Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Suffragettes in Kilburn


In January 1910 the Suffragettes opened a shop and office for the North West London branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) at 215 High Road Kilburn. The Hon. Secretary and treasurer was Mrs Eleanor Penn Gaskell. They were at this address until 1913, when they moved across the road to 310 High Road. Eleanor continued in post until 1915 and the WSPU had left Kilburn by 1917.

An amusing story appeared in the newspapers. Under the headline ‘She wanted to see the Show’, a little girl had gone into the Kilburn shop soon after it opened, placed a penny on the counter and said, ‘Please may I see the Suffragettes?’ At the time some people certainly regarded them as a side show.

The WSPU was an important element in the campaign for woman’s suffrage. Formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, the headquarters moved from Manchester to London in 1906. The organisation became skilled at arranging rallies and demonstrations, taking a militant stance in the fight to get votes for women; for example, their members opted to go to prison rather than pay fines or carried out acts of criminal damage that also resulted in being sent to gaol.

WSPU poster 1909
Mrs Gaskell
Scottish-born Eleanor Charlotte Lindsay had married George Edward Penn Gaskell, a barrister and secretary of the National Society for Epileptics, at All Souls Church, Harlesden on 14 July 1891.

By 1907, Eleanor was secretary of the Willesden branch of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage and she became an active speaker for the WSPU. Although she was willing to participate, George may have restrained her from taking part in militant activities. She was only arrested once, on the 19 October 1908, for causing an obstruction in Piccadilly Circus.  That afternoon, Eleanor and Annie Smith had been handing out leaflets for a meeting where Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter were guest speakers. The police claimed they were causing an obstruction as a crowd gathered and traffic slowed down to see what was going on. When asked to move on for a second time by a constable, Eleanor replied, ‘Why don’t you take us now?’ The two women were promptly arrested and appeared later that day at Marlborough Street Police Court. Eleanor told the magistrate that she’d been joking, ‘never dreaming that she would be arrested.’ They were released on bail and it seems likely Gaskell paid, as the money was put up by ‘a barrister.’

At their second court appearance, the two women again denied causing any obstruction, saying that they had been walking in the gutter and not on the pavement, and only one or two people stopped to watch. The magistrate disagreed and they were bound over, on their own recognizance of £10, to not repeat this sort of behaviour again during the next six months. Eleanor told the court, ‘I protest most bitterly against the injustice.’  Both women refused to pay but they were released.

George wrote many letters to the Home Office, complaining about the conditions under which his wife and Annie Smith were held before their first appearance at the Police Court. The matter was raised in Parliament a week later when it was argued that the matter could have been dealt with by a summons, rather than a court appearance. It was said that Eleanor and Annie had been ‘imprisoned in a small cell-like room, together with a woman charged with being a prostitute, for some two hours. The ladies complained of having been subjected to many other indignities while awaiting trial.’ The allegation was summarily dismissed: ‘these ladies were, in fact, treated with special consideration’ and held in an unlocked waiting room.

But symptomatic of the official attitude to such matters was the Prime Minister’s comment. When asked if he would, ‘afford facilities for discussing during the present session a motion relating to woman’s suffrage’ Mr Asquith replied, ‘No Sir; as I have already stated, time cannot be found for the discussion of contentious matters.’ His comment was greeted with ‘laughter and cheers.’

In the 1901 and 1911 census George and Eleanor were living at 12 Nicoll Road in Willesden. The only name on the 1911 form is George’s but his wife was probably at home. He wrote a long comment to the authorities.
A number of women suffragists spent the night of 2nd April (census night) in my house. As members of a disenfranchised sex they object to giving any particulars concerning themselves for the purpose of enumeration under a census act in the framing of which their sex has had no voice. They base their objection upon the principle that government should rest upon the consent of the governed, and as I myself uphold this democratic principle I do not feel justified in filling up any particulars concerning them against their will.

The enumerator who collected the form commented: ‘I interviewed Mr Penn-Gaskell in order to obtain the necessary information, but was politely, but firmly, refused.

A large number of women boycotted the census, some refusing to fill in the form and registering a protest. Others spent the night away from home. Eleanor was a close friend of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who hid in a cupboard in the House of Commons on the night of April 2, to avoid the census. (In all, she concealed herself three times in the House). Emily was immortalised on film when she famously stepped into the path of the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby:

Emily Wilding Davison after being hit by the King's Horse at the 1913 Derby
The horse struck the woman with its chest, knocking her down among the flying hoofs . . . and she was desperately injured . . . Blood rushed from her mouth and nose. The horse turned a complete somersault and fell upon his jockey, who was seriously injured.

Queen Mary’s first thought was for ‘poor Jones’, the jockey and she referred to Davison as ‘the horrid woman.’ Sadly, Emily died from a fractured skull four days after the race. The previous year she had been nursed back to health at Eleanor’s home, after being on hunger strike and forcibly fed in Holloway prison.


The Kilburn WSPU campaigned locally against the Liberals during the General Election of 1910.
The woman suffragists have been taking a more active part than in most of the London contests. Their committee-room in the Kilburn High-road with its gruesome representation of a suffragist being force fed in prison, has attracted a great deal of attention, and on Sunday their speakers were to be found arguing with not particularly responsive crowds at every street corner.

The Messina Avenue meeting
But on occasion the WSPU speakers met with a far more robust reception. On 17 June 1911, the Times reported a typical case which again illustrated how much resistance there was to the issue of votes for women. On the evening of May 13, Miss Marie Naylor, a well-known WSPU activist, had been talking to an attentive crowd of about 40 people in Messina Avenue, opposite their office on the High Road. Suddenly a first floor window was thrown open. This was above a sporting goods shop, 232 Kilburn High Road on the corner with Messina Avenue. Richard Annenberg who worked in the family business with his elder brother, along with two or three other men, lent out of the window and started making a ‘hideous noise with horns, whistles, bells, tin plates, and yells’ to disrupt the meeting. A large crowd of about 500 people gathered, blocking the pavement and street, holding up the traffic. In this instance it wasn’t the WSPU who were summonsed, but the shop assistant, for causing an obstruction to the highway. When he appeared in court, the police said the noise from the window had continued for half an hour, with Annenberg shouting,
We are doing this as a protest. These people come here and spoil our business. Why don’t they go away? This is not done as a joke; we don’t want suffragettes here spoiling our trade. Do we want the suffragettes?
He and his companions chanted, No! No! No!

This was obviously not the first meeting the WSPU had held on the corner of Messina Avenue, one of the closest convenient pitches to their office. Annenberg said he had a petition signed by the majority of residents and shopkeepers of the neighbourhood complaining of the annoyance caused by the meetings that drove customers away. He denied objecting to the suffragettes because they ceased to patronise him, saying they had never bought anything from him, apart from a croquet ball. Why a single croquet ball? Perhaps it might be explained in the context of one of the WSPU’s most common protests, that of breaking windows! Richard was fined 20s with 2s costs.

The Annenbergs, with a main shop in King Street Hammersmith, ran the sporting outfitters shop in Kilburn from 1910 until 1934. Today, showing how the High Road has changed, number 232 is a Speedy Cash Loans.

George and Eleanor Penn Gaskell lived at 14 Mapesbury Road, Brondesbury from 1929 to 1937, where she died on 8 May 1937 at the age of 76. George resigned from his post as secretary to the National Society for Epileptics, and moved to Chalfont St Peter where he died on 12 June 1946. His Times’ obituary notes his pioneering work in helping epileptics lead a normal life but makes no mention of his wife or his support for the suffrage cause.

Miss Marie Naylor
Marie Naylor, the WSPU speaker in the Messina Avenue incident, was born about 1866, the daughter of a wealthy clothier who lived in Barnes. An artist, she studied and exhibited at the Royal Academy and had a one-woman show in Paris in 1898. She joined the WSPU in 1907 and became a regular and eloquent speaker at their meetings. One of 58 women arrested during a demonstration that year outside Parliament, she was released without charge. But her commitment to the cause was unwavering and she wrote an article published in the WSPU’s paper, ‘Votes for Women’, where she vowed to ‘follow these women to prison or to death’.

Miss Marie Naylor
In February 1908 she was arrested again and this time sentenced to six weeks in Holloway Prison. In November 1911 she broke a window in the Home Office and spent five days in prison. Marie lived at 1 Stamford Bridge Studios off Fulham Road, from 1899 until her death in 1940 during a bombing raid while visiting friends in Petersfield, Hampshire.

The Right to Vote
The long battle of the suffragettes finally brought about change. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act allowed women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote. Although 8.5 million women met these criteria, it only represented 40 per cent of the total population of women in the UK.

The same act abolished property and other restrictions for men, and extended the vote to all men over the age of 21. Additionally, men in the armed forces could vote from the age of 19. The electorate increased from eight to 21 million, but there was still huge inequality between women and men.

It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This Act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Moneylender, the Actress and 'Lady Silk Tights'


Lodene, Shoot up Hill
‘Lodene’ stood on the corner of Shoot up Hill and Walm Lane, a large detached house which was later renumbered as 77 Shoot Up Hill. The first occupant was Daniel Jay who moved there after his marriage to Carlotta Jacobs in 1889. On the 1891 census he described himself as a bill broker and in 1901 as a financier, but in reality, he was a money lender. We couldn’t trace his birth until we saw someone who was researching the family history of Carlotta Jacobs. She suggested that Daniel Jay may have been Daniel Jacobs, which was indeed the case; we discovered he was born in Gloucester in 1859, the son of Henry ‘Harry’ Jacobs. Daniel had changed his name to Jay before he married Carlotta Jacobs (no relation) in the West London Synagogue.

Daniel Jay in court in 1898

‘The Little Dustpan’
For many years his father Harry Jacobs ran a shop at 35 and 36 Westgate Street in the centre of Gloucester called oddly ‘The Little Dustpan’. Apparently he used the name because the house furnishings he sold there were ‘dirt cheap’.


Harry Jacobs’ name cropped up in the press when he was involved in an investigation by a Select Committee of MPs who looked at the buying of votes in the 1859 Gloucester election. Several witnesses said that they had gone to the shop where Jacobs gave them £5 to vote for Charles James Monk. He was elected to one of the two seats in April but unseated in August, after a complaint was made.  Despite this, Monk was re-elected as an MP several times after 1865.

The Committee inquiry found that Jacobs had been given £177 from a total of £1,000 (today worth about £85,000) from the Reform Club to spend on their candidate, Mr Monk.  The Reform Club was set up by Liberal and Whig MPs to counter the Tory Carlton Club. For many years, it was common for political parties to pay people to vote for their candidates and to stop this, Parliament brought in the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act of 1854. In December 1859 Harry Jacobs was charged under the Act, but the judge threw out the case, because Jacobs had given full details of the people he’d paid and been given a certificate of exemption by the Select Committee. 

Harry Jacobs’ ‘Little Dustpan’ was very successful and he opened another shop in Cheltenham, while a relative ran a third shop in Maidstone. Then after 23 years he announced in the Gloucester Journal on 5 August 1876 that he was selling up and moving to London.

Money lending in London
Harry’s new enterprise was very different to the ‘Little Dustpan’. He set up a money lending business with jeweller Samuel Albert at the fashionable address of 128 Jermyn Street. The first advert we found for ‘S. Albert and Co’ was in May 1879. Jacobs, like many other London dealers, lent money on a promissory note. The notes were payable at the end of three months at a rate of one shilling per pound per month, or 60% per annum. But if the money wasn’t repaid at the end of each three month period, the interest was added in and so the sum owed increased rapidly.

Harry Jacobs’ first London home was 27 Randolph Crescent. By 1885 he had moved to 18 Greville Road at the Kilburn end of Maida Vale, where he died in 1903 leaving £16,261 (about £1.5M today), to his sons Daniel Jay and Harry Vincent Jacobs.

About 1883 Daniel Jay had started his own money lending business near his father at 90 Jermyn Street. His clients were often ‘young bucks’, who gambled and ran into debt. Other clients were married woman who overspent their allowance and relied on their husbands to pay their debts to Jay. Like his father, Daniel made money from the business but he had to resort to the law to recover unpaid loans; in all, between 1891 and 1912, he pursued nineteen cases through the courts.  

‘Lady Silk Tights’
One of these court appearances was a very high profile case. In January 1898 Jay sued Sir Tatton Sykes and his wife Lady Jessie for repayment of several promissory notes.

Sir Tatton Sykes, the 5th Baron was born in 1826, the son of a wealthy landowner at Sledmere near Hull in East Yorkshire. As a sickly child he was bullied by his father who said he was good for nothing. As an adult he became eccentric, wearing many layers of overcoats to maintain his body temperature. He was also obsessed with his health, eating a daily diet of milk puddings produced by a cook who accompanied him wherever he went. Tatton’s only real interests were breeding racehorses and building churches. 
 
Sir Tatton Sykes

He was painfully shy but knew that he needed to marry and produce an heir to the estate. Despite his enormous wealth, he was turned down by several prospective wives. Then, when he was 48, he married the dashing 18 year old Jessie Cavendish-Bentinck, a granddaughter of the Duke of Portland. Jessie’s mother, Britannia, ensured that ‘the wedding of the season’ was a high society event. Held on 3 August 1874, Vanity Fair wrote, very tongue in cheek,
I hear there was a quiet little marriage between Sir Tatton Sykes and Miss Bentinck, assisted by a 1,000 or so other people, at a suburban retreat called Westminster Abbey.

Although Jessie tried her best and threw herself into becoming the mistress of a great country house and travelled with her husband on journeys around the world, the marriage simply did not work. Jessie confided to a friend that it had taken Sir Tatton six months to consummate the marriage, and then only when she’d got him drunk. Not surprisingly, after a few years the couple decided to live apart: she at 46 Grosvenor Street in London while he stayed at Sledmere on his 34,000 acre estate.

Jessie quickly spent her £3,000 a year allowance (worth about £280,000 today) as well as several lump sums which Sir Tatton gave her. She ran up huge gambling debts, and was called the ‘greatest woman Plunger’ of the century, (a plunger was the term for a reckless gambler). The situation got out of hand and in December 1896 Sir Tatton was advised by his lawyers to put an advertisement in the papers which said he would not be responsible for any of Lady Sykes’ debts. He was the first husband to do this by using an interpretation of the 1882 Married Woman’s Property Act, which ironically, was actually designed to improve married women’s rights. Unfortunately for Sir Tatton, the advert alerted all of Jessie’s debtors and they took him to court to try to get the money they were owed. In court Tatton said Jessies’ debts currently totalled £69,000, equivalent today to £6.5 million.

Daniel Jay sued Sir Tatton in January 1898 for £15,872 (about £1.5M today) owed on promissory notes, and the five-day case was reported in all the papers. The public were given an insight into the excessive spending habits of Lady Sykes, which demonstrated that she had no control over money. Sir Tatton’s barristers brought in a stream of witnesses to show that the signatures on the five promissory notes given to Jay were not those of Sir Tatton. The jury decided in Sir Tatton’s favour and Jay lost the case. But if Sir Tatton had not signed the notes, then who did? The obvious candidate was Lady Sykes, but the jury astonishingly never raised the idea that she had forged his signature. It was believed, though never admitted, that Sir Tatton later quietly paid Jay the money that Jessie owed him.


Sir Tatton and Jessie were certainly an odd couple. After fighting each other in the court, they would ride home to Grosvenor Street in the same carriage and sit down to dinner together.  Then the next morning, after breakfast, they would return to court for another day of controversy.

But occasionally, when Sir Tatton became exasperated by Jessie, he could be vicious. When their 16 year old son Mark was returning to Sledmere from boarding school for the Easter holidays, his father ordered the gamekeeper to kill Mark’s beloved terriers. A groom took Mark and showed him the bodies of the dogs hanging from a tree. This terrible act of cruelty was meant to upset Jessie rather than punish Mark.

Jessie had many lovers and held lavish parties at her smart London house. On her first trip to New York she was called ‘the most spirited Lady Sykes’. But later, behind her back, she was dubbed ‘Lady Silk Tights’ and lost her standing in society. She began to drink heavily and became an alcoholic. Her loyal maid, Gotherd, was forced to hide her scent bottles as Jessie would drink perfume if nothing else was available. Apparently, the maid even had to conceal Jessie’s corsets, to prevent her drunken mistress from going out and making a fool of herself.

But Jessie also had another and creative side. She edited two weekly journals and wrote several novels. In November 1899 she travelled to South Africa with her son Mark who by then was an officer, and nursed the wounded in the Boer War, writing a book about her experiences which sold well.

Jessie died in London in January 1912 and was buried in Sledmere. Sir Tatton was overheard leaving the church saying, ‘Remarkable woman, but I rue the day I met her.’ Jessie was however, loved by the people of Hull for her good works and charitable gifts. She had delivered Christmas treats to children in Hull for 25 years. Sir Tatton Sykes died in May 1913 leaving £289,446, worth about £24 million today, to his only child, Lt Colonel Mark Sykes.

For a very good book about his family see Christopher Simon Sykes book, ‘The Big House’ (2004).

The Actress
A few months after the ‘Lady Silk tights’ case, Daniel Jay found himself on the other side of the court as a defendant. He was sued in November 1898 by an American-born actress with the stage name of Jenny McNulty. She said Jay had illegally taken furniture and other items of hers and sold them in her absence. Since 1885 Jenny had been a successful actress on the London stage and earned a good salary, ranging from £10 to £30 per week. In a review of a show at the Gaiety Theatre she was described as, ‘a young and pretty damsel who was greatly admired in ‘Adonis’ and is said to have drawn more money to the show (when it was in New York).’

In 1893 Mary McNulty (her real name) had met William Victor Paulet, who told her he was a wealthy gentleman. After a year they married and stayed at her flat in Iddesleigh Mansions, Caxton Street Westminster, where she had lived since 1885. After the marriage, Jenny discovered that far from being independently wealthy, Paulet was in debt. She tried to pay back some of what he owed, but finding it too expensive to stay in London the couple moved in September 1895 to the large 14-room Spencer House in Aylesbury.

In 1896 Jenny received a telegram saying her father was ill and she sailed to America. Her father died in May and after Jenny had received no letters from her husband for five months, she wrote asking William to send money so she could return to England. But she still got no reply and could only afford to return in April 1897. She made enquiries at his club ‘The Orleans’ in King Street and was told her husband had gone away. She asked Jay, who had loaned William money, if he knew where William was. Jay said no, and explained that while Jenny was in America, Paulet had sold him most of the furniture from Spencer House for £500 to pay off his debts. Jenny then discovered that her home had also been sold. She located some of her expensive stage dresses in the Pantechnicon Repository (a storage facility), but they’d been thrown in a heap and were ruined. Jenny was forced to return to the stage where she struggled to make a living. Jay agreed to lend her more money, because he said the silver plate she still owned was worth £150.

Sketches from the court case
Jay told the court that he had known Mr Paulet since 1891 and had made him many loans. In 1897 about £2,000 was still outstanding. Jay said he had also made loans to Mrs Paulet, at a zero rate of interest. He said he’d become the couple’s friend and that Jenny had confided in him on her return from America that she was penniless and so he lent her small sums of money. But when he refused to lend any more, she threatened him, saying she’d ‘make it hot for him’. Jay denied that he had ever made any improper suggestions to Jenny, such as using her beauty to obtain money from men. He believed that she was blackmailing him and that was what this case was really about. Unfortunately for Jay, after four days of evidence the jury decided in favour of Jenny McNulty and she was awarded £1,000 (worth over £93,000 today).

William Paulet
William Paulet was a man of mystery. We think he was born about 1849 in Hornsey.  But he does not show up on any of the birth records, so perhaps (like Jay), this was not his real name. Paulet first appears on the 1871 census when he was living in Howland Street, St Pancras. In 1875 he had travelled to New York where he married Ada Louise Smith who came from a wealthy Connecticut family. Their first child, Maude, was born in Newquay in Cornwall in 1876. Then their son Henry was born in Saltzburg Austria in 1880 where Ada died seven years later. William Paulet returned to England and he appears on the 1891 census as a lodger in 34-35 Jermyn Street, ‘a widower, aged 41 living on income’. It’s interesting that Paulet was then living very close to Daniel Jay who was at number 90 Jermyn Street. Jay said this was when he first met Paulet and lent him money. Paulet went bankrupt in July 1898 and disappeared before Jenny’s court case against Jay. It’s believed that he returned to Austria and died in Vienna, but we haven’t been able to prove this. We could also not find out what happened to Jenny McNulty after she won the case, but we think she continued acting.

Money Lending
Money lending at high rates, or usury, had been an issue for centuries. Concern grew in Victorian England and when Edmund Yates set up ‘The World’ in 1874, it contained an article by Henry Labouchere (known as ‘Labby’) attacking the so called ‘West-End Usurers’. He named Henry Beyfus and Albert Boss of 7 Sackville Street who had charged an annual interest rate of 60% on loans to Lord Albert Clinton. Beyfus and Boss prosecuted the paper for libel. The case was defended by solicitor George Lewis who called moneylenders ‘base, vile and contemptible’ and it was eventually adjourned. A few years later Labby set up his own paper called ‘Truth’ in which he campaigned against fraudsters. In 1884 he named Daniel Jay and his father Harry Jacobs as usurers.

In 1898 Parliament set up a Select Committee to look at money lending. That April Jay was asked to give evidence. He said he started his business in Jermyn Street fifteen years ago with £2,000 and had turned this into £50,000 - £60,000. But he denied that he charged excessive interest rates or put undue pressure on people to pay. Sir George Lewis, the most powerful lawyer of his time, also gave evidence. He put a strong case against the West-End usurers and pointed out their practice of sending out circulars advertising their services. He was particularly annoyed about a new trend whereby Jay and others, such as Samuel Lewis of Cork Street, preyed on married women and lent them money without their husband’s knowledge. Other targets were young undergraduates who got into serious debt and then relied on their fathers to pay off the loans. The confidant of high society and royalty, Lewis gave examples of the many cases he had defended.

The Committee suggested that controls needed to be tightened and this led to the Moneylenders Act of 1900 which required registration of all lenders and allowed courts to dissolve unfair agreements. A second Act in 1927 forbade money lenders employing agents or sending out adverts. Today we have the Consumer Credit Act (1974) where traders must have full licences with the Office of Fair Trading which can be revoked in the event of irregularities. But similar concerns about payday loans still exist. Wonga was recently forced by the new City financial regulator to wipe out about £200 million on loans to 330,000 people, and scrap interest and charges owed by a further 45,000 customers.

Jay leaves London
About 1909 Jay moved to ‘Lodene Cottage, later ‘Lodene Greys’, Cookham in Berkshire where he died in 1935. He was a rich man and left Carlotta £88,842 (equivalent to £4.7 million today). She died there in 1941.

His old house on Shoot Up Hill was taken over by Clark’s College which had a head office in Chancery Lane. The company was begun by George E. Clark in 1880 and initially prepared people for the Civil Service Examination. The branch at Cricklewood continued as a college at least into the 1960s. Today the building has gone and the site is now a block of flats.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Abduction or Seduction? The Kilburn Salvation Army Case



The Salvation Army worked in the poor areas of Kilburn. They recognised the value of music in promoting the gospel so they recruited and trained people to form bands. Popular tunes were adapted so that ‘Way down upon the Swanee River’ became ‘Joy, freedom, peace and ceaseless blessing’! They used a mission hall in Pembroke Road (later called Granville Road), before they opened a barracks in nearby Percy Road in 1889. Today this area is called South Kilburn and there has been substantial redevelopment so many of the Victorian streets have been demolished.

Kilburn Salvation Army Mission Hall, 1894

In January 1886, Richard Hillier and Arthur Artis from Kilburn were convicted at the Old Bailey on a charge of;
Unlawfully taking Lucy Ada Hibberd, aged 16 years and two months, and Amelia Brodie, aged 17, out of the custody of their parents, and carnally knowing them.

The Kilburn scandal featured in many papers and reporters repeatedly drew attention to the fact the men had attended services at the local Salvation Army hall with headlines such as:
Abduction by Salvation Army Men.

But the case was not as simple as the court ruling and headlines would have us believe. Richard and Arthur were 22 year old labourers living at 123 Herries Street, off Kilburn Lane. We could find little information about the men before 1886.
Hillier had been in court on at least two occasions for theft; in 1883 when he was sentenced to three months in prison for stealing boots and in 1884 when he served two months for stealing a belt valued at 6 ½ d. We could find little about Arthur Artis who was the London-born son of a bricklayer and builder who moved to the capital from Suffolk.  

Lucy Hibberd and Amelia Brodie had known each other for years as school friends and neighbours. Their families lived in Peel Street, one of a network of narrow streets fringed by small terrace houses, south of Kilburn Lane and close to Herries Street. Lucy’s father George was a carpenter and Amelia’s dad, Henry Brodie, worked as a cutler, making or selling cutlery.

The court was told that Lucy and Amelia had met Richard and Arthur in May 1885 at the Salvation Army Hall in Pembroke Road, where Richard played the big drum in the band for a while. This was just a round the corner from Peel Street. All four of the young people attended services but they became increasingly disruptive and were regularly ejected. It seems that they only used the Hall as a convenient means of meeting one another, as they had paired off and were ‘walking out’: Lucy with Arthur and Amelia with Richard.

Kilburn Salvation Army Band at a later date, the bass drum player is on the right

Arthur gave a rather different version of events. He said the girls had first attracted his (and other men’s) attention by beckoning to them from their window and saying their parents were out. This was probably Lucy’s house as her father said Amelia spent a great deal of time there. According to Arthur, the girls next ‘divested themselves of their clothing’ and exposed themselves to the audience in the street below.

So - not only was the Salvation Army link a very tenuous one, but far from being abducted, the girls appear to have been more than willing participants. As George Hibberd said, his daughter often refused to tell him anything about her social life or lied about what was happening. On 14 October 1885, Lucy told both Richard and Arthur she had no intention of going home that evening. Arthur said he tried to dissuade her - she was being very foolish – but when Amelia arrived, she agreed to accompany Lucy and the two men to a coffeehouse in Golborne Road, Notting Hill. The owner Edward Holkam rented the couples a room for the night, clearly without asking too many questions. The court was told that it was ‘a matter for future consideration’ as to whether the police would take action against Holkam, presumably for running a disorderly house. The next morning George Hibberd and Henry Brodie went to the police to report their daughters missing. But the girls both came home, Lucy bought back by her brother. 

For a few weeks George kept his daughter a virtual prisoner in the house as he didn’t want her associating with either Artis or Hillier. Matters came to a head on 5th November. It was the habit for neighbourhoods to put on a procession on Bonfire Night, with decorated floats touring the streets and collecting money for charity. Hampstead’s parade was well known, and for some reason, George allowed Lucy to go. He must have known who she’d go with. Sure enough, Lucy and Amelia met Arthur and Richard and together they climbed the hill to Hampstead. The bonfire procession was delayed and it was around 11pm before the couples arrived back in Kilburn. Lucy said she was too scared to go home, so Arthur solved the problem by renting another room for them to share. The following day he asked Lucy to marry him and they spent the night above a coffeehouse in Praed Street, Paddington.

The next morning Arthur took a room in Frederick Street near Kings Cross, for himself and his ‘wife’ under the names of Mr and Mrs Williams. Richard and Amelia took a room a short walk away, at 60 Tonbridge Street, also under an assumed name of Mr and Mrs Wilson. On 13 November Arthur told Lucy he had no more money and she should go home. Richard and Amelia’s liaison lasted slightly longer, until the 16th, when her father, accompanied by a policeman, arrived at Tonbridge Street to take Amelia back to Kilburn.

As both girls were under 18 and their fathers told the police no one had been given permission to take their daughters away, warrants were issued for the arrest of Richard Hillier and Arthur Artis on a charge of abduction. They were taken into custody on 20 November in the Market Place, part of Canterbury Road which led from Kilburn Bridge on the High Road towards Kilburn Lane.

When they were arrested Artis was silent. Hillier said, All right and then, They asked us to take them and finally, It’s false, when the charge was told to him. The men appeared at Marylebone Police Court.

Meantime the Salvation Army wrote to the newspapers to disassociate themselves from the case:
As the treasurer and the secretary of a congregation of poor people who are likely to be blamed in connection with the Kilburn abduction case, it is necessary for us to correct the impression that either of the defendants were members of the Salvation Army at the time when they began to have improper conversation with these girls.

But the headlines persisted. The Northern Echo, under ‘The Abduction by Salvationists’ described Arthur Artis and Richard Hillier as two rough-looking young men at their Old Bailey trial.
The men asserted in the strongest manner that the girls asked them to take them away and they alleged they were both above eighteen. The Recorder (the court official) said that was no answer to the charge and recommended the prisoners to plead guilty, which they did.

The jury had no option but to find Artis and Hillier guilty but added a plea for mercy, because the jurors; ‘believed the girls to have been as bad as the prisoners’.

Artis and Hillier were sentenced to three months hard labour apiece. In Victorian prisons this meant harsh punishment, such as the Treadmill where men were forced to walk for most of the day. Or the Screw, which meant turning a handle where the warders could increase the resistance – hence their nickname of screws.

The girls were not charged and appeared as witnesses in the Police Court. There was some discussion about what all parties had thought to be the legal age to leave home without permission, but at no point did either Lucy or Amelia say they’d been coerced or duped by Arthur and Richard to run away with them.

What happened to Richard, Arthur, Lucy and Amelia?
It’s often impossible to trace people through official documents, when they aren’t famous or have distinctive names. This is the case with Richard Hillier, the reliable trail stops with his Old Bailey sentence. We fared better with Arthur Artis. After coming out of prison, he worked as a house painter and got married in 1888. He stayed in the Kilburn neighbourhood, moving to another house in Herries Street (number 104) by 1891, with his wife Ellen and two young sons. The family (now with four children) was at 223 Kilburn Lane in 1901. Arthur died the following year, aged 38. His widow remarried, ironically, a coffeehouse keeper in Southwark.

And the girls? Both got married. Lucy’s husband was stonemason William Banks. The 1901 census shows them at 80 Glengall Road in Kilburn, with two young daughters. By 1911, Lucy’s home was 66 Northern Road, Aylesbury. There were now five children and William was absent on census night.

Amelia’s husband was George William Dean, a soldier who she married in 1888. Three years later, the census shows her living with her parents in Kilburn at 128 Carlton Road, along with her 1 year old daughter, also called Amelia. At the time George was at Aldershot Barracks. By 1911 they were living at 100 Holly Lane in Willesden with five of their six children; their seventeen year old daughter was born in India, so Amelia had seen quite a bit of the world as a soldier’s wife. By 1911 George was a carman. He died in 1926.

This story gives an interesting insight to life in the poor parts of Kilburn and shows how the press turned a case of two misguided couples running away together into a sensational story involving abduction.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Death of Lynsey de Paul


The well known singer-songwriter died suddenly on 2 October 2014 in Barnet Hospital. She had complained of severe headaches and it is thought that she may have had a brain haemorrhage. She lived at 6 Fairfax Road West Hampstead, for many years before moving to Mill Hill.


She was born as Lynsey Monckton Rubin in 1948. Her parents Herbert and Meta Rubin lived at 98 Shoot up Hill in Cricklewood. Herbert was a property developer. 96-98 Shoot Up Hill is now called the People’s Centre For Change. In 1983 it was a community home for young people.

After leaving the Hornsey Art School, 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 it was covered in the US by Nancy Sinatra.

Lynsey became the first woman to win an Ivor Novello award for songwriting with her 1973 hit ‘Won't Somebody Dance With Me’. She received a second Ivor Novello award the following year for ‘No Honestly’, which was also the theme tune to the ITV comedy of the same name, starring Pauline Collins and John Alderton. She also wrote the theme tune for Esther Rantzen’s BBC One series ‘Hearts Of Gold’. Lynsey represented the UK in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest with the song she and Mike Moran wrote and performed, ‘Rock Bottom’.

In 2007 Lynsey gave an interview to the Daily Mail about her abusive father. She said:
I knew what it was like to be very frightened when I was a small child. I never knew what my father was going to do - slap me, yell at me, criticise me or just ignore me. Once he hit me so hard that I felt sick and dizzy for three days. In the end I had to go to the doctor, who told me I was suffering from concussion. I was 19 then and I knew I had to save up enough money to get out of that house as quickly as possible, which is exactly what I did.

She changed her name from Reuben to de Paul to dissociate herself from her family when she left home. But Lynsey didn't totally escape abusive behaviour, when she entered into relationships with men with histories of violence such as George Best and Sean Connery. Even the great love of her life, Hollywood actor James Coburn, threatened her with violence during the four years they lived together in the late Seventies.

In 1989 she had an affair with Sean Connery which lasted several months. Although he never hit her, Lynsey was upset after discovering the truth about his abusive first marriage to actress Diane Cilento, and because he had spoken out against domestic violence.

Lynsey said she had five offers of marriage, including one from James Coburn, and she continued to wear the engagement ring that Chas Chandler, bassist with The Animals and manager of Jimi Hendrix, gave her. She said she also had 'flings' with Ringo Starr and Dudley Moore.

It is just a coincidence that before they became famous, both Dudley Moore and Sean Connery lived in Kilburn for short periods.

Lynsey's experience with abuse led to her presenting a documentary in 1992 about women's self-defence, called ‘Eve Fights Back’, which won a Royal Television Society award. In 2007 she released her own instructional self-defence video, ‘Taking Control’, which teaches women how to protect themselves mentally and physically against an assailant.

Following the news about her sudden death at the age of 66, numerous tributes have been paid to her.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Lady in the Long Silk Gloves

Margaret Cooper was a very popular music hall entertainer at the piano in the early part of the 20th Century. She and her husband lived in Dartmouth Road Brondesbury.


Writing in ‘The Melody Lingers On’ his book about the music hall, Walter Macqueen-Pope described Margaret;

Beautifully dressed, she would sail on to the stage …. Then she would seat herself, take off her elbow length gloves with great care and in the most leisurely manner, and then proceed to remove her numerous rings and bracelets, which she placed one at a time on the top of the piano. The audience watched spell bound. And then she would begin. … Although her voice was neither strong nor powerful, she had the knack of making every syllable heard, every word tell, even in the largest building; and that without a microphone, which she would have scorned.

Margaret Gernon Cooper was born on 28 June 1877, the daughter of James Cooper, a baker, and his wife Isabella Catherine Gernon. When she was baptised they were living at 403 Walnut Road, Newington, Peckham. In the 1881 census the family were still at this address and James was a baker employing four men. By the 1891 census he was still a baker but they had moved to 16 Chilworth Street in Paddington. James died 27 March 1909 and he had obviously done well, as the London Gazette for 1 June shows he had three shops at 16, 17 and 19 Chilworth Street. Margaret was left £4,827, worth about £420,000 today.

The following year, Margaret married Arthur Maughan Humble-Crofts. Arthur was born on 18 November 1883 in Waldron Sussex, the fourth son of the wealthy Reverend William John Humble-Crofts. Seemingly it came as a surprise for the Waldron community. One paper noted Margaret was ‘married as quietly as possible’ with only a few family members present. Margaret wore a grey satin dress, her father-in-law performed the ceremony and her mother-in-law played the organ. All the bell ringers were given a signed photograph of the bride. The couple met at a concert at a school where Arthur was teaching. They married soon after and Arthur gave up his work to support his wife’s career.  

They moved to ‘Framba’ 103 Dartmouth Road and he is shown there in the phone books from 1911 to 1918. They didn’t have any children and in the 1911 census, Arthur described himself as ‘private secretary and agent to wife.’

Margaret was a very talented musician and composer, playing the piano, violin and organ. After attending the Royal Academy of Music, she worked as an accompanist and sang at concerts and dinners. But there were an awful lot of good performers. Her lucky break came when she was spotted playing at a charity concert by theatre manager Sir Alfred Butt. In the early years of the 20th Century most theatre managers saw songs at the piano as predominately a male act. But Sir Alfred realised here was the potential to attract a new audience to the Palace Theatre and approached Margaret. At first rather dubious about appearing on the variety stage, she took the plunge in October 1906 - and never looked back, ‘she was an instant and overwhelming success.’ When she appeared later that month in Bristol, she was billed as ‘The Latest London Sensation, in her Inimitable “Songs at the Piano”. Her largest fee was £100 for a single performance, which is equivalent to about £8,000 today.

1906 Folkestone
At first her songs were sentimental, but gradually she introduced some tasteful light humour. She played all over the country and in 1912 she successfully toured Australia and New Zealand. Equally at home at the Coliseum or the Queen’s Hall, she was also in great demand for private parties, where she sang before King George V and Queen Mary and visiting royal dignitaries.


There is sheet music online, including ‘Catch Me!’ (1915), with lyrics by Arthur and music by Margaret.  ‘Waltz me around again, Willie’ was one of her best known songs.




Margaret’s career was helped by the parodies of her by H.G. Pelissier and his ‘Follies’. Pelissier impersonated her by exaggerating her preparations before starting to play: carefully placing a handkerchief and the book of words on the top of the piano, then meticulously adjusting the music stool.  

HG Pelissier performing

World War One
During WWI Margaret entertained wounded soldiers in hospitals. All four Humble-Croft brothers joined up. Her husband Arthur joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916 as an Able Seaman and worked in the Admiralty Offices. He made Lieutenant in May 1917 and was sent to Dover that August, where he worked in joint charge of the Naval Exchange for the R.A.F. He died in the Military Hospital, Castle Mount, Dover the day after his 35th birthday, on 19 November 1918, from pneumonia following influenza. He is buried at All Saints Churchyard, Waldron, East Sussex.

What happened to Margaret?
The death of her husband Arthur in 1918 was a severe blow to Margaret and her appearances in the London variety theatres became less frequent. She died four years later from heart failure at 103 Dartmouth Road on 27 December 1922. Although she’d not been in the best of health after suffering breakdown a few months earlier and more recent asthma attacks, Margaret’s death was unexpected. She hadn’t made a will and her brother Alexander David Cooper inherited her £5,032 estate.

Margaret was cremated at Golders Green on 2 January 1923. The ‘vast congregation’ crowded into the chapel. There were many floral tributes from the musical world, including one from Henry Wood dedicated ‘to a great artist’ and the theatre tributes included those from Sir Oswald Stoll and Ellen Terry.

Margaret’s obituary in the Times 29 Dec 1922, says she established a reputation, ‘almost in a night’, for eminently ‘clean’ entertainment and succeeded in retaining this to the last. The many obituaries lamented the loss of a great performer with only a few mild criticisms. One reporter wrote, ‘her erratic behaviour off the stage led to some curious results on occasion’ but he gave no details, and ‘Miss Cooper never sang a song twice in the same way’, but the latter may have been part of her appeal.

Several obituaries agreed her death evoked a ‘peculiar pathos’ as Margaret was planning a new life, having agreed to marry actor and singer Harry Welchman in February 1923. But the related scandal that could have damaged Margaret’s image was something the papers chose to ignore, presumably out of respect for the lady.

Harry Welchman
Born in Devon in 1886, he went onto the stage immediately after leaving school. He was spotted at a pantomime in 1906 by Robert Courtneidge who went on to manage Harry and helped establish a successful career for the actor/singer.


At the time of Margaret’s death Harry was appearing to good reviews in The Lady of the Rose. Up to then, their engagement hadn’t been made public and there was a good reason for this. Margaret’s obituaries fail to mention the fact Harry was going through a divorce. In July 1922 his actress wife Joan, (professional name Joan Challoner), had been granted a decree nisi, on the grounds of Harry’s ‘statutory desertion and adultery’. This was made final in January 1923, a month after Margaret’s death. Her role is open to speculation, as she is never named in the newspaper reports as the ‘other woman.’ Harry later married the actress Sylvia Forde. He enjoyed a long stage and film career, was featured in the BBC’s series ‘This is Your Life’ (1960) and died in 1966, aged 79.

There are clips of him performing on YouTube – including in The Lady of the Rose.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

The History of Netherwood Street, Kilburn


Netherwood Street was a poor street running off Kilburn High Road, as shown at the top of this 1935 Map. The Mission Hall and the Board School can be clearly seen on the right hand side. Today, most of it has disappeared and is covered by Webheath, a large block of council flats.

1935 Map of Kilburn

The United Land Company auctioned off plots of land to various small builders and Netherwood Street was constructed between 1871 and 1880.  There were at least thirteen different builders at work in the street. Some were based in Kilburn, but addresses of others range from Holloway and Notting Hill to Berkeley Square.

The properties in Netherwood Street were for the most part three-storey terraced houses, some with a basement. A few had shops at street level. They were generally owned and rented out by absentee landlords, who regarded the properties as an investment but often lacked the funds to manage them properly. As soon as they were built, the houses were multi-occupied by poor families and disease and deaths were common in the area. Frequently four families shared a house so there were 20-30 people in each. As was the case elsewhere in Hampstead, until enough houses were built, the roadway remained a dirt track, which caused more problems for the residents and owners.

The Vestry Minutes of Hampstead (the precursor of the Council), show examples of disease and poor housing in Netherwood Street

1874 November
The ‘new buildings’ in Netherwood Street are in bad sanitary condition. There are many complaints to the Medical Officer of Health about illness in the street.

1877 October
There are three deaths from scarlet fever in one house.

1879 May
Owners and occupiers press the Vestry to pave the road, ‘also stating it would be a great improvement if the name were altered to ‘Netherwood Grove’, trees having been planted on both sides.’ (The use of such descriptions as ‘Grove’ or ‘Avenue’ put people in mind of more rural and upmarket properties).

1881 August
The house owners had to pay the cost of paving and kerbing the road in front of their properties. Francis Holmes was a newsagent with premises in Chapel Street near Cavendish Square. He owned several properties in Netherwood Street and was being taken to court for failing to pay his share of the paving and kerbing costs. 

1882 August
Two deaths from measles.

1884 June
The London smallpox epidemic. There are seven cases at 29 Netherwood Street, one adult and six children. The 1881 census shows 25 people living in this house.

1884 October
Rent collector G. H. Cooper was summonsed for failing to carry out repairs on four tenement houses in Netherwood Street, owned by a Mr Holmes who did not appear in court. But no further action was taken, as work was being carried out. Cooper went on to describe the ‘serious state of things’ in the road, notably the main sewer, which was the responsibility of the Parish. He said that one of Mr Holmes’s tenants had complained several times of a flow of sewage into his basement, and this had also happened in other houses.

1885 March
The rent collector again appeared in court on behalf of his employer. The sanitary inspector had investigated Cooper’s allegations. Unfortunately for Mr Holmes, the main sewer was fine. The overflow was down to a defective drain at Number 31, one of the houses he owned in the street, and the landlord’s responsibility to repair.
The sanitary inspector described visiting Number 31, home to four families, on 5 February. He found ‘the drain stopped up and sewage floating about in the front area’ and despite issuing an immediate order for repairs, the drain remained partly blocked. The road and pavement had to be dug up at the cost of the landlord, which probably explains why the work hadn’t been done.

1886 January
Two measles and one scarlet fever death.

1886 March
A measles death.

1886 July
Infant deaths from diarrhoea.

In 1896 the Hampstead Medical Officer of Health reported that an epidemic of measles had attacked the streets in the vicinity of the new Netherwood Board School. Eleven fatal cases occurred between 25 December 1895 and 8 January 1896. Most of the children were under two years of age, the eldest was five. The deaths were caused by secondary infections of bronchitis and pneumonia. ‘The disease was only fatal to the children of labouring classes, a fact which points to a want of either care or of means in its treatment.’ At the time there was very little free medical care.

1898 June
The late Victorian standards of what constituted adequate housing were far less exacting than today’s. This is shown in a report by Hampstead’s Medical Officer of Health on conditions in Netherwood Street and neighbouring Kelson Street and Palmerston Road. He concluded most were in ‘fair sanitary condition and not overcrowded.’ The houses were almost all in multiple occupation with sanitation largely dating from the day they were built. The water supply was now judged ample as was the number of toilets, (no figures per house were given). ‘The best kept houses were those which had a responsible landlord, that is one who rents the house and carefully sub-let it. The worst kept were those where the owner did not reside on the premises, but called to collect the rents weekly by self or agent.’
A total of 160 houses were examined, home to 2,264 people of whom 668 were children under 10 years of age.

In May 1910, during a campaign to purchase the grounds of ‘The Grange’ as a much needed open space for Kilburn, the following appeared in the Times.

The death rate in Hampstead generally is the lowest of any borough in London, 9.5 (per 1,000) but the death-rate in the Netherwood Street area just adjoining The Grange, with a population of 3,049, is 16.8. The phthisis (TB) death rate in Hampstead  generally is 0.74, while in the Netherwood-street area it is 2.09.

The 1881 census
Most people in Netherwood Street were working class. In the 1881 census the men worked as; tailors, cab and omnibus drivers, gas fitters, or in the building trade as plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters; others worked for the railway as porters, signalmen, or platelayers. The women had jobs such as; laundress, barmaid, domestic servants, charwomen, and dressmaker. Many families rented space to lodgers or boarders.

But there were a few people with more unusual occupations such as the following:

The Honourable Francis Henry Needham was sharing Number 2 Netherwood Street. He was the son of 2nd Earl of Kilmorey. The Earl went by the nick-name of ‘Black Jack’ and sensationally ran off with his ward and had a child by her. Francis married Fanny Amelia Hubbard in 1840 and they had six children. She died in 1884. It is not clear why Francis Needham was living in Kilburn in 1881 and 1891. By the 1901 census he had moved to Paddington, now aged 82 and shown as ‘feeble minded’. He died the following year.

At Number 10 was Kate Middleton, an actress listed as ‘retired tragedian’.

Henri d’Archimbaud, a Professor of French Literature, was sharing Number 49.

William Wallace Leitch, watercolour artist, was at Number 67. He was the son of a famous Royal Academy artist, William Leighton Leitch, who lived at 124 Alexandra Road.

Two Nottinghamshire born men, Charles Boot and Tom Gregory, were lodging at Number 81. Both gave their occupations as bootmakers – which was their original trade - but they were also talented cricketers, employed as groundsmen at Hampstead Cricket Club.
           
Child Neglect
We found two sad newspaper reports of child neglect due to poverty, and one case which legally involved neglect but had a positive outcome.

In 1880 Thomas Gregory, a commission agent, was accused of deserting his three children and jailed. They’d been pupils at what was described as a ‘boarding school’ run by Emily Mayes at 49 Netherwood Street, (where Henri d’Archimbaud above, also lived). The fees were a guinea a week and Thomas failed to pay. He didn’t answer any of Emily’s letters so when he was ten weeks in arrears, she asked the parish authorities to have the children taken to the Workhouse. A warrant was issued for Thomas’ arrest. He told the magistrate it was all a mistake, he’d been travelling and not received any letters. ‘Upon the children being brought into court there was an affectionate greeting.’ They left the court together, after Gregory’s debts were settled – by his friends.

In May 1884 a tragic case was reported, when nine month old Jane Shepherd, who lived with her family at 16 Netherwood Street, died. She was a twin, one of five children. Her father was in regular employment as a bricklayer and did all he could to feed them but her mother ‘was in the habit of giving way to drinking bouts lasting four or five days at a time, and during those periods the children were very much neglected’. As a result Shepherd kept his eldest child (a boy aged only 8 years), at home to look after the others.

When baby Jane developed bronchitis, her mother applied a poultice and got some medicine from a doctor. But then she disappeared for three days on another drinking binge. Even though her father continued giving her medicine, Jane died. She only weighed 7lbs 6oz, roughly the weight of a new born infant. At the inquest the mother said she hadn’t gone home because she’d lost her purse and was afraid of her husband. The jury decided the baby had died of exhaustion and wasting following congestion of the lungs, and that Jane’s death was accelerated by the neglect of her mother, for which she was answerable. The coroner told her she’d had a narrow escape from being committed for trial. The father put all the other children into the workhouse.

In October 1887 James Crawley, 35, a coal porter living in Cambridge Mews was charged with deserting his four children aged 2-15. They were found ‘in a very neglected and dirty condition’ in a house in Netherwood Street, where they had been living on their own for 10 days. Neighbours had been feeding them and told the magistrate the mother had run off with a man, no one knew his name. The children had been removed to the Workhouse, where now only one remained. The oldest girl Catherine, said to be ‘rather simple’ had been found a job and two of her siblings had been sent away to school. So far the children had cost the parish £5 15s 3d. Sergeant Forde 43S, said he apprehended the prisoner, James Crawley, on Rosslyn Hill.

Crawley said he hadn’t deserted the children, but left them in Catherine’s care with a 1s or 1s 6d a day to pay for their food. He promised to pay back all the money owed to the parish, if the magistrate allowed him time to do so, and his parents were willing to look after the children. Crawley was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. No record of what happened to the children survives, but the 1891 census has a Catherine Crawley of the right age, working as a laundress in St Michael’s Convent near Southampton. This could well be James’ daughter.

Netherwood Street Board School
This opened in November 1881 and was built by the London School Board, a body established to make certain even the poorest children got an education. There were 18 classrooms, for about 1,000 girls, boys and infants. The first headmistress was Mrs Adams, whose husband was the headmaster of Fleet Road School, Hampstead’s first Board School. Netherwood was the second Board School to open. Inspector’s reports on Netherwood School were good. In 1883 The London School Board Inspector said, ‘the school was in excellent order’, having passed ‘a very creditable examination’. After two years Mrs Adams left to become headmistress of the newly formed Junior Mixed Department at Fleet Road School, where her husband became head of the senior school.

In 1891, Emma Brennan was in court, accused of assaulting the headmistress, Harriet McGregor. Emma lived nearby at 1a Hemstal Road, (where the six members of the Brennan family occupied just two rooms). The headmistress said Emma had come to the school and abused her daughter’s teacher, Mrs Rowland. When asked to leave, Emma had twisted Mrs McGregor’s arm so badly she had to wear a sling for several days. She left but returned later in the day, saying this time, ‘20 gentlemen would not put her out’. Why was Emma so angry? She told the court her daughter had gone to school as usual but been sent back to collect her school fees. Emma decided to keep the child at home until it was time for afternoon classes. Meantime another pupil from the school arrived at the Hemstal Road house, with a message demanding Emma’s daughter return immediately, bringing the fees she owed, otherwise Mrs Rowland would, ‘cane her until she could not see.’ Emma, indignant at receiving this message, said she went to Netherwood Street to confront Mrs Rowland, but she denied the assault. The court was told the message was incorrect and the magistrate ordered Emma to find a surety of £5 to keep the peace for three months, with 21 shillings costs. He further remarked ‘that teachers required protection against some mothers, but (he recognised the irritating nature of the message Emma had received.

Warwick Edwards attended the school in the years before WWI. He wrote:

We were a very mixed but pretty happy lot there. The Headmaster Mr Lembleby, was short and stocky but of considerable dignity. He was assisted by an able, hard-working staff. I had the good fortune to be for several years in Alfred Oakley’s class. He was one of the most outstanding men I have ever known. In addition to the basic three ‘R’s he told us much about English history, Bible history and even Church history, He also taught us geography, singing and a smattering of science. He was in his forties, well-built and was a good swimmer, a good footballer and a wonderful bat. The schoolmaster was there to do a job – to teach us the elements of knowledge, and by heaven, he did it well. Wrongdoers were dealt with in a firm manner, of course, but there was much less recourse to the rod than some people believe. I had the cane on two occasions only; first, when with perspiring hand and a rubber that went berserk, I made a ghastly mess and rubbed a hole in my drawing book; and second, when I persisted in talking to the boy sitting next to me, I do not disagree with the judgment of the court in either case.

The school was reorganised and renamed ‘Harben Secondary School’ in 1931. In 1961 it became the lower school of St George’s Roman Catholic Comprehensive, Lanark Road, Paddington. After St George’s left, the building was damaged by an arson attack and in 1996 was sold to developers by Westminster Council. It is now ‘Oppidan Apartments’, but plaques on the exterior remain, reading ‘School Board for London’ and ‘Netherwood Street School’.

The St James Mission Hall
As early as 1869 the London City Mission had appointed a man to work in the poor Kilburn streets of St Mary’s parish which later formed part of St James’s parish. In 1875 St Mary’s opened a mission room in a house at 7 Palmerston Road. The 1881 census shows Annie Elizabeth Beattie, a 55 year old ‘mission woman,’ was living there. That year St Mary’s commissioned a mission hall, designed by Arthur Blomfield, which was built at the corner of Netherwood Street and Kelson Street by the firm of Samuel Parmenter of Braintree, Essex. The cost was £4,531, which is equivalent to about £360,000 today.

The mission hall was taken over by St James Church in 1888 when the new parish in the rapidly growing area was created from St Mary’s. It was called ‘The Mission Rooms and Institute’ and the manager was Rev. James William Hoste, a curate from St James.

In 1890 at a meeting in the Mission Rooms, local MP Bodie Hoare said the object of the Institute was to,
 get hold of the strength and vigour of the youths, and to train them into leading wholesome, proper and useful lives. 

The Hon Alfred Lyttleton who was the President of the Federation of Working Boy’s Clubs, said that boys,
were not to be discouraged if in connection with other clubs they were beaten, but to win victories without swagger, and to take their ‘lickings’ with generosity.’

The 1891 census shows husband and wife Clifford and Isabella Nairn, as the caretakers of both the Netherwood Board School and the Mission Rooms.

The Mission was also active in the Temperance Movement, as the following article from the Middlesex Courier of 27 January 1893 shows. At the time, the ‘demon drink’ was a major problem among the poor and working classes, and the Church encouraged ‘temperance’ or abstention from all alcohol.

Perhaps one of the most, if not the most successful branch of the Church of  England Temperance  Society (CETS) is that held in St. James’ Mission Hall, Netherwood Street, Kilburn. In this large hall entertainments for members and their friends are held every Monday evening and are well patronised and thoroughly appreciated by the neighbouring residents. Situated as this hall is, in the very midst of a densely populated portion of Kilburn, that includes many of the very poor, it is no wonder that these entertainments are so thoroughly appreciated by every one. Concerts, lectures and dioramic views are all given and all form a source of great pleasure to many. It was our privilege last Monday to be present at one of these entertainments. We found the large hall crowded to its utmost, many having to stand, but all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. The audience was composed almost entirely of the poorer working men and their families. The entertainment on this occasion was a series of dioramic views, illustrating life in East and Central Africa. The views were explained very graphically by the Rev. J. Hayes who succeeded in combining instruction with amusement. Illustrated by another series of views, an admirable object lesson on the value of Temperance was read by Mr Carrodus.

Warwick Edwards remembered the neighbourhood in the years leading up to WWI.

Netherwood Street and Palmerston Road were distinctly plebeian, even tough, in the 1900s. One could not help feeling that those who had built the Mission Hall did so in the spirit of those earnest Victorians who sought to bring enlightenment to darkest Africa. If so, their success was limited. Beer was cheap and the shortest if only temporary escape from a drab existence was, for many, through the door of the public bar. Street brawls, particularly on a Saturday night, were a regular feature. Domestic squabbles were not always carried out in the seclusion of the home but sometimes in the street, to the amusement (or embarrassment) of passers-by. The police did not intervene unless grievous bodily harm seemed imminent. A sad feature of the time was the occasional unceremonious dumping, by the broker’s men, regardless of season or weather, of the pitifully scanty household effects of the feckless or unfortunate families that would not or could not pay their rent.

During the 1950s, the Mission Hall housed a popular youth club and local resident Dan Shackell said he played table tennis there with the ‘Tennyson Club’. In February 1958 he vividly remembers hearing over the Tannoy about the Manchester United disaster at Munich airport. 

Other youth organisations also hired space. There wasn’t much for young people to do locally that didn’t cost money, and there were few outlets for their energy. Sometimes there were problems. On 22 October 1958 the vicar of St James reported that he was appalled by the damage (unspecified) caused by members of the ‘Achilles Club’. The parish church committee agreed the Club had to leave.

The ILEA Phoenix Youth Club took over the St James Mission Hall with a full-time leader on weekdays.  On 27 June 1960 the police were called when members of the ‘Phoenix Club’ were fighting and using bad language. Miss Shepard, the club manager, said the incident happened when a group of youths from outside the district were refused Club membership, but turned up at the Hall and weren’t allowed in. She denied that fighting took place. In June there were reports from neighbours about noise from the Club’s record player on summer evenings because the windows were open. On 7 September 1960, when members caused more damage, the Club was asked to pay for the repairs, (no figures are given).

In July 1966 the vicar reported the sad loss to the Mission Hall caused by the death of the caretaker, Kathleen Mann. It was also reported that the Council were negotiating to buy the site. Mrs McKenzie, who ran a nursery there, said she would leave at the end of July. The Church gave up the Hall on 15 May 1967 and it was demolished, its site absorbed into Camden’s redevelopment of Netherwood Street and the surrounding neighbourhood.

Murder or Manslaughter?
In 1961 Arthur Lewis Vincent Wells, aged 18 was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Josephine Holditch, also aged 18, a typist living locally with her family in Kelson Street. Vinnie Wells had grown up at Number 61 Netherwood Street and had become a merchant seaman. At the time he was sharing a flat with his friend Terry Phillips in Gascony Avenue.

Detective Chief Inspector McArthur told the magistrate’s court that on Thursday night 26 January, Josie had come to the flat and Vinnie had pointed a gun at her head. Josie had told him to put it down, but he pulled the trigger twice and she died from a bullet wound in the head. Vinnie, horrified at what he had done, went to the police station and gave himself up. As CI McArthur was giving evidence, Vinnie seated in the dock cried out, ‘Oh my Josie, my Josie’. He was sent to Brixton prison on remand. But that night Vinnie was found unconscious in a room in the prison hospital after trying to hang himself. He died three days later.

When his barrister, Edgar Duchin appeared at Marylebone Court four days later, he said, ‘Wells had taken his life out of remorse rather than fear. I was satisfied that, had he lived he would have had a full answer to the charge of murder’. The magistrate agreed that the murder charge be withdrawn.

Les Smith, who lived at Number 26 Netherwood Street, where his parents ran a general shop, and who knew Vinnie well said:

The accepted story was that Vinnie and Terry acquired the guns and ammo in order to rob a bank, Josie was unhappy about the guns and visited Vinnie to break off their relationship, quick to anger he shot her once in the head then gave himself up to the Police. He hanged himself in his cell while on remand and died shortly after. Terry went to gaol for possession of firearms and ammo.

Redevelopment
Today Netherwood Street is covered by Webheath, the large council estate, which took many years to get approval. In August 1957 there was a heated debate between Labour and Conservative members of Hampstead Council, over the ‘damp and decaying houses’ in Netherwood Street, Kelson Street and Palmerston Road, home to more than 1,000 persons, 200 of them children under 5 years old. The properties were still in multiple, floor-by-floor occupation and persistent flooding had resulted in some basements being bricked up. ‘The slime used to get up to the mantelpieces in some places’ said Alderman Florence Cayford, a long-time campaigner for improving the living conditions of Kilburn residents. She asked the meeting,

I don’t know how many members of the Council have visited these houses. Can you imagine a tiny sink in the corner of the stairs that has to be used by two or more families? It’s all the water they’ve got. You wonder how these families can go out looking so neat and tidy and clean. There are still homes with only one lavatory for all the families to use.

Redevelopment didn’t get underway until May 1968, when Dame Florence (as she then was), watched the foundation stone being laid. Two years later, she opened the first stage named in her honour as the ‘Florence Cayford Estate’, later becoming ‘Webheath’.

Dave Unwin who worked as a Council surveyor remembers working on the redevelopment.

Dave Unwin’s memories of Netherwood Street
By 1966 I had qualified and left Brent to work for the London Borough of Camden as an Assistant Builder’s Surveyor. Around 1972 we were undertaking a redevelopment in Netherwood Street. The site boundary was the front garden walls of the houses on the north of Palmerston Road and the other side of the road was still occupied. The houses were three stories plus a basement with a 'flying' staircase up to the front door. They were built in what we called ‘cross wall construction’. The roof sloped from each of the side cross walls forming a V valley across the house

At the time we had had a long hot summer and one weekday in August around four o'clock we heard a terrible rumble which we immediately realised was the collapse of a building. We raced round to Palmerston Road to find that in the hot summer the cross walls had expanded and pushed the front parapet walls down. As they fell they landed on the front door staircase and took those out as well.

We called the Emergency Services and barricaded off the street. God works in mysterious ways. Half an hour earlier there had been 12 - 15 kids playing in the street, but luckily they had all been called in for their tea, and the street was empty. When the Fire Brigade arrived one appliance parked in front of the damaged houses. The Fire Chief was on the opposite side of the road making notes. I noticed that where the parapet walls had broken away the parapet was leaning, and suggested to the Chief that he should move his appliance. He had just started writing in his book, 'At the suggestion of Mr Unwin, Surveyor for Camden Council...'  When I heard “Jesus Christ” and the driver ran down the road and shifted the vehicle.

If such an occurrence happens in most Boroughs it is the responsibility of the Council Building Surveyors to decide what has to be done to a house to make it safe. But this is not the case in the old London County Council area, where the District Surveyor (DS) is responsible. We phoned him and when he arrived he used our site office as his headquarters. We also supplied men and materials to carry out emergency works. That led to problems for me when we came to charge him - but that’s another story.

One of his jobs is to notify all the owners and tenants if a building is 'unfit for human habitation' and also what work, if any, he has had to do to it. That is when the fun started. The DS told us that this could take a long time because he had to trace owners, their agents, estate agents etc. But after four weeks everything had been sorted except the basement tenant of one property (I will call it number 48 for ease of telling the story). When the DS eventually got hold of the tenant of 48 he asked who his Landlord was. “I don't know” came the reply. Do you have a rent book, “Yes”. It must be on that. “No the landlord’s name is blank”. “Who do you pay the rent to?” “To Bill next door in No 46”. But when they went to No 46, Bill had no idea who the landlord was either.

It seemed that seven years earlier Bill’s mate was emigrating to Australia, he knew Bill was looking for accommodation so Bill moved in. He was told about the arrangement with the basement flat in No 48 and was given a Post Office Savings Bank Book in which to deposit the money which he had been doing for seven years. The Account was in the name of the man who emigrated, and from the amount in it he, too, had been paying money in regularly for years.

As a Brent councillor, I was sitting next to James Goudie (now QC), who was the Deputy Leader of the Council and I recounted the above story. 'Oh yes' said James, 'That is what we call a Tenancy At Will'.