In July the sun is hot.
Is it shining? No, it's not."
Flanders and Swann,
A Song of the Weather (c.1956).
Wimbledon Fortnight may be over but to keep you entertained I've written an article on the early history of tennis on Wandsworth Common. This isn't because I'm particularly interested in tennis, but because I've come to realise how important the provision of sporting facilities was for the evolution of the Common after 1871 (and particularly after the London County Council took over management of the Common in 1889).
In short, the Common is the size and shape it is largely because of tennis, cricket, football and other sports.
Here's a challenge for you.
Can you work out exactly where this photograph (from 1921) was taken?
Read more about the history of tennis and its effect on the Common.
This month's stories
— Water Sickert an the bust of Tom Sayers
— Mrs Purrant of Bennerley Road, Wandsworth Common, writes about her husband's poisoned finger
— Police win game of Quoits
— My postillion has been inhumanly kicked in the face by an Army Captain on his way to the Epsom Derby
— When swans go bad
— John Buckmaster's Cookery Class
— Emily Duval comes to court for smashing windows: "Every little helps"
— Lost on Wandsworth Common: A blood bay mare
— Samuel Sullings appears in a new suit
— Risks to children playing on the Brighton Line
— Coroner's Court at the County Arms pub: Neal's farm worker dies "by the Visitation of God".
— Madame Poitevin's balloon lands on Wandsworth Common
— King and Queen meet the allotment holders of Wandsworth Common during WWI
— Trams for Bolingbroke Grove?
— Phoebe Buckmaster wins a prize for reading penmanship
— The "horrid chasm which they have made on Wandsworth Common, which henceforward is to be divided eternally..."
— On Wandsworth Common, a pedestrian named Wigley performs a herculean feat.
First, I must mention something I saw this week at the Walter Sickert exhibition at Tate Britain (on until 18 September 2022).
Walter Sickert was James McNeill Whistler's student/assistant (I've written about Whistler a couple of times before, in May and June's Chronicles). Sickert used this bust several times in paintings, but who is Tom Sayers?
ArtUK describes him simply as a "boxer":
"Sickert included the marble bust of the boxer Tom Sayers (1826—1865) in several works executed during the First World War. This is the earliest of Sickert's self portraits to show him wearing a beard and was probably painted c.1913—1915.".
The caption to the painting in the Tate exhibition is a little more informative.
Tom Sayers is the last great bare-knuckle fighter, not just the English Champion in the years immediately before the introduction of the Queensbury Rules but he's also regarded as the first World Champion, having gone to the USA in 1859 and beaten the US champion John Camel Heenan.
Yes, but what is Tom Sayers's connection with Wandsworth Common?
Ah, for that you'll have to wait until I manage to finish at least the first half the "Sporting Wandsworth Common" talk/video. Sorry it's taking so long, but I keep finding new material that I can't bear not to follow up.
I had no idea when I started that the Sporting Wandsworth Common theme would be quite so rich. For example, it's led me to look in some detail at the evolution of the Sports Field (where today's cricket pitches, bowling green, tennis courts and Skylark Cafe are located).
I cover some of this history in the "everyone for tennis?" article here.
"POISONED FINGER. — Mrs. Purrant, writing from 22, Bennerley Road. Wandsworth Common, London, S.W., says:"
"Some time ago my husband contracted a poisoned finger. We tried number of well-known remedies, but his hand grew no better, and so he stayed from his work treated by the "Panel" Doctor. Still there was no improvement, so, having heard of Zam-Buk decided to give it a trial. Zam-Buk soon made the finger look better, and within a few days my husband was completely cured."
DON'T RUN ANY RISKS WITH
ALLOTMENT CUTS & BRUISES
ALWAYS CARRY ZAM-BUK, THE ANTISEPTIC HEALER.
WORK on the allotment produces a big crop of Cuts, Scratches, and Blistered Hands, with the risk of dirt and dangerous disease germs infecting the broken skin and setting up blood-poisoning.
This applies especially to the tens of thousands of people who have been unaccustomed to the use of garden tools.
The best way to get over this trouble is to always carry a box of Zam-Buk. This unique healing balm is of herbal origin, and has Soothing and Antiseptic qualities of rare power not present in ordinary first-aid dressings.
Not only is it a good plan to rub the hands over with Zam-Buk before starting work, but by immediately dressing wounds vith Zam-Buk dangerous complications are prevented, and the sore places healed quickly and painlessly.
The fact that injuries, at first no more serious than slight scratches, may lead to amputation of a limb, and even death, shows how neoessary Is to always have handy a box of Zam-Buk.
POISONED FINGER. — Mrs. Purrant, writing from 22, Bennerley Road. Wandsworth Common, London, S.W., says:
"Some time ago my husband contracted a poisoned finger. We tried number of well-known remedies, but his hand grew no better, and so he stayed from his work treated the "Panel" Doctor. Still there was no improvement, so, having heard of Zam-Buk decided to give it a trial. Zam-Buk soon made the finger look better, and within a few days my husband was completely cured."
Zam-Buk has a World-Wide reputation as the Standard household remedy for Eczema, Bad Legs, Ringworm, Piles, Poisoned Sores, Pimples, Itching Spots, Sunburn, Heat Rash, Insect Bites and Stings, Boils etc. 1/3d [? unreadable] a box, at all Chemists and Drug Stores. Sold in large quantities to Soldiers, Sailors and the W.A.A.Cs through the Army and Navy Canteen Committees.
See also Wikipedia: Zam-Buk
Police win game of quoits
Quoits was a popular game on the Common in the nineteenth century — John Buckmaster writes about it along with cricket and bowls. But by the twentieth century it had largely died out, except (for some reason) among the Wandsworth Common police. It was still being played locally in the 1920s.
POLICE WIN A GAME OF QUOITS
Bolingbroke Quoit Club at Wandsworth Common yesterday played a return match at quoits with representatives of L Division of Police. The last named's score was 124. That of the Quoit Club was 51.
Teams — Bolingbroke: Messrs. Briggs, Bert, Moore, Stroungler, and Reynolds. L Division: Sergeant James (captain). P.C. Ludgate (vice-captain). P.C.'s Nye, Ward, Waldron, and Anglestein.
There is said to be an early phrase-book or English-language primer for the traveller in Portugal that included the immortal sentence: "My postillion has been struck by lightning." (For variants, see here)
This may perhaps be not quite as useful a phrase now as it was in the early ninethenth century, and I must admit I didn't know what (or who) a "postillion" was.
Here's a story of a postillion struck not by lightning, but by a Captain Brathwaite (Braithwaite, Braythwaite etc ) — clearly an absolute bounder, a prototype for Flashman:
When they came to Wandsworth Common, the Defendant [Captain Brathwaite], who wished to get to Epsom time enough for the Derby plates, thought the postillion did not drive with sufficient speed.
He ordered him to dismount, and upon his refusal pulled him off, inhumanly kicked him on the face, and left him laying in the road, in a state of insensibility. He then took the reins himself, and drove with such rapidity, that when the animals reached Epsom, they appeared in a state of the utmost distress.
One of them, a fine free horse, before in perfect health, staggered, and fell down. It rose again, was walked about a mile, then fell down, struggled, and died.
The owner of the horses prosecuted Brathwaite, as we can read here:
"Park Games Tomorrow? LCC to Decide at Meeting Today. Die-hards last ditch..."
On Saturday, the London County Council held a special meeting today to decide whether "Sunday Games in the Parks" could begin the following day. Everything was ready to go but a caucus opposed to the playing of sports on Sundays, including Earl Haddo, demanded yet another vote. It was touch and go but Haddo and his fellow-Sabbatarians lost.
When swans go bad.
MEN with ropes will set out today, to try to catch Bill, the "killer" swan of Wandsworth Common, London.
For twenty-five years Bill has reigned over the pond on the Common — but recently he has been terrorising his kingdom by killing ducks, driving off other birds and attacking dogs. Now he even scares children, say Wandsworth park officials...
Swan that turned killer
MEN with ropes will set out today, to try to catch Bill, the "killer" swan of Wandsworth Common, London. For twenty-five years Bill has reigned over the pond on the Common — but recently he has been terrorising his kingdom by killing ducks, driving off other birds and attacking dogs. Now he even scares children, say Wandsworth park officials.
Park Superintendent Henry Davies said last night: "We have tried to coax him near enough to grab him, but he hisses, flaps his wings and makes off. As he packs a knockout blow in each wing, we have to be careful. "
Bill, now under sentence of death, turned "killer" after his mate was stoned to death some years ago, say park attendants.
But Bill wasn't the first swan to cause concern.
"It is... to be feared that the slaughter of innocent young ducks will go on."
Something will have to be done about it, say the people who live opposite the swan pond at Wandsworth Common. A few of these good people have already done something — they have written to the County Council, but that body is too busy — considering plans for the reduction of the rates — to suggest any practical measures for the relief of residents of Bolingbroke-grove.
It is, therefore, to be feared that the slaughter of innocent young ducks will go on.
The slaughterer is a singularly ferocious swan, who has it into his head that the pond belongs to him, and to his spouse, and that all other feathered creatures who venture thereon are trespassers asking for extermination.
According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, the swan grips the ducklings by the neck and holds them under water till they are drowned.
The idea of drowning a duck would not occur to the average human being, but swans seem to have an uncanny instinct.
Public opinion in the neighbourhood favours the ducks. Men, armed with sticks, endeavour to protect them from the murderous malice of the swan, and old ladies call out from bedroom windows.
In spite of these heroic measures, the fate of the ducklings will be sealed unless the County Council comes to the rescue..
Advert for a lecture by John Buckmaster at the London International Exhibition's School of Cookery, Albert Hall.
LOST, on Friday Brewing, a BLOOD BAY MARE, thorough bred, her off fore leg white on the fetlock joint to the hoof, the other three legs black, shews that she has cut behind,and is now five years old. She threw her groom on Wandsworth Common and ran off: sho had on a particular bit, with new double reins, a saddle made by Turner, of Epsom, and a white saddle-cloth.
She was stopped in the lane leading to the Wheat Sheaf, at Tooting, and delivered to a man on a grey horse, in brown livery.
Whoever will give notice where the said mare is, to Mrs Hall, Hamilton-street, Piccadilly; or to Mr. South, at the Leg of Mutton, at Ashted, Surrey, shall be amply rewarded for his trouble and expence; and any person detaining the saidm arewill be prosecuted as the law directs.
The "lane leading to the Wheat Sheaf" is now called Trinity Road — the Wheatsheaf pub is still there (was it rebuilt c.1890?), opposite Tooting Bec tube.
"Samuel Sullings, who was imprisoned with hard labour for breaking down fences at Wandsworth Common... was entertained by a number of his fellow-workmen at the Infant School, Battersea, on Saturday."
Samuel Sullings, who was imprisoned with hard labour for breaking down fences at Wandsworth Common, and subsequently released on a memorial presented to the House Secretary by Sir C.W. Dilke, M.P., was entertained by a number of his fellow-workmen at the Infant School, Battersea, on Saturday.
Sullings appeared in a new suit of clothes, hat, and boots, which were paid for by a few friends. The workmen have made a subscription, which will be placed in the Post-office Savings Book."
Mr. Churchwarden Buckmaster occupied the chair, and made a speech, in which he endeavoured to show that those who had erected the fences were more guilty than Sullings; and the idea of saying to poor men, when their rights and enjoyments were taken away by rich people, that if they felt aggrieved they could proceed by action at law or indictment, was simply adding insult to injustice. (Cheers).
The chairman then referred to various matters connected with the common, and expressed a hope that it would not be necessary for working men to suffer imprisonment in defence of what they believed to be their rights; he looked with hope and confidence to the result of the forthcoming City meeting.
Three cheers for Mr. Buckmaster, three groans for those who had enclosed the common, and a vote of thanks to the vicar for allowing the use of the schoolroom, concluded the proceedings.
THE BRIGHTON LINE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE STANDARD.
Sir, — In your paper to-day you mention the case of a little boy killed on the Brighton line. May I call attention to the fact that a great part of the same line from Clapham Junction, running through Wandsworth Common, is protected only by an open rail, and that nearly every evening a dozen littie children may be seen on the bank inside the fence, and within a few feet, sometimes, of the metal?
Surely some further protection ought to be afforded where a line runs through a suburban common swarming with young children who can scarcely know their danger.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Endlesham-road, Balham, July 16.
Coroner's inquest at the County Arms: A 75-year-old labourer "died by the Visitation of God."
A doctor "bled him in the temples and adopted other remedies, but he gradually sunk, and died in about two hours."
DEATH FROM COUP DE SOLEIL
On Monday evening, Mr W Carter, coroner for East Surrey, held an inquest at the County Arms Tavern, Wandsworth Common, upon the body of Matthew Kerley, aged 75, a labourer, who died under the following circumstances.
On Friday last deceased, who worked for Mr Robert Male [presumably Robert Neal], a nurseryman on Wandsworth Common, was hoeing some ground, when he suddenly dropped to the ground, and was found by a labourer named John Young, lying on his back, with his eyes wide open and senseless. This man got assistance, and a deceased was conveyed to a shady part of the ground.
Mr Wilkinson, the resident surgeon of the new prison, was apprised of the circumstance, and quickly attended the deceased, whose head he found to be very hot, and the pulse beating fast. He bled him in the temples and adopted other remedies, but he gradually sunk, and died in about two hours.
There was no doubt of the powerful rays of the Sun bring the the primary agent. The jury returned a verdict of quotes "Died by the visitation of God."
During the First World War, as in the Second, much of the Common was given over to allotments. (I'm sorry to say I only know of aerial images of the latter — see next month's Chronicles.) There was much excitement locally when the King and Queen came to visit.
KING AND QUEEN AMONG ALLOTMENT HOLDERS
The King and Queen, who have all along, taken much interest in the question of food production, have learned with much satisfaction of the great extension of allotment holdings, and have set a splendid example by turning all the flower beds in the Buckingham Palace grounds into vegetable gardens.
Last year they intended to visit some of the principal allotment centres in the London area, but the arrangement was spoiled by heavy rain.
No further opportunity arose until Saturday, when they visited Wandsworth Common, Putney Common, Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon, Merton Park and Clapham Common and spent a couple of hours in inspecting allotment gardens and chatting with allotment holdors.
A very cordial reception was given to Their Majesties at all points of the journey and at the various centres visited.
Crowds of people lined the approaches to the allotments, many bouquets were presented to the Queen, and repeatedly flowers (some of them grown on the allotments) wore thrown at or into the Royal motor as it passed...
Their Majesties were informed that in the Borough of Wandsworth there are altogether 7457 allotments, or /a total acreage ol oC 9, as against a pre-war acreage of 50. The crops were almost without exception very fine indeed, and everywhere there were evidences of application and great care...
"As the visitors were leaving, an elderly woman, apparently of the gipsy type, pressed forward and managed to grasp the King's hand..."
As the visitors were leaving, an elderly woman, apparently of the gipsy type, pressed forward and managed to grasp the King's hand, which she shook very heartily.
She did not notice the Queen for a moment, but then apologised in a naive way for her neglect.
She said, "You are not jealous, are you?" And the Queen replied, with a very hearty laugh, "Oh dear, no — not at all." "God bless you both," exclaimed the old lady fervently, and then she asked Her Majesty to accept a pea pod "for luck."
The Royal lady, aware of the legend about the luck of nine peas in a pod, smilingly accepted the gift, and although the giver did not add the familiar "cross my hand with silver," the King directed his equerry to hand to her a sum of money...
Loud cheers were given for the King and Queen as they entered their car for tno drive back to Buckingham Palace.
The death of John Buckmaster.
FRIEND OF COBDEN AND BRIGHT
The death is announced, at the age of 89, of Mr. John Charles Buckmaster, J.P., of Teddington, one of the best-known public men in the district. There were few local movements in which he did not take a practical interest, and at the time of his death he was chairman of three Education Committees.
In his younger days Mr. Buckmaster took an active part in the Anti-Corn Law movement, and enjoyed the friendship of Richard Cobden and John Bright. It was largely through his efforts that Wandsworth Common was secured as a playing ground for London.
Mr. S. O. Buckmaster, K.C., the well-known Chancery barrister, is one of the deceased's sons.
TRAMS FOR BOLINGBROKE GROVE
It was reported that the London County Council were considering the desirability of acquiring a strip of Battersea Cemetery if it became necessary to widen Bolingbroke-grove for tram traffic.
However it was eventually decided there wasn't quite enough room. I imagine the narrow strip of Wandsworth Common along Bolingbroke Grove (poosite the cemetery) may have been tempting. But the 1871 Act that protected the Common was absolute.
The proposal of the London County Council to run a tramway by the side of Wandsworth Common horn Battersea Rise to Balham is evoking a storm of opposition from the residents in and around Bolingbroke Grove, a pleasant, shady road which skirts what is left of the ??.
The greatest objection is to the consequent removal of the trees, which have for so many years adorned this suburban thoroughfare, and would certainly obstruct the proposed cars. A strong committee has already been formed, and an influentially-signed memorial is in course of preparation.
By July 1870, after innumerable public and private meetings, court cases, and letters to the national and local press, it seemed finally that Earl Spencer had agreed his compensation package (£250 p.a. and a free hand to build Spencer Park) and Wandsworth Common would be protected in some kind of public ownership. It took another year, until 31 July 1871, for the Wandsworth Common Act to be passed.
"ALL's well that ends well." The Wandsworth Common difficulty is in a fair way of being settled satisfactorily, and in the interest of the public. If the prospective settlement confirms present anticipations, the efforts recently put forth will not have been "Love's Labour Lost."
John Bull protests about the time it is taking for the London to Southmpton railway company to build a bridge across the "horrid chasm which they have made on Wandsworth Common, which henceforward is to be divided eternally, destroying the comfort as well the appearance of the neighbourhood, and depriving the inhabitants of a place of healthful recreation and amusement". (I assume this was the Battersea Rise bridge.) It appears the company has run out of money.
[W]e cannot but notice the outrage committed, we suppose under the powers conferred by Act of Parliament, in placing barricades across the King's highway from Clapham to Wandsworth, with no other qualification than notice painted on board announcing that the said King's highway is stopped and blocked up until the brokers and barterers in shares of the Southampton Railroad can get money and men enough to build a bridge over horrid chasm which they have made on Wandsworth Common, which henceforward is to be divided eternally, except where this to-be-built bridge is to unite it, destroying the comfort as well the appearance of the neighbourhood, and depriving the inhabitants of a place of healthful recreation and amusement; and this rail-road is to run — if ever its patching pieces are brought together — from London to Southampton, to and from which place, including Winchester, Basingstoke, &c., four coaches per diem travel, never full, and which have to convey, as some wag says, nothing but prawns and parsons from Hampshire to London.
See also Wikipedia: London and Southampton Railway.
The bridge was built the following year:
Note: There is a caption on a monochrome version that says it is Trinity Road (which implies the one behind is Heathfield Road). Possibly, but I'm not so sure. The caption itself cannot be contemporary with the painting because the road was not thus named until several decades later. If we knew whether we are looking up or downhill, or whether the track veers to the left or right, that would clinch it. But both are uncertain (or are they?). There was also a deep quarry (possibly called "Potter's Hole) to the west of the line, between "Trinity Road" and Heathfield Road. As a result, there was no embankment here. Can this be seen?
On Wandsworth Common, a pedestrian named Wigley performs a herculean feat.
GREAT PEDESTRIAN FEAT.
On July 27, a pedestrian, named Wigley, undertook for a wager of £20 to run one mile, walk one mile, wheel a barrow one mile, trundle a hoop one mile, and hop on one leg one mile, and complete the five miles in one hour. This herculean feat was performed over a measured mile of road on the Wandsworth Common.
Wheeling a barrow the mile occupied 14 minutes, running 8 minutes, trundling the hoop 10 minutes. walking 10 minutes, and hopping the mile 11 minutes, and the whole distance was accomplished in the several modes stipulated in 58 minutes, and Wigley exhibited no signs of fatigue at the conclusion of his task.
He subsequently ran two miles in 16 minutes for a wager of £5, winning easily.
(Notice the nice pun in the title.)
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