Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Albert Mansbridge founded The Workers Education Association in Battersea

Posted in Albert Mansbridge founder of The Workers Education Association by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 3, 2014

Albert Mansbridge founder of The Workers Education Association is my nomination for The Great Hundred at Battersea Arts Centre.Battersea arts centre

BAC great 100booklet

He is a very important example of another great and influential person associated with radical and progressive Battersea in the early 1900s.

ALBERT MANSBRIDGE who was so instrumental in the pursuit of education for working class people nationally and internationally with the Workers Education Association which he founded and all the other developments in access to training, education and resources for people, like himself, who had to leave school as soon as possible as his family couldn’t afford to let him continue his education  as they needed his earnings. He was fourteen when he left.

Albert Mansbridge founder of the Workers Education Association WEA when living in Battersea

Albert Mansbridge founder of the Workers Education Association WEA when living in Battersea

Albert Mansbridge born 0n the 10 January 1876 in Gloucester. His father was a carpenter and the family moved to Battersea when Albert was a child. He was an extraordinary educator who organised the Adult Education movement in Britain. He is best known for his part in founding the  Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in England in 1903, serving as its first secretary until 1915.

This was founded in January 1903 by Albert and his wife Frances in their home 52 Winsham Grove, off Clapham Common. In this symbolic meeting at their terraced house, Frances famously contributed 2s.6d. from her housekeeping money as a working fund and voted Albert `hon. sec. pro tem’.

Albert and Frances Mansbridge

Albert and Frances Mansbridge













Mansbridge attended Bolingbroke Road and Surrey Lane schools before winning a scholarship in 1885 to Sir Walter St John’s and hence onward to Battersea Grammar School on St John’s Hill.

Battersea Grammar School

Battersea Grammar School

In 1890, aged fourteen, he went to work as a City clerk, while pursuing his studies via a university extension course at Munt’s Hall Clapham Junction which became The Imperial cinema later renamed The Ruby. This  closed in 1981. and that was the end for this 91 year old building as the Theatre was then demolished to make way for a branch of Barclays Bank.

The Imperial Cinema formerly Munts Hall and laterly The Ruby before demolition for the ugly Barclays Bank branch

The Imperial Cinema formerly Munts Hall and later  The Ruby before demolition for the ugly Barclays Bank branch


In 1900 a consortium led by the well loved Music Hall artistes Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell took over the former Munt’s Hall to see if their idea of a larger hall in the area was viable. Satisfied that it was they set about commissioning AE Woodrow to build a new Theatre in Clapham called The Grand.

Mansbridge was an activist in the Battersea Co-operative Society and wrote Brick upon Brick a history of the first 50 years of the Coop Permanent Building Society.albert brick upon brick The Co-operative Movement and Communities in Britain, …









Founded in 1903, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity and the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. In 2012/13 we delivered 9,700 part-time courses for over 70,000 students in England and Scotland with classes in almost every local authority area and our work in England was assessed in 2014 as ‘Good’ by Ofsted.

With the support of over 400 local branches, 3,000 volunteers, 2,000 part-time tutors and our active membership, the WEA provides high quality, student-centred and tutor-led education for adults from all walks of life. We bring education into the heart of communities, helping people learn whatever they want – from maths and English to local history.

Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) – Adult Learning

This is from the WEA website.




The founder of the WEA was a man who had left school at the age of fourteen and started life as an office boy. Albert Mansbridge, while still in his fourteenth year, enrolled in a University Extension Course on “The Chemistry of Everyday Life” and won a certificate with distinction at the end of it. As a young man he continued to make considerable use of University Extension lectures and became very involved in the educational work of the Co-operative movement. His interest in these two spheres involved a realization that the University Extension movement was failing to attract working people despite their need for higher education and he felt that, though the Co-operative Movement was doing much good educational work and had itself made considerable use of Extension education, providing ready-made audiences for university lecturers, it was not enough to confine the initiative on the workers’ side to the Co-operative Movement.

He began to talk of an alliance between labour and learning, in which University authorities could be brought in touch with the workers through their various organisations. He believed that such an association would help to show that working people had the determination and ability to undertake serious, systematic study of a university standard and would represent their educational needs on a national scale. The “partnership between labour and learning” was not to be merely a convenient administrative arrangement; it would be a true partnership in which the workers would be helped in an objective search, in all branches of learning, to acquire knowledge which would enable them to decide for themselves what to think about the society in which they lived and worked.
Being a man of some action as well as of some dreams, Mansbridge took the first step towards founding such an association: though it was Mrs Mansbridge who provided the apple so that the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge might be savoured – she handed him 2s. 6d. from her housekeeping money as the first member’s fee and together they elected themselves honorary secretary and founder member of the “Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men”. The new Association was formally created at a conference in 1903 of representatives of the trade unions, the Co-operative movement and University Extension authorities. The sex discrimination expressed in its title was corrected two years later when the name Workers’ Educational Association was adopted.

Albert Mansbridge portrait is in  the National Portrait Gallery and was painted by his  John

Albert Mansbridge portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery and was painted by his son John

The portrait was painted by his son John Mansbridge who became an official war artist and taught at Goldsmith’s College  ISSUU – Artist Biography M by Goldmark Gallery

Albert attended university extension courses at Kings College London. He eventually taught evening classes himself in economics, industrial history, and typing, all while taking up clerical work.

Albert had growing concerns over the fact that the extension courses, started in 1873, were aimed at the upper and middle classes. Originally called An Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men, realising that women should equally be included, the name change took place in 1905. The association and its aims was quick to be recognized by universities, and Mansbridge left clerical work in 1905 to become its full-time general secretary.

Albert founded international branches of the WEA in Australia 1913, and later Canada and New Zealand. Mansbridge suffered from spinal meningitis but after recovering he would go on to form several other adult-education groups. These included the World Association for Adult Education in 1918, the Seafarers’ Educational Service in 1919 The Marine College of the SEA and the British Institute of Adult Education in 1921. In 1922 he delivered the Lowell Lectures in Boston, and for the Pacific School of Religion with the University of California. He also founded the National Central Library, a tutorial system and a scholarly library for working people who were not connected to an academic institution.

He was a member of numerous government committees of education, including the Consultative Committee of the Board of Education from 1906 to 1912, and from 1924 to 1939. From 1915 to 1918 Mansbridge was on the Prime Minister’s Committee on the Teaching of Modern Languages. He was a member of the Royal Commission on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge from 1919 to 1922. He was also on the Statutory Commission on Oxford in 1923. He was a member of numerous church committees, including the Selborne Committee on Church and State from 1914 to 1916.

Albert Mansbridge : the life and work of the founder – Trove

Those who are only familiar with Mansbridge’s name as the founder of the WEA may be surprised to learn of the role he played in the setting up of many other organisations connected with the education of adults: the British Institute of Adult Education, for example, which still exists today as NIACE. Even more surprising is that today’s British Library Lending Division can trace its origins back to Mansbridge’s Central Library for Tutorial Classes. Proof, indeed, that he was a man of vision.

He was a fairly prolific author.


albert 7albert 8albert 3










albert 5albert 1 albert 2








Battersea needs to commemorate him and his wife Frances as people we owe some debt to. I attended some WEA classes for women on Feminism in the 80s at Battersea Arts Centre with my youngest child in the crèche. I believe Albert Mansbridge is a worthy nomination to Battersea’s Great Hundred and also deserving of a blue plaque on his home at 52 Winsham Grove SW11.




Humanist Association of Ireland, Humani, Northern Ireland and Atheist Ireland

Posted in Atheist Ireland, Humanist Association Ireland, Northern Ireland by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 22, 2014

Here is a piece for the London Irish Feminist Network about the Humanist/Atheist scene in Ireland now and the challenge to the power and influence of the Catholic church on Irish life.


I have been a member and celebrant of the British Humanist Association for 18 years. I have been keenly observing what is happening in Ireland about the challenge to the power and influence of the Catholic Church both in the reduction of mass attendances, in those declaring themselves of no religion or atheist and in the rise of organisations campaigning for change.


In 2011 I was invited to speak at two student organisations in Ireland as a Humanist and atheist. In Cork I addressed UCC Atheist Society. (Out of this was born Cork Humanists) but in Dublin it was the UCD Humanist Society and I noted that in Galway they have a NUIGalway Sceptics Society. There is, no doubt, that things are changing. There are city and regional groups of Humanists and Atheists as well as social occasions like Secular Sunday brunches in Galway, Sligo, Tralee, Kilkenny, Monaghan etc.
There are two main organizations in Ireland challenging the power and influence of the Catholic Church and its privileged position within the state. The Humanist Association of Ireland Humanist Association of Ireland HAI and Atheist Ireland .

Humanist Association of Ireland


About Us

Untitled-3The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

About Us

Untitled-3The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is a national organisation that promotes the ideals and values of Humanism, working for people who choose to live an ethical life without religion. The HAI grew from and replaced the Association of Irish Humanists (AIH), which was founded in 1993 and renamed in 2004.


If you live in Ireland and are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, rationalist, secularist, sceptic; do not believe in a god, are non-religious and/or have no belief in the supernatural – Humanism may just interest you!

– See more at:

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) was founded in 1993 to promote Humanism which they describe as: an ethical philosophy of life, based on a concern for humanity in general, and for human individuals in particular. This view of life combines reason with compassion. It is for those people who base their interpretation of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power.

Irish Census 2011 ¦ A Humanist perspective YouTube



The HAI is working towards a secular state and the equal treatment of people of no religion in the Constitution, in legislation and other practices of the State and its agencies by campaigning on behalf of the non-religious in Ireland in a number of areas. On an ongoing basis, the HAI seeks to have a secular Constitution and has identified the need for change in the following areas:
The Constitution itself by deleting:
the religious preamble
the requirement for religious oaths/declarations for judges and holders of high office
its concept of blasphemy
Changes in State practices relating to:
Oireachtas prayers
religious oaths for jurors and witnesses
the use of State property for religious purposes
primary and secondary education (including primary teacher training, school chaplains and the religious curriculum)
medical care
religious symbols in public places
the national Census
the use of State employees for religious purposes
These and other topics are more fully described in the HAI publication Equality for the Non-Religious.

It produces a monthly magazine.Hum 2



The humanist association of Northern Ireland: Humani

secular schoolsjpg

Humani coverAtheist Ireland


Atheist Ireland | Building a rational, ethical and secular

The group was initially founded by members of, an online community which had been set up by Seamus Murnane in June 2006.

Its current chairperson is writer and activist Michael Nugent. Atheist Ireland is a member of the Atheist Alliance International.

Atheist Ireland is an Irish advocacy group. We promote atheism and reason over superstition and supernaturalism, and we promote an ethical, secular society where the State does not support or finance or give special treatment to any religion.

Atheist Ireland is a member of Atheist Alliance International, an umbrella organisation of groups and individuals in the United States and around the world committed to promoting and defending reason and the atheist worldview.



It has a network of groups around the country.   Secular Education in Ireland 3, CorkHumanists YouTube
Atheist Ireland promotes an ethical secular Ireland, where your child can attend school without religious discrimination and indoctrination, and can grow up to aspire to be Taoiseach or President or a Judge without having to swear a religious oath. You can also take part in informal social events where you can meet likeminded people.
As a member your subscription will be used to:
Further our campaign to have an ethical secular State in Ireland, that favours neither religion nor atheism.
Persuade the Irish government to not educate non-religious children in schools run by the Catholic church
Stop the Catholic church from excluding non-religious children from primary schools
Keep the pressure on the government to urgently remove our blasphemy law, which has an impact internationally.
Promote freedom of conscience and equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of religious or non-religious beliefs.
Enable us to work with organisations worldwide to help us with all these campaigns and human rights.
The origins and emphasis of the two organisations are different but complementary, mostly. Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics based on human nature and the natural world. Most Humanist organisations have a network of trained ceremony celebrants to respond to the demand for non-religious celebrants to conduct the hatchings, matchings and dispatching ceremonies of funerals, weddings, civil partnerships and baby namings. Increasingly, representatives of Humanist organisations serve as chaplains and on bodies that used to only represent the religious.
HAI celebrants in June 2013, following years of campaigning, have achieved legal status for Humanist marriage ceremonies. Following the passing of the Civil Registration Amendment Act last December by the Dáil and Seanad, the General Register Office added all current HAI-accredited celebrants to the list of solemnisers. Scotland had already recognised Humanist celebrants as registrars but in the rest of the UK the negotiations for such recognition are still ongoing. It is envisaged that this will happen in 2015/16.
However, the legislation was discriminatory and flawed in the way it was framed.
“45A (1) For the purposes of this Part, a body shall, subject to subsection (2), be a secular body if it is an organised group of people and –
(2) None of the following is a secular body for the purposes of this Part:
(b) a body that promotes a political cause;”
It is this clause stating that it precludes any secular body that promotes a political cause that has created the contradiction and which was challenged by Atheist Ireland as unworkable as HAI is, without a doubt, promoting and advocating changes in policies, laws and the constitution in Ireland.



Atheist Ireland are, undoubtedly more militant than HAI. The emphasis of the two organisations are similar in that both are adamantly secularist and have many of the same aims. However,  Humanism is a philosophy of life and ethics based on human nature and the natural world whereas Atheist Ireland is more of a campaigning group although it has developed a social side with Secular Sunday Brunches which are posted in SECULAR SUNDAY the weekly newletter of AI edited by Derek Walsh. Links to it are found on the Atheist Ireland website and interested folk can sign up. It has a media watch section of relevant items from Ireland and worldwide as well as interesting links to guest blogs. AI has has a forum and a section on the various submissions it has made to the UN, Europe and the Irish Government.


It has plenty of interesting videos. Atheist IrelandYouTube

Atheist Ireland responds to abortion law YouTube  Senator Ivana Bacik greets Sanal Edamaruku at Atheist

Michael Nugent debates the right to assisted YouTube  Teaching about atheism in Irish schools YouTube

Ireland’s government trying to produce Irish solutions to Irish problems will continue to cock up especially while men are predominantly in charge, with exceptions like Labour’s Ivana Bacik who is backing Joan Burton’s bid for the leadership of the Labour Party.
I guess we need to keep an eye on what’s happening in Ireland around all this and we have a right to influence changes on this as, far many of us, it was the Catholic ethos and restricted role for women that caused us to emigrate.




Arthur Lynch Australian Irish MP for Galway and West Clare and Labour candidate in Battersea South in 1918.

Arthur Alfred Lynch (16 October 1861 – 25 March 1934) was an Irish Australian civil engineer, physician , journalist, author, soldier, anti-imperialist and polymath. He was a hefty man, strikingly handsome, of charm, courtesy and even temper, Lynch was one of the most picturesque figures of his time. He was erratic in his grasp of public affairs but was generally respected for his integrity and extraordinary range of knowledge, and was on friendly terms with many great contemporaries. He had no doubt that his was one of the outstanding minds of the age

Biography – Arthur Alfred Lynch – Australian Dictionary of

As an Irish nationalist he fought against the British  with the Boers and was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged. He sounds like he was quite a character and had a fascinating career. He represented Labour in Battersea South in 1918 when Charlotte Despard stood in Battersea North.

Arthur Lynch in 1915

Arthur Lynch in 1915

He served as MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and represented Galway Borough from 1901 to 1902, subsequently West Clare, his father’s birthplace, from 1909 to 1918. Unlike most of his compatriots, Lynch fought on the Boer side during the Boer War in South Africa and raised his own Irish battalion towards the end of World War 1.
Lynch was born at Smythesdale near Ballarat Victoria the fourth of 14 children. His father, John Lynch, was an Irish Catholic surveyor and civil engineer and his mother Isabella (née MacGregor) was Scottish. John Lynch was a founder and first president of the Ballarat School of Mines and a captain of Peter Lalor at the Eureka Stockade rebellion (1854) and he wrote a book, Austral Light (1893–94), about it – later republished as The Story of the Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade rebellion at Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854, became one of Australia’s great legends. Gold miners from all over the world among other things demanded parliamentary democracy–and nothing less. They were defeated at dawn on 3 December 1854 by British troops and Victoria Police. John Lynch, was a prominent Galway Irishman. Both father and son were champions of liberty against tyranny.

Arthur Lynch was educated at Grenville College, Ballarat, (where he was “entranced” by differential calculus) and the University of Melbourne, where he took the degrees of BA in 1885 and in 1887. Lynch qualified as a civil engineer and practised this profession for a short period in Melbourne.

Lynch left Australia and went to Berlin, where he studied physics, physiology and. Moving to London Lynch took up journalism. In 1892, he contested Galway as a Parnellite candidate, but was defeated. Lynch was a life-long republican. He was active in the English Republican League. He met Annie Powell a student,  daughter of the Rev. John D. Powell, in Berlin and they were married in 1895. They were to have no children. In Lynch’s words, the marriage “never lost its happiness” (My Life Story, p. 85).

The Lynch family are an ancient Norman family arrived with Strongbow and became one of the ‘Tribes of Galway’.  They were very influential in the local politics, no less than 84 Mayors of Galway were from the family Lynch, as were many of the Wardens of Galway.  Gradually the religion changed from Protestant to Catholic and they became staunchly Irish patriots.  Lynch Castle was built in 1320 and they formed many branches of the same name.”

Lynch's Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

Lynch’s Castle Galway home to one of the 14 tribes of the city

In 1898, he was Paris correspondent for the London Daily Mail and when the second Boer War broke out, Lynch was sympathetic to the Boers and decided to go to South Africa as a war correspondent. In Pretoria he met General Botha and decided to join the Boer side. Lynch raised the Second Irish Brigade which consisted of Irishmen, Cape colonists and others opposed to the British. He was given the rank of Colonel and saw limited active service. O’Brien’s fictional Bye-Bye Dolly Gray, is kinder to Lynch’s showy South African exploits and his uitlanders. Michael Davitt who travelled to South Africa has photos of Lynch with his brigade on the veldt, in, The Boer Fight for Freedom. A Gentleman and a War Criminal: A Measure of Integrity


Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

Lynch is the man in a white shirt centre back

From South Africa, Lynch went to the US as he was commissioned to attempt to reconcile two Irish factions. He and then returned to Paris. He became a powerful journalist for the National Reformer, then the Daily Mail for which by 1898 he was Paris correspondent. Having travelled widely, Lynch was now fluent in several languages and wrote well in French and German.

He again stood for Galway Borough in November 1901, and was elected in his absence as MP. On going to London, Lynch was arrested because of his pro-Boer activities and remanded for eight months. Lynch was tried for treason before three judges, and on 23 January 1903 was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. This sentence was immediately commuted to a life sentence, and a year later Lynch was released “on licence by the Balfour government after Theodore Roosevelt interceded with Edward VII. The extraordinary case of Arthur Lynch begs interesting questions about identity and allegiance. In particular, his trial for high treason in January 1903 raises legal, political and cultural issues. His counsel argued that he should be tried in Ireland and that, in any case, as a citizen of the South African republic, he could not be guilty of treason against Britain. Lynch suggested that, as an Australian, he should be tried in Australia.
His case was cited in a House of Commons paper on (Forfeiture Act 1870, amended by the Criminal Law Act 1967)
The provisions of the Forfeiture Act have only once been invoked once. » 1903: Arthur Alfred Lynch condemned

In 1907 he was again elected as MP for West Clare.

World War 1.
During World War 1 Lynch volunteered for the New British Army. Arthur Alfred Lynch: Information He raised a private 10th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers and was given the rank of Colonel, although he and his unit never saw active front service. His intention was to raise a unit in 1918 which did not have the barriers against national identity which had affected the raising of the 16th Division. He campaigned to raise recruits separately from the British recruiting drive in Ireland, which caused much aggravation, putting many obstacles in his way, including having those he recruited diverted elsewhere and the familiar denial of concessions to Irish national sentiments. He only managed to get a special uniform approved for his six pipers, they were to be kilted, their hat badges with the design of an Irish Wolfhound rather than the traditional Munster’s emblem of a Bengal Tiger.

Lynch took his full share in the turbulent sessions that saw Lloyd George introduce his first social-insurance measures. He fought particularly for higher education and a new deal for the common people. Always he continued the fight for Irish independence.

At the end of the war, Lynch chose to stand as a Labour candidate in newly created  Battersea South for the 1918 General election. He finished second to the Unionist. Battersea Borough Council, of course, had taken a stand against the Boer War even naming one of its streets on the Lathmere estate after General Joubert.

Battersea constituency was originally created in 1885. From 1892 to 1918 the seat was held by trade union leader John Burns who served as a Minister (of the Crown) in the Liberal Cabinets of Bannerman and Asquith from 1905 until 1914. The constituency was split in 1918 into Battersea North which only had four years of a Conservative MP from 1931 and Battersea South which had 38 years of a Conservative MP, the most recent spell ended in 1964. William Bennett, Caroline Ganley, Ernie Perry and Alf Dubs represented it for Labour. The two constituencies were rejoined in 1983 with Alf becoming the MP and Martin Linton winning it back in 1997 till 2010.
Arthur Lynch had qualified as a physician many years earlier when he took up medical studies at St Mary’s, Paddington, graduated from the University of London (M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., 1908) and practised at Haverstock Hill. He later found time to graduate in Paris with a diploma of electrical engineering. He began to practise medicine in London, at Haverstock Hill. He died in London on 25 March 1934.

I found Arthur Lynch MP fascinating as one of the Irish diaspora, representing the Irish Parliamentary Party in my hometown of Galway and then as the Labour candidate in 1918 in the newly formed constituency Battersea South.

Hilda Hewlett- first female licenced pilot and aeroplane manufacturer based in Battersea 1912-1914

Posted in Hilda Hewlett 1st licensed woman pilot n UK by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 20, 2014

Hilda Hewlett was the first woman to qualify as a pilot in the UK.  She was a pioneering aviator and part of the military-production machine in the Great War. In 1912 in Battersea she, with Gustave Blondeau, opened their factory to build the BE2 planes for the Royal Aircraft factory.   Hewlett & Blondeau – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This is a good time to highlight her as an inspiring and spirited women taking her place in a very male sphere and playing a significant part in the First World War. I am putting her name forward for the Battersea Arts Centre’s request for nominations for Our Good Neighbours scheme of 12 plaques celebrating Battersea’s unsung heros which is intended as a permanent installation as part of their 12o years commemorations. Our Good Neighbours – Battersea Arts Centre     Our-Good-Neighbours






Hilda Hewlett's photograph for her pilot's licence wearing large hat

Hilda Hewlett’s photograph for her pilot’s licence wearing a large hat


 Her grandson’s wife Gail has carried out exhaustive research into the lives of both Hilda and Maurice Hewlett and recently published the results of this work; the book was officially launched on 26 April 2010 at St Peter’s Church in Vauxhall, London. Old Bird. The Irrepressible Mrs Hewlett – Troubador Publishing

Hilda Beatrice Hewlett was born in 1864, the daughter of Rev George W Herbert, the vicar of St Peter’s Vauxhall, and his wife Louisa. She was one of eight children (one of whom had died age 3). She attended the National Art Training School in South Kensington where she specialised in woodwork, metalwork and needlework; three skills that served her well in her later aviation career. She spent time in Egypt with her parents when she was 19 and then at 21 trained as a nurse for a year at a hospital in Berlin. She was a fluent French speaker. Apparently, she only spoke French to Gustave Blondeau.

After marrying Maurice Hewlett in 1888, they wound up living in Northwick Terrace, just of Edgware Road, and she became a keen motorist.  Maurice Hewlett was a romantic novelist. The couple had two children, a daughter, Pia, and a son, Francis, but separated sometime after 1914.  Maurice has unfairly been described as unsympathetic to Hilda’s exploits as an aviator. According to Gail Hewlett he did not at first understand why Hilda, who was known as Billy within the family, was interested in what seemed a new-fangled thing, but he never ever tried to stop her.  What concern he showed was to do with the danger inherent in flying. He was later to invest in the Hewlett & Blondeau company. Hilda said: ‘Maurice was so broadminded about my flying’.

Maurice was a lawyer and had been a partner in his family’s law firm and keeper of land revenue records. However, in 1901, three years after writing a successful romantic novel, he gave up his profession for a literary career.

maurice hewlett  maur 1maur 2maur 3maurice book covmauric

In 1906 she was the passenger/mechanic for Miss Hind, the only female driver in the Land’s End to John O’Groats. At a 1909 event, she met Frenchman Gustave Blondeau with whom she developed a fascination with flying.

After buying an aeroplane and learning how to maintain it, Hewlett and Blondeau set up one of Britain’s first fully-fledged flying schools at Brooklands race track and airfield. One of their first pupils was T.O.M. Sopwith, whose company built the famous Great War fighter plane, the Sopwith Camel, but whose first flight was with Gustave Blondeau.

Another pupil was Hewlett herself, who became the first woman ever to qualify as a pilot in the UK, with Royal Aero Club licence number 122, issued on 29 August 1911. Hilda Hewlett’s pilot’s licence photo, showing her amazing hair and hat combination. Hilda also taught her son Francis who earned his licence number 156 on 14 November 1911 and went on to have a distinguished military aviation career in both the UK and New Zealand, making him the first military pilot taught to fly by his mother. He earned a Distinguished Service Order in 1915 and rose to the rank of Group Captain.


Soon after this, Hewlett and Blondeau went into business building aeroplanes. They opened a factory in Battersea in 1912 and were awarded a contract to build BE2 biplanes for the Royal Aircraft Factory. The first factory called Omnia Works was a disused ice-skating rink which had been had been used by the car firm Mulliners who had briefly gone into aeroplane building. This was at 2-16 Vardens Road, off St John’s Hill near Clapham Junction, where eventually they produced six different types of aircraft. By December 1912 they had built three French Hanriot monoplanes. The blog piece  Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation quotes from Gail Hewlett’s biography some interesting details about Hilda and the trade unions and that Hilda had a flat at 34 Park Mansions on Prince of Wales Drive near Battersea Park whilst they had the factory at Vardens Road.

Finally they settled on a 10 acre site at Leagrave Bedfordshire, in May 1914. By August 1914 the company had produced 6 different types all at Vardens Road and had produced eight other types at Leagrave. During the war the Hewlett’s company manufactored more than 800 military aircraft and and employed up to 700 people. Hewlett and Blondeau made all their own parts and supplied other companies with parts, but they did not make aircraft engines and electrical instruments. Here Hilda was a familiar sight driving her large car with a big dog in the back. She wore sensible clothes and had an Eton crop hair-style. The firm developed a good reputation and was very successful.

After the war the business diversified into making farming equipment, but the factory had closed by the end of October 1920. The site remained unsold until 1926. A road in Luton, Hewlett Road, was named after her in recognition of the importance of the company towards the war effort.

Hilda had set a training school for girls and women in  skills which had been undertaken by men especially welding. Hilda had first hand experience of it a generation before Rosie the Riveter. Hilda was described as an ‘indefatigable worker, good organiser and shrewd business woman’.

Hilda and her aeroplane

Hilda and her aeroplane

After the factory closed down in 1926, she went to New Zealand joining her daughter and her son joined them later. As Hilda explained;  ‘the urge to escape from the three C’s, crowds, convention and civilization became strong’.  According to the website Hewlett, Hilda Beatrice – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand   “New Zealand also offered Hilda opportunities to camp and fish, other long-time interests. Now 62, she was always addressed as ‘Old Bird’ by family members. It also mentioned that In 1934 Jean Batten, touring New Zealand after her celebrated flight from England to Australia, was welcomed to Tauranga and hosted by Hewlett. The meeting of the two pioneers from different eras was said to have ’caused quite a stir’.

She lived out the last decades of her life in Tauranga, NZ, including being the first president of their Aero and Gliding Club. She died in 1943 and was buried at sea, as she had wished.

I ordered and just started to read her biography which I obtained from the author Gail Hewlett and am relishing it. She described Hilda as” brisk, bracing, intelligent,impatient, intrepid, – excellent qualities in a friend or travelling companion; hardy, energetic and fun-loving – frivolous she would call it; determined and single-minded, more than a little self-centred; not at all prudish, except in matters governed by her own strong moral code and brand of snobbery; warmly affectionate, coldly intolerant , Billy to Old Bird endeared or alienated herself in equal measure.”

Hilda Hewlett is a very worthy person to have her contribution to aviation and Battersea commemorated in some way. A plaque from the the Battersea Society would be great.


It is also important to note here how Battersea has a fascinating aviation connection because alongside Hilda Hewlett and Gustave Blondeau were the Short Brothers who have had a Blue Plaque commemorating them.

This plaque was unveiled September 2013 in Battersea under the arches at Queenstown Road/Queens Circus.

This plaque was unveiled September 2013 in Battersea under the arches at Queenstown Road/Queens Circus.

Britain’s first aircraft manufacturers, Horace, Eustace and Oswald Short have been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at their former workshop in the railway arches by Queen’s Circus, Battersea. The plaque was unveiled by Jenny Body OBE, the first female President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, at 2pm on Tuesday 17th September.

Short Brothers








Hilda featured in Brian Barnes mural Battersea in Perspective in 1988 along with Charlotte Despard and other previous Battersea MPs and politicians including John Archer, London’s first black mayor in 1913.

Hilda from Battersea in Perspective mural by Brian Barnes

Hilda from Battersea in Perspective mural by Brian Barnes

I went to Vardens Road to the site of 2-16 where the aircraft works were. It had later become a snooker hall which was demolished and replaced by these luxury town houses. Perhaps, someone will be knocking on one of these doors to see if they want a plaque of the feisty and indomitable Hilda Hewlett!

2-8 Vardens Road - the site of the Hewlett and Blondeau Omniaworks aircraft factory 1912-1914

2-8 Vardens Road – the site of the Hewlett and Blondeau Omnia Works aircraft factory 1912-1914



Stop the demolition of Water Pumping Station Battersea


This Victorian two story building is part of our Victorian, riverside heritage alongside its newer internationally known neighbour – The Battersea Power Station but equally deserves to preserved on this hugely significant regeneration site.  The people of Battersea and all those who care about our bricks and mortar industrial heritage and the psychological need we have to conserve it amongs the new developments.

batt power batt p with pig batt power 2

We need the small brick built Victorian Water Pumping Station Building as much as its colossal neighbour. The two side by side are a wonderful representation of the the 20th and 21st cnetruy brick built architecture.

Water Pumping Station Battersea riverside next to Battersea Power Staion

‘s Water Pumping Station Battersea riverside next to Battersea Power Staion

Water pumping station and its later neighbour Battersea Power Station

Water pumping station and its later neighbour Battersea Power Station

This petition has been set up Petitioning Councillor Mrs Sarah McDermott

We, the undersigned, ask Wandsworth Council to refuse listed building consent application 2014/1236 for the demolition of Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Please sign as this goes to the Council Planning Committeee Meeting on Tuesday

Petition | We, the undersigned, ask Wandsworth Council to

Battersea Water Pumping Station is the oldest surviving water pumping station in London.

It was built in 1840 for the Southwark Water Company and extended in 1856.  It housed a series of Cornish engines used for pumping water from the Thames.  At one time the pumping station housed the largest Cornish engine ever built, with a 112″ diameter cylinder.

The building was listed Grade II in 1994.

The pumping station commemorates the rich industrial heritage of the Nine Elms and North Battersea.    It has great potential to encouraging young people to think of science, technology and engineering as important skills worth acquiring.

Retaining and preserving the pumping station would attract visitors to the site and therefore increase footfall for the new facilities that will be open to the public.  It is in everybody’s interest that it is preserved.

We ask Wandsworth Council to initiate discussions with the owner/developer so that the development can be reconfigured to incorporate the pumping station

We further ask Wandsworth Council to convene negotiations between the owner/developer and the Battersea Power Station Company Ltd (a local registered charity) to allow the pumping station to be passed into the latter’s ownership for £1, to allow them to renovate the pumping station with Lottery funding.

Sean Creighton & Keith Garner

June 2014

batt power 2






The Battersea Power Station Community Group who have been custodians of our heritage against the giants of developers since according to Private Eye ( 7th March 1997) that forlorn symbol of Thatcherite free enterprise half-demolished by her friend John Broome before he went bust.   Power station groupBattersea Water Pumping Station

Here is an objection to the demolition written by Malcolm Tucker of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society September 2010 Battersea Water Pumping Station Assessment GLIAS comments 30 Sept 2010.pdf    The developers with the title  Real Estate Opportunities tell it all!

The new lot of international vultures  The Battersea Power Station Development Company, the British-based consortium representing the new Malaysian owners of the iconic south London site, has lodged its detailed plans for the first phase of an £8bn redevelopment and it includes former Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Victorian society logoThe Victorian Society submitted their horror and disappointment at this proposed demolition.

Battersea Power Station plans threaten hidden industrial gem

The plans put forward by developer go against government planning advice, which says that a listed building should not be demolished unless efforts have been made to find a new use, or to transfer the building into charitable or community ownership. The Society is concerned that these efforts were never made and now a significant historical building could be lost.

it is hard to believe claims by the developer that the entire scheme for the power station and the regeneration of the surrounding site is rendered unviable if the pumping station is kept.

‘It is wonderful that Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s power station is to be given a new lease of life, but it mustn’t be used as an excuse to demolish another listed building. It may dwarf its neighbour in size but in terms of historical significance to London the pumping station can hold its own and must not be lost.’

It has suffered from the same neglect that has befallen the power station, and like the sleeping giant that dwarfs it, it has been proclaimed as unrestorable by the developers and therefore fair game to be knocked down to make way for gated communities and a retail hub.

The only reason to demolish it is that it allows the power station owners to maximise profits and for Wandsworth Council to show how it stands up for international development corporations against those who want to curtail their profits and futuristic visions. Ravi Govindia and the Council should be, as ever,  ashamed of themselves as they ignore their local residents in their endeavour to show how Tory and capitalistic they are as they wish to glory in the largest commercial redevelopment in Europe.

The last time I visited the Power Station was for a meeting with Ed Miilliband speaking. This photo shows me in red coat and the back of my head revealing my white roots which gives ammunition to my children’s complaint of me having a hole in my head. I should wear a red beret like Suzanne did.

Milliband at Battersea Power Station and showing the back of my head with white roots.

Milliband at Battersea Power Station and showing the back of my head with white roots.


Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/13

Posted in Thomas Brogan Irish Nationalist and Catholic Mayor Battersea 1912 by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 11, 2014

I have nominated Thomas Brogan, who was Mayor of Battersea in 1912/13, to be included in Battersea Arts Centre Great Hundred

Thomas Brogan Mayor of Battersea 1912/1913. Thomas Brogan was the first Irish nationalist and Catholic Mayor in London. He was mentor to John Archer. It is important to put these two Battersea Mayoral appointments in their context. I leave it to Sean Creighton, our indefatigueable chronicler and historian, to do that.Sean Creighton 2






from exclusion to political control. radical and working class


The record of the Progressive Alliance on the Vestry and Council between 1894 and 1909 and from 1912 onwards was impressive. A 48 hour working week and improved employee wage rates had been introduced early on. It opened Direct Labour Workshops. The Department built library extensions, the Nine Elms swimming and slipper baths, a public laundry, a sterilised milk depot, an electric light station, and the Latchmere housing estate.
The facilities of Latchmere Baths were expanded. It was the first London Borough to set up a health visiting service. Its Medical Officer of Health played a leading role in the maternity and child welfare movement. The appointment of an electoral registration officer had helped to ensure a high electoral roll among the working class. It sponsored Borough Concerts andLectures, and University Extension Lectures. The facilities built up by the Vestry/Council were regarded by the labour movement as positive achievements needing defending and improving.
Battersea earned the title of ‘The Municipal Mecca’.


John Archer was half Irish.   INFORMATION – PEOPLE – University of Liverpool He said of his mother : She belonged to one of the grandest races on the face of the earth. My mother was an Irishwoman.

This awareness of British colonisation was something that both men understood well, as outsiders. Battersea was a radical and progressive Borough at this time and can boast so many firsts in social and political development.

Councillor Thomas Brogan was an electrical engineer and he worked at Price’s candle factory. He was Chairman of the Workers Institute in Battersea. He was a lay member of St Vincent De Paul which was a cathoilic charitable organisation. He spoke eloquently at a convention of which he was a principle guest in Manchester. Frederic Ozanam and the Establishment of the Society of St

The Mayor of Battersea, who delivered an eloquent address, said that the brothers were fighting together for the great common cause for the common good of the common people. Europe was an armed camp. The Cross and the Crescent had again been in conflict, and thousands of the dead were lying unburied on the battlefields of the Near East. In the factory, in the workshop, in the office, the brothers of StVincent De Paul had to preach the great lesson of Christian charity .They had to spread the noble gospel that the great work of life was not to destroy life, but to preserve it. They had to show to the world that the spirit of Frederic Ozanam was alive in their hearts to-day, and that it was growing up a great, powerful, dominant force, which would eventually make England a better England, the Empire a better Empire, and the world a better world. But there was other work than this—work nearer to hand and, perhaps, more easy of immediate accomplishment. In the richest country of the world, with the wealth of the world pouring into her coffers—in a land as beautiful as a poet’s dream, with a soil as fruitful as God’s own love with a climate as sweet as a mother’s smile, and teeming with inexhaustible mineral wealth, there were thousands perishing of hunger and starvation.

Battersea Town hall








His election as Mayor was of significance to the Irish diaspora. This is from a Boston Newletter. Page 3 — The Sacred Heart Review 30 November 1912

In this connection it is interesting to read that an Irish Nationalist, Councillor Brogan of Battersea has been elected Mayor of the Borough of Battersea, one of the twenty-eight Boroughs that compose the County of London. This is the first time in the history of London, the Dublin Freeman says, that a militant Irish Nationalist has been elected to such a responsible and honorable position in the public life of the English metropolis. Councillor Brogan was born in the Irish quarters of York forty-six years ago, of Irish parentage. His father and mother were natives of Ballina, Co. Mayo. At an early age, Councillor Brogan was left fatherless, and for some years he experienced the trials that are inevitable when the chief bread-winner of a family is only a boy himself, but his sturdy spirit and natural ability were successful in bringing him to the front.

News From The Dioceses – from the Tablet Archive

BATTERSEA: ELECTION OF A CATHOLIC MAYOR.—As a result of the activity displayed during the recent Borough Council elections by the Catholics of Battersea in an attempt which happily proved successful, South London Catholics are now able to boast of a Mayor of their own in the person of Councillor Brogan, who has for a number of years taken an active interest in various Catholic movements, especially in educational matters.

Thomas Brogan was president of the United Irish League and a familiar and fluent speaker on Irish Home Rule.

On his election as Mayor the MORNING ADVERTISER November 11th 1912 wrote; “His selection for the office of Mayor is popular not only amongst his own party and the large Irish element in Battersea but also among his political opponents”
I am nominating Mayor Thomas Brogan because I believe that his election as Mayor in 1912 was significant because he was the first Irish Catholic Nationalist to be elected in Britain. I also feel his Mayoralty demonstrates the contribution of Irish people in the life of this Borough which I think has been overlooked especially from the earlier years when they constituted a considerable portion of the population.

Unfortunately, I have not found a photo of Thomas although his friend and mentee John Archer, Mayor of Battersea the following year and first Black Mayor elected in London, was a photographer.John Archer stamp

Central London Golf Centre Funeral Service Venue

Posted in Central London Golf Centre allows funerals, Search for non-religious funeral venues by sheelanagigcomedienne on June 9, 2014

I have written to Rosie at the Natural Death Centre The Natural Death Centre  asking if they would introduce a section on venues that would allow funeral services to be conducted on their premises.

Natural death centre



 Dear Rosie,

I am still on a mission to find venues that will allow non-religious funerals to take place. So, I am asking if you would consider having such a search facility so that people organising a non-religious funeral can find a venue near them to hold their funeral service before going to the crematorium or cemetery for committal.

I found the Central London Golf Centre, which is a few minutes away from Lambeth Crematorium, will accommodate actual funerals with the coffin. I suspect that it just needs a few venues to say they are prepared to do it which would help to normalise the idea. Also, there are some churches who would allow non-religious funerals as part of their commitment to being a community facility for all. This happened recently when a funeral I was conducting when the family booked the church hall as it was the nearest venue to the cemetery whose chapel is closed. When the vicar realised it was an actual funeral he immediately suggested that we use his church which was so much nicer and needed no further preparations.

 If you did decide to provide a search facility for non-religious funerals venues it could include an invitation to churches who would also allow them. This would be good PR for the churches as a community resource for everyone. I envisage a future when venues will be advertising their suitability as funeral venues as it makes good commercial sense. This would all be part of moving away from the Victorian black traditional funeral ethos.

Rosie responded:   “This is certainly an interesting and valuable concept”  She is running it by her trustees and IT person and will get back to me.

Central london Golf Centre Venue for Funerals

Central london Golf Centre Venue for Funerals

Central London Golf Centre



As funerals are usually held during weekdays there must be many venues that are available to host funeral services which are convenient to crematoria so that a small group of mourners can go on to the crematorium for the committal of the body whilst the others remain at the venue. Obviously, there is an issue of physical access in order to faciliate carrying the coffin into the premises but, other than that, there is no reason why we can’t break social resistance to funerals being part of everyday life, as it was in the past. Of course, if the number of mourners is small the funeral ceremony could be held in people’s homes, gardens and residential homes.

Devonport Guildhall

Devonport Guildhall

I have written to Venues4Funerals Venues 4 Funerals  . Despite the name, they do not list any venues other than crems and cemeteries for funerals and the venues listed  funeral receptions are the very expensive, high-end, wedding ones. It is the affordable option that interests me – the pubs, community centres and ordinary hotels.

The Good Funeral Guide posted Devonport Guildhall as a funeral venue.

There was a discussion The crying need for more funeral venues | The Good

Pembroke Lodge







Pembroke Lodge Belvedere

Pembroke Lodge Belvedere


I sent this email to Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park which was the home of renowned Humanist Bertrand Russell.

I have been a Humanist celebrant for many years and I am on a mission to find I am on a mission to find venues that will allow non-religious funerals to take place. So, I am asking if you would allow a funeral service, with the coffin, to take place before immediate family go to the crematorium for committal.

I have taken weddings, Baby Namings and funeral ‘afters’ at Pembroke Lodge but I am trying to find venues who would be accomodating and allow people to hold the actual funeral service at their premises. Pembroke Lodge would make such a lovely venue for many of us who have frequented Richmond Park and the tea rooms. Pembroke Lodge is, after all, the childhood home of one of our best known Humanists – Bertrand Russell. How fitting it would be that this much loved venue becomes someone’s funeral location.

and received this curt reply.

I am sorry but as we are such a busy venue with daily events and the public catering side we would not be able to assist you with this.

I do hope you find somewhere suitable.

Kind regards


So, that’s a NO TO FUNERALS from Pembroke Lodge.

PLEASE, PLEASE help me with my research on the search for venues local to you that would allow funerals to take place and are affordable and have fun as you go and I would be grateful for you to share any responses you get. I think golf clubs are a good bet and try any suitable local pub. After all they take our money when we are alive so why not one last time after we are dead. That is not too much to ask.

Meanwhile , I will keep you posted.

Michael Collins and Michael Mac Hale at St Luke’s Music Society SW12

Posted in St Luke's Concert with Michael Collins Clarinet and Michael McHale piano. by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 20, 2014

We thoroughly enjoyed a concert in the St. Luke’s Music Society series 2014 with Michael Collins clarinet accompanied by Michael McHale on piano.

St Luke's Church SW12

St Luke’s Church SW12

Michael Collins

Michael Collins

Michael Collins (Clarinet) and Michael McHale (Piano) perform a lovely programme of music to end the 2013/4 season of St Luke’s Music Society Concerts in the superb acoustic of St Luke’s Church in Thurleigh Road SW12.

Burgmuller Duo in E Flat Op 15

Brahms Sonata in F minor Op120 No 1

Debussy Premiere Rhapsodie for Clarinet and piano

Muczynski Time pieces

Horovitz Sonatina

Michael McHale

Michael McHale


The two Michaels.

The two Michaels.

It was a delightful programme with pieces from Bach to Horovitz.

We were introduced to the clarinet works of Burgmuller, Muczynski and Horovitz who was one of Michael Collins teachers.

Johann Burgmuller

Johann Burgmuller

Johann Friedrich Franz Burgmüller1806 – 1874) was aGerman piansit and composer.  He was born in Regensburg Germany.  Both his father August and brother Norbert were musicians. Friedrich studied with Ludwig Spohr. After years of studies with Spohr and Hauptmann, he moved to Paris in 1832, where he stayed until his death. There, he adopted Parisian music and developed his trademark, light style of playing. He wrote many pieces of  salon music for the piano and published several albums. Burgmüller also went on to compose piano etudes intended for children.

Robert Muczynski

Robert Muczynski

Robert Muczynski, an American composer, whose parentswere of Polish and Slovak descent, died in 2010. He is regarded as one of the most distinguished American neo-Classical composers of his generation but also he is described as the most frequently-performed composer whose music is never discussed.  His Flute Sonata (1961) is in the repertoire of most flautists, and his Moments (1992) for flute and piano is well on the way to matching its success; his Saxophone Sonata (1970) is in the repertoire of most saxophonists; his Time Pieces (1984) is in the repertoire of most clarinetists; and his copious music for piano solo is heard on recitals .


Joseph Horovitz was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England in 1938. He studied music at New College, Oxford, with Gordon Jacob at the Royal College of Music where he won the Farrar Prize, and for a further year with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought him to London as conductor of ballet and concerts at the Festival Amphitheatre. He then held positions as conductor to the Ballet Russes, associate director of the Intimate Opera Company, on the music staff at Glyndebourne, and as guest composer at the Tanglewood Festival, USA.

Joseph Horovitz

Joseph Horovitz


His compositions number sixteen ballets, nine concertos, two one-act operas, chamber music, works for brass band, television and radio, and a number of choral cantatas – most famously Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo. Since 1961 he has taught at the Royal College of Music, where he is now a Fellow. He has also won two Ivor Novello Awards, and in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Order of Merit of the City of Vienna. The Worshipful Company of Musicians awarded him the Cobbett Medal in 2008 for services to chamber music.

His Sonatina is a light, lyrical work.




There was a conversation with Michael McHale before the concert and they were signing their CDs afterwards at the back of the church.

Michael collins cd cover

Founded in 2003, St Luke’s Music Society is a local organisation that promotes a concert series each year in St Luke’s Church, South Battersea. It has a growing reputation for attracting and promoting a wide range of performers, from local musical organisations to internationally recognised artists. Performers in recent series have included Cleo Lane, the late Humphrey Littleton, John Williams, The Sixteen, Jacqui Dankworth, Nicola Benedetti and Sir Willard White.

We are members and attend as many concerts as we can and it includes the three Festival Chorus concerts that Dave sings with and has been doing now for over 25 years after he was roped into it by Barbara wen she first sang with them before she joined the London Symphony Chorus. in the nineties.

Despite, being in a church with pious hanging plaques urging humility,  godliness etc and a pulpit inscribed with WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED it is a great local facility attracting some big names because of Anthony Lewis-Crosby’s connections with the Barbican and Guildhall.

The next Festival chorus gig is a semi-staged concert performance of the Pirates of Penzance on Saturday 5th July 7.30.

The Festival Chorus | A large, no-auditions amateur chorus

St Luke’s Music Society is an excellent local addition to the cultural life of Batterea. St Luke’s Music Society – Concert series in South London and  deserves our support.

I have just booked for another example of the rich cultural amenities in Battersea by booking for the matinee tomorrow of an Irish play at the theatre above the Latchmere pub which has just been refurbished. Theatre503 | Book online or call the box office 020 7978 7040

The Latchmere

The Latchmere

A Handful of Stars

by Billy Roche

Starring Keith Duffy

30 April- 24 May,



We really are so lucky having so much on our doorstep with the Southbank a few minutes away by train.

Thursday MAY 22nd is election day.  VOTE LABOUR.

4 Humanist Funerals with live music

Posted in 4 Humanist Funerals with live music by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 20, 2014

I have conducted four funerals recently which had live music.

The first one for Michael at West Norwood Crematorium had some of his old band members playing, one of whom recognised me as I had taken his children’s Naming ceremonies. They played TANGERINE by Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer.  We entered to Stephen Higgins on piano playing a selection of Chopin  pieces. Suzanne Holmes mezzo-soprano sang DITE, OIME  by Vivaldi from La Fida Ninfa. The service included a recording of Michael singing Beautiful Lady from his youthful band FLIX on Hurricane Records 1980 poignant and haunting. We were played out by Stephen to a piano cocktail medley including Summertime, Blue Moon, Isn’t this a lovely day, Lily of Laguna

West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery entrance

West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery entrance

Opened in 1837, West Norwood Cemetery contains 64 listed monuments of outstanding architecture. Burials include Mrs Beaton (of cookery book fame), Sir Henry Doulton (pottery), and Sir Henry Tate (English sugar merchant, art patron and public benefactor).

The second funeral at Lambeth Crematorium was for Martin who had met his partner Richard at the proms many years ago. Gudny Jonasdottir played movements from Bach’s 3rd Cello Suite at the crematorium and afterwards in the Nash Conservartory, Kew Gardens we were treated to a short harpsichord recital played by Christopher Bucknall whilst been entertained by the squirrels chasing each other up the trees. It was sooo charming.

Nash Conservarory, Kew Gardens

Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens

Nas Conservaory Kew Gardens

Nash Conservatory Kew Gardens


The third funeral was for Julie, who was 54. She lived on our street some 25 years ago when I knew her because she was so friendly and her husband Dave who did some plumbing work for us.  I had also conducted the funeral for  Dave’s sister Susan a few years ago.  She was a delighful and ebullient Lancashire lass. Her friend Caroline Dennis who is a pianist, singer and comedienne whom Julie met in the laundrette on a cruise, treated us to I am a woman W O M A N. Later at the Central London Golf Centre she sang Fever giving us impressions of it as the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Victoria Beckham, Ann Widdicombe and Janet Street Porter. She certainly is versatile and ready to improvise even when we couldn’t locate a CD player.

Caroline Dennis

Caroline Dennis, musician, singer actress, comedienne and cruise entertainer.

Caroline Dennis, musician, singer actress, comedienne and cruise entertainer.


She is the daughter of Bobby Dennis, an old-time comedian, who gigged with Dave Allen in the sixties in Australia.

Bobby Dennis comedian

Bobby Dennis comedian

Bobby Dennis – YouTube

The Central London Golf Centre Burntwood Lane SW17 said that they would be prepared to have a funeral service in their centre which is only minutes away from Lambeth Crematorium.  At last, I have found a local venue willing to allow a funeral service to take place. We have all heard how golfers themselves often say they would be happiest to die playing golf! I am on a mission to find premises that will allow our funerals to take place in the community rather than at the crematorium which is specifically designed only for funerals. Maybe it is only a question of time before they are used for other celebrations/events in the evenings and at weekends and n0n-religious funerals will be taking place in pubs, homes, parks, gardens and community venues.

Central London Golf Centre

Central London Golf Centre


The fourth funeral was for Buddy Bounds who was a jazz trumpeter. He was the father of Karen. I had conducted the funeral for her step-father Michael and her wedding ceremony when she and Sue got married. I briefly met Phil who preferred to be called Buddy (as in Buddy Holly) at their wedding which was held  in the delightful Estorick Gallery in Islington.

Buddy had loved things American. He played with Roy Orbison and was his musical director for a time.  The funeral was in Hampstead cemetery where his mother Norma was buried but the service was booked for a nearby church hall St. Luke’s. At the last minute the vicar  suggested that we use the church. He had thought the booking was for funeral afters and so he felt it right when he heard it was for the actual funeral ceremony.  It is an evangelical church so there was already musical equipment  there including a piano on which was placed a photograph of Buddy from the sixties.

Hampstead Cemetery

Hampstead Cemetery

St Luke's Church

Kevin the trumpeter played Send in the clowns  during the service and the Last Post  at the graveside. He played again when we retired to th snug at one of Buddy’s pubs  the Spread Eagle on Parkway, Camden Town.

spread eagle pub       spread eagle sign

We had one or two ‘Oh bits from obits’ when Buddy’s sister Mary told us that she remembered coming home from school to find Ronnie Scott playing on their piano while her Mum made him tea and sandwiches.  The second one was when Buddy took to fishing after he had to give up the trumpet and used to go to Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales,with his mate Roy who used to be married to Anne Davis. She had been Alan Bennett’s cleaner and lover and he had bought her the cottage which she had converted in to a quirky tearoom – Cafe Anne-  and this is where Buddy and Roy stayed. Anne died in 2009 and Roy later. There was a lovely photo of Buddy with Anne and Roy’s three sons.

These funerals were all rather different, but equally engrossing, as they reflected the people that we were honouring. I still think I am very fortunate to be a humanist celebrant.

Nunhead Cemetery Open Day 2014

Posted in Dying Matters Awareness week, South East London Humanist Group by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 18, 2014

The South East London Humanist Group had a stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open Day yesterday which also coincided with Dying Matters Awareness Week. South East London Humanist Group

Nunhead Cemetery Porch to burnt out chapel.

Nunhead Cemetery Porch to burnt out chapel.

The cemetery is the setting for the Victorian poet Charlotte Mew’s  exploration of death, insanity and social alienation In Nunhead Cemetery and is the setting for Maurice Riordan‘s final poem, The January Birds in The Holy a d, his 2007 collection. The Woman Between the Worlds, a 1994 science fiction novel by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre set in Victorian England, depicts the burial at Nunhead Cemetery in 1898 (in a closed coffin) of a female extraterrestrial. The novel avoids citing a precise location for this grave, in case some reader believes that alien remains can be retrieved from the site.

The cemetery also featured in Episode 2 of the 2008 BBC series Spooks, although it was credited as Highgate Cemetery.


The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery organise the annual Open Day. They have produced a few fascinating publications.

Nunhead Symbols – Friends of Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery

Great Headstone NunheadNunhead goth


I did take a funeral here many years ago of a bus man. The ceremony was at Conway Hall but the burial was at Nunhead and he requested that his friends organise a routemaster bus to transport his friends.

Nunhead funeral

Nunhead in snow

Nunhead in snow







On the annual Open Days local groups are invited to set up their stalls. We had secondhand books,  50P for paperbacks and £1 for hardbacks alongside all our leaflets. Colin erected the gazebo. There was a non-stop stream of people as books are always a great pull. One young man was keen to take our Namings leaflet for his friends as they were due to have their first baby and he seemed quite confident that he would be asked to be an oddfather.

Myself, Denis and Hester in front of our BHA stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open day

Myself, Denis and Hester in front of our BHA stall at Nunhead Cemetery Open day











Here are our new leaflets.

BHA leaflets on our ceremonies

BHA leaflets on our ceremonies

Dying m Leaflet_1_Cover-2Dying Matters Leaflet_3_Cover_ImageDying m Leaflet10WebDying matters  5







A stall opposite ours was selling these beautiful chinese watercolours that were painted by members of a mental health group. I chose these three pieces  which they were selling framed for £5 pounds!!  They were a lovely bunch of people.

Painting by mental health group members Southwark.

Painting by mental health group members Southwark.


















It was very sunny when I was there from 11.00 to 12.30 as I had to go on to a family visit for a Naming Ceremony in Clockhouse,  Beckenham. Joanna and Jo, the parents, and  Ellington and Valentine were lovely and Ellington (parents jazz fans) was enthusiastic about singing Old MacDonald for the ceremony in June.

I don’t know the origin of the name Nunhead. The head of the nuns is called an abbess.

A Nun

A Nun

A head nun=abbess

A head nun=abbess




DO VISIT NUNHEAD CEMETERY. It is definitely one of London’s hidden treasures. It is near Nunhead station.



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