke of Windsor had tried to acquire it, while his Grandfather, Edward V11, had also tried to buy it as a summer palace, but after failing, bought Sandringham instead. It is now a an American College

The existence of the modern Harlaxton Manor can be attributed to the Violet who saved the manor from demolition in 1937. Abandoned by 1935 she worked to restore and refurbish the manor as well as modernize the interior and had it wired for electricity.

During the Second World War, the manor was requisitioned and used as the officers’ mess for RAF Harlaxton nearby before housing the 1st Battalion of the British Airborne Division. She had based the Women’s Peace Legion at Grantham Castle, and took out advertisements in national papers claiming women could end war for all time.

She spent much of the Second World War living at her Kensington flat. There she showed extreme bravery, putting out incendiary bombs with buckets of water and driving through a blitz to deliver blankets to the needy and the homeless.

The estate was returned to Mrs Van Der Elst in 1943 who sold it five years later to the The Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who used it as a novitiate. In 1965, the Jesuits leased the manor to Stanford University based in California, making it the first American university campus in Great Britain. Since 1970, Harlaxton Manor has been the home to Harlaxton College, part of the University of Evansville in Indiana, USA.

Its architecture, according to wiki, combines elements of Jacobean and Elizabethan styles with symmetrical Baroque massing, renders the mansion unique among surviving Jacobethan manors. The property currently serves as the British campus for the University of Evansville and partners with Eastern Illinois University Western Kentucky University. Harlaxton Manor is a Grade I listed building. There is a Pathe video from 1939 ttps://www.britishpathe.com/video/grantham-castleMrs.

Certainly, Violet’s hobbies and passions add character and an interesting layer of history to this beautiful manor and its surrounding gardens. It is also a sumptious wedding venue

Violet moved into to her flat in in Campden Hill Square, Knightsbridge, London, in 1959.

Violet would live to see the house of commons approve the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act in 1965. It was brought as a private members bill by Labour MP Sydney Silverman.The act was temporary and contained a ‘sunset clause’. Parliament had five years in which to change their mind. They didn’t and the bill was given a full ascent in 1969. Except in cases of High Treason the death penalty no longer applied. It was completely removed from UK law in 1998. This was a formality.

Very sadly, she died alone and forgotten in a nursing home in Ticehurst, Sussex, on 30 April 1966, aged 84. Her wealth was reduced to just ₤15,52. She had spent it all on campaigning and her passions. She had no children one to leave it to.

O’Casey – Battersea plaque man

Posted in Seán O'Casey playwright and memoirist by sheelanagigcomedienne on November 15, 2021

I did a talk on three Battersea men who are commemorated with English Heritage/LCC plaques. There are now seventeen of them since Sir Robert Hunter, one of the three co-founders of the National Trust, was unveiled at 5 Louvaine Road. As I have concentrated on celebrating the neglected inspiring women of Battersea in blogs, walks and talks I thought I would look at some of the men and, obviously, chose the one’s that interested me. The three were Charles Sargeant Jagger, the war memorial sculptor, Sean O’ Casey, Irish playwright and memoirist and the cartoonist and painter Henry Mayo Bateman who also featured in the south Battersea plaques walk that I did in August as the 150th anniversary of Wandsworth Common was being celebrated.

The piece on Seán included a section from his memoirs when he wrote about his time in Battersea when he lived at 49 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive SW11 which is opposite Battersea Park. The chapter was entitled Drive of Snobs and he talks of his neighbours and a previous resident of the block G K Chesterton whom he evidently did not admire.

 Seán O’Casey 1880-1964 was an Irish playwright who is best known for his first three plays – Shadow of a Gunman (1923), Juno and Paycock (1924), and The Plough and the Stars (1926). Having suffered a number of personal attacks due to the content of the third, he left Dublin for London where he met and married Eileen Carey in 1927 and they moved to Battersea. Though consistently published, he struggled to match the quality of the output of his earlier career in Ireland and regularly upset audiences with the overtly Socialist content of his writing. He eventually left Battersea in 1938 and died in Torquay in 1964.

Seán O’Casey was born in Dublin in 1880 and he grew up in poverty surrounded by the tenements of Dorset Street that would form the backdrop of his ground-breaking plays. He was born John Casey in 1880, the last of five surviving children out of thirteen of Michael and Susan Casey, staunch Protestants both. Sean was an active member of St Barnabas’ church at the North Wall quay until his mid-20s

 Sean’s Homes

His father worked as a clerk for the Irish Church Missions on Townsend Street. His father died when Sean was 6, leaving the family impoverished and living a peripatetic life thereafter. They were, nevertheless, Protestant which would have set them somewhat apart from their Catholic neighbours and with it some hostility to and snobbery about Catholics, including from his mother. His final home where he wrote his early plays at 422 North Circular Road is possibly to become a homeless shelter which would meet with Seán’s approval.

As a child, he suffered from poor eyesight, which interfered somewhat with his education, but O’Casey taught himself to read and write by the age of thirteen, probably helped by his sister Bella.

The Caseys moved to to East Wall where spent next 30 years, in the parish of St Barnabas to, a close-knit working-class community between the docklands and the northern railway line  He left school at fourteen and worked at a variety of jobs, including a nine-year period as a railwayman on the Great Northern Railway. He worked in Eason’s  for a short while, in the newspaper distribution business, but was sacked for not taking off his cap when collecting his wage packet

Seán and brother Archie would act out little plays, and he saw his first professional play, Dion Boucicault’s The Shaughraun in the Queen’s Theatre in Pearse Street.

He joined the Gaelic League in 1906, learned to speak Irish, changed his name to Sean O’Casey, learned to play the Uileann Pipes and was a founder and secretary of the St Lawrence O Toole Pipe Band,  joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, became an ardent socialist, was general secretary of the Irish Citizen Army and, most importantly, began to write. He became involved in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union which represented the interests of the unskilled workers who lived in the Irish tenements. He was influenced by labour leader Jim Larkin. O’Casey wrote for the Irish Worker. By then he was also atheist as well as a committed socialist.

He lived through troubled and turbulent times; the 1913 Lock-out and Strike, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Anglo-Irish War and the Civil War. He was involved directly with the Lock-out and Strike, starving with his fellow workers, he saw and was affected by the horrors of the Rising and the troubles that followed. He became disillusioned with the Irish nationalist movement because its leaders put nationalist ideals before socialist ones.

There was  also great sadness for the Casey family, brother Tom died in 1914, and in 1918 his only sister, Bella, and his dearly beloved mother, Susan died.

After early rejections, his first play, ‘The Shadow of the Gunman’, was produced by The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1923. It dealt with the impact of revolutionary politics on the working class people of Dublin. I played Mrs Grigson in 1964 with the University College Galway Drama Society, the photo of me is from the Evening Herald. Obviously, I had to use this opportunity to show this rare photo of myself when young!.

Seán’s next play was  ‘Juno and the Paycock’ (1924) which deals with the Civil War. The success of Juno enabled him to give up his job as labourer.

This was followed by  The Plough and the Stars’ (1926) which dealt and the Easter Rising and depicting the lives of the slum dwellers. Some audiences greeted ‘The Plough and the Stars’ with derision as they rejected it and rioted, outraged by its less than reverential depiction of the Easter Rising. An equally annoyed WB Yeats famously arrived on stage himself and shouted at the protesters, “You have disgraced yourselves again!” obviously harking back to the reception that Synge’s Playboy of the Western World. These are tragi-comedies in which violent death throws into relief the blustering masculine bravado of characters such as Jack Boyle and Joxer Daly in Juno and the Paycock and the heroic resilience of Juno herself or of Bessie Burgess in The Plough and the Stars.

In 1926 Sean had travelled to London to receive the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and also publicising The Plough and the Stars. It was during casting he met Eileen Carey who was also from an Irish background. Indeed, she had wanted to meet the celebrated playwright.

In 1929, his great anti-war play ‘The Silver Tassie’ showing the devastating impact of WW1 on an Irish footballer and his friends, it features a surreal battleground scene which shocked an unsuspecting WB Yeats, a director of the Abbey who now  rejected the new play out of hand. Declaring that O Casey shouldn’t write about the trenches because he hadn’t experienced them and he also objected to the sundering of conventional dramatic conventions.

It was premiered at the Apollo Theatre London directed by Raymond Massey starred Charles Laughton (married to Battersea’s Elsa Lanchester)  and set design by Augustus John.( John had spent time living and painting in Galway the previous decade). Shaw and Lady Gregory had a favourable opinion of the show. It was recently re-imagined as an opera by Mark Anthony Turnage.

These plays now stand with the great plays of the last century and he became known to an international audience. O’Casey was so disgusted with the reactions that he left Ireland to live in England for the rest of his life. He was visiting the US regularly promoting and being consulted on his plays.

His daughter Shivaun, who became an actress and director can clearly remember the moment when she realised just how much some Irish people hated her father. It was 1955 and the 15-year-old had made her first trip to Ireland for the premiere of Sean’s new clerical drama, The Bishop’s Bonfire. Religious groups protested outside the Gaiety Theatre, inside there were cries of “Blasphemy”, “Sacrilege!” and “Get out, ye dirty Protestants!”

Young Shivaun

“It was a very exciting evening,” recalls Shivaun “Leaflets were thrown down on our heads from the gallery and my mother Eileen whispered to me, ‘They’re trying to make it like the Plough, dear.'”

Seán and Eileen settled in 49 Overstrand Mansions which he described as a five roomed flat. In all his volumes of his memoirs he refers to himself in the third person as Seán. It has been suggested that was to avoid any libel action. The chapter heading on their life in Battersea is entitled A Drive of Snobs in which he writes scathingly about what he perceived as English class snobbery. My husband’s grandmother actually worked as a lived in nanny to the bbutler and housemaid’s children of a family in Overstrand Mansions and would recall using the gate across the road into the park.

Seán discovered that GK Chesterton had once lived in Overstrand Mansions. (Incidentially, names of blocks Overstrand, Norfolk, Cyril and nearby Roseberry are named by Cyril Flowers developer and Liberal MP who became Lord Battersea. Overstrand was where him and his wife Constance Rothschild had their beautiful Lutyens designed home The Pleasaunce).

Seán refers to a columnist in the Irish Press, ( De Valera’s paper whom he hated) in which he claimed that the great democrat Chesterton had lived in Overstrand Mansions plump in the middle of the workers and the poor.  (GKC had left in 1909 for Beaconsfield). O’Casey obviously was not a fan of the Catholic convert GKC and used this to observe his fellow residents.

They may have occasionally glimpsed a poor woman or child coming to the park to play or rest but no fuller revelation of the workers life comes before the eyes of or enters the mind of the select residents of the flats of the select mansions of Battersea. These hoity-toity persons were far more selective of their chance acquaintances than were the proper persons of Park Lane. The livers in these flats were higher-low middle class a step or two down from the grade of the middle class who lived on the other side of the river in the Borough of Chelsea – so they had one more river to cross before the entered the land of Canaan. Battersea was almost wholly working class and so families of mansion flats shoved themselves as far as possible, bodily and spiritually, to the edge of the district. All they knew of workers was the distant glimpse of sooty roofs they got from the higher up windows of at the back of the flats . The name of the Borough rarely appeared on the notepaper of residents who hid the humiliation under the simple postal symbol of London SW11. It was if they innocently crossed the border of Chelsea and had settled in Battersea without knowing it.

The first floor flats had had a balcony going across the front of the façade, the 2nd floor a concrete jut-out on which one could stand, but couldn’t sit, and the upper floor had no balcony at all:- so the rents sank as the flats mounted.

As well as this distinction between the flats themselves there was also a distinction between the blocks Overstrand being ever so slightly more genteel than the York block and York was careful to await an advance from Overstrand before assuming an acquaintance with Overstrand for fear of a snub.for it is almost unbearable for one snob to be snubbed by another.

Once a Mrs Black almost next door to him, wife of a civil servant , was presented at court. She dipped the knees in a curtsy to kingship and returned to the flat creaking with exultation. Her kingdom had come and she stepped gallantly into it. for that night into her court dress feathers and all, her husband in a white tie and tails, with a few select friends, sat down in the flats dinnin groom to a five course dinner, done to a turn by a qualified chef, served by a footman in a coloured coat and plush britches and eaten by candlelight: a first class offering of thanks to God for his regarding of the highliness of his handmaiden who had now been magnified in the sight of all her neighbours.

There was a Mrs Green with husband and children Pauline and Peter all rigid with fear of touching person, place or thing beneath them and quivery with desire to acquaint themselves with person, place or thing they thought to be above them. Once a month mother, son and daughter went to ride in Richmond – all morning of departure there was a running up and down parade of hard hats, riding whips and jodphurs – each was taut with a constricting fear of canter and gallop from the time they got on the horses to the time they got off again. No said the mother once to Sean they had never been in a stable. They mounted of course, in the yard and she was shocked when Sean told her a horse wouldn’t know what to do with her till her nose had got used to the smell of dung and horse sweat.

Mrs Green gave her flat greater eminence by giving all the corks drawn from champagne bottles to the tune of a one a month honoured preservation. She fixed all the corks in a finely made walnut frame windowed with fine glass enclosing a soft bed of cramosie velvet on which cosy corks lay each crowned with tinsel with an ivory tinted card with the name of the wine, the district from whence it came and the vintage with the year month and day it was drunk. There they lay like dried up shrunken heads of enemies to be honoured and gloated over.

Here in the medley of dressing for dinner, creaking jodhpusrs, grades in flats and cars, in assembly of champagne corks in one maid or two maid establihsments, in first or second class convent school, in carat weight of collar stud or cufflinks  here the Irish Press declared that Chesterton was living among the workers and the poor.

He goes on to say the residents of the flats spluttered with indignation when Battersea Council organised popular entertainments flooding the park with poorer children jostling the middle class children and transferring their surplus vermin thus providing breeding ground for louse and flea. The residents  never raised a word against the conditions that inflicted these upon the children of others. Again when a rough and tumble crèche was a roped in patch of grass was founded to give working class mothers a snatch of rest from their labours by leaving their toddlers there for tuppence a head an hour a head, the residents as superior rate payers sighed a complaint and sent it to the Council complaining that the crying of the children disturbed and that the creche utterly destroyed the order and serenity of the park.

The residents having no gardens of their own treated Battersea Park as their own private one like the green squares in cities where residents are provided with private keys rigidly keeping others out. On fine days the benches around the bandstand were crowded with nannies or mothers with their own children on their nannies day off.

Seán recalled talking to a Mrs Mellor at the bandstand who was anxious because her husband who was editor of Tribune, was ill in hospital. She mentioned that she hoped that when he recovered that they would live and work in the constituency that he hoped to represent for Labour. Obviously she was someone that Sean would have respected.

I had wondered if the names Mrs Green and Mrs Black the real names of his neighbours but obviously Mrs Mellor was real. I checked up on William Mellor, first editor of Tribune founder of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and although married he had a ten year affair with the young Barbara Castle before she married Ted Castle!

The O’ Caseys moved to Totnes Devon in 1938 with his two sons Breon and Niall. This was on the advice of their friend Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw who suggested that the boys should attend Dartington Hall School. “That’s the only school for the O’Casey children,” he declared. Shivaun, was born a year later. Among the family friends who sent letters of  congratulations were Shaw who congratulated Eileen on producing a girl after two boys, declaring: “Sisterless men are always afraid of women.”and future British prime minister Harold Macmillan.

According to Seán’s biographer: ‘Eileen and O’Casey’s marriage had become celibate by the time she was in her fifties, now a strikingly handsome woman, notable for her warm wit, who, on her own candid admission, fulfilled her sexual needs outside marriage … One ardent, lifelong admirer was Macmillan, who in later life gently broached to her the idea of marriage, which she declined.

Eileen’s obituary notice in the Evening Standard stated: ‘It was the death of Seán O’Casey in 1964, and of Dorothy Macmillan, two years later, that cemented Macmillan and Eileen’s intimacy. She became the light which illuminated his prime years, eventually even replacing Dorothy in his affections.’ O’Casey’s biographer notes that ‘Eileen was the first woman whom Macmillan asked to sit in Lady Dorothy’s place at table in Birch Grove; he also took her out frequently to dine at Buck’s Club.’ Eileen’s obituary in The Times records that ‘she became one of Harold Macmillan’s closest friends. The two grew even closer after the death of their respective spouses. That Macmillan never proposed marriage was a source of bewilderment to outsiders, although Eileen was understanding about his shyness….Her relationship with Macmillan, which only ended with his death in 1986, was a source of comfort to her in old age. For his part, he relied completely on her honest, outspoken Irish perspective.

Niall tragically died of Leukaemia, aged 21. His son Breon became an artist a jeweller, weaver, etcher, printmaker, engraver, painter and sculptor who had been apprenticed to Barbara Hepworth.

Sean wrote a further 15 plays.

  • Nannie’s Night Out, 1924
  • Within the Gates, 1934
  • The End of the Beginning, 1937
  • A Pound on Demand, 1939
  • The Star Turns Red, 1940
  • Red Roses for Me, 1942
  • Purple Dust, 1940/1945
  • Oak Leaves and Lavender, 1946
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, 1949
  • Hall of Healing, 1951
  • Bedtime Story, 1951
  • Time to Go, 1951
  • The Bishop’s Bonfire, 1955
  • A Sad Play within the Tune of a Polka, 1955
  • The Drums of Father Ned, 1959
  • Behind the Green Curtains, 1961
  • Figuro in the Night, 1961
  • The Moon Shines on Kylenamoe, 1961

These, however, were less realist and more symbolic and expressionist. With the exception of ‘Within the Gates’, none of his later plays received either critical or commercial success. He also issued a six part autobiography known collectively as ‘Mirror in my House’.

Despite his failing eyesight, Seán continued to write until his death.  ‘this gaunt fiery writer never abandoned his faith in the dignity of man.”

The New York Times suggested that he wrote his own epitaph in the last of his autobiographical books “Here with whitened hair, desires failing, strength ebbing out of him, with the sun gone down, and with only the serenity and calm warning of the evening star left to him, he drank to Life, to all it had been, to what it was, to what it would be. Hurrah!”

As O’Casey’s last surviving child, Shivaun feels both proud and protective of his legacy. In particular, she is keen to dispel the popular notion that he was a bitter, cantankerous man who ended up hating his native country.”The truth is that he always loved Ireland and kept in close contact with it,” she insists. “He just didn’t like the conservative political direction it had taken.”Shivaun is his executor and responsible for the website which has up to date information on productions, reviews etc of all things O’Casey and run by Shivaun’s son Ruben Kenig http://seanocasey.co.uk/author/rubken/

Sean died aged 84 in 1964 was cremated at Golders’ Green Crematorium while Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was filming ‘Young Cassidy’ (1965), a movie based on his autobiography, staring Rod Taylor. Shivaun herself had a cameo role as Lady Gregory’s maid in it. It had a stellar cast with Rod Taylor playing John cassidy, Maggie Smith as Nora, Julie Christie as Daisy Battles, Michael redgrave as W.B.Yeats, Edith Evans as Augusta Gregory, T.P. McKenna as Tom, Jack MacGowran as Archie, Sian Phillips as Ella and Flora Robson as Mrs Cassidy.

Very recently his great grand daughter Agnes O Casey, Shivaun’s granddaughter starred in Ridley Road. Her father is Ruben Kenig and so her grandfather was Jewish and this has been important to her in playing this role. The O’Casey theatrical gene continues. She was superb in it and, no doubt, she will play one of Seán heroine’s sometime.

I loved this piece about Marilyn Monroe and O’Casey by Mary Morrisey. https://marymorrissy.com/2014/04/14/marilyn-and-sean-fashion-icons/. Cleo is a knitwear and handcrafts shop on Dublin’s Kildare Street, opened by Kitty Joyce in the 1930s, and now run by her daughter.  It’s the subject of a book and features photographs from the shop’s back catalogues of celebrity customers wearing its merchandise, including Marilyn and Sean. Mary Morrisey has also written a novel The Rising of Bella Casey about Sean’s sister Bella who was very much a mother figure to him and probably inspired his depiction of his celebrated female characters. . She had trained as primary school teacher and probably helped Sean with his schooling. but married beneath her and seems to have fallen out of the family narrative. Morrissey recreates for her a life that fills the gaps in her story. She had the ill-luck of becoming an early Irish victim of the Spanish ‘flu, over a hundred years ago and had married a British soldier who died of syphillis cavorting with prostitutes.

I went down so many internet alleys while looking into the life of Seán. I was interested in his relationships with people like Augusta Gregory whom he was very fond of and they got on well, even after the debacle with the Abbey. When she came to London, while he was living in Battersea in her quest to sort out her nephew Hugh Lane’s bequest of paintings after he died when the Lusitania sank Sean accompanied her. Lane had had lived at Lindsay House on Cheyne Walk just across the river in Chelsea.

I was very struck by the way Seán, frequently referred to the triumvirate of James Joyce,Yeats and Shaw in his memoirs as if he felt he was being compared with them. He certainly felt strong affinity with Shaw as both were Protestant, socialist and playwrights. It seems that Shaw and his wife were very fond Eileen.

This is a video of Sean reminiscing with Barry Fitzgerald and talk

I was delighted to just read that Galway’s Druid Theatre with Garry Hynes directing are staging three short plays of Seán’s. I led a walk of Notable Galway Women which included Garry Hynes. Serendipity!!

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. http://www.lucywillis.com

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. http://www.hmbateman.com/uploads/files/malta-and-gozo-in-my-grandfathers-footsteps.pdf

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 2003.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. https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/tag/ida-and-louise-cook/

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. https://sheelanagigcomedienne.wordpress.com/tag/george-shearing/

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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAFr70EUgTs

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.