Archive for the ‘Local’ Category

Two radical addresses in South East London

December 1, 2013
26 Barset Road SE15

26 Barset Road SE15

According to Sarah Young’s map of ‘Russian’ sites in London, 26 Barset Road (as above) was one of the correspondence addresses for Iskra. Clearly this is not the same building as, and possibly not even the site of the original No. 26, which may have been something like these houses nearby:

Howbury Road may have the only original houses hereabouts

Howbury Road may have the only original houses hereabouts

Meanwhile, not so far away at 22 Stondon Park SE23 we find a house with a plaque to commemorate Jim Connell, who wrote the words to The Red Flag while coming home by train in 1889.

22 Stondon Park SE23

22 Stondon Park SE23

Shaky picture of plaque

Shaky picture of plaque

It’s interesting that the second verse

Look ’round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise;
In Moscow’s vaults its hymns are sung,
Chicago swells its surging song.

seems to refer to the Haymarket Affair of 1886, recently alluded to in this blog.  ‘Moscow’ could refer to the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 and the consequent loss of his proposed constitution and other liberalising reforms.

Books in Some Charity Shops of South London: Human Relief Foundation, New Cross

October 27, 2013


The Human Relief Foundation at 291 New Cross Road turned out to have quite a few books.  There were about 450 of them you could see, but they seemed to be arranged in a double line so there was probably the same number behind that you couldn’t see.  In the event, I bought a hardback, mint condition, signed copy of Alistair Darling’s Back from the Brink for £1-60, but what really struck me was Jonathan Strange & pan Norrell by Susanna Clarková–they had quite a few interesting-looking foreign language books.

And here’s a picture of the opening times:



Missing Ginger/White Cat Crofton Park SE4

August 25, 2013

missingAs a service to the community, we post this appeal that came through the letterbox today.  We know nothing further, as can be seen below!

Conscientious picture of cat-free outbuilding.

Conscientious picture of cat-free outbuilding.


UPDATE 5 SEPTEMBER:  Kipper has now returned home–see comments below.

‘Dubliners’ and Brockley’s contribution to Irish History

June 23, 2013
112 Tressillian Road

112 Tressillian Road

A discussion of Dubliners at Try Books! led me to point out that Brockley had played an important part in the background to Ivy Day in the Committee Room.  It was at 112 Tressillian Road SE4 that Charles Stuart Parnell used to visit Katharine O’Shea (who was still married to Captain O’Shea since he hoped to get his hands on her money), and the ensuing scandal led to his downfall and to Irish Home Rule disappearing from the agenda.

Probably the house wasn’t divided into flats at that stage, and they weren’t so worried about the fate of Lewisham Hospital.

That would have been in the 1880s.  At the same time, the young Edgar Wallace would have been living with his unmarried actress mother just round the corner, in Tressillian Crescent.  Wallace himself was probably the kind of writer Father Butler had in mind when he reprimanded Leo Dillon in An Encounter:

Let me not find any more of this wretched stuff in this college.  The man who wrote it, I suppose, was some wretched fellow who writes these things for a drink.

parnell (2) parnell (3)

Enigmatic yoga in Crofton Park

April 27, 2013


There’s something a little unnerving about this picture, as though you were meant to yogically squeeze yourself through the gate (or fly over it).

It also reminds me of  Hölderlin for some reason:

Where, oh where, when it is winter
Will I find the flowers and where
The sunshine and shadow of earth?
The walls stand
Speechless and cold, in the wind
The weather-vanes clatter.

Excessive modesty in Forest Hill

April 27, 2013


This is really talking modesty a bit too far!  Do they mean We thought we were going to close, but we aren’t or  We’re going to close, but we don’t know when?  The cracked window certainly adds that South London je ne sais quoi.

A Sentimental Journey To Charlton SE7 With Ettore Schmitz

July 25, 2012

Ettore Schmitz/Italo Svevo

The Italian writer Italo Svevo (Ettore Schmitz) lived in England, in particular in Charlton, in the early part of the twentieth century in connection with the family marine paint business he had married into–in doing so, he combined the biographies of Primo Levi and Sherwood Anderson (who each had paint factories) with that of Evgeny Zamyatin (who lived in Newcastle for a time making ships).

There is a book of Svevo’s London writings, which has also been translated into English by the Svevo Museum in Trieste, as below.

Though he had some (many) reservations about English life, Svevo expressed the hope that his daughter could be brought up here:

Se tu sapessi come io vedo nella faccia di ogni miss che passa la felicità di vivere e di essere libera.  (page 32)

É certo che una ragazza che abbandona l’Italia per l’Inghilterra fa buon affare: Conosco abbastanza questo paese per sapere che le donne vi sono molto più felici che non da noi.  (page 156)

I was also interested in things like the description of the ways of commercial travellers, who stayed away from home for months at a time and had their own elaborate rituals for eating in company with strangers.  I also wondered whether society had in fact grown simpler since the time Svevo was writing about, since I don’t think these particular groups and subgroups exist now, at least not in the same multiplicity.  What you do have of course is communities from many different national/ethnic/linguistic backgrounds, which is something completely different from Svevo’s time.

The interest in Charlton for Svevo seems to have been that it was somewhere everyday, not fashionable like Blackheath or industrial/working-class like Woolwich.  So from that point of view it was somewhere resolutely unliterary, and probably a good thing too in view of his unsuccess with literary circles at home in Trieste.  As a man in a foreign country whose language he knew imperfectly, he also had what must have been the welcome opportunity to go and watch the local football tea, a leisure activity that didn’t require any linguistic skills.

Così quando vado ad una comedia inglese sono sempre dolorosamente sorpreso che anche il secondo atto—con un’ ostinazione incredibile—sia detto in inglese, perché la fatica d’intendere il primo m’esaurì.  (page 222)

However, he displayed a properly matter-of-fact attitude to the 1908 Olympics:  Ieri sono stato con Nicoletto al grande concorso atletico internazionale. (page 123)

Here’s a picture of the blue plaque on the house where he lived at 67 Charlton Church Lane:

and here’s the house itself:

together with the view down Charlton Church lane–his factory was in Anchor and Hope Lane, on the other side of Woolwich Road:

Of Charlton Church Lane he said:

Church Lane è una strada linda in erta contornata dalle piccole brune case inglesi. Qui le casette sono tutte botteghe: latterie, macellai, tabaccai, venditori di giornali e anche di telerie. In genere vi si trova di tutto. La bottega occupa tre quarti della casa. Entrando in una di cotali case si resta stupiti come si posso avere una cucina, due camere da letto, una stanza di ricevere coll’inevitabile pianino in uno spazio dove noi metteremmo un porta ombrelli. Ma le povere padrone di casa sono alpiniste; hanno la cucina e una stanza sotto terra, una stanzuccia a pianterra, due al primo piano ed una al secondo. Church Lane diventa volgare più che si scende. Le case hanno il giardino di dietro; davanti c’è la bottega. Salendo invece Church Lane l’aspetto delle case va affinandosi; ognuna ha il suo giardino anche davanti….Così avvenne a Charlton la mia capitale ove la vicinanza delle enormi fabbriche di Woolwich ammorbò l’ambiente e fece fuggire i signori.  (page 168)

Meanwhile–in fact a number of decades later–my earliest memories are of living in Elliscombe Road, which branches off Charlton Church Lane.  We shared the first floor of number 55 (on the right in the picture below), and that pebbledash looks horribly and frighteningly familiar too.

A visit to the Brunel Museum, 7 July

July 25, 2012

Brunel Museum (from their site)

I was hardly expecting very much from an office outing to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, but in the event I was pleasantly surprised.  The museum itself is the building occupying most of the picture above, while we actually went down the shaft on the left of the picture, after having coffee and cakes outside.

Happy people outside the Brunel Museum (picture by Ambrose)

Robert our guide told us about Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames and how it had involved many and various technical advances.  These were explained using pictures from the book The Brunels’ Tunnel as visual aids.

Robert speaking (picture by Ambrose)

The reason for the tunnel was that the Thames was crowded with sailing ships so you couldn’t transfer goods from one side to the other and you couldn’t build bridges either.  Building a tunnel in soft ground rather than rock had necessitated many ingenious advances, such as a caisson which sank slowly into the earth to produce the initial shaft, and a tunnelling shield so that the workmen could dig slowly through small portions of the ground while the shield saved them from disaster.

Caisson (from The Brunels’ Tunnel)

Tunnelling shield (from TBT)

There had of course been various problems with money, and financing had eventually been taken over by HM Treasury on typically stringy and obstructive terms.  In the end, while the tunnel had been build there had been no money to build a large shaft so that horses and carts could use it and so the thing had been restricted to foot passengers who would only ever pay a penny.

Shafts actual and putative (From TBT)

However, in the end shops had been set up beneath the Thames so that for the first time in history men could show their bravery by lingering to buy overpriced tat.  Robert was very keen to point out that the invention of tunnelling had made mass transport and hence the urban city possible; that the Victorians were more sexually aware than we give them credit for, especially those who had seen the can-can in Paris; that the tunnel was Marc Brunel’s greatest achievement; that the contractors for the East London Line had been persuaded to pay for a concrete floor for the shaft so that we could now go down in it and so as to ensure their eternal glory; that the space was now going to be used for cutting-edge dance and similar events in honour of the Brunels’ can-can.

Some of that may have been a bit far-fetched, but I was certainly well inspired by this contact with a time when we in Britain actually did things, and led the world as well.

Note that to go down the shaft (or Grand Entrance Hall)  you need to go on a guided tour,  or perhaps make a special group booking.

Books in Some Charity Shops of South London: Part 5, Lewisham

July 15, 2012

This part of the study was carried out over an extended timescale, with the data on the contents of the Charity Research and Red Cross shops being collected on 1 February, while all of the opening times and the contents of the Scope shop were surveyed on 12 July.

The Cancer Research shop at 135 Lewisham High Street had 5 shelves containing 160 or so books, of which one might have interested me.

Information on opening hours is pictured below:

Maybe they’re the same as for their shop in Blackheath.

The Scope shop at 7 Lewis Grove had 6 shelves containing 160 books.

The opening hours are pictured below:

The British Red Cross shop at 94 High Street had 11 shelves and say 350 books.  I was quite tempted by The rest is noise at £ 2-50.

And opening hours:

Books in Some Charity Shops of South London: Part 4, Blackheath on Sunday

February 20, 2012

This part of the study took in shops belonging to Cancer Research UK and Oxfam.

The Cancer Research UK  shop at 6 Montpelier Vale boasted 5 shelves displaying an approximate 180 books.  I came nearest to buying The Finkler Question (Howard Jacobson, £ 2-00), and there was also an interesting looking book called I crossed the Minch by Louis MacNeice (£ 2-50).  In an age-appropriate display of catatonic conservatism I donated some books here because I had before…Here are the opening hours:

Then the Oxfam shop at 66 Tranquil Vale (where the upper floor used to be entirely given over to books) had 47 shelves and say 1650 books, with many specialised areas not represented by in the other charity shops I’d visited.  Kirk and Raven’s book on The Presocratic Philosophers would be jolly good value at £ 1-99 for someone who didn’t already have it.  The place was also reasonably busy with customers actively engaged in buying books.  Clearly the place to donate anything at all out of the mainstream, even if they did have a notice up saying that due to high stock levels they weren’t accepting donations in the last hour of trading.

Here are Oxfam’s opening hours:

And in Blackheath (on Sunday), the common element was Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, featured in both of these shops.