Heritage tales 52 stories of wimbledon


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Heritage tales 52 stories of wimbledon

  1. 1. HERITAGE TALES 52 STORIES OF WIMBLEDON Compiled by Tony Matthews on behalf ofThe Wimbledon Society
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  3. 3. HERITAGE TALES 52 STORIES OF WIMBLEDON Compiled by Tony Matthews on behalf ofThe Wimbledon Society 3
  4. 4. The Wimbledon Society, Registered Charity (No 269478),was founded in 1903 and has had its present name since1982. (Originally the John Evelyn Club, it was known as theJohn Evelyn Society from 1949-82.) Its main objectives areto preserve Wimbledon’s amenities and natural beauty, studyits history, and ascertain that urban development issympathetic and orderly.Published by the Museum of Wimbledon.Sales and distribution: Museum of Wimbledon, 22 Ridgway,London, SW19 4QN. Open 2.30-5.00 pm Saturday andSunday. Admission free.Go to www.wimbledonmuseum.org.uk to purchase online.Copyright: The Wimbledon Society 2013Text and design: Tony Matthews 2013All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-duced, stored in a retrieval system, copied or transmitted inany form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording or otherwise without the prior writtenpermission of the copyright owner. A catalogue record forthis book is available from the British Library.ISBN 978-0-9576151-0-6Printed and bound in Great Britain by Intype Libra Ltd,Units 3-4 Elm Grove Industrial Estate, Wimbledon, London,SW19 4HE (www.intypelibra.co.uk).Covers: Wimbledon Village Green (early 19th century). 4
  5. 5. CONTENTSIntroduction…………………………………………....81. The Last Headmaster of Eagle House……. ………102. Wimbledon’s Long Links with Dolls……………...133. Was the real Robinson Crusoe from Wimbledon?.............................................................164. Farewell to The Firs………………………………..185. Lost Forever -The Priceless Ceiling of Lauriston House………………………………...206. From Thebes to Wimbledon Common - The Tale of Howard Carter………………………237. Murray and the Lions of Wimbledon Lodge………268. Hundredth Pantomime Opens at Wimbledon Theatre………………………………..299. The Last Link with Merton Grove Disappears…………………………………3210. A Century of Christmas Greetings……………….3511. The Day Harry Lauder Left the Gloaming to Come to Wimbledon……………………..........3712. The Wimbledon Journalist who Sank with The Titanic……………………………4013. Wimbledon’s Dickensians…………………..........4314. Hillside Was Transformed in Just a Few Years……………………….…………4615. Wimbledon Schoolboy Founded Record-Breaking Radio Show……………............4916. Historic Watercolours Launch New Exhibition Gallery………………….………5217. Copse Hill Loses its Last Hospital after 140 Years……………………………………5518. Oliver Reed - Wimbledon’s Wildest Rebel………58 5
  6. 6. 19. The World Famous Viola Player of Marryat Road………………………………….6120. Colourful Story of Cannizaro Gets Another Hearing…………………………….6421. Wimbledon’s Most Successful Publishing Family………………………………..6722. The Wimbledon Radical who Rivalled Doctor Johnson……………………........7023. From London’s Sewers to the Fresh Air of Wimbledon………………………….7424. Wimbledon’s First Garden Centre…………..........7825. Music Hall Singing Star Hetty King Lived in Wimbledon………………………….......8126. Wimbledon’s Worst Vandalism…………….........8327. The Triumph and Tragedy of Wimbledon’s Own Sandy Denny………………..8628. Wimbledon Home was London’s First with Electricity and a Telephone………………...9029. The Stop/Start Story of Wimbledon’s Trams…….9430. From Wimbledon to The Stars……………….......9831. When Trains First Arrived at Wimbledon………10132. Miss Marple was a Wimbledonian………...........10433. The Last Time Wimbledon Celebrated a Diamond Jubilee………………………………10734. Why the Man who Overthrew Russia’s Last Tsar has a Wimbledon Grave……………..11035. The Engineer Who Completed Brunel’s Dream………………………………….11436. Inventor of Penicillin Settled in Wimbledon……11737. The African Emperor Who Found Refuge in Wimbledon…………………………..120 6
  7. 7. 38. The Sad Fate and Priceless Legacy of Joseph Toynbee……………………………...12339. When Archery Was All the Rage………….........12740. The Poet Who Took a Grave View of Wimbledon Life……………………………..13041. Merton’s 2012 Olympics Contrast with Earlier London Games……………………..13342. When the Greatest Defender of French Justice Sought Exile in Wimbledon…………….13643. Captain Marryat - The Wimbledonian Who Never Was…………………………………14044. Georgette Heyer - Wimbledon Novelist Extraordinaire……………………...……………14445. Epstein’s Peaceful Grave and Controversial Life…………………………........14846. Paradise Lost -Wimbledon Common Wildlife We May Never See Again……………..15147. The Wartime Minister Whose Wimbledon Hideaway was Bombed………………………...15448. Frequent Change in Wimbledon’s Century of Cinemas……………………….........15749. Satisfaction Guaranteed on the Commons………16150. Vesta Tilly -Truly a MajorStar………………….16551. Wimbledon’s Swedish Nightingale……… …….16852. The First Lady Went to School in Wimbledon…........171 7
  8. 8. INTRODUCTIONEvery year has its contemporary events as well asanniversaries and commemorations of those long past -some of course much more significant than others. Thesmaller a geographical area of concentration, the fewerreally memorable years there are likely to be. Wimbledon,a small part of London, surely has its limits. But occasionally a year arrives bringing so manyimportant events and anniversaries that it demandsspecial recognition of its own. The year 2012 was such a year for Britain as a whole.Staging the Olympics and Paralympics, celebrating theQueen’s Diamond Jubilee, commemorating the sinkingof the Titanic, the 200th birthday of Charles Dickensand so on. No-one can possibly have missed them all. However, for Wimbledon, the year had even greaterresonance. Not only did each of these national eventshave special local significance, they also happened alongsidea whole string of other notable anniversaries. Wimbledon’s local history is as rich and diverse asthat of any town in the country. Originally its naturalattractions as well as its proximity to London made it afavourite venue for settlement by the wealthy and powerful.The past two centuries have seen that popularity extendto a much wider segment of society as urbanisationtransformed its identity and a small rural populationgrew into a large suburban residential one. In 2012 anniversaries came thick and fast of thebirths, deaths or significant activities of famous peoplelinked with Wimbledon. Those concerned were associated 8
  9. 9. with just about every imaginable field from the arts,sciences, archaeology, architecture, entertainment andsport to education, politics, health, warfare and evencrime. In most cases they were figures of national orglobal reputation who happened to live in Wimbledonitself or have their final resting places beside the Common. Equally notable were anniversaries of developments orchange - some gained for the area such as the first trains,trams, theatres and cinemas, others lost such as the oldhospitals, schools or pubs. The flow of history means, ofcourse, that such anniversaries will continue to be notedas long as civilization exists and in the case of Wimbledon,as long as it is a recognised entity within London. Many - but not all - of these events were captured bythe Wimbledon Society for a weekly Heritage series in theonline version of the Wimbledon Guardian newspaper.All of those that appeared in the first full year of thisseries are included in this book. It reads as it did whenpublished on each occasion by the newspaper, using thepresent tense where relevant rather than a generic pastas in a conventional history book. If you didn’t see each story then, you can do so now.I do hope you enjoy the experience. Tony Matthews, April 2013 9
  10. 10. THE LAST HEADMASTER OF EAGLE HOUSE21 October, 2011: The second oldest building in Wimbledon,the 400-year-old Eagle House, has been empty for twoand half years and its future remains unknown. But theWimbledon Society has just acquired a photograph of thelast headmaster from the days when the building was aprestigious private school for boys. Dr Arthur Malan succeeded his father-in-law asheadmaster in 1874. Said to have a “magnetic” influenceon the pupils, he taught classics, mathematics, science,drawing and religion, coached them in cricket and foot-ball, and wrote stories for the popular journal, The Boy’sOwn Paper, in his spare time. His picture will now beadded to the extensive collection of the Museum ofWimbledon at 22 Ridgway which is run by theWimbledon Society. In his day, the school prepared pupils for entry toEton, Harrow and other top public schools. It had beenknown as Eagle House only since 1860 when an existingschool of that name moved there. But it had been takingpupils since 1790 when a local parson and formerschoolmaster, Thomas Lancaster, had bought the building. Originally known as Wimbledon School for YoungNoblemen and Gentlemen, it had been renamed NelsonHouse School after a visit by Lord Nelson in 1805,shortly before the Battle of Trafalgar. In the 1840s it hadbecome a Military Academy for future army officers headingfor Sandhurst. Then in 1860, Dr Malan’s father-in-law, 10
  11. 11. Dr Arthur Malan 11
  12. 12. the Rev Edward Huntingford, had moved Eagle HouseSchool there from its former home in Hammersmith. In 1886, at the end of the summer term, Dr Malanannounced the school was moving once more, this timefrom Wimbledon to Camberley. Although Eagle HouseSchool has continued to the present day elsewhere, thebuilding in Wimbledon Village has never again beenused for this purpose. It was saved from demolition after the school’sdeparture and restored as a family home by the architectSir Thomas Jackson. After the Second World War it wasused for offices and from 1988-2009 was an Islamic Heri-tage and Cultural Centre. Since that too moved else-where, Eagle House has been awaiting the next phase inits ever colourful history. 12
  13. 13. WIMBLEDON’S LONG LINKS WITH DOLLS28 October, 2011: There’s little evidence today in localtoy shops but Wimbledon has longstanding links withdolls. Lucy Peck, one of the country’s top manufacturersof wax dolls in Victorian days, lived here and her great-grandson still does. Today he is proud owner of Rebeccaand Lucy, among the last remaining dolls she produced.Each has flowing christening robes and real Titian hair. Lucy Peck was uniquely skilled in fashioning angelicdolls from wax moulds. From the 1890s until the 1920sshe ran the Dolls Warehouse and then the Dolls’ Homeshop in London’s West End. One of her best knowncreations was the Princess Victoria Doll, based on apicture of the young Queen by the artist Mary Gow,now in the Royal Collection at Windsor. The originaldoll is thought to be one now displayed at the NationalTrust’s Museum of Childhood in Derbyshire. Lucy’s notebooks containing the recipes for her waxmodels and her sculpting tools are in the Bethnal GreenMuseum of Childhood. As the popularity of wax dollswaned, replaced by bisque, she switched to makingmannequins of real people - debutantes and titled ladies.She lived in Mansel Road, Wimbledon, and spent herfinal years in Kingston, attending Kingston Art Collegewhere she continued to sculpt and model in clay. But Wimbledon’s links with dolls continued. TheMuseum of London has one whose head was replaced atthe Dolls Hospital and Pram Shop at 138-140 MertonRoad. The owners Bailey and Bennett were described as“doll factors” and later as “baby carriage specialists” 13
  14. 14. in the 1930s. A family bought the business from Miss Bailey in theearly 1950s and continued running the shops as beforebut added more toys, renaming the place the DollsHospital and Toy Shop. This sold prams, pushchairs andwooden nursery furniture. It continued until the early 1960s when importedplastic dolls made in Hong Kong took over the market.With moving limbs, closing eyes and rooted hair, theywere unbreakable and much cheaper than the breakableones Lucy Peck had manufactured. Gradually the hospitalwork reduced and the business closed in 1969. But that was not entirely the end of the story. Thedigital doll, Lara Croft, star of computer games whoseTomb Raider adventures involve finding hidden relics,solving mind-numbing puzzles, scaling cliffs, jumpingcrevasses, and beating fearsome beasts, was created bythe team at Eidos Interactive, based at Hartfield Road inWimbledon town centre. She is said to have been bornin Wimbledon and to have attended Wimbledon HighSchool where she acquired her “authoritative, but sexy,cut-glass vowels”. 14
  15. 15. 15Rebecca and Lucy – two of the last remaining Victorian dolls made by Lucy Peck.
  16. 16. WAS THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE FROM WIMBLEDON?4 November, 2011: The classic tale of Robinson Crusoe,stranded for years on a desert island, is usually thoughtto have been inspired by the real life castaway AlexanderSelkirk, who was similarly marooned in the Pacificduring the 17th century. But now it seems the actual inspiration for authorDaniel Defoe may have been a Wimbledon land-owner, one Robert Knox who was held captive for 19years in what today is Sri Lanka. Knox, a resident ofWimbledon Village who also owned land in today’sColliers Wood, finally escaped and wrote a best-sellingbook about his adventures entitled An HistoricalRelation Of The Island Ceylon, In The East-Indies:Together With An Account Of The Detaining In CaptivityOf The Author And Divers Other Englishmen NowLiving There, And Of The Authors Miraculous Escape. Some of his descriptions bear an uncanny resem-blance to Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe, publishedin 1719, and as Defoe would have read the book beforewriting his own, it may be more than a coincidence. Modern writer Katherine Frank will reveal all atWimbledon Village Hall on Saturday, 12 November(2pm) when she gives a talk on her new book Crusoe:Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth.Her Richard Milward Memorial Lecture will mark thefifth anniversary of the death of the Wimbledon historianwho first confirmed Robert Knox’s local links but with-out any reference to Crusoe. Knox (1642-1720) was asea captain working for Britain’s East India Company. 16
  17. 17. He was captured by Rajasingha, a Sinhalese despot,while visiting the country to repair his ship’s masts. In his book published in 1681, Knox wrote aboutleaving misleading footprints in the sand by walkingbackwards, also an important part of the RobinsonCrusoe story. It was Defoe who made the first mentionof Ceylon in English fiction. Katherine Frank spottedthis when researching a biography on him and believesshe has found the true origins of Robinson Crusoe afternearly 300 years. 17
  18. 18. The Firs where the classic novel Tom Brown’sSchooldays was written in 1857. FAREWELL TO THE FIRS11 November, 2011: After more than eight years ofstanding derelict, the staff accommodation blocks at theformer Atkinson Morley’s Hospital in Copse Hill, WestWimbledon, were demolished last week to make wayfor new housing. The three blocks were known as The Firs and will bereplaced by eight smart new houses as part of a muchbigger re-development of the hospital site by BerkeleyHomes which bought the 23 acres last year. AlthoughThe Firs were regarded as setting a national standard forresidential provision when they went up in 1967 andincreased the available accommodation for doctors,nurses and other staff, they had long become an eyesoreand will not be missed. Ironically, that probably would not have been true 18
  19. 19. had their predecessor on the same site still been theretoday. The hospital blocks took their name from TheFirs, a single large house built in 1854 as an experimentin communal living for the families of two young barristers.The families kept open house and famous visitors in-cluded prolific authors Charles Kingsley (1819-75) whowrote The Water-Babies (1863), Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell(1810-65) who penned Cranford (1853) and The Life ofCharlotte Bronte (1857), and Alexander Macmillan whofounded one of Britain’s best known publishing companies. Moreover, one of the two barristers was himself theauthor Thomas Hughes (1822-96), who wrote TomBrown’s Schooldays (1857) while living at The Firs.The book was inspired by his own son’s experiences ata public school. Sadly the boy, Maurice, died aged 11and his parents left The Firs soon afterwards because ofits tragic associations for them. Atkinson Morley’s Hospital bought the house in1950 for £5000 and used it to accommodate juniormedical staff until the blocks went up 17 years later. Itwas also used as a sports pavilion in the late 1950s andas an outpatient clinic. House is demolished in 1967 to make way for nurses’ flats. 19
  20. 20. LOST FOREVER - THE PRICELESS CEILING OF LAURISTON HOUSE18 November, 2011: A large new residence is going upon the site of one of Wimbledon’s most historic homes,Lauriston House off Southside, Wimbledon Common.When this was demolished in 1957, a priceless ceilingpainted by the famous Swiss Neoclassical artist AngelicaKauffmann (1741-1807) was lost forever. The househad also been the home of the anti-slavery campaignerWilliam Wilberforce. Originally known as Laurel Grove, Lauriston Housewas built in 1724 for William Jackson. It was set inthree acres and next to four cottages pre-dating 1684which became the stable block. Jackson’s widow soldthe house in 1752 to Wilberforce’s uncle. He commis-sioned Kauffman to paint magnificent murals for themain stairwell and in 1782 his famous nephew moved into enjoy them. Wilberforce’s friend, William Pitt the Younger, wasthen Chancellor of the Exchequer and about to be-come Prime Minister. He became a regular visitor andhe and Wilberforce became known for their drinkingsessions there. One morning the flower beds were foundto have been sown with fragments of a guest’s dress hat.Wilberforce left the house in 1786 and launched hislong anti-slavery campaign the next year but Pitt continuedto visit Wimbledon regularly as his Cabinet colleaguesRichard Grenville and Henry Dundas also lived nearbyin what later became Eagle House and CannizaroHouse respectively. Laurel Grove was renamed Lauriston House in the 20
  21. 21. Lauriston House in 1913 when known for its familyconcerts and parties. Priceless Angelica Kauffmannmurals, commissioned by William Wilberforce’suncle were still in place at the time. 21
  22. 22. 1870s. It had many subsequent owners and at one pointwhen it was run as a school for girls, the Kauffmannmurals were covered up because of the nudity of somefigures. In 1902, the house was bought by Sir ArthurFell, a wealthy solicitor and international businessmanwho had earlier lived first in Worple Road and thenRidgway Place. As MP for Great Yarmouth from 1906-21, he became an early campaigner for a Channel Tunnel.He was also a painter and Lauriston House was be-decked with his works. It became known too for musicalparties where two orchestras performed classical anddance pieces. Fell died suddenly in 1934 while cashing a cheque atBarclays Bank in the Village. When his widow died 23years later, Lauriston House was demolished and thegarden sold for housing development. All that remaintoday are the adjacent Lauriston Cottage and the nameLauriston Road. Neoclassical artist Angelica Kauffmann (1741-1807) 22
  23. 23. FROM THEBES TO WIMBLEDON COMMON – THE TALE OF HOWARD CARTER25 November, 2011: Exactly 89 years ago this weekend,one of the world’s most famous archaeologists made adiscovery that would inspire millions right up to thepresent day. Howard Carter himself now lies buried besideWimbledon Common in Putney Vale Cemetery. But on26 November 1922 after many years of searching onbehalf of his private financier, the Earl of Carnarvon, he 23
  24. 24. finally reached seals guarding the 3245-year-old tombof King Tutankhamen of Egypt (pictured on Page 23). The young monarch had died aged around 18 and hisburial chamber remained intact for thousands of yearsbeneath the tomb of a later king. Beyond the seals,Carter found an antechamber leading to the burial chamberitself. It contained a huge quantity of gold and hundredsof antiquities – so many that it would take anotherdecade to unearth and catalogue them all. Carter had originally suspected the existence ofTutankhamen’s tomb at the turn of the century whensupervising excavations at Thebes in the Valley of theKings on behalf of Egypt’s government antiquitiesdepartment. Since 1914 he had been working for LordCarnarvon but years of searching for the tomb hadpassed without success. Finally Carnarvon, having lost agreat deal of money, suggested they give up but Carterpersuaded him to hold out for one more season. On 4 November 1922 he found the entrance to atomb but was not yet sure of the identity. He telegraphedCarnarvon to come at once as he dared not enter withouthis patron. On 26 November, with Carnarvon behindhim, he breached the doorway and by candlelight sawthe gold and ebony hoard with two statues guardingthe entrance to the burial chamber itself. He had toawait permission from the Egyptian authorities beforeentering but on 16 February 1923, he and Carnarvonopened the doorway and found the sarcophagus ofTutankhamen. There was worldwide press coverage and rumoursarose of a curse on those who had disturbed the boyking. Lord Carnarvon’s untimely death and those 24
  25. 25. of others reinforced them. Many books and films aboutthe curse of the mummy’s tomb followed and for awhile Carter gave illustrated lectures on his discoveries.Eventually he retired to an isolated life of failing healthand collecting antiquities until dying of cancer in 1939. Carter’s own grave beside Wimbledon Common hasno golden artefacts but the stone contains the inscription:“May your spirit live, May you spend millions of years,You who love Thebes, Sitting with your face to thenorth wind, Your eyes beholding happiness.” The golden sarcophagus of Tutankhamen remainsone of the world’s greatest museum attractions. Howard Carter 25
  26. 26. MURRAY AND THE LIONS OF WIMBLEDON LODGE2 December, 2011: Pet-owners using the Stone Lionveterinary surgery in High Street, Wimbledon Villagewill notice the two stone lions outside which give thepractice its name. They have nothing to do with pets.They were acquired from the front of WimbledonLodge, a Greek Revival style mansion which stoodon Southside, Wimbledon Common, from around 1792until 1905. Its grounds ran right down to the Ridgwayand also included a field further down the hill. The house was built for a French Huguenot’s son,Gerard de Visme, who died in 1797 and was buried at StMary’s Church in the Village. The house was left to hisdaughter Emily and her husband, Major-General SirHenry Murray (1784-1860), son of the Earl of Mans-field. He fought against Napoleon in Egypt and Spainand rode his horse, St Patrick, in a heroic cavalry chargeat Waterloo in 1815. A drawing from 1806 shows thehouse had Egyptian sphinxes on the roof and a statueabove the porch as well as the stone lions on each side. With his military career behind him, Sir Henry becamea notable figure in local Wimbledon affairs and was activein the Vestry, the local authority of the day. He stronglyopposed the banning of Wimbledon’s annual Easter fairin 1840, calling it one of the few festivals “the labouringclasses have the opportunity of enjoying”. He andEmily had five children, including Arthur, a soldier sonkilled fighting the Boers in South Africa in 1848, and adaughter named Gertrude. After Sir Henry’s death, thefamily donated heavily to the new St John’s Church 26
  27. 27. In 1806, the lions could be seen on plinths on each side of the porch.The lions were gone 99 years later when this picture was taken. Now they stand outside the veterinary surgery in Wimbledon Village. 27
  28. 28. when it was built in the 1870s. Gertrude lived to the age of 90 and never left thehouse. She died in 1904 and it was pulled down and thegrounds sold for development. Murray Road now coversthe site but the original semi-circular drive which onceled up to the entrance remains at the junction withSouthside. The two stone lions somehow made their way to theveterinary practice where they used to stand immedi-ately outside the front door. When a new extension tothe surgery opened in the 1990s at the rear, they weremoved around the side and can now be seen in front ofthe present entrance. Two new lions replaced them outside the old frontdoor on the High Street itself. In Sir Henry Murray’s daythe British lion was frequently used to represent nationalpride. Best known were those in Trafalgar Square. Sir Henry Murray 28
  29. 29. HUNDREDTH PANTOMIME OPENS AT WIMBLEDON THEATRE9 December, 2011: When the stars of this year’s pantomimeat Wimbledon Theatre walk on stage for the first timetoday, they will be the 100th cast to do so. Pantomimes have been performed every year bar twosince the theatre opened its doors for the first time onBoxing Day 1910. Only the winters of 1941-2 and2003-4 saw no performances as a result, respectively, ofwar and refurbishment. This year’s pantomime starring Barry Humphries asDame Edna Everage will be the 12th time that DickWhittington has been performed. Once more the legendaryfortune seeker will be “turning again” towards his destinyas Mayor of London, accompanied of course by his cat. It is nine years since Whittington’s last appearancewhen comedian Russ Abbott headed the cast. The previousten times before that began in 1932 with Patrick Colbertand continued every few years until 1997 when the castincluded John Nettles and Lesley Joseph. Between thosecame an extraordinary assortment of Dick Whittingtonstars including Jon Pertwee in 1949, Adam Faith in1960, Norman Vaughan and Jack Douglas in 1971,Jimmy Tarbuck in 1975, Eric Sykes and Roy Kinnear in1981, and Les Dawson in 1991, appearing alongsideJohn Nettles the first time round. Only two other pantomime favourites have outnum-bered Dick Whittington over the past century: an impressive19 productions of Cinderella and 14 of Aladdin. Clearly,Wimbledon audiences have taken well to the Ugly Sistersand Widow Twanky. Today’s generation of pantomime 29
  30. 30. An earlier production of Dick Whittington over 50 years ago. 30
  31. 31. fans have even been treated to two productions each ofthese since the theatre reopened in 2004. They have alsohad two Peter Pan productions, although the perennial flyingyouth and his fairy accomplice have only ever appearedfour times in Wimbledon, the first as recently as 1988with Lulu. Jack and the Beanstalk has made it a more respectableeight times, the Babes in the Wood six times and MotherGoose five. Also-rans have included four Little RedRiding Hoods and two productions each of Goldilocksand the Three Bears, Humpty Dumpty and Puss inBoots. By contrast, Robinson Crusoe has been a compara-tive favourite with six productions since 1913 and mostrecently in 1987 with Dennis Waterman and Rula Lenska.Whether the recent Wimbledon Society lecture whichsuggested a special link between Wimbledon and thefictional castaway will make any impact on planning offuture productions remains to be seen. However it maybe worth noting that earlier Crusoes included the Goon,Michael Bentine, in 1953. Ugly Sisters have appeared in no fewer than 19 productions of Cinderella. 31
  32. 32. The Grove Hotel as it was known c 1910. THE LAST LINK WITH MERTON GROVE TO DISAPPEAR16 December, 2011: Yet another local pub, The Grove,on the corner of Morden Road and Kingston Road atSouth Wimbledon, is currently under threat of closure.In recent times we have lost many of our local pubs andeach time we do so we lose another little bit of localhistory. Already gone recently is the Emma Hamiltonat Wimbledon Chase, recalling the time when she andLord Nelson lived nearby until his death at the Battle ofTrafalgar in 1805. The Grove has been there since 1865 and was namedafter Merton Grove, the estate which stood on the oppositecorner bounded by Merton Road, Kingston Road, Mon-tague Road and Pelham Road. This estate was owned by Sir Richard Hotham, theprevious occupant of nearby Merton Place before Nelson’s 32
  33. 33. time there with Lady Hamilton. Merton Grove was builtin 1792 and had a large orchard, grapery, paddocks,coach house, stables and pleasure grounds. Sir Richard Hotham was a colourful character whowas involved in local affairs, stood as an MP and wasknighted by King George III in 1769. He was alsoresponsible for turning Bognor from a small fishingvillage into what he hoped would be a fashionableresort, like Brighton, to attract dignitaries and royalty.He had originally wanted to call the town Hothampton.(Its official royal link had to wait until a 20th centuryvisit by King George V after which it became known asBognor Regis.) After Hotham’s death Merton Grove went throughseveral hands before finally being demolished in 1896.Merton Place in 1803. It was Sir Richard Hotham’sresidence before he moved to the neighbouringMerton Grove. 33
  34. 34. When South Wimbledon tube station was built 30 yearslater in 1926, one of the names considered for it wasMerton Grove. Curiously, “Merton” Grove was actuallyin what was then the borough of Wimbledon while whatbecame South Wimbledon station was actually in Merton!The anomaly continued until the present Borough ofMerton was created in 1965, merging Wimbledonwith its neighbour. If the Grove pub is closed down the last remainingconnection with what was once Merton Grove will belost. True, there is a Hotham Road off Merton HighStreet which commemorates Sir Richard but there willbe no remaining direct link with what was once describedas “a rural spot with shady groves and views over freshunbroken country.” Every time we lose a pub we lose much more thanjust a place to drink.FOOTNOTE: The Grove did close finally during 2012. 34
  35. 35. A CENTURY OF CHRISTMAS GREETINGS23 December, 2012: The season of goodwill is one ofthe few aspects of Wimbledon life that has remainedbasically the same for the past 100 years. Back in the early years of the 20th century, WimbledonVillage Club produced a sepia Christmas card showingthe Village Hall entrance in Lingfield Road. It is shownabove. Since 1916. the building has also hosted whatwas originally called the Wimbledon Museum of theJohn Evelyn Club. Today it is simply the Museum ofWimbledon with its entrance at 22 Ridgway. Run byWimbledon Society volunteers, it opens free of chargeevery Saturday and Sunday. The Museum of Wimbledon produces Christmascards every year, now of course in glorious colour ratherthan sepia. This year’s card depicts children playing in 35
  36. 36. snow at West Place on Wimbledon Common, paintedby local artist John Field. It is shown below. Christmas decorations too date back a long way inWimbledon. But today’s electric lights have succeededthe bunting that bedecked the streets a century ago. Thephoto below shows the Christmas scene around 1908when a carriage driven by Santa Claus and advertisingTeddy Bears passed the old Wimbledon Town Hall. 36
  37. 37. THE DAY HARRY LAUDER LEFT THEGLOAMING TO COME TO WIMBLEDON30 December, 2011: As Hogmanay approaches onceagain, it is worth remembering the day 101 years agowhen one of the country’s most famous Scotsmen, themusic hall entertainer Harry Lauder, made a star appear-ance before a crowd in Wimbledon. The later Sir Harry Lauder (1870-1950) was thensynonymous with the image of Scotland, singing songslike Roaming in the Gloaming and Keep Right on to theEnd of the Road before audiences in Britain and aroundthe Empire. He performed before royalty and would stirpatriotic hearts during both world wars. The Museum of Wimbledon recently received a photograph of the day in late 1910 when he appeared in the town. He was invited to the formal opening of the Wimbledon Hippodrome, a new cinema (known as an “electric theatre”) and skating rink opposite Ely’s store in Worple Road where the Bath Store stands today. Sir Harry Lauder at the height of his fame 37
  38. 38. The cinema showed silent films, of course, and theskating rink was designed to meet a new craze at thetime for roller skating. Lauder’s son happened to belongto a local hockey club so he was conveniently nearby toattend the opening. He told the Wimbledon crowd that he had personallyresisted the lure of roller skates until his son hadpersuaded him to put on a pair in his billiard room. Hehad careered across the room, crashed into the fireplace,and never worn them again. After commenting on thepresence of a large group of ladies, he sang a few linesof the song Goodbye Till We Meet Again and left toloud applause. His departure in his motor car was filmedand later shown at the cinema. But as it happened, despite the great man’s rousinglaunch, the Hippodrome did not prove successful. It hadreplaced a similar establishment on the same site calledWimbledon Olympia Ltd which had lasted less than ayear before being wound up, owing £10,461 9s. 9d. TheHippodrome didn’t even make it that long. It closedafter just five months. Local entrepreneur Alfred Hewitt Smith of 10 HomePark Road had achieved a triumph in getting HarryLauder to open the place. It was his only success in acareer of continued business failure which eventuallysaw him go bankrupt. 38
  39. 39. Harry Lauder stands with his hands on his hips atthe opening of the Wimbledon Hippodrome inDecember 1910. Also in this photo of the day are hiswife and, standing on the right, local businessmanAlfred Hewitt Smith whose only career success wasarranging the star’s appearance on that day. 39
  40. 40. William T. Stead, journalist, spiritualist, and victim of the last century’s most notorious tragedy at sea.J Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line survived the Titanic sinking and was never forgiven for it. 40
  41. 41. THE WIMBLEDON JOURNALIST WHO SANK WITH THE TITANIC6 January, 2012: Journalist W.T. Stead, one of the bestknown victims of the Titanic disaster exactly 100 yearsago in April this year, was also one of Wimbledon’smost famous residents. William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) lived atCambridge House, Wimbledon Park Road South (nowpart of Church Road). At 2.20am, 15 April 1912 he wason the world’s most famous ship as it sank into theNorth Atlantic after striking an iceberg. An ardent spiritualist as well as editor of The PallMall Gazette, he seems to have foretold the disaster. In1886 he had written a story about the sinking of anocean liner and how lives were lost because of aninsufficient number of lifeboats. At the end he warnedthat this would really happen. Later, in December 1892 he had written anotherstory entitled From the Old World to the New in theReview of Reviews in which a ship sank in the NorthAtlantic after striking an iceberg. The White Star linerMajestic saved some survivors and was commanded byEdward J. Smith. Twenty years later the same manreally was captain of the White Star liner, Titanic. The Titanic disaster ended a career that had madeStead a household name many years earlier. Son of aCongegationalist minister, he wrote for the NorthernEcho, Darlington, before coming south to The Pall MallGazette in 1880, becoming editor in 1883. He turned itinto a “lively, amusing and newsy” populist campaigning 41
  42. 42. newspaper. In 1884 he interviewed General CharlesGordon shortly before his notorious murder by Jihadistsin the Sudan and in 1885 he launched a campaign to opposechild prostitution in London and raise the age of consentat the time from 12. Stead’s campaign put him in prison. To publicise theplight of child prostitutes, he arranged to buy a youngvirgin for £5 and then tell the tale. Helped by RebeccaJarrett, a former prostitute, he convinced the mother of13-year-old Eliza Armstrong that the girl would just go intodomestic service. Eliza was taken to a house in PolandStreet, chloroformed and taken away to Paris whileStead published a story said to “set London and thewhole country in a blaze of indignation”. But while securing massive newspaper sales, he waswidely criticised for publishing obscene material. Themissing Eliza was eventually discovered in Stead’sWimbledon garden and he was convicted of havingfraudulently taken her from her parents. He spent threemonths in Holloway Prison (not then all-female) but hiscampaign was vindicated when the Criminal LawAmendment Act raised the age of consent from 12 to 16,banning procurement of minors. To mark the Act, Steadwould henceforth travel by train from Wimbledon toWaterloo in his prison garb every 10 November. Stead’s remains now lie beneath the North Atlantic butthe Titanic story has another permanent local link. JosephBruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, was alsoon board and afterwards criticised for escaping in a life-boat while 1500 people drowned. His career was ruinedbut when he died on 17 October 1937, he was buried atPutney Vale cemetery, next to Wimbledon Common. 42
  43. 43. Charles Dickens and his son, Henry Fielding Dickens, in youth. WIMBLEDON’S DICKENSIANS13 January, 2012: Charles Dickens may never havelived in Wimbledon but he sent four of his seven sons toschool here and a link remains to the present day. Britain’s greatest novelist, whose birth bicentenary fallsnext month on 7th February, selected Wimbledon Schoolfor his sons Walter, Alfred, Edward and Henry. Whenthe first two arrived in the 1850s, the school was basedat what was to become Eagle House in the Village butin 1860 it moved to specially built premises in Edge Hillwhich was where the younger two sons started. It had a reputation for training future military entrants toSandhurst and Walter went on to a brief but successfularmy career in India before dying suddenly aged just 22.Neither Alfred nor Edward proved able to follow him 43
  44. 44. into the military and both later sought new lives inAustralia, but Henry was well regarded by the headmasterwho recommended him for Cambridge. He went on to along and highly distinguished career and is now buriedbeside the Common at Putney Vale Cemetery, alongwith his wife and one of his own sons. Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, the writer’s last survivingchild, was born exactly 163 years ago this week on 16thJanuary 1849. Charles and Catherine Dickens had tenchildren in all and Henry Fielding – named after one ofthe writer’s own favourite novelists - was their sixth son(Edward was the seventh). He lived to the age of 84 anddied on 21 December 1933, two weeks after being hit bya motorcycle on Chelsea Embankment. He was brought up at Dickens’s home in Gad’s Hill,Kent, and was also educated at other schools in Rochesterand Boulogne. At Wimbledon he did well and achievedthe position of Head Censor. However, in view of hisbrothers’ records on admission to the army, his fatherplanned to enter him for the Indian Civil Service insteaduntil the headmaster recommended him for CambridgeUniversity. He duly went on to Trinity Hall. There hethrilled the great novelist by winning the college’s bestscholarship for mathematics. But sadly he was still atthe university when Charles Dickens died in 1870 andnever saw his father alive again. After graduating he switched to law, was called tothe bar in 1873, appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1892,became a Bencher of the Inner Temple in 1899, and wasa Recorder in Kent for some years before his appoint-ment as Common Sergeant of the City of London in1917. In that post until his retirement in 1932, he 44
  45. 45. presided over many criminal cases at the Old Bailey. Hewas knighted in 1922. Although he didn’t inherit his father’s genius as awriter, he was a great impressionist and started at a veryyoung age, performing the role of Tom Thumb along-side his father and sisters at a school production whenjust four. In later life at family gatherings he would imitatehis father’s famous reading performances, wearing ageranium in his buttonhole and leaning on the same velvet-covered reading stand the novelist had used on histours. He celebrated his 80th birthday by reading thewhole of A Christmas Carol perfectly. He also per-formed for charity, raising funds for the Red Cross andwas Life President of the Dickens Fellowship. Sir Henry Fielding Dickens and his French wifeMarie were married for 57 years and she joined him atPutney Vale when she died in 1940. They had sevenchildren and one of their sons, Philip Charles Dickens,is also buried there. Sir Henry Fielding Dickens in later life as an Old Bailey judge. 45
  46. 46. HILLSIDE WAS TRANSFORMED IN A FEW YEARS20 January, 2012: New building developments arehappening all the time these days and no-one alive nowremembers when Wimbledon’s long hillside slopingdown from the Ridgway to the railway line into Londonconsisted entirely of market gardens and pasture forlivestock. The fields had names such as Little LadiesClose and Cater Gutters. Yet the change to today’sresidential slopes was made within a very short spaceof time. At the top of the hill, the Ridgway stretches fromWimbledon Village to Copse Hill while at the bottom,the railway line beside Worple Road links the towncentre and Raynes Park. In the 1820s a few cottageswere built in South Place behind today’s Thornton Hilland by 1855 a beer shop stood on the present site of TheSwan pub in the Ridgway. But these apart, the entirehillside consisted largely of fields in 1858 when the firsthouses appeared at the top end of Ridgway Place andHillside. Within a year or so, houses were built in ThorntonRoad, named after the wealthiest man in Britain andlocal landowner, Richard Thornton. By 1860, modelcottages and other houses had arisen in South Road –later renamed Denmark Road - with more in what becameSt John’s Road. The Ridgway’s other shops appearedtoo during this period. It was the wedding of Edward, Prince of Wales, toPrincess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863 that broughtthat country’s name to Wimbledon, remembered today 46
  47. 47. Watercolours painted before the disappearance of rural Wimbledon.Shown above is the view from the topof Thornton Hill in1873. Seen right is Worple Road at the bottom of the same hill a year later. It was a typical Surrey scene.by the Princess Alexandra pub in the town centre.Building began at that time on the lower part of the hill.It would give rise to Denmark Avenue and at the sametime Thornton Road was extended to become ThorntonHill. St John’s Church was built in 1873-5 and its roadwidened. The first houses in Spencer Hill were built in 47
  48. 48. 1879, as was Berkeley Place on land owned by oneEdward Berkeley Philipps. In just a few years the rural atmosphere had gone.Not long afterwards virtually the entire hillside had beentransformed into a suburban area but there were still afew patches of greenery left. Gertrude Murray of Wimbledon Lodge, beside theCommon (see page 28), owned a nearby field whichwas developed into Murray Road South immediatelyafter her death in 1904. As late as the 1920s the lowerpart of Ridgway Place was still a wildflower meadowbut it eventually went under the bulldozer too. Finally, a century after it all started, Savona Closeand Thackeray Close went up in the late 1960s, thelatter named after the famous novelist whose daughterhad lived in Berkeley Place. 48
  49. 49. One of BBC Radio 4’s best-loved programmes. BySean Magee, published by Bantam Press. Used bypermission of The Random House Group Limited. 49
  50. 50. WIMBLEDON SCHOOLBOY FOUNDED RECORD-BREAKING RADIO SHOW27 January, 2012: Today marks the 70th anniversary ofthe world’s second longest running radio show, inventedby a former pupil of King’s College School, Wimbledon. Exceeded only by the Grand Ole Opry in America,BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, brain-child ofbroadcaster Roy Plomley (1914-85), was first recordedon 27 January 1942 and aired two days later. Nearly2900 programmes in the series have been heard sincethen, of which Plomley presented the first 1784 himselfover 43 years. Roy Plomley lived with his parents in Trinity Road,Wimbledon. He left the area after his school days butthe link remains to this day, as when he died he was buriedin Putney Vale Cemetery beside Wimbledon Common.The son of a pharmacist, after King’s he worked for anestate agent, an advertising agency, a publisher and asan actor before joining a commercial radio station inFrance as an announcer in 1936. Escaping the Germans in 1940, he returned to Eng-land and in 1941 wrote to the BBC with the idea for aweekly programme in which a well known guest wasasked which eight records they would like with them ifcast away on a desert island. The first castaway ever wasVic Oliver, a Viennese comedian, actor and musician whoalso happened to be the son-in-law of Winston Churchill.His first choice was a piece by Chopin. Desert Island Discs proved an immediate successthanks to Plomley’s skill as an interviewer and meticulous 50
  51. 51. research on each interviewee. A few months later he became the castaway himself for one show, interviewed by the head of popular pro- grammes. Eventually, each guest was also asked to choose one book and one luxury item for the island. However, as everyone asked for either the Bible or Shakespeare’splays, these were assumed to be awaiting them on theirarrival and another work had to be named. Over 43 years Plomley interviewees included amongothers 842 stage, screen or radio stars, 469 musicians,367 writers, 117 sports champions, 75 art or fashiondesigners, 66 politicians or public servants, 60 academics,and four royals, including Princess Margaret and PrincessGrace of Monaco. He continued to present the programme until hisdeath in 1985. He was succeeded by Michael Parkinson. SueLawley took over in 1988 and Kirsty Young in 2006. 51
  52. 52. Copse Hill, Wimbledon, 1931 by Kate Sidford. The Salon at Wimbledon House, Parkside, c1815 by Maria Marryat.52
  53. 53. HISTORIC WATERCOLOURS LAUNCH NEW EXHIBITION GALLERY3 February, 2012: Some 55 historic watercolours ofWimbledon, painted over two centuries between 1780and 1985, will go on display in the first ever exhibitionat the brand new Village Hall Trust Gallery, openingtomorrow Saturday, 4 February. The show, entitled Town and Country Wimbledon, isthe first opportunity to see many of the works collectedby the Museum of Wimbledon since its foundation 96years ago in 1916. The paintings have been acquiredthrough donations, bequests and works by new localartists. The new gallery provides an extension to theMuseum itself at 22 Ridgway and entry to this exhibition isvia the Museum’s Perry Room on weekend afternoons. The watercolours depict Wimbledon’s rural and urbanheritage through works by local painters over 200 years.The earliest painting, by John Melchior Barralet, depictsSt Mary’s Church c1780. It is the collection’s onlycontemporary drawing of the medieval church and wasmade shortly before its rebuilding in 1788. A tithe barnshown was dismantled in the 1860s to allow for anextension to the churchyard. Other very early works include Maria Marryat’s TheSalon at Wimbledon House, Parkside, c1815 and JohnChessell Buckler’s monochrome of Eagle House in1827. Wimbledon House Parkside, which had one of theregion’s finest gardens stretching over 100 acres, wasdemolished at the start of the 20th century but EagleHouse, still standing in the High Street, is Wimbledon’ssecond oldest building, dating back to 1613. 53
  54. 54. By contrast, other works in the exhibition include arural Copse Hill as recently as 1931, Croft’s TimberYard at West Place in 1910, and scenes from the annualNational Rifle Association camp on the Common in the1870s. Public art exhibitions in Wimbledon date back to1876 when the Wimbledon Art & Benevolent Societystaged its first charity fund-raising show of oils andwater-colours in the Village Hall. This became an annualevent and gradually diversified to include photographs,wood carving, sculpture, book binding and needlework. The Art & Benevolent Society changed its name in1906 to the Wimbledon Arts and Crafts Society. In thatyear, Richardson Evans, then a recent founder of whatlater became the Wimbledon Society, appealed to localartists to lend pictures for an exhibition illustrating “Oldand Picturesque Wimbledon” before it disappeared for-ever. Many of the pictures loaned became permanentand helped create a collection for the Museum after itwas established at the Village Hall during the FirstWorld War. Future Museum of Wimbledon exhibitions in thenew gallery will feature the hundreds of other imagesfrom the collection, which also includes photographs,topographical engravings, sketches, 19th century steelengravings and newsprint, original drawings and etchings.Town and Country Wimbledon runs until 25 April 2012.After that, until the next exhibition by the Museum it-self, the gallery will be used by local artists and schoolswith access via the Village Hall entrance in LingfieldRoad. 54
  55. 55. Atkinson Morley’s Convalescent Hospital opens in 1869. COPSE HILL LOSES ITS LAST HOSPITAL AFTER 140 YEARS10 February, 2012: Next month’s closure of the 32-bedWolfson Neurorehabilitation Centre will mark the endof 143 years of hospitals at Copse Hill, West Wimbledon.Not that long ago there were three of them - AtkinsonMorley’s, Wimbledon Hospital, and the Wolfson itself. The first hospital building work started in 1867 onwhat had previously been part of the 300-acre estate ofthe late Lord Cottenham, Lord Chancellor. Two yearslater, Atkinson Morleys Convalescent Hospital took inits first patients for the recovery process following treat-ment at St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner. It was 55
  56. 56. named after Atkinson Morley, a governor of StGeorge’s, who had bequeathed £150,000 specifically forconstruction of a peaceful convalescent home. Thebuilding in rural Wimbledon was the first purpose-builtfacility of its kind associated with an inner city hospital. The following year, 1870, saw opening of WimbledonCottage Hospital just across the lane from AtkinsonMorley’s. Among its founders was the Chancery barrister,Edward Thurston Holland whose name lives on todaythrough Thurston Road. It was rebuilt in 1912 and re-opened with 37 beds, simply named Wimbledon Hospital. For more than a century the two hospitals operatedon each side of the road. A sixth of all St George’spatients from Hyde Park Corner convalesced at AtkinsonMorley’s, with patients and laundry transported toWimbledon at first in horse-drawn carriages and after1888 in an omnibus. Wimbledon Hospital, on the otherhand, was primarily for local patients, although bothestablishments were used by wounded servicemen duringthe First World War and Wimbledon Hospital in particulartreated over 500 men, with marquees in the groundscomplementing its capacity. Both hospitals were upgraded during the SecondWorld War with much greater bed numbers and bothhad their own homes for staff on site. In 1942 AtkinsonMorley’s original convalescent role was permanentlychanged when its surgical wards were taken over forneurosurgery, and after the war this became its primaryrole. It specialised in head injuries, attaining an interna-tional reputation for excellence. Wimbledon Hospital, meanwhile, joined the NHS in1948 with 84 beds under the control of the South-West 56
  57. 57. Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. In 1949 departments of psychiatry and neuroradiologywere established at Atkinson Morley’s Hospital and by1954 it had 44 neurosurgical beds, 16 neurological and50 psychiatric, with 14 beds available for continuity andrecovery. Then, in 1967, exactly 100 years after the firstbuilding work on site, the Wolfson NeurorehabilitationCentre opened next door as Britain’s first facility dedicatedto neurological recovery. It provided rehabilitation forpatients needing intensive therapy for physical or psy-chological disabilities following brain or spinal cordinjuries. But only 14 years later Copse Hill’s association withhospitals suffered its first hit. In 1981 it was decided toclose Wimbledon Hospital and move its services else-where. This finally happened in 1983 when servicesmoved to the Nelson at Merton Park and the hospitalwas demolished the following year to be replaced by ahousing estate. Nearly 20 years later in 2003, AtkinsonMorley’s also closed and its services were transferred toSt George’s Hospital, now in Tooting since beingmoved from Hyde Park Corner in 1980. Closure of the Wolfson in March 2012 will set thefinal seal for Copse Hill as its beds are also moved, firstto St George’s in Tooting and later to Queen Mary’s atRoehampton. Some 147 patients had been treated inthe last year when the closure announcement was madepublic. More new housing is expected to replace it.FOOTNOTE: The site has since been renamedWimbledon Hill Park by the developer. 57
  58. 58. Oliver Reed told his own story in this paperback published by Coronet Books in 1981. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton. 58
  59. 59. OLIVER REED – WIMBLEDON’S WILDEST REBEL17 February 2012: The Wimbledon-born screen actorOliver Reed would have celebrated his 74th birthday thisweek on Monday, 13 February. As it was, after appearingin well over 60 films, he died suddenly on 2 May 1999while making his last one, Gladiator. It was completedwithout him - using special effects. Reed’s whole life was a special effect. Born at No 9Durrington Park Road, near Raynes Park, his familybackground was spectacular. He was a grandson of thefamous Victorian actor-producer Sir Herbert BeerbohmTree by his mistress Beatrice May Pinney. She changedher name to Reed because she felt she was “a brokenreed at the foot of the mighty Tree”. In later life shelived at 12 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon Village, and twoof her illegitimate children were Oliver Reed’s father, Peter,a well known sports journalist, and the film director SirCarol Reed. After being expelled from 13 other schools, OliverReed succeeded in becoming captain of athletics andjunior cross-country champion at Ewell Castle School.He left age 17 and worked as a strip club bouncer, fair-ground boxer and mortuary attendant before NationalService where he was rejected for an officer’s commis-sion while serving in the Army Medical Corps. Afterwards he drifted into acting as a film extra in1958. Carol Reed offered him a small part and advisedhim to enrol at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art buthe refused to work for his uncle before achieving starstatus. He rejected RADA too - curious perhaps, as his 59
  60. 60. grandfather had been its founder in 1904. In 1959, Oliver Reed married his first wife, Katie. Helived in various Wimbledon flats in Marryat Road,Woodside, Homefield Road and Arterberry Road but bythe late 1960s had become one of Britains highest paidactors and moved into a large house in Ellerton Road,off Copse Hill. He became a keen horse-rider on theCommon and the lounge was said to resemble that of acountry squire with military and hunting prints, a guncollection, and of course a well stocked bar. He was alsowell known at the Hand in Hand pub and developed areputation for drinking with companions on a monu-mental scale as well as chasing women. Not surprisinglyhe and Katie were divorced in 1969. He had already appeared in several Hammer horrorfilms and many other pictures before playing Bill Sykesin the musical Oliver in 1968 which made him an inter-national star. In 1971 he left Wimbledon for good, movingto a gigantic house in Dorking. He became even more ofa household name by starring in several of director KenRussell’s most controversial films including Women inLove, The Devils and Tommy. From then on his career was always associated withan off-screen lifestyle as wild as that of anyone in showbusiness. He was 61 when – fittingly enough – his lastrole was in a film about fighting. The night before hesuffered a fatal heart attack he was drinking heavily asusual and arm wrestling five sailors. Russell Crowe wasthe star of the film but Gladiator was dedicated to Reed.He was posthumously nominated for two screen awards. 60
  61. 61. Lionel Tertis THE WORLD FAMOUS VIOLA PLAYER OF MARRYAT ROAD24 February, 2012: This week marked the 37th anniversaryof the death of Lionel Tertis of Marryat Road,Wimbledon, said to have been the greatest viola playerof the 20th century. Tertis, who died age 98, is commemorated by thetriennial Lionel Tertis International Viola Festival& Competition, known throughout the musical worldand involving young players of any nationality agedunder 30. Participants from more than 30 countriestook part last time and the next one, the 11th, will be 61
  62. 62. held at the Erin Arts Centre on the Isle of Man from16-23 March 2013. Lionel Tertis was born in 1876 in West Hartlepool. Bythe time that he and his professional cellist wife Lillianmoved into Flat One at 42 Marryat Road in 1961, hehad been playing the viola for around 66 years. Hecontinued to perform in public until 1963 and then gaveprivate recitals in the garden. Tertis is said to have revolutionised the viola as asolo instrument. Although he studied piano at TrinityCollege, London, before switching to the violin at LeipzigConservatoire, he took up the viola at the age of 19 toplay in a string quartet. In 1901 he became Professor ofviola at the Royal Academy of Music and was laterdirector of the ensemble class there from 1924-29,teaching many distinguished players. As well as playing with various orchestras and stringquartets and touring Europe and the US as a soloist, Tertisarranged and edited many works for the viola, includingthe Elgar Cello Concerto, Delius violin sonatas andBrahms clarinet sonatas. He composed some workshimself and may have influenced William Walton in thewriting of his own viola concerto. Tertis attracted theattention of many other great composers includingVaughan-Williams, Britten, Bartók, and Shostakovich.He gave first performances of many works for the violathat had been written especially for him and he wasawarded the CBE in 1950. Back in 1924 he had bought a 1727 vintageMontagnana instrument from a Paris dealer althoughit was said to be in an unplayable condition, without abridge, strings, fingerboard or case. It was also very big 62
  63. 63. and it was only possible to bring it back to Londonby his then wife wrapping it in her waterproof coat toget it across the English Channel. The large violaprovided an especially rich tone and Tertis went on tocreate his own model instrument to achieve the tonaladvantages he sought. The large house at 42 Marryat Road, Wimbledon,had been converted into three flats in 1953, and Tertis,Lillian, and her elderly mother moved into one of themwhen he was already in his mid eighties. After his deathon 22 February 1975, Lillian, who was much younger,remained at the flat alone until 2005 when she movedinto a nursing home in Kingston, dying there in 2009aged 94. The Lionel Tertis International Viola Festival& Competition was founded in 1980, five years afterthe performer’s death and in February 2007 the violistRoger Chase initiated The Tertis Project, a series ofconcerts of works that had been composed for him.Chase performs on the same vintage instrument thatLionel and his wife brought from Paris in 1924. 63
  64. 64. Frances, Count St Antonio, later Duke of Cannizzaro, (centre profile) with a dance partner COLOURFUL STORY OF CANNIZARO GETS ANOTHER HEARING2 March, 2012: The controversies and scandals thatbeset Cannizaro House during its first two centuries willfeature in this week’s free Wimbledon Society illustratedlecture at the Mansel Road Centre (Saturday 7 March,starting 8.15pm) when writer Tony Matthews will talkabout the subject of his book Cannizaro Beyond theGates. Known originally as Warren House, it was the countryhome of many rich, high profile figures with interests inthe City and politics. William Browne, the merchant whobuilt it around 1705, was sued for defaming the local vicarand excommunicated from the church. His successor,Thomas Walker, was said to be a notorious usurer whoused political links with Prime Minister Robert Walpoleand others to amass a vast fortune. Lyde Browne, directorof the Bank of England, established a huge collection of 64
  65. 65. classical sculptures at the house but was cheated of halfthe value when he sold it to Empress Catherine theGreat of Russia whose agent went bust. Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, was a seniorgovernment minister under William Pitt and the placebecame known for their lengthy drinking sessions.(See Page 20). Dundas won plaudits from King GeorgeIII during royal visits to Wimbledon but he later becameembroiled in a corruption scandal which destroyedhis career. His private life was disastrous too. But most scandalous of all were the Duke and Duchessof Cannizzaro whose residence there between 1817 and1841 was marked by many years of critical and satiricalpress coverage of their various infidelities and financialpeccadilloes. Both had scandal-ridden backgrounds butwere constantly in the public eye as they mixed in thehighest echelons of society. Even though they separatedin 1826, she continued to bankroll him until her death in1841 when he casually returned to claim her fortune,sold her treasured library, and died himself shortly afterwards. Subsequent residents of Cannizaro House included thehighly controversial Maharajah Duleep Singh, just deposedas ruler of the Punjab, and later Mrs Mary Schuster,whose massive garden parties and musical soireeswere famed for including royalty and literary giantssuch as Lord Tennyson and Oscar Wilde among theguests. The last of the great controversies happened in 1900when Cannizaro House was largely destroyed by firebecause an inadequate water supply hampered efforts bythe fire brigade to put the flames out quickly. Thedamage was catastrophic but it heralded a new era 20 65
  66. 66. years later when the rebuilt house would becomefamous for its magnificent gardens, the forerunner oftoday’s Cannizaro Park.FOOTNOTE: The last private owner of the estate, theCountess of Munster, sold it to Wimbledon Corporationin 1948 and the park opened in 1949. Unlike the 18thand 19th centuries, Cannizaro has seen no significantscandals in the 20th and 21st centuries. Sophia, Duchess of Cannizzaro 66
  67. 67. Three generations of John Murrays at the family home, Newstead, in 1890. Photo used with permission of The Murray Collection. WIMBLEDON’S MOST SUCCESSFUL PUBLISHING FAMILY9 March, 2012: Exactly 200 years ago tomorrow on 10March 1812, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, the book thatmade poet Lord Byron a household name, was pub-lished by John Murray II (1778-1843), second head ofthe publishing family that began in the 18th century andcontinued right into the 21st. The book sold out in justfive days and Murray, whose family was probably themost successful in publishing ever to live in Wimbledon,had as much reason to celebrate as the poet himself. 67
  68. 68. The firm’s list of published writers since then is dazzling.Byron’s contemporaries included novelists Sir WalterScott and Jane Austen. In time they were followed byCharles Darwin’s Origin of Species, David Livingstone’sMissionary Travels, the letters of Queen Victoria, WilliamGladstone’s most famous book on the church and thestate, Murray’s Handbook for Travellers (first of allmodern travel guides), the travel writings of Freya Starkand Patrick Leigh Fermor, the poems of Sir John Betjeman,the cartoons of Osbert Lancaster, and jointly with theBBC, Kenneth Clark’s Civilization. Although the John Murray firm has always beenassociated with its headquarters at 50 Albemarle Street,Mayfair, members of the family lived in Wimbledon onand off for around a century, from the days when JohnMurray II was working with Byron until after the FirstWorld War. John Murray II had “a little cottage” in Wimbledon atthe time he published Lord Byron’s controversial poemon Don Juan in 1819. It appeared without their namesbut still attracted a mob outside Albemarle Street protestingabout its “bawdy” contents. Lady Caroline Lamb, apassionate fan of Byron, wrote to Murray asking to meethim at the cottage, which was serving as his boltholefrom the London crowd. Byron himself was away inItaly at the time. Murray’s son, John Murray III (1808–1892), boughtfour acres of land off Parkside and built a villa atSomerset Road on the brow of a hill with a lake. Hecalled it Newstead after Lord Byron’s seat, NewsteadAbbey in Nottinghamshire. The house became amansion with around 20 bedrooms. Every day, John 68
  69. 69. Newstead in the 1890s.Murray III would walk the mile and a half down toWimbledon Station and could be seen correcting proofson the train into central London. When he died in1892 he was buried in the family tomb at St Mary’sChurch in Wimbledon Village. Within a year, Sir John Murray IV (1851–1928)moved back to Albemarle Street with his wife and son -later Sir John Murray V (1884–1967). However, hisbrother, Alexander Henry Hallam Murray (1854-1934),a designer and illustrator for the family firm until 1908,stayed at Newstead until selling it after 1918. The firmcontinued under successive John Murrays until JohnMurray VII sold it in 2002. The family archive from1768 to 1920 was sold to the National Library ofScotland. 69
  70. 70. THE WIMBLEDON RADICAL WHO RIVALLED DR JOHNSON16 March, 2012: One of the 18 th century’s mostcontroversial radical politicians died at his home besideWimbledon Common exactly 200 years ago this weekend. John Horne Tooke (1736-1812) retired to ChesterHouse on Westside Common towards the end of an un-conventional career which included being imprisoned inthe Tower of London, antagonizing both sides inParliament, libelling the Speaker, and successfullycampaigning for the public right to see printed accountsof Parliamentary debates. He was also a noted philologist and is said to haverivalled Dr Samuel Johnson in his conversational andwriting powers. His sayings were published after hisdeath. Born simply John Horne on 25 June 1736 in Westminster,he was the son of a poultry merchant who insisted that hebecome a clergyman. Reluctantly he did so and retained anincome from the Church until 1773 when he formallyresigned. However, for years before that, he wasinvolved in radical politics, supporting the notoriousdemagogue John Wilkes and getting him elected toParliament. In 1769, Horne and Wilkes founded The Society forSupporting the Bill of Rights but the two rowed and themembership split into opposing camps in 1771. In thesame year Horne obtained a Masters degree at Cambridgeand successfully achieved the publication of Parliamentarydebates as a matter of public right. 70
  71. 71. Chester House is seen above c1810 when John Horne Tooke lived there.The manhimself is shown right. 71
  72. 72. After switching from the Church to study law andphilology, he became embroiled in a controversy overland ownership between a friend, William Tooke, and aneighbour. Following many disputes, the neighbour’sfriends in Parliament tried to force through a Bill thatwould enhance his interests at Tooke’s expense. Horne drew public attention to the case by libelling theSpeaker of the House and although he was taken intocustody by the sergeant-at-arms, the clauses harmful toTooke were dropped. Tooke was so grateful he madeHorne the heir to his fortune. In return, Horne added“Tooke” to his name in 1782. In 1777 he was jailed for a year for soliciting sub-scriptions in support of Americans killed by Britishforces during the American War of Independence. Afterwardsrejected by the Bar, he tried farming and wrote politicaltreatises demanding reform. He was an unsuccessful Parlia-mentary candidate twice in the 1790s and was arrested fortreason in 1794 for opposing the clampdown on dissent inEngland during the French Revolution. Imprisoned inthe Tower for some months he was then acquitted. Ironically for a radical reformer, he eventually secured aParliamentary seat in 1801 by being returned for thepocket borough of Old Sarum rather than being electedby a large number of voters. Even then his career in theHouse was truncated after his opponents introduced aBill banning anyone in religious orders from sitting inthe Commons. His previous role as a clergyman, althoughlong over, was held as a reason for his exclusion. At home in Wimbledon he hosted Sunday parties forpoliticians and men of letters which were known fortheir witty discussions. He suffered serious illness from 72
  73. 73. Horne Tooke suffering on a couch at Chester House.1810 and planned to be buried in the Chester House garden.However this was rejected after his death on 18 March1812 and he was interred instead alongside his mother inEaling. 73
  74. 74. FROM LONDON’S SEWERS TO THE FRESH AIR OF WIMBLEDON23 March 2012: Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819-1891), the man who created London’s sewerage systemas well as the Thames Embankment and three majorLondon Bridges, died at his Wimbledon home 121 yearsago last week. Only today, some 150 years after his sewers cameinto use, is Thames Water having to plan a major up-grade to meet modern demands. It is a mark of just howmuch Londoners owe this 19th century engineering giant. Bazalgette came to Wimbledon in 1873 with his wifeand ten children, moving into St Mary’s House, ArthurRoad. They had previously lived for a time in what wasthen the Surrey countryside at Morden. Before that theirhome was in St John’s Wood. A former railway specialist, Bazalgette served asChief Engineer on London’s Metropolitan Board ofWorks from 1856 until 1889. In the preceding yearsthousands of Londoners had died of cholera epidemicscaused by contaminated water. As all drains emptiedtheir contents into the Thames and the streets sometimesflowed with raw sewage, it is easy to understand why.However at the time, bad air rather than contaminatedwater was blamed for the disease. By 1858 the river had become so badly polluted thatair conditions were unbearable and a Parliamentaryselect committee was appointed to seek a solution.Bazalgette proposed the construction of hundreds ofmiles of underground brick sewers to intercept sewageoutflows and keep it from the streets. By improving the 74
  75. 75. Sir Joseph William Bazalgette (1819-1891).Source: Men of Eminence, Vol 6, edited by Edward Walford. London, 1867. Courtesy of Saffron Walden Town Library. 75
  76. 76. air it was assumed that cholera would decline. It did -but only later was it understood why. He secured thefunds to go ahead and as well as building the tunnels,the scheme involved major pumping stations at certainpoints on both sides of the Thames. The system wasopened by the Prince of Wales in 1865 but work continuedfor another decade as further pumping stations were added. Between 1865 and 1870, Bazalgette also directed theconstruction of Victoria Embankment. This wasprompted both by the new sewerage system and theneed to relieve traffic congestion in Fleet Street and TheStrand. It involved building out on to the river foreshorewith a cut and cover tunnel for what is now the DistrictLine, and roofing this over for the new roadway. Oncethe work was done, two public gardens were laid out,giving a welcome green space between the governmentbuildings of Whitehall and the river. From his Wimbledon home, Bazalgette was knightedfor his efforts in 1875 and elected President of theInstitution of Civil Engineers in 1883. His historiccontributions to London continued with designs for newbridges across the Thames which opened at Putney in1886 and Hammersmith in 1887. He also went on todesign Battersea Bridge which formally opened in 1890. Bazalgette’s son Norman played a major role inWimbledon’s own history, campaigning for the first freepublic library from 1880 onwards until it finally openedat the bottom of Wimbledon Hill Road in 1887. WhenSir Joseph himself died five years later he was buried ina family mausoleum at the parish church opposite theirhouse. A century later this was decaying badly and theWimbledon Society raised funds towards its restoration. 76
  77. 77. Memorial to Sir Joseph William Bazalgette on Victoria Embankment.FOOTNOTE: The television producer Peter Bazalgette,great-great-grandson of Sir Joseph, was also knighted in2012 and named as the next Chairman of Arts CouncilEngland in September 2012. 77
  78. 78. WIMBLEDON’S FIRST GARDEN CENTRE30 March, 2012: Wimbledon gardeners have to travelslightly further nowadays to stock up for spring andsummer planting but their Victorian forebears couldsimply shop at Thomson’s Nurseries at the bottom ofWimbledon Hill Road, formerly the Lord of theManor’s kitchen garden. Scotsman David Thomson (1816-1905) worked as agardener for Lord of the Manor Earl Spencer from 1838until the Wimbledon Park estate was sold off in 1846.Much local freehold land belonged to the ChurchCommissioners but in 1852 Thomson leased some 12acres between what is now St Mark’s Place and Wood-side, and established a nursery and landscape gardeningbusiness to serve the growing number of fine housesbeing built on the Earl’s former estate and nearby. He soon secured an excellent reputation for integrityand professionalism and by 1871 was employing 12people. Thomson himself lived with his wife and sixchildren opposite the end of Hothouse Lane (later StMary’s Road). The nursery entrance was through a conservatorycontaining palm trees and seasonal flowers. There were30 greenhouses with geraniums, begonias, importedJapanese aspidistras, vast numbers of chrysanthemumsand hundreds of climbing roses in pots. Outdoors weremany other plants and trees. However the 30-year-lease ran out in the early 1880sand the Church Commissioners sold part of the land forfurther development, including what would become the 78
  79. 79. Thomson’s Nurseries shownabove in 1907. On the right, David Thomson.town’s first free public libraryin 1887. Thomson retainedonly his shop and land imme-diately below Woodside forthe greenhouses. As a result he bought thefreehold of an additional 50acres of land south of the rail-way, west of Merton Hall Road and established a secondbase, the Branch Nursery. There he stocked a furtherhuge range of trees, shrubs and hardy perennials. A gardening publication describing the Branch Nurserylater listed phlox, iris, lobelia, Michaelmas daisies, alpines,masses of strawberries, roses producing 18,000 buds ayear, apple trees, plums, pears, cherries, peaches, hollies,sycamores, planes, elms, birch and mountain ash and limes. 79
  80. 80. David Thomson remained active in his nurseriesright up to the age of 87 and died after a short illness athis home in 1905. The rest of the original nursery atWimbledon Hill Road was sold in 1894 and Worcesterand Compton Roads were built on the site. By 1929houses extended all along Woodside and only a flowershop remained on the corner of Alwyne Road. Thomson’s sons continued in the business at theBranch Nursery but this too was compulsorily purchasedby the council for housing in 1920 and the ToynbeeRoad area constructed.David Thomson’s cottage on the old Spencer estate. 80
  81. 81. MUSIC HALL SINGING STAR HETTY KING LIVED IN WIMBLEDON6 April, 2012: On 8 November 2010, the Music HallGuild of Great Britain and America erected a com-memorative blue plaque at No 17 Palmerston Road,Wimbledon. It was the last home of old time singer andactress Hetty King (1883-1972) who lived there fromthe 1950s with her sister Olive Edwards. Hetty, whose 129th birthday fell this Wednesday, wasone of Britain’s most successful male impersonators,starting her career in music hall in 1897. She toppedbills all over the world dressed in men’s costumes includingtop hat and tails and military uniforms, the last especiallyduring the two world wars. Known particularly for herrenditions and recordings of All the Nice Girls Love aSailor, Tell Me the Old, Old Story, and Piccadilly, shewas a favourite for principal boy roles in pantomimesbut continued working in variety and summer showsright into very old age in a career that lasted for morethan 70 years. Born Winifred Emms King in New Brighton, Cheshire,she was the daughter of William Emms (1856–1954), awell known music hall comedian who had adopted thestage name King. Always known professionally asHetty King, she first appeared on stage with him whenonly six years old and performed at seaside showsalongside minstrels. She adopted the debonair man-about-town role for the first time in 1905, quicklyachieving fame and star bookings. During the First World War she would performSongs the Soldiers Sing, a sanitized version of those 81
  82. 82. Sheet music cover from 1907 shown right. Hetty King appears below in uniform.from the trenches, and was back with similar renditionsin the Second World War. In 1954 she appeared in thefilm Lilacs In The Spring with Errol Flynn and AnnaNeagle. In later life she toured with the show Thanks forthe Memory and finally appeared in a film entitled HettyKing – Performer aged 87. She married actor and writer Ernie Lotinga (1876–1951), another music hall comedian, singer and theatreproprietor who also appeared in films in the 1920s and30s, often as the comic character PC Jimmy Josser.However her real married name was Winifred Lamond. Her sister and fellow Wimbledonian, Olive, was alsoan actress and her brother Harold wrote many of hersongs with his wife. Hetty died on 28 September 1972aged 89 and was cremated at Golders Green. 82
  83. 83. WIMBLEDON’S WORST VANDALISM13 April 2012: Perhaps the worst vandalism everinflicted on Wimbledon outside wartime happened exactly137 years ago. The culprits were a builder calledDixon and a Member of Parliament, the local land-owner John Samuel Sawbridge-Erle-Drax. In April 1875, with Drax’s support, Dixon destroyed theprehistoric Iron Age fort on Wimbledon Common datingback to 700 BC or earlier. Known today as Caesar’sCamp, the fort had included circular ramparts nearly 20feet high, topped with mature oak trees and surroundedby a 12 feet deep, 30 feet wide ditch, enclosing some12 acres of relatively flat land with a view of EpsomDowns. Its archaeological significance was incalculable,its precise origins unknown to this day. Drax, who became owner of land stretching fromBeverley Brook to Westside Common through his wife’sinheritance, leased some fields to Dixon who then builtthree large houses in Camp Road and moved on to thearea of the fort itself. Bricks and scaffolding for morehouses arrived on site, the trees were felled, the rampartsleveled and the ditch filled. Drax could have saved the fort by selling the land to thecampaigners who had successfully achieved Parlia-mentary protection of Wimbledon Common four yearsearlier. However he hated being thwarted and refusedto sell. Although the Commons Conservators stoppedany further action by securing a court order forbiddinguse of Camp Road for anything other than agriculturalpurposes, it was too late to save the fort. Since 1907 it has simply served as part of the Royal 83
  84. 84. Wimbledon Golf Course. Only from the air could theoriginal circular shape of the fort still be made out,barely possible today. The name Caesar’s Camp was adopted in the 1820son the assumption that Julius Caesar might have builtthe fort after invading Britain. However, there was neverany evidence for this and the structure had actually beenknown locally for centuries as The Rounds. It was notuntil 1937 that its possible age was discovered when theMetropolitan Water Board decided to build a new mainacross the site and allowed archaeologists to watch as atrench was dug. Although restricted, they were able toassess the age and possible purpose of the site in moredetail than ever before. The fort had once had a palisade to defend occupantsagainst attack. Unearthed pottery suggested a date of250 BC. But further studies have since concluded that itwas much older and possibly a trading base. Either way,the sad remains are now a protected ancient monument. Vandal and landowner,John Samuel Sawbridge- Erle-Drax (1800-1887). 84
  85. 85. Caesar’s Camp is shown above in July 1865, paintedby F C Nightingale ten years before its destruction.An aerial view taken in 1923 showed the circularshape of the fort, still visible after it was lost forever. 85
  86. 86. THE TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY OF WIMBLEDON’S OWN SANDY DENNY20 April 2012: Sandy Denny (1947-78), the Wimbledonsongstress who became Britain’s most pre-eminent folk/rock singer-songwriter in the 1970s, died exactly 34years ago tomorrow, aged just 31. Born Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny on 6 January1947 at the Nelson Hospital, Merton Park, she performedwith The Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Fotheringayand even Led Zeppelin before becoming a soloist from1971-77 when she released four albums. Trained as a classical pianist, Sandy Denny startedsinging as a child. A pupil at Coombe Girls School inKingston, she trained afterwards as a nurse at the RoyalBrompton Hospital before taking up a place in 1965 atwhat was then Kingston College of Art, joining thecampus folk club, and beginning a singing career onLondon’s folk club circuit. Her repertoire included bothtraditional British and American songs. She first performed at Cecil Sharp House, home oftraditional folk music, in December 1966 for a BBCprogramme. A few months later she signed with SagaRecords and dropped her art studies in favour of a full-time musical career. At the well known TroubadourClub she met a member of The Strawbs and soon joinedthe band but the following year became lead singer withFairport Convention, encouraging them to combinetraditional folk music with electric rock. She left in 1969 to develop her own songwritingcareer and formed the band, Fotheringay. Having re-turned to the piano as her main instrument, in both 1970 86
  87. 87. Edna and Neil Denny, Sandy’s parents, appear above at their home in Arthur Road, Wimbledon. Sandy Denny, The Lady, is shown left. Photos: Eric Hayes Universal Music.87
  88. 88. and 1971 she was voted Best British Female Singer byreaders of the leading musical paper Melody Maker. In 1973 she married her boyfriend and producer andrecorded a third solo album. Despite her huge success, hersongs now stressed sad private preoccupations, possiblydue to problems with drink and drugs. Nevertheless,between 1974 and 1975 they performed together withFairport Convention and enjoyed a highly successfulworld tour. In 1977 she recorded her last album and embarkedon a final UK tour, ending 27 November at London’sRoyalty Theatre. That year she also gave birth to adaughter, her only child. Then, tragically, while on holidaywith her parents and baby in Cornwall in March 1978,she suffered a head injury in a fall from a staircase. Sherecovered briefly but on 17 April collapsed at a friendshome and died four days later in Atkinson Morley’sHospital at Copse Hill (see Page 57). She was buried on27 April at Putney Vale Cemetery beside WimbledonCommon. Her headstone describes her as “The Lady” and whenthe second of two tribute concerts was held in 2008 atthe Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank, to mark the 30thanniversary of her death, it was entitled The Lady: ATribute to Sandy Denny. There have been many musicaltributes to her over the years with members of both TheStrawbs and Fairport Convention recording songs in hermemory and many other artists performing her ownsongs including Judy Collins, Kate Bush and the lateNina Simone. The picture with her parents on Page 87 appeared on thealbum cover of Fairport Conventions LP Unhalfbricking. 88
  89. 89. Sandy is shown above, relaxing with other members ofFairport Convention in her parents’ Wimbledon garden.The title arose from the word-game Ghosts, played bythe band while travelling to and from concerts. Its ob-ject was to avoid completing a real word and“unhalfbricking” was Sandys own creation. The album also marked her maturity as a singer andsongwriter, including Who Knows Where the TimeGoes?, a song covered by many other performers andnow regarded as a classic. The only traditional song onthe album, A Sailors Life, is seen as pivotal in thedevelopment of English folk-rock music. 89
  90. 90. WIMBLEDON HOME WAS LONDON’S FIRST WITH ELECTRICITY AND A TELEPHONE27 April 2012: Electric street lighting in Wimbledondates back to 1899 when a brand new power stationopened in Durnsford Road. The designer was ArthurPreece but it was his father, the famous engineer SirWilliam Henry Preece (1834-1913), whom we shouldreally thank for the replacement of dingy Victorianstreet oil lamps by modern electricity. Not just that – healso introduced London’s first home telephone. William Henry Preece lived with his family at GothicLodge in Woodhayes Road, near Wimbledon Common,from 1874 until his death in November 1913. Exactly114 years ago this month in 1898, he became Presidentof the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was knightedthe following year after retiring from a long engineeringcareer with the Post Office. Both moves were recognitionof his extraordinary contribution to technological progressin Britain as a whole and he continued as an advisor tothe Government for some years later. Preece, who came from Caernarvon in Wales, waseducated at Kings College School when it was stilllocated in The Strand, long before its move to Wimbledonin the 1890s. He later graduated from university in electricalengineering after studying under the famous physicist,Michael Faraday. His career had begun at sea when he was chiefengineer with the Electric and International TelegraphCompany, repairing telegraph cables to the Channel Islands. 90
  91. 91. The watercolour above depicts Gothic Lodge from near the Crooked Billet Sir William Henry Preece is shown right. 91
  92. 92. From 1870 he worked with the Post Office telegraphicsystem, eventually becoming its chief engineer and con-tributing his own inventions and those of others to thesystem. In 1877 he demonstrated the first of AlexanderGraham Bell’s new telephones at the year’s BritishAssociation for the Advancement of Science gatheringin Plymouth. However, at the time he felt no need tohave one in his own home. There were plenty of humanmessengers around who could be employed to runeveryday communications. In 1880 he became President of the Society ofTelegraph Engineers and in 1884, by detecting electro-magnetic radiation from buried telephone cables, cameup with the idea of wireless telegraphy. In 1889 he carriedout a successful experiment by transmitting and receivingMorse radio signals over a distance of about a mileacross Coniston Water in the Lake District. So he was already a longstanding pioneer in telecom-munications when he befriended the young GuglielmoMarconi in the 1890s and secured funding from the PostOffice for his practical experiments in wireless telegraphy.Marconi often visited Preece in Wimbledon and establisheda transmitter in the back garden of Gothic Lodge tosend messages to the Post Office in central London.This time Preece changed his mind about a home phoneand Gothic Lodge became London’s first with its owntelephone. He didn’t stop there. The house also became the firstwith electricity installed for lighting, heating hot waterand supplying an iron. Eager to apply this experience for thewider public good, in 1890 he urged the local authorityto build a power station to supply electric street lighting 92