The beauty queen and a mysterious maritime death

Frank Vosper

Frank Vosper was born in December 1899, just two weeks before the turn of the century. He was born at 24 Gondar Gardens in West Hampstead – the house where Nobel prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing lived for more than 30 years before her death in 2013.

Vosper’s father Percy was a surgeon at Kings College Hospital, having come from Plympton in Devon to study medicine in London. In 1894, Percy married Blanche Permain, whose father was a fine art dealer and they had moved to Gondar Gardens at the end of 1896.

Frank would have had a comfortable upbringing, yet the story of his premature death at just 36 would have made as good a film as any he might have acted in, with a cast list that included Ernest Hemingway and Miss Great Britain.

24 Gondar Gardens

Frank Vosper was educated at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. He wanted to be an actor, and when he left school at 17 he called on a theatrical agent who had previously been a pupil at his old school. Incredibly, just on the basis of this shared experience, the agent got him work and young Frank appeared in ‘Julius Caesar’ in March 1919 at the Pavilion Theatre in Mile End.

Frank was talented, and became a very successful actor. After working with actor-manager Sir Ben Greet’s Shakespeare Company, Frank first appeared in the West End in ‘The Young Visitors’ in 1920. After this he left on a theatre tour of India and the Far East. On his return in 1922 he played a succession of both modern and Shakespearean roles. In 1926, Frank joined the Old Vic Company and worked with some of the great actors of the day including Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Alec Guinness, Margaret Rutherford, and Dame Edith Evans.

He appeared in ‘Yellow Sands’, Eden Philpotts’ very successful play which ran for more than 600 performances. Frank was best known for playing Henry VIII in ‘Rose Without a Thorn’, a 1933 play about the relationship between King Henry and Catherine Howard. There is a short film of him getting into costume as Henry, plus clips of his performance.

After leaving the family home, Frank got a small flat at 7 Upper St Martin’s Lane in Seven Dials, where he lived from 1925 to 1927. He became friends with John Gielgud and they appeared together in ‘Hamlet’.

In his 1939 autobiography, Gielgud wrote:

As soon as ‘The Constant Nymph’ had settled down to a certain success, I persuaded my parents to let me leave home. Frank Vosper was shortly to move from a little flat in Seven Dials where he had been living for some time. I greatly admired this flat and arranged to take over from him the rest of his lease. The flat was full of character, and I stayed there for eight years. There was no proper kitchen, and the bathroom, with a rather erratic geyser, was down a very draughty flight of stairs. But otherwise the place was charming. The sitting-room walls had been covered with brown hessian by Vosper, and there was a ceiling in one of the bedrooms painted by an artist friend of his (under the influence, I imagine, of Braque), with large nude figures sprawling about. This I thought very modern and original.

In January 1933, Frank Vosper had a major role in a play called ‘The Green Bay Tree’ by Mordaunt Shairp. This was very controversial. Frank, who was not openly gay, played a homosexual aristocrat who adopts a working-class boy and remodels him in his own image. Mordaunt Shairp was a schoolmaster who lived with his wife at 13 Heath Mansions in Hampstead and had taught at University College School in Frognal from 1920 to 1933 when he left to become a full time playwright. The title of ‘The Green Bay Tree’ is taken from Psalms 37:35. ‘I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree’.

In the play, Frank Vosper played Mr Dulcimer, a wealthy man who bought an 11-year-old boy from his working-class parents for £500. He raises Julian as his stepson and the boy becomes addicted to Dulcimer’s Mayfair way of life. Julian then has to choose between marrying his fiancée Leonora, or staying with Dulcimer.

Although never directly stated, a homosexual relationship is clearly implied. Shairp said he wanted it to be a modern morality tale based on Dr Faustus. The play was very successful and played for six months at the St Martin’s Theatre. It was also very popular when it opened on Broadway in October 1933 when a young Laurence Olivier played Julian and Jill Esmond, who later became Olivier’s wife, played Leonora. It was frequently revived on Broadway and was produced in London at the Jermyn Street Theatre as recently as December 2014.

Vosper’s work on stage got him excellent reviews and he began to work in films. He appeared in more than 20 including, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1934), where he played Ramon the assassin (this was also Peter Lorre’s first English film). Hitchcock remade the film in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day. In 1934, Vosper had a starring role in Michael Powell’s early low-budget thriller, ‘Red Ensign’.

Peter Lorre and Frank Vosper in The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934

In addition to being an actor, Frank wrote several plays. His first was ‘Spellbound’, which he produced in 1927. He later rewrote it as ‘People Like Us’. In Who’s Who in the Theatre, Vosper amusingly describes his recreations as ‘criminology and blackberrying’. He was a regular visitor to the Old Bailey and ‘People Like Us’ is based on the notorious Thompson-Bywaters case: in October 1922, Edith Thompson persuaded her young lover Freddie Bywaters to murder her husband. The pair were executed in 1923, although many people thought Edith was not guilty of murder and should not have been hanged. The play had a very brief run at the Strand Theatre in 1929, but was banned by the Lord Chamberlain’s office because of the subject matter. It was not performed again until 1948.

Vosper persuaded Agatha Christie to let him adapt her short story into the play ‘Love From a Stranger’. The first night was so tense there were reports that some of the audience fainted. It received very good reviews and ran from March to August 1936. He then took the play to Broadway where it ran for another couple of months later that year. The play was twice turned into a film and was televised by the BBC in 1938 and 1947. A radio version was also broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1945. Another of his plays ‘Murder on the Second Floor’ was filmed in 1932 and again in 1941 as ‘Shadows on the Stairs’.

By 1935, Frank Vosper was living at 34 Acacia Road in St Johns Wood with his partner, the actor Peter Willes. Willes was born in London on 30 April 1913. He was the son of a lawyer, and educated at Stowe. By now, Vosper was at the height of his career and on 9 September 1936, he and Peter sailed on the SS Aquitania to New York where Frank’s play ‘Love From a Stranger’ was to appear on Broadway. Then in December, Frank and his sister Margery went on holiday to Jamaica and were joined in Mexico by Peter, who had been in Hollywood acting in the film ‘Call it a Day’. After Margaret returned to London, Frank and Peter journeyed on to Havana, Hollywood, and then to New York.

From left Olivia de Havilland Ian Hunter Bonita Granville and Peter Willes, Call it a Day 1937

All at sea
On 6 March 1937, Frank and Peter returned to England having sailed from New York on the SS Paris. Other passengers included the American writer Ernest Hemingway and Muriel Oxford, Miss Great Britain 1935, who – after a couple of small parts in films had been undertaking film tests in Hollywood. Here is a film clip of Muriel at a beauty contest.

In the early hours of that Saturday morning, just before the ship was due in to Plymouth, Frank was reported missing. Just over two weeks later, his body was found more than 200 miles away near East Dean in Sussex.

Drawing of finding the body Illustrated Police News 1 April 1937

The papers speculated wildly about what had happened. Peter Willes told reporters that he had met Muriel Oxford at a party on the ship, and that she invited him to her state room where they were joined by Frank. As they drank champagne, Frank had gone into the adjoining lounge where they believed he had climbed out of a window and fallen into the sea. But was it an accident or suicide?

Did he slip, or did he jump?
At the enquiry, Muriel confirmed Peter’s version of events. She had been at a party in the ballroom the night before the ship was due to dock. She had danced with Peter Willes before ordering a bottle of champagne to be taken to her state room. Although she hadn’t met Peter or Frank before, she explained that she asked them to her join her as they were the only Englishmen onboard. Willes had returned to the cabin that he shared with Vosper who reluctantly agreed to go to Muriel’s state room. They sat talking and after about 20 minutes, Vosper got up and walked across the state room to the private lounge. Muriel thought Frank wanted some air and she showed him how to open the window. Later when she and Peter couldn’t find Frank, they raised the alarm.

Peter Willes believed that Frank, who was very short sighted and had broken his glasses, must have thought the low sill of the window led to the boat deck and not straight into the sea. He said Frank always preferred to leave parties unobtrusively so as not to appear rude. But he could not believe Frank had committed suicide. He was far too keen on his work and had spent the whole journey writing a new play.

William Pengelly was Frank’s solicitor and he was determined to find out exactly what had happened. In scenes foreshadowing today’s Crimewatch, he asked Muriel and Peter to reenact the scene on the SS Paris in his Gray’s Inn office. Pengelly also went to Paris to interview Ernest Hemingway who had been travelling on the ship. Hemingway occupied a state room opposite Muriel and strongly denied the press stories that Vosper had argued with people during the voyage, or that Willes had been very attentive to Miss Oxford and that Vosper could have jumped out of the window in a fit of jealousy.

Around the same time, and before a body had been recovered, Peter and Muriel went to Le Havre to help the French examining magistrate by reenacting the events onboard the SS Paris itself. The Magistrate ruled out foul play believing that Vosper committed suicide.

Frank’s badly damaged body was identified by his father Percy. At the beginning of the inquest in Eastbourne, Percy said that Frank was always bright and cheerful and was particularly level headed. He was not keen on parties, and did not stand alcohol very well. But he was not quarrelsome and his father had never seen him drunk. When asked, Percy said he was not aware that Frank had any love affairs. None of the stories in the newspapers revealed that Willes and Vosper were partners.

The inquest, which had begun at the end of March, resumed on 6 April as the jury had decided it could not reach a verdict based only on Muriel and Peter’s evidence. They wanted to hear from the ship’s staff. The court was packed as Robert Cubillare, a night steward, speaking through an interpreter, said that at about 2.15am he had gone to Cabin 243 occupied by Mr Vosper and Mr Willes, and Miss Oxford was there. A lady in an adjoining cabin had complained about the noise, and the steward asked them to keep quiet. A few minutes later the three of them went to Miss Oxford’s state room.

Charles Carbon, the night steward to the state room, said he was summoned at 2.45am. Miss Oxford and Mr Willes were lounging on the divan and were a little merry. Mr Vosper was standing motionless in front of them. When asked if Vosper was laughing or joking, he said Frank was quite silent. Carbon took a bottle of champagne from Miss Oxford and went to put it on ice. When he returned, Frank was missing. He and Mr Willes went to look for Vosper and when they couldn’t find him, the Captain was informed.

The Captain said he was told about Vosper’s disappearance about 3.10am, but he did not think anyone could have got through the small window, and as nobody had seen a man fall overboard, he thought that Frank had simply left the cabin to take some air on the deck. He only reported Frank’s disappearance when they reached Plymouth in the morning. Questioned by Mr Pengelly who represented the families, the Captain admitted he had found some marks on the white window sill.

In his evidence, Mr Pengelly said he known Frank Vosper for 11 years and his financial position was good. He confirmed Vosper was rather sensitive about his poor eyesight and would never wear his glasses in public. Pengelly said he thought it was perfectly possible to step through the window despite what the Captain had said. To demonstrate, he placed a cardboard frame the same size as the window easily over his shoulders. He thought that if Vosper believed there was a deck on the other side then he could have fallen by accident.

The coroner in addressing the jury, said there appeared little doubt that Mr Vosper had gone through the window. The only question that remained was whether he had done so deliberately to end his life, or was he under the impression that there was a deck on which he would land, in which case it would have been an accident. If it was a case of suicide, it must have been a sudden impulse because he had sent a cable from the ship that afternoon to an old friend saying he was landing the next morning.

The jury took just 25 minutes to reach an open verdict on Frank Vosper’s death. They decided that he met his death by drowning, but it was impossible to say how he got into the water.

What became of the other cast members?
After the inquest, Muriel Oxford, white-faced and angry, told reporters, There was no love making in my state room. These stories are the hardest thing to bear. We were not lying on the settee; we were sitting side by side with our backs against the wall. I deny the stories that Willes and I are in love.

In November 1937, she successfully sued the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror for making libellous claims about her morality. The solicitors representing the newspapers apologised and said there was no intention of making such aspersions. There was no mention of any financial recompense, though there may have been an out-of-court settlement.

The disappearance of Frank Vosper gave rise to the cruel saying, ‘Never get on a ship with Peter Willes’, which was still in circulation in the 1960s. Willes would go on to have a successful career nonetheless. He appeared in ‘The Dawn Patrol’ (1938) with David Niven – a classmate at Stowe, and ‘Idiot’s Delight’ (1939) with Clark Gable. After a distinguished war service, in 1947 he became the tour manager for popular comedian Vic Oliver. This proved good training for his TV work at Associated Rediffusion as a talent scout and producer. Willes produced TV plays by Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’. From 1966 to 1978, he was the innovative Head of Drama at Yorkshire Television and produced several Joe Orton plays. Willes became a good friend of Orton’s but disliked Orton’s partner Kenneth Halliwell who eventually killed Orton and then committed suicide in August 1967. Peter Willes himself died in Gloucester in 1991.

In his will Frank Vosper left £10,463 (worth about £600,000 today), to his solicitor and executor, William Pengelly.

There is a short news clip about Frank Vosper here:

In 1939, Sir John Gielgud wrote about his friend Frank:

His tragic death two years ago was a great shock to all his friends, and I miss him continually. I knew him well for nearly fifteen years. As a companion he had inimitable gaiety and charm. He was generous to a degree, a delightfully Bohemian and charming host and, as an artist, completely free from jealousy of any kind. He often gave the impression that he behaved selfishly in doing exactly as he liked, but in reality he enjoyed nothing so much as giving pleasure to other people. … His happiest time, while I knew him, was during the brilliantly successful run of his own play, ‘Murder on the Second Floor’. His diversity of talents created quite a sensation with the production of this play, and he was hailed by the public and idolised by his company. His dressing-room at the Lyric Theatre was always crowded with friends and acquaintances, and after the play there would be endless parties which went on till the small hours. But Frank was equally happy with just one or two intimate friends, and later he bought and furnished a beautiful little house in St. John’s Wood, ceased to entertain so widely, and settled down to a positively domesticated existence, writing, doing enormous jigsaw puzzles, and joking about how busy everyone else always seemed to be.

Unfortunately, we are left not knowing what really happened to the multi-talented Frank Vosper, who tragically died aged just 36.

Who buried the body? The sad tale of “The Kilburn Mystery”

Pembroke Place was a cul-de-sac of four-roomed houses off Granville Road in South Kilburn. It has long been demolished – today the St Augustine’s sports centre occupies roughly the same site. In the early 20th century, it was described as a mean and congested neighbourhood, where domestic violence often erupted. The properties were so small they were sometimes referred to as cottages and they were home to an endless succession of poor families. But even here, people were shocked by the skeleton under the floor.

Granville Road showing Pembroke Mews in Red 1890

Granville Road showing Pembroke Mews in Red 1890

In late July, 1919, Henry Hill – the tenant of No.12 Pembroke Place – became concerned about the foul smell in the house and found bones and a skull buried under the kitchen floor. The press immediately called the discovery ‘The Kilburn Mystery’. Initially it was believed there were two bodies and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, a pathologist who first came to public notice during the 1910 Crippen trial, was called in. Unfortunately the police removed some valuable evidence before Spilsbury arrived, but he soon identified the bones as those of a single young female.

Almost immediately, neighbours told the police they knew who it was. They believed the remains were those of sixteen-year-old Constance Grant, known to friends and family as Connie.

William John Grant and Alice Maud White, had occupied the house for just over a year before leaving that January. What unfolded over the next few weeks was a tragic story of neglect, poverty and cover-up.

William was born in London and worked as a labourer, but by 1919 he was employed as a boiler cleaner in a gas works. In 1888 he had married laundry worker Rosina Pyle. She died in 1907 and a year later William met widow Alice White. The couple decided to live together as common law partners. Between them the couple already had 12 children: William had eight and Alice four, and they went on to have another five children together. Their youngest was Doris. William and Alice were living in 12 Pembroke Place by Christmas 1917, sharing the small house with their own children and also Ada and Connie Grant, William’s daughters by his first wife. There were reports of quarrels, and some physical violence.

In January 1919, William and Alice separated. He moved in with a married daughter in Harlesden while Alice and the five children born to the couple, eventually ended up sharing two rooms with her daughter Ethel May (known as Maggie) at 16 Malvern Road, just a few minutes walk from Pembroke Place.

After the bones were found, an excited neighbour’s child ran round to Malvern Road and told Alice: “They are saying you murdered two children and buried them under the floor!” To which Alice replied, “They will have to prove that”. Alice promptly dressed herself and young Doris and went out with her friend Sara Harris. Sara said Alice intended to pawn a watch or neck chain for money, to pay for a meal that evening. Alice left Sara in the Harrow Road but didn’t return home.

The police were naturally very anxious to speak with Alice and circulated a description:

Alice White, also known by the names of Grant and Watts. 42 years old, around 5 foot 5 inches tall, dark complexion, dark eyes, full face, and medium build. Last seen with a black hat, wearing a long light-coloured overcoat and carrying a baby about two years old.

Clearly wanting to contribute something to the mystery, Sara Harris told reporters that on the day, Alice “seemed all of a flutter”. She also said Alice had told her she had found Connie dead.

With the exception of the absent Alice, everyone was questioned by the police as soon as the bones were found. The answer to when they last saw Connie varied from family member to family member. “I last saw her round about Christmas 1917 then she was gone”, said Alice’s son James. Alice told him Connie had run away. If that was the case, asked James, why not go to the police? Alice replied she’d already been and that, “Connie had been picked up and she will come back some day”.

Connie’s father William swore he didn’t know anything about her. He had last seen her sweeping the kitchen on 1 June, 1918. After that, Alice always made an excuse when he wanted to see his daughter, saying Connie was upstairs or at the local recreation ground with the other children. But the police were suspicious that William accepted his daughter’s absence so readily.

The latest sighting was reported by Maggie who said Connie was around the day her parents moved out of No.12, in January 1919. But with the different dates they couldn’t all be right.

The truth was that by the time the family left Pembroke Place, Connie had been missing for months. William’s elder son, Corporal Albert Grant, who was serving with the Air Force in France, told the police that when he was home on leave in January 1919, he went with his father to look for Connie at Pembroke Place. He said;
“We made a search of the house and found that all the furniture had been removed with the exception of a child’s cot. We noticed an unpleasant smell, but did not pay any particular attention to it. My father and I searched for Connie for some time but could obtain no news of her.”

They returned with a policeman but it was the next tenant of No.12 who discovered the bones. Henry Hill told the inquest that he had complained to the house agent about the persistent bad smell but eventually took matters into his own hands. He bought some carbolic acid and took up the floor boards by the kitchen fireplace. At first he and his son George thought they had found a rotten turnip but further excavation unearthed the skull, which “smelt most offensively”.

Pembroke Place and Henry Hill (circled)

Pembroke Place and Henry Hill (circled)

Alice’s comment to her friend Sara, as well as her rapid exit from Kilburn, convinced the public that she had murdered Connie before making a run for it. Maggie was interviewed again and this time she said she wanted to tell the truth. As result of her new statement, she was arrested.

Maggie told the police that in October 1918, she had found Connie’s body in the coal cellar (actually a cupboard under the stairs). She was sitting upright and looked very thin. Maggie screamed and when her mother came to see what the matter was, Maggie ran away. Later she crept back into the house, looked in the cupboard and the body had gone. She never asked her mother what had happened to the corpse. The papers seized on this new twist:

“It is now practically certain that Constance Grant, whose remains were found under the floor of the back kitchen at No.12 Pembroke Place, was not murdered. It will probably be found that she died of self-imposed starvation, due to her mental condition.”

Connie had learning difficulties: one report of the inquest bluntly described her as “an imbecile”, while newspapers said she was “not very bright in intelligence, but good-natured and amiable”. Maggie swore that Alice thought the world of Connie. This was backed up by her brother James, who said Alice treated her own children and her step-children with equal affection.

The police redoubled their efforts to find Alice, and even planned to drag the Grand Junction Canal, as a woman and baby answering their description had been seen walking along its bank. Then a week after she had left Malvern Road, Alice calmly walked up to a policeman in Lewisham, saying she was wanted in connection with the Kilburn mystery.

Alice’s statement to police differed significantly from the information supplied by daughter Maggie and partner William Grant. The couple were arrested and appearing in court, where Alice stood in the dock with baby Doris in her arms. William sobbed as they were charged with manslaughter and illegally disposing of Connie’s body. Alice was hissed by the public when the skull was produced by the pathologist. Maggie was accused of taking part in illegally burying or disposing of Connie’s body, but this charge was later dismissed.

William Grant

William Grant

The inquest and subsequent trial at the Old Bailey revealed the truth behind the family’s sad life. It wasn’t straightforward; family members contradicted each other, timings were inconsistent and most important, the medical evidence was inconclusive.

Connie was described as, “wearing glasses, short and thin, very dull and very dirty”. James said his stepfather William had hit Connie more than once for being slovenly. James remembered Connie’s foot being swollen and black around Christmas time, 1917. He thought she had chilblains, but her condition was more serious than that. One of her toes broke off as her father bathed her foot; William denied this and challenged James saying, “You are telling lies.” James saw Connie a couple of days later but then she disappeared.

Connie’s sister Ada Grant appeared in court to give evidence. She was malnourished and very small for her age. Chief Inspector Haig of Scotland Yard called her a “little mite”, and in court the jury was assured that despite appearances, she was actually 14-years-old.

Ada Grant

Ada Grant

Ada said Connie did not go out to play and spent most of her time indoors, where they shared the top back bedroom. She’d last seen her when her foot was bad. After that, she never saw her again and when she asked Alice where she was, she was told Connie was in the front room which was always kept locked, with a curtain over the fanlight. Ada remembered Alice saying Connie was in bed the night before they left Pembroke Place. Alice was hissed again when she urged Ada, to speak the truth.

It was Alice who provided the most likely explanation of mystery. She said that after trying to bath Connie’s foot, it became inflamed and Connie couldn’t walk. So she slept in the living room for about a week. Alice said, “I gave her some cake. In the morning I went into the room and found Connie lying dead on the couch. I locked the door and let her lay there and I never told anyone.” Alice said this all happened not in December but March 1918. The reason she was so certain was because a few weeks later on 30 April, she said she gave birth to Doris. Alice said when she had recovered from the birth, she buried Connie’s body under the floorboards in the kitchen.

It is not clear how much William knew. He certainly lied about when he last saw his daughter alive, presumably to protect himself. Alice gave conflicting reasons for concealing Connie’s body: “I did not know what to do. William was a man she could not tell anything to.” But she also said, “I did this to save her father, as I did not want William to get into trouble”. She told her neighbour in Malvern Road that she didn’t want any reconciliation and had once threatened to take poison. But there was some evidence to indicate it wasn’t completely one-sided, that Alice could be a force to be reckoned with. William told a friend, “I am frightened to death. If I left her she would swear my life away.”

Given the condition of the bones, it proved impossible for Dr Spilsbury to establish exactly when poor Connie died. He concluded death occurred sometime between Christmas 1917 and March or April, 1918. The police claimed the bones had been buried as bones. Spilsbury said bluntly that “he could not form any idea as to the cause of death”. Connie might well have died from blood poisoning, given the condition of her foot.

The pathologist concluded that if the body had been placed in the manhole he had seen in the passage and covered with an air tight lid, “nine months would have been sufficient to have cleared the bones”. Perhaps Alice first placed Connie under the manhole, then later removed the bones and buried them. But she always maintained she had put Connie’s intact body under the boards: “The child was put down absolutely whole.” When asked to account for the absence of three ribs, Alice replied that the place was overrun by rats.

At the Old Bailey on 13 Sept 1919, William and Alice were found not guilty of manslaughter but guilty of wilful neglect and disposing of the body. The judge said he was “unable to draw any distinction between the prisoners as to the degree of their guilt.” Although he had encountered worse cases of neglect, he had “never heard of a worse case of thwarting the ends of justice by disposing of a body. This gave rise to grave suspicions which nobody could pretend were cleared away. They had disposed of the body to avoid an inquiry.”

William and Alice were both sentenced to 18 months in prison with hard labour. Four of their children were put in the Willesden workhouse before the trial was held. But we don’t know what happened to baby Doris.

Tracking down Kilburn’s misplaced cinema

Many buildings in Kilburn have interesting stories, but few can match 248 Kilburn High Road. The site, now demolished, has recently been given permission for two new-build blocks of flats. Residents will be living on top of a slice of media history.

In October 1908, American-born George Washington Grant and two partners formed the Biograph Theatre Company. They saw cinema as the growing medium and opened two Biograph cinemas in the Holloway Road and Peckham in 1909. The busy working-class area of Kilburn was a good place for their next venture. The partners approached Madame Goubert of 65a Brondesbury Villas (who owned several plant nurseries in Kilburn), and suggested opening a cinema and adjoining skating rink on her nursery ground behind Brondesbury Villas and the High Road. An application was made in her name on 19 November 1909, but it was refused by Willesden Council. Biograph persevered and in May 1910, The Biograph Theatre with 600 seats opened on the other side of the Kilburn High Road at No.236. The trade newspaper, Era, said, ‘It is doing remarkably well and is prettily decorated in brown and gold and is very cosy.’

By then the group had a chain of nine small cinemas in London. Unusually, the manager of the Kilburn branch was a woman, Mrs McCullah. However, the cinema had a short life and closed in 1917, unable to compete with the nearby Oswald Stoll-owned Grange Cinema. This had opened at the end of July 1914 with more than 2,000 seats, making it the largest purpose-built cinema in England. It was superseded in December 1937 when the iconic Gaumont State opened across the High Road with more than 4,000 seats. Biograph found it difficult to keep its chain profitable, and in 1922 the partners voted to voluntarily wind up the company.

Initial researchers of early cinema believed that the Biograph was situated behind today’s Speedy Noodle restaurant at 236 Kilburn High Road, on the corner of Grangeway. However, Grangeway was built after 1914. After the Biograph closed, 236 is not shown in the street directories until 1921 when Gerrard Costumiers opened there. The costumiers appeared again the following year, but in 1923 it appeared to have moved to 248 Kilburn High Road. In fact, it hadn’t moved at all – but this section of the High Road had been renumbered. The correct position of the original Biograph cinema is opposite Buckley Road, (near today’s Tricycle Cinema). Access was from the present day 248, with the cinema building reaching back behind the narrow shop front, almost as far as Grange Park. Several buildings lay behind the shop fronts.

From 1926, the cinema building was for many years a billiard hall run by W. Jelks and Sons. They made billiard tables in their Holloway Road factory and ran halls around London. The numbering of the building changed several times and was shown at various times as 246, 246a and 248.

Sadly, no photos of the old cinema seem to exist and all we have of this section of the High Road is one taken in 1979. This shows Mobile Press Photos who were at No.248 from about 1951 to the early 1980s. The long wall of the building behind the shop originally housed the old cinema.

Mobile Press Photos at 248 Kilburn High Road by Jean Smith, 1979

Mobile Press Photos at 248 Kilburn High Road by Jean Smith, 1979

In 1931, Joseph Littman, who became a millionaire property speculator, bought the shop at 248 for his wife Evelyn as a gown and costumiers. Joseph had been born into a poor peasant family in Poland in 1898, had no schooling and had difficulty reading and writing. But he had a very good memory for figures and knew how to deal with people. The family first migrated to New York and Joe Littman came to London in the early 1920s. He married Evelyn Gold in 1925 in Paddington and was naturalised as a British citizen in 1935. Over the years he acquired large numbers of properties on the High Road and elsewhere in Kilburn. Then he bought properties in Oxford Street and the West End. Modestly, Littman said, ‘I have done pretty well for myself in ten years, but I would have still been keeping shop if I had not been willing to take the risk.’

He pioneered a funding technique of sale and leaseback that is widely used today, known as the ‘Littman Cocktail’. He sold the property to a large financial institution such as a building society, leased it back on a long-term lease of 99 or 999 years, and then sublet it to the occupier on a short lease. That way he made money as the property increased in value over time.

Joe was a modest man who lived a simple life dedicated to his family and friends. Towards the end of his life he suffered from poor health and died of lung cancer in one of his hotels, the Palace Court Bournemouth, on 20 August 1953, aged 55. He left £3.2 million, worth about £82 million today.

Fast-forwarding 50 years, in January 1986, Steve Flood and Stuart Colman opened Master Rock Studios at 248 in the old cinema building. Stuart Colman was a musician who produced hits for Shakin’ Stevens, The Shadows, Kim Wilde, and Alvin Stardust. He also worked as a presenter at the BBC before opening Master Rock Studios. Flood and Colman were soon joined by studio manager Robyn Sansone who came from New York. An amazing number of musicians recorded, or had their albums mastered here including Elton John, Jeff Beck, U2, Eric Clapton, Roxy Music, Simply Red, Oasis, Robbie Williams and Suede.

Flood and Coleman wanted the very best quality mixing and recording equipment so they bought a Focusrite console. Focusrite was founded in 1985 with the aim of producing the highest-quality recording console available at the time, regardless of cost. The prohibitively expensive design, however, limited production to just two units. One console was delivered to Master Rock Studios in Kilburn and the other to the Electric Lady Studio that Jimi Hendrix had built in New York.

Bernard Butler, the guitarist with Suede, who recorded at Master Rock said, “Master Rock Studios was originally haunted by buying one of the only custom-made Focusrite consoles. It arrived several months late so left them without business for a long time and despite being used on everything after it arrived, I don’t think they recovered.”

Despite being busy, the studio had financial problems and in 1991 the business was put up for sale, eventually closing in March 2000.

248 High Road by Dick Weindling, September 2013

248 High Road by Dick Weindling, September 2013

Miss Compton Collier – West Hampstead’s pioneering society photographer

3. Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera_top

For fifty or even sixty years, Miss Compton Collier, based at West End Lane, Hampstead, has toured the English countryside. With her haversack of heavy photographic equipment, wooden camera and tripod she has stalked the great English families in their lairs.” – Cecil Beaton.

In The Tatler magazine from 1916 to 1948, photographs regularly appeared by ‘Miss Compton Collier, West End Lane’. The earlier pictures were of popular actresses, and then from 1920 onwards they were of society celebrities in their houses and gardens. At the time, she was one of the few woman photographers.

Dorothy Marguerite Cuisset Collier was born on 24 January 1899 at 1 Goulton Road Clapton, near Hackney Downs. She was the only child of Edward Allen Collier who was a distillery manager. By 1911 the family had moved to 28 Victoria Mansions in Willesden.

In November 1919, at St Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, Dorothy married John Davis, a 35-year-old business manager who lived at 22 Kilburn Park Road. She had left home and was living at 115 West End Lane. The witnesses at the wedding were Owen Nares and his wife Marie Pollini, both very popular actors. For most of the 1920s, Nares was Britain’s favourite matinée idol and silent-film star. Dorothy had befriended them during her work for The Tatler, and her photo of them appeared in 1918.

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

In 1922 Dorothy and John moved just six doors down to 103 West End Lane. Dorothy continued to use the professional name she had created of ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Sadly by 1931, their marriage failed and the couple divorced.

In 1966, renowned photographer Cecil Beaton wrote an article called, ‘The Woman who made me want to be a photographer’. This provides the best insight into Miss Compton Collier, and how her pictures influenced the young Beaton:

Many of my adolescent glimpses of the grand world came through the photographs in The Tatler which bore the credit line ‘Miss Compton Collier’. They invariably showed us delightfully fair-haired ladies caught in a silvery light enjoying, in a leisurely manner, the herbaceous borders, clipped yews, stone garden seats and sundials of their country houses. Pouring over these reproductions week after week I came to know Miss Compton Collier’s taste extremely well.

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Wherever possible she chose to photograph her subject standing on a piece of flagged path… Balustrades, terraced steps and rustic bridges were also other favourite haunts. Occasionally Miss Compton Collier would sprinkle a successful actress or two among her aristocratic sitters, but these too, would be photographed as far as possible from the atmosphere of the theatre and would be found on holiday, leaning against a gate surrounded by cow parsley, or holding a sheaf of corn in some stable yard. In fact, my earliest family snapshots were mostly made in emulation of Miss Compton Collier…Trying to appear the Ladies and Honourables, or stage stars ‘on holiday’, my wretched schoolgirl sisters would then be made to pose by garden urns or sundials, or among the Japanese anemones and harebells. But, try as I might, my sepia prints, brought from the wash basin of hypo, never acquired the silverpoint effect of the original inspiration.

Other photographs that appeared in The Tatler were attributed to ‘Rita Martin’ and ‘Lallie Charles’ and ‘Basano’, so why, I wondered, should it be ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Who was this lady? I was intrigued to discover her whereabouts but I knew of no one who had ever met her, and her name was not listed in the telephone book.

It was many years after Miss Compton Collier’s photographs had ceased to appear that I heard that she had continued her career with unimpaired zest, and each spring would send to people of high rank an itinerary of her summer tour stating that she would be in the neighbourhood during a certain week in case she were needed for an ‘at home’ sitting. I was intrigued to know that this mysterious lady still existed, so I wrote to ask if she would deign to include me professionally in her schedule and take some pictures of my mother and myself in the garden at Broadchalke. Miss Compton Collier graciously announced her willingness to oblige me. [Ed: this was in 1955].

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier proved to be an extremely agile spinster of over seventy with a pale brown face of minor distinctiveness with the flesh solid and shiny. She was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, somewhat like a land girl of the 1914 war, with large felt hat and flowing skirts. She projected a personality that brooked no nonsense, and no interruption; her main objective was to seek out the nearest flagged path and the most lichen-mottled stone garden ornaments. A slightly forced giggle was part of her stock-in-trade. This softened any of her criticisms and enabled her to make all sorts of observations that, without it, might have caused offence; it was certainly not a giggle from the heart. I felt that Miss Compton Collier did not approve of the decoration of my house; she was only interested, and that for utilitarian reasons, in the bathroom, and the quicker outside the better.

Miss Compton Collier is extremely knowledgeable about gardens: ‘After all, I have photographed eleven thousand of them!’ She knows her England well: ‘Dorset has the best little manor houses. Oxford is where the nouveaux riches live in gardens planned by Sutton’s. That thatched wall is typical of Wiltshire; we must take it quickly – but, oh dear – the horrid sun is coming out! I hate the hard light it gives. Such a bad week last month – sun every day! I loved the summer before rain all the time! People can’t believe it when I photograph them in a downpour. But I say: “I’ll give you your money back if you don’t like it!” Recently in Scotland she had placed a whole tribal family in the garden under umbrellas, and at a given moment ordered the gillies to rush up to take away the umbrellas while the exposure was made.

Miss Compton Collier took pictures of my mother and myself obediently sitting on an old stone seat with the dog at our feet. Behind the camera her performance was dynamic – even acrobatic. In order to stimulate the interest of her subjects she would jump up and down, wave an arm, squeak a rubber dog, and hum in a high musical voice. Suddenly, with a heavy click, the shutters of the lens would open and close. ‘Got it!’ shouted Miss Compton Collier in triumph. Her face was now a matter-of-fact, rather sullen mask. The switch from such inspired enthusiasm to the merely businesslike was somewhat of a shock.

At lunch she told us that for many a donkey’s lifetime now she has lived in a small house in West End Lane, Hampstead, tended by an old servant of seventy-six. Miss Compton Collier appears so strong and healthy that one knows it is true that when she goes to bed it is to sleep so soundly that nothing will disturb her: – not even a bomb. In fact in one raid when the roof was blown off the house and all her rooms but two were destroyed, Miss Compton Collier went on snoring. [Ed: this was the V1 that hit West End Lane in June 1944].

‘Every day of my summer is taken up with work; from April to October I’m busy, so I leave everything else that has to be done to my winter months. I only do shopping in January: if a cup gets broken it has to wait till the first of the year. But I hate shopping in any case – it bores me. Now these clothes I’m wearing were bought fifteen years ago. I never read the papers: they’re so vulgar. I’ve never listened to the radio; I hear everything I want to hear. And I wouldn’t dream of doing the usual things like filling in a census or having a ration book. I just haven’t time. I hardly ever go to a play, but when I do I ring up and find out first if it’s got a nice happy ending because I hate all these squalid dramas that are so much the fashion. I loathe magazines and won’t contribute to them any more now that they’re full of Communist propaganda. I’ve never worked for the Press; if, in the old days, my pictures were used in The Tatler, it was I who chose the people to photograph: I never took people especially for the paper.’

How did you become a photographer?’ I asked. ‘I had a weak heart at school and wasn’t allowed to play games. Someone gave me a camera and I suppose that the artistic feelings, always in my family, came out in my generation in this different way. In another century I would have been a painter.’

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Miss Compton Collier does most of her own photographic processing, and said she was up till three o’clock last night developing plates. All her paraphernalia is entirely obsolescent. She climbs under a dark red velvet cloth attached to her wooden 1895 camera with its long rubber tube with ball-shutter release. Hanging from the wooden tripod is a large bag containing a menagerie of toy dogs, mice and other pets to attract the attention of her aristocratic children and animal sitters. Miss Compton Collier has never visited a photographic exhibition, and shows complete ignorance of the work of other photographers. She had never heard of the work of Steichen, Bill Brandt or Cartier-Bresson. Although she has no further ambitions, she is never bored with her work; each sitting is a thrill for her.

In the silvery prints that resulted from her visit to Broadchalke both my mother and I appeared calm and leisurely, our faces smoothed and our hair silken. We were not only amused, but delighted.

Miss Compton Collier lived in her own closed world with little regard for current events. She took no newspapers; did not own a radio and did not watch television; she relied entirely for news of the world on her Kilburn bank manager. Her bank manager, not unreasonably, said: ‘I shall need some guidance, Miss Collier. If I am to provide you with news of the world, could you give me examples of what you mean?’ ‘Oh, yes’, she said, ‘it is perfectly simple. I mean the death of the sovereign or the outbreak of war’.

103 West End Lane, May 2017

103 West End Lane, May 2017

Dorothy continued to live at Number 103 West End Lane until her death on 27 June 1977 at ‘Chilton House’ a nursing home near Aylesbury. She left £60,361, worth about £340,000 today.

Victim or thief? The strange story of the West Hampstead diamond broker

Leonard Tom – Leon to his friends – was a diamond broker. He was born in Amsterdam in 1890, but lived at several addresses in West Hampstead during his life. His family came to England in 1896, and when Leonard was 16 he joined his father in the diamond trade.

After his marriage in 1922 Leonard lived at 57 Greencroft Gardens. He was already well respected in Hatton Garden, where brokers acted as middle men, taking jewels on approval from merchants to show to prospective clients for sale on commission. In the 1930s it was common for the brokers to meet on the street or in kosher cafes around Hatton Garden to look at the goods and agree the price on a handshake. This practice continued until the war, when trade moved behind closed doors in secure premises. The London Diamond Bourse opened in 1940 in Greville Street near the junction with Hatton Garden.

In February 1932, Leonard Tom was living at 190a West End Lane (near today’s Tesco Express). At 10.30am on February 5th, Leonard Tom visited Messrs M. Gerder and Co. at Hatton House in Holborn. It was a trip he had made many times before. On this day he chose several pieces of jewellery valued at £12,350 (about £700,000 today). He then went to a café in Charles Street in ‘the Garden’ and then on to Old Bond Street to try to sell the diamonds. But the trade, like many others during the depression, was going through a difficult time and the diamond mines in Africa had closed down. There were no buyers at the right price and after lunch at Maison Lyons, a restaurant on Oxford Street opposite Bond Street Station, he decided on the spur of the moment to turn down Gilbert Street.

Oxford Street in the 1920s

Oxford Street in the 1920s

Leonard was halfway down this quiet road which runs between Oxford Street and Brook Street, when he was attacked by two men outside St Anselm’s School. They covered his face with a ‘treacle plaster’- brown paper covered in treacle which stopped him seeing anything. It was a technique copied from a famous ‘Treacle Plaster Robbery’ of a cashier in 1912.

The robbers snatched Leonard’s briefcase containing the diamonds and got away in a stolen car, which was later found abandoned in Cavendish Square. Henry Stenner, the school caretaker, witnessed the attack. He said the car had been waiting outside the school and described the men. The police were soon able to arrest Alfred Philpot and William Baldock who Stenner picked out from a line up. At their trial they were found guilty of robbery and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Baldock was a 34-year-old piano finisher with a scar on each cheek and tattoos of a snake, a dagger, a tombstone, flowers, a woman and Buffalo Bill on his back. Philpot who was 28, had five previous convictions for stealing cars and an assault on a policeman.

The thieves may have been found, but the jewels were not. Gerder and Co., which was a very large company with an international reputation, claimed on its Lloyds insurance policy but the underwriters declined to pay. They pointed to a clause that exempted them from liability for any loss caused by theft or dishonesty by a broker. In short, they were saying that Leonard Tom, who had a spotless reputation, had stolen the diamonds.

A year later, the civil case came for trial to be heard before Justice Humphries without a jury. By now, Leonard had moved to 16 Cleve Road. The defence barristers talked about the normal day-to-day work of brokers in Hatton Garden, where millions of pounds worth of jewellery was traded in coffee shops, and where gangs of crooks were on the lookout for a chance to snatch a bag or briefcase. In the witness box, Leonard described the attack, which was so quick he had no time to react before his case was snatched.

Philpot was brought from Chelmsford Prison to give evidence. Standing with warders next to him in the box, he said that in January 1932, Leonard Tom had met him, Baldock and another man called Mark, who he assumed was the gang leader, and two other un-named men, in a teashop in Hatton Garden to plan the robbery. He said Leonard had taken them to Gilbert Street to survey the scene. Philpot was the driver tasked with stealing a car in Camden Town. After the attack, he said they met in a pub in Smithfield where they divided £200 for their part in the robbery. Leonard was pressed very hard by the barrister, and admitted that times were difficult and that in the previous six months he had earned only about £100 (today worth about £6,500). But he denied planning the attack with the gang and said he was completely innocent.

In his summing up, the judge said that if this had indeed been a real hold-up it was a most remarkable thing. He made much of the fact that the attack happened in a quiet side street where the thieves were waiting beside their car. How could they have known Leonard Tom would take that route unless he had told them? It was also strange that Leonard did not defend himself, although he had fought in the war, where he was promoted from a private to a lieutenant in the Tank Corps. The judge visited Gilbert Street and concluded the robbery must have been pre-planned. After carefully weighing all the evidence, Justice Humphries said it was a painful decision because of the consequences for Leonard Tom, but he found in favour of Lloyds against Messrs Gerder.

As a result, Leonard Tom was arrested on 20 June 1933 for conspiring with two men to commit a bogus robbery, and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. In July the jury listened to the same evidence that Justice Humphries had heard, but could not reach agreement, and a new trial was called. At the second trial the new jurors heard a director of Messrs Gerder say they still had complete confidence in Leonard’s honesty. This time the jury agreed and found him not guilty. Leonard stayed at Cleve Road until his death on 24 June 1943. He left £876 (worth about £35,000 today), to his widow Dora.

What do you think – was he innocent or did he arrange the bogus robbery?

Lucy Worsley grabs local kids’ attention with tales of Victorian intrigue

Words like ‘history’, ‘church’ and ‘books’ don’t always conjure up images of children’s happy, smiling faces. Especially in combination. However, the rapt attention of 300 schoolkids from Emmanuel, Beckford, Francis Holland, South Hampstead High, St Anthony’s and Rainbow Montessori schools told quite a different story this Tuesday.

History royalty rocked up to Emmanuel Church in the form of TV presenter/Chief Curator of Historic Palaces and all-round jolly good egg, Lucy Worsley.

I know, Miss! I know!

I know, Miss! I know!

Lucy was here at the invitation of West End Lane Books, to talk about her latest foray into children’s fiction, My Name Is Victoria, her imagined account of the youth of Queen Victoria.

The kings and queens, princes and princesses of West Hampstead

The kings and queens, princes and princesses of West Hampstead

Forget ‘We are not amused’; Lucy had the kids agog and in stitches from her thrilling intro: ‘The most exciting thing a historian can ever find is a letter ending ‘burn this”, to her creation of a Victorian family tree with much audience particpation to the final show stopper – a photograph of her Royal Highness’s, er, knickers.

The children were certainly won over. “I don’t really like history,” said Lina (11), “but I did enjoy the talk because it was interesting, and actually it was funny!”.

“I found it interesting finding out about the first toilet”, said Chynna-Lee (10). You know you’re going to strike gold with children if you’ve got some toilet-based material. She added, “I thought it was funny that one of the dukes had a pineapple-shaped face.”

As you’d expect from the hugely enthusiastic Lucy Worsley, My Name is Victoria, which has been reviewed as ‘Wolf Hall for kids’, is crammed with authentic period detail, packed with intrigue, secrets, treachery and is a ripping read. Although the plot pivots on the relationship between the young monarch and a young commoner who is sent to be her companion, the boys in the audience seemed every bit as interested in it as their female counterparts

And the finale of a successful book talk.

And the finale of a successful book talk.

The queue of kids wanting their book signed at the end of the talk is further testament to Lucy’s persuasive touch. Yes, people, history can be fun. Ask your kids. And if yours didn’t attend the talk, signed copies of My Name Is Victoria (suggested reading age 9-13), are available at West End Lane Books.

Lucy herself clearly had a good time too.

Indiana Jones and the West Hampstead conman

Mitchell Hedges in adventurer and gentleman guises

Mitchell Hedges in adventurer and gentleman guises

In 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is a brief mention of a real person. Our eponymous hero says that while he was studying at the University of Chicago, he was fascinated by the work of a man called Mitchell Hedges, a real-life adventurer and explorer who found a crystal skull. Although the writers of the film say they did not use Mitchell Hedges as a model for Indiana Jones, there are some interesting parallels between the real and the fictional characters – and a link with a West Hampstead conman.

Hedges was born in Islington in 1882 as Frederick Albert Hedges, the son of a dealer in gold, silver and diamonds. He added ‘Mitchell’ from a family name on his mother’s side and to his friends he was known as Mike, Midge or Mitch Hedges.

Young Frederick was educated at Berkhampstead prep-school in Cheltenham before moving to University College School in 1896 (the school was in Gower Street then, moving to its present site to the north of West Hampstead in 1907). He left school at 16 and joined a copper-prospecting expedition to Norway. When he returned to London, he briefly worked as a clerk in the stock exchange before going to New York at the end of 1901. After nearly five years in America he returned, and lived at 42 Kensington Park Gardens, Notting Hill Gate. In November 1906 Frederick married Lilian Agnes ‘Dolly’ Clarke. They had no children and with all his travelling she often did not see him for long periods. Frederick started a stock-broking business in partnership with others, but he went bankrupt in 1912.

After this failure Mitchell Hedges travelled extensively and lived a colourful life. He claimed he was captured in Mexico by the revolutionary Pancho Villa in 1913. In October 1914, he had an illegitimate son, Frederick Joseph, born at the Paddington home of the child’s mother, Mary Florence Stanners. Three years later, he was back in North America and claimed he met Trotsky in New York. He also adopted ten-year-old Anne-Marie ‘Anna’ Le Guillon, the orphaned daughter of some friends from Ontario.

Hedges met Lady Richmond Brown, who was separated from her husband (their marriage was annulled in 1930 on the grounds of Lady Brown’s adultery with Hedges), and the two travelled together on several Indiana Jones-style expeditions funded by Lady Brown and London newspapers. In the 1920s they were in British Honduras (today’s Belize) with archaeologist Thomas Gann and in 1924 they visited Lubaantun on the Rio Grande in the south of the country. This is a ruined Maya city dating from the 8th and 9th centuries. Hedges later claimed he had discovered the city, but Gann had actually discovered them more than 20 years earlier.

Mitchell Hedges and Lady Richmond Brown at Lubaantun

Mitchell Hedges and Lady Richmond Brown at Lubaantun

The Hold Up on the Ripley Road
By 1927, Mitchell Hedges had became famous, writing about his adventures in newspaper articles and books. On 14 January he had a busy day in London lecturing to Bank of England employees and doing a radio broadcast. He dined at the National Liberal Club and was being chauffeured to his home at Sandbanks Parkstone near Bournemouth, accompanied by his friend Colin Edgell.

On Ripley Road in Cobham Woods, Surrey, the car was stopped by a man waving them down in the headlights. He said his friend was injured and needed to go to hospital. Kenneth Taylor, the young chauffeur went to help and when he did not return Hedges and Edgell went to look for him. They were astonished to find Taylor lying by the side of the road with his hands tied behind his back. Suddenly, they were set upon by six men but after a fight their attackers ran off into the darkness. Returning to the car Mitchell Hedges found his brief case containing papers and six shrunken heads had been stolen. Before returning to London the three men drove to Guildford police station to report the theft.

The day after the robbery, Hedges received a letter at his usual suite at the Savoy Hotel that said the entire escapade had been a hoax. The writer said that he and five other young Liberals had objected to Hedges’ remarks in a recent speech at the National Liberal Club, where he spoke about the lack of grit in the British youth of today. “You did not suspect that the six ruffians who attacked you in Cobham Woods were six of these very weaklings whom you were reviling with their lack of enterprise and pluck.” His bag was returned intact and Hedges said he accepted it as practical joke.

There the matter appeared to rest, but a week later, an article appeared in the Daily Express followed by another in the Sunday Express that included an interview with the gang’s ring-leader, Clifford Bagot Gray. The articles said that Hedges had colluded with the young Liberals to gain further notoriety for himself and to help drive publicity for Bagot Gray’s ‘Monomark’ monogram service.

Hedges sued the papers for libel and the case was heard in the High Court in February 1928. The defence barrister pressed Hedges hard, claiming he was an ‘impostor’ who had exaggerated his exploits in his publications. Witnesses were called who had taken part in the hoax, saying it had been rehearsed several weeks earlier in Cobham Woods. The jury, without leaving the box, found in favour of the defendants and Mitchell Hedges lost the case and was ordered to pay costs.

The West Hampstead connection
On 12 February, 1928, during the trial, Mitchell Hedges was contacted at the Savoy by a Major MacAllan who said he could help with the case. A meeting was arranged and MacAllan was accompanied by a man he introduced as his solicitor Mr Astor. He claimed to have met Mitchell Hedges in Buenos Aires where he was the head of the MacAllan Construction Company. “You are in a hell of mess and you are going to lose your case. I want to do the best I can to help you,” said MacAllan.

It was suggested that if the verdict went against him, Hedges could lose all his friends and be ostracized. MacAllan said that he had helped people in previous high profile libel cases, for a fee. Even better, as his cousin was on the jury they could win the case, but it would cost Hedges £1,000. After they left, Hedges immediately contacted Scotland Yard. A second meeting was arranged for the next day. Four detectives hid in a small adjoining box-room listening on headphones to a microphone hidden in Mitchell Hedges’ Savoy sitting room. When MacAllan asked for £500 now and £500 the following day, the detectives rushed into the room and arrested him and Mr Astor.

In court the men were identified as James MacAllan (who was not a major), 59, a civil engineer of Dennington Park Road and Frederick George Arnold (a.k.a. Mr Astor), 60, a fancy toy dealer of Tachbrook Street in Pimlico. They pleaded guilty to attempting to obtain money by false pretences, and were each sentenced to six-months imprisonment with hard labour.

A serial conman
Information on the Dennington Park Road conman is scant. Before World War I, he had worked as a civil engineer in Argentina and by 1928 he was a secretary for the London and Provincial Greyhound Racing Association. But he became a career conman, sentenced to 12-months imprisonment in October 1926 for defrauding five people by claiming valuable mineral deposits in Yorkshire. There were numerous complaints that he had run up debts with tradesmen pretending to be a major. In February 1927 he received a four-month sentence for stealing £250 from a woman he had promised to marry.

Nine years after the Hedges incident, he was in court again, charged with obtaining £125 by false pretences from Elsie May Andrewartha of Vincent Square, Westminster. This was a callous case. Miss Andrewartha was a nurse who attended MacAllan while he had an operation on his leg in Westminster Hospital. After he was discharged in October 1936, she cared for him at his home. MacAllan told her he was an engineer with a secretary and two offices and that he was working on a big scheme at the Brighton seafront involving the mayor and worth £3 million. He offered Elsie the opportunity to invest in the syndicate he was forming. In November and December 1936 she gave him two cheques totalling £125.

She did not see him again until June 1937, when he told her the Brighton scheme had failed because they could not raise enough money. However, he reassured her that he was now working on another project in Huddersfield where he had invested her money. Miss Andrewartha was very annoyed and asked for her money back. In court the police said MacAllan was a persistent and very dangerous man, and they had received numerous complaints of fraud about him. He was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months.

Who was the ‘Major’?
His full name was James Cator Scott MacAllan and he was probably born in Scotland about 1868. He was separated from his wife and lived at several London addresses with his daughter Marjorie (born in 1897) who was a shop assistant. At the time of the attempted con of Mitchell Hedges in February 1928 he was living in Dennington Park Road. In 1933, he and Marjorie were in Christchurch Road Streatham, but by 1936 they had moved back to West Hampstead – living at 16 Fairhazel Gardens. During the war they lived at 5 Fordwych Road, before Marjorie moved to Hendon. By 1947 James MacAllan was living on his own at 6 Thayer Street in Marylebone and the following year he was renting a single room at 24 Nelson Square, Southwark. He died at the end of 1948 in Westminster.

What about that crystal skull?
Mitchell Hedges wasn’t averse to some deceit himself. He and his adopted daughter Anna claimed they found their famous 3,000-year-old Mayan crystal skull at Lubaantun on her 17th birthday – January 1st, 1924. In fact Frederick bought the skull in auction at Sotheby’s on 15 November 1943 for £400 (about £1,600 today).

Skull in Sotheby's Catalogue 15 Oct 1943

Skull in Sotheby’s Catalogue 15 Oct 1943

Recent research by Jane MacLaren Walsh, from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, has looked at Eugène Boban, a key figure who owned several crystal skulls that were probably made for him in Mexico. This French antiquarian worked for several years in Mexico and exhibited two crystal skulls in Paris in 1867. In the 1870s he opened a shop in Paris selling Mexican artefacts before moving to New York in 1885. The following year Tiffany and Co. bought one of his skulls at auction for $950 and sold it in 1898 to the British Museum at the original price.

Some time before 1934, Sir Sidney Burney, a London antique dealer, purchased another crystal skull, almost identical to the one the British Museum bought from Tiffany’s. Jane MacLaren Walsh believes it was based on the one in the British Museum and probably made in Europe between 1910 and 1930, and that Boban, who died in 1908, was not directly involved with this second skull.

There is no information about how Burney acquired his skull, but it is very similar to that in the British Museum, with more detailed modelling of the eyes and teeth, and a separate lower jaw. In fact this was the skull bought by Mitchell Hedges at Sotheby’s. Despite his claim to have found it at Lubaantun in the 1920s, he first mentions it as a ‘new acquisition’ in a letter to his brother dated 1943.

When confronted about this discrepancy, Hedges said he had given the skull to a friend, who put it up for auction at Sotheby’s, so he bought it back. This far-fetched explanation is typical of the stories he made up and included in his biography, Danger is My Ally, published five years before he died of a stroke in Devon in June 1959. His daughter Anna exaggerated the story further and claimed alien and supernatural powers for the ‘Skull of Doom’ which she periodically exhibited. In fact there is no evidence that Anna went to Lubaantun in the 1920s and she simply inherited the skull after her father died. Anna herself died in 2007 aged 100, and the huge mythology about the powers of the skull has continued to flourish. Today, the skull is in the possession of her close friend Bill Homann.

The Cambridge Spies’ West Hampstead connection

During the 1930s, Soviet intelligence recruited a group of young, idealistic Cambridge students who saw themselves supporting Communism against the spread of Fascism. After university, they held important posts in the Foreign Office and the Intelligence Service and passed secret information to the Soviets. They were not discovered until 1951 when two of them – Guy Burgess and Donald MacLean – escaped to Russia before they could be arrested.

Another member of the group, Kim Philby, grew up in Acol Road, and this is the story of him and the other famous “Cambridge Spies”, who met regularly at a flat in West Hampstead.

Kim Philby
The Philby family lived at 18 Acol Road from 1925 to 1950. Harry St John Philby was a diplomat who mainly worked in India and the Middle East. His son Harold Adrian Russell Philby, known as Kim (from the Rudyard Kipling novel of the same name), was born in India in 1912. Educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Kim was recruited as the first of the ‘Cambridge Spies’ in 1934.

After a spell as a journalist for The Times and the Daily Telegraph, Philby began working for the Special Operations Executive (an espionage unit) at the beginning of the war and by September 1941 , was seconded to the section of MI6 responsible for counter espionage. After the war, in September 1949, Philby was posted to Washington in a key position as the liaison officer with the CIA.

When his fellow Cambridge spies, Burgess and Maclean, defected to Moscow in 1951, Philby was suspected of being ‘the third man’. He was interviewed by MI5, at which point he resigned from MI6. In September 1955, the Sunday News named Philby as the third man. On the 7 November, Harold Macmillan, then Foreign Secretary, announced in parliament there was no evidence that Philby had warned Burgess or Maclean, and he was not a spy. With typical bravado, Philby called a press conference at his mother’s flat and calmly denied any involvement. You can see a short film clip of the press conference here:

Although he had survived the third-man episode, MI5 was still very suspicious about Philby and continued to investigate him. In January 1963, as the net was closing in, Philby disappeared from Beirut, where he was working as a journalist, and gained political asylum in Moscow. Once in Russia, Philby discovered that he was not a colonel in the KGB, as he had been led to believe. He was placed under virtual house arrest with all his visitors screened by the KGB and paid only a small allowance.

It was ten years before Philby even visited KGB headquarters, where he was given a little work talking to trainee spies. He died in Moscow, very disillusioned, in 1988 aged 76.

Kitty Jarvis and Conway Stewart Pens
Catherine Florence Bishop, known as Kitty, was born in Kensington in 1884. She was the daughter of Charles and Catherine Bishop. In 1891 they were living at 108 Norfolk Terrace (today’s Westbourne Grove). Her father was in charge of a branch post office and worked as chief telegraphist and a Morse code expert, before moving to the Civil Service. By 1901 the family had moved to 39 Ladbroke Road and Kitty aged 16, was a probationary telegraphist.

In 1907, Kitty married her childhood friend, Francis Charles Jarvis, known as Frank. Born in 1881, he was the son of Edward Jarvis, a stationer and newsagent who worked for W.H. Smith for 20 years before taking over a shop called ‘Wade’s Library’ at 25 High Street Kensington in 1888. Frank worked in the shop himself and then joined Henry Mead and Sons, a large wholesale stationer. In 1905, the young Frank Jarvis set up a new business, Conway Stewart, to produce elegant pens. His partner was Howard Garner. Exactly why they chose the name is not clear, but the company became very profitable. In the 1911 census Frank and Kitty were living at 28 Hargrave Villas, Hartswood Road, Ravenscourt Park, and Howard Garner lived next door at No.30.

During WWI, Frank joined the Royal Army Service Corps and was based at Aldershot as a captain and adjutant. He was a keen sportsman; he taught himself to ride and won several equestrian events on a horse called Spider. He also loved boxing and was a keen amateur fighter. On a business trip to the United States in 1919, he watched the world championship match when Jess Williard lost his title to Jack Dempsey.

About 1930, Frank and Kitty moved to ‘Allendale’ in Oxhey Road, Bushey. This was an elegant house with its own tennis court. But the marriage was unhappy as Frank was devoting most of his time to the business and Kitty felt neglected. His love of oysters brought about Frank’s premature death in December 1932, when he contracted typhoid fever after eating a contaminated batch. In his will he left £12,870, worth about £750,000 today.

Douglas Court today

Douglas Court today

From the beginning of WWII until 1957, Kitty lived in Flat 12 Douglas Mansions (now Douglas Court), on the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane. During the war she worked in the Cipher Division of Military Intelligence and was the personal assistant to Anthony Blunt at MI5, where she shared the outer office with Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. Blunt was the fourth Cambridge spy.

Kitty was known affectionately as ‘Mater’, friendly and efficient, with an almost motherly approach to the young men. Bond creator Ian Fleming was a regular visitor to the office and there is even some speculation that Kitty was the inspiration for Miss Moneypenny although a recent discovery of Fleming’s letters suggests that in fact Moneypenny could be based on Loelia Ponsonby, the wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster.

On many evenings, Kitty and her daughter Audrey were taken out to dinner by Burgess and Maclean. In retrospect, this was a good cover, as Kitty did not suspect they were gay. Kitty even lent her flat in Douglas Mansions to Burgess, Maclean and others when they told her they needed somewhere for a private discussion of military intelligence matters. Other guests included Ian Fleming, John Cairncross, Noel Coward and Lord Rothschild.

Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb often came to see Kitty in Douglas Mansions as he had virtually been adopted as a child by Frank Jarvis when his own father died. In Gibraltar during WWII, Buster became an expert frogman for the Royal Navy and in April 1956 MI6 asked him to dive and explore the propeller of the Russian cruiser in Portsmouth harbour that had brought Khrushchev and Bulgarin on a diplomatic mission to Britain. Buster disappeared under suspicious circumstances and his body was only found over a year later when it was caught in fishermen’s nets. Ian Fleming, who knew him well, used the incident in Thunderball, when James Bond dives under a boat and has a dramatic underwater fight.

Another frequent visitor to Douglas Mansions was nicknamed ‘Oscar’. This was Jacky Hewit (1917-1997), an actor, singer and dancer who had been in West End shows such as No No Nannette. He was the lover of Blunt, Burgess and Christopher Isherwood. Jacky became good friends with Kitty and often took her to the theatre leaving Burgess and Maclean alone in her flat.

On the morning of 25 May 1951, when Jacky was living with Burgess at Clifford Chambers, 10 New Bond Street, he took Burgess a cup of tea and then left for his office. Maclean had only recently told Burgess that he thought he was in trouble, pointing out two men who were following him in Pall Mall. Later that day, Burgess received a phone call from Western Union relaying a telegram from Kim Philby in Washington about a car he had left behind there. In reality this was a coded message informing Burgess that Maclean was about to be interrogated. Burgess hired a car and collected Maclean from his house in Surrey. At 9pm the two men drove to Southampton where they took the cross-channel ferry to St Malo, the first stage in their journey in defecting to Moscow. They remained in Russia for the rest of their lives. Burgess died from chronic liver failure due to alcoholism in 1963, and Maclean died of a heart attack in 1983.

In 1964 while Kitty was living with her daughter Audrey in St Albans, she was interviewed by two men from MI5 about Anthony Blunt’s activities. Kitty was shocked as she greatly respected Blunt and knew nothing about his spying. She died in 1971 in St Albans before he was publicly exposed as the fourth man in 1979. John Cairncross was named as the fifth member of the Cambridge spy ring in 1990.

Thanks are due to Lomond Handley and Charleen Miller for information about their grandmother Kitty Jarvis. To Stephen Hull for information about Conway Stewart, and to Don Hale who introduced me to Lomond and Charleen and told me about the link with Buster Crabb.

For more on Conway Stewart see Stephen Hull’s history of the firm, Fountain Pens for the Million (2011). For more on Buster Crabb, see Don Hale’s well researched book, The Final Dive: The Life and Death of Buster Crabb (2009).

The downfall of a Kilburn doctor

This is the story of a doctor with a good practice in Kentish Town who ended up living in poverty in Kilburn and who died in prison.

Arthur Raynor was born in 1848 in Hull where his father was a linen draper. He qualified as a doctor in 1870 and by April had set up a practice at 16 Warden Road in Kentish Town. His cousin Alfred, a druggist and chemist, shared the house as well as his parents.

On 9 Dec 1873, at St Matthias Church in Earls Court, Arthur married Sarah Ann Bolton. He was 25 and she was a 32-year-old widow. Born Sarah Ann Rowell in Boulogne France in 1839, she had married William Bolton in Paris in 1856 and they had three children. Arthur is shown with Sarah and two step-children at 16 Warden Road in the 1881 census, along with a medical assistant and three female servants. It was a comfortable house, with nine large rooms.

Dr Raynor enjoyed a good life. He was a member of several universities, and had a meteoric career as a consulting specialist in London’s West End. He became notorious for his extravagant life and as an owner of racing horses and steeplechasers. He particularly liked greys and, in the course of his professional duties, acquired a pair from a Duchess. These high-stepping animals and Raynor’s smart carriage were well-known for some years in Rotten Row, Hyde Park.

Rotten Row in the 1890s

Rotten Row in the 1890s

The case of Henry Harbert
Raynor regularly appeared in newspaper reports as he attended victims of local accidents or crimes, and he also performed port mortems. Indeed, he was at the height of his career when he became involved in an unpleasant court case. In March 1887, Constance Elizabeth Coleman, who lived near Raynor in Prince of Wales Road, accused 19-year-old Henry Joseph Harbert of drugging her with gin and raping her. Eighteen-year-old Constance told the court she was a singer in the chorus at the Empire Marylebone and the Elephant and Castle theatres. She was engaged to Henry and testified that on 8 January 1887, she agreed to go to his lodgings in Grafton Road for supper with him and his sister. His sister failed to show up.

After supper, Henry poured Constance some ‘Hollands’ (gin) and said he would be angry if she didn’t drink it. She did, but said it made her feel giddy and she passed out. When she came to, Constance was convinced that, as she put it, something had been done to her. The following week she went to his room again and this time she consented to sex. A few days later Harbert said they should break off the engagement because he didn’t love her and he wanted to go to America. It was soon after that Constance discovered she was pregnant. Harbert’s defence was that he had moved from his room in Grafton Road to Inkerman Road on the 6 January, so couldn’t have committed the offence on the 8th. He believed that Constance had made up the story as revenge because he had called off the wedding.

Raynor gave evidence and verified Constance’s allegations. When Harbert came to trial at the Old Bailey on 29 March he was found guilty and sentenced to five years’ penal servitude.

Henry Harbert’s older brother, who was confusingly called Harry, was furious with the verdict and determined to do something about it. His opportunity came six months later when, on 31 August 1887, Dr Raynor married Constance at St Pancras Parish Church. People began to gossip. Harry made enquires and found out that Raynor’s first wife Sarah was still alive and they were not divorced. In September 1887, Harry put Raynor into custody for bigamy.

Who was the bigamist?
When Raynor was arrested he told the police, I have not committed bigamy. Do you think I would run my head into a noose? He said it was Sarah Ann who was the bigamist. She had not heard from her husband William for 11 years, so assumed he was dead and married Arthur, but in fact William was still alive.

The British Consul in Paris gave evidence that William had died on 24 Jan 1877 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine and so was alive when Sarah had remarried. In court, it was pointed out that Raynor’s testimony had helped convict Harry’s brother: the prisoner was put into custody out of spite. Because his first marriage was not a legal one, there could only be one verdict. Raynor was found not guilty of bigamy.

However, Raynor’s practice suffered badly as a result of the case and he was drinking heavily. His barrister said his client had been almost ruined. The judge agreed: he hoped the inhabitants of the neighbourhood would now change their opinions regarding the gentleman.

But Harry Harbert determined to fight on. He started an appeal on behalf of his brother and asked the Home Office for a review of the case. Following police inquiries, the Home Secretary released Henry and he was granted a free pardon on 29 October 1887. Eighteen months later he married Agnes Jane Pickard and they later had five children. In 1901 they were living in Islington where Henry was a commercial traveller.

Medical malpractice?
As Dr Raynor descended into drunkenness, his practice suffered further and he was forced to move his family first to a series of rooms in Kentish Town and finally to 83 Palmerston Road in Kilburn. There it seems he worked from a rented surgery in Kilburn High Road. Arthur and Constance probably moved to Kilburn about 1906 and their two daughters Marie aged 6 and Grace aged 12, started at Netherwood School that September.

Later that year, Raynor was arrested at Palmerston Road. On 8 November 1906 he appeared at Marylebone Police Court charged with the murder of Mrs Anne Lillian Martin, who had died on 28 October. The coroner ordered that her husband George Martin should appear in court, but he had disappeared and the police could not find him.

Raynor was due to appear at the Old Bailey when the Grand Jury threw out the charge of murder which was changed to manslaughter. At the trial, Annie’s mother said she and her daughter had visited Dr Raynor at his surgery in Kilburn High Road in September 1906. They had previously known Dr Raynor in Kentish Town. Several weeks later Annie had companied of pains and on 18 October Dr Raynor and his wife Constance visited her at home in Malden Road Kentish Town and he treated her. The following day Annie miscarried. She complained of feeling ill and Dr Raynor visited her again and gave her some medicine.

On 28 October she was so bad that her husband George called two local doctors who decided they had to operate immediately to remove foreign matter. But Annie died the following day of blood poisoning and acute peritonitis. The post mortem found that an illegal operation had been performed, in other words an abortion, which had caused a wound and an abscess. The prosecution argued that the instrument used by Raynor to induce the miscarriage was dirty. They also suggested that he was drunk. In court, Raynor was grey-haired and appeared very haggard and worn. He walked badly with a stick and when he went into the dock he pleaded in a weak voice, I am innocent.

At the trial Detective Inspector Arthur Neil of ‘Y Division’ based at Holmes Road Kentish Town, said over the years he had received frequent complaints of medical malpractices by Dr Raynor. The police had continued to watch him and try to find sufficient evidence to bring him to justice. Inspector Neil said the two rooms Raynor and his family occupied in Palmerston Road were in a deplorable state, not a penny in it to buy food. Feeling sorry for her, Neil and his officers had given Constance cash from their own pockets. (Later, Neil who had a very successful career, became one of the ‘Big Four’ Superintendents in charge of the CID at Scotland Yard).

On 10 December 1906, after hearing the evidence, the jury at the Old Bailey, found Raynor guilty of illegal abortion and the manslaughter of Mrs Martin. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment. But before completing his sentence, he died of throat cancer in Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight at the end of August 1908. His wife Constance and her daughter Marie emigrated to Canada in December 1916. Constance remarried and died in Vancouver in 1941.

The sad coda to the story was that on 7 January 1907, more than two months after he went missing, George Martin’s body was found in a ditch at North End, Hampstead Heath, in just nine inches of water. A note in his pocket said, “God bless my children: my heart is broken. God bless my mother.” The cause of his death was suffocation from drowning. The verdict of the inquest jury was suicide, but they expressed no opinion about his state of mind. We do not know what happened to the two orphaned children of George and Annie.

The improbable history of 1 Woodchurch Road

No. 1 Woodchurch Road in October 2016

No. 1 Woodchurch Road in October 2016

No. 1 Woodchurch Road – the rather grandiose building towards the Priory Road end of the street – was for many years called ‘New Place’ and has been the home of several famous residents. Today of course it is divided into flats, but there can be few extant buildings in the area with such a distinguished collection of former residents.

Originally, it was the home of the famous artist John Seymour Lucas. He moved there from Long Acre in 1882 and the house with its purpose-built studio was designed by his friend, the artist and architect Sydney Williams-Lee. Lucas was a full Royal Academician, a group of only 80 people who are elected by their peers.

John Seymour Lucas by John Singer Sargent (1905)

John Seymour Lucas by John Singer Sargent (1905)

He was known as a ‘genre painter’, his canvasses generally depicting scenes from the 17th and 18th Centuries. He also painted portraits, including some local residents such as his friend and neighbour the architect Banister Fletcher, and Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe the newspaper publisher. Lucas exhibited at the Royal Academy numerous times up to 1923. His wife Marie Elizabeth Cornelissen was a portrait and figure painter, who illustrated children’s books, and his daughter Marie Ellen, also became a painter. Both women exhibited at the Royal Academy.

The Gordon Riots, 1780 by Seymour Lucas, (1879)

The Gordon Riots, 1780 by Seymour Lucas, (1879)

The house features a Queen Anne doorway which still survives today. When Fairfax House in Putney was demolished, Lucas bought the door with its beautiful shell cupola and installed it in West Hampstead.

The shell cupola over the doorway

The shell cupola over the doorway

In September 1891 Lucas was on a painting holiday in Spain and was involved in a serious train crash near Burgos. Initial communications at first said that he was dead, but this was not true. He was travelling with three friends: Herbert Fletcher, son of Banister Fletcher, William Cotton who lived at ‘The Knoll’ in West End Lane, and Maurice St Clair Long from Netherhall Gardens, son of the painter Edwin Long. Two trains collided; Maurice died at the scene and William a few days later. Maurice had been persuaded to go on the trip although his mother had wanted him to stay in England, following his father’s death just four months earlier. The survivors returned home, transported in specially adapted railway carriages. Lucas suffering from a badly broken leg. In 1894, Lucas and Fletcher each received £80 compensation; William’s and Maurice’s families were awarded £120.

Mrs Lucas died in 1921 and John two years later, in May 1923. After his death another painter moved into the house and studio – Albert Henry Collings. Collings was born in Shoreditch in 1869, the son of a calligrapher and heraldic artist and was a very accomplished portrait painter who exhibited in Paris in 1893, and from 1896 onwards at the RA and other exhibitions. In 1936, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Prince Edward VIII ready for his coronation but of course Edward abdicated because of his relationship with Mrs Simpson, so the portrait was never shown. With Edward’s brother George now in line to be king, rather than start again, Collins just painted over Edward’s head and replaced it with that of the new King George VI. Collings died on 6 May 1947 at a nursing home in Buxton.

Another famous occupant of No. 1 was Noel Johnson, the actor who played both Dick Barton and Dan Dare on the radio. He lived at the house for ten years from 1948. Dick Barton: Special Agent, was first broadcast on 7 October 1946. An astonishing 15 million people eagerly tuned in every weekday at 6.45pm to listen to the show (and its famous signature tune The Devil’s Galop). Dick and his chums Snowey and Jock thrilled their fans by solving crimes, escaping from dangerous situations and saving the nation from disaster. The series ended after 711 programmes on Friday 30 March 1951 to be replaced later by The Archers. Johnson had a very long career in films and then TV, with more than 100 roles. He died aged 82 in a small village outside Cardiff on 1 October 1999. We wrote a whole article about the Dick Barton phenomenon back in 2012.

In July 1959, the Irish playwright and novelist Brendan Behan was fined 5 shillings and a further 15 shillings for the doctor’s fees, for being drunk in Lansdowne Row Mayfair. He gave his address as No.1 Woodchurch Road. Well-known for his heavy drinking, he humorously called himself: a drinker with a writing problem. Behan was staying, as he always did, with his best friend Desmond MacNamara, the Irish sculptor and stage designer, who lived at 1b Woodchurch from about 1957 till his death on 8 Jan 2008. Later MacNamara remembered the incident and said, I had to bail him out of a West End police station. When I arrived, I found Brendan and all the police having a party around two crates of pale ale. MacNamara taught art at the Marylebone Institute and wrote a biography of Eamon de Valera.

On the mantelpiece in Woodchurch Road was his life-sized brass bust of Behan, with his jaw jutting out, hair tousled and his nose thrust forward like a hatchet ready to strike. He and Brendan talked about substituting the bust for that of one of the many politicians in London parks. They were sure nobody would notice. After several attempts, they abandoned it as it was too awkward to carry!

Kilburn butcher who saved two lives

West Hampstead Life is less local than you might think. One of our Australian readers, Barry York has been in touch to ask if we could help find any descendants of George Ross Huckstepp.

Apart from having a great surname, Mr Huckstepp was a butcher in Kilburn in the 1940s and 50s. He lived at 2e Dyne Road. He also saved Barry’s life.

Barry’s mother Olive did not have a happy marriage. She married in 1947 but by 1952, when Barry was just a baby, she had reached a depth of depression that made her suicidal.

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Forty years later, Olive told Barry how, when he was a baby, she took him with her to a bus stop opposite the local butcher’s shop (in Dyne Road/the Kilburn High Road) and stood there waiting for the bus; not to catch the bus, but to jump under it. With him. What saved her life, and Barry’s, was the kindness of the butcher, Mr. Huckstepp, who knew her as a customer. On seeing her standing there in a distressed state, he read the situation, and quickly came out of the shop.

As his mother recalled “He saved me from killing you and suiciding myself. He came out and said ‘What is the matter?’ and he said ‘You go for a walk, a short walk. Then come back and I’ll give you two ounces of liver’. The thought of that was in my mind and I thought ‘Oh, liver, how lovely, two ounces off my ration book’. I went back and he gave me a good talking to and he said ‘You go back home and you cook that liver’.”

She returned home, cooked the liver as instructed and shortly afterwards emigrated with her family to Australia. “It’s funny how life can turn out” pondered Barry. He’s trying to track down more information about the kind butcher. All he knows is that George Huckstepp was born in Kilburn in September 1900 and died in 1967 at ‘Plovers’, Sandhurst, Hawkhurst, Kent. He and his wife, Kathleen, retired from the butcher’s shop around 1960.

Does anyone remember him? Are any of his descendants out there? Apparently George Huckstepp had a son and a daughter. Barry would like to thank them for saving his life. If you do have any information please email Barry.

Remembering West Hampstead soldiers who died in WW1

Earlier this year, on the anniversairy of the battle of the Somme, our local historians alerted us to the London War Memorial. This is an online database of the thousands of Londoners who died in WW1. On Armistice Day, we thought it would be a good opportunity to remember the 1,000 men of Kilburn and West Hampstead who died in WW1.

War Memorial in Hampstead Cemetery

War Memorial in Hampstead Cemetery

Of those listed online, only 81 had identifiable local addresses, many in Kilburn. You can find out a bit more about them by going onto the database and searching using name or location. We thought it would help bring it closer to home to see the street, name and age of the soldiers when they died.

The amount of information on each soldier varies considerably, but for those who were known to have died in specific batttles, more detail is given. For example, Victor Hough who lived at 74 (or 4) Linstead Street (or Road) was a private in the 2nd East Surrry (2nd batallaion, East Surrey regiment) died on 27th April 1915 in the battle for St. Julien.

Spurred on by the success of their gas attack on 22nd April, the Germans struck again, two days later on the northern sector of the Ypres salient at St. Julien.  Once more they used chlorine gas and despite a resolute defence the British and Canadians were pushed back and St Julien was lost.”

On 25th April the main German attack fell on the spur between the main Ypres ridge and a stream called the Strombeek, where 2nd East Surrey and 3rd Royal Fusiliers were in the line. It started at 5am with an artillery bombardment. Shrapnel swept the bare slopes for 4 hours after which came gas and high explosive. At 1pm, from trenches only 70 yards away the German attacked the right of 2nd East Surrey, on a ¼ mile stretch between the top of the ridge and the railway cutting.  They broke in at several places but elsewhere they were either captured or driven off.  In the centre of the line a company of 8th Middlesex moved up in support but the Germans remained in occupation of 60 yards of breastworks on the left where all the officers had been killed.  Two attempts to dislodge them (at midnight and at 8.30am on the 26th April) failed despite the help of two companies of 2nd Shropshire Light Infantry.  To prevent further German progress a trench was dug round three sides of the captured line. 2nd East Surrey suffered over 200 casualties on these two days. On 27th April 2nd East Surrey again tried to expel the enemy from the positions they had captured two days earlier but to no avail other than the deaths of another 14 men”.  Victor Hough, of West Hampstead, was one of the 14 who died.

For nearly 2 weeks the fighting continued on this front. The Germans persisted with their attacks, the British fought desperate rear guard actions and launched many counter attacks but gradually they were pushed further and further back. Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres”.

He is remembered at St. James Church here in West Hampstead and also at the Menin Gate in Ypres. He was 24 years old.

The full list of soldiers with identifiable addresses is below:

Around Mill Lane

Arthur HARRIS (33), 93 Broomsleigh St
Charles KING (20), 85 Broomsleigh St.
Harry OTTAWAY (34), 13 Sumatra Road
Gustave REESEG (31), 47 Solent Road
Harold BARNES (20), 1 Midland Cottages, Mill Lane
Alfred BALLAM (37), 4 Lithos Road

Towards Kilburn

Thomas CAHILL (19), 2 Dynham Road
Herbert PEACH (20), 47 Dynham Road
Oswald HYDE (27), 33 Gascony Ave
Victor HOUGH (24), 4 Linstead Road * (died at battle of Ypres)
John DUCKETT (19), 44 Messina Ave * (died at battle of Loos)
Henry DICKERSON (24), 17 Iverson Road
Richard WINTLE (40), 113 Iverson Road
Thomas INCE (-), 8 Loveridge Mews
Arthur CORNELL (40), 11 Lowfield Road
Henry SELF (26), 6 Lowfield Road
Albert FELTON (31), 17 Lowfield Road
Arthur GREEN (19), 24 Lowfield Road
Alexander HARROLD (21), 8 Medley Road *(died at battle of the Somme)
William MORLEY (19), 101 Priory Park Road
James COUGHTREY (19), 6 West End Lane

South Hampstead

Robert MONTIER (19), 5 Fairhazel Gardens
Alfred PRUCKEL (25), 119 Belsize Road
John ROWE (20), 106 Belsize Road

Looking back at West End Lane in 1916

One hundred years ago, West End Lane was a very different place – though there were some similarities with today’s busy commercial street too. At the end of this article is the street directory from 1916.

Looking down West End Lane from West End Green (1927)

Looking down West End Lane from West End Green (1927)

There were far fewer eating places and bars in 1916 than there are today – though some still exist. The dining rooms at Nos. 291 and 327 are still restaurants (One Bourbon and Thunderbird Bar respectively). The Railway Hotel is still there at No. 100, having gone through several changes, and The Black Lion is much older still, though in 1916 it was just another unnamed beershop. Further down towards Kilburn, another unnamed beershop at No. 12 was the Bird in Hand, which is now a residential building.

In 1916, coal was still an important domestic fuel, brought by train and unloaded in West Hampstead’s extensive railway sidings before being delivered to your door. Coal merchants were prominent either side of Iverson Road and opposite, at Nos.144, 154 and 156.

The seven large houses between Acol Road and Woodchurch Road (38 to 50 West End Lane), were destroyed by a V1 flying bomb on 20 June 1944. This was the first of nine Doodlebugs that landed in West Hampstead and Kilburn. This one killed 18 people and caused huge damage. It was left as a bomb site until Hampstead Council opened Sidney Boyd Court in 1953. Sidney Boyd was a doctor, local councillor and mayor of Hampstead for seven years throughout the war.

The railways that define so much of West Hampstead’s landscape were of course already up and running by 1916, and all three stations existed, though the train lines were all different. The Jubilee Line was the Metropolitan Railway. The Overground station was “West End Lane” station on the London and North Western Railway, while the Thameslink line was the Midland Railway.

Today, we all know that estate agents dominate West Hampstead. A hundred years ago there were just two: Ernest Owers at 106 West End Lane (now Benham & Reeves), and Massey, Souray and Co. at 247 West End Lane (now Insight Opticians). Massey, Souray and Co. later moved to No. 192 – where Parkheath is today.

Ernest Owers and Williams had opened in 1872 and was influential in the development of West Hampstead and Golders Green. In December 1931, Ernest Owers was the victim of a violent attack at the West End Lane office. He had notified jeweller Ernest Phillips that the mortgage on his shop must be paid off. Phillips came to the office yelling at Owers, You are a robber and a thief and I shall put you away. Then he suddenly threw nitric acid into Owers’ face, which narrowly missed blinding him. In court, Phillips said he was sorry, but the judge said a severe punishment was called for and sentenced him to three years imprisionment. Ernest’s wife died a few months after the attack, while he moved to Brighton where he died in 1938. Ernest was an extremely wealthy man and left the equivalent of around £19 million and as he had no children, most of the money went to hospitals and other good causes.

No.90 West End Lane was the West Hampstead Police Station which opened in 1882 at a cost of £3,971. This is now a council-run hostel (on the corner of West End Lane and West Hampstead Mews. The police station had an inspector’s office, a charge room, a waiting room and three cells. The largest cell was known as ‘the drunk tank’. The police station moved to its current location in Fortune Green Road in 1972.

Perhaps the most striking difference between 1916 and 2016 is the huge variety of independent shops that existed a hundred years ago; from the usual grocers, butchers and bakers; to boot makers, a photographer and a cycle shop. Charles Debenham at No.222 was a member of a photographic family; his father William Elliott Debenham had studios at 158 Regent Street and Haverstock Hill. In 1916, much of their work would have involved photographing members of the armed forces, leaving for the Front. Edward Pond at No.349 had taken over from the Delevante Cycle Works which opened in 1892. Pond, who diversified to include motorcycles, traded here until 1939.

Today’s West Hampstead Fruit and Vegetables, at No.243 was a chemist for many years. Alban Atkin took over from a homeopathic chemist in 1904. A local councillor, he is buried in Hampstead Cemetery and was succeeded in the business by his son of the same name. The shop closed around 1990 and was a timewarp right to the very end, with large glass fronted wooden cabinets and beautiful glass apothecary jars. The dispensary was at the far end of the shop, under a huge clock. The window display was a low key one, and for many years its centrepiece was a red neon sign advertising Yardley cosmetics.

There were also a large number of doctors and dentists scattered along West End Lane. The large houses attracted professionals.

Given today’s debate about 156 West End Lane, it’s interesting to see that back then it was the home of the Canforde Lawn Tennis Club – which was on open land behind 156, though only from 1914 to 1917.

Here is the full street directory. It is a little hard to follow in places, as it swaps between the east side and west side. However, the cross-street names and of course the numbers, make it reasonably easy to decipher. One road name change: Chislett Road was renamed as a continuation of Companyne Gardens in 1936.

1916-wel-part-1
1916-wel-part-2
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1916-wel-part-4

The truth behind Priory Road’s millionairess typist

In 1929, Bernard Sheker was a 29-year-old clerk at a firm of paper makers in Holborn. He was ‘walking out’ with Hilda Lewis—a slim, pale girl. She was 19, and working as a typist for a firm near Finchley Road. Bernard had first made contact with Hilda about 18 months previously, when she telephoned orders from the printers.

Hilda Lewis (Daily Mirror 3 April 1930)

Hilda Lewis (Daily Mirror 3 April 1930)

Hilda told Bernard she was the daughter of a plumber, and had been adopted by a wealthy Indian tea planter named Cunningham. He had died two years ago, bequeathing her all his money on condition that she did not marry without the consent of her guardians or until she was 25. Hilda said she was a millionairess and showed Bernard photographs of her luxurious Green Street house in Mayfair. She also gave Bernard’s mother Rose expensive bouquets of flowers.

Later, Hilda said her guardians had died and an arrangement had been made for Lady Howard, the mother of the Duke of Norfolk, to chaperone her during the London season. The Shekers weren’t surprised when Hilda appeared in an evening gown, saying she had just slipped away from a smart party.

But if she had so much money, asked the family, why did she need to work? That was simply a way to pass the time, said Hilda, until she came into her fortune. She spent some of her time at a boarding house on Priory Road only to be close to her employers, the printers Baines and Scarsbrook at Nos.75-77 Fairfax Road.

Printers Baines and Scarsbrook 75-77 Fairfax Road (OS 1953)

Printers Baines and Scarsbrook 75-77 Fairfax Road (OS 1953)

Bernard, the eldest of four children, tried to persuade his parents that he should marry Hilda, even though she was not Jewish and ‘she was much above his station’. His father Aaron, who was deaf and dumb, was a ladies tailor, and the family lived at 70 Church Street in Stoke Newington.

Hilda wrote to Bernard about her society connections and explored the difficulties of their romance across class lines:

“We must stick it and get through: to part would be no remedy whatever. It would only bring more sadness and we would be wronging ourselves. I would still go on living, visiting, and entertaining and spending much money, but in reality I would be a beggar, just slipping through life and missing its real beauty.”

Instead, she saw a life where they were “perfectly united, sharing the same hopes and aims and desires, enjoying the same sunshine and weathering the same storms.” She ended the letter by saying, “I have a vision of happiness which fills me with joy.”

On 18 October 1929, Hilda took a major step towards realising her dream. That evening, she brought four cash boxes wrapped in brown paper to Bernard. She said she had lost the keys and asked him to force them open. He took the money and cashed some of the postal orders, a total of just over £138 – worth about £7,500 today.

The next day, Baines and Scarsbrook discovered their cash boxes were missing and Hilda and Bernard were arrested.

In March 1930, the jury at Marylebone Court believed Bernard’s story that Hilda had completely fooled him and his parents. He was discharged.

A trembling Hilda admitted stealing the safe key. She had hidden in the office until everyone had gone home and taken the cash boxes. Hilda was detained until the magistrates received a medical report on her. At the next session, Dr Morton, the governor and medical officer at Holloway, said Hilda’s letters contained extracts from several popular romantic novels by John Galsworthy, Muriel Hine and Marie Corelli. Morton said he had seen this kind of fantasy before and that Hilda was perfectly normal.

The chairman of the magistrates, Sir Robert Wallace KC, warned Hilda not to indulge her over-active imagination again and bound her over for 18 months probation on good behaviour.

When her love letters were read out in court the audience were convulsed with laughter. Writing for the Daily Mail, Beverley Nichols chided their reaction and pointed out that Hilda was physically and emotionally overwhelmed when she was forced to appear in the dock. Nichols had previously covered the sensational 1922 trial of Edith Thompson and her young lover Freddy Bywaters who had murdered Edith’s husband. This case had also demonstrated the dangers of fantasy and reading cheap fiction. Nichols asked his readers to have a “spark of imagination” and to empathise with Hilda. They should think of her writing to Bernard from her lonely room at Priory Road, imagining that stealing the money could provide a better life for them both.

42 Priory Road (Aug 2016)

Of course Hilda’s story was a complete fantasy. Ironically, she was the daughter of a police constable and had been born in 1910 at 30 Fleet Road, Hampstead. By the time of her trial, Hilda Lewis had worked for four years as a typist at Baines and Scarsbrook and her home was 42 Priory Road, a boarding house she shared with eight other women.

The court experience had clearly shocked Hilda. She stayed out of trouble and in 1941, she married Frederick Charles Maynard, a Kilburn man, and they lived at 25 Holmdale Road. What of Bernard? By 1939, he was living on Old Street and running a tobacconist and confectioner’s shop. His wife, Pauline, was a shorthand typist.

They shot the wrong man!

Sue Stephens

Sue Stephens

In November 1982, 25-year-old model Sue Stephens moved from 29 Victoria Road Kilburn to share a room with a girlfriend above Lately, the bar at 175 West End Lane. Sue had left her Devon home at 17 and come to London to work and she had, for some time, been the girlfriend of David Martin.

During their relationship, a staggering series of events unfolded, including several shootings, a chase down West End Lane, and an arrest in a tube tunnel. So dramatic, it would eventually be turned into a film.

In July 1982, David Martin stole 24 handguns and ammunition from Thomas Bland and Sons, a gunsmiths in Covent Garden. Martin, 36, was also making and selling pirate videotapes and was spotted when he broke into Colour Film Services, a film processing laboratory in Portman Close to use the copying machines. The police were called. Martin calmly tried to talk his way out by saying he was a security officer called David Demain. But when two policemen tried to detain him, he drew a pistol from his waistband and shot one of the officers.

The Flying Squad also suspected Martin had carried out a £25,000 armed robbery in the City when a security guard was shot. They watched his flat in Crawford Place near Baker Street, but saw only a tall blonde woman leaving the building. Then the police found out that Martin was a cross-dresser and realised the blonde woman was actually Martin. On December 15, the police moved in to arrest him and in the scuffle Martin shot and seriously wounded a constable. Martin himself was also wounded in the neck and taken to hospital where he recovered.

By Christmas Eve 1982, David Martin was on remand at Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, but he escaped. He walked over the rooftops as far as the London Palladium, entering the empty theatre through a service entrance. Martin, who was a skilled lockpicker, boasted that ‘no prison could hold him’, and indeed had escaped four times previously, earning him the nickname of his hero ‘Houdini’.

He was now of course a most wanted and dangerous man who had shot and seriously wounded two policemen. The operation moved from Baker Street to West Hampstead and the Flying Squad set up surveillance of Sue Stephens’ room at West End Lane from an empty flat above the NatWest Bank, which then was on the corner of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane, where the convenience shop is now.

On 14 January 1983, police saw her being collected at 4pm by two men in an apple-green Ford Capri. Six unmarked police vehicles followed the Capri down West End Lane through Maida Vale as far as the Portobello Mini Hire in Kensington Park Road. One of the men drove off in the Capri while the other hired a yellow Mini. Sue and a third man, who the police thought was David Martin, got into the car. The police followed the Mini and when it came to a halt in traffic in Pembroke Road Kensington it was surrounded by armed officers on foot. They thought the man in the front passenger seat was reaching for a gun and fired 14 shots into the car, six of which hit and severely wounded him.

The police had made a dreadful mistake. The passenger wasn’t David Martin, it was Steven Waldorf, who bore a striking resemblance to Martin. Despite being severely wounded and one of his lungs filling with blood, Waldorf recovered after several operations. He later received £120,000 compensation from the Metropolitan Police. Waldorf was a 26-year-old assistant film director and a friend of Sue Stephens, but had never even met David Martin. Incredibly, Sue Stephens and the second man in the car, Lester Purdy, were not injured in the hail of bullets

David Martin on the left and Stephen Waldorf on the right

David Martin on the left and Steven Waldorf on the right

The two detectives who fired into the Mini were charged with wounding Steven Waldorf with intent to do him grievous bodily harm and their trial took place in October 1983. The jury found them not guilty of all charges and acquitted both men.

Stephens was understandably very shaken by the incident and agreed to help the police. She told them that Martin had phoned under an assumed name and asked to meet her in the Milk Churn – a restaurant at 70 Heath Street in Hampstead on 28 January. Police observation posts were set up in the Nags Head pub opposite the restaurant and at the Kingswell flats, 58-62 Heath Street.

The police were taking no chances and a total of 35 officers and numerous vehicles were waiting for him. When they saw Martin approaching, detectives flooded the road, but he realised something was wrong and dashed into Hampstead tube station. He ran down the 320 stairs and into the train tunnel.

Passengers were startled as Martin ran through the carriages of a train closely followed by armed officers. He was eventually trapped and arrested in the tunnel between Hampstead and Belsize Park – and for once, he wasn’t carrying a gun.

Gordon Stevenson, the owner of Lately, said Martin frequently visited Sue Stephens in her flat above, sometimes in drag. The tenants had a payphone in the corridor outside Gordon’s flat on the first floor, and he overheard Sue’s conversations with Martin and the Daily Mail reporters who paid £10,000 for her story after the shooting.

Stephens was later sentenced to six months imprisonment for handling stolen goods, but served only 18 days after the sentence was suspended by the Court of Appeal in May 1984. She had taken a large volume of Martin’s stolen goods to Pickford’s warehouse in Fulham and had also placed items in a safe deposit box rented by Martin in Selfridges under a false name. The box was found to contain stolen cash, guns and jewellery.

Martin meanwhile was charged with several robberies and the attempted murder of a policeman. He appeared at the Old Bailey in a 14-day trial in September and October 1983. The jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. He repeatedly asked Sue Stephens to visit him in prison, but she refused and went back to her parent’s home in Exeter.

Just five months into his sentence, on 13 March 1984, Martin was found hanged in his cell at Parkhurst, on the Isle of Wight. He left a note for Sue saying: ‘All I have is death to take away the pain of not being with you’. His solicitor said that Martin had not expected such a long sentence and was very depressed, spending days lying in his cell doing nothing. Although he did become friendly with a fellow lifer from north-west London: the serial killer Dennis Nilsen who had killed at least a dozen men and boys (and lived at 195 Melrose Avenue, near Gladstone Park Willesden).

In 1994, LWT made a feature film, directed by Paul “Jason Bourne” Greengrass, called ‘Open Fire’. It starred Rupert Graves as David Martin and Kate Hardie as Sue Stephens. West Hampstead resident, Jim Carter, played a Detective Superintendent from the Flying Squad, and there are scenes of him chasing Rupert Graves down Heath Street into the Tube station. But the drama did not use West End Lane, or anything like it, to show where Sue lived. The full-length film is on YouTube (in nine parts).

Jim Carter in Open Fire

Jim Carter in Open Fire

For more information there is also a very good book called The Wrong Man by Dick Kirby (2016).

“Coal dust everywhere”: Lithos Road’s ghostly chimneys

There’s a great 1910 film on YouTube of a train journey from Baker Street to Uxbridge and on to Aylesbury. Part one is here:

And part two is here:

As the train pulls out of Finchley Road station, at 1m 44 sec, two ghostly chimneys loom up on the right of the screen. They are 130 feet high and were in Lithos Road, at Hampstead’s very own electricity plant.

Several companies wanted to supply Hampstead, but in 1882 and again in 1889, members of the Hampstead Vestry (the precursor to the council), argued against adopting any scheme on the grounds that “the science of electricity is not at present sufficiently developed”.

Then in December 1892, the Vestry decided to open its own power plant, run as a private municipal company. On the evening of October 1st 1894, the electricity was switched on and an enthusiastic crowd in Finchley Road watched 22 street lamps light up simultaneously for the first time.

This postcard was designed for Hampstead’s Electricity Department to send to its customers. The elegantly dressed couple are having dinner surrounded by electrical appliances, including a heater, fan, iron and coffee pot.  (c) Historical Publications

This postcard was designed for Hampstead’s Electricity Department to send to its customers. The elegantly dressed couple are having dinner surrounded by electrical appliances, including a heater, fan, iron and coffee pot. (c) Historical Publications

Despite hopes it would help reduce the rates, the plant made only a small profit, never exceeding £2,000 even in a good year. The original power station had cost around £30,000 and by 1897 it was necessary to borrow a further £30,000 to increase the generating capacity and lay more cables. Two years later, a further £67,000 was spent. By 1914, Hampstead had invested around half a million pounds in its electricity system. It remained in Hampstead’s control until nationalisation but the plant ceased generating in 1922.

The Lithos Road building was replaced by new offices for the London Electricity Board in 1975. The opening ceremony was attended by 82-year-old Arthur Munden, who remembered taking lunch to his dad at the original coal fired power station.

“Coal used to be brought to a railway siding then taken by horse and cart to be dumped in bunkers. There was coal dust everywhere and no showers.”

In fact, the station burned 10 tons a day and locals complained of the fumes. Arthur himself began working at Lithos Road the year the film above was made. In 1983, the LEB offices made way for housing.

Insanity or cold blood? A wartime Belsize Road murder

It was May 1942 when Pauline Barker was murdered at 184 Belsize Road. In the midst of war, the story received scant attention in the press. But it is a sad tale of unhappy marriages and unclear motives.

Pauline Barker was born in Islington in 1899, the daughter of Frederick Charles Barker and Lydia Care, who had married the year before He was a solo harpist and she was a leading contralto with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, they married in London in 1898. Frederick left Lydia in 1910 because of

Her violent temper and ungovernable behaviour and constant and habitual use of filthy, disgusting and obscene language and constant disagreements for ten years which have rendered his married life most unhappy. He has continued to supply her with funds for the maintenance of her and the children, and is willing to continue to do so.

Lydia was willing to let bygones be bygones but Frederick was having none of it.

Dear Sirs, do not waste your eloquence. There is not the remote chance of my returning to my wife. My bitterest enemy could not wish me a worse wish!
Go on with your divorce. It is the only possible remedy.

Lydia bought up Pauline and her two younger siblings in a house on Highgate Hill and Frederick saw them every other Saturday.

Pauline became an accomplished solo harpist like her father. Aged 18, she married 47-year-old George Longfield Beasley (he invented the Beasley-Gamewell system, an integrated fire and police alarm used in Windsor Castle and by several local councils), but after three years, George sued for divorce on the grounds of Pauline’s adultery.

Two years later Pauline married Harry Lowe, who was a viola player and later the conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra. But on a boat journey in 1931, Pauline had an affair with a ship’s officer and she and Harry separated, divorcing ten years later, the year before her death.

Pauline’s work flourished as her relationships stumbled. She had engagements with the Russian Ballet and the BBC and played on numerous radio broadcasts from 1924 to 1930, mostly from Belfast. This was where she first met Achilles Apergis, who was a garage proprietor. His full name was Achilles George White Apergis, but he used the name Arthur Anderson. He was brought up in a middle-class family in south London, educated at Dulwich College, and served in the Greek cavalry. His father was a captain in the Greek Army who married an English woman and he became a naturalised British subject.

In 1931, after his Belfast garage failed, Arthur came to London and contacted Pauline again. He worked as a motor engineer with various firms in Kilburn and Cricklewood and then briefly ran the St John’s Wood Garage at 9 Abbey Road. Arthur and Pauline began living together, firstly at 19 Alexandra Road where they stayed for six years. Then Pauline’s mother Lydia, bought 184 Belsize Road, which Pauline ran as a guest house.

184 Belsize Road before the Abbey estate was built

184 Belsize Road before the Abbey estate was built

The relationship did not run smoothly. The couple often quarrelled and Arthur liked to drink heavily in the local pubs. Lydia told the police she heard Arthur using foul language and struggling with Pauline in the bedroom at Belsize Road. He released her when he saw Lydia, saying sarcastically, ‘I didn’t know you had your ‘seconds’ around’. Pauline told her mother this was not unusual and that Apergis was frequently aggressive.

Katherine Maher, one of Pauline’s lodgers, said the relationship between Apergis and his wife was unhappy and she often heard them arguing. He used to hit her and on two occasions she heard him threaten to shoot her. Pauline had even asked Katherine to sleep in her room to prevent her husband coming in.

On 27 May 1942, after a particularly heated row, Arthur packed up his things and left. Pauline told Katherine it was because he was jealous of her talking with one of the lodgers, Philip Sedgwick, who had moved in less than three weeks earlier. Pauline said she was glad Arthur had gone and hoped it would be for good, although she was surprised he left so peacefully without threatening her. She showed Katherine bruises on her leg and thigh where Arthur had pushed her over in the kitchen the previous night.

At about 1pm on the afternoon of 31 May, Katherine and Pauline were talking in the kitchen when they heard Arthur shout ‘Pauline’ from downstairs. Pauline called back, ‘I am just serving lunch, I will be down in a minute – what do you want?’ He said, ‘I want to speak to you a minute.’ She went downstairs and when she came back she told Katherine that Apergis had said he wanted to shoot her. Katherine looked out of the window and saw Arthur at the front of the house. He started to enter the gate but then changed his mind and walked in the direction of the Princess of Wales public house.

The Princess of Wales, on the corner of Belsize Road and Abbey Road, stood here the Lillie Langtry is today. Alfred Rice, the landlord, said in his police statement that he had known ‘Andy’ Apergis for the past five years and he also knew Pauline Barker and that although they lived as man and wife, they weren’t married. At about 7.05pm the evening of 31 May, he saw Apergis in the saloon bar and thought that he’d been drinking but was not drunk. Apergis said, ‘Rice, I may not see you anymore; I am going to commit a murder’. Rice said, ‘Don’t be a fool, pull yourself together’. Apergis said, ‘All right’ and left.

Princess of Wales pub looking down Belsize Road

Princess of Wales pub looking down Belsize Road

That evening, Philip Sedgwick was in the lounge on the ground floor when the man he knew as Mr Barker opened the lounge door asking for Mrs Barker. Sedgwick replied that she was upstairs in the kitchen. Mr Barker walked out and shut the door. Two minutes later Sedgwick heard a loud bang, followed by someone running down the stairs and the front door slamming. When he went up to the kitchen, Sedgwick found Pauline lying on the first-floor landing. There was a strong smell of gunpowder. Finding no pulse he telephoned 999 and told the police what had happened. He waited at the front door until an ambulance and the police arrived.

Arthur had gone back to the pub – just six houses away, confessing to Alfred Rice: ‘I have done it.’ Rice said, ‘You haven’t!’ Apergis said, ‘On my honour as a Greek she is lying stone dead. My honour as a Greek means more than anything. It was a clean shot, all she went was ‘ough’. I put a pillow under her head to make her comfortable.’

Arthur took the loaded Colt 45 from a holster at his waist and handed it to Rice. ‘I don’t want to get you into trouble’, he said,’so if you want it I will tell the police I threw it away.’ In order to get the gun off him Rice said, ‘Thanks old boy, I will have it.’ Arthur took the empty cartridge case out and then gave Rice the gun and the holster. He also gave him a book of National Savings Certificates; ‘this should cover the three or four pounds I owe you.’

Then he said, ‘Buy me a double scotch because I may not see you again, and I am waiting for the police to come.’ The barmaid handed Apergis a double scotch which he drank at the bar. When Rice went into the office to phone Apergis’s brother, Apergis followed him and put 16 bullets into Rice’s jacket pocket. Then Rice heard an ambulance outside and realised that something serious had really happened.

Rice left the pub and met Detective Sergeant Pilgrim at 184 Belsize Road and told him Apergis was waiting in the pub bar. At 7.33pm Dr Rees, the police divisional surgeon arrived at the house and found Pauline Barker had been shot through the heart. At 7.45pm Apergis was arrested in the pub and taken to West Hampstead Police station, which was then on West End Lane next to the Railway Hotel . Rice later gave the police the gun, the bullets, the holster, and the book of certificates.

The next morning, Detective Inspector Herbert Cripps charged Apergis under the name of Arthur Anderson. He made no statement. The post mortem, carried out later that day, showed that the gun had been fired at close range, the single bullet passed through her heart and Pauline died instantly.

On 29 June, at the Old Bailey, Arthur Anderson, 52 was charged with the wilful murder of Pauline Barker. He pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ by reason of insanity. In court, his brother Dr Apergis said there was no insanity in the family. The defence called two eminent psychologists to demonstrate that Anderson was insane at the time he committed the offence, but the jury was not convinced. The medical officer at Brixton Prison also said that in the 26 days the prisoner had been in his charge there had been no evidence of insanity. The jury, which included four women, found Anderson guilty of murder. But they added a strong recommendation for mercy knowing that he would be sentenced to hang.

On 16 July, the Home Secretary informed the Commissioner of Police at Scotland Yard that even after a special medical inquiry into his mental state, there were not sufficient grounds to advise His Majesty to interfere with the due course of law.

Following the decision, Arthur Anderson was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by Albert Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris at 9am on 21 July.

After reading all the evidence from the Metropolitan police files, we still don’t know why Arthur killed Pauline. The house has since been demolished as part of the Council redevelopment in the area.

Ed: We’re delighted to welcome back Dick & Marianne to West Hampstead Life, where we’ll be exclusively publishing their local history articles. They’ve been active while WHL was on hiatus, and you can catch up with the stories you’ve missed here, and read the History archives on this site here.

The Mouseman of Kilburn – No, not that one!

Many people know about Robert Thompson, the furniture maker known as the Mouseman of Kilburn. But he lived in Kilburn, North Yorkshire. But it’s a fair bet hardly anyone knows that Kilburn in North West London had its own Mouseman.

Thompson, born in 1876, dedicated his life to the craft of carving and joinery in English Oak, and after hearing one of his craftsmen say that they were, “All as poor as church mice.” he carved a mouse on the church screen he was working on. The mouse became his company’s trademark and survives to this day.

Kilburn London’s Mouseman was interviewed by a reporter for the Willesden Illustrated Monthly at his lodging house in Kilburn in 1937. He was well known locally as he had spent years in Kilburn and Willesden exhibiting his ‘mouse circus’ in the streets. He said that his best days were Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with markets the best pitch for his performances.

The reporter simply records his real name as S. Jackman, giving no more detail than that. It’s a sympathetic article, looking beyond Jackman’s “rugged and weather-tanned features” to reveal a man of “astonishing intelligence and more than ordinary fibre and independence, a story full of surprises.”

Mouse Man image

The reporter and Jackman sat in the yard besides his “extraordinary paraphernalia”, the large box on wheels that Jackman trundled round the streets. In the photo, the long rod protruding from the box served as the ‘stage’ for a troop of white mice that performed gymnastic feats. There was also a small stuffed dog, Jackman’s faithful companion on the road until it died 15 years previously. From that time, it was exhibited in a straw bed on top of the box. It was one of the Manchester breed, said Jackman; ironically a type of terrier well known for its skill as a rat catcher!

Jackman supplied very few biographical details. His parents were English and emigrated to America, where his father worked in the Chicago stock yards. Jackman was born there but returned to England as a young man. It’s hard to establish what he did next, but he told the reporter he entered the armed forces, serving nearly 12 years in the Navy and Army, including World War I.

I joined the Coldstream Guards and was with the Russian Relief Force, in which I was a sergeant. I went to Murmansk and to Lake Onega.

He worked as a cook and often served meals to General Henry Rawlinson. At the end of World War I, Rawlinson was sent to Russia as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces who were attempting to overthrow the Bolshevik government. In August 1919, Rawlinson organised the evacuation of the Allied Forces from Murmansk and Archangel.

General Rawlinson

After the War Jackman started performing as a member of ‘Lord’ John Sanger’s Circus.

My job was that of a pot-pourri clown. I played 123 instruments – making music on almost everything. I got music out of a revolving bicycle wheel with piano wires stretched across it. I could make anything play.

Sanger’s Circus was started in the 19th century by the charismatic, self styled ‘Lord’ George Sanger and his brother John. They soon went their separate ways, dividing their circus property and setting up their own tented shows.

Jackman said he left Sanger’s “when they had the big fire at Tunbridge Wells.” But he was confused, in fact the fire broke out in the Big Top at Taunton, one hot July afternoon in 1920. About 1,500 people were watching the show when it’s thought a member of the audience dropped a lit match. It set fire to the grass and then the flames spread to the tent. Four people died and many others were badly hurt.

Sangers programme

Jackman had worked as a piano tuner, but by 1937 there was very little demand: “I blame the wireless” declared Jackman. He had also been employed for a while as an inspector at a company making wirelesses. “I can do anything”, he confidently told the reporter, even including television among his many interests.

Jackman had started his ‘mouse circus’ after leaving Sanger’s in 1920. Before settling in Kilburn, he’d often walked to London from Southampton, pushing his box, accompanying the shows by playing a fiddle.

Where did the mice come from? Jackman said his sister in Tunbridge Wells kept his stock of 400 white and brown mice, and when he needed new performers he simply went and got them from her. One free source was now denied him:

In my piano tuning days I frequently discovered mice inside pianos and would capture them and train them.

The reporter asked Jackman why his hair was so long.

Well, so as to be different from anybody else.Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) and Barnum had long hair. It makes me look more like a showman.

Jackman never charged for his shows but passed round the hat at performances. His ambition was to buy a large tent and tour the country with his circus:

But the tent would cost £35 and the Mouse Man will have to find silver or many more coppers in his hat before he is able to realise his dreams.

World War II almost certainly put paid to Jackman’s street performances but other than the facts reported in the article, we haven’t been able to find out any more about the man. Does anyone know what had happened to him and his performing mice?

The Navvies are Coming!

Our recent story of a Girls Laundry that was based for a few years in Old West End House, also mentioned the building of the Midland Railway (today’s Thameslink). The engineering work caused immense disruption to the neighbourhood. It changed the face of West Hampstead forever and blighted many people’s lives – we’ve taken a look at how the railway line came to be and the impact the men who built it had on both the local community and the buildings of West Hampstead.

In Dombey and Son (1848), Charles Dickens included a powerful description of the building of the railway line to Euston that cut through Camden Town. Its progress was more destructive than the Midland line but it gives an idea of what the residents experienced.

The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill. Everywhere were temporary wooden houses and enclosures in the most unlikely situations; fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes and tripods straddling above nothing. … In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress.

The Act authorising the Midland line from Bedford to St Pancras was passed in July 1863. The Company began buying land and the track was divided into sections, completed by different contractors. Joseph Firbank was responsible for two sections, around five miles between Kentish Town to West Hampstead (which included the Belsize Tunnel), and on to Hendon.

The line cut a large swathe across Hampstead parish. Along with the excavations came brick making, which was noxious and very smelly. On 27 January 1865, during a snowstorm, the Midland’s deputy chairman laid the first brick on the site of a shaft in the Belsize tunnel. The rails emerged from the tunnel at Finchley Road, where there was a station.

In the early twentieth century the railway created a new entrance to Finchley Road station through an arched entrance and down steps behind a cluster of small shops called Midland Crescent. Some were originally coal company offices where householders could go and order coal, (transported by the railway). In 1990 the shops included a record shop (far left), ‘men’s hair stylist’, café and antique shop (far right). They survived until quite recently behind a hoarding immediately north of the entrance to the O2 shopping centre.

In the early twentieth century the railway created a new entrance to Finchley Road station through an arched entrance and down steps behind a cluster of small shops called Midland Crescent. Some were originally coal company offices where householders could go and order coal, (transported by the railway). In 1990 the shops included a record shop (far left), ‘men’s hair stylist’, café and antique shop (far right). They survived until quite recently behind a hoarding immediately north of the entrance to the O2 shopping centre.

Having passed south of West End village with its cottages and houses centred on West End Green, the line curved northwest under Mill Lane and on to Cricklewood and the Welsh Harp. Extensive sidings were built on either side of West End Lane but there was no local station when the line opened to traffic in 1868. ‘West End’ station was a later addition, opening on 1st Match 1871 in a converted villa on Iverson Road. Access to trains was via a footbridge over the lines. The station was renamed ‘West End and Brondesbury’ on 1st April 1904, but then became ‘West Hampstead’ on 1st September 1905. The new station’s entrance was on West End Lane.

The Midland Railway Company buys local property
Under the Act, the Midland Railway Company was legally required to buy properties that stood close to their line. In West End, there were two recently completed mansions north of the proposed route. John Marrian and William Greenwood were business colleagues and friends. They built their houses on opposite sides of West End Lane; Marrian’s was called Sandwell House and Greenwood’s villa was Canterbury House. The house names recalled the birthplaces of their wives: Louisa Greenwood in Kent and Ann Marrian in Birmingham. A local resident recalled the houses as being ‘in the Italian style of architecture with square towers.’ The two families arrived in 1862 and showed every intention of staying. But when the Midland Railway Act was passed, Marrian and Greenwood were concerned the value of their property would fall. So they took advantage of the fact the Midland was obliged to buy their houses, and left. The properties were subsequently let to a series of tenants.

South of the line, the Midland Railway also bought Old West End House (the mansion used for the Girls Laundry School) and the three villas opposite, on what became Iverson Road. These overlooked the railway cutting and the easternmost villa was eventually converted into the railway station.

Tough men…
It’s almost impossible to visualise today, but the fields on either side of West End Lane, from the Green south to Iverson Road, were more or less on a level until the Midland line was built in a deep cutting. Modern basement excavation has nothing on the hundreds of tons of earth that were shifted by hand. The railway workers were called ‘navvies’, tough, hardworking men who travelled the country, sometimes accompanied by their families. (They were given the name ‘navvy’ earlier in the century when excavating the canals or ‘navigations’ as they were also called).

The muck (the navvy’s word for all the earth and rock) would be removed by wagon; one man could shift 20 tons a day by shovelling over his head into the truck. Where a cutting was concerned, ‘barrow runs’ were created up the steep side of the embankment. ‘Making the running’ was one of the most dangerous jobs a navvy could do and was reserved for the strongest among the workforce. Once it was full of muck, a rope was attached to the barrow and the navvy’s belt, then run up the siding, over a pulley and fastened to a horse. The horse then pulled the man and his barrow to the top of the cutting. A successful run relied on the navvy keeping his footing on the muddy plank and the horse pulling steadily. The return journey was made with the barrow behind the man, with the horse keeping the rope taut as the navvy descended.

Men worked day and night in relays. In 1865 a visitor descended a shaft of the Belsize tunnel. (Some shafts were large enough to accommodate horses, lowered to the tunnel floor to pull wagons). He walked towards a distant light, and after about 80 yards saw a dozen men tearing at the clay, some with pickaxes, others with their bare hands. After 12 feet had been excavated, centre supports were put up and the bricklayers moved in.

Railway building in Camden Town showing the excavation of the deep cutting at Park Village (by John Cooke Bourne, 1836)

Railway building in Camden Town showing the excavation of the deep cutting at Park Village (by John Cooke Bourne, 1836)

Navvies were rarely welcomed and often encountered great hostility from local residents, as they had a well deserved reputation for drinking and fighting. Of course, not all of them were rowdy, but reports of their anti-social behaviour grabbed press attention.

In 1846 a group of Irish navvies were charged with starting a riot during the building of the ‘Round House’, the large railway turning shed at Chalk Farm. Hundreds of English workers were engaged in bricklaying on the site and hundreds of Irish were working near Euston station, (the contractors employed equal numbers of each nationality). The battle between the English and the Irish began with a trivial incident at the Round House gates when an Irishman was refused entry by the policeman on duty. A fight broke out which escalated quickly, and despite the efforts of the police who were called out from several police stations, it lasted three hours. The fight was vicious and bloody and although nobody was killed, many men were maimed and three were crippled for life. Twenty Irish men (but no Englishmen), were arrested and seventeen were found guilty at the Old Bailey and received sentences ranging from three to nine months imprisonment.

During the building of the Midland line in 1867, Hampstead Vestry (the precursor of the Council) received a complaint that; ‘several persons had recently been stopped or interfered with whilst passing along West End Lane, by men having the appearance of navvies, and that greater protection was required from the Metropolitan Police.’

But so far as West End’s experience was concerned, there are no reports of major disturbances. This wasn’t the case further up the line towards Hendon: in 1867, some 300 to 400 navvies ‘took complete possession of the Upper Welsh Harp (public house) and made themselves complete masters of the place, broke the windows and did immense damage.’

The manpower required to build the railways was immense: in June 1865 the Midland advertised for navvies; 500 to 1000 men were required for the Kentish Town section of the line with ‘good wages paid.’ It was in a contractor’s interest to be selective, he needed men who would work both hard and fast. And the money had to be good, to compensate for the poor working and living conditions.

…in harsh conditions…
In an age before Health and Safety regulations there were many accidents. ‘When making the tunnel, from Finchley Road to Haverstock Hill, a man by the name of Dale was working in a shaft at Fitzjohns Avenue when they cut through the Conduit spring and the water rushed in and he only saved his life by clinging to a beam until he was rescued by some of his fellow workmen.’ (No date).

In January 1866 an inquest returned a verdict of accidental death on Charles Austin, age 52. He died when he fell into an unprotected pit at the railway works near West End. There were four shafts, each 30 feet deep, but only two were covered. Charles had worked all night and when he wanted to go home at 5am, found his way blocked by three railway trucks that needed moving. He wouldn’t wait, took another path and fell into the pit. ‘Between four and five feet of water had collected at the bottom. Great difficulty was experienced in extricating him, and when brought upon the line Dr Brown pronounced life extinct from drowning.’ It was recommended the pits be covered at night; the accident took place in December when it would still have been dark at 5am and Austin didn’t see the edge of the pit in time.

Near West End, the main issues centred on the health and sanitation problems experienced by the navvies, the brick makers and their families, including large numbers of children. One old resident recalled the West Enders were unwelcoming: ‘the villagers would not associate with the navvies and not one would take any of the workmen as a lodger.’ So James Firbank built a number of two-room wooden huts in the fields between Finchley Road and Mill Lane. He was one of the better contractors, but it was inevitable that the accommodation quickly became squalid and insanitary. He charged his workers six shillings a week rent, but it’s not clear if this was per family or per hut. In return they got free coal and furniture.

The following information is taken from the Hampstead Vestry Minutes and shows the appalling living conditions of the navvies.

June 1865
The Hampstead parish surveyor inspected 15 temporary huts inhabited by railway labourers in the lower brickfield west of Finchley Road. He reported the huts stood on the edge of two open sewers, but none of the huts had proper drainage or a water supply. Their inhabitants relied on open privies built alongside the sewers. Firbank agreed to provide more privies, better and covered cess pools.

July 1865
It was reported there was; ‘No special disease as yet’ among the ‘great influx of navvies and artisans which the railway operations had brought into the Parish.’

October 1865
Hampstead’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH) informed Firbank that many of the large number of children living in his huts still needed to be vaccinated.

November 1865
Firbank gave notice to the hut dwellers, forbidding them to take in more than six lodgers, (previously eight had been the limit and in some cases more). As a result more accommodation was needed for his workers. So Firbank ‘fitted up four houses on the West End House estate as room tenements for the workmen, their families, and lodgers.’ (These were the Iverson Road properties previously mentioned). Firbank also agreed with the parish surveyor to improve the paths in front of his huts; ‘with a view to the regulations respecting over-crowding and other matters being strictly carried out, a Police Constable from Scotland Yard had been engaged for this special duty.’

January 1866
Overcrowding was still rife among the hut dwellers and in some cases they operated a ‘hot bed system’ where; ‘relays of men appeared to occupy the beds by day that had been occupied by night.’

June 1866
The MOH appeared overwhelmed in the face of so many problems. He reported that; ‘the crowded and ill constructed huts used by the navvies and brick makers still caused him much alarm, and demanded constant vigilance’ but went on, despairingly, ‘One dreaded to touch the huts of navvies and brick makers, and could only hope that some good angel might keep disease far from their doors.’

The ‘good angel’ did not appear and unfortunately small pox broken out in the huts near Mill Lane. The MOH recommended that the ditches and privies near the huts be disinfected.

…but with kind hearts
A resident recalled the help offered by a local vicar: ‘the navvies had a champion in the Reverend Henry Sharpe.’ He was minister of the Holy Trinity Church in Finchley Road, then working from a temporary mission church in Belsize Lane.

‘Both Mr and Mrs Sharpe would go down in the clayey railway cutting and speak to the men, encouraging them and helping them. A great many would get Mr Sharpe to mind a part of their wages, so that it was impossible for them to spend the whole in drink as some of them did.’

The North Star pub on Finchley Road was their watering hole, by choice in this instance. While some contractors insisted their workers take part of their wages in beer, Firbank gave them water and oatmeal. It didn’t stop them drinking: Firbank recorded that on average, one of his navvies consumed 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of bread and 5 quarts of ale every day, while ‘he once knew a man to drink seventeen quarts in an afternoon.’

Rev. Sharpe gave the men tea in his church: ‘some of the navvies would say, look at our dirty clothes, Sir. Mr Sharpe would reply, never mind your clothes, come as you are’. He did however provide some washing facilities before they all sat down to tea. On the spiritual side, Reverend Sharpe took the church to the navvies, preaching to them in the Belsize tunnel, 60 feet underground. ‘The roughest among them would not hear one word spoken against Mr Sharpe, for if anyone attempted to do so, they had to expect a very rough time of it.’

In 1867, Reverend Sharpe was presented with a gift by officials and navvies: ‘a handsome pianoforte (the cost of which was 55 guineas) and a music stool, “as a token of their high regard and esteem for his services as chaplain to the company.” ’

After the line opened
Once the line opened in 1868, the temporary huts and cottages were quickly cleared away and the navvies moved on to other jobs. But the April 1871 census shows the Midland Railway was still using the old mansion and two of the Iverson Road houses as accommodation for railway staff and their families; 45 people in all, with the men working as platelayers, signalmen and porters. The third house had become the railway station which had only been open a month and doubled as home to stationmaster Thomas Beswick and his wife.

The Railway Company soon moved its employees out of the Iverson Road houses and rented them to private tenants and the old mansion was demolished. By 1874, the company had built Midland (Railway) Cottages on Mill Lane, 10 small properties perched high above the railway cutting, to help replace the lost accommodation. The 1881 census shows five families had moved there from Iverson Road. In the 1890s the Company built a further 10 houses, Heysham Terrace on Iverson Road, providing more housing for their employees.

Today, Ellerton, a block of flats, occupies the site of the Mill Lane cottages. The two Iverson Road houses were demolished in the early twentieth century. Heysham Terrace still stands, renumbered as part of Iverson Road. The extensive railway sidings on either side of West End Lane have been redeveloped as housing or retail space and West Hampstead station has been relocated – back in Iverson Road!

West Hampstead’s remarkable women

West Hampstead women

The incomparable Edward Petherbridge has put together a wonderful short film about the women of West Hampstead, focusing on the early part of the 20th century.

It’s well worth watching and has some great old photos and some local history you may not have known… such as the West Hampstead building that was the first physical training college in England.

There’s also mention of Eustace Miles, who we wrote about last year.

Edward’s own website also refers to another West Hampstead woman, the “prominent socialist and feminist”, Dame Margaret Postgate Cole.

Hampstead Cricket Club is 150 not out

Hampstead Cricket Club (HCC) is celebrating its 150th birthday in 2015. There was a charity dinner at Lords on Thursday night, and other events are planned throughout the year both on and off the Lymington Road ground. All have been organised by West Hampstead resident and club chairman, Jim Carter, inbetween filming series six of Downton Abbey!

Hampstead residents have been playing cricket – or forms of the game – for hundreds of years. They used cleared land on the Heath or any other open space for informal games before clubs were established. In August 1802, 11 gentlemen of Highgate challenged 11 gentlemen of Hampstead to a match, for a purse of 500 guineas. This was a huge amount of money, equivalent to about £40,000 today. Highgate won by 54 runs, noting ‘even betting at the start.’ A few weeks earlier, many of the players had been part of a combined Hampstead and Highgate team that played for the same prize money and beat the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club – the governing body of cricket as well as a team) by 112 runs.

The Hampstead Cricket Club that we know today wasn’t the first to use the name. By 1851, there was a club of that name renting a field north of England’s Lane and membership was limited to 60 players. When the land was built on, around 1870, the club closed or amalgamated.

The nearby Eton and Middlesex Cricket Ground was open by 1857. It started close to the northwest slopes of Primrose Hill, but migrated westwards as building crept ever closer. Eventually it covered 16 acres, roughly the western end of the present Elsworthy Road and Wadham Gardens, over towards Avenue Road. As far as we can tell, the St John’s Wood Club that played here became Hampstead Cricket Club. In 1871, the club moved to St Mary’s Fields, open land north of the church of the same name on Abbey Road, and was renamed as the St John’s Wood (Hampstead) Club.

The Club’s new landlords were the Maryon Wilson family, lords of the manor of Hampstead. But when the line of Priory Road was agreed and building plans were made for the land between there and Finchley Road, the club was again forced to leave. They relocated to the present site on Lymington Road in 1877, then described as a cultivated arable field with growing crops of turnips, mangold wurzel, potatoes.

The move to West Hampstead – or West End as it was called then – coincided with the adoption of a new name and colours: the St John’s Wood (Hampstead) Club became the Hampstead Cricket Club. The setting was still rural: no Alvanley Gardens, Lymington Road or Crediton Hill, and sweeping views towards the wooded Hampstead slopes. The approach to the new field was improved into a track of sorts, leading from Finchley Road to the cricket pavilion. The £1,000 moving costs included transporting the original pavilion from the pitch on St Mary’s Fields. It was rebuilt in 1879 and enlarged in 1896.

View from the ground, 1879, looking towards Hampstead

View from the ground, 1879, looking towards Hampstead

In May 1878 it was agreed that,

A cask of beer should be kept on the ground for the benefit of Members only and it was decided to sell temperance drinks at 4d a bottle and to put up a notice in the booth (at the side of the clubhouse) that no beer or spirits were sold on the ground.

With free beer, it’s no wonder HCC was very popular!

Over the years, the managing committee considered many schemes for buying the ground, but while the rent was nominal, the asking price for the freehold was always too high. Crunch time came in 1924 with rising land values. That July, the club was given until December to either purchase the freehold or leave. The landlord wanted £18,000 and the club decided to raise £25,000, to allow for necessary improvements to buildings and grounds. With help from generous donations, the money was eventually found and the freehold purchased.

Many great cricketers played at the HCC, which established itself as an important London club. Hockey was played until 1894 and tennis courts were built alongside the pavilion. Members held regular social events, including an annual black tie dinner and family sports day.

The pavilion about 1902. This was replaced by the current club house in 1927

The pavilion about 1902. This was replaced by the current club house in 1927

The Highest score on record!
On 3 August 1886, a match was played between HCC and the Stoics. At the time, declarations were not allowed and Andrew Ernest Stoddart batted for just over 6 hours, making 485 runs. This was the highest individual score ever recorded at the time – not just at Hampstead, but anywhere ever. His feat was all the more amazing because he’d been playing cards the night before and hadn’t been to bed.

Born in South Shields, the son of a wine merchant and colliery owner who moved to London in the 1870s, Stoddart was a very talented sportsman. He played rugby for England and, after joining the HCC in 1885, played 16 Test matches, captaining England in eight games. He played regularly for HCC until 1902. From the time of his marriage in 1906 to 1911 he lived at 24 Crediton Hill, which backed onto the club ground. After dropping out of the limelight, Stoddart suffered from declining health and financial worries. He committed suicide at his Clifton Hill St John’s Wood home in 1915, a few weeks after his 52nd birthday. His wife Ethel told the inquest her husband had lost a great deal of money (he’d been dealing in stocks and shares before war broke out), and was very depressed. Employed as secretary to Neasden Golf Club and then Queen’s Tennis Club, ill health forced him to resign in 1914 and he had not worked since.

On 3 May 2015, HCC will hold a match against The Stoics and former England captain Andrew Strauss will unveil a new bronze statue of AE Stoddart.

World War One
In 1915 the ‘Hampstead Heavies’ trained with their horses on the HCC grounds. Officially they were called the 138th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, which had been formed in the autumn of 1915, with the Mayor of Hampstead spearheading the campaign to recruit 200 men. On 13 April 1916, the Battery embarked for France, reaching Le Havre after a rough crossing. They travelled by train to Bethune. Equipped with 60-pounder field guns each weighing over 5 tons, conditions in the mud were often appalling for both men and horses. The Heavies served in many of the key battles of World War One and suffered considerable losses. Of the men who landed in France with the original Battery, only one officer and about 30 other ranks had survived when the last round was fired in November 1918.

Charity Matches
For many years matches were played at HCC to raise money for charity. The teams were made up of well known musicians, actors and writers. Many famous stage and film actors took part, such as Owen Nares, who made 39 films between 1914 and 1941. He was a heart throb of his generation. He married the actress Marie Polini and they lived at 29 St John’s Wood Park in the 1930s.

Sir Charles Aubrey Smith, known to film-goers as C. Aubrey Smith, was also an England Test cricketer. He was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the best bowlers to play the game. His oddly curved bowling run-up, earned him the nickname ‘Round the Corner Smith’. When he bowled round the wicket his approach was concealed from the batsman by the umpire until he emerged, leading W.G. Grace to comment ‘it is rather startling when he suddenly appears at the bowling crease.’

As an actor he played officer-and-gentleman roles, and appeared in the first ‘talkies’ version of ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1937). In Hollywood, in the 1930s Smith organised English actors into a cricket team, playing matches on a pitch turfed with imported English grass. He attracted fellow expatriates such as David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce, Leslie Howard and Boris Karloff to the club as well as local American players.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke played in several HCC matches. He made 110 films from 1913 to 1964. One of the great character actors, he was knighted in 1934. He was reputedly George Bernard Shaw’s favourite actor but later Shaw said he was his fifth favourite actor – after the four Marx Brothers!

The comedian Stanley Holloway also played for the actors’ team. He appeared as Alfred P. Doolittle in the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ in the West End and Broadway. As a character actor he was in many films such as, ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘Passport to Pimlico’ and ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’. He is particularly remembered for his monologues such as ‘The Lion and Albert’, based on a news item about a boy who was eaten by a lion in the zoo.

The annual charity matches were suspended during the two world wars. But the tradition continues today with an annual match of star guests against the first XI to end the season.

Jim has commissioned an illustrated full-colour 48 page book about HCC, to which we contributed material on its early history, but as the book says, the club is “celebrating the past and building for the future”.

Steve’s Strange moniker from West Hampstead postman

Steve Strange, frontman of 1980s band Visage, has died in Egypt following a heart attack. He was 55 and best known for the Visage hit Fade to Grey.

Local historian Dick Weindling recalls how Strange (real name, Steven Harrington) picked up his unusual name:

“In 1978, Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived in Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, ‘You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange’. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979.”

Help trace Mr Glassup’s class of 1962

A few weeks ago the BBC ran a story about that first democratic camera, the Brownie. The article triggered some readers to send in their own Brownie photos and these included a couple of photos taken by Merryl See Tai in West Hampstead. Merryl’s on a quest to try and identify the people in one of the photos – the 1961/62 class at St Mary’s school on West End Lane taught by the astonishingly well loved Mr Glassup.

Merryl See Tai now lives in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, but at the start of the 1960s, Merryl and his family were in West Hampstead

Our family (parents, older brother and sister) left Trinidad and Tobago in 1959 and travelled to England by boat. I was eight years old at the time and entered primary school. My brother joined the RAF and my sister entered secondary school. The Brownie 127 Model 2, was a gift from my father shortly after we had arrived. I remember keeping it spotlessly clean, practising, without film, to hold it firmly and steadily and to gently squeeze the shutter button rather than pressing it. My mother and I returned to Trinidad and Tobago in 1962.

Merryl See Tai in West Hampstead 1960/61

“I was 10 years old in this picture taken by my sister in 1960/61 in our back garden at 43 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London.”
Merryl See Tai

In 1962, aged 11, Merryl was a pupil at St Mary’s Church of England school. Today, the school is on the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane, but back then it was much further down West End Lane, almost as far as Kilburn High Road, where Teddy’s Nursery is now. The photo below was taken in mid-1962, just before Merryl and his mother returned to Trinidad & Tobago. Merryl is keen to trace as many people as possible in it. He has never seen any of them since.

“I’ve tried off and on over the years to search on the internet for some of the names that I remembered but without success. I did come across some references to Simon but thought that the USA was the wrong place. I would love to get in contact with some of the old classmates to see how they are doing now. The BBC articles have triggered some serious nostalgia.”

St Mary's School Kilburn 1962_labelled_700

Mr Glassup’s class of 1961/62 at St Mary’s Kilburn. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, Merryl has been able to put some names to faces and furnished a little more detail that might jog someone’s memory.

“Simon De Groot lived in the council flats at the corner of West End Lane and Kilburn Place. His friend Lawrence Harris lived in a flat there also. Peter Carter’s father had a greengrocer shop nearby on Belsize Road. Michael Schaeffer’s father was an American pastor and they lived close to the Abbey Road Studios. There was another Michael and his brother Gerald, I think? There were two girls named Louise and another girl whose surname was Turner. There was also Barry Carter and his sister June, and Andy Patel had a taller brother called David.”

The BBC article actually reached Simon de Groot, as well as Sarah “Betsy” McClain, who was two years ahead of Merryl at St Mary’s, and her brother Andrew who was a year younger than Sarah. Sarah recalled the class teacher Mr Glassup very fondly.

“It is very nice for me to share knowing Mr. Glassup with somebody. I wrote to him until he died in about 1980 or 1981. He used to talk in class about his experiences as a prisoner of war. I remember so much. I know that on the last day of school I was devastated that it was over.”

Mr Glassup, class teacher at St Mary's Kilburn in 1962

Mr Glassup, class teacher at St Mary’s Kilburn in 1962

Simon de Groot also extols the virtues of Mr Glassup.

“I look back on Mr. Glassup as the best teacher I ever had. He and his colleagues not only did a terrific job of giving us the basics of the “3 Rs” but they, especially Jim Glassup, somehow made school challenging and fun at the same time. Truly unsung heroes in a lot of ways.”

Can you help? Were you at St Mary’s School in the early 1960s? Do you know any of these people, or are you any of these people? Do please leave a comment below, or alternatively drop us an e-mail and we can pass your details on to Merryl, now 64, pictured below with his wife Margaret.

Merryl See Tai 2015

Conjuring up the past of Belsize Road’s David Devant

David Devant, one of the world’s greatest illusionists, lived at 2 Belsize Road from 1899 to 1911 although his blue plaque is at Number 1 Ornan Mansions on the corner of Haverstock Hill (now called Ornan Court).

David Devant pulling a rabbit from the hat

David Devant pulling a rabbit from the hat

He was born as David Edmonstone Wighton on 22 February 1868, at 4 Boston Terrace, opposite the Boston Arms pub in Junction Road, Holloway, the eldest of James Wighton’s seven children. James, a Scottish artist, painted for the Illustrated London News and other magazines, using the family as models, but he wasn’t well paid and the family struggled. They moved several times around north London. As a boy, David was entranced watching magicians perform and he decided this was what he wanted to do. But before he could realise his ambition, he had to earn a living.

After school David began work as a pageboy for a middle class family in Bartholomew Road, Kentish Town. Aged twelve, he polished shoes and cleaned the house. His next job was selling fruit and chocolate in Euston Station, but he was sacked when he was discovered practising conjuring tricks instead of working. Then he worked as telephone operator in the City and a gas lighting salesman.

All the time he practiced conjuring, spending any spare money on magic books and tricks. When he visited an art gallery and saw a French biblical painting called ‘David devant Goliath’ he thought this would be a good stage name, not realising that ‘devant’ meant ‘in front of’.

In 1883 David was very impressed when he saw the Maskelyne and Cooke’s magic shows at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. He did not know that ten years later he would top the bill there.

He began giving shows at parties and his first public performance was at a bazaar held in a schoolroom in Kentish Town Road. Several professional magicians were in the audience and they were impressed by the young David Devant. Encouraged, he advertised his magic shows and hired a local hall.

One of his best tricks was the Vanishing Lady. He asked two women in the street if they would help him. Surprisingly, they agreed and became his assistants. The trick worked very well: one woman partnered Devant while the other concealed herself in the gallery. When Devant pulled a cloth off the women seated on the stage, she disappeared, only to miraculously ‘re-appear’ in the gallery. But one night it all went badly wrong. When he pulled the cloth away his assistant on stage refused to disappear, but the second woman did her part and appeared in the gallery! Quickly the curtain was brought down. Devant later discovered the two women had fallen out over a box of chocolates sent by an admirer!

David made his music hall debut at the Albert Palace near Battersea Park in 1886. His act went down well with audiences and he began to perform around the country. In his autobiography My Magic Life, he says that in about 1888, in Margate, he met Annie Marion Gosling who used the stage name Marion Melville, and they were married three weeks later. But it seems they just lived together as there’s no record of their marriage until 1904 when their daughter Vida was born. Marion worked as Devant’s assistant.

David Devant's Sylph trick

David Devant’s Sylph trick

In 1891, Devant made his first appearance at the London Palladium and the Oxford Theatre. But he was sacked from the Oxford when he dropped a rabbit during his act. The manager used the mistake as an excuse to get rid of Devant, as he had booked another conjuror. Devant lost six months of work.

In 1893 John Maskelyne asked Devant to appear at the Eygptian Hall. This was his big break and the men later became partners as Masklelyne and Devant. Devant took over the running of the hall and organised tours around the country. He was fascinated by cinematography and bought a projection machine from R.W. Paul, becoming the first independent operator in Britain with shows at the Egyptian Hall and three touring companies. In 1904 the hall closed and they moved to St George’s Hall, Oxford Circus.

Devant devised many original illusions. One of his favourite tricks was the Magic Kettle, which produced any drink the audience chose. In The Artists Dream (1893), a portrait of a young woman comes to life. The woman was his wife Marion Melville. The Sylph has a person floating in mid-air while Devant passes a hoop all the way round to show they’re not being held up by wires. In the Mascot Moth (1905), a woman dressed as a moth appears to dissolve and then disappear as he comes near her with a lighted candle.

Devant became the first President of the Magic Circle when it was formed in 1905. By 1912 he was a world famous illusionist and was chosen to represent magicians at the first Royal Command Performance before King George V in the Palace Theatre. He appeared with his young daughter Vida and Maskelyne’s grandson, Jasper. Devant borrowed a bowler hat from a member of the audience and began producing eggs from it. The eggs were passed to Vida and then to Jasper, but as Devant produced them faster and faster, Jasper started dropped them on the stage, proving they were real. The floor around him quickly became covered in broken eggs and the show was held up as the stage hands cleaned up the mess.

David Devant in 1913 with his daughter Vida and Jasper Maskelyne (from My Magic Life)

David Devant in 1913 with his daughter Vida and Jasper Maskelyne (from My Magic Life)

When he appeared in Manchester in 1919, Devant asked a boy from the audience to come on stage and copy everything that he did. He was puzzled when the boy started shaking a handkerchief he’d been given, until he looked down at his own hand and saw it was shaking. This was the first stage of a nervous palsy which got progressively worse and forced Devant to retire in 1920. He continued to write articles and magic books until 1937, when he was admitted to the Royal Hospital for Incurables in Putney. He was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and died in October 1941 aged 73. The Times obituary says he was the foremost magician of his time.

In Devant’s time, Belsize Road joined Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage Station was on the corner. Number 2 Belsize Road was a large house behind the station. It was destroyed by a German bomb on 12 November 1940, that killed one of the occupants. Other properties were also damaged. The area was rebuilt in 1956 as the Harben Estate and Belsize Road was slightly re-routed.

T.S.Eliot’s “gloomy” West Hampstead home

T.S. Eliot – arguably the greatest poet of the 20th century – lived for two years in Compayne Gardens.

Local actor and writer Edward Petherbridge has put together a short film, While the Music Lasts, about Eliot’s time in West Hampstead, which is well worth six minutes of your time.

In 1915, Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in Hampstead Registry office and the couple moved in with Vivienne’s parents in Compayne Gardens. “A house Eliot found rather gloomy, with long dark corridors”.

It was during this time that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was published, although Eliot had written it a few years earlier and – the video claims – the seeds of The Waste Land were sown during his time in West Hampstead.

Edward Petherbridge’s original article is here.

The struggles of West Hampstead’s 19th Century laundry school

West End House was built in the mid-17th Century and was originally the home of the Beckford family. It stood approximately where Rowntree Close is today, opposite the Thameslink station, and has an interesting history, including a four year spell as a philanthropic laundry school.

Don’t confuse this West End House with another building of the same name, which was the home of the Miles family near West End Green. To help distinguish between the two, locals sometimes called the Beckford property Old West End House and the Miles’, New West End House.

West End House, 1865 OS map

West End House, 1865 OS map

The Beckford house was much modified by successive owners and stood on a low hill. In 1842, West End House was described as a three-storey building with nine rooms on the top floor and seven on the floor below, with a balcony. There was a drawing room and a study on the ground floor plus kitchen and servants’ hall – and a water closet. The house came with upwards of 20 acres but by the 1850s it was available to rent with just a small amount of land.

Daniel Whittle Harvey
In 1855 the last tenant to rent the mansion as a home moved in. Daniel Whittle Harvey had been a radical MP who founded The Sunday Times, and now held the prestigious post of Commissioner of the City of London Police. But the neighbourhood was changing and he stayed only a couple of years. After Whittle left, the property’s slow decline began and by June 1857 it stood empty.

The setting of West End House was irreparably damaged by railway building. What we now call the London Overground was originally promoted as the Hampstead Junction Railway in 1853. By 1856, the railway company had purchased five acres of land immediately south of West End House. The Act authorising the Midland Railway’s extension to St Pancras was passed in 1863 and its route lay in a cutting immediately opposite the old mansion. Railway building was very disruptive and unlikely to appeal to most tenants.

The philanthropic brewer

Under these circumstances, landlords looked for alternative rentals, maybe a school or similar concern.

Robert Culling Hanbury

Robert Culling Hanbury (1823-1867) was an extremely wealthy partner in the old brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury and Burton. At one time their brewery in Brick Lane was said to be one of the largest in the world. He helped set up the Reformatory & Refuge Union in 1856, and the following year the Union decided to create the Girls’ Laundry & Training Institution for Young Servants. Then as now, many households sent their laundry away to be done. The Institution was the idea of “some ladies who had considerable experience in the work of female reformation”, so this training was aimed at a specific group.

In November 1857, The Times published an appeal for £500, which was needed to set up the laundry “for the employment of females from the London refuges and reformatories, who are of sufficient age to leave these institutions, but require further training or protection from bad parents.”

The Institution was described as an “industrial home” – not a reformatory or a refuge – it would provide the trainees with “protection, employment and prepare them for future service”. Girls from poor and broken homes could look forward to, at best, marriage and children; and at worst, prostitution. The difficulty in “reclaiming” girls who had “left the path of virtue” was mentioned, as was the fact that there were few opportunities for any woman to earn a regular and living wage. If the girls could be trained, in this case for laundry work, they’d have a skill to offer, “as would enable them to undertake engagements either in families or in washing establishments, or as wives. It is proposed that the girls should be properly cared for, and receive necessary teaching of other descriptions”.

Needlework, housework and plain cooking were also on the curriculum. It was hoped the Institution would gain a reputation such that respectable working men would also send their girls for instruction. As was common for the time, religion and strong moral beliefs pervaded the running of the Institution.

There were regulations governing the selection of girls to be admitted. Nothing was free. A girl certainly couldn’t just turn up and ask to be trained. The Ladies Management Committee, which almost certainly included Mrs Hanbury among its members, vetted the entries. Admission was £10 for each girl, payable quarterly in advance, unless there were special circumstances or she had worked in a laundry before. The intention was for the girls to earn enough to cover their day to day expenses and make the business self-supporting. A few critics raised doubts – at least one recent attempt by another philanthropic organisation to train girls for laundry work had failed.

By January 1858, £268 had been raised and the committee searched for premises. This took some time. It decided West End House was the most suitable “on account of its airy situation, (good for laundry and inmates’ health), distance from surrounding buildings and capability of accommodation in the house”.

A lease was signed, but the rent was higher than the committee had intended paying, at £150 a year. Given the known proximity of the Hampstead Junction Railway and the dirt associated with steam engines, the committee’s decision to rent West End House was questionable, especially as more money had to be spent to create the girls’ accommodation. Then there were the further costs associated with providing laundry facilities and equipment, all this before the business could be launched.

Old West End House, Girls Laundry Training School

Old West End House, Girls Laundry Training School

The Training Institution took possession of West End House on 5th July 1858, and began building the wash house. The first three girls were admitted a week later on the 12th. In January 1859, an article in The Philanthropist described progress so far. The number of girls had risen to just seven, as it was decided not to admit more until all modifications had been completed. The plan had always been to open the enterprise with a few girls who already had laundry experience, get a few clients and then take in trainees. As regards their moral welfare, the girls sometimes attended services held at Christ Church in Hampstead; the Reformatory and Refuge Union had given books for a library and the Bible Society had likewise donated a number of bibles. But the article concluded with the ominous statement that “the sum which was generously contributed last year is entirely exhausted”, spent on fitting up the wash house and furnishing the Institution to receive 40 girls. And as yet, no laundry work had been done; for the past six months the girls had been doing needlework “necessary for the house and laundry”.

There were more appeals for pecuniary aid. In April 1859, Hanbury said he believed the enterprise would “realise very favourable results”. That September, when the laundry business had barely got underway, the entire estate, including the house, was put up for sale. But as the Institution’s lease still had an unexpired term of 28 years to run, it continued working while the land around it was slowly developed.

The greatest care had been taken in selecting a matron who would not only instruct the girls in laundry work but also be responsible for their moral training. Accordingly, the Union advertised for “a person of sound religious principles, influence and tact.” Miss Sarah Woodhams was the matron in January 1859 but by 1861, the laundry was being managed by Susan Beech, a 50-year-old widow born in Islington. Her live-in staff comprised two assistants and a porter. Mrs Beech was in charge of 25 girls, far fewer than the 40 originally intended. Of these, 21 were “under training for laundry services”, and the remainder, “under training for domestic services”. Their ages ranged from 14 to 17.

The laundry folds

A track off West End Lane became Iverson Road, and in 1862 three large houses were being built there. In March that year, the laundry was in trouble with the local authorities over a blocked drain, but the committee blamed the builder working on the land opposite, saying he had diverted the drain. In May, a bazaar was held to raise funds for the Institution but by September 1862 West End House stood empty once again. Matron Beech, her staff and the girls had gone. There is no record of the laundry relocating elsewhere, so almost certainly it had closed. Presumably the business had been unprofitable, which meant that unless expenses and salaries were covered by donations, it couldn’t keep going. Inadequate funding appears to have been a problem from the very start.

The Midland Railway Company bought West End House and the three large houses built opposite, and used them as temporary accommodation for its workers, the navvies who built the line to St Pancras. The mansion was demolished around 1873.

Today’s visitor to Iverson Road will find no trace of West End House or the three Victorian villas. It took 25 years for the site of the mansion and the land round it to be built on and the area has undergone extensive redevelopment in recent years. Two of the villas were demolished around the turn of the 20th Century; the third was adapted for use as the first Midland Railway station and demolished after the station was relocated on West End Lane.

Back in East London, Robert Hanbury was well known for supporting good causes. He had donated £100 of his own money to help establish the West End Laundry. But his wealth couldn’t protect against personal tragedy. In September 1863, two of Robert’s sons, Francis (11), and Herbert (7) contracted scarlet fever and died while on holiday in Eastbourne. Robert’s wife Caroline died just a week later. Press reports of her death give no cause of her death other than to say that it was not scarlet fever and that it followed what one paper called her “unwearying nursing” of her sons. Robert Hanbury married again and died in 1867, after suffering from rheumatic fever for several weeks.

Truman Hanbury and Buxton Brewery in Brick Lane, 1842

Truman Hanbury and Buxton Brewery in Brick Lane, 1842

Teachers are now pupils at former West End Lane school

The London Diocesan Board for Schools has taken over the old St Mary’s School in West End Lane to use as its training centre. Over the years St Mary’s School has occupied four different buildings, all within a short walk of each other.

The West End Lane school site today

The West End Lane school site today

Until the mid 1870s all new churches provided their own day school. The foundation stone for St Mary’s Church in Abbey Road was laid in 1856 in the midst of open fields. When the main building opened in 1862, the neighbouring streets were still being built. Once the money was raised, the church tower and spire were added ten years later.

The first St Mary’s School was established near the corner of Upton Road and Kilburn Priory, backing onto the railway line. Upton Road was the original name given to the stretch of Belsize Road between Abbey Road and Kilburn Priory. The school appears in the 1861 census as St Mary’s District School and on the 1866 OS Map as St Mary’s National School. It occupied rooms that stood behind 1 Upton Road, today’s 195 Belsize Road. The OS Map made the unsubstantiated claim that this had been the site of Kilburn Priory.

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

Scenery painter Charles Marshall lived at 1 Upton Road from at least 1853 to 1855. He was employed by several theatres, including Drury Lane and Her Majesty’s. He originated and developed transformational scenes and is credited with introducing limelight on the stage. Marshall also exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy. His studio was the space referred to in the 1859 sales particulars for the property, when specific mention was made of a ‘large school room or studio’ adjoining the house. This was the space occupied by the first St Mary’s School until Spring 1868.

In 1869, £510 was paid for the freehold of an existing ‘incommodious’ school that served St Paul’s Chapel in Kilburn Square. The school stood at the Kilburn end of West End Lane. The old building was demolished and the second St Mary’s School was built on its site by Manley and Rogers, at a cost of £1,648. Until it opened in 1870, pupils were taught in rented rooms in Priory Mews. When the school opened the school mistress originally lived on site: in 1871 it was 24 year old Emma Watson, when the school roll was 162 boys, 70 girls and 80 infants.

Over the years the buildings were extended and improved but the site was very restrictive and finally a new school was opened at the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane in November 1991. Costing £1.75 million, the school was designed by Professor Hans Haenlein and was one of the most modern in the country. The hall is in a central covered courtyard with a slide back roof, the classrooms opening off the hall on three sides. Ex-pupils of the old school include the actor Peter Egan and Fred Housego, the taxi driver, who won Mastermind.

The old building at 2 West End Lane was taken over by ‘Teddies Nursery’ in 2004 for about 100 children. This was one of a chain of nurseries run by BUPA. In 2014 the London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS SCITT), took the building to train teachers. It works with more than 70 Church of England schools in London to provide school-based training for students.

Jack Bruce: the Cream of West Hampstead’s musical talent

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

The great singer, songwriter and bass player, Jack Bruce died age 71 on Saturday 25 October. Jack was best known as a member of the supergroup Cream. He lived in and around West Hampstead in the 1960s.

Born in in Bishopsbriggs, north of Glasgow, Jack was the son of Charlie and Betty Bruce, who were working-class parents with strong left-wing convictions.

My mother sang Scottish folk songs and my father was a huge traditional jazz fan of people like Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. But my older brother loved modern jazz. There’d be literally, physical fights in my house between my father and brother arguing about the role of the saxophone in jazz or something, real punch-ups.

As a teenager, Jack sang in a church choir, and won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music to study the piano and cello. Classically trained, Jack also played jazz and blues. To earn money he played in the Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband, but The Academy disapproved. Jack said; ‘They found out, and said you either stop playing jazz, or leave college. So I left college.’

In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of Alexandra Mansions on West End Green. Jack joined Alexis Korner’s ‘Blues Incorporated’, which included Graham Bond on organ, Ginger Baker on drums and Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. In 1963, Jack and Ginger joined Graham Bond, with John McLaughlin (guitar), to form the ‘Graham Bond Organisation’ (GBO). They were very popular and played numerous times at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. A session at Klooks was recorded by Decca next door and released as ‘One Night at Klooks Kleek’.

On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club. They moved to a flat at 25 Bracknell Gardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home in Alexandra Mansions. The phone books show they were still there in 1968. Later, with the success of Cream, they bought a house in Chalk Farm.

During their time in GBO, Jack and Ginger had a very fiery relationship both on and off stage, and in 1965 Bruce left the band. He briefly joined John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’ with Eric Clapton on guitar. In 1966 Bruce was with Manfred Mann’s band when they had a Number 1 hit with ‘Pretty Flamingo’.

In May 1966 Ginger Baker had approached Eric Clapton about forming a band. Eric suggested Jack should join them, not fully understanding how difficult they had found it to work together in the Graham Bond Organisation. However, Ginger agreed to try it out and the three of them rehearsed at his Neasden home, 154 Braemar Avenue.

#3166524 / gettyimages.com 20th August 1967: (from left) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton

Cream was formed and they played their first gig at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, the band caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought Cream would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had already booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig – again at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August 1966.

Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek with Dick Jordan, remembers Ginger asking him how much they would get for the evening. He expected a grumpy response to the reply “£89”, instead, Ginger expressed surprise and thanks, as the bands he played with previously at Klooks had usually been on about £50. Maybe Ginger felt good because Cream were about to embark on their first US tour playing stadia for five-figure dollar sums each night. Cream’s popularity grew very quickly and the only other time they played at Klooks was on the 15 November. This gig was recorded next door at the Decca Studios. Planned as an EP it was not released, as the band saw LPs as the future.

After great success, Cream spit up in July 1968, with a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. In 1993, Cream were inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ and they reunited to play four sellout shows at the Albert Hall in May 2005, and three in New York in October.

After Cream split up Jack began recording solo albums such as, ‘Things We Like’ in 1968 and ‘Songs for a Tailor’ in 1969. He played in several bands but struggled with his heroin addiction. In 2003, Jack was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent a liver transplant. Although his immune system initially rejected the organ, he recovered and kept playing. But his poor health finally caught up with him in 2014 and he died at his Suffolk home.

Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, Jack Bruce: Composing Himself (2010). For more about Klooks Kleek, see our book, Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek.

“They had no choice”: Kilburn’s Animal War Memorial Dispensary

The recent commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has focused many people’s thoughts on the service men and women who fought, died and survived the conflict. Ten years ago, attention centered on the millions of animals and birds that served alongside British, Commonwealth and Allied troops in all conflicts during the twentieth century. The memorial to Animals in War in Park Lane was unveiled on 24 November 2004. An inscription reads, ‘They had no choice.’ But Kilburn is home to a much earlier – and more active – memorial to the nation’s service animals.

RSPCA Cambridge Ave NW6

Horses, dogs and donkeys were the most commonly used animals – mainly for transport and haulage, but camels, elephants, pigeons, bullocks, dogs and goats were all pressed into service. They suffered from exposure, lack of food and disease, dying alongside their human companions.

The Park Lane memorial was the fulfilment of an idea that dates as far back as the early 1920s when the RSPCA proposed a memorial for animals that had served in WWI. A committee was set up, funds were raised and the site chosen was Hyde Park corner. In 1925 photographs of the proposed memorial were submitted to Westminster City Council but there the project appears to have stalled.

Instead the RSPCA decided on a more practical commemoration, in the form of the Animal War Memorial Dispensary in Kilburn, where, in the words of a contemporary report, ‘the sick, injured or unwanted animals of poor people could receive, free of charge, the best possible veterinary attention, or a painless death.’

It took many years to find a site for the Animal War Memorial Dispensary. The RSPCA acquired 10 Cambridge Avenue in March 1931 and that May, the freeholders allowed a change of use from a private house to a ‘free dispensary for sick and injured animals.’

The memorial inscription on the Kilburn building is echoed by that in Hyde Park: ‘To all animals who suffered and perished in the Great War knowing nothing of the cause, looking forward to no final victory, filled only with love, faith and loyalty, they endured much and died for us.’

Thirty one sculptors entered the competition for a memorial design for the main facade of the building. Frederick Brook Hitch of Hertford was the winner. The panel over the entrance had to be removable, as the RSPCA only held a lease, not the freehold of Number 10 Cambridge Avenue.

RSPCA plaque on the outside of the Dispensary in Kilburn

RSPCA plaque on the outside of the Dispensary in Kilburn

A local paper recorded the official opening on 10 November 1932, by the Countess of Warwick. But the dispensary had been at work for over a year, during which time 6,000 animals had been treated. The ceremony was preceded by a meeting at St Augustine’s School in Kilburn Park Road, presided over by the Chairman of the RSPCA, Sir Robert Gower.

By the mid 1930s, more than 50,000 animals and birds had received attention at the Dispensary. At the rear of the well-equipped premises were glass fronted kennels and catteries with a loose box for horses. There was accommodation on site for vet and an assistant, providing 24 hour care. In 1936 alone, 9,756 animals passed through the doors.

Plaque side 1 RSPCAThe RSPCA clinic at Cambridge Road is still open. The main door is flanked by two marble memorial panels. They record that 484,143 animals were killed by enemy action, disease or accident and that 725,216 animals were treated by the RSPCA during WW1. We now know the overall mortality figures were far higher, with an estimated 8 million horses dying in WW1.

Plaque side RSPCAThe horse is the animal most often associated with the European conflict. In 1914, the British and German armies had a cavalry force of some 100,000 men, but the development of trench warfare rendered cavalry charges unviable as a military tactic. But horses and mules were still needed to transport materials and supplies and to pull guns and ambulances. The animals also had to be fed, watered and tended. Strong ties developed between horse and rider. The Daily Mail on 31st December 1914, carried an article by a Welsh soldier serving in the Royal Field Artillery. He’d been with his horses for several years before war broke out. He said;

I could talk to them just as I am talking to you. There was not a word I said that they did not understand. And they could answer me – I was never once at a loss to know what they meant. Early in the retreat from Mons, a shell crashed right into the midst of the section with which I was moving. My gun was wrecked. I was ordered to help with another. As I mounted the fresh horse to continue the retreat, I saw my two horses struggling and kicking on the ground to free themselves. I could not go back to them, I tell you it hurt me. Suddenly a French chasseur dashed up to them, cut the traces, and set them at liberty. I was a good way ahead by then, but kept looking at them, and I could tell they saw me. Those horses followed me for four days. We stopped for hardly five minutes and I could not get back to them. There was no work for them but they kept their places in the line liked trained soldiers. They were following me to the very end. Whenever I looked, there they were in the line, watching me so anxiously and sorrowfully as to make me feel guilty of deserting them. Whether they got anything to eat, I do not know. I wonder if they dropped out from sheer exhaustion – I hope to Heaven it was not that. At any rate, one morning when the retreat was all but over, I missed them. I suppose I shall never see them again. That’s the sort of thing that hurts a soldier in war.

During the Gallipoli campaign, horses became so weak they collapsed and died in the mud and shell holes. When the New Zealand Forces were sent home, their horses were divided into three classes. Some mares were kept for breeding purposes; other horses were transferred to the British Army. Of the final group, many were destined to be butchered for meat.

Dead horses in 1918 (image copyright free via the Imperial War Museum)

Dead horses in 1918 (image copyright free via the Imperial War Museum)

Dogs accompanied sentries on patrol, carried messages and worked as scouts, ‘sniffing’ out the enemy ahead. Others acted as medics, sent onto the battlefield equipped with basic supplies that allowed a wounded man to tend to his own injuries. They might also stay with a fatally injured soldier until he died.

Pigeons were very reliable when it came to sending messages. It has been calculated that they had an astonishing 95% success rate getting through to their destination. The Government even issued a special ‘Defence of the Realm Regulation’ to prohibit the shooting of homing pigeons. Offenders were warned they faced six months imprisonment or a £100 fine.

A pigeon named ‘Cher Ami’ was awarded the Croix de Guerre for work in the American sector around Verdun in 1918. On her last mission, Cher Ami was shot but delivered a message that gave the co-ordinates of 194 soldiers cut off behind enemy lines. The men were rescued. Cher Ami recovered and was sent back to the USA where she died in 1919. Her body was put on display at the Smithsonian museum, Washington D.C.

There is newsreel footage of animals in service during WW1; but be warned many of them make for unpleasant viewing.

http://www.britishpathe.com/gallery/war-animals
http://www.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/wwi/wwianimals

Did Jack the Ripper live in West Hampstead?

In the summer of 1888 a series of horrific murders was committed in the East End of London. They were attributed to an unknown man who was given the name of Jack The Ripper. Further murders occurred in the area up to 1891.

Last week a new book came out. In Naming Jack The Ripper, author Russell Edwards claims to have identified the killer as Aaron Kosminski, a Polish hairdresser who lived in Whitechapel. Kosminski was one of a long list of suspects, but the police didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. He was committed to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in 1891 and died in Leavesden Asylum in 1919.

Aaron Kosminski

Aaron Kosminski

In 2007 Russell Edwards bought a blood-stained shawl thought to belong to Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims. He worked with Dr Jari Louhelainen from Liverpool John Moores University, who was senior lecturer in molecular biology and an expert in genetic evidence from historical crime scenes. He obtained DNA from blood stains and semen on the shawl. They found a descendant of Catherine Eddowes and the DNA matched the blood stains. Eventually Edwards tracked down a descendant of Kosminski and they claimed her DNA matched that from the semen. From these results Edwards believes he has identified the murderer as Kosminski. But Ripperologists have raised a number of questions and are not convinced that the case is solved. There are suggestions that there may have been cross-contamination of the shawl.

In 2002 best-selling US crime novelist, Patricia Cornwell published, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed. She was convinced that he was the artist Walter Sickert. Cornwell reputedly spent about £2 million trying to prove her case by buying Sickert’s desk and some of his paintings. Her experts compared DNA believed to be Sickert’s with saliva from a few of the 250 letters sent to Scotland Yard at the time of the crimes, but there was no match. However Cornwell claimed a match was found between the DNA from a Ripper letter and two of Sickert’s letters.

So what has all this got to do with West Hampstead? Most of the Ripper letters were postmarked in the East End, but some were from Kilburn, and mentioned Palmerston Road and Finchley Road.

The key is that Sickert, who Cornwell is sure was the Ripper, lived here at the time of the murders.

Walter Sickert 1911

Walter Sickert 1911

Walter Sickert lived at 54 Broadhurst Gardens after his marriage on 10 June 1885 to Ellen Cobden, the daughter of Richard Cobden, the social reformer. They had to wait until the new house was finished and moved in just before Christmas 1885. The marriage was not a happy one and Ellen sued for divorce in 1899. She cited Walter’s desertion in 1896 and adultery in 1898 with ‘an unknown woman at the Midland Grand Hotel in London,’ (the building above St Pancras Station). She alleged further adultery in London and Paris in 1899. Sickert did not defend the case and a decree nisi was issued on 27 July 1899. Sickert’s artistic work, particularly from the music halls, has been increasingly appreciated.

In 1894 the Manchester, Liverpool and Lincolnshire Railway bought a large number of houses on the north side of Broadhurst Gardens including Number 54, to build their line to Marylebone. Today it is covered by the ‘Broadfield’ blocks of flats.

Intriguing as the thought may be that Jack The Ripper lived in West Hampstead, Cornwell’s case for Sickert was dismissed by many Ripperologists. It remains to be seen if Edwards’ claim that Kosminski is the real killer will gain wider acceptance.

Robin Williams’ impromptu gig at The Railway in West Hampstead

Robin Williams

To add to the current wave of global misery, Robin Williams was found dead yesterday morning, suspected of committing suicide after well-known bouts of depression. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

The story I was told shortly after I moved into leafy West Hampstead was that Robin Williams occasionally visited da hood because he was mates with the owners of The Railway pub in West End Lane, back when it was a much respected, if somewhat down-at-heel, venue. The Railway sits a few yards from the tube station and next door to the English National Opera rehearsal studios in Broadhurst Gardens which previously housed the Decca recording studio where, famously, the Beatles failed their audition in 1962, and where the great John Mayall albums with Eric Clapton and Peter Green were recorded.

In those days, West Hampstead was mostly students in bedsits and artists who couldn’t afford Islington or proper Hampstead. It wasn’t called “East Kilburn” for nothing. Great parties, though.

Anyhow, apparently Robin was visiting his mates when he was overcome by the urge to do an impromptu set. Like a bird that has to sing, he got up and did loads, presumably secure with a relatively small no-pressure audience that loved him.

No pix, no video, just happy memories of a very lucky audience. We need a blue plaque.

Reader Lisa Minot was at the gig.

He turned up at the end of the weekly Comedy Club that was held in the back room (and we were very loyal regulars, went every week) – he had asked to impro to a UK audience before a Princes’ Trust concert. When the normal comedy acts finished, a guy came on and just said: ‘Some American guy wants to try some new material, if you stay, we’ll keep the bar open’

Easy choice and when Robin walked out on stage, our first thought was: ‘Hey, that’s the guy from Mork and Mindy’

He then proceeded to perform, non-stop, for nearly two hours, seemingly without any material, just improvising and interacting with the very small audience of mainly students. It was utterly brilliant and even now, nearly 26 years on, I can remember knowing that night was special.

A few months or year later, Good Morning Vietnam came out and the rest is history.

RIP Robin Williams — one of the funniest and saddest guys ever.

[Ed: This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on Anna’s blog here.]

Charles Dickens’ brother lived in West Hampstead

Alfred Lamert Dickens, Charles Dickens’ younger brother, was born in Chatham in April 1822, the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. From February to May 1824 John Dickens was in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison, where he was joined by Elizabeth and the three youngest Dickens children including Alfred. At the time a debtor’s family could move in if they could afford to pay for a private room. Charles Dickens was sent to lodge in Camden Town.

Peter Ackroyd, in his excellent biography of Dickens, says that Alfred was the only one of Dickens’ siblings to make something of himself. Alfred became a civil engineer and during the 1840s, was engaged on the construction of the York, Malton and Scarborough Railway. He also engineered the Malton and Driffield Railway, which opened in 1853 and which eventually was amalgamated into the North Eastern Railway. Charles Dickens knew the village of Malton through his lifelong friendship with solicitor Charles Smithson, who lived there. It seems probable that Dickens helped his brother get his position with the railway companies.

In 1846, Alfred married Yorkshire-born Helen Dobson, who was a minor, at St Andrew’s Holborn. Between 1847 and 1853 they had four children, all born in Malton. Alfred had an office there in the Market Place, and lived at Hillside Cottage, Greengate, Malton and they later moved to Derwent Cottage, Scarborough Road, Norton.

Sketch of Alfred Lamert Dickens

Sketch of Alfred Lamert Dickens

His wife Helen and children were at Derwent Cottage on the night of the 1851 census, when she describes herself as an ‘engineer’s wife’. At the time Alfred was in London, at 34 Keppel Street, the house of a Dr Davey. His mother and father had been lodging there when John died on 31 March after a botched operation, a few days before the census was taken. Alfred had travelled to London to attend his father’s funeral at Highgate Cemetery.

Alfred and his family left Malton and came to live in London after the amalgamation of the railway lines in 1854. The birth of his daughter Augusta in Hampstead and his report on the sanitary conditions in Canning Town both date from 1855.

It’s likely that Alfred stayed in London but the family returned north. He used his civil engineering experience to become a Superintending Inspector appointed to administer the Public Health Act. In addition to the Canning Town report, he appears six times in the London Gazette between 1855 and 1857, where Alfred Lamerte (sic) Dickens is reported as visiting various districts to look at their sewerage, drainage, water supply and other public heath criteria, as preparatory work to establish a Local Board of Health. He visited Mistley and Brentwood in Essex, Bradford, Wheatley in Oxfordshire, Ynyscynhaiarn in Carnarvon and Scarborough in Yorkshire.

We know Alfred was living somewhere in Hampstead in 1855 when his daughter Augusta was born and that he was renting Lawn Cottage on West End Lane in 1859. This was one of a pair of houses on the Lane towards Finchley Road, uphill from West End Green. The whole area at the time was known as West End, not West Hampstead.

Lawn Cottage, 1865

Lawn Cottage, 1865

Lawn Cottage (marked in red on the map) and Fern Cottages were opposite the Cock and Hoop pub.

Children on West End Green, about 1882. Lawn Cottage is in the background on the right

Children on West End Green, about 1882. Lawn Cottage is in the background on the right

Peter Ackroyd says Alfred was working as an engineer in Manchester when he died of pleurisy on 27 July 1860. Alfred left a widow and five children. Charles Dickens provided for them. He confided to a close friend, ‘Day after day I have been scheming and contriving for them, and am still doing so, and have schemed myself into broken rest and low spirits.’

Charles brought Alfred’s family back to London for the funeral at Highgate Cemetery. The probate record shows that Alfred was still living at West End at the time of his death. It seems likely he was visiting Manchester and the fact that he died at a pub and hotel, the ‘Moseley Arms’, seems to corroborate this. He left less than £600, worth about £46,000 today.

A year later, Alfred’s widow Helen and the children were living with Charles Dickens’ widowed mother Elizabeth, at 4 Grafton Terrace in Kentish Town. Charles paid for the house and for Helen to look after his mother, who was suffering from dementia. Dickens wrote in a letter:

My mother, who was also left to me when my father died (I never had anything left to me but relations), is in the strangest state of mind from senile decay; and the impossibility of getting her to understand what is the matter combined with her desire to be got up in sables like a female Hamlet, illumines the dreary scene with a ghastly absurdity that is the chief relief I can find in it.

Elizabeth Dickens died in 1863. In 1871, Helen Dickens was living round the corner from Grafton Terrace in Queen’s Crescent. She died in 1915.

We were very surprised to find Dickens’ brother had lived in West End, if only for a short period of time before his death.

We have just set up a new blog for stories which are based in Kilburn and Willesden.

Wife murdered with a chopper in Kilburn… in 1897

In September 1897 the newspapers reported ‘a shocking tragedy’ at Kilburn. In the early hours of Saturday the 11th, and after an evening spent drinking, James Harris killed his wife Annie and tried to kill his seven-year-old daughter May. He also assaulted his son, 10-year-old William and then attempted suicide. Annie died, but the children survived and Harris was later sentenced to be hanged for his crimes.

Kilburn murder (Illustrated Police News 18 Sept 1897)

James Harris was born in Buckingham around 1864. He came to Kilburn and worked for John Wicks, a local builder who lived in Hawthorn Villa a detached house just north of Kilburn Brewery. Today this would be on the Kilburn High Road close to Dyne Road. Here he met John Wicks’ eldest daughter Annie, or Mary Ann. She was about eight years older than James and when she became pregnant they were married at Holy Trinity Church in Kilburn on 2 June 1879.

James said he was of full age, but in fact he was about 16. They had five children but three died in infancy. The two who survived were William and May, both born in Kilburn. After staying with John Wicks at Hawthorn Villa, they lived at various addresses in the neighbourhood and by 1891 they were all sharing one room at 35 Palmerston Road. By 1897, the family had moved to number 30 and James Harris had then been employed for five years as a platelayer on the nearby Midland Railway. He seemed happy in his work and had an allotment garden by the railway line.

30 Palmerston Road was a three-storey terraced property in a generally respectable working class neighbourhood, but sanitation was poor and most properties were split between several families. Over the years Palmerston Road gained a bad reputation and featured frequently in reports by Hampstead’s Medical Officer. There were many manual workers among the street’s residents: labourers, shop workers and servants, with some employed by local businesses such Kilburn Brewery or working on the buses, as there was a large bus depot in the road. In 1897, three families shared number 30; the Harris family lived at the back of the house in one room on the second floor. The 1901 census shows five households of varying sizes in the property, a total of 20 people.

It seemed that the Harris’s home life had been unhappy and turbulent. In fact, the family’s behaviour was so objectionable that the landlord had given them notice to quit, having received complaints from other tenants in the house. Annie and the children were subjected to beatings by Harris but the violence escalated to another level the night of September 11th.

James Harris’s neighbour George Brown had returned to No. 30 around 10pm and wanted to go to bed but met Annie Harris on the stairs. She said she was scared of her husband, fearing he’d batter her when he returned home. Brown waited up until Harris came in. He judged Harris had been drinking but he certainly wasn’t drunk. When the two men went up to the family’s room, Brown saw ten-year-old Willie but no one else. Annie had hidden herself and May in the toilet on the landing. Willie was sent out for beer by James who seemed upset because there was no food, until Brown pointed to some fish on the table, which William had brought.

After having a drink, James went to ask Annie to come back to their room. When she refused, James took an axe and split the door panel, forcing Annie out of the WC. After another drink he accused Annie of being unfaithful with his brother and punched her in the face. Brown managed – with some difficulty to disarm Harris, who picked up first a chopper, then a wooden mallet and lastly a knife, rushing at Annie, saying he would ‘chop her bloody head off and knock her bloody brains out.’

Brown remembered Harris saying, ‘Annie, between this and five o’clock to-morrow morning I will kill you stone dead.’ ‘Now the light is growing dim, now is the time the deed must be committed.’ As he was restraining Harris, Annie said, ‘George, if he wants to do it, let him do it.’ Harris gradually became calmer and said he’d go to bed, but made no move to do so. Instead, he sat with his feet on a chair and his head in his wife’s lap. Brown stayed until he was certain that Harris was asleep, even waiting outside the door for a while. Then, as he put it, ‘Harris seemed all right, so I went to bed.’ He was woken by a violent knocking at his door around 4.45am. There stood the two Harris children. The little girl’s face was covered with blood but the boy seemed unhurt and he said: ‘Oh, Mr Brown, do come up, father is killing mother and cutting his own throat!’

Brown went to find a policeman, calling up neighbour Mr King on the way. When they rushed upstairs they found the Harris’s door was locked and broke it down. Brown described the scene:

We then saw a fearful sight. The woman was lying in a pool of blood, with her head nearly cut off, and the man was lying across her. His throat was cut in a dreadful manner. Everything in the room had been knocked about, showing there had been a desperate struggle for life on the part of the woman.

Amazingly, Harris was unconscious but still alive.

The children were taken to Hampstead Workhouse at New End where they were visited by a reporter. He was impressed how well they recalled what had happened. William, poorly clothed, neglected and very dirty, proved to be a good witness. But given his young age and upbringing, the following statement shows signs of being edited.

I remember everything that took place on Friday, because my mother had been crying very much, and had been saying to me and my sister that she wished that she was dead, and that she would soon be ‘done for.’ My father, although he said he was a teetotaller, was very far from being so, and although many people thought he had taken nothing intoxicating for five years, they were quite wrong. For a very long time he had been drinking heavily. His treatment of my mother was awful, and time after time – I know I am only a little chap, but so it was – I have been the means of preventing him doing her a serious injury; not by my being able to by my strength to do so, but by begging him not to hurt her.

William said he was particularly scared that night, because his father had taken a chopper to have it sharpened, ‘and it was this with which he finally hit my mother and went for May and me.’

William claimed his father was drunk when he came home. The children tried to sleep as James and Annie kept up their violent and noisy quarrel: ‘Father kept hitting mother and did not leave off, although she cried very much.’ Eventually things got quieter and his mother climbed into bed with her children.

William was woken by a dreadful scream. His father had hit Annie with the chopper and then set about William, hitting him on the back, arm and head.

I think he thought he had settled me, for he turned and hit my sister three terrible blows, and then looking at mother, who was screaming, said, “I’ll do for the lot of you, and you first.” He struck her three times under the ear with the chopper and at last she fell out of bed and lay in front of the fire-place with only her petticoat on her.

Fortunately James had hit his son with the flat side of the blade and the boy was badly bruised but otherwise unhurt. William managed to get past his father, unlock the door, grab his sister and go downstairs for help but on the way he dropped the key. Here William’s story is a little at variance with George Brown. William said that Mr King came upstairs and tussled with his father who was trying to find the key to lock them out.

William’s closing paragraph makes sad reading.

My mother told us, on her last birthday, that she was thirty-four and that she was “tired of her life.” My father was always cruel to us and I and May are all the children that are left out of five that my mother had. But father was always beating us.

The reporter also spoke to May, whose head was heavily bandaged. Clearly in shock, she had blotted out the climax of the night’s horrors as her memories stopped before the attack began. ‘I saw mother wring her hands and say: “It is all over.” After that mother locked me in a cupboard and said, “Do not move, or your father will kill you.” I stopped there for a very long time.’ She said she was released by her brother on Saturday morning.

James Harris was taken before the magistrates on October 16th, accused of having murdered his wife, attempting to murder his daughter and trying to commit suicide (which then was a crime). Harris had inflicted a serious injury to his neck and throat: ‘He presented a pitiable sight, and was so weak and ill that he had to be carried into the court.’ The magistrate was surprised Harris had been discharged from hospital so quickly. Medical opinion was that he would never speak again. Harris was remanded and sent to gaol.

At his second court appearance on November 6th, it was suggested that because Harris still could not speak he could write down his answers, but it transpired he could neither read nor write. The magistrate questioned whether it was actually possible to put Harris on trial, as he was unable to instruct his solicitor, let alone plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ But on balance he decided to proceed with the evidence. A doctor told the court that James was unlikely to regain his speech but might be able to whisper.

A workmate said James believed his wife was having an affair with his brother George, who had stayed with the family for a few months when he came out of the army. When George Harris said this was untrue, James became very agitated but could not speak. William Young, a stableman, lived in the room next door to the Harris family. He testified that on the night of the September 10/11, he was disturbed by noises from their room. It eventually went quiet around 3am, but he was woken around 4.45am by Mrs Harris yelling, ‘Mr Young, Mr Young, murder!’

As Young bravely opened their door, Willie and May rushed past him. Mrs Harris was sitting on the side of the bed and her husband was searching for something near the coal-box. Young beat a hasty retreat and went to Mr King’s house, a couple of doors away, where he was joined by George Brown and they all went to find a policeman. William also gave evidence, saying he was woken by his father hitting his mother and May with a chopper.

When James Harris appeared at the Old Bailey on November 22nd, the question of his ability to stand trial was again discussed as he couldn’t communicate with his solicitor. The judge asked the jury to decide, adding that if they thought Harris was unfit, to also determine ‘if the incapacity is by reason of his own unlawful act.’ The jury answered ‘yes’ on both counts. Harris was asked if he was guilty or not guilty and shook his head. He also managed to say ‘no’ but this was only audible to someone standing immediately besides him.

The trial was adjourned until January 12th 1898. The picture then painted of James was a positive one – a hardworking teetotaller, a family man. A couple of workmates testified that James had told them he was leaving Kilburn, because his brother and wife were ‘too thick.’ George said his brother James was kind to his children and his wife but again denied any ‘improper intimacy’ with Annie. Several witnesses said James had been teetotal, only ‘giving way to heavy drinking’ shortly before the night in question. It’s hard to balance these opinions with those expressed by young Willie Harris. Could the boy have exaggerated? Maybe James was a hard working man, driven to drink by his belief his wife had an affair with his brother, resulting in weeks rather than years of mistreatment of Annie and his children.

The jury held James Harris responsible for his actions and found him guilty. However, they must have believed the character evidence, as they added a strong recommendation for mercy. Harris was sentenced to death but reprieved a week later: ‘He showed signs of intense relief when the news was conveyed to him that he was not to die.’ He would have been imprisoned or held in an asylum, but no records have surfaced of what happened to him after the trial.

Annie Harris was buried at Hampstead Cemetery on Fortune Green Road on September 18th 1897. During the trial, it was reported that William Harris was a pupil at the Westminster Union Industrial School in St. James’s Road, Tooting. This was a workhouse school and presumably he had been sent there by the Hampstead authorities. In the 1901 census, May – now 11 – is shown as a visitor with George Plant, a stoker at a refuse destructor, and his family in Oldham. George Plant, like James Harris, was born in Buckinghamshire, so he may have been a friend or distantly related.

In just a few moments this horrific murder destroyed a family.

West Hampstead’s tennis world champion (and food fanatic)

As we wait and hope that Andy Murray can repeat his Wimbledon success of last year, few people know that West Hampstead had its very own tennis world champion in the 1890s and 1900s.

New West End House (later called West End Hall) faced West End Lane, near the Green. The house has a long history but we’re concentrating on the Miles family who owned the property for more than 70 years. (The mansion and its grounds were built over from the late 1890s, to create Fawley Road, Honeybourne Road and Crediton Hill).

Publisher John Miles married Ann Chater in 1810; and the couple moved to West End three years later, where they stayed and brought up their eleven children. Eustace Hamilton Miles was their grandson, and was born at West End in 1868.

Eustace Miles

Eustace Miles

He went to Heath Mount school (near Whitestone Pond) and Marlborough College, where he played tennis and squash and was a member of both cricket and football teams. Eustace went to Kings College Cambridge in 1887, gaining a B.A. and M.A.. At Cambridge he began his distinguished career in racquets (an early form of squash), and real tennis, playing against Oxford.

Eustace won an amazing number of English and world titles, including a silver medal at the 1908 Olympics in real tennis.

Real tennis or ‘jeu de paume,’ was a precursor of lawn tennis, and was played in an indoor court. This was the only time the game was included in the Olympics. (For more on real tennis, read Historical Dictionary of Tennis, by J. Grasso (2011)).

Grasso acknowledged Miles to have been one of the best players ever. Eustace was still playing competitively in his 40s and winning tennis matches against far younger players. In 1910 Miles wrote to the Times,

People seem to imagine that after 30 a man is no good. I am in my 42nd year, and am thoroughly fit, I hope. Men ought to be in their prime – at least for strength and endurance and nerve – at 35.

A few years later he said,

Some sports are best given up at an early age. Football would be the first to go, and that when a man is about 25 years of age, racquets should follow. To cricket and tennis, however, I would by no means place any limit.

Eustace’s other great interests were diet, health and, not surprisingly, regular and targeted exercise for adults and children. He became a prolific writer on aids to learning, sport, religion and history as well as dietary regimes with nearly 80 books under his name (or joint authorship); his wife has an additional 20 titles to her credit, largely dealing with the subject of vegetarian food.

Eustace told a reporter that he, ‘loathed and detested’ the word ‘vegetarianism.’

I dismiss that word. It stands for cranks and bewhiskered gentlemen and other undesirable people. My slogan is a “balanced, meatless diet.” I eat vegetables, eggs and cheese like yourself and others, in their right proportion.

He embraced this diet early in his sporting life, ascribing his many successes to his food regime:

He had lost tennis matches from cramp believed to be due to the eating of flesh, and that he has won a racquets match on a glass of hot milk fortified by two teaspoons of mild powder. His habit is to take no breakfast and only a light lunch. At his evening meal he takes salad, Hovis bread, and fruit, with sometimes a cup of tea.

Eustace married Dorothy Beatrice Harriet Killick (known as Hallie) in March 1906 at St Clement Danes church in the Strand, where her father Rev. Richard Henry Killick had been Vicar during the 1860s. When Hallie was struggling with depression after her father’s death in 1903 she was helped by reading Eustace’s book Expression and Depression, and was inspired to write a book about her own experiences. She found Eustace’s address and contacted him: “The friendship grew, and Miss Killick, having been finally converted to Mr Eustace Miles’ methods of diet, decided to adopt vegetarianism and marriage“.

Eustace took his interest in food to the next level, starting The Eustace Miles Restaurant Co Ltd with Miles as managing director. Included among its shareholders were Eustace’s old school and college friend, novelist E. F. Benson, playwright George Bernard Shaw and the headmaster of Eton. The Eustace Miles Restaurant opened its doors at 40 Chandos Street in May 1906.

The aim is not simply to avoid meat and other flesh foods, but it is primarily to select a variety of nourishing and sustaining foods which may take the place of flesh foods as builders of the body.

Miles supported the suffragette movement and the restaurant became a meeting place for and a favourite of Sylvia Pankhurst. Talks were held there and suffragettes released from Holloway Prison were taken to Chandos Street for breakfast. Edith Craig campaigned for Votes for Women from a pitch outside the restaurant.

The restaurant’s windows were dressed with tins and packets of food produced by another of Eustace’s companies or copies of Healthward Ho!, his monthly magazine. The menu included references to ‘N’ ‘N.N’ and ‘F.U’, meaning the dish in question was ‘nourishing’, ‘very nourishing’, or ‘free from uric acid’. A 1914 review was favorable but said some dishes lacked flavour. They may well have tasted bland compared to the rich and highly seasoned food of the period. However, the restaurant prospered during WWI when meatless cookery became common, offering “balanced meals, nourishing and sustaining”.

People poked fun at Eustace and what they viewed as his dietary fads. In 1906, a poem appeared in praise of the mutton chop:

I love it! I love it! Let those who please
Enjoy a diet of nuts and peas;
Let Shaw compose his dramatic scenes
On cabbage, tomatoes and kidney beans
Let Eustace Miles find muscular force
In carrot cutlets with Plasmon sauce,
Or other equally messy slop –
But give me my old fashioned mutton chop.

Plasmon was another Miles’ food product, advertised as 30 times more nutritious than its only ingredient, milk.

The restaurant, ‘where people who look like garden pests eat like garden pests’, merited a wry mention by E.M. Forster in Howards End when Margaret Schlegel says to Mr Wilcox,

Next time you shall come to lunch with me at Mr Eustace Miles’s.
With pleasure.
No, you’d hate it,’ she said, pushing her glass towards him for some more cider. It’s all proteids and body-buildings, and people coming up to you and beg pardon, but you have such a beautiful aura.

Despite expanding into healthfood shops, opening a second restaurant in the Kings Road and a guest house in Carshalton, Eustace’s business empire eventually crumbled. He talked a lot of sense on many subjects but there wasn’t enough support for his food, ideas and books; he’d been “unduly optimistic” said a judge at one of the bankruptcy hearings. Chandos Street closed in December 1933, the victim as Eustace saw it, of “an age of luxury”.

People today would rather spend 5sh on having their hair waved, or on cigarettes, or on entertainment than on good meals. When it comes to spending a mere shilling on healthy food, they prefer a sticky bun and a cup of coffee for five pence and the rest for amusement.

Eustace was declared bankrupt the following January and the restaurant furniture and equipment was auctioned off. Among all the items of cutlery, table linen and kitchen utensils were six pianos!

Eustace and Hallie lived for many years in Ridgmount Gardens, off Tottenham Court Road. After the bankruptcy they moved to Fulham and then south of the river to Battersea. Hallie died in 1947 and Eustace just a few days before Christmas 1948.

An obituary of Eustace Miles said:

He was original, independent and ingenious in all he undertook, and his own entry in Who’s Who, with its reference, among his recreations to “punning, riddle-making and patience” was characteristic.’

When he died he left only £175, which today is worth about £5,250.

Eustace Miles’ sporting achievements
1898-1903: amateur real tennis champion of England
1898-1903: amateur real tennis champion of the world
1900: the first non-American winner of the real tennis US Championship
1900: amateur racquets champion of America
1900: amateur racquets champion of England
1902: amateur racquets champion of England
1902, 1904, 1905 and 1906: amateur racquets champion of the World (doubles)
1905: amateur real tennis champion of the World
1905-1906: amateur real tennis champion of England
1906: amateur racquets champion of the World (singles)
1908: Olympic Silver Medal. He had coached the winner, Jay Gould II, during his stay in America in 1900-2.
1909, 1910: amateur real tennis champion of England

West Hampstead’s astonishing football pedigree

West Hampstead FC 1903

As the World Cup kicks off a continent away, we cast our eyes back to Victorian times – and the little-known fact that West Hampstead and Kilburn played an important role in the Football Association and early football.

There are three parts to this story: Arthur Pember, was the FA’s very first Chairman back in 1863. He lived in Carlton Road, later called Carlton Vale, and he established a team called No Names Kilburn.
Cuthbert Ottaway was the first captain of the England football team and is buried in Paddington Cemetery, off Willesden Lane. And finally, West Hampstead Football Club, which was banned from joining the FA and once had a Scottish “ringers” on its books.

Arthur Pember was born into a wealthy family in 1835 at 4 New Park Road off Brixton Hill. In 1848 the family moved to Clapham Park where Arthur was educated by a governess with his four sisters and his brother George. Arthur became a stock broker and joined his father at Jones Loyd and Co. Arthur was very energetic and as a keen mountaineer, he climbed Mont Blanc and later wrote and lectured about the ascent.

Arthur Pember and His Incredible Moustache

Arthur Pember and His Incredible Moustache

On 13 March 1860, at St Mark’s Church on Hamilton Terrace in St John’s Wood, he married Elizabeth Hoghton, the daughter of a fellow stockbroker who lived at 7 Abbey Road. After their marriage they moved to 26 Carlton Road, Kilburn (later renamed Carlton Vale), close to Elizabeth’s parents. Sadly, following a miscarriage, Elizabeth died in December 1860. Arthur was devastated and moved to 30 Carlton Road where he lived alone apart from three servants. He married his second wife in 1862. Seventeen-year-old Alice Mary Grieve was the daughter of William Royal Grieve, a wealthy wine merchant who lived at 3 Waterloo Cottages on the Kilburn High Road. They had four sons.

About 1863, Arthur formed the No Names Club of Kilburn. The unusual moniker may have been a play on words based on Arthur’s stockbroking background where investors were typically known as “Names”. The team played on fields opposite his home in Carlton Road. These fields later became Paddington Recreation Ground. NN (Kilburn) appears to have continued until 1870. Apart from Pember, the only other NN players we know are CM Tebbut, Lawson and A. Baker.

Football, in various forms, had been played for many years, but there was no agreed version of the rules. In October 1863, a letter in The Times sparked a debate about establishing a universal code. Further letters followed from several public schools, such Eton, Harrow and Rugby, but with no enthusiasm for a single version of the rules.

The first meeting of the Football Association was held at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen’s Street, on the 26 October. Arthur Pember, from No Names Kilburn, was the chairman, and the secretary was Ebenezer Morley from the Barnes club. A series of further meetings were held in November and December 1863. Although the public schools were invited, they didn’t attend. There was considerable debate, with the main point of discussion focussing on whether the ball could be carried or not. Pember and Morley pushed ahead despite opposition from Rugby and other public schools, to say that under the FA rules players could not carry the ball and that hacking and tripping was not allowed. This effectively distinguished football from rugby.

In September 1864, there were 18 teams in the FA, including No Names Kilburn. Very few sides outside London used the FA rules for several years. In 1866 NN Kilburn complained that there were so few clubs adhering to the new code that they were able to play matches only against Crystal Palace and Barnes that year. Arthur Pember was the FA chairman until 1867 when Morley took over.

In 1868 Pember decided to take his family to New York where he worked as a journalist. To obtain material he worked in disguise in the poorer parts of the city. He looked at prostitution and gambling and in 1874 wrote a book about his ‘undercover sleuthing’ adventures. He died in 1886 in North Dakota.

Cuthbert Ottaway was born in Dover in July 1850, the only child of James Ottaway, a surgeon and former mayor of the town. Cuthbert had a privileged upbringing and was educated at Eton and Brasenose College Oxford. He was a very talented all-round sportsman who represented Eton in racquets and in their annual cricket match against Harrow. At Oxford he became the only student who was awarded Blues for football, cricket, racquets, athletics, and real tennis. After Oxford he practiced as a barrister. He played cricket for the Gentleman against the Players and opened the batting with W.G. Grace on many occasions.

Cuthbert Ottaway, England's first football captain

Cuthbert Ottaway, England’s first football captain

Although playing several sports at a very high level, Ottaway gained most fame as a footballer. He led the England team against Scotland in what is now recognised as the first international football match on 30 November 1872. He was again captain in the England vs. Scotland match in 1874. Like many others in the early days of amateur sport, he played for several teams, and took part in three successive FA Cup finals between 1873 and 1875. He was a centre forward and particularly noted for his speed and skill at dribbling.

In 1872 during an England cricket tour of Canada he met and fell in love with 13-year-old Marion Stinson. She was sent to England to finish her education and when she was 17 they were married in Ottawa. They returned to London and lived at 34 Westbourne Place, Eaton Square. But less than a year later, in April 1878, Cuthbert died aged only 27 while Marion was pregnant. The cause of his death is not clear. It was said that he caught a chill after a night’s dancing and died from complications. But diabetes ran in his family and this may have contributed to his susceptibility to respiratory diseases. It is also possible that he had earlier contracted TB. When he died his personal estate was less than £800, worth about £64,000 today.

A memorial for him was erected at Paddington Cemetery in August 2013. The grave is in Section 1F, grave number 5628. There is a website for more information at http://cuthbertottaway.blogspot.co.uk.

Ottaway memorial celebration at Paddington Cemetery (Simon Inglis, August 2013)

Ottaway memorial celebration at Paddington Cemetery (Simon Inglis, August 2013)

The first record of West Hampstead Football Club is an 1895 newspaper report when the team was due to play Wood Green. In 1897, West Hampstead FC joined the Second Division of the London League alongside Fulham and Orient and that season they finished fifth out of ten clubs. The following year, after promotion to the First London Division, they finished eighth of the nine clubs. In 1900/01 they won the Middlesex Cup beating London Caledonians.

The following season – 1901/02 – the team joined the superior Southern League Division Two, and finished fifth out of nine teams. The division included Fulham (the current club), Shepherds Bush, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Wycombe Wanderers.

Problems arose during the 1902 season when Shepherds Bush FC complained about West Hampstead FC. This was a time when there was considerable disagreement betweem those ‘gentlemen’ with sufficient income to play as amateurs and working class players who wanted to be paid.

The FA held a commission of inquiry in January 1903 which concluded that Mr J.C. Christie, Sec. and Treasurer of West Hampstead FC, did not provide the commission with evidence or hand over the books relating to the management of the club, although repeatedly being asked to do so. Because of this he violated the rules of the FA and would not not admitted to membership of the FA, nor to take part in their football or football management until further order.

Five members of the club’s committee were suspended until the end of the 1903/4 season. One of these men, Joseph Comodonico, was a blacksmith who lived in Agamemnon Road and who later worked for the Hampstead Council. The club captain, a W. Denham, was declared a professional and was suspended for one month

Perhaps most bizarrely, the FA said, “The fact of bringing in players under the names of Gray, Craig, Barber, and Reid (whose proper names are believed to be respectively: Graham, Adams, McDonald, and Nesbitt), from Scotland, will be reported to the Scottish FA.” In other words, the club had brought in four ‘ringers’ from Scotland who they paid to play for West Hampstead.

Even though the FA had legalised professionalism as far back as 1885, the London FA was one of the last county associations to deny membership to professional clubs. In 1907 this issue caused a split when they broke away from the FA to form the Amateur Football Association. The AFA continued until 1914 when it rejoined the FA.

West Hampstead FC in 1903

West Hampstead FC in 1903

The photograph shows the team as the winners of the Middlesex Cup and the Hospital Charity Shield, 1902-3. We know that some of team members were the four Westley brothers, who are probably some of the men with moustaches in the photo. These were, Harold Charles Percy Westerly, outside left, Arthur John West Westley, fullback, Francis Joseph Westley, goalkeeper, and Herbert Oscar Westley, no position given. They were the sons of John Westley, of Lee in Kent. He was a cashier to a foreign banker. None of the brothers seem to have lived in West Hampstead. There were six Westley brothers in all, who signed up together for the Boer War. One brother, Gerald was killed.

The man holding the ball is the captain Herbert Kingaby, who was born in August 1880 in London. Kingaby initially worked for a woollen manufacturer. After he played part-time for Clapton Orient he was sold to Aston Villa for £300 in March 1906. Here he was paid the football maximum wage of £4 per week but after two months, Villa were not impressed with his ability. They were unwilling to lose their £300 with a free transfer, so offered to sell him back at half price but there were no takers. His wages were stopped and he was placed on Villa’s retained list which effectively stopped him earning a living in the English League, so he joined Fulham in the Southern League. At the start of the 1910/11 season he re-joined Clapton Orient. That year the FA and the Southern League agreed to mutual recognition of each other’s retain and transfer systems. Villa now disclosed that Kingaby was still on their retained list and demanded £350. This prevented a move to Croydon Common but he eventually joined Peterborough City in 1910 for one season.

In March 1912 Kingaby brought legal proceedings against Villa for preventing him from playing. The Player’s Union funded his legal costs, but his counsel concentrated on Villa’s use of the transfer scheme and made no use of the law on restrictive practices. The suit was dismissed and the Union were almost financially ruined. Kingaby played with Croydon Common from 1913 to 1916, when he seems to have ended his career. He died in 1957 in London.

Wondering where the football ground was? We’re not sure exactly. In October 1896, Hampstead Council agreed to write a letter to the secretary of West Hampstead FC complaining about the excessive noise from supporters at their matches on land near Hampstead Cemetery. This interfered with services taking place at the Cemetery on Saturday afternoons. So at this time they clearly played close to the Cemetery. The Victoria County History says that West Hampstead Football Club had a new ground at Willesden Green in 1898. We haven’t been able to find where this was. A football ground is shown off Cricklewood Lane on the 1912 Ordinance Survey map.

We would like to thank Dil Porter, De Montfort University Leicester, and West Hampstead resident Simon Inglis, the editor of the Played in Britain series, for their help with this story.

John Lewis is 150… but what’s the Kilburn connection?

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis shop on Oxford Street. Named after its founder, there’s a local connection as John Lewis built a mansion in Hampstead and his son John Spedan Lewis was living in Mortimer Crescent, Kilburn, during the 1920s.

John Lewis worked as a draper’s apprentice in Wells, Somerset before borrowing a pound – or a sovereign as it was then called – and coming to London to seek his fortune. He worked as an assistant and then silk buyer and then in 1864 bought 132 Oxford Street, on the corner of Holles Street, the shop where his business blossomed and expanded. In 1906 he bought the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square.

John Spedan Lewis was his eldest son, born in 1885. The name ‘Spedan’ was chosen to commemorate Ann Speed, John junior’s great aunt. The family home was Spedan Tower, a turreted mansion set in three acres at Hampstead, overlooking Branch Hill. John Spedan led a very sheltered childhood with few friends; his father rarely entertained and holidays were generally spent with the family at Weston-super-Mare. Instead of going to university, 19-year-old Spedan entered his father’s business and it was he that began to develop the partnership model, after he realised that the income he, his father and his brother Oswald were receiving far exceeded the total payroll of his father’s staff.

John Spedan Lewis

John Spedan Lewis

John senior wasn’t having any of it and nothing much could be done until 1914, when John Spedan was put in charge of Peter Jones, which was making large losses. His father insisted Spedan spend his working day at Oxford Street, stipulating he could travel to Sloane Square only after 5pm. Losses continued at Peter Jones but when John Lewis insisted his son give up the shop, Spedan refused. Instead he traded his lucrative partnership with his father for an uncertain future, namely complete control of Peter Jones. Despite dire predictions of bankruptcy, Spedan turned the business round and by 1919 he had converted an annual loss of £8,000 into a profit of £20,000, and began plans to introduce his Partnership idea. His financial success prompted reconciliation with his father, who declared, ‘That place is a great credit to the boy – a very great credit!’ In 1923, Spedan rejoined his father in partnership at Oxford Street.

Spedan believed women had an important role to play in business and that year he married Sarah Beatrice Mary Hunter, a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford. She’d joined the company before her marriage and continued to play an important role. Spedan and Sarah moved from 37 Harley House on the Marylebone Road to North Hall in Kilburn (even then, estate agents called it St John’s Wood). They lived there from 1925 until 1930. The large detached property, built in 1861, stood where Mortimer Place now meets Mortimer Crescent. Lewis also owned the house opposite, 6 Mortimer Crescent, which was used as staff quarters.

Spedan Tower plaque

Spedan Tower plaque

John Lewis snr died in June 1928, aged 93. The Hampstead home went to Spedan who sold it. Spedan acquired his brother Oswald’s share in the business and, while he was living in Kilburn, he launched the John Lewis Partnership in April 1929. He transferred the equity capital to trustees on behalf of the employees by means of an interest-free loan of nearly a million pounds, to be gradually repaid out of profits. But he was cautious and until the plan proved sound enough to hand control to those who worked in it, Spedan retained a controlling interest. This meant he could end the experiment any time he wanted. The final handover was delayed by the war until 1950.

There is a short film where John Spedan Lewis outlines his business philosophy:

The extensive grounds surrounding North Hall allowed Spedan Lewis to indulge his life-long love of natural history and wild animals. An ‘owlery’ was built to house his collection of pheasants and owls (managed by a Mr Gander!), as well as various animal enclosures and a kennel run. Spedan Lewis financed expeditions to collect rare species, which he bred in captivity and gave to zoos. In 1927 and 1928, he wrote in the ‘Gazette’, the firm’s house journal:

‘The Birds at North Hall’
I have here a small collection of birds which are, for the most part, rather exceptionally interesting. To see them properly takes about three-quarters of an hour or a little more. The birds can be seen without going through the house, so visitors in this way need not have any fear of causing inconvenience.

Although an appointment was necessary, ‘partners would be very welcome to bring friends, especially children.’

Spedan Lewis also collected wild animals. A colleague described what happened during regular games of tennis at North Hall: “He had a tennis court made with cages at each end in which he kept lynxes. One of those cages was up against the back netting so if you went to pick up your ball, there was a lynx about a foot away.”

In 1929, Lewis moved his family and menagerie from Kilburn to the Leckford estate in Hampshire (today owned by Waitrose). North Hall and 6 Mortimer Crescent (‘the cottage’) were put up for sale by the John Lewis Company in 1932. The details give some idea of the scale of the property.

Very quiet situation: sunny aspect: good garden and first-rate hard tennis court, billiard room, panelled drawing room (patent dancing floor), panelled dining room, fitted library. 7 bed rooms, 3 bath rooms, electric light; central heating; drains all recently put into perfect order; garage for 2 large cars; cottage opposite divided into maisonette for 2 married servants.

Despite the “first rate” tennis court, there was a lack of buyers and the company tried to develop the site. A proposal was made in 1933 to replace the main house with seven smaller ones, and although the authorities were inclined to give permission, instead the house was reported as sold in January of the following year, for just under £3,000, worth about £175,000 today.

Constance Lynn was Spedan Lewis’ secretary and housekeeper from 1928 to 1961. She reminisced about her employer and her punishing work regime.

We used to work in London during the week and go to Leckford, Mr Lewis’s country house, at the weekends, still working. It was a seven-day-a-week job. We were sometimes expected to work until midnight and produce the answer at the breakfast table. Hours and weekends were nothing to Mr Lewis. And holidays were, in his own words, ‘plainly inconvenient’. We didn’t get any rest. Occasionally I was allowed a weekend off and went home. We just grabbed what we could. Really, we gave our whole lives to Mr Lewis. I think it was the pure magic of the man. We could have murdered our boss at times but we had the many perks which most secretaries don’t have, like being taught to ride, taught to drive a car, taken to Switzerland. I shall be ever grateful for the education I got with him.

The Lewis skiing holidays might last a month, but although enthusiastic, Spedan wasn’t very good.

In 1955, John Spedan Lewis retired on his 70th birthday, (a move he later regretted and tried to reverse) and lived at Longstock Park, Hampshire, until his death in 1963.

What was he really like? Undoubtedly a reformer and altruist, Constance Lynn revealed Spedan was also a demanding employer. The preface to ‘Retail Trading’ (1968), a privately published collection of John Spedan’s memoranda, put it even more bluntly:

He was vain and cantankerous … sometimes cruel in the intellectual arrogance with which he treated individuals who were his mental inferiors … he certainly sacrificed his family to his dream of partnership.

For a more balanced view his Times obituary said:

To the last an unrepentant and indeed aggressive individualist, he yet created one of the most distinctive and successful co-partnership organisations. A man of high purpose, unbridled imagination and great courage, he was outspoken but had in many respects the most kindly and generous disposition. He was an all-round sportsman, an omnivorous reader, greatly interested in natural history and music.

Even the John Lewis Gazette acknowledged his views were like salt, “that can either sting or give savour”. It concluded, “His was simply the uncompromising voice of a great individualist.”

In 1941, North Hall was unoccupied and was being used by Hampstead Council as a temporary furniture store when it was badly damaged by a V1 flying bomb. (The same bomb forced George Orwell to vacate his flat across the road, at 10a Mortimer Crescent). The site was subsequently cleared and now forms part of the Mortimer Estate. Spedan Tower in Hampstead was requisitioned by the War Office and in 1947, became home to a number of German scientists undertaking ‘secret research work for Britain.’ The house has been replaced by houses and flats. A Heath & Hampstead Society plaque commemorates John Lewis and John Spedan Lewis near the site of their old home.

“I only meant to stun him” – A 1930s Kilburn murder

On 12 May 1937, the whole country was excited when George VI was crowned King after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. Two days later at 4.30 am, a taxi driver went to buy petrol at the Lion Service Station at the corner of Greville Road and Kilburn High Road – Today, the site of the garage lies under the block of flats next to the new Kilburn Library.

Site of Lion Gararge, corner of Greville Rd and Kilburn High Road

Site of Lion Gararge, corner of Greville Rd and Kilburn High Road

Entering the office, the taxi driver was horrified to find George Cotton, the night attendant, slumped on the floor with blood streaming from his head. He called a policeman and George was taken to Paddington Hospital. George, who had served in the Royal Army Service Corps in WWI, didn’t regain consciousness, dying the next day and unable to tell anyone what had happened. He had been living with his wife Ethel at 94 Alexandra Road. She sobbed bitterly at the inquest, confirming George was unable speak to her at the hospital.

The police began a major hunt for the murderer, issuing descriptions of three men and a request for information about a blood-stained wheel spanner found at the garage. £16 and 10 shillings had been taken from the till, worth about £850 today. But the trail appeared cold until Allan Gregory walked into West Hampstead Police Station, (then a few doors away from the Railway Hotel on West End Lane).

Allan was interviewed by Detective Inspector Isaac Spash of New Scotland Yard and admitted that he’d killed George Cotton. Spash was a career detective who had joined the Metropolitan Police in 1914 and worked his way up to be the Divisional Inspector at Golders Green.

Allan was a 35-year-old motor mechanic from Maygrove Road who’d needed cash badly. So in the early hours of Saturday night he’d gone to the other end of Kilburn to ask his friend George Cotton if he could lend him some money, as he’d done before. When Allan got to the service station he found George asleep in the chair behind the desk. Allan said:

I watched him for several minutes and he was not disturbed. I thought the till would be full because of Coronation time, the temptation was too great for me and I found a screwdriver and forced the till open. The noise of the drawer snapping open disturbed George and I ducked down so that he would not see me. After waiting until he settled down I picked up a spanner, when George turned and looked at me. I dashed forward and took the money from the till. George started moving again. I got into a panic because I did not want George to see me and I hit him with the spanner. He fell out of the chair onto the floor. I had no intention of killing him; I went there to borrow money. When I hit him I only meant to stun him. I lost my head and slashed out at him, not realising what I was doing. I have known George for a number of years, the last thing I wanted to do was kill or seriously injure him.

Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the eminent pathologist who conducted the post mortem, said that George Cotton had died from three violent blows to the head with a heavy weapon which had badly smashed his skull. After 20 minutes the jury at the Old Bailey on the 19 July found Gregory not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“One no trump”: The history of Acol Bridge Club

Acol Road gave its name to one of the world’s pre-eminent bridge bidding systems after the Acol Social and Bridge Club opened at No. 15 in 1930. Since then, the club has changed locations, names and been a regular haunt of Omar Sharif.

Omar Sharif was a regular visitor to the Acol club

Omar Sharif was a regular visitor to the Acol club

15 Acol Road was the home of silk merchant and wholesale milliner William Frederick Druiffe. He traded, together with his brothers Herbert and Godfrey, as Druiffe Brothers at 27 Fore Street in London and 18 Victoria Street in Toronto, Canada. William had married Julia Laurance in 1898 and they had two children who were born in Brondesbury Villas. The family moved to Acol Road in 1909 and William became the first Secretary of the Acol Club when it opened in 1930. He placed an interesting advert in the Times on 24 March:

Capable and experienced lady wanted to take charge of the bridge room of one of the newest and most enterprising bridge clubs of NW London. Applicants must have great personal charm, be quite alive, and have plenty of initiative, able to play a really first-class game, and have a good following.

Skid Simon and Jack Marx devised the Acol System in the mid 1930s. Other talented players associated with its early development were Maurice Harrison-Gray, Iain Macleod (who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1970), Ben Cohen and Terence Reese. Cohen and Reese published The Acol Two Club in 1938 and subsequent editions were issued under the title of The Acol System of Contract Bridge. In Bridge is an Easy Game (1952), Macleod wrote “Acol was still only a series of ideas unproven in play, unwritten in any bridge journal. We hammered out our theories in endless sessions night after night into the small hours.”

15 Acol Road - home of the original Acol Bridge Club

15 Acol Road – home of the original Acol Bridge Club

The club stayed in Acol Road until at least 1935. William Druiffe moved to a flat at nearby 20 Woodchurch Road. He died in February 1937 and was buried at Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

As Macleod wrote, “The war, of course, scattered Bridge players and ended Bridge.” In 1946 the West End Bridge Club opened at 86 West End Lane. In 1955 it became the New Acol Bridge Club and Omar Sharif actor and top-ranked bridge player, regularly visited the club in the 1950s and 1960s

Acol Bridge Club on West End Lane today

Acol Bridge Club on West End Lane today

The club was renamed the Acol Bridge Club in 1971. In 1993, it reopened after a complete refit and was run by Andrew Robson, former world junior and current European bridge champion, who had partnered Sharif in the past. Robson aimed to open up the game to non-players using his ‘new fascinating and fun concept’ of teaching. He left Acol to open his own club in 1995. Today the Acol Bridge Club and Academy is run by Andrew McIntosh and Noorul Malik who emphasise “learning, friendliness and a very social atmosphere.”

The eventful life of singer and composer Turner Layton

Turner Layton was a great black singer, pianist and composer, who lived in Aberdare Gardens from the 1930s to 1978.

He was born John Turner Layton Jr. on 2 July 1894 in Washington D.C., the son of a singer, hymn composer and director of music at a local school. In 1915 John married Emma Lee and they had a daughter. John was studying at Howard University dental school when his father died in November 1916. There was no money to continue paying the fees and the family moved to New York. Here John began to sing and play the piano to make a living.

In 1917 he teamed up with Henry Creamer, who wrote the lyrics for the music Layton composed. They achieved success with some of the most popular songs of the day including; ‘Way Down Yonder in New Orleans’ and ‘After You’ve Gone’ which became a million selling record for Sophie Tucker in 1918.

Layton wrote songs for stars such as Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor and made his own first recording in 1921 for the Black Swan label.

In 1922 he formed a double act with Clarence Johnstone and they achieved considerable success when Layton played piano and they both sang. Layton and Johnstone performed in Harlem and were in demand for society events, including parties held by the Astors and Vanderbilts. They showed a more refined musical technique than most other black artists of the time and when Lord and Lady Mountbatten heard them sing, they suggested Layton and Johnstone should try their luck in England.

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

Turner Layton (l) and Clarence Johnstone (r) in 1933

In May 1924 they opened at London’s Queen’s Theatre, in the revue ‘Elsie Janis at Home.’ They were an overnight success, partly because Edward, Prince of Wales raved about their performance and engaged them to play for his guests at St James Palace. Soon all of Britain wanted to see Layton and Johnstone. After topping the bill across the country, they decided to stay in England. The duo made more than a 1,000 recordings with sales exceeding 10 million records. Their BBC radio appearances meant they were equally popular at exclusive West End clubs such as the Café de Paris as in music halls such as the Hackney Empire, where they played to full houses. They were also popular in Europe and played in Berlin and Paris.

In the early 1930s, Clarence Johnstone had an affair with a married white woman. Raymonde Sandler was the wife of Albert Sandler, violinist and leader of the orchestra at the Park Lane Hotel. The Sandlers lived at 233 Goldhurst Terrace until they parted in March 1933.

Johnstone had signed a letter for Albert Sandler in May 1932 saying that he would leave Raymonde alone and giving his word that he would not see her again. But Sandler was later given evidence by Johnstone’s chauffeur of the dates when they had met. The public turned against Johnstone after the high profile divorce in 1934, when he was ordered to pay damages of £2,500.

Even though he married Raymonde in December 1935, bookings were cancelled and Layton and Johnstone faced demonstrations outside theatres they were playing.

Layton decided they had to dissolve the partnership and Johnstone was declared bankrupt in 1936. During the hearings it was revealed that between 1928 and 1935 they each had annual earnings of £64,000 worth about £3.5 million today. Johnstone had frittered his money away. In 1931 when his flat at Castelain Mansions, Maida Vale was burgled, it was reported he lost furs, a large diamond pendant, a diamond ring plus a platinum and diamond watch worth more than £6,000. After the divorce case, Johnstone and Raymonde returned to America, but he failed to revive his career and ended up working as a janitor. In 1939 he broke down and spent some time in a sanatorium. Raymonde divorced him and later remarried.

In contrast, Turner Layton continued to both work and tour successfully, from 1936 to the 1950s. He appeared in several films and during WWII he boosted troop morale with concerts and recordings. He retired soon after being the guest on Desert Island Discs in 1956. Layton’s description by a record executive as ‘a cultured fellow and a collector of early Augustus John drawings,’ was echoed by a friend who said he was, ‘a modest, soft spoken, and quiet individual – genteel, polished and cultivated.’

Turner Layton lived at 77 Aberdare Gardens and died at the Royal Free Hospital on 6 February 1978. His daughter A’Lelia Shirley Layton inherited his musical estate and left the copyright and royalties to Great Ormond Street. In the 1993 BBC Radio 4 play ‘After You’ve Gone,’ Layton was played by Clarke Peters and Lenny Henry took the part of Johnstone.

You can hear Layton’s wonderfully smooth tone singing ‘Deep Purple’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’.

“British Schindler” was born in West Hampstead

Nicholas Winton, who was instrumental in getting more than 650 children out of Czechoslovakia right before the outbreak of WW2 was born in West Hampstead. He’s still alive today and many would like to see him be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nicholas Winton with a rescued child courtesy of Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority

Nicholas Winton with a rescued child courtesy of Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority

Nicholas Winton was born Nicholas George Wertheim. His family came from Prussia, (part of the German empire) but by 1871, his grandfather was working as a clerk and living in Manchester. By 1895 he had moved to ‘Stonecroft’, 5 Cleve Road, where the family remained until 1933. His son Rudolf, a bank manager, took over the house in the early 1900s and Nicholas George was born on 19 May 1909. With anti-German sentiment on the rise, the family changed its name to Winton in October 1938. Nicholas lived briefly at 5 Belgrave Road Marylebone and he was at 20 Willow Road Hampstead by 1938.

In December 1938, aged 29, Nicholas Winton was getting ready to go on a skiing holiday in Switzerland when he received a phone call from his friend Martin Blake who said: ‘Cancel your holiday and come with me to Prague. I have a most interesting assignment and I need your help. Don’t bother bringing your skis.’

When Winton arrived in Prague he was asked to help thousands of refugees who were enduring appalling conditions in camps. That October, Hitler had annexed the Sudetenland, a large part of western Czechoslovakia. On the night of November 9th, there were violent Nazi attacks on German and Austrian Jews. This was Kristallnacht, ‘the night of broken glass’. Almost a hundred people were killed and more than 30,000 were put in concentration camps. Winton and many others believed that war was inevitable.

After Kristallnacht, the British Government agreed to support ‘Operation Kindertransport’ to help children at risk. The Refugee Children’s Movement organised extensive fund raising and on 2 December 1938, the operation began in Germany and Austria. Eventually almost 10,000 children were rescued and given shelter with foster parents in Britain. But the scheme didn’t extend to Czechoslovakia.

When Winton was told there was no organisation in Prague to deal with refugee children, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He found that to get an exit permit, each child had to have a family willing to look after them in Britain and £50 (a large sum at the time), had to be deposited with the Home Office. Applications rapidly increased from anxious parents, and Winton who’d started in a small way using a dining table in his Wenceslas Square hotel, had to rent an office.

Leaving two Englishmen to run the Prague end, he returned to London, working by day at the Stock Exchange and devoting evenings to his evacuation plans. He was helped by his mother, his secretary and a few volunteers, who fundraised and found foster homes. But the Government’s response was frustrating, as Winton explained: ‘Officials at the Home Office worked very slowly with the entry visas. We went to them urgently asking for permits, only to be told languidly, “Why rush old boy? Nothing will happen in Europe.” This was a few months before the war broke out. So we forged the Home Office entry permits.’

On 14 March 1939, the first children left Prague by plane for Britain. This was followed by seven more rail transports, the last leaving on 2 August, bringing the total to 669 children. On 1 September, the largest group of 250 children left Prague but on the same day Hitler invaded Poland and all the borders controlled by Germany were closed. Winton said: ‘Within hours of the announcement, the train disappeared. None of the 250 children aboard was seen again. We had 250 families waiting at Liverpool Street that day in vain. If the train had been a day earlier, it would have come through. Not a single one of those children was heard of again, which is an awful feeling.’

After the war Winton, who was a very modest man, didn’t tell anyone, not even his wife Grete about his rescue efforts. In 1988 Grete found a scrapbook in their attic with photos and names of the children and Nicholas told her what had happened. Grete shared the story with Elisabeth Maxwell, a Holocaust historian and the wife of Robert Maxwell, the Czech born newspaper magnate. The amazing story appeared in Maxwell’s newspapers and Winton appeared on Esther Rantzen’s ‘That Life’ TV programme and some of the children, now adults, appeared with him.

‘Winton’s children’, as they call themselves, included the film director Karel Reisz who made ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ and Vera Gissing who wrote ‘Pearls of Childhood’ and was a co-author of ‘Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation.’

In 1993 Nicholas Winton was awarded an MBE and in 2002 he was knighted by the Queen for his services to Humanity. Today he lives in Maidenhead where he celebrated his 104th birthday in May 2013. There is a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Several films have been made about Nicholas Winton and are available on YouTube.

Nicky’s Family 2013 trailer:

That’s Life 1988:

West Hampstead’s magic shop vanished long ago

I was recently looking in a street directory of 1911 and was surprised to see a conjuring trick manufacturer called Stanyon and Co. at 182 West End Lane. An internet search revealed several books about magic tricks written by Ellis Stanyon. His first book was Conjuring for Amateurs, written in 1897; his later book is available for all to read.

William Ellis Stanyon

William Ellis Stanyon

William Stanyon was born in Husbands Bosworth, a Leicestershire village, in 1870. When he married Catherine Eleanor Fairs in November 1893 in Westminster, he was a clerk living at 57 Bolsover Street in Marylebone.

The Stanyons moved to 76 Solent Road, just off Mill Lane, in about 1900 and in the 1901 census William was listed as a jeweller’s clerk. In his other role as a magician he called himself Professor Ellis Stanyon, of Stanyon’s School of Magic, Solent Road.

Ten years later, the next census showed the couple at the same address with five children aged between four and seventeen. Now William said he was a toy dealer. He’d opened a shop in West End Lane in 1906 at what was then called 9 Lymington Parade but was renumbered as 182 West End Lane the following year. Stanyon kept the shop until 1919 and sold toys, conjuring tricks and foreign stamps. After this date he sold goods by mail order from Solent Road.

Stanyon became interested in magic after seeing a show at his school and reading a book of magic tricks. He became an important professional magician who edited a monthly magazine called Magic, which ran for 177 issues from 1900 to 1920 (pausing for WWI) and contained news and tricks. It was described as “The only paper in the British Empire devoted solely to the interests of Magicians, Jugglers, Hand Shadowists, Ventriloquists, Lightning Cartoonists and Speciality Entertainers.”

The Levitation trick from Stanyon's Magic book

The Levitation trick from Stanyon’s Magic book

Fellow magician Sid Lorraine, who visited Stanyon at his home in Solent Road about 1928, wrote:

My knock on the door was answered by the great man himself. He had a waistcoat and rolled up sleeves and was wearing slippers. A short, somewhat stocky fellow with a friendly smile, he welcomed me, informed me that his family were out for the day and we had the house to ourselves. As an avid reader of his Magic magazines I had dozens of questions, all of which he answered willingly. He did a number of sleights with a billiard ball, most of which completely fooled me, because as I learned later, many of the moves were pantomimed (as he had ditched the ball several minutes earlier).

I queried the safety of his publishing how to do The Devil’s Whisper. This is the effect where you snap your fingers and the result is a loud bang. I had used it in theatres for a couple of years with great success. I had followed the instructions in his booklet very carefully as I believed what he had written about the dangers of using such explosive material. There had been many who had accidents; Mr Paine of the Chicago Magic Company had lost a hand. Stanyon excused himself for a moment left the room and came back with two bottles. He made a cushion pad from a sheet of paper and mixed the two powders using a feather. Then for the next five or ten minutes dipped his finger and thumb in the mixture and walked around the room snapping his fingers, he produced loud revolver-like reports that I was certain would have the neighbours complaining or the police invading. Neither happened. The neighbours were either away at work or accustomed to the Stanyon cacophony.

After this demonstration, Stanyon poured water on the mixed chemicals and then buried them in the back garden. A practice he assured me he had done hundreds of times.

William Ellis Stanyon lived at 76 Solent Road until his death in 1951 when his son Cyril took over The House of Magic business. William was buried at Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green Road on 6 September. He left £1,927, worth about £50,000 today. His wife Catherine was buried there on 25 April 1963, but today there is no visible headstone.

Number 182 West End Lane no longer exists as separate premises. It became part of The Pine Shop, and is now where the Tesco ATM magically dispenses crisp £10 notes upon entering a secret 4-digit code.

Stanyon’s book, Magic, giving details of hundreds of tricks (spoiler alert!), is available free.

Did Jimi Hendrix owe it all to West Hampstead’s Linda Keith?

Without a Cholmley Gardens resident, Jimi Hendrix might never have made it over to England and global stardom and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up hitting the ceiling of Klooks Kleek, the club over what is now The Railway.

A new biopic about Hendrix’s pre-fame years, All Is by My Side, has just been released in the US starring André Benjamin (aka André 3000) as Jimi, and Imogen Poots as his West Hampstead girlfriend Linda Keith.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) said he was inspired to write and direct this film after hearing an obscure instrumental recording by Jimi in 1970 called Send My Love to Linda.

In 1941, Linda’s actor father Alan (who had changed his name from Alexander Kossoff – he was the uncle of Paul Kossoff, the guitarist with Free) married Pearl Rebuck and together with Linda and her brother Brian, the family lived in 81 Cholmley Gardens from 1951 to Alan’s death in 2003.

Linda, who was born in 1946, had a far from conventional life. At 17, she became a model after she was discovered as an assistant at Vogue. Her first photo shoot was modelling hats for a spread in the Observer. She was photographed by David Bailey on numerous fashion shoots. Here she is in Soho in 1967 modelling an Ossie Clark outfit.

Her best friend was Sheila Klein, the daughter of a psychiatrist who lived in Frognal. Sheila was dating and then later married Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager. Linda was encouraged by Sheila to talk to the shy Keith Richards at a party and he fell in love with her. Linda said they had a shared interest in blues music.

West Hampstead Life reader Paul Ernest contacted us with his recollections:

Around 1964/65, I briefly dated a very pretty girl called Linda Keith who lived in Cholmley Gardens. She had a gold pendant that said Linda on one side and Keith on the other. She told me she was also dating Keith Richards and he was apparently tickled by the fact that their names were thus intertwined. Our dating came to nothing but I recently read in Keith Richards’ autobiography that she was the love of his life. I also heard that another friend, Neil Winterbottom, was driving her in his Mini for 1964’s midsummer dawn at Stonehenge, but he fell asleep and wrecked his car on a roundabout. Linda was thrown through the windscreen and suffered cuts and bruises. She said that in the hospital Keith Richards lent down and kissed her on the face, showing that she was not ‘a monster’.

Linda travelled with the Stones on their American tours and this was when she saw Hendrix. Arriving a month before the Stones she explored the New York music scene. Linda is interviewed in the documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’. She said she first saw him in May 1966 at the Cheetah Club in New York:

“I couldn’t believe nobody had picked up on him because he’d obviously been around. He was astonishing – the moods he could bring to music, his charisma, his skill and stage presence. Yet nobody was leaping about with excitement. I couldn’t believe it.”

Linda invited Jimi back to her apartment on 63rd Street where she played him a promotional copy of Hey Joe, a new record by Tim Rose. He was playing with Curtis Knight and the Squires because he didn’t own a guitar having pawned his. Linda lent him a white Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Keith Richards.

Jimi formed his own band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and Linda invited Sheila and Andrew Oldham to see Jimi but it was not a good evening. “It was a dreadful night,” she said. “Jimi was dishevelled in his playing and the way he looked. Andrew was weird as well. He didn’t want to know.”

Linda believed in Jimi’s unique talent and in August 1966 she invited Chas Chandler to hear Jimi play his regular mid-afternoon set at the Café Wha? Linda said that when Chas heard Jimi play the opening chords of his version of Hey Joe it just blew his mind.

Chas was still touring with The Animals, but then he brought Jimi to London and success. Keith Richards was concerned by Linda’s drug use in New York  (his own was yet to develop), and phoned her father Alan. Linda said, “When he walked into the Café Au Go-Go, I thought, God that looks like my father. He took me by the arm and marched me out.” Back in England her parents made her a ward of court and she had compulsory psychiatric treatment.

The relationship between Linda and Keith Richards had turned sour in the spring of 1966 when her drug habit came between them and she began to use acid and cocaine. Keith and Brian Jones wrote Ruby Tuesday in January 1967 about Linda.

Jimi’s visit to West Hampstead came when he sat in with the John Mayall band at Klooks Kleek on 17th October 1967. During the break, the drummer Keef Hartley remembers talking to a young American guitarist in what passed as the Klooks dressing room. “He was so shy that he did not respond to me. His manager, Chas Chandler, was showing him round the British clubs.”

It was agreed that Jimi could sit in for the second set and borrow Mick Taylor’s guitar. But when he picked it up he accidentally hit the low ceiling. After checking there was no damage to the guitar, Jimi Hendrix played a blistering set holding the right-handed guitar upside down, as he was left-handed. As he played he smiled as his Afro hair style got caught in the low hanging lights of the room.

In 1968, Linda made headlines when she went to an apartment in Chesham Place that Rolling Stone Brian Jones was using because it was close to his recording studios. She phoned a doctor, told him where she was and that she had taken an overdose. The police arrived and found Linda unconscious.

Brian came back to the flat after working all night and not knowing what had happened. He was shattered when the landlord asked the police to remove him. He protested to no avail that he only rented the flat for his chauffeur and had paid six months in advance. Linda recovered remarkably quickly and was released from hospital the next morning.

Linda lost touch with Jimi Hendrix but she said that just before his death he wrote to her saying he had written a new track called, See Me Linda, Hear Me, I’m Playing the Blues.

Linda now lives in New Orleans with her husband, record producer, John Porter. Jimi is currently framed on the wall of The Wet Fish Café.

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Battling Barbara Buttrick and the Kilburn Empire

In the 2012 London Olympics, Nicola Adams won Britain’s first gold medal in women’s boxing. Until recently, however, boxing was not seen as a sport for women. More than 60 years ago, The Kilburn Empire, which was at the southern end of the High Road – where the Marriott Hotel is today, played an important part in this story.

Barbara ButtrickIn February 1949, there were numerous press reports about “battling Barbara Buttrick”, a boxing typist from Hull who was due to fight Bert Saunders in an exhibition match at the Kilburn Empire. The bout was scheduled for March 7th, and she would become Britain’s first professional female boxer. But the fight was opposed by the Variety Artists Federation. Defiantly, Nat Tennens, the licensee of the Kilburn Empire said, “the show goes on”. Barbara’s promoter Micky Wood said, “There are women lion tamers, snake charmers, and trapeze artists. Why should this girl not box? She lives for boxing.”

After continued pressure from the Variety Artists Federation and the British Boxing Board of Control, Tennens wrote to the London County Council saying the match was cancelled and that instead Barbara would now give an exhibition of training, shadow boxing and punch-ball work. Further attempts were made for “Battling Butt” to fight female opponents at other venues in 1950.

She toured the country and Europe on the carnival circuit challenging women to fight. “I liked it,” Barbara said, “You worked hard but it was better than a nine-to-five job.” Born in North Yorkshire in 1930, Barbara, who was only 4’11”, was called The Mighty Atom of the Ring.

She found a new trainer, Len Smith, who she eventually married and they moved to America in 1952. In 1957 Barbara became the first women’s world boxing champion. She was delighted and very proud when, in 2010, the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame added her to its roll of honor – alongside Muhammad Ali.

Watch a 3-minute interview with her from 2013 from Adjust Production – she’s still got some moves! And below, some footage of Barbara in her youth.

Hippopotamus Murray

Oaklands Hall was a large house on West End Lane, near the corner with today’s Hemstal Road, with extensive grounds that ran down the hill to what is now Kingsgate Road. The last occupant of Oaklands was Sir Charles Augustus Murray who retired there in 1872. He was born on the 22nd November 1806, the second son of George Murray, the 5th Earl of Dunmore, an ancient and eminent Scottish family.

Sir Charles Murray

Sir Charles Murray

Charles grew up in Glen Finart, Argyllshire, though the family spent the winter months in London. In 1815 he was sent to Eton to join his elder brother Alexander Edward Murray, later the 6th Earl. Charles made many visits to Hamilton Palace, the home of his uncle the Duke of Hamilton, where he met Walter Scott and William Beckford, some of many writers that he was to meet during his life.

From Eton Charles went to Oxford where he obtained a BA in 1827 and an MA in 1832. Little is known about his college years, but contemporaries remember him as charming, active, strong and a skilled horse rider – he once rode the 120 miles from Oxford to London and back in 16 hours.

In 1834 Murray set sail for America on board the Waverly to investigate his father’s claim to some lands in Virginia. The voyage was a disaster. A gale blew the ship off course and when it sprang a leak, the cargo was thrown overboard and everyone had to take their turn at the pumps. Worse followed as the masts blew down and the ship drifted helplessly until it encountered a second ship, which took a few passengers back to England.

Murray decided to stay on board together with 150 Irish emigrants who waited to see what “the young Scotch Lord” would do. He managed to persuade them back to the pumps when they tried to raid the whisky stores and, after 21 days at sea the ship reached the Azores without loss of life. It took a month to complete repairs and set sail for New York, during which the Irish quarrelled with the Portuguese islanders.

The Waverly took six weeks on a voyage that normally lasted 16 days, with the rations of mouldy biscuits and filthy water running very low. Fourteen weeks after leaving Liverpool, the ship docked at New York to much rejoicing as everyone had assumed it had been lost at sea.

Murray travelled widely in America where he was angered by the slavery he encountered in Virginia. On an expedition up the Hudson River, his companion was the American writer, Fenimore Cooper.

Having recovered from a life-threatening bout of cholera, Murray was having dinner with officers at Fort Leavenworth, the most westerly military outpost of the US Army, when 150 Pawnee Indians arrived suddenly. Though they had never seen white men before, they shook hands, sipped Madeira and smoked cigars. Murray was fascinated and, together with his valet, he returned with the Pawnees to their camp 14 days ride away. There he found around a thousand braves and their families living in 600 lodges, which they packed up to follow the buffalo. Murray spent two months travelling with them, surviving an attack by 200 Cheyennes.

Murray returned to St. Louis and again travelled widely across America. At Niagara he met and fell in love with the 19-year-old Elsie Wadsworth and asked her wealthy father for permission to marry. But her father refused and forbade Elsie to see or communicate with Charles ever again.

Elsie Wadsworth, 1834

Elsie Wadsworth, 1834 by Thomas Sully

By 1836, Murray was back in England and in July 1837, he took up a post at Windsor Castle as Groom in Waiting to Queen Victoria, having driven some American ponies at speed from London to Windsor as a present to the young Queen. From 1838 to 1844 he became Master of the Household and during this time he wrote a best selling romantic novel called ‘The Prairie Bird’. The heroine was based on Elsie with whom he was still deeply in love. (Murray wrote several best sellers and was an amazing linguist, being able to read and write 15 languages).

In 1845 he took up a post in Naples as Secretary to the British Legation, and the following year was sent to Egypt as Consul General. At the time there was a craze for exotic animals and London Zoo asked Murray if he could get a hippopotamus. This would be the first hippo ever seen in England, a great crowd puller and money spinner for the zoo. The Pasha of Egypt arranged for the capture of a young hippo calf on the White Nile, near the island of Obaysch.

Obaysch the Hippo was taken to Cairo where he spent the winter in a special tank, before being transported on the P&O steamship Ripon to England. Hippo mania followed Obaysch’s arrival at London Zoo on May 25 1850, and ten thousand people a day came to see him. Queen Victoria brought her children and wrote about the hippo in her diary. Silver hippo necklaces were sold and the ‘Hippopotamus Polka’ was a big hit.

Obaysch 1852 (Wikicommons)

Obaysch 1852 (Wikicommons)

Obaysch lived at the zoo for 28 years during which time ‘Hippopotamus Murray’, as he became known, visited frequently. Shouting to him in Arabic, the hippo always recognised Murray and replied with loud grunts. Obaysch died in 1878.

By chance, Murray met Elsie Wadsworth in Scotland soon after her father’s death and the couple were married in December 1850. During their honeymoon in Egypt he instructed a servant to inscribe her name into the wall of a temple at Abul Simbel, where it can still be made out today. A year later she gave birth to their son but tragically, she died a week later.

The heartbroken Murray accepted a series of diplomatic appointments all over Europe. In 1861 on a visit to London to see his friend the Pasha of Egypt, he met and married Edythe Fitz-Patrick. In 1866 he was appointed as Minister at Copenhagen where he became friends with yet another writer, Hans Christian Andersen.

Murray bought Oaklands Hall in 1872. He extended the house to accommodate his large collection of books and prints and retired there on a pension of £1,300 a year in 1874. He spent time writing and visiting the health spas of Europe but had no intention of dropping out of public life altogether; fortunately the house was conveniently placed for the centre of town.

Oaklands West End Lane in 1880 (Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre)

Oaklands West End Lane in 1880 (Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre)

Murray added his coat of arms to the Lodge walls facing West End Lane. A minor disagreement with the Vestry over widening of the Lane was resolved but problems arose for Murray when new roads were built north of Oaklands Hall. The level of Hemstal Road was higher than he hoped in relation to his boundary wall. Presumably he was worried about trespassers or overlook and, to add further insult to injury, as his fence bordered the road he later had to contribute to the cost of paving part of it. Murray put Oaklands Hall up for sale, but it took nearly four years to find a buyer.

The Murrays moved to The Grange, Old Windsor, a house they’d built for their son Cecil. Life at Oaklands Hall hadn’t been all bad, as Murray reflected in a letter he wrote to his wife from Baden-Baden, “We had some happy days at Oaklands together”.

In 1883 they took a villa in Cannes, which they used each winter. Murray remained very active and continued travelling, even visiting America again. In 1895 he died suddenly during a trip to Paris. His body was taken for burial at Dunmore. Murray left £308,461, worth an astonishing £30 million today.

After the estate was bought by the United Land Company, Oaklands Hall was pulled down in October 1882. Roads were created, followed by a sale of building plots on 23 March and 16 April 1883 at the Victoria Tavern, on the corner of Kilburn High Road and Willesden Lane. The auction realised more than £24,000, worth more than £2 million today. The houses built on these plots are those that make up the present Hemstal, Dynham, Cotleigh, part of Kingsgate and part of West End Lane.

The Railwayman: Life and times of George Tombs

Old Black Lion (Camden Local History Archive)

Old Black Lion (Camden Local History Archive)

George Tombs was the station master at the Midland Railway station on Iverson Road. When it opened in 1871 the halt was called ‘West End’, the original name for the neighbourhood before ‘West Hampstead’ was adopted.

The station stood roughly where the garden centre and tyre workshops once traded, adapted from one of three large villas built before the railway was constructed. George married Ruth Simpson in 1869 and they had several children. At the outset the couple lived in Marylebone before moving to Bakewell shortly before the 1871 census, when George was working as a Midland Railway porter. He made a significant step up the career ladder when he was promoted to West End’s station master.

The birth of son Harry in 1874 shows the couple still living in Derbyshire but the family moved to West End shortly after. In August 1881, eight year old Harry was killed in a tragic accident. Two Watney’s drays, each drawn by three horses, were delivering beer to the Old Black Lion pub near West End Green. Several boys were playing nearby and a witness said he saw one of them give the driver apples in return for a ride. A few of the boys climbed onto the drays while others ran behind, as the wagons went off at a trot down West End Lane. Harry was swinging on a chain at the back of the first cart when he dropped his school slate. He tried to pick it up but fell onto the road and the wheels of the second dray went over him, crushing his head and stomach.

George Tombs was in his garden when he heard shouting. Poor man, he picked up his son and took him home. Harry died the next morning but not before he’d told his father he could have got out of the way, but had wanted to save his slate, which had a lesson written on it. The driver of the dray, 25 year old Robert Coulsey, was charged at Marylebone Court with causing the death of Harry Tombs.

The inquest jury at the Railway Hotel pub in West End Lane decided it was an accidental death and Cousley was released. In his turn, George Tombs was called to give evidence at inquests investigating railway deaths. In 1895, the decapitated body of 18 year old Arthur Edward Hudson, son of a Hampstead builder, had been found by the Midland tracks. Tombs told the court that the young man had ‘evidently knelt before an advancing train, as there were mud stains on the knees of his trousers. His hands were clasped.’ A verdict of ‘suicide during temporary insanity’ was returned.

The 1891 census shows two of George’s children employed by local industries. 22-year-old Lucy was a ‘wick cutter in a night light factory’: Samuel Clarkes’ pyramid night light factory was just a short walk away on Cricklewood Lane. Leonard, 14, worked as a ‘pianoforte stringer’, probably in Kentish or Camden Town, both centres for piano manufacture. As told by his father, Leonard was also a member of a cricket club who played on Fortune Green. In 1895, George gave evidence at an enquiry to determine the status of the open space. The locals claimed it as common land, a long established venue for games played by West End residents. Tombs said he’d been station master for twenty-one years and had known Fortune Green for thirty five. He used to walk up to the Green, ‘in former years every night during the summer to see the cricket. Quoits and rounders were also played.’

Then living in Sumatra Road, George died in June 1899, his wife Sarah died the following October. The couple are buried at Hampstead Cemetery Fortune Green, in the same grave as three of their sons.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part three

Since publishing two stories last year (part one, ask part two), readers have suggested more musicians who lived in the area. Some stayed only briefly as their career was just beginning and they had young families.

Hank Marvin – Greville Place

Guitarist Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle as Brian Robson Rankin. When he was sixteen he came to London with his school friend Bruce Welsh and in 1958 they joined Cliff Richard’s band The Drifters after meeting their manager at the 2Is coffee bar in Old Compton Street. The band also included drummer Tony Meehan who had grown up in Sidney Boyd Court on West End Lane. After changing their name to The Shadows because of the US group called The Drifters, Cliff and the band achieved considerable success. Hank and his first wife Beryl were married in 1960 and lived in Greville Place about 1962. They had moved to Hendon by January 1963 when he legally changed his name to Hank Brian Marvin.

Ginger Baker – Mowbray Road, Brondesbury

In his autobiography, Hellraiser, Ginger Baker says he lived in Mowbray Road for a short period. He left the house because his wife Liz was pregnant and no children were allowed. At the end of November 1960, he moved to share a basement flat with fellow drummer Phil Seaman (who Ginger called ‘God’), in Ladbroke Grove. In 1966 Ginger formed Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.

Cream was one of the most successful British Supergroups and played their own mix of blues and jazz. In 1966 Eric Clapton was playing with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Jack Bruce was in the Manfred Mann band and Ginger Baker was with the Graham Bond Organization (GBO). Because of Graham’s drug problems and erratic behavior, Ginger was effectively running GBO and wanted to form his own group. The three of them met at Ginger’s house, 154 Braemar Avenue, in Neasden to rehearse. The first Cream gig was at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, Cream caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought they would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August. They left the small clubs and were soon filling stadiums. (For more information see our book Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek).

Brian Jones – Weech Road

As is well known, Brian was a guitarist in the Rolling Stones. He was born in Cheltenham and came to London at the beginning of 1962 where he met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at Alexis Korner’s blues club in Ealing. Brian’s young girlfriend Pat Andrews arrived in April with their baby son Julian who was born in October 1961 and named after Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, the great American sax player. They had a short stay in a flat in Weech Road, opposite the Hampstead Cemetery, but were asked to leave because of the baby. Then they found a flat in Powis Square and Brian got a job in a civil service clothing store. Pat went to work in a laundry. But in September 1962 she took the baby and left Brian and he moved into the infamous Edith Grove flat with Mick and Keith.

About this time Brian took a job in the sports department of Whiteleys, the large store in Bayswater. The Stones became famous under their manager Andrew Oldham, but a rift developed between Brian and Mick and Keith. Then on the morning of 2 July 1969 Brian aged 27, died under suspicious circumstances in the swimming pool of his home in Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. Three days later the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park and Mick read a tribute to Brian. The Stones went on to become one of the most successful bands in the world.

Rod Mayall­ – Sherriff Road

Rod was the half brother of John Mayall from the second marriage of their father Murray Mayall, a jazz guitarist. Both the brothers became keyboard players in the 1960s. Rod played with several Manchester bands including Ivans Meads. In 1969 he was in the band Flaming Youth with a young Phil Collins. Rod said that he lived in Sherriff Road about 1970/71.

Doris Troy – Cholmley Gardens

Doris was an R&B singer and songwriter who was born in the Bronx and sang in her father’s Pentecostal choir. She sang with many soul singers before she co-wrote and recorded ‘Just One Look’ which reached US Number 10 in 1963. The song has been covered by The Hollies, Linda Ronstadt, and Bryan Ferry. She was a backup singer for James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Cary Simon and Nick Drake. In 1969 she came to England and signed with the Beatles Apple Records and released her first album the following year. Throughout the 70s she worked in England and was known to her fans as ‘Mama Soul’. With her sister she wrote ‘Mama, I Want To Sing’, a musical based on her life which ran in both New York and London – Chaka Khan played her aunt in the London production. She was interviewed at her flat in Cholmley Gardens in 1974. Doris died in her home in Las Vegas in 2004.

Chaka Khan – Hilgrove Road, near the Belsize Road roundabout

Born as Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago, Chaka Khan has had a singing career since the 70s. Known as the Queen of Funk, she has sold about 200 million records. In 1973 she was the lead singer in the band Rufus and the following year, their record ‘Tell Me Something Good’, reached Number 3 in the US charts. Between 1974 and 1979 with Chaka’s powerful voice they had six platinum selling albums. Her first solo album was in 1978. In 1980 she appeared as the church choir soloist in The Blues Brothers film with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd. In a wonderful career Chaka has won 10 Grammy Awards and collaborated with people such as Ry Cooder, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles. She has lived in London since the 1980s and was in Hilgrove Road, by the early 90s.

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Chaka Khan, 2006, WikiCommons

Jon Moss – Burrard Road

Drummer Jon Moss was born in the Clapham Jewish Boys Home and was adopted when he was six months old by the Moss family in Hampstead. He went to Highgate School from 1970 to 1975. He had several jobs after leaving school, including working in his father’s clothing store, and as a tape operator at Marquee Studios. In 1976, after meeting Joe Strummer in Camden Town, he tried out as a drummer with the Clash. But this did not work and he joined Riff Regan in a band called London. After an injury in a car crash on New Year’s Eve 1977, Jon joined The Dammed. In 1981 he and Boy George formed Culture Club and achieved considerable success. Since then Jon has played in many other bands. In 1977 he was living in a flat in Burrard Road which he said was terrible; with no heating and no hot water and an electric meter. There was another local connection when he held his wedding reception in the wine bar on the corner of Aldred Road and Mill Lane.

Miles Tredinnick – 94 Fortune Green Road and Shootup Hill.
Steve Voice – Crediton Hill

Miles was a musician who called himself Riff Reagan in the 70s. In 1976 he put an advert in the Melody Maker for a drummer, which was answered by Jon Moss who had briefly been in The Clash. Jon came to Miles’ flat in Fortune Green Road in his father’s gold Rolls Royce and Miles thought it was a windup at first. With Steve Voice, who lived in Crediton Hill, they formed the punk band London. They rehearsed in a lockup garage just off the Kilburn High Road. Managed by Simon Napier-Bell, they played at the Marquee and toured with The Stranglers. The band broke up and Miles went on to be a writer of stage plays and scripts for Frankie Howerd. In the 80s he moved to Shootup Hill.

Steve Voice became a successful record producer. In 1985 he married Liza Rosen who had been Billy Fury’s lover for 14 years until he suddenly died in their St John’s Wood home in 1983. Liza and Steve had famous friends such as Paul and Linda McCartney and Morrissey sang at their wedding. But after eight years of marriage Steve, using large amounts of cocaine, became very violent and beat Liza up. They were divorced in 2000 and he died in America in 2003.

Charlie Dore – 3 Lymington Mansions

Chalie Dore is a singer, songwriter and actress who appeared in The Ploughman’s Lunch (1983). Her biggest hit was the 1980 ‘Pilot of the Airwaves’ which received considerable airplay in the US and reached Number 13. It was also the last record to be played on 5 November 1990 by Radio Caroline as an offshore radio station. Her songs have been recorded by Tina Turner, George Harrison and Celine Dion. Charlie lived in Lymington Mansions from 1978 to 1984.

Natalie and Nicole Appleton – Cheshunt House, Mortimer Estate, Kilburn
Melanie Blatt – Priory Road

Mel Blatt and Shazney Lewis formed the group All Saints in 1993.  After Simone Rainford left the group the Appleton sisters joined in 1996. Nic and Nat were two of the four daughters of Ken and Mary Appleton who had moved to Canada in the mid-1960s. About 1980, when Nat was seven and Nic was five, their parents split up and Ken returned to London with Nic and older daughter Lorri, while Nat and Lee the eldest child, stayed in Toronto with their mother. Eventually, the family reunited and the girls were brought up in Canada, New York and London. About 1981 they lived in Cheshunt House in Kilburn. Nic and Nat attended the newly opened Sylvia Young Stage School where Melanie Blatt became a friend of Nat’s.

All Saints, who were named after the road near the ZTT studio, had their biggest worldwide hit with ‘Never Ever’ which was Number 1 in the UK charts in January 1998. They became one of the most successful groups of the 1990s with sales of over ten million records, including nine top ten singles and platinum and gold albums. The group broke up in 2001 but reformed in 2006 to record a third studio album. However they did not tour as a group and each went on to have solo careers.

Nicole was married to singer Liam Gallagher and they lived in Hampstead. They split up in 2013. Natalie is married to Liam Howlett, the bass player with The Prodigy. Melanie Blatt had a daughter with Stuart Zender who had been a bass player with Jamioroquai. Mel and Stuart spilt up in 2006. She recently lived in Priory Road.

Roisin Murphy – 40 Brondesbury Villas

Roisin is a singer songwriter from Ireland. In 1994 she became part of the duo Moloko with her then boyfriend Mark Brydon and they released their first album in 1995. ‘The Time is Now’ was their most successful single reaching Number 2 in the 2000 UK charts. After they broke up Roisin continued with a successful solo career. She was living in Brondesbury Villas until recently.

Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, Peter Salisbury and Simon Tong – Brondesbury Villas

Richard Ashcroft, Nick McCabe, Simon Jones, and Peter Salisbury formed The Verve in 1989 in Wigan. Guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong joined them later. At one time all the band, apart from Richard Ashcroft, lived in Brondesbury Villas. Their single ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ became a world wide hit in 1997. The band recorded four albums between 1993 and 2008 and broke up and reformed several times.

Thanks to ‘PostmanNW6’, John McCooke, Rod Mayall, Frida Siton, Jeff Banister, Paul Stone and Keith Moffitt for additional information.

54 Mill Lane as C Bowler

A moment in time on Mill Lane

54 Mill Lane as C Bowler

54 Mill Lane in its former glory. Still from Conrad Blakemore’s short film

In 1991, local filmmaker Conrad Blakemore shot a short film for Channel 4. The Watchmaker was a snapshot of a day in the life of Mill Lane business C. Bowler Watchmaker and Jeweller.

Norman Clifford Bowler’s shop at 54 Mill Lane was postbox red and inside was an assorted jumble of watch parts. Mr Bowler himself seems to have been an amiable chap.

Born in Northumberland in July 1899, Clifford served in the Machine Gun Corps in World War 1 and by 1926 was on the electoral regiser at the Mill Lane address. He married Mabel in 1929 in Willesden.

In the film he recalls that he’s had customers for “40 or 50 years now. They always come to me first, to see if I’m still here. People are interested because they went to school in this area and although they have no repairs for me, they come here out of interest to see how many of the old shops are left and I’m about the only original one left now.”

Clifford died in January 1993 aged 93. Today, 54 Mill Lane is an empty premises, though it would appear several businesses use it as their registered address.

54 Mill Lane in January 2014

54 Mill Lane in January 2014

mill_lane_watchmaker_plaque

A plaque by the door commemorates the watchmaker

It’s nice to find, via Twitter, that the watchmaker’s shop – and the watchmaker himself – hasn’t been forgotten yet.

Thanks to Tetramesh for the original link and to Dick Weindling for additional historical detail.

The Kilburn Thunderbolt

On Thursday night 5 July 1877, a huge storm burst over London. Just after eight o’clock, people in Kilburn saw a vivid flash of lightning and heard a loud burst of thunder, this was followed by a second and then a third. After the third peal of thunder, a ball of fire struck Bridge Street at the bottom of Kilburn on the Willesden side of the High Road. (This street has now been demolished). Residents said, ‘the terrific crash sounded like the discharge of one of Krupp’s guns or the Woolwich Infant’. This is a reference to the 35-ton Armstrong, the most powerful gun in the world, made at the Arsenal in 1870 for HMS Devastation.

For some seconds, the whole area seemed to be enveloped with flame; people screamed and some fainted with shock. The telegraph wire running from Mr Carpenter’s post office and shop in Manor Terrace to Kilburn Park Road was completely fused. Molten liquid poured down and instantly coagulated into lumps of clinker on the ground. Choking, thick, bluish-yellow smoke filled the air. A little girl called Elizabeth Frost, who lived at 6 Bridge Street, had her hair severely burnt. The volume of the clinkers which ranged from the size of a walnut to a man’s hand, was thought to have been about two bushels (equivalent to 16 gallons). Some of these were shown on display in the offices of the Kilburn Times in Carlton Road.

43 Kilburn High Road - what was part of Manor Terrace

43 Kilburn High Road – what was part of Manor Terrace

Despite the sudden violence and shock, surprisingly little damage was done to people or property – just a few windows were broken in Mr Brown’s, an undertaker in Oxford Road.

In 1888 George Symonds, a leading scientist, read a paper at the Royal Meteorological Society called ‘The Non-Existence of Thunderbolts’. As you can tell from the title, he argued that thunderbolts did not exist. He noted various examples, and used the Kilburn incident as his main argument that material did not fall from the sky during thunderstorms, which were just electrical discharges. He said that the clinkers in Kilburn were from the fused telegraph wire. The nature of thunderbolts has been a controversial issue for many years: but the Kilburn fire could have been caused by ball lightning.

They say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but on 14 July, l810 the Watford coach was hit by a ball of fire as it passed the Kilburn Wells. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that a woman passenger was hurt and the ring on her finger was melted.

A clipping has emerged (via @Tetramesh) from New Zealand’s Taranaki Herald, describing the incident (via the National Library of New Zealand’s archive)

kilburnthunderbolt

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part two

Errol Brown

Errol Brown

This is the second part of our trilogy. Here’s the link to part one.

Thanks are due to Ade Wyatt, Simon Inglis, Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

Cleo Laine, Johnny Dankworth, Stan Tracy, and Dudley Moore –80 Kilburn High Road
This building, next to Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road, was full of jazz musicians. Singer Cleo Laine lived upstairs with bandleader and composer Johnny Dankworth. One of the early British jazz musicians, Dankworth composed music for many 60s films and he and Cleo often appeared on TV. After a long and successful career he died in February 2010 just as Cleo had organised a concert for him. She decided it would go ahead and the audience were shocked to hear about Johnny’s death.

Stan Tracy lived on the middle floor of the Kilburn High Road building. For many years he was the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s club. His 1966 album called ‘Under Milk Wood’, a jazz suite inspired by the Dylan Thomas play, is one of the most celebrated jazz recordings. Already awarded an OBE, Stan was given a CBE in the 2008 New Year Honours list.

Out of work, Dudley Moore had returned from New York and Dankworth gave him a job as pianist in his band. Dudley slept on a sofa in Cleo and John’s Kilburn High Road flat. In 1960 Dud joined Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett in ‘Beyond The Fringe’ which became a huge success. For more than ten years Pete and Dud had a very successful double act on TV and then Dudley went to Hollywood and stardom with the 1979 film ‘10’. Dudley was a highly talented jazz pianist influenced by Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner, who regularly performed with his trio.

Maurice McElroy and Wes McGhee – West Hampstead
Maurice was born in Belfast and started to play the drums when he was thirteen. He was in local bands before he came to London at the end of the 60s. Maurice played drums in soul bands in US bases in Germany and then met singer-songwriter Wes McGhee. They have worked together since 1970 and both lived in West Hampstead. Since 2000 Maurice has played with guitarist Ben Tyzach and bass player Constance Redgrave in the band Spikedrivers.

Wes McGhee was from Leicestershire and played guitar in a local band when he was thirteen. After time playing in German rock clubs, Wes got a record deal with a division of Pye Records. This was not a good experience and Wes formed his own Terrapin Records label. After receiving positive US reviews, Wes went to Texas where he played with many of the leading local musicians. He has written music for theatre and TV.

Mike Hall – 30c Priory Terrace, 63 GondarGardens, and 21 Iverson Road
Keyboards player, Mike Hall was brought up in North Wales where he played in local bands and Lemmy, later of Motorhead, was a roadie. Mike came to London in the 1960s. He said:

In 1969 Christine Perfect offered me the job of keyboard player with her band when she left Chicken Shack and went solo. She then changed her mind and did the keyboard work herself, but only did one tour before marrying John McVie and joining Fleetwood Mac. Then I played with a band called Canterbury Glass. We made an album at Olympic studios, and had the pleasure of hearing the Stones and Humble Pie recording at the same time. I was also doing work with blues singer/harp player Duffy Power during this time; gigs including Les Cousins, and the Marquee, and we recorded a session at the Maida Vale studios for Mike Raven’s show for BBC radio.

He remembers the night in October 1967 at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead, when he heard Jimi Hendrix sitting in with John Mayall’s band. In 1972 Mike moved to GondarGardens and played regularly with the Lee Lynch Sound. Lee was an ex-Irish showband singer, whose show included everything from Country music to Presley covers. Then Mike joined Union Express with tours in Englandand Europe, and recording sessions for a single in Decca Studios. In 1975 he began a three year course at Leeds College of Music, followed by night club, big band, cabaret and cruise ship work in many parts of the world. During his time on the QE2 Mike played for The Queen, Princess Diana, Lana Turner, Stewart Grainger, and many other movie stars. Today Mike has returned to North Wales where he still plays and teaches.

Joe Palmer – 250 West End Lane.
In the 1970s, Joe Palmer was one of the founders of the successful ‘Peelers’ folk club in 1968, and from that grew ‘Peelers,’ a popular folk group led by Joe, with Tom Madden, and Jim Younger. Their 1972 album Banish Misfortune used old acoustic instruments such as the dulcimer, banjo, tin whistle, guitar and concertina.

Joe ran a record shop at 250 West End Lane. Marianne remembers the shop – which later became a video rental store still run by Joe – as very dark, with painted walls. Today Joe Palmer lives in Spain and runs Sunshine FM on the Costa Blanca.

Brian Eno, Gavin Bryars, Evan Parker, Howell Thomas and Graham Simpson –28 Brondesbury Villas
In 1971 Brian Eno moved into a room in 28 Brondesbury Villas which had lately been vacated by Gavin Bryars, the composer and bassist. This was another house full of musicians. At the front was Evan Parker (sax); the pianist Howell Thomas lived below Eno and the late Graham Simpson, bass and co-founder of Roxy Music, had the ground floor. After this Eno moved to LeithMansions, Grantully Road, Maida Vale. But in 1994 he was back in a flat at 28 Brondesbury Villas. Eno was a member of Roxy Music from 1971 to 1973. He has worked as a producer with David Bowie, Coldplay, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Grace Jones, and U2 among many others.

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Bluntstone

Colin Blunstone – Inglewood House, West End Lane
Colin was the lead singer with a very distinctive voice in The Zombies. The band was formed in 1962 in St Albans by school friends, Colin, Rod Argent (keys), Paul Atkinson (guitar), Chris White (bass) and Hugh Grundy (drums). They signed to Decca and in 1964 released ‘She’s Not There’ which became their biggest hit. The breathy vocals of Colin and the jazz-tinged keyboards of Rod Argent was a noticeable feature of the Zombies and the song reached number 2 in the US. Their other well known song was ‘Time of the Season’ (1968). When the band broke up Colin began a solo career and he had some success in 1972 with ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which reached number 15 in the UK. He released several albums on Elton John’s record label and was the vocalist with the Alan Parsons Project. Colin was living in Inglewood House, on the corner of Inglewood Road and West End Lane, in 1972 and 1973.

Alan Lee Shaw – West Hampstead
Alan moved to the area in 1975 after art school in Cambridge. When the punk explosion began he formed a band called The Rings. He worked as a singer and guitarist with several other bands including, The Maniacs (1977), and The Physicals (1977 to 1980). Alan was with guitarist Brian James in other bands and then in the reformed The Damned from 1993 to 1995.

Phil Lynott – WelbeckMansions, Inglewood Road, and Embassy Court, West End Lane.
Philip Parris Lynott, singer and bass player, was born in West Bromwich but when he was four he went to live with his grandmother in Dublin. He formed the band Thin Lizzy in 1969 and they recorded their first album at the Decca Studios in 1971. They had big hits with ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (1973) and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ (1976). In 1973 he was in Welbeck Mansions with his girl friend Gale Barber. By 1976 Phil was living at Embassy House. His heroin addiction led to his collapse on Christmas Day 1985 at his home in Kew and he died on 4 January 1986.

Candy McKenzie – Kilburn
Candy worked as backing vocalist for many bands including Bob Marley, Aswad, Gary Moore, Go West and Leonard Cohen. Candy was living in Kilburn in 1977 when she went to Jamaicato record with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at his Black Ark studios. The album has been released as Lee Scratch Perry Presents Candy McKenzie. She married and in 2003 she was living in Willesden.

Annie Ross – 12a Douglas Court West End Lane, and Ellerton Mill Lane
Jazz singer Annie Ross was born as Annabelle Allan Short in Mitcham, the daughter of Scottish vaudeville performers. Her brother was the entertainer Jimmy Logan. When she was four the family went to America and she got work as a child singer and performer. As Annie Ross she began recording as a jazz singer in 1952. In 1958 she recorded an album with Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, and Chet Baker on trumpet. She is probably best know for her work with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks as the trio, Lambert Hendricks and Ross, who recorded seven best selling albums between 1957 and 1962. She left the group and came to London where she opened her own nightclub, Annie’s Room, in 1964. In addition to solo recordings and theatre work, she appeared in a number of films including, Superman III, Throw Momma from the Train, and Short Cuts.

Annie had a relationship with jazz drummer Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke and the comedian Lenny Bruce. In 1963 she married the actor Sean Lynch, but they were divorced in 1975 and he died soon afterwards in a car crash. She had drug and finance problems and became bankrupt in 1978. Annie lived at 12a Douglas Court (numbered so as to avoid the superstitious number 13), from at least 1978 to 1983 and then moved to Ellerton the block of flats in Mill Lane.

Adam Ant – Sherriff Road
Adam’s real name is Stuart Leslie Goddard and he grew up in St John’s Wood. Before he achieved success, Adam squatted in Sherriff Road. After working in several bands, Adam formed The Ants who played several times at the Moonlight Club in the Railway Hotel in 1978. Adam and the Ants had ten top ten hits from 1980 to 1982, including ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’. He then had a solo hit with ‘Goody Two Shoes’.

Clive Sarstedt – Kilburn and West Hampstead
Clive and his brothers Richard and Peter Sarstedt were born in India and the family returned to Englandin 1954. The three brothers all became musicians. Richard became Eden Kane who had a number one hit with ‘Well I Ask You’ in 1961. Clive Robin became Wes Sands and had a hit in 1976 with ‘My Resistance is Low’. Peter kept his name and had a huge hit single with ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’ which reached number one in 1969. Only Clive lived locally: he was in Kilburn in 1981 and West Hampstead in 1985. Clive, as Wes Sands, recorded his debut single ‘Three Cups’ in 1963 with the legendary producer Joe Meek, who was also his manager.

Hazel O’Connor – Hemstal Road
Singer, songwriter and actress, Hazel was born in Coventry. In 1980 she played punk rocker Kate in the film ‘Breaking Glass’. This won her a Best Actress award in Britain, and the soundtrack reached number 5 in the UKcharts. She has made more than twenty albums and appeared in numerous theatre, film and TV parts. During the 1980s Hazel lived in a flat on the fourth floor of Beacon House in Hemstal Road. One of the residents remembers the fans waiting outside and that Hazel used to walk her Alsatian dog on the roof. She now lives in Ireland.

Dave Dee – Wavel Mews
A neighbour says that David John Harman of the band, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, lived in Wavel Mews. The five friends from Wiltshire originally formed a band in 1961 called Dave Dee and The Bostons. In 1964 the name was changed to the more memorable Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, which were their nicknames. They had several hits between 1965 and 1969 and two of their singles, ‘The Legend of Xanadu’ and ‘Bend It’, sold over a million records each. David died in January 2009.

David Van Day – Wavel Mews
David Van Day and Thereza Bazar formed Dollar in 1978 and their first single ‘Shooting Star’ reached number 14. Later singles, ‘Love’s Gotta Hold on Me’, ‘Mirror Mirror’ and ‘Give Me Back My Heart’ each reached number 4. In 1981 David was living in Wavel Mews.

Lynsey De Paul – FairfaxGardens
She was born as Lyndsey Monckton Rubin in 1948. Her parents Herbert and Mena lived at 98 Shootup Hill. Herbert was a property developer. After leaving the HornseyArtSchool, Lynsey designed album covers and then began writing songs. In 1972 she performed her own song ‘Sugar Me’ which reached the UK top 10 and was covered in the US by Nancy Sinatra. She has had written many other successful songs and appeared on TV.

Jimmy Nail – 50 Maygrove Road
Actor and singer, Jimmy Nail was one of the stars of the TV series Auf Wiedersehen Pet. When filming finished in 1983 he had what he called his first proper London home at 50 Maygrove Road. When the show was first shown Jimmy said:

I walked along to the end of the street and on to the Kilburn High Road to get a newspaper and read a review of the show, if there was one. All of a sudden all these car horns were honking. I wondered what all the fuss was about, until I saw people hanging out of their cars pointing, waving and shouting — at me. People in the street were coming my way, lots of them. I ran home with a mob on my tail, got in and locked the door. People were climbing up the railings and peering through the windows. I hid behind the settee and wondered what had happened. Fame had happened, and I was woefully ill-prepared for it. I didn’t know what to do. Everywhere I went there was madness. It was more than fame, it was hysteria. People believed Oz was me and I was him. I tried to explain he wasn’t real, but they didn’t want to know.

From Jimmy Nail’s autobiography, ‘A Northern Soul’, 2004

Jackie McAuley – Kilburn
Born in Northern Ireland, singer and guitarist Jackie McAuley was a member of Them with Van Morrison. After the breakup of the band, Jackie kept the name as Them Belfast Gypsies. He latter teamed up with Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble and recorded as Trader Horne. In the 70s and 80s Jackie was a session player on records by Jim Capaldi and Rick Wakeman. He also worked with Lonnie Donegan’s band and set up a Celtic rock band called Poor Mouth.

Barry Mason – 22 Priory Terrace
(John) Barry Mason is an important songwriter who has written hundred of songs including ‘Delilah’, Tom Jones’ big hit. Elvis recorded Mason’s ‘Girl of Mine’ and Rod Stewart did ‘That Day Will Come’.

Craig Collinge – Woodchurch Road
Craig was born in Sydney and started playing drums at a young age with local bands. He came to London in 1969 and joined Manfred Mann Chapter Three. He also played with Third World War, Shoot and the Frankie Reid Band. Craig also toured with Alan Price. In 1973 the manager of Fleetwood Mac put together a band, without any of the original members, to complete their remaining engagements. Craig joined the band after answered an advert in the Melody Maker, and toured with them until the manager was sued. He returned to Australia about 1976.

Chrissie Hynde – Canfield Gardens
American born Chrissie moved to London in 1973 and formed The Pretenders in 1978. Their first album was released in December 1979 and they have made eight albums. Two of the original members, James Honeyman-Scott and Peter Farndon both died of drugs.

Stewart Copeland and Sonja Kristina – Hillfield Road
Stewart was born in Virginia, the youngest son of Miles Copeland, a CIA officer. He came to Englandin 1975 and was a roadie for Wishbone Ash and Renaissance and the tour manager for Curved Air and Joan Armatrading. Stuart formed The Police in 1977. In 1978 he had a flat in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead which he shared with Sonja Kristina, the lead singer of Curved Air. In September 1978 Stewart and Sonjamoved to 21 LenaGardens, Shepherd’s Bush. They were married in 1982 and had three children. They split up after sixteen years when Stuart moved to Los Angeles.

Edwyn Collins – West Heath Studios, Mill Lane, and Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Edwyn formed the band Orange Juice in 1979 and their single ‘Rip It Up’ went to number 8 in the charts. His big solo hit was ‘A Girl Like You’ in 1994. This was recently used in a 2012 TV advert. In 2005 he suffered a serious brain haemorrhage but has now recovered and is performing again. He has recorded and produced records at his West Heath Studio in Mill Lane. He lives in Kilburn with his wife Grace.

Paul Cook – Kilburn
Paul Cook the drummer with the Sex Pistols, grew up in Hammersmith. About 1972, Paul and school friends Steve Jones and Wally Nightingale formed a band called The Stand. By 1975 they became the Sex Pistols and achieved success with their manager Malcolm McLaren. After a final Pistols concert in San Francisco in January 1978, Paul and Steve Jones continued working together with a new band called The Professionals. In the early 80s they discovered Bananarama and Paul Cook produced their first album Deep Sea Diving. Cook joined a re-formed Sex Pistols and they were a headline act at the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival. He has played with several bands, including that of Edwyn Collins. He lived in Kilburn about 1977/78.

Annabella Lwin – near Sumatra Road
In 1980, fourteen years old Annabella had a Saturday job in a Kilburn dry cleaners when she was discovered by a colleague of Malcolm McLaren. She auditioned and McLaren made her lead singer with Bow Wow Wow, which was made up of several members of Adam Ant band. Their first top ten hit was ‘Go Wild in the Country’ (1982).

Steve Severin and Spizz – Priory Road
Steve (Stephen John Bailey) was the bassist and co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1976. Around 1980 he had a flat in Priory Road which he shared with Spizz 77 (Kenneth Spiers), the singer with a punk band who changed their name often.

James Honeyman-Scott – Westside, 55 Priory Road
In 1981 Jimmy, the guitarist with The Pretenders, was living in Priory Road. He died from heart failure associated with cocaine in July 1982, aged just 25.

Jeremy Healy, Kate Garner and Paul Caplin (Haysi Fantayzee) ­– Sandwell Mansions, West End Lane
Formed in 1981, the members of Haysi Fantayzee were living in a West Hampstead flat owned by Paul Caplin. One night Jeremy wrote the lyrics to oddly titled, ‘John Wayne is Big Leggy’. He woke everyone up and announced that he had written their first hit. In 1982 this reached number 11. Kate Garner went on to become a successful photographer.

Don Powell – 37 Platts Laneand 23 Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Don was the drummer with Slade, a Wolverhampton band. In 1973 he had a serious car crash and his girlfriend was killed. He bought a flat in Platt’s Lane in 1976 and lived there until about 1980 when he moved to Cavendish Mansions. He was in Cavendish Mansions until 1985. Slade were formed in 1969 and became very popular, making over 30 albums. The original band broke up in 1992. Don Powell now lives in Denmark.

Barrie Masters – Cavendish Mansions, Mill Lane
Singer Barrie was an original member of the band, Eddie and the Hotrods formed in CanveyIsland in 1975. He lived in Cavendish Mansions in the early 1980s. After gained a reputation as a live act they had a residency at The Marquee in 1976. The opening act was The Sex Pistols playing their first London gig. The Hotrods most successful record was ‘Do Anything You Wanna To Do’ which reached number 9 in 1977. That year they toured the US with The Ramones and Talking Heads. There were various personnel changes: one of the first to leave was Eddie, who was a tailor’s dummy. The band disbanded in 1981 and Masters joined The Inmates, other members joined The Damned. Later Barrie rejoined the band and The Hotrods have made over a dozen studio and live albums. They are still touring and in 2012 they supported Status Quo.

Tony Bagget – Kilburn
Tony is a bass player who still lives in Kilburn. He was in the punk band Cuddly Toys which formed in 1979 from a previous group. Their first release was ‘Madman’ a song written by David Bowie and Marc Bolan shortly before his death. It reached number 3 in the UK Indie Chart.

Seal – Brondesbury Villas
Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel, to give him his full name, was born in Paddington in February 1963. His mother was Nigerian and his father was Brazilian. He spent his infant years with a guardian away from his family. After four years he was reunited with his family and grew up with his older sister and four younger siblings in Kilburn. His best known hit was ‘Kiss From A Rose’ which won a Grammy Award in 1996. He married the model Hedi Klum in 2005 and they divorced in 2012.

Paul Jones – 182 Willesden Lane, and Garlinge Road
Paul is the singer and harmonica player with The Blues Band. He was born as Paul Pond in Portsmouth in 1942, the son of a Royal Navy Captain. He sang with Manfred Mann’s band from 1962 to 1966 and they had hits with ‘5-4-3-2-1’ and ‘Do Wah Diddy’. The Blues Band was formed in 1979 by Paul and guitarist Dave Kelly. Today Paul hosts a regular rhythm and blues show on BBC Radio 2.

Ronnie Scott – Messina Avenue
Jazz club owner and tenor saxophonist, Ronnie Scott was living in Messina Avenue in 1981 when he was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours. He helped Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek at the Railway Hotel, by allowing famous American jazz players to perform there before they played at his Frith Street club. Ronnie also played several times at Klooks on jazz nights.

Errol Brown – 84 Hillfield Road. Tony Wilson – 64 Hillfield Road
The founders of Hot Chocolate both lived in Hillfield Road. Born as Lester Errol Brown in 1948 in KingstonJamaica, at the age of 11 Errol and his mother came to England. He said: ‘To begin with we lived in a room of a cousin’s big house in Gipsy Hill, South London.’ When he was 14 they moved to 84 Hillfield Road, West Hampstead and he went to Warwick House, a small private school at 30 Lymington Road. Errol continued:

In 1968, through mutual friends, I met Tony Wilson whose flat was almost opposite mine. Tony and I formed Hot Chocolate, and I sat down and wrote new words to John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”. We demoed the song but being so new we had no idea you needed permission. The guy that paid for the recording sent it to the Apple label for John’s approval. We all laughed but four days later he called and said: “John Lennon loves it and wants to put it out straight away!

In 1970 the debut single of Hot Chocolate, ‘Love is Life’, reaches number 6 in the UKcharts. A string of hits followed including, ‘It Started with a Kiss’ and ‘Everyone’s a Winner’. In 1981 the band performed at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding reception. In 1997 their previous 1975 hit, ‘You Sexy Thing’, was revived in the film ‘The Full Monty’. It’s believed that Errol may have later lived near Sherriff Road.

Michael Jeans – West Hampstead
A classically trained oboe player, Michael performed with John Williams on the soundtrack of Star Wars in 1980. He has been in the band Talk Talk since 1988, with the violinist Nigel Kennedy. Michael has made two solo albums, Eagle on the Wind (2002) and Leather and feathers (2005).

Sheena Easton – Mill Lane
In 1981 Sheena moved from a shared flat in south London to her own flat in Mill Lane. She was born in Scotland as Sheena Shirley Orr in 1959. The 1979 BBC TV documentary, Big Time, which followed her progress in the music business, propelled her to success. Her theme song for the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, was a top ten hit in the UK and US. Sheena has had a very successful career winning two Grammy Awards, achieving seven Gold albums and one Platinum and has sold over 20 million records worldwide.

Geno Washington – 212 West End Lane
In 1983 Geno co-owned a basement restaurant at 212 West End Lane, but he probably did not live there. About 10.30 he would sing blues songs such as ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Got My Mojo Working’ to the diners. Born in Indiana, Geno was stationed in Englandwith the US Air Force in the 1960s. In 1965 he was asked by guitarist Pete Gage to front his band which became Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. They played in all the London Blues clubs including West Hampstead’s Klooks Kleek, and had two best selling live albums in 1965 and 1966. In 1971 Gage formed Vinegar Joe with ElkieBrooks and Robert Palmer in the early 1970s. Kevin Rowland’s big 1980 hit ‘Geno’ was based on hearing Washington at gigs where the fans shouted ‘Geno! Geno! Geno!’ Washington is still performing today.

Jimmy Somerville – 12a Inglewood Rd
In 1983 Jimmy Sommerville co-foundered Bronski Beat with the other members of the band. They had a hit with their first record, ‘Smalltown Boy’. In 1985 Jimmy and Richard Coles formed The Communards. Their record ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ stayed at number 1 for four weeks in 1986. After two years he went on to a successful solo career.

Loudon Wainwright III – Inglewood Road
Singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright was born in North Carolina in 1946. His father who was an editor for Life magazine, played piano and the records of Tom Lehrer and Stan Freberg to his children and these had an influence on young Loudon. He started playing guitar in the late 1960s and while living in Rhode Island he wrote about 20 songs in a year. He was discovered when he was playing in New York folk clubs and released his first album on Atlantic Records in 1970. He is perhaps best known for his 1972 novelty song ‘Dead Skunk (in the middle of the road)’. In 1974-75 he played the part of Captain Spalding, the ‘singing surgeon’ in several episodes of the hit TV series of M*A*S*H. He has also appeared in several films, such as The Aviator and Big Fish. He was the regular singer on Jasper Carrott’s TV show in the late 1980s. Wainwright has recorded over 20 albums, several of which were nominated for Grammy Awards and in 2010 won a Grammy for High Wide and Handsome. In 1986 he lived in a top floor flat in Inglewood Road.

Herbie Flowers – West Hampstead Mews
In the late 1980s renowned bass player, Herbie Flowers had a recording studio in his house in West Hampstead Mews. He was a member of Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky. Herbie was a session player on hundreds of records, including those by Elton John and David Bowie. He is best known for the bass introduction on Lou Reed’s 1972 ‘Walk on the Wild Side’.

Kevin Rowland – West Hampstead, Marlow Court Willesden Lane
Kevin achieved success with Dexy’s Midnight Runners which was formed in Birmingham in 1978. Their record ‘Geno’ about Geno Washington was a number 1 hit in 1980. ‘Come On Eileen’ was another number 1 in 1983. They disbanded in 1987. In an interview for The Guardian he said that in 1987, with the music business closing its doors and his self-esteem at an all-time low, he sought out cocaine. At his worst, he was spending £360 a night. Friends and family were frozen out. ‘Drug dealers were my gods.’ The following year he went bankrupt with debts of over £180,000. Evicted from his flat in West Hampstead, Kevin got a place in Willesden, stopped paying the rent and squatted. In 2012 now known as just Dexy’s they released a fourth studio album after 27 years.

Nick Beggs – Priory Terrace
In 1979 bass player Nick Beggs formed the band Art Nouveau, with Steve Askew, Stuart Croxford Neale and Jez Strode. Chris Hamill (who used the name Limahl), joined the band in 1981 and it was renamed Kajagoogoo. In 1983 their first single, ‘Too Shy’ reached number 1in the UK Singles Chart. After Limahl and Strode left, the three remaining band members worked as Kaja. A reformed Kajagoogoo with Beggs, Askew and Neale toured in 2004. Since then Limahl and Strode have both rejoined and the band has toured extensively over Europe in 2008 and 2009. Nick Beggs has worked with a large number of other musicians including, Howard Jones, ABC, Cliff Richard, Tina Turner, D:Ream, Gary Numan, and Kim Wilde.

Bros – Exeter Road
Twins Matt and Luke Goss, together with Craig Logan formed Bros in 1986. They had eleven top 40 singles and three Top 20 albums, making them one of the biggest acts between 1988 and 1991. They reached number one when ‘I Owe You Nothing’ was reissued in 1988. They continued having hits throughout the late 1980s, including ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’ and ‘Too Much’, both which made number 2 during 1988 and 1989. About 1988 and 1989 they are believed to have lived in Exeter Road, near Kilburn Station.

Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte – West Hampstead
Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte are guitarists, song writers and record producers who live in West Hampstead. In 1977 Boz formed a band called Cult Heroes which became The Polecats and they released a single, ‘Rockabilly Guy’ in 1979. The following year they made their most successful album, Polecats Are Go! They had success in the UK and US charts.

Since 1991, Boorer and Alain Whyte have worked closely with Morrissey. The distinctive sound which Boorer and Whyte produced has been credited with revitalizing Morrissey’s career. Boorer has made solo albums and worked with other artists including Adam Ant, Joan Armatrading, Kirsty MacColl, Jools Holland and Edwyn Collins. Alain Whyte is best known for being Morrissey’s song writing partner, but he has also written material for Madonna, Rihanna, Chris Brown and The Black Eyed Peas. In 2005 he was with a band called Red Lightning.

Bernard Butler– Fawley Road
In the early 1990s Bernard lived in Fawley Road in West Hampstead. He was the guitarist with Suede who were formed in 1989. The original band consisted of Brett Anderson, vocals, Bernard Butler, guitar, Matt Osman, bass, and Simon Gilbert on drums. Their best selling debut album, Suede was released in 1993 and it won the Mercury Music Prize. Their second album Dog Man Star was recorded in 1994 at Master Rock Studios in Kilburn. In 1994 Bernard formed the duo McAlmont and Butler with singer David McAlmont who lived in Belsize Road. In 2004 Butler and Brett Anderson reunited with the band The Tears.

Bernard has worked as a producer on a number of records at Edwyn Collins’s West Heath Studios in Mill Lane. He has worked with Duffy on the five million selling album Rockferry. He has produced records for the Black Kids, Cajun Dance Party, the 1990s and many other groups. In 2008 and 2009 Butler won several best record producer awards.

Natalie Imbruglia – Goldhurst Terrace
Australian born singer, actress and model, Natalie, lived in the area since 1998. After appearing in the TV soap Neighbours from 1992 to 1994, she began a singing career and her debut album, Left of the Middle (1997), has sold over 6 million copies. Her best selling single, ‘Shiver’ reached number 1 in 2005. In 2010 Natalie was a judge on The X Factor and she has continued her singing and acting careers.

Alexander O’Neal – West Hampstead
R&B singer Alexander O’Neal was born in Natchez, Mississippi. He has lived in London since about 1999. He said in an interview, ‘I spent nine months of every year travelling between the States and England.’ He released his first album in 1985, and the 1987 single ‘Fake’ was number one in the American R&B chart. Other successful records were, ‘If You Were Here Tonight’ which reached number 13 in the UK, and ‘Criticize’ which was number 4 in the UK in 1987.

Lord Eric Carboo – Kingsgate Road
Still living in Kilburn, Lord Eric is the leader and percussionist with Sugumugu, an African drumming and dance group. He has worked for many years performing and promoting The Master Drummers of Africa.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – West Hampstead
In 2002 singer and model Sophie Ellis-Bextor lived in a West Hampstead flat with her manager Andy Bond. In 1997 she came to prominence as the lead singer with indie band Theaudience. After two years the band split up and she went solo. In 2000 she added vocals to Italian DJ Spiller’s instrumental ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ which went to number 1, and the record won several awards. Her single ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ became Europe’s most played record in 2002.  Sophie has now made five albums and she is a contestant in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. She is married to bass player Richard Jones and they have three children.

Rachel Stevens – West Hampstead
Rachel lived in a Hampstead flat for three years before buying a mews house near Fortune Green Road in 2004. She was a member of the pop group S Club 7 who had a TV series in 1999. During the five years they were together the group had four UK number 1 singles and a number 1 album. They sold 14 million albums worldwide. After they disbanded in 2003 Rachel began a solo career. She has appeared in several films and the 2008 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Elliott Randall – Kilburn
It is not known how long American guitarist Elliott Randall has lived in the Kilburn area. Elliott is a session guitarist who has played on hundreds of well known records. He grew up in New York where he was a friend of Donald Fagan and Walter Becker. They moved to LA and became Steeley Dan, releasing their first album Can’t Buy a Thrill in 1972. They asked Elliott to record guitar solos and he best known for his work on ‘Reelin in the Years’. Reportedly, Jimmy Page said this is his favourite guitar solo. Elliott also played on Steely Dan’s later albums Katy Lied (1975) and The Royal Scam (1976). As a session player he has worked with John Lennon, The Doobie Brothers, Carly Simon, ElkieBrooks, and Peter Frampton. Elliott gives workshops and plays with bands here and in the US. There is a great duet with Mick Abrahams on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYGbnDs8DMI&list=RD02N9-ZlCpL17E

Adam Sieff – Kilburn
After living in Willesden, Adam has lived in Kilburn for the last three years. Adam is a guitarist and record producer and is currently executive producer at Gearbox Records. He has worked as a session player on records and for many TV shows including, Spitting Image, Who Dares Wins, Ben Elton and Fry and Laurie. Adam was the jazz manager at Tower Records for three years, Head of Sony Jazz for ten years and an original member of SellaBand, the first music crowdsourcing website. He has worked with artists such as Herbie Hancock, The Bad Plus, Martin Taylor, Clare Teal, Wasted Youth, Alex Korner, Wynton Marsalis, KebMo and Jazz Jamaica.

Stephen Lipson – West Hampstead
Currently living in West Hampstead, Stephen is a guitarist, record engineer and producer who has worked with many major musicians including; Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Cher, Annie Lennox, Paul McCartney and Jeff Beck. In 2006 with Trevor Horn who ran ZTT Records, Lol Crème, and Ash Soan, they formed a band called Producers to allow the friends to play as a break from producing records. They played gigs in CamdenTown and in 2012 they released an album, Made in Basing Street, named after the address of Sarm Studios.

Andrew McCulloch – Fordwych Road
Andy is a drummer who has worked with Manfred Mann, Greenslade, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and is best known for his work with King Crimson who he joined in 1970. He gave up drumming to peruse his love of boats, and now charters his own yachts and teaches sailing.

Sean Taylor – Kilburn
Singer-songwriter Sean Taylor was born and still lives in Kilburn. He has played at the Glastonbury Festival four times. Sean released six albums between 2006 and 2013. One of the tracks on his 2012 album which was recorded in Austin Texas, was called ‘Kilburn’ and can be heard on YouTube. Another track celebrates ‘Biddy Mulligans’ the pub on the corner of the High Road and Willesden Lane.

Flutes – Kilburn
Formed in Glasgow, Flutes are Godfrey McFall (lead singer and guitar), Andy Bruce (bass, vcls and piano), Alex Bruce (drums, vcls), and Robert Marshall (guitar, piano, and vcls). Their debut album was called Flutes (2012). They have a single called ‘Kilburn’ which was released in 2013, and they say that they have all lived in Kilburn. The video can be seen on YouTube.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn – part one

Our new book - available from West End Lane Books, published by The History Press

Our new book – available from West End Lane Books

To coincide with this we will be doing an illustrated talk at West End Lane Books on Monday 18 November at 7.30. Come along to hear the true story about the Beatles failed audition at Decca, the evening that Jimi Hendrix played at Klooks, as well as the other great people who played at the club which was run in the Railway Hotel for nine years.

Musicians in West Hampstead and Kilburn
A little while ago I met guitarist Adrian Wyatt and we began talking about the surprising number of musicians who had lived in the area. Ade has been involved in music for many years. In 1975 he moved into Tower Mansions in West End Lane, and for two and a half years worked in Macari’s Music Shop in the Charing Cross Road, selling guitars, keyboards, and amps. The punk movement was blossoming, so one minute he was serving Mickie Most, the next, Mick Jones and Glen Matlock.

In 1978 Ade went to Australia for six months with a rock concept band called World, and when he returned he found his flat was playing host to a whole swathe of new rock and roll neighbours. These included, Wilko Johnson, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Lemmy and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, Billy Idol and Steve Strange.

From July 1980 to June 1981 Ade operated the sound system at The Moonlight Club at The Railway Hotel. Here he heard early gigs by everyone from Pigbag to Tenpole Tudor, Birthday Party to Joy Division, Altered Images to The Pretenders, Flock of Seagulls to U2, Depeche Mode, Squeeze, and ABC.

In the early eighties Ade joined The Vibrators (Mark IV) and he has played and toured with many bands. As a session guitarist he played with Joe Egan, B.A Robertson, Maggie Bell, and Oleta Adams. He is currently in the band ‘Dakota Red’ with singer-songwriter Sara Eker. She also lived locally in Dennington Park Road.

In addition to Ade Wyatt, thanks are due to Dean Austin, Wally Smith, Pat Wilkinson, Adam Sieff, Phil Shaw, Steve York, Val Simmonds, Brian Wilcock, James Moyes, Dave Kemp and Peter Murray for their help in identifying some of the musicians.

The following list of musicians is roughly in chronological order and as it has grown considerably, we will publish it in two blog stories. We have not covered classical musicians who lived here.

This is the most comprehensive list of people ever produced and we hope you find some surprises here. You can find lots of examples of the musicians work by searching on YouTube.

Max Jaffa – 5 Hillcrest Court, Shootup Hill
Violinist and band leader. Max lived in this block of flats for about two years in the 1930s. At the time his neighbours in Hillcrest Court were Joe and Elsa, the parents of Joan and Jackie Collins. Max Jaffa got his big break in 1929 with weekly BBC radio broadcasts. His ‘Palm Court’ style was very popular and in 1960 he did a summer season at Scarborough which he repeated for the next 27 years.

Joe Loss – 16 Kendall Court, Shootup Hill
The famous bandleader moved here in the late 1930s. His record of ‘Begin the Beguine’ sold over a million records in 1939. Astonishingly, he was awarded a 50 year contract with EMI and he played several times for the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Maurice Elwin – 16 CanfieldGardens
Born Norman McPhail Blair, Elwin’s obit in the local paper described him as, ‘one of the most recorded artists in the world.’ He made hundreds of 78rpm recordings under no less than 30 pseudonyms. He began in his native Glasgow singing ballads, moving on to popular songs and composing. In the 1920s and 1930s he regularly appeared with the Savoy Orpheans, the hotel’s big band led by the American Carroll Gibbons. There’s a short film of the band on British Pathe, http://www.britishpathe.com

Maurice died in 1975 and was buried in HampsteadCemetery.

Wally Shackell – Bridge Street and 12 Hillfield Road
Singer Wally Shackell was born in Bridge Street at the bottom end of Kilburn in 1933. This area has since been redeveloped. In 1957 he joined The Five Dallas Boys and recorded ‘Shangri-La’ which was a minor hit. Most of the band came from Leicester and they appeared regularly on the TV shows, Six Five Special and Oh Boy. As a result of this they became national stars with a fan club of over 5,000 members. Wally went solo under the name of Jerry Angelo and made five records between 1959 and 1962, but they weren’t big hits. He now lives in Australia.

Dusty Springfield104 Sumatra Road
Dusty Springfield is considered by many people to be the greatest British soul singer. Her real name was Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, and she was born at 87 Fordwych Road on 16 April 1939. This was long believed to be the family home, but we found that the writer Jackie Collins was born at the same address, which was in fact a maternity home. Dusty was the daughter of Gerard and Catherine O’Brien, who lived at 104 Sumatra Road from about 1933 to 1939. Her father, who had grown up in India, was a tax consultant at 97 Lauderdale Mansions, Maida Vale. By 1944 they had moved to High Wycombe. Some years later they moved again to Ealing.

After leaving school in 1958 Dusty answered an advert for a female singing trio called the ‘Lana Sisters’. Then in 1960 she joined her elder brother Dion (who became Tom), and Reshad Field, to form The Springfields, a pop-folk trio. In 1963 she began her solo career with ‘I Only Want to Be with You’, which reached Number 4 in the charts. Her most famous songs were ‘The Look of Love’ which was featured in the Bond film ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ (1969). In 1998 she was awarded an OBE. Dusty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 and she died in March 1999.

Mike Hurst – 7 Priory Road and Brondesbury Road
In 1962 Mike Hurst joined Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom in The Springfields. That year they had their biggest hit ‘Island of Dreams’ which reached number 5. They split up in October 1963. Mike formed a band called The Methods with the seventeen year old Jimmy Page on guitar. They played country rock and toured with Gene Pitney, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer. In 1965 Mike Hurst rented a flat in Priory Road. This was the same flat that bass player John Paul Jones and Madeline Bell of Blue Mink later occupied. Mike Hurst became a record producer and worked with Andrew Loog Oldham and Mickie Most. Hurst produced records for Marc Bolan, Cat Stevens, Spencer Davis and Manfred Mann. He later lived in Brondesbury Road.

Edric Connor – 27 Crediton Hill
Edric was a pioneering calypso singer from Trinidad who came to England in 1944. In 1951 he brought the Trinidad Steel Orchestra to the Festival of Britain. In 1952 with his band Edric Connor and the Caribbeans, he recorded the album ‘Songs from Jamaica’. This included ‘Day Dah Light’ a version of which became Harry Belafonte’s big hit, ‘Day-O’, or ‘The Banana Boat Song’, in 1957.

Edric lived in Crediton Hill from 1957 and his daughter went to school with Marianne. With his wife Pearl he set up an agency to support black actors and musicians. In 1958 he became the first black actor to appear in the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. He appeared on TV and in 18 films, including ‘Fire Down Below’ with Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitcham. Edric died in Putney in 1968 and Pearl died in 2005.

Phil Seaman – Goldhurst Terrace
Phil was a renowned jazz drummer who played with all the key figures in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1964 he played with Alexis Korner and Georgie Fame. He taught Ginger Baker and played on his Air Force album in 1970. He was a heroin addict and died in October 1972 in Lambeth.

Tony Meehan – 18 Sidney Boyd Court, West End Lane
Tony grew up in Kilburn and he went to Kingsgate primary school with Dick Weindling. He bought his first drum kit in Blanks music store on the Kilburn High Road. He played in the house band at the 2 I’s in Soho and with the skiffle group The Vipers. From 1959 Tony was the drummer in Cliff Richard’s band The Shadows until October 1961, when he joined Decca as a trainee producer. On 1 January 1962 he was at the famous audition when Decca turned down the Beatles. In 1963 he worked with his friend from the Shadows, Jet Harris, and had a number 1 hit with ‘Diamonds’ which featured two future Led Zeppelin members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. His style influenced other drummers. Sadly, Tony died after a fall in his London house in 2005.

Screaming Lord Sutch– 241 Fordwych Road and Glengall Road
David Edward Sutch was born at New End Hospital in 1940. His parents William and Annie Emily, lived in two rooms at 241 Fordwych Road. His father, a war reserve police constable, crashed his motorbike and died in September 1941 when David was only ten months old. With no money, his mother, known in the family as ‘Nancy’, moved to a single room in Glengall Road. David went to school at Salusbury Road and then they moved to South Harrow. At the end of the 1950s he first performed at the 2 I’s club. The ‘Savages’ were formed in 1960 and he called himself Screaming Lord Sutch after Screaming Jay Hawkins. His outrageous appearance and performances gained the band publicity. From 1963 he stood in parliamentary elections for the National Teenage Party and founded the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983. He contested over 40 elections with little hope of winning. Depressed after the death of his mother the year before, Sutch committed suicide in 1999.

Gary Grainger – Dibden House, Maida Vale
Gary was born in Kilburn in 1952 and grew up in Dibden House (where Sir Bradley Wiggins lived). After trying drums Gary took up the guitar and joined the band Strider who made two albums in the 1970s. He then worked with Rod Stewart’s group. Gary lived in the US for five years and did two world tours with Rod. During this time he also wrote songs for Rod’s albums. In 1981 he returned to England and wrote for Paul Young and then worked with Roger Daltrey during 1986 and 1987. In 1991 he formed the band The Humans with Jess Roden, and Jim Capaldi. Steve Winwood played organ on their recordings. In 1998 he formed the Blues Club. He is still touring the UK and Europe with colleagues from earlier bands.

Sandy Brown – 97 Canfield Gardens
The legendary New Orleans style jazz clarinettist Sandy Brown was born in India where his father worked as a railway engineer. He grew up in Scotland and moved to London in 1954. Sandy lived in Canfield Gardens from about 1959. He was an acoustic engineer and in 1968 he formed Sandy Brown Associates which eventually had an office in West Hampstead. Sandy designed the Moody Blues ‘Threshold Studios’ when they took over one of the Decca Studios in Broadhurst Gardens. He had his own band and played with numerous jazz musicians including Humphrey Lyttleton and Al Fairweather. Sandy played locally at Klooks Kleek, the jazz and blues club which was held in the Railway Hotel from 1961 to 1970. Sandy died in March 1975.

Colin Purbrook, Tony Coe, Brian Lemon and Jimmy Deuchar – 4 Fawley Road
Known as ‘Bleak House’ from the terrible condition it was in, Sandy Brown said that about 50 jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s lived in this house in Fawley Road. Colin Purbrook and Brian Lemon were pianists. Tony Coe was a sax player and Jimmy Deucher played trumpet.

Colin was ‘The Grand Vizier’ of parties in Fawley Road where he lived from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1999 and Steve Voce wrote a wonderful obituary in The Independent.

When his ex-wife, Maureen visited Colin in a Hospice in Hampstead, she told the consultant that Purbrook was one of the 10 best jazz pianists in the country. Later she told him what she had said. Purbrook, by now barely able to speak, croaked ‘Five, Dear. Five’.

Tucker Finlayson  – Hillfield Road
Tucker Finlayson played double bass in various Scottish bands in the late fifties. After his National Service in the RAF he came to London.  In 1963 he joined the Terry Lightfoot Band. The following year he joined the Acker Bilk Band and still plays with them. He has played bass with many other musicians, including Ray Davies’s album The Storyteller (1998).

Jack Bruce – Alexandra Mansions and 25 Bracknell Gardens
Bass player Jack Bruce was classically trained at the RoyalScottishAcademy of Music but also played jazz and blues. In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of AlexandraMansions on West End Green. On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club and who later helped with the lyrics of some of the Cream songs. They moved to a flat at 25 BracknellGardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home. Jack and Ginger Baker played in the Graham Bond Organization and then with Eric Clapton they formed the Supergroup Cream in 1966. Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, ‘Jack Bruce: composing himself’ (2010).

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – 33 Mapesbury Road
Mick and Keith had moved to a £9 per week flat on the top floor of 33 Mapesbury Road in 1963, after leaving 102 Edith Grove. The Stones manager and record producer, Andrew Oldham, joined them in Mapesbury Road in early 1964. He says in his autobiography ‘Stoned’ that he locked Mick and Keith in the flat for several hours and wouldn’t let them out until they had written a song.

Chris Jagger – Kingsgate Road
In 1982 Mick’s younger brother, singer Chris Jagger, lived in a house that Mick bought in Kingsgate Road. He released his first albums in 1973 and 1974. He has worked as a journalist and radio presenter. In 1994 he made a third album after a 20 year gap and his style has incorporated cajun, folk, country, blues and rock.

Tony Hooper – 32 Dennington Park Road
Tony Hooper, guitarist, was a tenant in the early 1960s. With Dave Cousins he founded The Strawbs in 1964. He left the band in 1972 and then re-joined them in 1983. Tony didn’t tell the landlady he was in a group and she was furious when she found out. The band members met to record a demo tape and the landlady’s daughter was told to run up and down a short staircase above their room, wearing hard, wooden ‘Dr Scholl’ sandals. The dreadful noise destroyed all hope of their recording.

Glen Hughes – Lymington Road
Glen was a very talented baritone sax player who regularly played at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel. In 1964 he was part of Georgie Fame’s highly successful Blue Flames. But in 1966 Glen tragically died in his flat in Shepherds Bush. Fellow sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith said: “Glen died in bed with a cigarette in his hand, drugged unconscious with smack. Glen was, in my opinion, one of the best baritone players the world has seen.”

Paul Soper – 350 Finchley Road
Guitarist and bass player, Paul lived with his elder brother in Finchley Road from 1964 to 1966. During this time he regularly visited Klooks Kleek, the jazz and R&B club at the Railway Hotel, where he saw many of the top blues bands. Paul has played with various blues bands including Bluejuice and the Bluesdragons. He still plays at various London pubs. See his interesting memories of the top British blues bands at; http://www.britishbluesarchive.org.uk/eyewitness.php

Olivia Newton John – 9 Dennington Park Road
Olivia was born in Cambridge in 1948 and went to Australia when she was five. Her father Bryn was an academic, who became the Dean of Ormond College, Melbourne University. She appeared on Australian radio and TV shows. About 1965 she returned to England and lived in Dennington Park Road. Her first single, ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’, was recorded at the Decca Studios, Broadhurst Gardens, in 1966. Towards the end of the summer 1966 she met Bruce Welch, guitarist with The Shadows. He was 24 and married at the time, she was 17. They dated from September 1966 and lived together. In 1969 they moved from a flat overlooking Lords to Hadley Common, Tottridge. She became best known for her role in the film ‘Grease’ in 1978 with John Travolta. From then on her singing career blossomed and she still tours today.

Joan Armatrading – Cholmley Gardens
Joan joined a repertory production of Hair in 1968 and shared a flat with Helen Chappelle, in CholmleyGardens. Her first album, Whatever’s for Us, was released in1972. She had considerable success in the 1970s and 80s. Her biggest single hit was ‘Love and Affection’ in 1976 which went to Number 10.

Bert Jansch – 16a Christchurch Avenue
Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943. He and fellow guitarist John Renbourn shared a flat in Kilburn in 1966.  In 1968 with Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, vocals, Danny Tompson, double bass, and Terry Cox drums, he formed Pentangle, a very successful folk rock group. Thompson and Cox had previously played with Alexis Korner. In May 1967 Pentangle had a sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Jansch left the band to work solo in 1973. Pentangle reformed in 1982 and with various musicians continued to 1995. Their combination of folk, rock and jazz influenced later musicians. Bert Jansch died in Kilburn in October 2011

Roy Harper – Fordwych Road
In 1966 he was living in Fordwych Road and his first album, Sophisticated Beggar, was made that year. Singer songwriter and guitarist, Roy Harper has made over 30 albums. His work has influenced Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who named a track ‘Hats Off to Harper’ after him. Other musicians who say they have been influenced by him include; Pete Townsend, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. In 1965 he had a residency at the folk club Les Cousins and he met John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Alex Korner, and Paul Simon. Roy Harper played at numerous venues including the Lyceum and Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead. In 1968 he played at the first free concert at Hyde Park with Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Pink Floyd. He is still performing today.

John Paul Jones ­– 7 Priory Road
Born as John Baldwin, he played bass in various bands and did a large amount of session work. In 1968 with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham, he formed Led Zeppelin. Before he joined the band he lived in a flat in Priory Road. He recently played with Seasick Steve at the Glastonbury Festival.

Michael and Peter Giles, Robert Fripp – 93 Brondesbury Road
In 1967 and 1968 Giles, Giles and Fripp who became King Crimson, lived in Kilburn. Their 1968 home recordings were later released as ‘The Brondesbury Tapes’. Their first album ‘In the Court of The Crimson King’ (1969), initially received very mixed reviews, but has since gained classic status. They released another 12 albums by 2003.

Lulu and Maurice Gibb – Priory Place.
Lulu and Maurice each had long and successful careers. Lulu was born in Glasgow and when she was fifteen her 1964 recording of ‘Shout’ in the Decca Studios in West Hampsteadreached the top ten in the UK. With his brothers Robin and Barry, Maurice Gibb formed the Bee Gees in 1958. They achieved world-wide success with their music for the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Lulu and Maurice were married in 1969 after they had met during a Top of the Pops TV show. Maurice and Lulu lived in one of the modern houses at the Belsize Road end of Priory Place. They later moved to Compton Avenue near Highgate and were divorced in 1973. Maurice died in 2003.

Andy Ellison – Sumatra Road
He was the singer with John’s Children, Jet, and Radio Stars. In 1967 Marc Bolan joined John’s Children, and they toured with the Who and managed to upstage them, with Ellison ripping open feather pillows and diving into the audience. Jet was a glam rock band formed in 1974. Radio Stars started in 1977 and released three albums. They made their TV debut on ‘Marc’, Marc Bolan’s show.

Marmalade – Douglas Court, Quex Road
The Glasgow band, the Gaylords named after the post-war street gang the Chicago Gaylords was formed in 1961. They met the Tremeloes who suggested that they should join manager Peter Walsh, who also managed The Bay City Rollers, Billy Ocean, The Troggs and Blue Mink. In 1966 he renamed them as Marmalade and got them a residency at The Marquee Club in 1967. Their biggest hit was ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da’ which they were given by Dick James of NEMS in 1968. At the time they recorded it they did not realise it was written by Paul McCartney. The record topped the UK charts in January 1969. They signed to Decca in November 1969. Their other hits were ‘Reflections of My Life’ which went to number 3 in 1969 and later sold two million records. ‘Rainbow’ also went to number 3 in 1970. At this time the band consisted of Junior Campbell, Dean Ford (Thomas McAleese), Alan Whitehead, Graham Knight, and Pat Fairley and when in London they lived at Douglas Court.

Root Jackson – Sumatra Road
Root had a hit with his cousin Jenny with ‘Lean on Me’ in 1969. He has been a member of groups such as FBI (1976), The Breakfast Band (1989), and the GB Blues Company. A track on his album Funkin’ With Da Blues (2011) is called ‘Kilburn High Road Blues’.

Gaspar Lawal – West Hampstead
Gaspar is a Nigerian-born African drummer and percussionist who came to London in the mid 1960s. He has recorded with a very wide range of musicians including: The Rolling Stones, Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Stephen Stills, Joan Armatrading, and Barbra Streisand. In 1975 he joined the rock band Clancy and in 1978 he formed his own group Afrika Sound. In the 1980s he worked with The Pogues, UB40 and Robert Palmer.

Dick Heckstall-Smith– 5 Eden Mansions, Gondar Gardens
Dick Heckstall Smith was an outstanding tenor sax player with Blues Incorporated, John Mayall, the Graham Bond Organization, Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum and Big Chief. He had lived in Gondar Gardens since 1972 and continued playing despite ill health, until his death in December 2004.

James Moyes – West Hampstead
James is a guitarist and composer who still lives in West Hampstead. He formed Sagram with sitarist Clem Alford and tabla player Keshav Satte. In 1971, with the addition of singer Alisha Sufit, they became Magic Carpet. They played at the 100 Club, and Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s Wavedon, plus other clubs and venues.Their 1972 album ‘Magic Carpet’ was described as ‘one of the finest Indian-influenced psychedelic folk albums of the 1970s’.

Robert Palmer – Dennington Park Road
Singer Robert Palmer lived in a basement flat in Dennington Park Road in 1972. Robert moved out of after the flat was flooded, destroying most of his belongings. He married and moved to New York. Then about 1976 he moved to Nassau in the Bahamas.

After working with several bands Palmer and Elkie Brooks formed Vinegar Joe and they released their first album in 1972. His first solo album, Sneakin’ Sally Thorough The Alley, was recorded in New Orleans in 1974. Palmer had a successful career and a number of major hits. His iconic music videos for ‘Addicted to Love’ (1985) and ‘Simply Irresistible’ (1988) featured identically dressed women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick. Robert died in France in September 2003.

Steve York, and Graham Bond – 55 Mill Lane
Bass player, Steve York lived in Mill Lane from 1972 to 1977. He has had a long career playing with many well known musicians and recording numerous records.  Beginning with various blues bands in the 60s including Graham Bond and Manfred Mann, in 1971 he joined Dada which had three singers Robert Palmer, Elkie Brooks and Jimmy Chambers. Dada became Vinegar Joe in 1971. Steve said: “I left Vinegar Joe after we recorded our first album and lived in the US for about a year. I let Graham Bond stay in my flat in Mill Lane while I was away on tour in 1973. He was homeless after his marriage broke up.”

Steve recorded with Marianne Faithful on her albums Broken English and Dangerous Acquaintances,
also with Ringo Starr, Chicken Shack, ElkieBrooks, Joan Armatrading, Dr John, Chris Jagger and many others. He played harmonica on Robert Palmer’s Sneaking Sally and Pressure Drop.

Today Steve lives in Mexico. See his website for more details: http://www.steveyork.com/

Graham Bond was a sax player but he was better known for his Hammond organ playing with the Graham Bond Organisation. This amazing group include Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Dick Heckstall Smith. Guitarist John McLaughlin was also in the band in 1963. The GBO were very popular and played 39 times locally at Klooks Kleek. One of his best known tracks was ‘Wade in the Water’ which can be heard live from Klooks on YouTube with a jokey introduction by club owner Dick Jordan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6okZU9O2n1E

Brilliant as he was, Graham had a major drug problem and most of the money he earned was spent on getting a fix. He may also have been suffering from schizophrenia. Steve York, a good friend who supported Graham said, “When I returned from the US, Graham was in bad shape and he stayed with me intermittently in Mill Lane until May 1974. He told me that if it hadn’t been for Mill Lane, he would have finished it all. But even so, things were so bad that before I got back, he had collapsed in the street suffering from malnutrition and had to be admitted to hospital.”

Things got worse and tragically, Graham committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at FinsburyPark station on 8 May 1974. For an excellent biography see, ‘Graham Bond: the mighty shadow’, by Harry Shapiro, 1992 and 2005. The book includes a detailed discography.

Jeff Bannister – Holmdale Road
Keyboard player Jeff Bannister lived in Holmdale Road in 1972. He had worked with Alan Bown in the John Barry Seven who had supported visiting American acts such as Brenda Lee. When Barry disbanded the group in 1965 because of his increasing film work, Jeff joined Alan in the Alan Bown Set. Jeff sang and played organ and piano on the first singles produced by Tony Hatch, and then Jess Roden became the vocalist. When the Alan Bown Set split up in 1970 Jess Roden formed Bronco and Jeff played on their first album. In the mid 70s he joined The O Band and then toured with Charlie Dore and latter Gerry Rafferty. He continued writing songs and played on Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’. He also wrote the books, The Multichord for All Keyboards, and a history of The Alan Bown Set. Jeff is still performing today as a member of The Swinging Blue Jeans, which originated in Liverpool in the 1960s.

Wilko Johnson, JJ Burnel, Steve Strange, Lemmy and Phil Taylor – Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane.
While Ade Wyatt was in Australia in 1978, Wilko Johnson the guitarist in Dr Feelgood with the distinctive choppy style, rented his flat in Tower Mansions. He had formed the Canvey Island band with singer Lee Brilleaux in 1971. Sadly this year, Wilko announced that he is retiring because he has terminal cancer.

Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived upstairs in Tower Mansions. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, “You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange”. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979. He appeared in the David Bowie video, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and Visage had a hit with ‘Fade to Grey’ in 1980.

‘Lemmy’ (Ian Fraser Kilmister) and ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor, drums, were in Motorhead. Both lived at Tower Mansions during the late 1970s and 1980s. Motorhead was formed in 1975 and they have made twenty albums. Still performing today, Lemmy is the only remaining member of the original band.

Billy Idol – Tower Mansions, and 315 West End Lane
Billy Idol also lived for a short time in Tower Mansions. He and his girlfriend Perri Lister, who was an actress and dancer in Hot Gossip, were together from 1980 to 1989. They were a very distinctive couple when they lived in West End Lane in a flat above Fortune Gate, the Chinese Restaurant near the Fire Station in West Hampstead.  Billy Idol in Generation X was one of the first punk bands to appear on Top of The Pops. In 1981 he moved to New York and the following year he had a major success with ‘White Wedding’ when the video was shown on MTV.

Here’s Part Two

Poison in the Blood: Three cautionary tales

The three stories here show how rural the area was in the 19th Century and how early medicine attempted to deal with rabies.

Be careful where you sit!
The following report appeared in the newspapers in late June 1858. Mrs Hoxwell who lived in Park Street near Regent’s Park, was “Walking in the fields in company with some friends at West-end Hampstead, when sitting down upon the grass, A female adder with the distinctive zigzag pattern A female adder with the distinctive zigzag pattern[/caption]

The snake, more commonly known as an adder, was killed. Mrs Hoxwell received “The usual remedies” at a nearby doctor’s house before being taken home. Despite gloomy comments that she was “Not expected to survive”, no one named ‘Hoxwell’ died in the weeks following the incident, so reports of her death may have been exaggerated. Although the bite of a European adder can be very painful, it is rarely fatal.

Nine persons poisoned at Kilburn
In the late afternoon of Sunday 22 September 1889, nine Kilburn residents, including a three year old girl, were rushed to St Mary’s Hospital Paddington. One report described them as “Half-blind and in a violent delirium.”

What could have caused their dreadful condition?

That morning, a number of friends had gone for a walk, following the line of the Midland Railway (today’s Thameslink) north towards Cricklewood. They included three neighbours from Palmerston Road: 30 year old Henry Lansdown; William Pye, a 27 year old house painter and 23 year old carpenter Henry Holman. Spotting a bush covered in wild berries, they tried them and found they tasted very sweet. Lansdown and Holman picked a large quantity to take home. But unfortunately, they didn’t realise they were harvesting Belladonna berries, commonly known as ‘Deadly Nightshade’ and extremely poisonous. Their wives made fruit pies and the families enjoyed an unexpected treat for dinner. Then one by one
they fell ill, but after several days in a critical condition, luckily everyone survived. William who had eaten most berries was violently sick, which probably saved his life.

Deadly nightshade berries

Deadly nightshade berries

Surprisingly, given the potential for a further and possibly fatal accident, no one removed the plant. A year later the story was recalled by a local doctor who commented: “A single shrub of Deadly Nightshade, of exceptional size, grows by the side of the Midland Railway a quarter of a mile north of Mill Lane”. He concluded the seeds must have been “transported” to Hampstead by the railway, as the nearest plants grew some distance away. (Oxford Ragwort was spread round the country in a similar manner).

Mad dogs and English men
Death from the bite of a dog suffering from rabies was a regular occurrence in Victorian England. The only ‘cure’ was to cauterise the bite with a red hot poker. Aside from being an extremely painful and disfiguring process, it wasn’t always successful. Some victims were sent to Paris for treatment by Louis Pasteur, who in July 1885 had developed a vaccine to treat rabies, his motto being “Last bitten, first served”! The statistics show how successful Pasteur was: in the first four years he vaccinated 6,950 people, of whom only 71 died.

During a rabies outbreak, dogs were legally required to be muzzled. When this happened in 1896, the London County Council issued a muzzling order on Monday 17 February; unfortunately the day after two Kilburn men had what one reporter called, “an exciting encounter” with a mad dog. A nursemaid and two children were walking along Salusbury Road accompanied by the family dog, when it was suddenly and viciously attacked by an unmuzzled fox terrier. The animal was rabid and foaming at the mouth. The girl tried to beat the terrier off, but it snapped at both her and the children. Fortunately Harry Avriall (an advertising bill poster) and P.C. Monaghan came to her rescue. They chased the dog into an empty house where they killed it, but not before it had bitten both men on their hands.

The Kilburn Times noted that policemen were regularly carrying lassoes to catch dogs without handling them. The two men had their wounds cauterised as soon as possible. It was agreed the police would pay for their officer to be sent to the Pasteur Institute for treatment, but it was only a last minute donation from an anonymous benefactor that allowed Harry to go there. On arrival in Paris, the police constable’s wounds were found to be clean but Harry’s bite was inflamed and had to be cleaned using acid. Then both men were given the vaccine. Pasteur believed you needed to ‘work’ rabies out of the system so as part of the cure, they walked at least five miles every day of their two week stay. After the second injection which caused some stiffness, first Monaghan and then Avriall returned to London. Again, so far as we know, both recovered: Harry was living in Harrow in 1911 and still bill posting.

A policeman lassoing a mad dog

A policeman lassoing a mad dog

On 17 April 1896, the Times reported that since the muzzling order had been made in London that February, 13,608 dogs had been seized. Of these, 42 were rabid and had been destroyed. Despite the awful consequences of being bitten, the practice of muzzling divided opinion among dog lovers. The so-called ‘muzzle maniacs’ who wanted nationwide muzzling for twelve months to ensure the complete eradication of rabies, were up against the anti-muzzlers, who refused to believe that dogs could go mad. The Marquis de Leuville, whose biography we’ve written, was prosecuted for not muzzling his dog. He wrote a comic song called “Muzzling”, where the cover of the sheet music shows a terrier with appealing eyes, looking out from behind a large muzzle. “Written on behalf of many faithful suffering dogs,” the lyrics reveal de Leuville’s ardent belief that muzzling was cruel, while one advert directly appealed to like-minded pet owners: “Everyone who has a dog should get the song now.”

MuzzlingDogs

Local shop owner John Symonds, a harness maker at 37 Kilburn High Road, understood the power of advertising.  He made muzzles and used his own dog as a canine billboard. It became a common sight in Kilburn to see his dog walking the streets, wearing a muzzle and with a cloth on its back, giving full details of Symonds’ store. For several weeks a local photographer displayed a photo of the dog in his shop window; muzzled, wearing specs and appearing to read a newspaper.

Rabies continued to menace the population with sporadic outbreaks up to the 1920s, largely attributable to imported dogs. Locally, in February 1900, Mrs Lilian Lancaster was bitten by a mad dog while visiting friends at Cricklewood. Her wound was duly cauterised at a local chemist shop, and the census shows her living with her family at 14 Weech Road a year later.

In June 1900 a Scottish terrier foaming at the mouth was secured by the police in Winchester Avenue, off Willesden Lane. Its owner reluctantly agreed her pet could be shot by a resident, who owned a revolver. British Pathe Newsreels has a silent film clip dating from about 1914, of a muzzled dog, entitled, “Who said “Rabies”? Fido strongly disapproves of the muzzling order!

Making Music in West Hampstead and Kilburn

Our next book, ‘Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek’ will be published by The History Press in November 2013. This is the first history of Decca Studios, which were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1980 and where thousands of well-known recordings were made. From 1961 until it closed in 1970, Klooks Kleek was the famous jazz and blues club run by Dick Jordan and Geoff Williams on the first floor of the Railway Hotel, next to the Decca Studios.

This blog is the first of two stories about music in West Hampstead and Kilburn. The area has a surprisingly rich history of music. The first instalment looks at music production and the recording studios and record companies who operated here. The second, to be published later, will cover the many musicians who lived there.

The Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company
Crystalate took over West Hampstead Town Hall in Broadhurst Gardens in 1928 and moved their recording studio there. That year the Crystalate Manufacturing Company appears at 165 Broadhurst Gardens for the first time in the phone book. Today the building is used by English National Opera.

In August 1901 the Crystalate Company was founded at Golden Green (note, not Golders Green), Haddow, near Tunbridge in Kent , by a partnership of a London and an American firm. The British company had begun by introducing colours into minerals and making imitation ivory. The American company which had made billiard balls and poker chips started making gramophone records from shellac. In July 1901 the American George Henry Burt, applied for a trademark on the word ‘Crystalate’ for all their plastic products. The secret formula to make Crystalate substances was kept in a sealed iron box which required two keys to open it. Burt had one and Percy Warnford-Davis, the English director, had the other. It is said that Crystalate made the first records to be pressed in England in 1901/2; but there is no direct evidence of this apart from the 1922 recollections of Charles Davis, the works manager.

In 1926 they moved their office and recording studio from 63 Farrington Road to Number 69 which was named ‘Imperial House’ after one of their record labels. In 1929 they moved again to 60-62 City Road which they called ‘Crystalate House’. T he company made records for some of the very early labels such as Zonophone, Berliner and Imperial. Crystalate also produced large numbers of records for Woolworths under various budget labels, including Victory and Rex. At first they cost a shilling which represented very good value for the enormously popular artists of the day such as Gracie Fields, Larry Adler, Billy Cotton and Sandy Powell. Also on the label were American stars: Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and Cab Calloway.

During the Depression many of the record companies ran into financial trouble and they were bought up by either EMI or Decca. In March 1937 the record side of Crystalate was sold to Decca for £200,000, or about £10 million today. The Crystalate engineers were very relieved when they found out Decca had decided to close their existing studio in Upper Thames Street and move to Broadhurst Gardens.

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios, today used by English National Opera

Decca Studios
The Decca studios were in Broadhurst Gardens from 1937 to 1981 and our new book will provide a detailed history. Stars such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Billy Fury and the Moody Blues were recorded here. On 1st January 1962 the Beatles auditioned at the studios, but after travelling down from Liverpool in a van, they’d gone out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and their playing did not impress Decca. Other labels also turned them down until EMI Parlophone, Decca’s great rival, signed them in June 1962. The Beatles first single, ‘Love Me Do’ was released on 5 October 1962 and peaked at Number 17 in the charts.

Gus Dudgeon, engineer and producer Lymington Mansions and Kings Gardens, West End Lane
When he left school Gus (Angus) had several short-term jobs before he got a job as the tea boy and junior assistant at Olympic Studios near Baker Street. He was ‘blown away’ by the power of the studio speakers with their tremendous bass and treble ranges. Desperate to play with the controls he said ‘I was terrified at the idea of ever getting onto the recording console.’ But he managed to get a job as an engineer at Decca Studios in 1962. At the time Gus was sharing a flat at 2 Lymington Mansions in West Hampstead where he stayed until 1965. The blues singer Long John Baldry slept on a bed in the hallway.

During his five and a half years at Decca Studios, Dudgeon engineered the Zombies’ hit ‘She’s Not There’ (1964) and the celebrated John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (1965), known as the Beano album from the cover, where Eric is pictured reading a copy of the comic. Early sessions included recordings for Marianne Faithfull with producer Andrew Loog Oldham and session guitarists Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin.

His first co-production credit came in 1967 with the debut album of Ten Years After. A year later, encouraged by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, he left Decca to found his own production company. He worked on all the classic recordings by Elton John, including such hits as ‘Your Song,’ ‘Rocket Man,’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. In 1969, he produced David Bowie’s first hit, ‘Space Oddity,’ and later, albums by such artists as Chris Rea, Lindisfarne, and XTC.

In the 70s Gus joined Elton John and formed Rocket Records. In the early 80s he built SOL Studios in Cookham Berkshire which he later sold to Jimmy Page.

From 1967 till 1973 Gus lived at 3 Kings Gardens in West End Lane. He then moved to Surbiton. The record world was shocked in July 2002 when Gus Dudgeon and his wife Sheila were killed in a car crash.

British Homophone, 84a Kilburn High Road
This building was behind the present Sainsbury’s in Kilburn High Road. Before British Homophone opened their recording studio there in 1929, it was the site of a large house called St Margaret’s.

The last owner and occupier of St Margaret’s was the builder Robert Allen Yerbury who rented the house about 1877. He soon bought the freehold as well as a large piece of land adjoining his grounds and built Colas Mews (behind the present Iceland store). He then used the garden in front of the renamed St Margaret’s Lodge as the site for a terrace of shops. Although completely hemmed in by the shops on the High Road, Yerbury was able to rent the house to a series of tenants.

By 1903 a hall and conservatory had been added to the back of St Margaret’s Lodge. ‘Professor’ Sidney Bishop ran ‘The Athenaeum’ for dancing there from 1902 to 1914.   During WWI it was used as a forces recreation room and in the 20s the Hall became the Kilburn branch of the Church Army, with successive secretaries living in the old Lodge.

The site was next adapted as a recording studio for the British Homophone Company Ltd. William Sternberg was the director of a company that had been selling gramophones under the trade name of Sterno for some years. They had used the masters and distributed records of the Homophon Company of Berlin since 1906, and also produced Sterno records from 1926 to 1935. On 24 May 1928 the Times announced that British Homophone was issuing a share capital of £150,000. In a contract dated 21 May 1928 , Sternberg put all his assets into the new company of British Homophone, for £37,500 worth of shares. They moved into 84a Kilburn High Road the following year.

British Homophone advert, 1928

British Homophone advert, 1928

Lots of well known performers and dance bands of the time were on the Sterno label including Mantovani, Oscar Rabin, and Syd Lipton. The most important artist on the label was the pianist and band leader Charlie Kunz who was selling an astonishing one million records. He became the highest paid pianist in the world earning a £1,000 week. Born in America , he came to England in 1922, and during the 1930s he lived in Dollis Hill.

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

Charlie Kunz record on the Sterno and British Homophone label

In 1934 the BBC studios in Maida Vale sent recordings by telephone lines to British Homophone in Kilburn who recorded them onto wax discs. They were able to offer the BBC a quick turnaround of 12 hours for programme repeats.

But like other companies in the Depression, British Homophone struggled financially and in May 1937 Decca and their rival EMI jointly purchased all the British Homophone masters for £22,500. When British Homophone left Kilburn in 1939, the ladies clothing chain, Richard Shops, who had been at Number 82 since 1936, took over Number 84 and probably the studio as well.

William Sternberg lived at ‘Mondesfield’, in Exeter Road Kilburn, from 1924. When he died on 14 June 1956 , his addresses were Exeter Road and Seddscombe , Sussex . He was buried at the Willesden Liberal Jewish cemetery probably with his wife Eva who died in 1925. He was a wealthy man and left £19,379, today worth about £900,000.

Sterno and Canned Heat
As an interesting aside, Sterno was also the name of an American campsite cooking fuel made from jellied alcohol. During the Depression, and strained through cloth, it was used as a cheap substitute for whisky and popularly known as ‘Canned Heat’. The early bluesman, Tommy Johnson, wrote and recorded ‘Canned Heat Blues’ in 1928, and the famous American band Canned Heat, which was formed in Los Angeles in 1965, took their name from the song.

The Banba
The studio building was used from 1951 to 1968 by Michael Gannon who ran the famous and very poplar Irish dance hall there called ‘The Banba’ (taken from a poetic name for Ireland ). In 1971 the property was demolished with Sainsbury’s redevelopment of the entire site. Marianne can remember being taken to the Banba. She was bought a coffee made from Camp Coffee Essence, which Wikipedia describes as: A glutinous brown substance which consists of water, sugar, 4% caffeine-free coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. She left it untouched after the first sip.

British Homophone after the buyout
Despite the 1937 buyout by Decca and EMI, the British Homophone name continued into the early 1980s, but was no longer based in Kilburn. By 1962 it was at Excelsior Works, Rollins Street, SE15, New Cross. The new company pressed some of the early records for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records about 1965. Edward Kassner the boss of President Records owned the pressing plant. Eddy Grant and ‘The Equals’ were signed with President Records. Eddy set up Ice Records and a studio called the Coach House and bought the pressing plant in New Cross from Kassner in the late 1970s, where he pressed his own records until the early 1980s, when he left England.

Island Records, 108 Cambridge Road
Island Records was formed by Chris Blackwell who was born in London, but grew up in Jamaica. In 1958 after trying various jobs and using money from his parents, he decided to record Lance Hayward, a young, blind jazz pianist who was playing at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay. The record was released in 1959, and this was the beginning of what would later become Island Records. The following year Blackwell had a hit with Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie In My Bones’. Using the money from the sales he set up a small office in Kingston.   In 1962 Blackwell moved to London and began selling records to the West Indian communities in London, Birmingham, and Manchester from the back of his Mini-Cooper.

Blackwell took the name of Island Records from Alec Waugh’s novel ‘Island in the Sun’. Island Records Ltd began in May 1962 with four partners who invested a total of £4,000: Chris Blackwell, Graham Goodall, an Australian music engineer living in Jamaica, the Chinese-Jamaican record producer Leslie Kong and his brother.

From March 1963 to 1967 Island Records had their office at 108 Cambridge Road , since demolished as part of the South Kilburn redevelopment plan. Originally a barber’s shop run by the Gopthal family, when accountant Lee Gopthal bought the house, he rented it out. Chris Blackwell converted the premises into offices managed by David Betteridge, who was later made a director of Island. Initially the records were pressed by British Homophone and then at the Phillips factory in Croydon. In 1962, the basement store at 108 had been a recording studio set up by Sonny Roberts of Planetone Records. Blackwell introduced additional labels such as Black Swan, Jump Up, Aladdin, Surprise, Sue Records and Trojan which was run by Lee Gopthal .

Rob Bell describes his time at Island from 1965 to 1972 in a series of articles. See www.trojanrecords.com. He said that Island were releasing about half a dozen records a week. The new release sheets were printed by Mr Reed who had a small print shop a few doors up Cambridge Road. Rob said he and others used to eat at Peg’s Café over the road and drink at The Shakespeare pub next to the office. In 1968 when business picked up with the popularity of reggae, together with the compulsory purchase for the South Kilburn redevelopment, Island moved to the much larger Music House at 12 Neasden Lane.

In 1963 Blackwell decided to bring the fourteen year old Millie Small to London. Looking for a suitable song for her to record, he found a copy of American singer Barbie Gaye’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ which he had bought five years earlier in New York. Recorded at Olympic Studios with a ska arrangement, the record was leased to the Phillips’ Fontana label and in 1964 it sold six million copies worldwide. It reached Number 2 in the UK and the US and became the first international Jamaican hit. Marianne heard Millie sing the song at one of the regular Saturday morning music sessions at the Kilburn State , held in their dance hall with an entrance in Willesden Lane.

Other successful records followed with Jimmy Cliff and the Birmingham band, the Spencer Davis Group who had several hits leased to Fontana such as, ‘Keep On Running’ (1965) and ‘Gimme Some Lovin’. Building on these hits, Island moved to new offices at 155 Oxford Street. In 1970 they moved again to Notting Hill where they had established their own studio in a former church at 8 -10 Basing Street. From here they expanded massively, with artists such as Bob Marley, Cat Stevens, Fairport Convention, Free, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Grace Jones and U2.

In 1989 Blackwell sold his stake in Island and eventually resigned in 1997. His mother Blanche was Ian Fleming’s longtime lover and Blackwell now owns the writer’s house, Goldeneye, in Jamaica . He bought it from Bob Marley. For a beautifully illustrated book see, ‘The Story of Island Records’, edited by Suzette Newman and Chris Salewicz (2010).

Ritz Records, 1 Grangeway
Grangeway is the small road leading off the Kilburn High Road into the Grange Park. Mick Clerkin ran Ritz Records here which began in about 1981. They produced Irish records and had big hits with Joe Dolan and Daniel O’Donnell. Clerkin had previously worked as a roadie for the popular Mighty Avons Showband, and then in 1968 he set up Release Records. Ritz were still at Grangeway in 1996 but had moved to Wembley by 2000. The company went into liquidation in 2002.

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

New building in Grangeway today, the site of Ritz Record

Master Rock Studios, 248 Kilburn High Road
In January 1986 Steve Flood and Stuart Colman opened their studios in Kilburn High Road. Stuart Colman was a musician who produced hits for Shakin’ Stevens, The Shadows, Kim Wilde, and Alvin Stardust. He also worked as a presenter at the BBC before opening Master Rock Studios. Flood and Colman were soon joined by studio manager Robyn Sansone who came from New York. An amazing number of musicians were recorded here including: Elton John, Jeff Beck, U2, Eric Clapton, Roxy Music, Simply Red and Suede. The music for the film ‘The Krays’ was also recorded at Master Rock.

They wanted the very best quality recording equipment so they bought a Focusrite console. Focusrite was founded in 1985 by Rupert Neve and the Forte console was developed in 1988. The idea was simply to produce the highest-quality recording console available at the time, regardless of cost. But the prohibitively expensive design limited the production to just two units, after which Focusrite got into financial difficulties. One console was delivered to Master Rock Studios in Kilburn and the other to the Electric Lady Studio in New York .

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

The Focusrite Forte console at Master Rock Studios

Bernard Butler the guitarist with Suede who recorded at Master Rock said: “Master Rock Studios was originally haunted by buying one of the only custom made Focusrite consoles. It arrived several months late so left them without business for a long time and despite being used on everything after it arrived, I don’t think they recovered.”

Bernard was right. Despite the Master Rock Studios being busy, there were financial problems and in 1991 the business was put up for sale. Douglas Pashley bought it and became the CEO in 1992. But problems continued and eventually they closed in June 2000. Number 248 Kilburn High Road has since been demolished.

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

248 Kilburn High Road today, site of Master Rock Studios

West Heath Studios, 174 Mill Lane
The composer and conductor Robert Howes, who worked with Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson on the Alan Parsons Project, said he was doing lots of work in different studios and decided that he needed to build his own. He had previously lived in Welbeck Mansions and knew the West Hampstead area. He found a building in West Heath Mews which ran along the top of a row of garages, and set up his studio there at the end of the 1980s to record his music for TV. He did ‘Songs for Christmas’, the theme music for Kilroy and Rescue and lots of other programmes. Then he leased the studio to Eric Woolfson who later built his own studio in Cricklewood Lane . Woolfson had met Alan Parsons at the Abbey Road studios where Parsons had recorded Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios, 2013

West Heath Studios is currently owned by Edwyn Collins who took it over in 1995. Edwin was born in Scotland and had hits with the Glasgow band Orange Juice. His major success was ‘A Girl like You’ which became a worldwide hit in 1994. After he and his wife Grace moved to Kilburn, Edwyn suddenly had a stroke in 2005 which left him paralysed. But he has since made a remarkable recovery and started to perform again. His cofounder and recording engineer Seb Lewsley kept the studio going. Edwyn’s friend Bernard Butler who lived locally in Fawley Road, recorded Duffy’s Rockferry album (2008) at West Heath. Edwyn recorded his latest album Loosing Sleep at the studio in 2010.

Have a look at YouTube for some amusing episodes of ‘West Heath Yard’.

Shebang Studio
This was a small studio in Coleridge Gardens, a mews off Fairhazel Gardens, run by Nigel Godrich. Nigel is a recording engineer and producer, best known for his work with the band Radiohead. He has also worked with Paul McCartney, Travis, Natalie Imbruglia, U2 and REM. Bernard Butler said, “Nigel Godrich’s studio was off Fairhazel Gardens where it meets Belsize Road and was called Shebang. He shared it with Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns who later became Zero 7. They were all assisting / engineering at RAK Studios at the time, which is where Radiohead and I met Nigel.” RAK Studios is in St John’s Wood and was started by Mickie Most in 1976.

The next blog story will look at the musicians who lived in West Hampstead and Kilburn.

The Detmold twins: Artistic genius and depression

Charles Maurice (known as Maurice) and Edward Julius Detmold were twin brothers with outstanding artistic ability who worked at the Sherriff Road Studios between 1902 and 1905.

They were born at 97 Upper Richmond Road on 21 November 1883. Their parents Edward Detmold and Mary Agnes Luck had married in 1881. Mary was brought up by her uncle, Dr Edward Barton Shuldham. He was born in Bengal where his father was an officer in the Indian Army. Mary’s parents may have died when she was a child: in 1871, aged 10, she was living in Croydon with Edward and his wife Elizabeth, who had no children of their own. Dr Shuldham was to play a major role in the Detmold story.

Edward was the son of Julius Adolph Detmold, a colonial merchant from Hamburg; ( Detmold is a town in Germany). It seems Edward decided not to enter the family business. Instead, in 1876, Julius placed his son as a ‘pupil’ with farmer Samuel Butcher in Hampshire, to learn the business. Ostensibly, theirs was a partnership but Julius remained in control. When the business failed in March 1879, Julius settled its debts by paying 20sh in the pound and the bankruptcy was annulled. Butcher said he’d always had sole management of the farms and was paid money for Edward’s keep. There’d never been any profits. Samuel later took Edward to court, accusing his ex-partner of stealing papers and other property from his farmhouse. Butcher said Detmold had threatened him and his wife Jane: “He placed himself in a fighting attitude and said “I’ll punch your head and thrash you both within an inch of your lives.” Detmold countered, saying he believed the papers were the property of his father. Both parties were bound over to keep the peace for six months.

A couple of years later, the 1881 census showed Edward still living in Hampshire, where he was sharing a house with his brother Henry. Henry was an artist while Edward had remained a farmer, with 250 acres employing five men and two boys. Dr Shuldham and his wife Elizabeth were the witnesses when their niece Mary Luck married Edward a few months later. The newly weds moved in with the Shuldhams in Upper Richmond Road and their first child, Nora was born the following year. The 1883 baptism record of twins Charles Maurice and Edward Julius describes Edward as a stockbroker, so he’d abandoned farming. He tried various jobs and became an electrical engineer: in the 1908 phone book he is listed as ‘Electrical Signs’, at 7 Warwick Lane.

The Dictionary of National Biography entry for the Detmold twins says their mother probably died shortly after their birth. This is wrong, Mary died in 1954. Rather, it looks as though the marriage failed and in 1888 Edward left and the three children and their mother stayed with Dr Shuldham.

Dr Shuldham graduated from Trinity College Dublin and was a physician at St James Homeopathic Hospital and the editor of ‘The Homeopathic World’. He wrote several medical books and was interested in stammering. Lewis Carroll, a convinced homeopath and a stammerer was a friend of Shuldham. Several of Shuldham’s medical books are in the British Library: The Family Homoepathist (1871), Headaches: their causes and treatment (1875), Clergymans Sore Throat (1878), Stammering and its rational treatment (1879), and The Health of the Skin (1890).

Shuldham was also an artist and the Victoria and Albert Museum has a landscape by him in their collection. He loved natural history and Japanese painting and agreed to educate the twins after their father had left. Part of each year was spent at Ditchling in Sussex. The Detmold boys showed early artistic talent and some time after the age of six, they briefly studied drawing at the Hampstead Conservatoire in Eton Avenue. This was the only formal training they received, but Dr Shuldham took them on regular sketching visits to the Regent’s Park Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Their uncle Henry Detmold, an artist of some renown, played an important role in helping the twins develop their natural talent. They won prizes in a nationwide art competition before they were eleven years old.

Dr Shuldham moved to Hampstead from south London and is shown at 15 Frognal (renumbered as 42) from 1891 to 1896, and then at ‘Katwych’ 49 Fairhazel Gardens, (1897 to 1906). This was followed by a series of moves downhill – literally and in terms of the value of the property he occupied. From 1906 to 1910 the family was at 13 Inglewood Road in West Hampstead. By the time of the 1911 census he was at 5 Priory Court in Mazenod Avenue and then he moved to number 7 where he stayed until his death in 1924, aged 86. Rather surprisingly, previously relatively wealthy, he left only £14 to Mary Agnes Detmold.

Number 42 Frognal (on the left), is a substantial 14 room house and one of a pair of semi-detached Victorian properties. Originally the roof line and front entrance would have mirrored number 40, (right).

Number 42 Frognal (on the left), is a substantial 14 room house and one of a pair of semi-detached Victorian properties. Originally the roof line and front entrance would have mirrored number 40, (right).

As child prodigies, at the age of 13, Edward and Maurice Detmold were the youngest people to exhibit watercolors at the Royal Academy. These were displayed ‘on the line,’ in other words at eye level, a great accolade. They also sent drawings to the Institute of Painters in Water Colours, where the doorman, seeing two children, refused them entry. He asked; “Whose pictures do you want to see – your father’s?’” They replied, “No, our own.” He fetched the secretary, who let them in.

Edward Julius Detmold, pencil sketch by Maurice, 1899, NPG

Edward Julius Detmold, pencil sketch by Maurice, 1899, NPG

Maurice Detmold, pencil sketch by Edward, 1899 NPG

Maurice Detmold, pencil sketch by Edward, 1899 NPG

Working jointly on their illustrations and etchings, in 1899 they produced a book of illustrations for Pictures from Birdland, which had rhymes by Edward Shuldham. With money from their sales, they bought and installed a printing press at their studio in Sherriff Road and produced a large number of prints. Their talent was obvious: a June 1900 review of work then on display at the Fine Art Society, described the “clever boy artists” as possessing “very remarkable genius. No reproductive process could quite do justice to their skilful brushwork and the quaint charm of their coloured etchings.” This critic concluded: “If they are not entirely submerged by juvenile success, if they are strong enough to survive precocious popularity and its attendant vices, they are sure to be heard of again.”

In 1903, at the age of twenty, they created a portfolio of sixteen superb watercolors for Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Their original drawings are in Kipling’s home ‘Batemans’ in Burwash, Etchingham, East Sussex, and the British Library has a set of the astonishing prints in the rare book collection which I went to see.

Kaa the Python, illustration for The Jungle Book by Maurice Detmold, 1903

Kaa the Python, illustration for The Jungle Book by Maurice Detmold, 1903

A review of the their work in 1907 said: “Many mediums are within their authority: etching, drawing, fresco and glass-painting, brushwork and wood-printed blocks in the Japanese fashion. In everything they do there is evidence of close observation, accuracy, strength and a wonderful sense of composition.”

But their productive partnership came to a sudden end in April 1908 when Maurice Detmold committed suicide. He was found in his room in Inglewood Road by his brother, in the bedroom they shared. Maurice was lying on the bed with a bag over his head and a cotton wad soaked in chloroform. There were three bottles of chloroform nearby and two dead cats in a box. He had left a suicide note which read: “This is not the end of a life. I have expressed through my physical means all that they are capable of expressing, and I am about to lay them aside – Maurice.”

The body was identified by his father Edward Detmold. At the inquest Dr Shuldham said the boys had lived with him since they were young. He said they were about to go to the country (presumably to Ditchling). He had given the brothers chloroform before to kill half-starved stray cats, so he was not suspicious when Maurice asked for more. When Edward Julius was asked if he knew why his brother had killed himself, he replied: “I cannot tell, except that he had done all that he wanted to do. He was most cheerful as a rule, and was exceptionally successful in his work.”

The verdict of the jury was: “suicide whilst of an unsound mind.” Maurice’s suicide appeared to re-unite his parents Edward and Mary, who started to live together again. The 1911 census shows them in number 5 Priory Court , a block of flats in   Mazenod Avenue. Dr Shuldham and his wife occupied number 7 with their unmarried daughter Nora. Edward Julius, Maurice’s brother, was still living with the doctor but he later moved in with his parents. They left Priory Court for 137 Broadhurst Gardens , about 1932, where Edward Detmold senior died in 1938.

The captive, by Edward Detmold, 1923

The captive, by Edward Detmold, 1923

Edward Julius Detmold was stunned by his brother’s death, but he continued to work at the publishers Hodder and Stoughton and at the Rossetti Studios in Flood Street into the 1920s and 1930s, creating etchings, drawings and paintings, and coloured block prints. Then he largely withdrew from public life. After the death of his father the family moved in 1940 to ‘Bank House’, a large house on the edge of Montgomery, North Wales where Edward lived with his mother and sister Mrs Nora Joy, the artist Sidney Lawrence Biddle and the musician Harold Rankin Hulls. Biddle and Hulls had lived with the family in West Hampstead. His mother Mary died at Bank House in 1954. Three years later on the morning of Monday 1 July 1957, like his brother Maurice almost fifty years before, Edward committed suicide. He shot himself in the chest and died of a haemorrhage.

At the inquest Hulls said that he had owned the single-barreled shotgun which Detmold had used to kill himself, and he kept it in his bedroom. The local doctor said he had treated Detmold for arterial disease which caused fainting attacks, and depression was a common symptom in such cases. Then the coroner read a statement from Mrs Joy who was too upset to attend the inquest. She said that after Hulls had left, her brother had returned to the house and kissed her and gone into his room. This was not unusual because they were an affectionate family. Then she heard the sound of a shot and she rushed into his room. Her brother staggered towards her and fell at her feet. She said that in the past year Edward had lost the sight in one eye and the other eye was deteriorating rapidly. This, combined with his blackouts, had caused considerable depression. The coroner’s verdict was: “death by self-inflicted gunshot wound while the balance of the mind was disturbed.”

The Roc which fed its young on elephants, for The Arabian Nights, by Edward Detmold, 1924

The Roc which fed its young on elephants, for The Arabian Nights, by Edward Detmold, 1924

The twin’s art work, influenced by Japanese prints, particularly those by Hiroshige and Hokusai, was highly original. In 2002 at a Sothebys book auction The Arabian Nights with illustrations by Edward Detmold, was estimated to reach between £100,000 to £150,000. Today their work is greatly prized.

The sculptor Fred Kormis

Fritz, or later as he called himself Fred Kormis, was born in Frankfurt Germany in 1897. Shortly before the outbreak of WW2, he came to London where he lived and worked for almost fifty years in West Hampstead and Kilburn.

Fritz was fourteen when he began an apprenticeship in a workshop specializing in decorative sculpture and mouldings. In 1914 he won a scholarship to the Frankfurt Art School but was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army when WWI broke out. He was wounded and captured by the Russians in 1915 and sent to a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp. This terrible experience provided the inspiration for much of his later work. Kormis escaped from the camp and returned to Frankfurt about 1920 where he earned his living as a portrait sculptor. He married Rachel in 1924. As a Jew, Kormis was no longer allowed to work once Hitler came to power in 1933, so he and Rachel went to the Netherlands and then to England in 1934. Here Fritz anglicised his name to Fred.

Kormis lived in 41 Broadhurst Gardens (1935-1937) and then at number 9, Sherriff Road Studios (1938-1940). His studio was destroyed in a raid during 1940, but we don’t know its location. Sherriff Road never experienced any serious bomb damage, but many of the houses in Broadhurst Gardens were demolished during a September raid. Fred may still have been renting space there as reports speak of his ‘larger works’ being lost. Having moved briefly to Hampstead Garden Suburb, he was at 3b Greville Place by 1944, where he stayed until his death in 1986.

3b Greville Place today

3b Greville Place today

Built about 1822, number 3 Greville Place was a large and extended property, home to artist Sir Frank Dicksee and prima ballerina Madame Lydia Kyasht, before being split into several flats and studios in the 1930s. John Hutton, artist and glass engraver (Number 3a) and Dolf Reiser, artist and fellow refugee from the Nazis (Number 3i) were neighbours of Kormis. Briefly (1964-1967) Kormis also rented number 3h.
Once settled in London , Kormis’ reputation continued to grow. About 1945 Willesden Council commissioned a sculpture for the new Church End redevelopment. In 2006 Reg Freeson donated the sculpture ‘Angel Wings’ by Kormis to Queen’s Park. It stands in the quiet garden, in the south east corner of the Park.

Angel Wings, in Queens Park

Angel Wings, in Queens Park

Kormis was especially well known for his bronze portrait medallions which were highly regarded. Subjects ranged from politicians to royalty and entertainers, and included Edward VIII, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Kormis exhibited a total of 41 pieces at the Royal Academy .

Winston Churchill, by Kormis, 1941

Winston Churchill, by Kormis, 1941

Waiting for a life dream to come true
Since escaping from Siberia , Kormis had been working on studies for a memorial to prisoners of war, and later, to include victims of the concentration camps. His unsuccessful design for the British Holocaust memorial was a beautiful figure with two arms stretching up from the earth; (he gave a model of the work to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem ). A bequest from a relative in Germany allowed Kormis to move his dream forward. Sculpting a series of figures, he looked to install them in a building bombed in WW2, but the search for a suitable site proved fruitless until his friend and leader of Brent Council, Reg Freeson, suggested the figures might find a home in the Borough. Kormis wanted the work to be erected in a depressed area, to act as an incentive to continued improvements. Various locations were put forward: Willesden High Road, Canterbury Road, Granville Road and Gladstone Park. Nothing was decided until February 1967, when Freeson (then an Alderman and MP), told the Council’s planning department, “This is a very generous gift, I think it is one of the finest pieces of work I have seen”. The Council decided to accept the memorial figures but no site was agreed.

The following month, the local paper interviewed an impatient Kormis at his Greville Place studio. Four of the figures were now complete, the sculptor explaining that each was intended to illustrate an aspect of his war experiences. “First there is the numb shock of realizing you are a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. Then there is the dawning awareness of your predicament and the primitive conditions. The next phase is the thought of escape and freedom. After that many succumb to despair and a sense of hopelessness. Others overcome their dejection and manage to escape.”

Kormis had two designs in mind for the fifth and central figure – a figure with outstretched arms, alive and hopeful for the future, or a seated woman, face in hands, sunk in deep grief. “I prefer this but I must admit it is a very sad study. It could be too depressing.” But before going any further he needed to know where the memorial would be placed, so he could adapt the design accordingly.

Gladstone Park Memorial, standing figure and three of the seated figures

Gladstone Park Memorial, standing figure and three of the seated figures

Gladstone Park, four seated figures

Gladstone Park, four seated figures

Memorial plaque

Memorial plaque

Brent decided a “shabby site” would be unworthy of the piece and chose to place the memorial in Gladstone Park, in a position chosen by Kormis. The five male, fibre glass figures were unveiled on May 11, 1969. Sadly their condition deteriorated over the years and the site became neglected. When the sculptures were graffitied with bright yellow paint, the simple ‘repair’ consisted of over painting them in matt black. Then in December 2003 the figures were seriously vandalized: all were decapitated and one sustained further severe damage.

Fortunately, as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration of the park, there was funding available to properly restore the memorial. A search revealed four of the vandalized heads thrown into surrounding undergrowth. One was missing but archive material allowed it to be replicated. Under expert guidance the figures were split open, foam filler removed and their internal structure replaced with stainless steel. The black paint was cleaned off and their original bronze finish restored, the resulting increase in definition allowing their features to be clearly seen for the first time in many years. The memorial is located close to Dollis Hill Lane , just a short walk downhill from the car park. Today the bronze finish has deteriorated but the impression given by the group, in particular the seated figures is very powerful. The standing figure is perhaps a version of the one Kormis described in his interview.

Rachel Kormis died in December 1971 and Fred died on 17 April 1986, still living and working at Greville Place. The couple are buried in adjacent graves at Bushey Cemetery.

When the King of the Cheap Jacks and the Midget Queen met James Joyce

In August 1878 Charles Augustus James appeared in court because he had set up his caravans on the corner of Percy Road and Pembroke Road (later renamed Granville Road) in South Kilburn. He traded here as a hawker or ‘cheap jack’ selling various goods. Thomas Diggins, a builder from Devon who lived and worked on the new houses in Pembroke Road, had taken out a summons to stop James trading. James had previously set up his vans nearby on vacant ground in Malvern Road but had been evicted by the owner. So he hired the land in Pembroke Road, moved the vans to the new site and issued the following handbill:

The enemy is defeated. We are not going away – not likely. CA James, the King of all cheap jacks, begs respectfully to inform his friends and customers that he has taken his stand in Pembroke Road Kilburn, where he will sell by auction every night, at seven o’clock pm, a large stock of splendid goods and a £5,000 stock of gold and silver watches of best quality. Working men come in thousands, and support the people’s friend.
James clearly knew how to pull the punters. ‘Hundreds and thousands’ of people assembled around the van every night, blocking the road and requiring large numbers of police to control the crowd. James carried on a roaring trade till eleven and twelve at night. When the summons was served, he read it out to the crowds and offered them gin and tobacco. When he was taken to the High Court James presented a petition in his favour signed by 500 people. He said he’d done all the trade he could in the neighbourhood and was moving on, so the case was adjourned.
James was born in Redditch near Birmingham, in 1850. His father’s jobs – as a needle maker and carpenter – give no clue as to James’ choice of career. By the age of twenty, he’d opted for a nomadic life, working as a travelling salesman-cum-auctioneer from a van, selling goods and taking a percentage from the sales. Sometimes he stayed in lodgings and in 1872 when he married Phoebe Elizabeth Wilson, he was at 15 Austin Road, Battersea. She was a local girl, born in Lambeth and the couple lived at 12 Miles Streetclose to the Oval for a while. After leaving Kilburn, their caravan took the James family to Luton (1878), then Pontardawe South Wales, where their daughter Phoebe was born in 1880. Later they were in Chesterfield and London (1881) where his wife Phoebe died during the latter part of the year. Then back to South Wales where Charles’ ‘American Auction Mart’ in Pontypridd went bankrupt in 1882; Newport (1882) and Nottingham, where Charles married his second wife Minnie Penelope Yates, in 1883.

James appeared in court at Nottingham in September 1883 charged with stealing a ledger belonging to Thomas Harrison, a travelling salesman who said he had £5,000 of stock in different parts of the country. He employed various people including Charles James, on a salary and commission to sell the stock from their vans. Harrison was dissatisfied with the accounts that James had supplied and made a surprise visit to Nottingham. But when he arrived at Dame Agnes Street, he found James had gone to the Derby Races and the van was locked. So Harrison broke in and waited five hours until James returned at 9.00 that evening. A scuffle broke out and Harrison took James to court, whereupon James coolly handed over the ledger and was released without charge.
The move to Dublin
We don’t know why, but by 1892 James had moved to Dublin where he finally settled down, becoming a respected citizen and successful businessman. He took over a disused tailor’s shop at 30 Henry Street and commenced trading. Henry Street was off O’Connell Street in the heart of the city. In February 1892 an advert for ‘Liberty Hall, 30 Henry Street’ appeared, promoting ‘Liquid Electricity: the lightning cure for pain,’ the latest American cure for ‘all kinds of diseases.’ While James’ name doesn’t feature, this was almost certainly his first attempt at moneymaking in Dublin. The enterprise didn’t last long and by July he’d returned to his roots as a skilled salesman.  The local press announced the ‘World’s Fair Stores’ at 30 Henry Street where James sold hardware and ‘other useful items,’ and everything cost six and a half pence. Toys were particularly good crowd pullers at Christmas time. He cleverly took the name from the forthcoming World’s Fair in Chicago and the Stores traded for many years. But this wasn’t enough for James. He placed an ad in the ‘wanted’ columns for a ‘small waxwork exhibition or figures suitable for same’ and in December announced the opening of the ‘World’s Fair Waxworks’: Admission to the waxworks was 2d, and for children, a penny. Over the years he added new figures; the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Death of Nelson’ were first exhibited in 1893. The Henry Street building was on four floors and even had space for a small theatre. James prospered and the family were living comfortably in Strand Road East Pembroke, in 1901 and 1911. By 1912 they had moved to the large mansion ‘Washington Hall’ on Merrion Strand.
Marcella the Midget Queen and other acts
Charles diversified and added extra value to his business. He installed machines such as Kalloscopes that showed stereo photographs, and placed a regular advert in ‘Era’ the entertainment trade paper: ‘always an opening for Refined Freaks and Novelties.’ James avoided the trouble and expense of having to reply to enquiries by saying, ‘Silence a polite negative’. Frank and Emma De Burgh, the American Tattooed Couple and Madame Jelly, the Armless Lady appeared in 1893. ‘Not Wax but Living’ boasted the promotional material, to distinguish such acts from the static exhibition.
Frank and Emma De Burgh were one of the most famous husband and wife attractions. Tattooed in New York City and first exhibited in Berlin in 1891, they took the show biz world by storm. Their tattoos mainly depicted religious scenes or texts, such as The Last Supper and The Calvary.

In June 1893, James advertised the attractions of Monsieur Erskine, shadowographer and Marcella, the Midget Queen. As publicity, he released a balloon from the building and said that anyone returning it to Marcella would receive a five shilling reward. As late as 1899 some people who hadn’t seen her were uncertain if Marcella might be a waxwork: but she was a real person. She was born with dwarfism as Elizabeth (Lizzie) Ellen Paddock in Liverpool on 7 October 1877. Her father George, who came from Gloucester, was a boot closer who sewed the upper part of the shoes. In the 1881 census they were living at 4 Bolton Street Liverpool. This was a small house shared by 14 people. After George’s death in 1888 his widow Elizabeth was left to bring up their five children. She died in 1893 and at this point Lizzie became Marcella, The Midget Queen with Charles James in Dublin. Her card said she was ‘The Smallest Lady Vocalist in the world.’ She sang the songs of the day in the theatre at the top of 30 Henry Street and the audience joined in. Lizzie came on stage in a little carriage drawn by a pony. She had a sweet voice and a good sense of humour. In her contract dated 9 July 1894 she agreed to perform from 2 to till 5, and 6 till 10 pm for the sum of £2 10 shillings a week. It also included the cost of third class fares from Liverpool, where her family still lived, to Dublin.

 

Marcella the Midget Queen, or Lizzie Paddock (Victor W. Pitcher)

Sometimes Lizzie helped out in the shop on the ground floor where she sat on a high chair behind the counter. James and his wife were very kind to Lizzie and she became part of their family. In the 1901 census she was living with Charles, his wife Minnie, their son Ernest and daughter Phoebe, at 36 Strand Road, East Pembroke. Phoebe and Lizzie became close friends and did charitable work, where Marcella was much in demand for fundraising events such as Mother’s Union socials. In 1909 Phoebe married German born Victor Zorn, a travelling salesman in toys and fancy goods. In the 1911 census they were at 6 Oak Avenue in Chorlton-cum-Hardy a suburb of Manchester, and Lizzie was visiting them. After Victor’s death, Lizzie lived with Phoebe in the select Donnybrook district of Dublin. Lizzie died in South Dublin in 1955 at the age of 77 and was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery, (Grave Number 99F).
James and Philanthropy
Business thrived and James became famous in Dublin for his annual New Year treats which he gave to the city’s poor: he paid for outings and parties. The Dublin paper Freeman’s Journal for 30 December 1899 said that he would again give out a considerable number of free tickets, each of the holders would receive a 4lb loaf of bread, a quarter pound of tea, and a pound of sugar. In his will James ensured this philanthropy would continue after his death.
In August 1896 thieves broke in and stole all the money from the automatic machines, but they couldn’t get into the safe. In the waxworks room they stole the coat covering the effigy of Mr Parnell and had fun, placing him in a ‘pugilistic position’. Unfortunately, the figures of Bismark, Lady Dunlo (the famous music hall beauty Belle Bilton) and others were smashed.  
In 1899 James stood for election in the Dublin Union Board and became a JP. In April 1900 ‘Era’ reported that for his 50thbirthday, James was given a silver card case from Eugenie ‘the scientific palmist’ and a handsome dressing gown from Marcella.
In April 1902 the waxworks suffered a serious fire and all the images, apart from Sleeping Beauty who was protected by a glass case, were destroyed. The cost of the damage was about £1,500 and James had new figures made by Tussauds in London.
 

Henry Street in ruins after the Easter Rising in 1916

The Easter 1916 Rising destroyed much of Henry Street which was at the heart of the fighting around the General Post Office. Number 30 was just behind the Post Office. People broke in and took various costumes and uniforms from the waxworks. They also stole mouth organs, melodeons and fiddles which they played in the streets. When some of the wax effigies were put in the windows, immediately a fusillade of bullets came through and the people hiding inside had to duck down until the firing ceased. James Connolly, the Commander of the Dublin Brigade, humorously said, ‘Well boys, ‘tis all over, we bagged three of their Generals’. Then pausing for effect he said, ‘We captured them in the waxworks!’
Charles Augustus James died at his home, Washington Hall in Dublin on 30 March 1917. He was a wealthy man and left £12,064, worth about £540,000 today to his widow Minnie.
Charles James, his wife Minnie and Marcella at Washington Hall (Victor W. Pitcher)
James Joyce and ‘Ulysses’
James Joyce clearly knew about and had visited the waxworks in Henry Street several times. There are allusions to it in ‘Finnegans Wake’ where Biddy Doran is a kind of performing freak. Also when Kate takes charge of a waxworks there is the sentence, ‘She may be a mere Marcella, this midget madgetcy, Misthress of Arts’.
In his other great novel ‘Ulysses’ Joyce writes with admiration about,
‘The financial success achieved by Charles A. James … at his 6 and 1/2d shop and worlds fancy fair and waxworks exhibition at 30 Henry Street, admission 2d, children 1d’.
At another point his hero Leopold Bloom visits the waxworks and talks about Marcella.
‘Giants, though that is rather a far cry, you see once in a way, Marcella, the midget queen. In these waxworks in Henry Street I myself saw some Aztecs, as they are called, sitting bowlegged, they couldn’t straighten their legs if you paid them.’
So Marcella and Charles James were immortalised in Joyce’s novels.
James Joyce
Back to Kilburn
Back in South Kilburnan illegal fair was set up in September 1880 with swings, shooting galleries, and a steam roundabout with an organ. Once again a cheap jack was selling goods, but he’s not named so we don’t know if this was Charles James. Complaints were made to the police about the nuisance and the noise, but rather surprisingly the magistrate decided it did not constitute an illegal fair.
The following year the 1881 census shows that James William Chipperfield had parked three caravans in Pembroke Road. The vans were home to twenty five people, 11 of them members of the famous Chipperfield family who occupied a van that advertised their ‘Exhibition of Varieties’. James William senior described himself as a musician, as did his son – also called James William – who went on to become a menagerie proprietor and animal trainer: ‘I can train anything from a rabbit to an elephant.’ The family tradition continues right up to today’s Chipperfield Circus.
With thanks to Prof. Tim Conley of Brock University, St Catherines Ontario Canada, for his 2010 paper, ‘Marcella the Midget Queen’ in the James Joyce Quarterly, Vol 48 (1), which includes photos supplied by Victor W. Pitcher, a relation of Marcella.

Did Foyles start in Kilburn?

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Celine Castelino, a friend of ours, told us she’d found information on the Internet which said that Foyles Bookshop started in Kilburn. We were intrigued and decided to find out if this was true.

Many of us know Foyles which has been trading in the Charing Cross Road for over a century. You may even remember the system they used for years – of selecting a book, taking it to the counter and being given a ticket to pay a cashier in a small booth, then returning to the department to collect your purchase!

William Henry Foyle was a wholesale grocer, born in Finsbury. In 1876, aged 24, he married Deborah Barnett. He gave his address as
9 Curtain Road, Shoreditch. They had six children and two of their sons, William Alfred Foyle (1885-1963) and Gilbert Samuel Foyle (1886-1971) formed the book company. Deborah died in 1894 and William married Lilian Eleanor Murray the following year. In the 1901 census the family was living at 13 Fairbank Street, Shoreditch.
The business is born
William Alfred Foyle’s first job in 1902 was as a clerk in the office of famous barrister Edward Marshall Hall KC, who collected old silver. He frequently sent Foyle to the salerooms. Books were Foyle’s interest and he started bidding for any interesting lots. 

The Foyles story is that when William and Gilbert failed their civil service exams in 1903, they decided to sell their textbooks from their parents’ kitchen table. Their first wholesale sale was on 14 July 1903. It must have been successful as the brothers decided to open a bookshop in Islington, moving briefly to Peckham before setting up in Cecil Court, off the Charing Cross Road in 1904.

Foyles Bookshop in 1906
By 1906 they were at 135 Charing Cross Road and later they moved to 113-119, their present site. Initially William and Gilbert traded in second hand books and only began selling new books in 1912.
William and Gilbert on a tandem.
Unfortunately Kilburn can’t claim to have witnessed the start of this world famous business. The electoral registers show that their father William was living at 13 Fairbank Street from 1885 to 1906, so when the boys started trading they were living in Hackney, not Kilburn.
The Kilburn connection
But there is a Kilburn connection. In 1907 William snr moved from Hackney to Kilburn, taking over number 145 Kilburn High Road, between Glengall Road and Priory Park Road. Previously occupied by tailor William Edwin Lee, it became W. and G. Foyle, second hand booksellers, the local branch of the business. They were there from 1907 to 1926. Gilbert lived over the shop with the family; his older brother William lived at 35 Estelle Road in Gospel Oak.
William retired in 1945 when he was 60. By then he’d made a great deal of money, enough to buy the 12th century Abbey of Beeleigh in Maldon where he amassed a great library. He died there on 4 June 1963, leaving £118,989 to his daughter Christina who took over the bookshop business.
William Alfred Foyle
His grandson Christopher recalled William in retirement being chauffeur driven to London in his Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce and handing out £5 notes to members of staff! William had shoulder length white hair, wore a cravat with a diamond or pearl pin, a gold fob watch and waistcoat. Every Friday he would take friends and family to lunch at a restaurant in Piccadilly. In a Guardian interview Christopher said:
‘The orchestra would see him walking in and immediately change to his favourite tune, which was the Happy Wanderer. So we would troop in with him and sit down. And I thought it was so wonderful, when one was about eight years old; smoked salmon, wonderful things like that.’
Christina built a formidable reputation. As a teenager she began the tradition of the Foyles literary lunch at the Dorchester Hotel and during the Depression, she was regularly sent to plead with creditors for more time to pay bills. She even wrote to Adolf Hitler and asked that rather than burn books, would he sell them to Foyles! 
But many thought Christina wilful even cruel, refusing to give staff contracts and firing them on a whim. She never married and ran the business for 54 years. Christopher said:
‘She identified with the shop completely, personally. She and the shop were like one and the same, a bit like queen and country, and, in fact, the way she talked about the business in the latter years of her life, it was clear to me and to others that really she saw it ending at her death.’
Christina Foyle, by Hannah Berry (2013)
The shop almost did die with Christina. She’d presided over the business like Miss Havisham, stuck in the past with no electric tills or proper accounting systems. Gradually all the branches and book clubs, the publishing and library supply division that Foyles had run in its heyday, were closed.
In July 1949, twenty-two year old Ian Norrie (later the owner of the High Hill Bookshop in Hampstead), was interviewed by Christina and given a job. The way the shop was run left much to be desired. Sent to work in the philosophy department where the authors and titles were unfamiliar to him: ‘I asked the manager if I might put the books in alphabetical order. The request, although obviously regarded as eccentric, was granted.’ When transferred to the new book department, ‘I promptly antagonised the manager by serving too many customers. I think he was paid commission only on the bills he wrote out, so I was banished to the end of a murky avenue and ordered to dust and tidy a section of depressed fiction.
Next Ian was sent to music and drama, where he’d originally hoped to be placed. ‘Instructions were issued, each accompanied by a prod in the ribs by a long, sharp pencil. I was to sell hard, not look idle, not be idle, not chatter with the girls from the Post Department, and above all, not address the manager by his Christian name.’ Although he had no experience, Ian was allowed to price the huge number of second-hand books that came in daily and were stacked against radiators and bookcases as the shelves were already bulging. He concluded, ‘working at Foyles, although a valuable experience, was not quite what I had expected of the ‘World’s Greatest Bookshop’.
Christopher Foyle worked in the business for much of the 1960s but left when it became clear his aunt was never going to allow him any real responsibility. Instead, he went on to build a successful air freight business. Then six days before her death in 1999, Christina handed over the business to him and his brother Anthony. Turnover had dropped to £9.5M and was declining at the rate of 20% a year. Christopher said they had a difficult choice to make: ‘It was either selling it, closing it or turning it around. It had about £4M in the bank and no debt and well, I thought, we’ll try and turn it around. It was partly, I have to say, sentimental reasons, partly commercial.’
The first thing they did was issue staff with contracts. Then they turned their attention to the Charing Cross Road shop which was very run down. ‘It looked terrible. Physically it was ghastly. There was paint coming off the walls, the whole place was a mess. There was no financial management of any kind. There were three elderly ladies writing up the figures in manual ledgers.’
In 2000 the Foyle brothers discovered a massive fraud that had been going on for years. Legal action was issued against ten employees. Two senior staff were suspended; the company secretary and general manager of the Charing Cross Road shop, and his assistant manager. Both were accused by Foyles of conspiring with others to defraud the bookshop. There was evidence of a complex invoicing and commission scam which stretched back 17 years. They had secretly siphoned off millions of pounds for books which were never delivered to the shop. The money paid for lives of luxury, helping them to buy homes and meals at expensive West End restaurants. After two years the matter was eventually settled out of court.
Christopher and Anthony managed to save Foyles. The company is now profitable and their annual turnover is about £24M. This year Foyles announced the flagship store will move to 107-109 Charing Cross Road, the former home of Central St Martins College of Art and Design, in Spring 2014.

Tragic events in Kilburn and West Hampstead


In 1888 Jack the Ripper had terrified the East End of London. His story haunted people for years later and letters signed by the Ripper were still being received by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in October 1889. People across London were fearful.
On 15 December 1884 Charles Burcham Farnell a 36 year old commercial traveller, married 24 year old Edith Turnor at St Peter’s church in West Hackney. They lived at Church Road Hackney where their first daughter Mary Eleanor was born in 1886.
Frederick Percy ran a tobacconist’s shop at 143 Kilburn High Road, between Glengall Road and Priory Park Road, and let out rooms above the business. In December 1888 Charles rented the third floor and the Farnell family moved in. A second daughter Beatrice Isabel was born the following year.
At 6.00 on Wednesday evening the 28 October 1889, Mrs Percy heard moans coming from the Farnell’s rooms at the top of the house. Very concerned, she ran out into Kilburn High Road and found a policeman who had just passed the shop on patrol. She said it sounded like a murder was taking place. Police Constable James 78X and two other PCs, went up the stairs and burst through the locked door. He was horrified to find three year old Mary Farnell and seven months old Beatrice lying on the bed with cords tied tightly round their necks. He cut the cords and summoned medical help. Their mother Edith called out,
‘Don’t cut the cord. For God’s sake, please let them die and then they will be happy’.
She repeated this over and over again and wept bitterly. The policeman applied artificial respiration to the two babies. Ten minutes later Dr James Smith arrived from nearby Gascony Avenue. Using artificial respiration and stimulants, they managed to revive the children who were taken to hospital.
Inspector Cooper arrived and arrested Edith for attempted murder. He said she was in a very agitated state saying over and over again, Don’t let Jack the Ripper get my girls.’
In court a letter which Edith had written that afternoon was read out. She said that for the last seven or eight months she was not herself and she believed that people were going to kill her. Then she feared that she was becoming consumptive, and was frightened of what would happen to her children after she had gone. Her husband Charles was away for some time because of his job as a commercial traveller, and Edith thought she was going to die. She ended by saying she’d seen a ghost a few nights ago, she was out of her mind and that her mother had died insane. At the Old Bailey Edith was judged to be guilty but insane, and sent to Broadmoor to be held at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
What happened later?
Thankfully, Mary and Beatrice recovered completely and went to live with their grandfather, Joseph Kirby Farnell in Acton. Before going bankrupt in 1851, Joseph had traded as a linen draper and silk mercer in London and Shrewsbury, where Charles Farnell was born. After his agency for hiring servants was declared bankrupt in 1863, Joseph set up as a fancy goods and toy manufacturer. Charles worked as commercial traveller for the family business. After Joseph’s death in 1891, Mary and Eleanor moved in with their uncle and aunt, Henry Kirby Farnell and his sister Agnes. Henry and Agnes took over the family toy making business and bought a large 18th century mansion in Acton called ‘The Elms’.
The Elms, Acton
They built a factory in the grounds to produce soft toys, including Teddy Bears, under the trade name ‘Alpha’. Their first teddy bear was made in 1908 and the early Farnell bears closely resembled those produced by the German firm of Steiff. In 1926 the ‘Alpha’ bears became very popular and one was bought from Harrods for Christopher Robin Milne and of course this became ‘Winnie the Pooh’. There is a local connection as his father A.A. Milne, grew up in Kilburn. See our book, ‘The Greville Estate’, Camden History Society.
Farnell’s ‘Alpha’ Teddy Bear

The Farnell company continued to produce teddy bears, including Rupert Bear, until 1968. A plaque was unveiled in March 2012. Today The Elms is Twford Secondary School.
Mary Farnell never married and died at The Elms in 1923, aged 36. She left £7,778 in her will (worth today about £350,000). Beatrice Farnell married Lt. Allatt Hollins in 1920 and they had five children. She died in Sevenoaks in 1965 and left £9,598 (today worth about £150,000).
Their father Charles Farnell, left Kilburn and continued working in the family business, as he’s shown as a toy maker in 1891, living in Stoke Newington. By 1911 he had retired and moved to Hunstanton in Norfolk. Charles died in 1918 in Docking, which is near Hunstanton, and didn’t leave a will.
Postpartum Psychosis
This is a very sad story. Today, Edith would probably have been diagnosed as suffering from postpartum psychosis (PP), an extreme form of postnatal depression. PP affects about 1 in 1000 mothers and may occur soon after the birth of the child or up to several years later. The symptoms which Edith described are typical of PP: the inability to sleep, non-stop talking, delusions, hallucinations and mania. These days, with medication the vast majority of women recover fully. Sadly Edith Farnell was never released from Broadmoor. She died there in 1933, aged 74, after spending 44 years at the Asylum.
Broadmoor Asylum
A Tragic Event in West Hampstead
In October 1896, a tragic event that also involved post-natal depression happened in West Hampstead. William Goddard Hughes was renting three rooms on West End Lane, at Number 1 The Green. William was a 32 year old farmer’s son turned butcher from Wiltshire. In December 1895, he married Elizabeth Emily Wise, the daughter of an accountant, then living in Bristol. The couple moved to London where their son William Joseph was born in Hampstead the following February.

On the morning of October 7 William found Elizabeth and his eight month old son lying dead, with their throats cut. At the inquest he told the Coroner that he’d known Elizabeth for about two and a half years, and she was a strong, active woman. But it slowly emerged that looking after the baby was taxing her ability to cope. William said he didn’t think Elizabeth had delusions but admitted she appeared depressed at times. They’d had many disturbed nights recently because the baby was teething.
That morning William had got up as usual and made breakfast. Elizabeth had come into the kitchen to light the fire but when William asked if he should carry the heavy cradle downstairs before he went to work, his wife said no, she could manage. He promised to look in during the morning, to see if the baby needed more medicine. He returned at 8.30am and was surprised to find the kitchen empty so went upstairs to the bedroom, where he discovered the bodies lying on the bed.
Elizabeth had left William a short note on the living room table: ‘all my money that they leave me you must have, my dear husband.’ There was also an unfinished letter to her sister, which was rather more revealing:
I’m a bit off again. Worry it must be and nervousness makes me like it. I can’t get to do anything when I’m like this.’
At the inquest Elizabeth’s father George Wise said his daughter had frequently suffered from depression and that his eldest son was currently in an asylum. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of murder and suicide while of unsound mind, and passed on their condolences to William and Elizabeth’s family.
What happened later?
Elizabeth and William were buried at Hampstead Cemetery on Monday, 11 October. Mother and son were in one coffin, the child lying in his mother’s arms. It was raining hard, but many neighbours came to watch the hearse depart from West End Green and even more gathered at the Cemetery.
William stayed on at West Hampstead for a few years, moving into a new house in Sumatra Road which he shared with his widowed mother. But he’d returned to his roots in Wiltshire by 1909 when he married school teacher Mary Wilkins. The 1911 census shows the couple in Cricklade, with a young family and William working as a farmer.
Numbers 1-3 The Green were redeveloped as a garage, and then converted to provide premises for today’s Pizza Express, opposite West End Green.

Two tales of the demon drink

Here are two stories with newspaper illustrations about young men in Kilburn who acted badly while under the influence of drink.

The Amorous Carpenter
In October 1897, ‘amorous young carpenter’ Frank Pelham was in court for assaulting an unnamed, ‘well-dressed, good-looking young woman’on the Kilburn High Road, outside Brondesbury Railway station. It was around midnight and she’d been waiting for the Cricklewood bus when Frank came up to her and said, ‘Good evening, dear.’
She didn’t know him so she walked away saying, ‘please leave me alone, don’t follow me’, but Frank persisted and tried to catch hold of her. The woman hit Frank with a small parcel she was carrying, but before she could get away, he kicked her ‘in the body’. She managed to find a policeman and the magistrate commended her courage in getting Frank into custody and being willing to give evidence against him in court.
Frank entered a plea of ‘guilty’, saying he acted under the ‘fluence’, in other words, he was drunk. 
The magistrate took a hard line, saying,
It was a monstrous thing to stop a respectable young woman in the street and strike her after she showed your addresses were not congenial to her. Such a case must be dealt with severely as a warning to others.’
Frank got two months in prison with hard labour. The son of a carpenter, Frank had followed the same trade and lived in the Kilburn neighbourhood for most of his life. He was born there in 1868; was living in Paddington (1871); 6 Palmerston Road (1881 & 1891). At the time of the incident he lived at 82 Iverson Road and 23 Iverson Road (1901 and 1911). This was his address when he died in 1920. He was buried at Hampstead Cemetery in what was then called a ‘common grave,’ containing multiple, unrelated burials.
Let’s have a snowball fight!
On a cold evening in early March 1898, Mrs Florence Moule was on her way home to Kentish Town from Kilburn, where she’d been on business. It was 11pm as she walked along Belsize Road and met Charles Crossley, a 27 year old student, who lodged in the road. He walked straight up to Florence, who said in court,
‘That he pushed her against a wall and disarranged her clothes. With some difficulty she wrested herself from his grasp, and thereupon he picked up a snowball and threw it at her, hitting her in the back of the neck.’
Florence screamed loudly as she ran away. The noise alerted two policemen and Florence fell exhausted into their arms. They challenged Charles who was in hot pursuit, ready and armed with two more snowballs! Charles was very drunk and used ‘vile language’ to Florence, even attempting to assault her in front of PC Davis.
Charles said he couldn’t remember anything about the incident, but ‘if he did anything improper he was very sorry.’ As Charles was clearly well educated and respectable, the magistrate concluded that his sentence could not be less than a 40 shillings fine (about £175 today), whereupon Florence fainted, and had to be carried out of court.

Bizarre stories from Kilburn


In this posting we have collected several rather odd stories from Kilburn which we think will intrigue and amuse you.

Stealing a baby’s clothes
 In July 1867 Jane Cox, who lived at 15 Bridge Street in Kilburn (now demolished), left her two year old child sitting on the step of nearby Number 7. But when she looked again the child had gone. Some time later a gentleman riding his horse found the baby, naked and crying beside a pond. He took the child to the police who returned it to a grateful Mrs Cox. But what had happened?
It seems that two children, Mary Anne Taylor aged 10, and Mary Rogers aged 9, were responsible for kidnapping the two-year old. In court, it was said both girls had ‘respectable parents’ and lived at 3 Alpha Place, a section of Canterbury Road in Kilburn. After stripping the baby, the girls went to Charles Tilley, a marine store dealer at 2 Carlton Place, and threw the clothes they’d stolen onto his scales. The girls told Tilley that their mothers had sent them to sell the clothes to buy soap and he gave them a penny for them as rags.
The magistrate decided to send Tilley for trial as a receiver of stolen goods: ‘You knew you were doing wrong, and you lead children into crime,’ but we couldn’t find what happened to him. Bizarrely, even though Sergeant Perry said the girls told him they’d considered throwing the baby into the pond, there was no mention of them being reprimanded! A year later ‘Charles Tyler’, marine store dealer of 2 Carlton Place, was prosecuted for using illegal weights, but not fined because of his poverty.
In his book ‘Dickens’ London’ (1987), Peter Ackroyd writes that stealing children and or their clothing was common in mid-Victorian London. In ‘Dombey and Son’, Florence Dombey loses her nurse and is kidnapped by an elderly rag and bone vendor, ‘Good Mrs Brown’. ‘I want that pretty frock, Miss Dombey, and that little bonnet, and a petticoat or two, and anything else you can spare’. After being held for a few hours the woman returns Florence to the streets, dressed in rags.
That Baby!
 In 1887 the following unusual story appeared in the newspapers.
The train was just about to start. There were three of us in the carriage – myself and two ladies – when a young man thrust himself in, carrying a baby. He looked very young to be engaged in such a manner. Young men of about 22 years of age (and he looked no older), do not travel about on the underground railway carrying babies: at least, I had never seen any till now. He seemed very awkward with it, and it protested every now and then. The two ladies began talking, and I listened.
‘How nice it is for young men to be so domesticated!’
‘Yes, indeed. What a little darling it is too – so quiet.’
‘A-a-a! ha a! ha a a!’ remarked the little darling.
‘Shut up,’ said the young gentleman, pinching it.
‘Baahaaahaaa!!’
The ladies assumed a threatening aspect.
‘Sir’, said one of them, ‘babies in convulsions are not usually treated in that manner, and unless you desist at once I shall feel it my duty to call the guard.’
‘I’ll do what I like,’ said the young man, and taking the baby by its long robe, began to swing it round and round, so that its head came in contact with the door frame, after each revolution, the shrieking became terrific.
I got up and pushed him away from the door. Before I could put my head out of the window to summon the guard, however, he laid his hand on my arm, and laid the baby on the seat of the carriage.
‘Look here, old man’, he said. ‘You may call the guard if you like, but recollect that this baby is mine, therefore I’ve a right to do what I like with it. It’s mine – I paid for it.’
‘You what, sir?’ I gasped.
He sat down violently and said, ‘Why what?’
Bang! The train stopped. He got out, leaving on the seat a broken Yankee Rubber Baby.

This was a clever if strange advert for the ‘Yankee Rubber Baby’, a bizarre American import which first appeared in newspapers in 1881, available from an address in Brighton. After a gap of several years, in 1885 the same advert again appeared, this time with the logo, ‘The Kilburn Rubber Company’. But we haven’t been able to find out the address of the firm. The unlikely claim was made that ‘even experienced fathers are deceived by these laughter-producing infants and no home can be a really happy one without their cheering presence.’ The ‘novelty’, which was available as a boy or girl baby, disappeared from sale around 1893.
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!
 Here is a bizarre death. On Good Friday 30 March 1888, sixteen year old Cecila Finch, the daughter of a Kilburn bus conductor, ate no fewer than twelve hot cross buns. Unfortunately, they swelled up in her stomach, obstructed her bowel and she died after one of her intestines collapsed. Poor Cecilia was buried a week later in Hampstead Cemetery.
The Cross-Dresser
 One night in 1896 a policeman saw a man in the Edgware Road, Kilburn carrying a bridle and halter plus other items. He stopped and asked him what he was doing and was very surprised when a woman’s voice said: ‘Sir, what has that got to do with you? It is my property.’ By the light of his lantern he realised he’d stopped a woman dressed in man’s clothing. She said, ‘I was going horse riding’. The policeman arrested the woman for stealing the equipment, value 15 shillings. When 39 year old Mary Anne Hester appeared in court, she said in ‘an educated voice’ that she’d told the policeman: ‘Take them home and tell the servants that I shall not go riding this morning. I left my blue shirt in the stable.’ This was greeted by much laughter, but the magistrate was not amused and sentenced Mary Anne to a month’s hard labour.
This picture of the Kilburn incident shows considerable artistic licence and refers to Tottie Fay, who was a character in a music hall song, and an actress. It was also one of the names adopted by a woman of notorious drunken behaviour, arrested several times in 1892, who despite her dishevelled appearance, always said she was ‘a perfect lady’.
Body Parts
In February 1967 a waiter from the nearby Apollo Restaurant at 250 Kilburn High Road, was walking his Alsatian puppy late one night when he came across the gruesome remains of a woman’s severed arm, at the corner of Burton Road and Kilburn High Road.  

 Nicos Sotiriou and his puppy Jenny (Kilburn Times)
Then another forearm and nearly 100 pieces of flesh were found in Grangeway near the entrance to Grange Park. There was pink nail polish on the fingers. The police sealed off the area and a forensic search was carried out. A Home Office pathologist confirmed that while the flesh was probably animal, the forearms were certainly human. After several weeks, the police concluded it must have been a macabre hoax using body parts stolen from a medical school or hospital.

A Kilburn shooting: The interfering mother-in-law

This dramatic picture from the Illustrated Police News show the scene outside 42 Iverson Road on the morning of Sunday 28 July 1889. But there’s a fair degree of artistic license. The four people shown were related by marriage: Leonard Handford who is holding a revolver to his head, was married to Sarah Elizabeth (shown on the ground at his feet). She was the daughter of Daniel Deveson and Elizabeth Deveson, (the couple on the right). Number 42, ‘Kent Villa’, was the Deveson’s family home. Daniel had been born in Kent, hence the choice of name.

Deveson had worked as a butler before running a dairy on the Edgware Road, but he was now retired. His daughter Sarah Elizabeth (born 1855), had been married before to Charles Kohler in 1876. He was a merchant with a violent temper, according to Sarah, and the marriage quickly fell apart. In her divorce papers she said that he had attacked her and she left him after just eight months of marriage. She lived with her parents in Iverson Road. She had met Leonard Bowes Handford (born 1856), when his parents moved from Lambeth to 27 Gascony Avenue. Both families were Baptists, and attending the same Chapel in Iverson Road. Charles’ father Ebenezer was a schoolmaster, turned clerk, and then lithographer.

Sarah and Leonard were married on 20 August 1887 and their son Archibald George Handford was born the following year. Sarah’s second marriage had also not gone well, and by the time of the assault the couple had been separated for several months. Sarah said her husband began drinking soon after Archie was born. In May 1889 Sarah began divorce proceedings. Leonard had moved out of Kent Lodge but he hadn’t gone far, renting a couple of rooms from William Butler at 26 Iverson Road. At his trial it became apparent Leonard couldn’t disconnect from his family – he tried but failed to see his son on his first birthday – and he desperately wanted reconciliation. A local policeman believed there was ‘great sympathy’ for Leonard in the neighbourhood.

The Brondesbury Baptist Chapel stood at the Kilburn High Road end of Iverson Road. Sarah and her parents had been to a Sunday morning service and were walking home. A witness saw Leonard leave Number 26 and approach first Sarah then her mother Elizabeth, shooting them both in rapid succession. Handford then turned the gun on himself, firing a single shot to his temple.

Possibly because the revolver had a small bore, neither woman fell unconscious in a pool of blood, as shown in the illustration above. The news report said Leonard pursued Sarah before shooting her, when she turned to face him. In fact, she was shot before she ran away from her husband. Her mother also managed to put some distance between herself and her attacker after being shot, before collapsing.

Leonard was taken to St Mary’s Hospital Paddington, in a very critical condition. But both women were helped into Kent Villa and attended at home by local doctors. Sarah had been shot through the cheek, the bullet lodging in her soft pallet before she swallowed it. Her mother’s wound was more serious, the bullet having passed through her cheek and out again through her neck. Luckily, neither woman required hospital treatment.

Leonard was considered well enough to appear at the first Magistrate’s hearing in early August 1889 where he was charged with intent to murder and attempted suicide. At the second hearing he still appeared very weak, but his head was no longer bandaged. Although Mrs Deveson was too ill to attend, Sarah’s wound had healed and she gave evidence at a further hearing on 30 August. She said Leonard had threatened to kill her on several occasions by blowing her, and their son Archie’s brains out.

Extracts were read out from letters written by Leonard before the assault, which were discovered by police at his lodgings. He blamed his treatment at the hands of the Devesons for driving him to actions ‘he would not have otherwise have done.’

When he married Sarah and against the advice of friends, he had moved into Number 42, because Elizabeth had been so upset at the thought of loosing her daughter. But he said the Devesons had treated him badly; ‘when my son Archie was born everything I did was laughed at, and they said that I was worse than a Kilburn dustman.’

Leonard accused his father-in-law of being mean while his mother-in-law was both unkind and interfering. So far as Sarah was concerned, Leonard started by saying he had married a ‘splendid woman’ who’d been treated very cruelly by her first husband. But he went on to complain she’d become ‘bad tempered and self willed and on one occasion locked herself and baby in a spare room away from him.

Sarah had started divorce proceedings, citing his ‘drunken and violent habits,’ which Leonard said were all lies. But he did admit he was sometimes what he called ‘elevated’, and needing a ‘stimulant’ before he could face going home. He ended his letter:

Sorry, sorry indeed, to leave my child an orphan: but a woman who has promised to love and cherish, in sickness and health, rich or poor, and turns on her husband like a worm, is not a fit person to have charge of any child – at least one of mine. I hope he may be well cared for. I always looked on marriage as a very solemn thing. My wife, having been through the fire, evidently thought, to say the least, lightly of it.

Leonard was tried at the Old Bailey on 16 September 1889. His landlord, William Butler, said Leonard had been very depressed when he separated from Sarah. He slept badly, ate very little and had begun drinking heavily. Butler also said he warned Daniel Deveson that Leonard had a revolver. The defence tried to prove that while Leonard had meant to kill himself, shooting at Sarah and Elizabeth had been a spur of the moment decision. Leonard was found guilty, but the jury recommended mercy on the grounds of his health, and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison on the Isle of Portland.

Both mother and daughter recovered from their wounds; Elizabeth died, aged 83, fifteen years after the shooting. Sarah was still living with her parents at 42 Iverson Road, along with her son Archibald, in the 1891 census. They’d moved to 6 Cavendish Road by 1901, where Sarah continued to use the surname ‘Handford.’

She had however obtained a divorce from Leonard in 1890, the court awarding her custody of Archibald as Leonard was ruled unfit to act as his guardian under any circumstances. Despite this, in the 1891 census return for Portland Prison, Leonard described himself as ‘married.’ More curious was his choice of profession, shown as ‘artist/sculptor,’ rather than the clerk he’d always been. After he was released, Leonard returned to live with his parents in St Johns Wood, working as a wool broker’s clerk, and still claiming to be married. He died in Lambeth Infirmary in March 1909 and was buried in his parents’ grave at Hampstead Cemetery. He was still in love with Sarah and he left her £266 in his will, worth about £22,000 today.

Sarah and son Archie were still at Cavendish Road in 1911, when he was working for a photographer. Sarah had inherited a considerable amount of money from her father and when she died on 21 May 1929 at 19 Exeter Mansions Brondesbury, she left £10,786 (today worth about £511,000), to her son. Archie had moved to Croydon and was married there in 1914. He ran a photographic company, Archie Handford Ltd.

Archie at Croydon Camera Club about 1936

In the 1950s he formed ‘Chorley Handford’, a very successful aerial photographic company which was taken over by Skyscan in 2009. http://www.skyscan.co.uk/

They still have a large collection of old photos from Chorley Hanford. Archie died in Croydon in 1979.

‘Bloody Camden’


Next month, we’re doing an illustrated talk about our latest book ‘Bloody Camden, in the Bloody British History series published by The History Press. The talks will be at the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town and at West End Lane Books.


The book covers the whole of Camden, an area that stretches from Highgate and south as far as Holborn. We describe bloody and dastardly deeds and also some bizarre stories, beginning with Roman Camden, through to the Second World War and ending in the 1950s. 
We hope you can make it.
  • The Owl Bookshop, Tuesday 4 June, 6.30 to 8.30
207-209 Kentish Town Road NW5 2JU
Tel: 020 7485 7793
  • West End Lane Books, Tuesday 25 June, 7.30 to 9.00
277 West End Lane NW6 1QS
Tel: 020 7431 3770

(The venue may be West Hampstead Library)
Please contact the shops to book a seat.

The centenary of Grange Park, Kilburn


On the 1st of May 1913, the gates to Kilburn Grange Park were thrown open to the public for the first time, but without any fanfare or celebration. The fact that Kilburn still has this fantastic open space owes more to good luck than careful planning.

The park takes its name from a large mansion, The Grange, which was built in 1831, despite claims about it being a much older property. The house stood facing Kilburn High Road, where the Grange Cinema, now used by the Universal Church, stands today.
 

Kilburn in 1893 showing The Grange

The Peters family were there from 1843. Thomas Peters was a successful and wealthy coach builder who made coaches for Queen Victoria. The last occupant was Mrs Ada Peters, the widow of his son John Winpenny Peters. Ada died in the house on 5 February 1910. For pictures and more information about Ada and her lover the Marquis de Leuville, see the previous story posted on the Blog on 6 Dec 2012. Our ebook, The Marquis de Leuville: a Victorian Fraud? can be downloaded from Amazon and other ebook sites.

The Grange was the last of the large houses. The flood of suburban building had long since surrounded the property, leaving the house and its extensive grounds marooned in a sea of small streets and tight terrace housing. Most of today’s streets had been built. Population densities were high on both sides of the High Road, where living conditions were often cramped and insanitary.
In the centre of the poorest and most crowded part of Kilburn stands the Grange. Round it stretch rows of small houses, and house after house built for one family is occupied by three. Hundreds of children live nearby. It is estimated that there are 4,000 children under the age of fifteen years of age in the Kilburn Ward of Hampstead. The streets are the only open space outside the playgrounds of the Council schools.
What the area lacked was a public open space. As a small boy Warwick Edwards remembered visiting the Grange during the summer of 1911.
One day it was thrown open to us schoolchildren and with wide eyed curiosity we roamed the grounds which were in a state of undisplined nature with much entangled undergrowth. The house and its surroundings, so near the hustle and bustle of the High Road, yet such a different world!
The Grange, from The Graphic 1901 (Marianne Colloms)
The first hopes that the space could be made into a public park were raised in 1901 when Mrs Peters decided she didn’t want a school built on the edge of the grounds, in Kingsgate Road. She encouraged local residents in the belief they could purchase the grounds as a park. Unfortunately her actions took no account of the facts. Anticipating future demand, the London School Board had already bought the land in 1892, renting it back to the Peters family until the school was needed. But even worse, Ada failed to mention her legal status following her husband’s death in 1882. Under John’s will Ada only had rights to live at the Grange during her lifetime as a ‘tenant for life’. She could not sell it and the property would revert to the Peters family when she died.
A local Grange Open Space Committee was formed in April 1901 to resist the ‘mutilation’ of the grounds: the short-lived campaign gained popular support before collapsing in June 1901, as Mrs Peters first prevaricated and finally had to admit she couldn’t deliver. The School Board was forced to take her to court in 1902 to obtain possession of the site, and by October the foundations for Kingsgate School were laid.
After Ada was buried alongside her husband at Kensal Rise Cemetery, the Peters family regained possession of the Grange and its grounds. Locals knew the estate was one of the last chances Kilburn would ever have to acquire a ‘green lung,’ accessible to thousands of residents. So for a second time, plans were made and meetings called. But a new set of problems had to be overcome. First and foremost were the intentions of the Peters family.
Just a couple of weeks after Ada’s death, the local paper reported that the nine and a half acre estate was for sale. Things got off to a promising start when the agents acting on behalf of the Peters family contacted Hampstead Council to ask if the authority was interested in buying it as an open space, reminding them of the unsuccessful but hugely popular campaign of 1901. Councillors asked for a three month option to buy, giving them time to get an independent valuation of the property.
Meantime the house contents were disposed of in a 50 page catalogue, and the sheer volume of goods meant the auction lasted  three days. On 12 April 1910 more than 300 items of furniture went under the hammer, followed by 600 paintings, clocks and bronzes the next day.  Finally there were around 1,000 items of less valuable plate, china and kitchen equipment plus all the outdoor effects such as statues, six carriages built by Peters and Sons and a Merryweather fire engine. The sale commenced each day at 1pm, and the lots were knocked down at a rapid rate. The house was earmarked for demolition so where possible, its structural components were sold for salvage. This included the door to the billiard room, purchased by local developer and publican Richard Pincham. He installed it as the new entry to a function hall on the first floor of his Railway Hotel on West End Lane.
Some of the contents from the Grange house sale, April 1910
The agent’s response to Hampstead Council was swift – the Peters refused an option to purchase and had decided the property would be publically auctioned, ‘to have the question of price fixed by competition,’ but by deferring the sale to 24 May, they hoped this would give the Council ‘nearly the three months required.’ Hampstead promptly cancelled any valuation and decided that they’d pass the whole matter over to the LCC. The LCC considered that while the ‘back land’ might be suitable for an open space, the development value of the frontage to Kilburn High Road was too high, so this should be excluded from any park plan. The Kilburn Chamber of Trade agreed with this proposal, pointing out business premises ‘would contribute to the Borough Rates’. Presumably because the Grange estate stood on the boundary between the Boroughs of Hampstead and Willesden, and was also fairly close to Paddington and St Marylebone, the LCC also advised Hampstead to ask for financial contributions towards the purchase price from adjoining authorities. Hampstead and Willesden drew up broadly similar financial plans to acquire the land. On 6 May a deputation attended the LCC. Councillors from both Hampstead and Willesden, thelocal MP accompanied by representatives of Middlesex County Council and the Metropolitan Gardens Association, bluntly outlined the situation: ‘they desire to point out that unless the present opportunity of acquiring this estate is embraced all chance for providing an open space for Kilburn will disappear.’
The Grange sale particulars show the Peters’ intention was crystal clear, to maximise the value of their freehold property by selling it for development.

The auctioneer opened proceedings promptly at 2pm on the 24 May 1910, by suggesting many uses for the property. He said it was eminently suitable as the site for a skating rink, theatre, cinema, music hall, aeroplane factory, exhibition ground or residential flats, any of which would result in ‘untold wealth for the lucky purchaser,’ (in the words of a slightly tongue in cheek report that appeared in the local press). The auctioneer asked for an opening bid of £40,000, but just £10,000 was offered and had to be accepted as an opening bid, despite his pleading for a ‘more worthy’start. Slowly £22,000 was reached, with incremental bids of £1,000, and then the bids went up by £500, until the price stuck at £30,000. ‘Not all the cajoling from the rostrum could get a further bid, and with a crest-fallen look the auctioneer withdrew the property, stating that the reserve price was £35,000.’ The Peters’ desire for the price to be fixed by competitionhad fallen short of their expectations.
This reversal in the family’s fortunes meant plans for an open space could be taken seriously again. Bizarrely, this wasn’t raised at the next meeting of Hampstead Council held just a few days later. A councillor who asked if the Trees and Open Spaces Committee ‘were aware that the children of Kilburn had already taken possession of the Grange,’ got no reply. Local residents had already held packed meetings to promote the idea and were appalled at the possibility the land could be built on and, ‘disappear before the march of modern progress.’ They continued to campaign and fund raise.
In fact, the Council had already re-opened negotiations with the Peters family, offering to buy eight and a half acres of the land plus an access strip from the High Road. The reply was conditional but positive: while the Peters wanted to sell the estate as one lot, they would be willing to sell the ‘park’ land for £18,000 so long as the plots fronting the High Road was sold at the same time and simultaneous contracts exchanged. This was still a considerable amount of money, but working on an anticipated £5,000 from the LCC plus £4,000 from their own funds and private donations (over £500 already collected), Hampstead Council again approached the agents acting for the Peters.
Then, as a local paper put it, their representatives ‘had an unpleasant surprise’ when at the end of June, theywere told the Grange estate had been sold privately for an unnamed sum. The new owner was Oswald Stoll, a major name in the entertainment world. But again, fortune smiled on the park campaigners, when it was hinted that plans were being made for the plot on the main road but the land behind might still available.
The wheels of local government moved slowly and locally, fund raising limped on. It seems surprising in view of the obvious need for open space that money flowed in so slowly, but so far as personal donations were concerned, Kilburn pockets weren’t deep and many people had no cash to spare. The name of at least one notable local benefactor, Sir Henry Harben, who had given large sums to good causes in the past, was missing. The Middlesex County Council pledged £1,000 but the Corporation of London declined to contribute. The local MP pointed out that while Hampstead had spent £40,000 in the past acquiring open spaces, ‘nothing had been done for Kilburn.’ Personal donations had only reached £667 by early August.
What followed was a series of proposals and counter proposals. In October, Stoll’s agents contacted Hampstead Council. They offered five and a half acres of land at an asking price of £12,500. This would lie on either side of a proposed new road, running from the High Road across the estate, to make a junction with Hemstal Road. The Council agreed but only if the price was reduced to £10,000, (and this had to include financial contributions from other authorities). Stoll’s agents agreed to the Council’s offer but their further condition was for Hampstead to pay half the cost of creating the new road.
Stoll wanted to erect a Coliseum on the Kilburn High Road frontage. He already owned and operated the well-known London Coliseum in St Martins Lane. He put in an early application to the LCC for a music and dancing license, which Hampstead Council decided to oppose, a move hardly calculated to ease negotiations over the land. The agents suggested Hampstead reconsider its opposition and spelt out in no uncertain terms that the low price for the back land was conditional on the high returns expected from the Coliseum, the implication being no license, no land. They issued a further lightly veiled threat, that the value of the five and a half acres would be considerably in excess of £10,000, if ‘cut up’ for building. The Trees and Open Space committee of the Council added further pressure, concluding ‘the loss of the present and probably last opportunity of acquiring an open space for Kilburn would be calamitous.’
Hampstead Council caved in. They agreed to all Stoll’s terms for purchase and to rescind their opposition to his license for a ‘Kilburn Coliseum.’ This didn’t please a large number of local residents: although desperate for the open space they disliked the idea of a massive music hall so close to their homes. 
The decision was taken out of Hampstead’s hands a few months later, when the LCC agreed to purchase around eight and a half acres of the Grange estate for £19,500 and maintain it as a park. This is equivalent to about £1.6 million today. Hampstead Council’s contribution was £5,500 with Middlesex County Council and Willesden Council each pledging £1,000. Donations accounted for a further £690 with £105 from the Metropolitan Gardens Association.
Contracts were exchanged on 4 April 1911, and as originally conceived, the park covered seven acres. The LCC earmarked half an acre to enlarge the site of Kingsgate Road school and reserved an acre along Messina Avenue in case it was needed for ‘tramway purposes’ (but agreed to add this to the park in 1914). ‘Kilburn Gardens’ was proposed for the park by the LCC, but Hampstead’s suggestion that the name of the old house should be perpetuated was adopted, hence it became ‘Kilburn Grange.’ The grounds were opened informally for much of the summer of 1911 while plans for its layout were completed, these included; 
An ornamental garden, children’s playground, model yachting pond, band stand, footpaths, drainage, etc., and at a later stage, children’s gymnasium, tennis courts, bowling green, and accommodation for refreshments.
Existing trees were to be kept, and three entrances planned: from Hemstal Road, Messina Avenue and the High Road.
It took a while to complete the landscaping, during which time the grounds were generally closed; in fact nearly two years elapsed before the LCC informed Hampstead Council the park would be opened to the public on 1 May 1913, but, ‘it was not proposed to hold any opening ceremony.’ This seems a rather damp squib, unworthy of the success of the lengthy campaign.

Marianne Colloms postcard

What happened to the land bordering the High Road? There was never any suggestion that the house would be kept. The site was used for a short length of road, a few shops and the impressively domed Grange Cinema. This opened in 1914 on the High Road corner of Messina Avenue, the march of modern technology having overtaken Stoll’s earlier plans for a music hall.

Postcards like the one above, were produced of the Grange Park and the Cinema. Marianne has several of these cards. One from an unnamed writer, was posted during the First World War to Bert.
It read as follows:

My Dear Bert,
At last I am sending a few cards, I can’t get a very choice selection, as Kilburn is not particularly pretty place, but I will get a few more next week, the Grange pictures are new to you, as that is a new place since the old place was pulled down. I could not get one of the Cinema yet, but I hope you will come over to see for yourself. The war still seems to be going strong, but I guess old Kaiser Bill won’t realise the height of his ambition. Joe has got in the Royal Fusiliers and is at Colchester now, he hopes to go to the Front soon.

The park was an important open space for Kilburn. Concerts of military and popular music were played on the bandstand during the summer months. Dick Weindling remembers playing football there most evenings, and in the summer the path around the paddling pond was the running track for him and his friends in the 1950s. As a keen athlete, he had a stop watch and details of the best times for one, two and four laps were kept in a notebook. In the 1950s and 1960s young men from the large Irish community often played a form of Shinty on the grassed area, violently hitting a small ball with sticks.
One last proposal to extend the park was made in 1972, when it was suggested that nearly all the houses in Gascony and Messina Avenues, between the High Road and Kingsgate Road, should be demolished. Grange Park would have been extended south across the cleared site, which would also have provide spaced for Kingsgate School to expand.
Kilburn and the Grange Park, 1935


Sir Thomas Sean Connery: James Bond in Kilburn and West Hampstead

Before London

On his dad’s side, Sean, or as his birth certificate records ‘Thomas’ Connery, had Irish roots. His dad was Joe, a jobbing labourer in Edinburgh who married Effie Maclean in 1928. Thomas (Tommy) was born two years later in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh’s industrial district, where the grime and smoke had gained it the nickname, Auld Reekie. There wasn’t much money and Tommy had a tough childhood. He got his first job when he was nine years old; helping on a milk round before school, with an evening shift as well at a butcher’s. He was a physically strong kid, fit and good at sport, but he was restless, and keen to leave Fountainbridge behind. So he joined the navy when he was seventeen. Although he signed up for seven year’s active service he was invalided out in 1949, suffering from duodenal ulcers.
Back in Edinburgh, Connery took up a British Legion scholarship and trained as a French polisher. He was a seriously good footballer and at one point might have decided on a professional career but he was also devoting hours to body building. In 1952, he worked as a life guard at the Portobello Pool and he earned more money posing as an (almost) nude model at Edinburgh College of Art. His well-toned physique and dark good looks made him very popular: ‘The girls always wanted to sketch me up close, it was embarrassing.’ He also posed for photos in musclemen magazines. His coach (another body builder), suggested they go to London where his biographer Michael Callan, says Connery entered the 1953 ‘Mr Universe’ competition, coming third. Records are patchy which probably explains why other sources disagree, for example, saying he went to London on his own; that he entered the junior man section; that he failed to place in the ‘tall man’ section; or even that he entered the Scottish and not the London heats. Several contemporary photos of him reveal an impressive physique.
With money running low, Connery was about to return to Scotland when he auditioned and got a job in the chorus of a travelling show of South Pacific. It paid £12 a week, about £260 today. Connery knew and liked the theatrical world; he’d worked briefly behind the scenes in an Edinburgh theatre with a walk-on role in a play, but his acting career truly began in London, in 1953.
London
Around this time, ‘Tommy’ or ‘Tammy’ as he was sometimes known, became ‘Sean.’ Always a grafter, he worked hard but found himself out of work when the two year run of South Pacific ended. A few stage parts were followed by his first TV role (1956) and a film No Road Back (1957), where he played Spike, a minor gangster. There’s a good if unsubstantiated anecdote at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Road_Back.
To make some extra money Connery worked as a baby sitter at 46 Abbey Road, the home of Peter Noble, a journalist and film buff. Sean charged 10 shillings an evening and another 10 shillings for every dirty nappy he had to change; (as Peter recalled, sometimes there were at least two). Noble got to know Sean through his friends Llew and Merry Gardner, who had a first floor flat at 67 Brondesbury Villas, where Sean lodged for a year, paying 12sh 6d a week. Llew was a TV presenter who later worked on World In Action. Merry worked with Sean’s current girlfriend, photographer and actress Julie Hamilton.
Llew said;
My first impressions were of a very large, very hirsute Scottish young man who kept working out with dumbbells. He had a collection of pictures showing himself in body beautiful poses for which he must have shaved all over because there wasn’t a trace of hair to be seen. What struck me most about him was he was very canny, not easily impressed by those in a position to offer him money and fame.
Llew remembered that Sean used to bargain with the Kilburn traders over clothes and food: ‘he could go out and buy the cheapest piece of meat and turn out a very good stew.’ When he bought a second-hand, three legged bed, the Gardners gave him thirteen volumes of the works of Stalin to use as the fourth. ‘I imagine it was the first time that Stalin had ever been screwed that way.’
Connery was living with the Gardners when Requiem for a Heavyweight went out on the BBC on 31 March 1957. It told the story of an ageing boxer at the end of his career. In Fountainbridge his parents watched their son on a new TV Set; ‘By Heavens, that was smashing,’ said Joe. Sean went home to Kilburn after his performance, celebrating with a typical meal of stew and a glass of beer.
The reviews were generally good, the Times praising his ‘shambling and inarticulate charm.’ Unfortunately any recording of this broadcast has been lost.
Connery was signed by 20th Century Fox but waited in Kilburn for work to materialise. He landed the role of Mike in Action of the Tiger(MGM, 1957), but the director Terence Young believed the film would flop and told a disappointed Sean: ‘Just keep at it and I’ll make it up to you.’ Four years later Young kept his word when he was sent the film script of Dr No.
 

3 Wavel Mews today

In 1958 Sean moved a short distance across the Kilburn High Road to the quiet 3 Wavel Mews, off Acol Road. His new home – which he bought – comprised three rooms above a garage. Julie Hamilton, who was the daughter of film director Jill Craigie and the step-daughter of politician Michael Foot, moved in with him. Jill Craigie helped with the purchase of the property. Local directories show ‘T. Connery’ at Number 3. He started renovations around the time he began work on Another Time, Another Place (Paramount, 1958). He also returned to serious body building: his close friend and fellow actor Ian Bannen, often stayed at Wavel Mews: ‘he had all the equipment and he was deadly earnest about it, sometimes it was like a gym.’ Sean had always favoured a motorbike for personal transport and he still did. Bannen again: ‘it remains in my memory only because he was always falling off. Didn’t seem he could go down a bloody road without hitting some tree or something.’ Bannen moved into Number 3 when Connery was offered a major part in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People(1959), which was filmed in America. The ‘little people’ of the title were leprechauns and it was Connery’s first big hit.
Bannen left Wavel Mews when Sean returned from Hollywood and started converting the garage space below the flat into a sitting room. More stage and TV work as well as several films followed: Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (Paramount 1959), The Frightened City (1961), On the Fiddle (1961) and a small part in The Longest Day (1962). But for Connery, ‘the storms of uncertainty were about to abate, to be replaced by a tempest of frenetic adulation and unstoppable fame.’ Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzmann offered Terence Young (not their first choice), the chance to direct Dr No.
I’m looking for Commander James Bond, not an overgrown stunt man.’
Ian Fleming’s reported response on first meeting Sean Connery
Sean was in the running for the role of 007, but so were many other actors with far stronger pedigrees: Cary Grant; David Niven; Patrick McGoohan (Danger Man and The Prisoner); Roger Moore (who went on to become Bond in Live and Let Die), plus established British stars Richard Johnson, Rex Harrison, Michael Redgrave and Trevor Howard. Tipping the scales in Connery’s favour was possibly the fact Broccoli’s wife had seen Sean in Darby O’Gill and told her husband his ‘macho aura was inescapably attractive’: in other words, he had sex appeal. When Connery started testing, United Artists cabled Broccoli and Saltzmann, ‘see if you can do better’ but they were already committed to the Scotsman. Sean signed a multi-picture deal that held until 1967, and his casting as James Bond was announced on 3 November 1961. Quoted figures for the fee Sean received for Dr No range from £3,000 to as high as £25,000, (equivalent to £50,000 to £420,000 today).
Connery was ‘groomed’ extensively to fit the part. A top notch London tailor Anthony Sinclair was hired who described Sean as having perfect figure on which to hang clothes. When asked how he would manage to conceal Bond’s shoulder holster under his armpit without ruining the line of the suit, Sinclair replied: ‘When you have fitted a famous magician with full evening dress to hide all those damn doves he carries about him for his act, Mr Connery’s armpit holds no fears for me.’

The photograph above was taken in Wavel Mews in December 1961, shortly after signing the Bond deal. Motor bikes had been abandoned in favour of fast cars. Connery had twisted his knee on an icy patch in the Mews, en route to filming Dr No in Jamaica. He always believed the film had all the ingredients of a hit: ‘I just sat tight and waited.’

As 1962 drew to a close, Connery left West Hampstead for Acton. There he bought (for £9,000) and renovated the 12-room Acacia House on Centre Avenue, overlooking the local park. This move reflected his career success and more particularly, his recent marriage to Australian actress Diane Cilento, who was expecting their baby.
 
Diane Cilento, 1954
You can see clips of many of Sean Connery’s films on the web and his later roles have been well documented. There’s a clip on Pathe News www.britishpathe.com where Connery receives the variety Club 1965 award for his portrayal of James Bond and his role in The Hill. Actor Of The Year AKA The Missing Guest (1966)
While luck played a part in his rise to stardom, there’s no doubt that Connery always worked extremely hard to achieve success. He was knighted in July 2000.
 

Sean Connery in 1980

Marianne remembers an elderly friend of her mother’s who lived in Acol Road. One day she tripped and fell over on the pavement in West End Lane. She was helped to her feet by a tall, good looking man with a strong Scottish accent. He picked up her shopping and walked her home, even offering to make her a cup of tea. No prizes for guessing who he was.

Haunted Kilburn and West Hampstead


Ghost stories associated with Kilburn and West Hampstead are rare and the phenomenon short-lived: we’ve found a couple of hoaxes, a poltergeist and an innocuous clergyman. One man thought otherwise: ‘Kilburn is the most haunted district in Londondeclared Irish writer Elliott O’Donnell. He specialised in the paranormal, but today his books are generally regarded as fiction rather than fact. In his 1920 book ‘More Haunted Houses of London, O’Donnell included ‘A haunting in a Kilburn Studio.’ The narrator talks about the importance of ‘atmosphere’, concluding that there were many reports of hauntings in low-lying districts:
When we come to London, there is Kilburn. There is no air there, the soil is clay, and the atmosphere is crammed as full as it can hold with stale thoughts – some of them deuced bad ones.’ 
After a brief mention of an un-named haunted house in Mortimer Road, the story begins in a rundown studio near ‘Kilburn Station’. An artist is visited by an apparition that allows him to see future events. But other than providing a home for the central character, Kilburn doesn’t feature any further in the action.
Spring Heeled Jack
In 1838 London was agog with the exploits of ‘Spring Heeled Jack’, a ghost or devil who attacked women and as his name suggests, could leap great heights over walls and even houses. It was said he had clawed hands and breathed fire. That April, eighteen year old James Painter decided to join in the fun. But he was caught and charged, 
with keeping the fair inhabitants of Kilburn in considerable alarm, by sallying out upon them during their evening perambulations, disguised as a ghost.’ 
Spring Heeled Jack

James Painter was employed by Mrs Chater, a wealthy widow of 2 Waterloo Place.This was one of a group of large semi-detached villas on the Willesden side of the Edgware Road, just north of Willesden Lane. The Morning Post reported what happened to Ann Ansinck and her sister Charlotte Hagerstone:
Mrs Ann Ansinck, a respectable married lady living at Kilburn, stated that, about eight o’clock on Saturday evening, she was walking along Waterloo Place, contiguous to Mrs Chater’s residence, accompanied by a female friend, when suddenly she found herself seized by a ghostly figure, habited in a white sheet, and wearing a hideous mask, from which depended a long beard. The figure, on clasping her, explained, ‘Who the devil are you?’ and her friend having recognised the voice of the ‘ghost’ replied very promptly,
‘We’ll let you know who we are, and that we are not to be frightened by you.’
The ghost then beat a retreat, followed by the complainant and her friend, and seeing it vanish over a wall surrounding Mrs Chater’s premises, they were pretty well convinced that the defendant was the ghost. Miss Charlotte Hagerstone, Mrs Ansinck’s companion, said that she knew the defendant well. He had for a considerable period been playing his mischievous tricks upon females, some of whom he had frightened in a very serious manner. She recognised his voice the moment he spoke, and he had attempted upon several previous occasions to frighten her. 
James Painter was given a £4 fine (equivalent to £300 today), and was severely reprimanded by the Magistrate:
This is a very aggravated assault and I have not the least doubt of your being the real offender. If fellows like you think they can frighten respectable females with impunity by imitating the scandalous pranks of Spring-heeled Jack, they will be convinced of their mistake by finding themselves within the walls of Newgate. It is a very serious offence and might, under particular circumstances, have caused death or other lamentable circumstances, and the public, especially the female portion of it, are much indebted to Mrs Ansinck for the spirit and courage she has displayed in bringing such an offender to justice.
The Ghost of West End House and Wilkie Collins
A benign ghostly figure of a woman was said to haunt the grounds of West End House, close to West End Green. Adeline Barnes, a resident of what was originally the small village of West End, described the apparition.
West End like many other places was not complete without its ghost story. It was supposed that some remote possessor of the property walked the carriage drive and appeared at the gates (guarding a rear entrance, near the junction of Finchley Road and West End Lane). The ghost was that of a lady of a bygone age with rustling silk skirts, without a head. Some supposed that she had been beheaded, and others that there was something hidden that she wished found out. There were many of the villagers who declared they had seen it, including Heady the postman, who said it walked to the gates and then turned and walked down the drive again. Others said it was the ghost of a lady whose children had been defrauded by a wicked guardian after her death.
Adeline concluded it was ‘more the villagers’ imagination than anything else.’ And as the entrance was only created after Finchley Road opened in 1829, why was the headless lady haunting a carriageway laid down long after her demise? But it is possible that the story prompted Wilkie Collins when he wrote The Woman in White, (1860), to describe his hero meeting a ghostly figure near the Miles property, where four roads join: ‘the road to Hampstead, along which I had returned, the road to Finchley; the road to West End and the road back to London,’ in other words, close to the present junction of West End Lane, Finchley Road and Frognal Lane.
The Reverend Ghost
In March 1893, several new papers carried the story of a ghost at 27 St Georges Road (since renamed as Priory Terrace). A reporter noted the ‘solid, substantial, comfortable-looking house’ seemed an unlikely place for a haunting, having ‘so few marks of age about it that a self-respecting ghost would hardly have been expected to regard it as an eligible residence.’ Number 27 had been built about 1861 and for some years, had been home to Ministers serving the Quex Road Wesleyan chapel.
The current occupant was the Reverent George Tyler. The imposing chapel on the corner of Kingsgate Road opened its doors in 1869 and was demolished in the early 1960s. The ghost took the form of a bearded figure of a man, ‘in black clothes of a clerical cut,’ and only appeared to the female members of the household.
Mrs Tyler and daughters Julie and Ada were convinced they’d had a supernatural experience. Nineteen year old Julie was the first to see the figure. She described how she’d gone to call her father to tea;
I saw what I took to be Pa.He neither answered or moved. I thought he was playing with me, and giving me the trouble to go up to him, and I ran up to push him. I pushed right though the figure and fell against the wall. I was dreadfully frightened but when I told the others they laughed at me.
Then her sister Ada and her mother saw the ghost. They told the reporter they disliked going into a small back room that overlooked the garden: ‘It was in that room,’ said Miss Julie, ‘that I met the figure face to face. I shall never forget his eyes – greyish blue in colour, and they seemed to look right through me quite hungrily.’ 
Quex Road Wesleyan Chapel, demolished in the 1960s
The ministers only served at the Kilburn chapel for a three years and the Reverend Tyler was half way through his term. The reporter felt the Reverend was doing his best to make light of the ghost story: ‘I have always been a confirmed unbeliever in spirit manifestations.’ But he agreed that after his wife and daughters told him of their experiences, he’d made some enquiries and learned that Mrs Gibson, the wife of his immediate predecessor, had some strange experiences in the house. But when he was asked if local gossip that he had taken up some floorboards at number 27 ‘in his hunt for some explanation,’ Reverend Tyler said No, he’d been looking for the source of a bad smell in the house. He left Kilburn the following year, for Derby.
A possible explanation centred on a predecessor of the Reverend Tyler who had died in the house. This was the Reverend Robert Balshaw, described in the local press as ‘a man deeply beloved by his congregation.’ He died from typhoid fever on 21 November 1877. As a young teenager Robert went to sea but after a fall from the top-mast he returned to dry land and a career as a printer. Then he became a preacher and finally a Wesleyan minister. He served in chapels up and down England, including several in London: Kentish Town, Blackheath, Chelsea, Westminster and finally Kilburn.
The Great Raymond

The old Kilburn Empire (now replaced by the Marriott Hotel), was played by many famous acts down the years. In 1919 it was the turn of the ‘Great Raymond’, billed as America’s ‘Mystery Man’, who included a séance in his act. He placed an advert in the local newspaper: ‘Haunted House wanted. £1000 is offered for a genuine Haunted House or more if the House is worth it.’ Unfortunately we don’t know if anyone replied, but Raymond was in the habit of advertising for a haunted property wherever he performed. 
The Poltergeist in the Shoe Shop
321-323 Kilburn High Road, opposite Nandos, (2013)
The ‘American Shoe Stores’ at 321-323 Kilburn High Road, on the corner of Dyne Road, had opened in 1925 on the site of a previous boot repairers. In February 1949 the local press reported the activities of a mischievous poltergeist on the premises. Most of the incidents happened in a work room which had a separate entrance in Dyne Road. Shoe repairer Jim Best had worked there for twenty years but recent events had forced him to move to another room.
I have put up with all sorts of things for three weeks, but when heavy hammers start whizzing by your head; it is time to make a change.’ 
Side door in Dyne Road
The staff recounted many strange incidents: light bulbs had dropped out of their holders and stock fallen off shelves; shoes (oddly only left hand ones), were found in the road outside and brown shoes had been dyed black.
On one occasion the shop door swung open immediately after Best and his manager Charles Fishburn had locked and bolted it. Fishburn said, ‘We thought Jim was going mad but if he’s mad then we are all mad too.’ Initially Charles believed a practical joker or housebreaker was responsible, but after three weeks, concluded this was impossible.
Mr Fishburn is hoping to have the goblin’s activities scientifically investigated and would welcome the advice or help of any expert on the subject. A reporter who was invited to look over the room saw signs of damage, but there were no unusual activities in the room while he was there.
Then the disturbances at the shoe shop stopped just as suddenly as they had begun.

Making money in Kilburn


In 1935 Scotland Yard was warned by the German police that forged English £5 notes were being sold there at half their face value. Detective Inspector George Hatterill, who spoke several languages, was sent to Berlin to track down the source of the notes. He found they were a very high quality forgery of a new and unknown type. To trap the gang, Hatterill posed as an English buyer based in Antwerp, engaged in smuggling and gun running. In his autobiography he says he was comfortable playing this role because he’d previously worked in Antwerp as the liaison officer between Scotland Yard and the Belgium police. His contact introduced Hatterill to the gang and he had several meetings in East Berlin cafes. He paid for all the drinks and flashed a roll of bank notes, to convince them he really meant business. Finally it was agreed that 1,000 Bank of England £5 notes would be ready in a week. At this point the German police raided the homes of the gang members and arrested them all, but they couldn’t find the forger.
Three years later in April 1938, the Bank of England discovered some forged £5 and £10 notes which they sent to Scotland Yard. The paper, watermarks, and printing were all excellent and it took an expert to tell there was anything wrong with them. The only information was that the forgeries had come from Paris, but after spending ten days with the French police, Hatherill failed to find the source of the notes. His superiors were unimpressed by how little he’d achieved. About a fortnight later Hatherill was reading the French newspaper Le Matin, and saw that a man had been arrested in Paris for trying to change forged English bank notes. The police found £475 worth of £5 and £10 notes on him. When Hatherill returned to Paris and compared the notes, he found they were identical forgeries to those sent to the Yard by the Bank of England. At first, the man who was about 40, refused to say anything. Hatherill spoke to him in several languages and eventually found out that he understood English, but spoke it and his native German with a strong Württemberg accent. Although the man denied ever having been to England, Hatherill was convinced he was lying because he used colloquialisms which could only have picked up by living there. All the labels on his clothes which might identify the prisoner had been cut off, but Hatherill found a single laundry mark ‘K157,’ on his shirt.
Hatherill returned to London with the man’s photograph and fingerprints but couldn’t find him in official records. So he sent out a request to every police station in London for inquires to be made about the laundry mark. It turned out that scores of people had a K157 laundry mark and Hatherill spent a week going round all the addresses, armed with a photo of the man he’d interviewed in Paris. Eventually he followed up a report concerning a Mr Beckert, who lived at 2A Shoot-Up Hill. This is the first house north of Maygrove Road and is opposite the Kilburn Tube Station. When Hatherill got there he found that the house was empty with an agent’s ‘To Let’ sign. Alongside the front door was a name plate inscribed ‘F. Beckert – Photographer’. Hatherhill could barely contain his excitement when the house agent identified the photo as Frederick Beckert, a German who’d lived at number 2A with his niece and disappeared owing a considerable amount of rent. Hatherill spoke to the next door neighbour who was able to provide yet more important information. She said Beckert’s niece was called Beatrice and she had a boyfriend who worked in a local garage. She also said that an odd job man used to work at the house and that he lived in Burnt Oak. Beatrice had vanished before the neighbour could speak to her about the smoke and smuts that had poured out of the Beckert’s chimney and ruined clean laundry in her garden. That had happened about two weeks ago.

2a Shoot-Up Hill, February 2013
Hatherill traced the odd job man, Charles James Groves, of Dale Avenue Edgware, who said he’d worked for Beckert since February 1932. When the bills mounted up Beckert would lock himself in the front room of the basement, sometimes for three or four days, then he would go abroad for about a week. When he returned he paid the bills and the man’s wages. Hatherill thought it was pretty obvious what had been going on. But he was puzzled that Beckert had been hard at work for five or six years while the first forged English notes had only been recovered by the Bank of England a month earlier. He decided to have another look in the basement of 2A. He imagined what he would have done if he had been in Beckert’s shoes while forging bank notes. Presumably, some of the notes would have been spoilt and burnt in the stove. Then he noticed a crack between the floorboards and the stove. When he prised up the boards he found two photographic plates for a German 20 and 50 Reichsmark note. Hatherill remembered the forgeries he had seen in Berlin in 1935. Quickly taking up more of the boards, he found partly melted printing plates for English and Belgium banknotes.

Basement of 2a Shoot-up Hill, 2013
Hatherill’s next move was to visit the Aliens Registration Office where he obtained photos of Beckert and his niece Beatrice. Then he started a tour of the local garages to trace Beatrice’s boyfriend. He came across a young man who said he’d never heard of her but Hatherill’s instinct told him the man was lying, and eventually he admitted that he did know Beatrice. He told Hatherill she’d gone to Belgium, to 62 Rue de Brabant, Brussels. He also showed Hatherill two suitcases which Beatrice had left with him. One was full of ties but the other contained wallets with labels from all over Germany, obviously bought by Beckert in the course of changing his forged notes. Having warned the young man not to communicate with his girl friend, Hatherill travelled to Brussels and met up with his old friend, Monsieur Louwage, the chief of the Belgian police. When he heard Hatherill’s story and saw the plates, Monsieur Louwage hit the roof. He explained that forged Belgian francs had flooded the market over the last two years. They were so good they remained undetected until they reached the National Bank and no-one had been able to find the forger. Hatherill and the Belgian police went immediately to 62 Rue de Brabant where they arrested Beatrice, who was just about to leave for Germany. In her handbag Hatherill found a telegram from her boyfriend in Cricklewood telling her the police were after her! Beatrice denied any knowledge of her uncle’s whereabouts or his forgeries. She said she’d left London two weeks ago, after waiting without news of him for a month. But after further questioning Beatrice broke down. She said she had no idea of her uncle’s activities until she became alarmed by his prolonged absences abroad. Needing money to pay the bills, she found a key to the basement where she discovered some spoiled forged banknotes. Thinking he had been arrested, Beatrice burnt all the paper and negatives, thus causing the smoke which had ruined her neighbour’s washing. She’d also tried to melt the zinc printing plates on the stove and dropped the remains through the cracks in the floor.
Hatherill went to Paris to get Beckert extradited to England. Beckert repeatedly denied his identity until he was told Beatrice had been arrested in Brussels. Then his manner changed. He agreed to tell Hatherill everything, as long as Beatrice was released. In fact no action was taken against her and the Belgian police let her go a few weeks later. Beckert said he had been experimenting with colour photography but found it so expensive that in order to keep going he started forging German banknotes. In 1934 or 1935 he noticed that shopkeepers were carefully examining the notes he gave them, so he switched to forging Belgian notes instead. When the same thing happened in Belgium at the beginning of 1937, he moved on to printing English banknotes which he cashed in France.
On 21 June 1938at the Old Bailey, Friedrich Beckert, aged 40, was charged with forging banknotes to the value of £5,000 as well as a large quantity of Belgian francs. It was said that he was a highly skilled colour photographer, who came to England in 1927 and learned photography. He had occupied the basement flat of 2A Shoot-Up Hill from 1931 until June 1937 when he left without notice. Beckert pleaded guilty. He said he’d started his Kilburn company in 1932 but his partner did nothing except draw money from their business, which failed. Hatherill gave evidence concerning Beckert’s background. It turned out he’d been arrested for armed robbery in Germany in 1920 and placed in a mental institution for observation. The doctors concluded he wasn’t a lunatic but sent Beckert to another institution, from where he absconded in 1921. He was arrested a further three times after that, but escaped on each occasion. His defence counsel suggested Beckert was ‘not quite normal’. He’d been a steel worker in Luxembourg but made up his mind he wanted to learn photography. By 1929 he was the manger of a coloured snapshot company at a salary of £10 a week. When the firm failed, he began forging notes.
Beckert was given four years imprisonment at Parkhurst. When his sentence ended he was interned as an alien, and after the War he was deported.
Art, Beauty and Commerce Ltd
Beckert took out a patent for obtaining colour separation negatives in January 1932. The British Journal of Photography shows that his company was called ‘Art, Beauty and Commerce Ltd’ and was registered on 15 December 1936. The capital was £500 in one pound shares. The directors were named as Frederick Beckert, 2 Shoot Up Hill; photographic artist, John H. Thwaites, 106 Saltram Crescent, engineer, and Miss Beatrice Beckert, 2 Shoot Up Hill.
Arrest in France
On 1 July 1937 Beckert presented an English £10 note at the Rosenberg Bank in the Rue Laffitte Paris. He said he was from London but didn’t have his identity card with him. Suspicions were aroused and the police were called. Beckert suddenly dashed out of the bank and broke open the door of a flat in a neighbouring building where he was arrested. Three hundred counterfeit English £10 notes were found on him. In court in December 1937, he admitted the forgery, but said he was of weak intellect and a medical report confirmed this. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
George Hatherill
George Hatherill was an unusual and highly skilled detective. He was born in Dulwich in 1898, and as a boy, he spent a lot of time at his local library in the Peckham Road. Occasionally, he exchanged opinions with another boy he met there called C.S. Forester, and Hatherill became a devoted reader of his books. By the time he was twelve, Hatherill had taught himself French and German. He joined the Metropolitan Police in 1920 and rose through the ranks, where his proficiency with language led to a posting in Brussels. Hatherill became a member of the Murder Squad and later Commander of the CID. Although he was due to retire, when the Great Train Robbery took place in August 1963 Hatherill was put in charge of the case. He finally retired in 1964 and died in Torbay in 1986.

George Hatherill

 Gideon of Scotland Yard

The prolific crime writer John Creasey, who wrote more than 600 novels, knew George Hatherill well and he based his character, ‘Gideon of Scotland Yard’, on him. Between 1955 and 1990 Creasey wrote 26 Gideon novels under the pseudonym of J.J. Marric. In 1958 the great American film director John Ford came to England and made ‘Gideon’s Day’, staring Jack Hawkins in the tile role. A 26-part TV series called ‘Gideon’s Way’, staring John Gregson, ran from 1964 to 1966. 
John Creasey
John Ford, 1946
Jack Hawkins, John Ford, and cast of Gideon’s Day, 1958
John Gregson, Gideon’s Way, 1965

The artist and his stepfather


In 1912 an artist moved into ‘Glencairn’, 46 West End Lane, a large detached house between Acol and Woodchurch Roads. His name was Albert de Belleroche. Born in Swansea in 1864, Albert was the son of Edward Charles, the Marquis de Belleroche, whose family, one of the oldest Houses of Europe, was connected to the Royal Family of France. His Huguenot ancestors left France for Britain after the Revocation des Edit de Nantes in 1685. Albert’s mother Alice was the daughter of Desire Baruch of Brussels. His parents’ marriage was unhappy and they separated. Albert was only three when his father died and he was brought up in Paris by Alice and his stepfather, William Harry Vane Milbank whom Alice married in March 1871. Described as possessing ‘almost legendary beauty’, Alice entertained lavishly at their home in the Avenue Montaigne. 

‘The artist’s mother’, Mrs Milbank, lithograph by Albert Belleroche

Mrs Harry Vane Milbank, by John Singer Sargent

In 1882, Milbank had commissioned Carolus Duran, a noted portrait painter, to paint his wife. While the work was in progress, Alice gave a dinner party for Edward VII, then the Prince of Wales. At the party Duran saw sketches by the young Belleroche and suggested that he should study at his studio. However, Belleroche wasn’t happy with the formal structure provided by Duran, and he only stayed a short time. Albert believed that art could not be learned in schools but rather in museums among the masters. Botticelli, Vermeer, and Frans Hals were his favourite painters.
During that year, Belleroche attended a banquet given in honour of Duran by his students. It was here that he first met the American John Singer Sargent, a former student of Duran, whose early successes at the Salons were the talk of Paris. Belleroche and Sargent were to become life-long friends, and shared various studios in Paris and London. Their affiliation was one of mutual admiration, sympathy of taste and artistic direction. What Sargent was able to do drawing freely and spontaneously with charcoal on paper, Belleroche would go on to do with lithographic crayon on stone. It was Belleroche who encouraged and instructed Sargent in his experiments in lithography. Of the seven lithographs known to have been executed by Sargent, two are portraits of Belleroche, both done in 1905.
Albert de Belleroche, by John Singer Sargent, 1905
Ellen Terry, John Singer Sargent, 1887
The Café de la Rochefoucauld and the Restaurant l’Avenue were their favourite Parisian haunts until Sargent’s permanent move to London in 1886. Among their friends who used to gather there were Émile Zola, Oscar Wilde, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. In 1882, Belleroche painted Lautrec’s portrait as a souvenir of their friendship: they were both eighteen years old.
Albert Belleroche fits many of the romantic conceptions of an artist in Paris in the 1890’s. He had a studio opposite the Moulin Rouge, and like Lautrec, he enjoyed the freedom and life of Montmartre. Here he met Lili Grenier, the model made famous by Lautrec, but soon to pose almost exclusively for Belleroche and become his mistress for almost ten years. He painted such personalities of the quartier as the dancer Cha-U-Kao; femme fatale and spy Mata Hari; Olympia, the model immortalized by Degas, and the famous Japanese wrestler, Taro Myaki. 
Lili Grenier, by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, 1888
Belleroche was reserved, even critical of his own work; he discouraged visitors to his studio and he painted out of passion, not financial reward. He was of course fortunate not to need the money. Commissioned portraits never appealed to Belleroche. Given his social position and his special talent in portraiture, he could have enjoyed the fame of Helleu and Sargent, whose commissions were growing in demand. However, Belleroche believed that when an artist accepted a portrait on commission he risked becoming a slave to the sitter. And because Belleroche was financially independent, he could choose his subjects, selecting only personalities who appealed to him.
Lili with a feathered hat, Belleroche, 1907
The turning point in Belleroche’s career came in 1900 when he realised that instead of painting, lithographs were his true medium. His drawings on stone with a greasy wax crayon have the appearance of being literally drawings on paper. Belleroche produced his most creative work and he considerably advanced the technique of lithography. His hand was so sure that he did not need preparatory sketches, but could draw directly on the stone. By 1904, his work was receiving critical acclaim as well as the respect and admiration of his peers, such as Renoir. At that year’s Salon d’Automne an entire room was devoted to his work. Degas bought one of Albert’s lithographs and a painting was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg.
Belleroche, then aged forty five, married the beautiful Julie Emilie Visseaux in 1910, at All Saints Church, St John’s Wood. She was twenty eight and the daughter of his friend, the sculptor Jules Edouard Visseaux. His previous lover Lili Grenier, was furious and tried to break up the couple, which helped Belleroche’s decision to leave Paris. He returned to England to live, as his mother had done before him, following the death of her husband. Alice took up residence in fashionable St John’s Wood, at 11 and then 22 Grove End Road, where she died in 1916. She lived well with seven servants. Alfred and Julie lived with her in 22 Grove End Road and then in 1912 they moved to 46 West End Lane, where they stayed for about six years. In 1918 they moved to a 13th century house at Rustington in Sussex where they raised their three children. His son William (1913-1969), became active in the art world as a painter and a writer. Belleroche continued to make lithographs, although after World War I he worked only intermittently and in seclusion.
Hampstead, by Belleroche, 1916 (Probably looking towards Christchurch)
In the 1930’s, Belleroche presented large collections of his lithographs to the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels; and the British Museum in London. A smaller collection was given to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. In 1933, the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels held a major retrospective exhibition of 291 lithographs and published an extensive catalogue of the exhibition. In conjunction with this honour, King Albert of Belgium awarded Belleroche the order of Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold.
At the outbreak of World War II and the bombing of the coast, Belleroche moved his family north to Southwell in Nottingham where he lived a simple life in retirement. In a small rented room over an electrician’s shop, he kept a makeshift studio where he stored the work of his Montmartre days. No one was allowed in and this became his retreat, full of memories of his life in Paris. Belleroche died in 1944 at the age of eighty in Southwell, after a long illness.
His previous home at 46 West End Lane was one of the houses destroyed by the VI flying bomb in June 1944.
Harry Vane Milbank
Albert’s stepfather William Harry Vane Milbank had a very colourful life.
Generally known as Harry Vane Milbank, he was born in 1849, the son of Sir Frederick Acclom Milbank, M.P. After attending Eton, Harry held a commission as Cornet (2nd Lieutenant) in the Royal Horse Guards until the end of 1870. By the time he turned 21 on 29 December 1869, Harry was already in debt to the tune of £30,000. Around the time of his marriage to Alice on 1 March 1871, Harry went into voluntary bankruptcy, owing his many creditors over £76,000. An early report appeared in January when Harry was being pursued for money by a photographer. In early April, his bankruptcy by arrangement with creditors was agreed. At the time, the judge called it ‘a case of a young man with splendid expectations,’ able to raise the money to pay off his creditors in full, which he intended to do. Harry was expected to inherit what a friend called ‘pots of money’ on the death of his father and his grand-uncle, the Duke of Cleveland. Alice must surely have known about Harry’s financial problems. But was she aware he’d only recently tried to marry someone else? Harry owed over £1,000 to a Piccadilly dress shop, for clothes supplied to Mabel Gray between February 1870 and January 1871, when Mabel was ‘living under the protection’ of Milbank. The Times politely called her a ‘celebrity’ but in reality Mabel was a notorious ‘demi-mondaine’ of the 1860s, a lady supported by a number of wealthy lovers. Her real name was Annie King, and she’d worked as a shop girl in London’s West End before embarking on her new career. Mabel’s photographs sold in huge numbers, ‘a beautiful creature, tall, slender, elegant, refined, she wore outrageously costly but prefect toilettes and some of the best diamonds in London.’ It took the ‘robust intervention’ of his father and the Duke of Cleveland, to prevent Milbank marrying Mabel Gray. It was rumoured that they had bought her off with a large sum of money.

Mabel Gray
When Mabel died of tuberculosis in 1871, the papers recalled their alliance, without naming him:
‘At one time she was engaged to be married to the heir to one of the oldest English dukedoms, but by the strenuous interference of his friends, and the granting for life to her of a liberal provision, what would have been a gross mesalliance was fortunately prevented.’
But the reporters were also generous to Mabel:
Many stories are told of her eccentric extravagance, but let the soil lie lightly on her remains, for in times of biting distress Mabel Gray was a woman whose charity covered a multitude of sins.
As well as spending money and gambling, Harry was a noted duellist, fighting 18 duels and killing four men. He came to particular prominence in the press in 1892 as the second of the American Hallett Alsop Borrowe who was challenged to a duel by James Coleman Drayton over his wife Augusta. 
By now, Harry had been ill for some time. He travelled to Switzerland hoping for a cure but died in Davos in October 1892, of a haemorrhage. He left only £100 in his will, a ‘nominal personal estate’ as one paper put it. It was said the reason the Duke of Cleveland left Harry none of his vast fortune was due to;
the sad tales of Harry Vane Milbank’s career on the Continent which from time to time reached home. Those who remember the fast society of Paris of 20 years ago will well recall the personality of the handsome, dashing officer in the Blues, who brought down to his duelling pistol more than one rash opponent.
In addition to the tributes which might be expected, given the man and his lifestyle – Harry was a sportsman, a crack rifle shot and an accomplished huntsman – one paper noted he was also a keen scientist. Harry’s body was brought back to England for burial and Albert Belleroche attended the funeral. Alice’s floral tribute was a conical wreath over six feet in diameter, covered with white flowers and heliotrope.

Safe blowers in West Hampstead


What are the chances of finding two safe blowers in West Hampstead? Even more unlikely is the fact that they were both living there in 1955. But surprisingly, there is no obvious link between the men. 

At the end of the story you will find out all you need to know about blowing up a safe and how to make your sex life go with a bang! Read on.


At the beginning of February 1955 two separate gelignite raids took place.
The First Raid at Stanstead
On the night of 3-4 February thieves blew open the safe in the wages office of Skyways Ltd at Stansted Airport, and stole cash and National Health stamps. Leading from the safe to the door were two strands of wire, and in the passage the police found a live unused detonator.
The next day, presumably acting on a tip-off, detectives went to a house in West End Lane. The number was not given in the newspaper reports and it was rather oddly called a bungalow, but there’s no obvious house like this in the road. Edward Rice, aged 34, opened the door and said, ‘I have been expecting this. You are lucky because I was going to leave here tomorrow. Things were getting too hot.’One hundred and twelve one pound notes were found on Rice, together with other stolen goods. When charged, Rice simply said ‘I plead guilty.’
Edward Thomas Rice was a professional criminal, born in 1921 in Shoreditch. His father, Thomas Edward Rice, a printer, was an associate of criminals and Edward lived in a slum area for many years. In 1932 the family were at 45 Falkirk Street, Shoreditch, sharing a house with at least 13 adults. His mother, Mary Ann, died when Edward was 17 and soon after this his father turned him out of their home. Rice had several minor convictions before being sent to Wandsworth prison in 1940, where he wasn’t segregated as a first offender but mixed up with hardened criminals. On his release he was called up for the Royal Navy, but this did not suit him and he went AWOL on a number of occasions.
In March 1954 Rice was sentenced in Manchester to ten years imprisonment for housebreaking, wounding and conspiracy. In November he managed to escape from Strangeways prison with five other men. They’d been making coal bags in a workshop outside the main wall and escaped through the skylight, having previously sawn through one of the bars. Over the next few months a nationwide search was carried out, and all the men were caught apart from Rice, who remained on the run. That December on Boxing Day, four detectives were sure they’d found Rice when they arrested a man who was doing an old-time music hall act in a Nottingham pub. They said, ‘You resemble Edward Rice the escaped convict.’ The man replied, ‘Don’t be silly, I’m Henry Green.’ They found a revolver and four rounds of ammunition in his pocket. Asked about the gun, the man said, ‘I have a lot of enemies, but I am not Rice.’ This was true, he wasn’t Rice, but neither was he Henry Green. His real name was Leslie MaxleyEpstein, aged 32, a musician of no fixed abode.
On the night of 26-27 January 1955 a garage, belonging to Louis Alfred Yull, a land clearance contractor in Edmonton, had been broken into and gelignite and detonators, which he was legally using, were stolen. When the police searched the garden of the house in West End Lane they found five sticks of gelignite buried there. Rice later said ‘I got the jelly and dets off some fellows. Some of it came from the job in Edmonton.’ He had been renting the house under the name of Smith.
In March 1955 Rice appeared at the Old Bailey where he pleaded guilty to charges of receiving gelignite and detonators, and receiving tobacco and cigarettes stolen from British Railways while in transit. Rice admitted his guilt but refused to name the other men involved. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment, to serve concurrently with his previous 10 years.
The Second Raid in Piccadilly: The Ferret and the Monkey
On Sunday night 6th February 1955, thieves broke into the strong room of Martins Bank at their prestigious branch in 23 St James Street. When the manager opened up on Monday morning he found the robbers had blown a hole through the 22 inch reinforced wall and used gelignite to blow open the safe, stealing over £20,600, (worth around £425,000 today). This was the first time gelignite had been used to blow open both a bank’s safe and its strong room which was covered in brick and plaster dust from the explosion. Two of Scotland Yard’s top detectives were put in charge of the case: Chief Superintendent Edward Greeno and Superintendent Herbert Sparks. It was evident the thieves had entered from the adjoining building, then squeezed through a window of the women’s toilet opposite the strong room. An iron bar across the window had been bent back using a crowbar allowing a small opening. Herbert Sparks thought that Alfred Fraser, known as ‘The Ferret’, had the expertise but more important, he was small enough to have got through the narrow gap. Fraser had just been released after serving a sentence for attempted safe-blowing at the Hounslow Labour Exchange. His address in Fordwych Road was put under observation.
Over the following weeks, Fraser bought a Daimler limousine and began negotiations for a greengrocer’s shop in Paddington. He was seen in the company of known criminal Howard Lewis, 29, nicknamed ‘The Monkey’, who’d also bought a new car and was spending a lot of money. When the police arrested 43 years old Fraser it was alleged that he said, ‘That bastard Lewis has been talking. Have the others been tumbled?’ Cash from the bank was found in his pockets and at his house. More banknotes were discovered when Lewis’s home was searched, some stuffed inside a gramophone horn. While the police were there the phone rang and after Lewis had answered, the police took the phone from him and heard Fraser’s wife saying, ‘What shall I do with the money?’ Forensic evidence showed that brick dust and glass shards from the bank were present in the homes of both men. A third suspect, Percy Horne, a scrap metal dealer, was charged with receiving stolen money.
The three men appeared at the Old Bailey in May 1955. They all pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ and gave alibis, claiming the forensic evidence had been planted by the police. The jury found Fraser and Lewis guilty, and they received sentences of ten years and seven years respectively. The jury could not agree about Horne and he was released. Fraser who was born in Marylebone in 1912, was a persistent criminal with seventeen previous convictions since 1927. During his wartime military service he had deserted four times.
Two years later Martins Bank took the unusual step of suing Fraser for the missing money. He defended himself at court in July 1957, again claiming the money found on him was a loan from Percy Horne to buy the greengrocery business and that the police had framed him because of his criminal past as a jewel thief. The jury did not believe Fraser and found in favour of Martins Bank, saying that he owed them £19,602. He had no money to pay but the costs of the trial were awarded against him.
Safe Blowing
Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel in 1867. Then in 1875 he found that a more stable form called gelignite could be made by mixing gun cotton with wood pulp and saltpetre or sodium nitrate. This putty-like explosive was widely used in WWII and became a particular favourite of criminals after the War.  In 1950 even school children in Dorset were playing with sticks of it which they had stolen from a quarry.
A website called the Peterman run by a Scottish safeman provides interesting information about gelignite and safe blowing. http://www.peterman.org.uk/

This photograph of a complete safe-blowers kit shows a stick of gelignite and two different types detonator: an aluminium one with a fuse attached, and a copper one which has two wires extending about 6 feet to a longer shot firing cable. A pen-light torch battery is all that is required to fire the detonator. The lolly stick is commonly used to tamp and shape the jelly. The other item really is a condom. A ‘packet of three’ was a common sight on the prosecution table in the High Court. They were pushed into the gap between the back of the safe door plate and the front of the lock cap. Through this is packed the charge with a detonator, and everything is then held in place with some plasticine.

Gerry Anderson in West Hampstead


You may have heard that Gerry Anderson, the creator of Thunderbirds, died on the 26 December 2012. What is less well-known is that he grew up in West Hampstead, in a ‘squalid house’ off West End Lane, according to his biography. When Dick spoke to him a few years ago, Gerry said he couldn’t remember exactly where he’d lived but it was at the top of a large house on West End Lane, with a tent-shaped glass roof over the front door. There was a garage with a driveway at the side. The family of four lived in poverty in one room, with a blanket hung up to separate the cooking area from the sleeping area. They shared a bathroom with the other tenants who included: a rather sinister ex-convict, an eccentric artist, and a woman who later Gerry realised was probably a prostitute.
Gerry went to Kingsgate Infants School. His mother would see him across West End Lane, then he walked by himself down Cotleigh Road to the school. He said he hated the afternoon rest period when the children were forced to sleep, resting their heads on the sloping desks. He was only five, but thought it was a ridiculous waste of time. After school he would climb back up the hill and wait at the main road. His mother would be watching at the window across West End Lane, then she would wave and come down to collect him. Gerry remembered the excitement of going to the cinema each week at the Kilburn State or The Grange. He and his mother would sit in the six penny front row stalls. Movietone News and The March of Time were followed by a couple of cartoons and two feature films – lavish Hollywood films and British B movies.
Using the Electoral Registers, Marianne and Dick have worked out for the first time exactly where Gerry lived in West Hampstead. His parents Joseph and Deborah Abrahams are shown at 50 West End Lane from 1929 to 1935. This was a large detached house on the corner of Woodchurch Road.
50 West End Lane, 1890s OS Map
Gerry Anderson was born Gerald Alexander Abrahams, on 14 April 1929, in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. His parents, Joseph Abrahams and Deborah Leonoff, were married in the Rochford area of Essex, which includes Westcliff-on-sea and Southend, in 1921.
His grandparents, the Bielogovski family who came from Russia, took the name of Abrahams on their arrival in London’s East India dock in 1895. The family settled in Westcliff-on-sea. Their son Joseph worked as the manager of a clothing company for his brother Michael. At the company he met an attractive clerical assistant called Deborah Leonoff, who lived in Hackney, and she agreed to marry him. They moved to Willesden Green, but theirs was a stormy relationship with lots of rows. Joseph, an ardent socialist, argued with his brother about business and wealth. He left the clothing company and worked installing tobacco dispensing machines in private homes. A packet of 20 cigarettes cost one shilling and Joseph visited the customers on his bicycle, to fill the machines and collect the cash. But money was tight and the family had to move into the single room at the top of 50 West End Lane. Joseph was a classical pianist and they found space for an upright piano. The woman in the room below would complain about the noise, banging on the ceiling with her broomstick. When the ex-convict opposite moved, Deborah pleaded with Joseph to rent the vacant flat. He reluctantly agreed and they moved into three rooms and a small kitchen. But Gerry believed his father couldn’t really afford the higher rent. When Gerry was five he suffered from German measles and like many children at the time he was hospitalized for six weeks, followed by four weeks in a convalescent home. He was surprised when he came home to find some brightly painted lead cars and a set of traffic lights arranged in a street scene on a green baize card table. Deborah had bought them, with help from the prostitute neighbour.
In 1936 the family moved to 50A Clifford Way, Neasden. Three years later they moved again, to 198 Neasden Lane where they stayed for many years. In the years before WW2, Gerry and his mother experienced anti-Semitism. Gerry remembers being circled by boys in the Braincroft school playground who ridiculed him chanting ‘Jew Boy,’ until a teacher came to his rescue. When a laundry boy came to the house to collect the weekly washing and saw the name Abrahams on the bundle, he threw it back at Gerry’s mother shouting, ‘We don’t collect laundry from Jews.’ Gerry and hismother pleaded with Joseph to change their name and in November 1939 it was changed from Abrahams to Anderson. This was just a name that Deborah liked, but later it led some people to believe that Gerry had Scottish roots! When he became successful, Gerry spent over £3,000 on a new bungalow for his parents in Maidenhead, allowing them to leave their rented flat in Neasden Lane. Joseph Anderson died in Maidenhead Hospital in 1965. His mother Deborah died in Wrexham Park Hospital, Slough in the 1970s.
Gerry’s older brother Lionel was born in 1922 in the Westcliff-on-sea area. When War was declared, he joined the RAF aged just seventeen, and went to Arizona for training. Gerry remembered one of his brother’s letters talked about flying over an air base called ‘Thunderbird Field.’ This stuck in his memory and he used it for the title of his puppet series. Gerry was impressed when Lionel came home as a uniformed Flight Sergeant flying Mosquitoes with 515 Squadron. One day when he flew very low over the house, Gerry jumped up and down with pride and excitement. Lionel successfully flew 38 missions but he died on 27 April 1944, when his plane was shot down during an attack over Holland. He was 22 years old.
Gerry worked in the film industry and became famous for his TV puppet films, but he said he always wanted to make films with real actors.
50 West End Lane
Before Gerry Anderson lived there, the large corner house was built in 1881 for wealthy professionals. It was occupied until 1883 by William John Vereker Bindon, a doctor who called it ‘Appin’. He was born in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and did his medical training in Edinburgh. He married Jemima Downie in 1874. They came to London where he practised in Kilburn, living first at Elm Villas, Willesden Lane. Then in 1881 they moved to the newly built 50 West End Lane. In October 1882 William had an affair with one of his patients, Hannah Smith, the wife of the composer Edward Sydney Smith who lived at 28 Birchington Road. In 1883 Jemima sued William for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and adultery and was granted a divorce. At the trial Blanche Augustine Pinget, a French maid working for Mrs Smith said she’d seen Dr Bindon kissing Mrs Smith in her bedroom. There were two unhappy marriages, as Sydney Smith was having an affair with Blanche whom he married after Hannah died in 1886. Dr Bindon went to Australia where he died in 1891. 
50 West End Lane was put up for sale in 1883. The sale details give us a good description of the house:
For sale by auction. ‘Appin’, West End Lane, a superior family residence conveniently situated a few minutes walk from West Hampstead Station, on the Harrow branch of the Metropolitan Railway and the West End Station on the Midland Railway. The house, which is of pleasing elevation, is approached through a front garden, and has a spacious garden with a tennis court in the rear; it contains, on the two upper floors, nine principal and secondary bedchambers, a large studio, a bath room with hot and cold bath, a box room, housemaid’s closet etc; on the ground floor, entrance and inner halls, excellent lofty drawing room, dinning room, and library, a surgery, with separate side entrance from Woodchurch Road, lavatory, etc, also kitchen scullery, and pantry with serving hatch, and spacious cellarage in the basement.
It was bought by Albert Joseph Altman who changed the name of the house to ‘Elmira’. Altman was a wealthy sports and games manufacturer at Aldersgate Street who made croquet and cricket equipment. In 1876 as a City Alderman he became the Chairman of a Special Committee set up to consider the fifty designs for a new bridge over the Thames. When Tower Bridge was finally opened in 1894 he was knighted for his services. Altman was at the West End Lanehouse until 1890.
Other owners of the house were doctors and merchants. In December 1927, 50 West End Lane was sold at auction by Leopold Farmer and Sons for £3,150. At this point it became a lodging house let out in nine small flats or single rooms. It remained like this until mid-June 1944 when the first of ten V1 doodlebugs to hit Hampstead, exploded behind 42 West End Lane and destroyed the neighbouring houses. Seventeen people died and others were badly wounded. One woman was rescued alive after being buried for 48 hours. 
1944 Bomb damage, looking across West End Lane towards Gascony Avenue (Camden Local History Archives)
Michael Alpert, who lived just off West End Lane, remembers the day the VI fell and has written the following account:


When very early on a Monday morning in June 1944 that the VI crashed on West End Lane, I was awakened by the sound of breaking glass caused by the blast. My father was in the army and I was asleep with my mother in Smyrna Mansions, just off Gascony Avenue, which can be seen in the centre of the photograph above. I was eight years old.

My mother gathered me up and we went down to the street shelter opposite the Mansions. After a time we went back to the flat. My mother’s calm was amazing. She made up a bed for me in the large front room which looks over Smyrna Road and had been less affected by the bomb blast than the rooms at the back of the flat, while she sat doing the accounts for the milk bar which she ran in Kilburn High Road. 

It was mid-summer and the early morning was very mild and light. As soon as possible my mother got me ready to go to the weekly boarding school which I attended and to which I used to return on Monday mornings. Since we had no gas and probably no water from the bomb blast, my mother could not give me breakfast, so when we arrived she asked the matron to give me something to eat and drink. At morning assembly that day I said, with some exaggeration, that we had been ‘bombed out’, which was the expression used then.

I went to school by train in East Sheen, via Richmond, on what is now the Overground. I remember only one delay in all the years I travelled on that line, and once being held outside Willesden Junction during an air raid, when all trains had to stop lest they fall into a bomb crater.

From summer 1944 onwards as soon as you heard the ominous buzz of the flying bomb, followed by the motor cutting-out, you knew that the doodlebug would crash in about twenty seconds, so you made a dash for the street shelter, which was said to be proof against everything but a direct hit. At school we slept in a shelter covered with corrugated iron and earth in the garden. The smell of damp earth always brings the memory back. In the street shelter, of which there were two in Smyrna Road, each household had a little sort of cell with bunks. I think we continued to sleep in shelters until early January 1945. For a few weeks a more powerful and faster rocket, the V2, fell and caused immense destruction and loss of life. There was no warning of its arrival. Luckily the launching pads were overrun before life in Britain was nearly paralysed.

For many years afterwards we played in the bombed buildings, including those on West End Lane. It was, I suppose, dangerous to do so, because floors and stairs could easily give way, but it was great fun for a young boy.

The frontage of West End Lane between Acol and Woodchurch Roads remained a bomb site until the Council completed the 80 flats in Sidney Boyd Court in 1953. 
Sidney Boyd Court Today
Corner of Sidney Boyd Court, site of 50 West End Lane

The Magnificent Marquis!


Most people reading this blog will have heard of Kilburn Grange Park, but not everyone will know there once was a large house called ‘The Grange’, facing Kilburn High Road. The present Park covers what remains of its grounds. Dick and Marianne have been researching the history of Kilburn and West Hampstead for over thirty years, and a chance discovery of a book in a second-hand store revealed a reference in the index to ‘Mrs Peters of Kilburn’. They knew she was a very wealthy widow who lived at The Grange. But why was she included in a history of the Romano’s Café on the Strand? It turned out Romano’s was a favourite hangout of her lover, the Marquis de Leuville.

Many books and articles refer to this property’s great age and past glories, but all these claims are wrong. The Grange was a purpose built mansion, completed by January 1831 on a site never before used for building. 1843 saw the arrival of the Peters family, who owned and added to the house over sixty years. Thomas Peters was a wealthy coachbuilder who made coaches for Queen Victoria. Following his death in 1862, his eldest son, John Winpenny Peters took over and married Ada Britannia Beckers the following year. Ada was much younger than her husband and inherited the property when John died in 1882.
The Grange, Kilburn (Camden Local Studies Archive)

The Marquis and Mrs Peters met for the first time in August 1885. She was holding a garden party at The Grange, and he wasn’t a guest, but hired for the occasion to help entertain the many people who came to enjoy her hospitality. During the evening he recited two poems: Robert Browning’s ‘How they brought the good news from Ghent’ and some lines written by one of the guests. Ada entertained the guests and played the harp.
The Kilburn Times reported on the event:
Favoured by splendid weather, Mrs Peters had a delightful garden party on Saturday afternoon. Nearly 300 invitations had been sent out. There was the best opportunity for enjoyment by all, whether in the exercise of the lawn tennis ground, or in promenading within sight of Dan Godfrey and his band of Grenadier Guards, or in roaming about the ample and beautiful grounds, or in quietly sitting within the shelter of the numerous umbrella tents that skirted the lawn. Many of the company took the opportunity of viewing the choice collection of works of art and mementoes of visits to Italy and other parts of the Continent. In the evening, a concert was given under the able direction of Mr Sidney Smith, (another Kilburn resident). 
Ada Peters at her harp

The Marquis was a tall, good looking, charismatic man and Ada was very attracted by him and they began a long affair. The Marquis didn’t get involved in many local events, other than playing an increasingly prominent role in social events at The Grange. He also supported Ada’s campaign to prevent the Kingsgate Road School being built on the edge of her property.
Why didn’t the Marquis marry his Kilburn widow? To under stand this, it’s necessary to back track to 1870, when John and Ada’s daughter Pauline fell ill with scarlet fever. This was highly contagious and at the time, usually fatal. Children were kept isolated, and their toys burned for fear of spreading the infection. Pauline was nursed at The Grange where she died on the 26th April, only six days after contracting the disease. Pauline was destined to be the couple’s only child and John was particularly affected by her death. When Ada was widowed, she inherited a small fortune, along with a large empty house and nothing to do with her time. But under the terms of John’s will (quite common among wealthy families), Ada occupied the property as a ‘tenant for life.’ This meant she could enjoy it so long as she didn’t remarry. If she did, almost everything reverted to the Peters family. So she took the Marquis as her lover.
The more we researched de Leuville, the more we wanted to write his life story. We found out he was a Victorian poet, adventurer and lover of women. Given half a chance he’d issue a challenge to a duel over an insult to a lady. Chivalric values informed his life. Interesting conversationalist or pompous fool, fascinating companion or opinionated dandy, it all depended on who you were, and what you wanted from the Marquis. But he was never, never boring. Famous during his lifetime, he took the secret of his identity to his grave.

 After many years of research our biography, ‘The Marquis de Leuville; a Victorian Fraud?’ is now published as an ebook by The History Press, and we can reveal his fascinating story and who he really was.
The ebook can be downloaded to Kindle and the I-Pad. With a free Kindle Ap or Mobi Reader it can also be read on a PC or other computer. The ebook is available now from Amazon and other ebook sites.

‘Dick Barton’ in West Hampstead


On 7 October 1946 ‘Dick Barton: special agent’ began broadcasting on the BBC Light Programme. The first review which appeared in The Daily Worker said: ‘It is so bad as to be almost beyond belief.’But despite this, the audience for the show with its famous signature tune ‘The Devil’s Galop’, grew to an astonishing 15 million listeners who eagerly turned on their radio sets at 6.45pm every week day. Dick and his chums Snowey and Jock thrilled their fans by solving crimes, escaping from dangerous situations and saving the nation from disaster. The series ended after 711 programmes on Friday 30 March 1951 to be replaced by ‘The Daring Dexters’ a daily show about circus life, and then ‘The Archers’.

In the first episode Captain Richard Barton MC, ex-wartime commando, introduced himself by saying: 
‘Six years of battle, murder and sudden death just spoil you completely for a nice, peaceful office job. Don’t you agree, Snowey?’

From left to right, Dick, Snowey and Jock

Dick Barton was played by Noel Johnson, Snowey was played by John Mann and Jock was Alex McCrindle.

It’s not widely known that Noel Johnson was a local, living in a flat at 1 Woodchurch Road, West Hampstead, from 1948 to 1958.

Johnson was born in Birmingham in 1916, and after leaving school he took up acting in local repertory. At the outbreak of War he volunteered for the Royal Army Service Corps. Injured and evacuated from Dunkirk, he spent a year in hospital before being invalided out of the Forces in 1941. He returned to local rep and married Leonora Peacock, a theatrical scenery artist, in 1942. He joined the BBC Drama Repertory Company in 1945.

Norman Collins, the controller of the new Light Programme, asked his assistant John McMillan to research the idea of a daily ‘cloak and dagger’ soap opera. McMillan wrote the synopsis and biographies of the main characters. Noel Johnson was paid £18 a week and given a trial run of six programmes. The anticipated adult audience never materialised. Instead, ‘Dick Barton’ became essential listening for school boys. The BBC bowed to pressure and released a code of conduct which the hero – and the writers – had to abide by. This was published in the Daily Telegraph in January 1948.

The 12 rules of Dick Barton

  • Barton is intelligent as well as hard hitting. He relies as much upon brains as upon brawn.

  • He only uses force when normal, peaceful means of reaching a legitimate goal have failed.

  • Barton never commits an offence in the criminal code, no matter how desirable the means may be argued to justify the end.

  • In reasonable circumstances, he may deceive but he never lies.

  • Barton’s violence is restricted to clean socks on the jaw.

  • Barton’s enemies have more latitude in their behaviour but they may not indulge in actually giving any injury or punishment that is basically sadistic.

  • Barton and his friends do not wittingly involve innocent members of the public in situations that would cause them to be distressed.

  • Barton has now given up drink altogether. Drunken scenes are barred.

  • Sex, in the active sense, plays no part in the Barton adventures.

  • Horrific effects in general must be closely watched. Supernatural or pseudo-supernatural sequences are to be avoided – ghosts, night-prowling, gorillas or vampires.

  • Swearing and bad language generally may not be used by any character.

  • Political themes are unpopular as well as being occasionally embarrassing.

(The inclusion of ‘gorillas’ in rule 10 seems a bit bizarre – perhaps this was a throwback to the movie ‘King Kong’?)

In a later interview Johnson commented; ‘Barton was a proper character at first. He drank; he smoked and had a girl friend. As soon as the producers cottoned on to the fact we had a youth audience, they felt they had to become moral guardians.’

Adults criticised the show. Miss Marion Seddon informed readers of The Illustrated London News that; ‘children have no business listening at the homework hour to the exploits of Dick Barton and other characters leading abnormal lives.’
 
A letter to The Times said: ‘The BBC seems bent on turning children into a new kind of drug addict. They grow more concerned from day to day about what Dick Barton may do next than about their futures or the future of England.’

Despite what some adults said the popularity grew. On one occasion, when the show was not broadcast because of technical problems, all telephone lines to the BBC were jammed and large numbers of children traveled to Broadcasting House to see if Dick was in trouble and needed help.

Rather oddly, at first people did not know who was playing the part. Only when the omnibus edition was introduced on 4 January 1947, did the world discover that Noel Johnson was Dick Barton. The huge audience made Noel Johnson a star. His son Gareth said: ‘Dad was being asked to open fetes, to do things left, right and centre, which were all to do with Dick Barton. In kind of a way it coloured his career, for better and for worse.’ 

But Johnson felt type-cast and some producers refused to hire him. In 1949 at the height of his fame, when the BBC refused to give him a rise, he resigned. He went straight into a West End play, but as he said; ‘needless to say it flopped.’ The BBC tried to get him to change his mind and asked him how much he wanted. ‘They asked me to name my price. I said, 100 pounds a week.’  They said, ‘it sounds like you want danger money.’  Johnson replied, ‘that’s precisely what I want – and that was the end of it.’

So the BBC had to find a new Dick Barton. Over 1,000 people applied for the role, from policemen to dance band managers. A seven-year-old boy wrote on a postcard,‘I want to be Dick Barton, I have a gruff voice and I can shout.’ The role was eventually given to explorer Duncan Carse and then to Gordon Davies. 

1950s book from the BBC
Within two years Noel Johnson was staring as ‘Dan Dare’ in Radio Luxembourg’s adaptation of the Eagle comic character. This was a series which ran for five days a week from 2 July 1951for five years.

Johnson had a very long acting career in films and then TV, playing over 100 parts. Rather oddly, in a 1982 BBC2 play ‘The Combination’ he played a magistrate who admonishes two ten year old boys in court: ‘If I had to point the finger at any single responsible body, it would be the BBC for churning out Dick Barton every solitary night of the week. If anything was guaranteed to warp the spirit of the young, it’s that perverted rubbish!’

Towards the end of his career he appeared in the radio adaptation of ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ by Anthony Powell. His numerous films included ‘Withnail and I’ (1986) and on TV ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, ‘Inspector Morse’, ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘A Touch of Frost’. He died aged 82 in a small village outside Cardiff on 1 October 1999.

There is a short interview with Noel Johnson and his wife Leonora, at his home in Woodchurch Road on Pathe News in 1948. This appears from 2.00 mins to 3.00 mins into the clip.

You can hear all of the famous ‘Devil’s Galop’ signature tune by Charles Williams at:

There are several episodes of the original Dick Barton on YouTube, including:

Dick Barton has been most recently parodied by Mitchell and Webb’s Sir Digby Chicken Caesar. There are lots of episodes on YouTube

When a Zeppelin flew over Kilburn

The Germans began Zeppelin airship attacks in 1915. At first people came out to stare in wonder at these huge flying machines, but became more cautious as the bombs started to fall.
1917 Zeppelin raid

On the 19 October 1917 a group of 13 airships left Germany to attack the Northern industrial cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. Climbing to 16,000 feet they encountered extremely strong winds which forced them off course and made it very difficult for the commanders to establish their position. Lt. Waldemar Kolle was in L.45 aiming for Sheffield, but he found he was being blown rapidly south. He dropped a number of bombs on Northampton, but around 23.30 the crew became aware of a large number of lights and realised they were over London. Kolle dropped several bombs which damaged the Grahame-White Aviation Company in Hendon. Continuing south-east, he dropped further bombs which landed near Cricklewood Station.

These Zeppelin were a new class of airship which flew so high that British fighters and anti aircraft guns couldn’t reach them. Some of the crew got frostbite and others suffered from altitude sickness. The height and the thin cloud cover also meant that people on the ground couldn’t see or hear the airship and this attack became known as ‘the silent raid’.
Flying over the Kilburn High Road and St Johns Wood towards central London, the Zeppelin crew dropped bombs at random: but the effects were devastating. The first fell close to Piccadilly Circus where a huge 660lb bomb smashed the front of department store Swan and Edgar’s and caused further damage in Regents Street, Jermyn Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. Flying glass and shrapnel cut down 25 people and seven died. L.45 continued over South London bombing Camberwell and Hither Green, killing another 20 people.

Despite the strong winds, Lt. Kolle flew his Zeppelin across the Channel to France and with only two engines working and short of fuel, landed in Southern France. He set the ship on fire before surrendering to a group of French soldiers. This proved to be last Zeppelin attack on London; subsequent raids were carried out by Gotha and Staaken Giant bombers.

The Staaken Giant Bomber which took over from the Zeppelin airships at the end of the War

The Staaken Giant Bomber which took over from the Zeppelin airships at the end of the War

The map and information come from an excellent book by Ian Castle, London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace, Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84603-245-5

Marianne owns a postcard, which will have been printed in thousands. An inky black sky is pierced by the beams of search lights which light up a small, elongated white oval, meant to be a Zeppelin. The date ‘Wednesday 8 September 1915’ is printed bottom right, when London experienced its most severe Zeppelin raid, almost all the damage inflicted by just one Zeppelin, the L13. Bombs were dropped on Golders Green and Central London as far as Liverpool Street Station. So it was an event to remember. The legend ‘Zeppelin Raid as seen at …’ (blank) appears bottom left. So anyone buying the card as a souvenir could send it to a friend or relative, filling in the blank with their chosen location.

Child stealing in Kilburn


Exactly a hundred and five years ago today, on the 29 October 1907, five week old Violet Mabel Gibbons was abducted. Mrs Maud Gibbons and her husband lived in Larch Road, Cricklewood. On the 25th, Maud got on an omnibus with baby Violet who she was taking to be christened. When the bus reached Kilburn, a well dressed young woman got on and sat next to Maud. They got talking. The young woman, whose name was Lily Clowes, told Maud she was an actress. She admired and kissed the baby, and Maud said proudly that everybody took notice of the beautiful child. Lily warned Maud to be careful as several children had been stolen recently. Before she got off at Chapel Street Lily got Mrs Gibbons’ address. On 29 October she turned up unannounced at Larch Road with some eggs and sweets for the baby and the Gibbons’ other children. She had striking ginger hair, was fashionably dressed in a Gibson coat with long tails and seemed very respectable. So when Lily asked if she could show the baby to her mother in Kilburn, Mrs Gibbons agreed. When she was later asked why she let a stranger take her child, Maud simply said, ‘I never gave it a thought. She seemed fond of the child.’ Lily promised to return in an hour. But she didn’t. Maud became concerned, particularly when she discovered the address she had been given for Lily’s mother was a false one. In a desperate state she went to the police. Four days later Maud was called to the Willesden Infirmary where she found baby Violet in a filthy condition.
18 year old Lily had taken the baby to the house of Mrs Akeham in Brondesbury Road and spent the night there. At first she said the baby was her’s but then said it belonged to a friend. Her boy friend Frederick Plumb called the next day and they left, with Plumb holding the baby. He said they should keep the baby as they would be able to get lodgings more easily. But when the baby cried all night, Plumb said they should get rid of it. On 1 November they met a little girl called Mary Adams in College Road, Kensal Rise. They asked her to hold the baby, promised to give her some sweets and a penny and walked off. After an hour and a half Mary took the baby to the police. Several days later Detective Andrews saw Lily buying milk from a barrow outside her mother’s house at 14 Messina Avenue and arrested her. Andrews knew Lily as a prostitute and he also knew Plumb, who had been under restraint ‘owing to a weak state of mind’. Plumb was later arrested in Barnet.
This was not the first time that Lily had taken a child. On the 8 July 1907she called at the house of George Grocott, a plumber, at Harlesden. She asked if she could buy the six month old child a frock and took the baby with her. Two days later the baby was found in a house off Regent Square Euston, where Lily and a man had taken a room. Lily had left a note with the baby asking the landlady to return it to the Grocotts.
After Lily was arrested, she agreed to stay in a missionary home, St Alban’s in Regent’s Park, but after only two hours she ran away. She was found and arrested in Oxford Street with a group of prostitutes.
On 23 February 1908Lily now with dark rather than ginger hair, appeared at the Guildhall Middlesex Sessions and pleaded guilt to stealing a silver watch and other items from George Grocott. She and 23 year old Plumb denied taking the two babies. Surprisingly, Plumb was acquitted, but Lily was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
Lily was born on 23 June 1890 and in 1902 she had attended Netherwood School near Grange Park, Kilburn. (Opened in 1881, the school has since been converted into private flats).
On 23 May 1907 Lily married Harry William Driver, a cycle fitter of 5 Narcissus Road, at Hampstead Town Hall. But they never lived together. Lily said on her wedding day she ran off with Plumb, who she met when she was fifteen. Plumb had ‘ruined’ her and promised her marriage. Several times they had been to a registry office but he didn’t have enough money for a license. Lily said that Plumb had deserted her, leaving her penniless. She’d protected him many times but wouldn’t any longer. A policeman was put between them in the court.
On 30 September 1910 Lily’s widowed mother, Martha Clowes, died at 14 Messina Avenue. She was a spiritualist and had given her occupation in the previous census as a ‘meadium,’ which had been crossed out.
In 1911 Plumb was living and helping his widowed mother run a pub at 24 Great Marlborough Street, Westminster. But unfortunately, we couldn’t find what happened to Lily after her time in goal.