Category Archives: News update

Update on park heritage

Zeppelin 1917 – The Animated Walk

Along with over 60 others, I set out on the afternoon of Saturday 21st October for a breezy walk around Burgess Park, to find out more about what happened 100 years ago on Friday 19th October 1917, when the Zeppelin bombing raid struck over Walworth, South-east London. The event took the shape of an animated walk – the narrator guides walkers around significant points in the park where actors play out the voices of people caught up at the time of the Zeppelin strike. If you missed the event itself, an audio version will be available soon as a podcast.

John Whelan, the project lead, narrated the events, and one of the first things we learned was that the weather was very similar on that night, with a heavy, gusting wind that meant the Zeppelins were not heard until they were almost overhead – the Silent Raid.

The start of the walk outside Theatre Delicatessen in Burgess Park

The first ‘Voice from the Past’ was the Zeppelin commander, Kapitänleutnant Waldemar Kölle, who gave an account of the long flight from Germany. The Zeppelin flight was affected by the wind, getting blown off course – they were aiming for the northern industrial city of Sheffield – and had to climb higher into the freezing atmosphere to avoid  gunfire from British planes.  Kölle praised his gallant crew who were frozen and tired yet stayed at their posts – but it was hard to see what alternative they had!  Eventually, after crossing London and dropping it’s bombs, on its way back to base, the Zeppelin ran out of fuel, crash-landimg in France where the crew were taken prisoners of war.

Captain Kohle

We heard more Voices from the Past – some of the people involved in the war effort: the so-called Canary Girls, whose skin and hair turned yellow due to the chemicals they were working with in the munitions factories; the newly-introduced air-raid warden – issued with a whistle to warn people to take cover! And from the reporter restricted in what could be published by the all-encompassing ‘Defence of the Realm Act’ (DORA).

Over the course of the afternoon we had sunshine, while listening to the Voices from the Past of the conscientious objectors, who had to defend their position in court, many of whom were imprisoned during the war…

Conscientious objector Ada Salter speaks to the crowd

… and also rain, as we heard the Voices from the Past of distinguished visitors who came to see  the bomb-site at Calmington Road and talk to the survivors, no less than the Prime Minister of day, David Lloyd George and their majesties King George V and Queen Mary.

At one point there was a rainbow, symbol of hope, as we walked from one location to another.

The most poignant part of the walk for me, was when we reached the actual spot where the bomb fell, at what used to be the junction of Calmington Road with Albany Road.

Images of six of the people who died, almost on the exact spot

The photographs of the victims on the railings and the sad stories of those who died, those who survived but lost children, or were affected for the rest of their lives, really brought home the grim reality of civilian deaths in wartime.

One of the most moving aspects of the whole project was the involvement of the families of the victims and survivors of the bombing raid. We were able to meet with the siblings and descendents of both the Balls family, who lost two members, and the Glass family, who lost four. Greta and Peter, younger sister and brother of Eddie and Sonny Balls (pictured far right on the railings above) attended the opening of the season on 7th October (see report here). Barbara, daughter of Jesse Glass and granddaughter of Emma Glass (pictured far left, above) attended both the opening and the animated walk, travelling with members of her family to London from St Leonards.

Barbara with images of her Uncle and Aunt who didn’t live to know her

The whole family found the exhibition and walk very informative and moving. Many people involved in the war didn’t like to dwell on the suffering and so details were often not discussed with family members in the aftermath. Mark (grandson of survivor Jesse Glass) wrote to us after the animated walk very movingly:

‘…after only really having to hand over the years the details that my Nan could feel at ease with discussing …. it all feels quite surreal, and indeed on a personal level even overwhelming at the moment, to suddenly be receiving so much information in one go.’

 ‘Auntie Barbara seeing for the first time what her Nan, and her Aunties & Uncle, actually looked like was quite an experience …’ ‘… for Auntie Barbara … watching someone play her injured Mother who was calling out in the darkness to her own Mother … for us this was, very understandably, to be the most emotive experience of the day.’

‘My heartfelt appreciation to you and your colleagues for all your hard work’

Well done to John Whelan and all the actors and project volunteers who put together a vivid and moving portrayal of the events of the Zeppelin raid 1917. If you missed the walk itself, the soundtrack will be available shortly as a podcast for download or listening online.  Please visit our newly-launched podcast pages now to listen to our archive of previous talks, and if you subscribe to the series in your podcast app (for free), you’ll receive the new Zeppelin episode automatically (as well as any episodes in the future) as soon as it’s published in the next few weeks.

Posted by Helen Crisp, 26th October 2017; additional details, 15th November.

Zeppelin 1917 Events – 14th October

How big is a Zeppelin?

In order to answer that question the Burgess Park Cricket Club helped lay out the size of Zeppelin L45 onto the park on Saturday morning using their boundary rope. In fact, we discovered the Zeppelin size is larger than a cricket pitch boundary! This aerial photograph, thanks to Damian Laurence’s drone piloting, shows the Zeppelin taking up the whole of the great lawn – as long as a street.

Photograph: Damian Laurence

Many thanks to Everton for organising this with the cricket club, and to Jo and Lewis from Southwark Parks for helping to move the huge amount of rope.

Cricket team loading the rope at the cricket club

Black Poppies Talk by Stephen Bourne

On Saturday afternoon local historian and author Stephen Bourne gave a presentation  telling the story of how black people in Britain joined up for the forces and played a variety of roles in WWI. Unlike the USA, Britain did not segregate servicemen by colour. Stephen showed photographs from different regiments with black servicemen and explained the social history of black people as part of local communities in the UK prior to WWI. As the war progressed more forces were also drawn from the colonies and came to fight in Europe.  Stephen’s book Black Poppies gives plenty of detail on the military and civilian wartime experience of black Britons, from the trenches to the music halls.

Stephen concluded his talk by outlining his research into the role of the police during the Zeppelin air raid on Calmington Road. The police officers who rescued people from the damaged buildings were all awarded medals. The role of the police as hidden heroes is recognised in the Zeppelin 1917 exhibition.

Stephen Bourne with the “Local Police Heroes” he contributed to the exhibition

1917 Knees Up

Vesta Tilley, called ‘Britain’s greatest recruiting sergeant’, famous music hall chorus was:

'Oh we don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go
For your King and your Country both need you so’

So quite a lot of social pressure to join-up!

Quipping Quizmaster Mike Raffone

We rounded up the with an evening with quizmaster extraordinaire Mike Raffone and a proper singalong from Mister Meredith (both sporting excellent moustaches). With several competitive quiz teams, including some of our volunteer researchers, as well as Glengall Wharf Garden and other local volunteers, the standard was high on the local knowledge, but less sure on the famous singers of the period.

Mister Meredith then took us through some well-known songs of the period – recruiting songs and music hall numbers – with the official words, and sometimes the soldiers’ own versions of the songs!

Musical Maestro Mister Meredith

Q: Who composed “Keep the Home Fires Burning” ?

A: Composed by Ivor Novello with words by Lena Guilbert Ford in 1914

 

Posted by Susan Crisp, 18th October 2017

Zeppelin 1917 – well and truly launched on 7th October

Friday 6th 11am….26 hours to launch

The day before saw the arrival of our amazing Zeppelin art piece, specially built by Keith Roberts for the Zeppelin 1917 season.  After “flying through” Burgess Park, the artwork was carefully hoisted into place by Jon and Keith. What an excellent way to kick off our launch. Keith has also contributed another artwork to embellish our project – Silent Voices, which can be seen in Chumleigh Gardens, opposite the First World War memorial stone.

 

Saturday 7th 10am…3 hours to launch

The day began in a flurry of good-natured activity fuelled by tea and biscuits. Massive thanks to all the hardworking exhibition installation volunteers (Jon, Andrew, Monica, Chris, Susan, Catriona, Judith, Charlie, Mercy and John) who worked tirelessly on both days (Friday till 10pm!) to get the TheatreDeli exhibition up and ready for the opening at 1pm. Wonderful teamwork. and it looks incredible!

Whist the exhibition setup was finished, over 50 parents and children enjoyed “Flying Designing” at the Fun Palace with hands-on workshops to make a Zeppelin, design a rocket and create a paper bird and flowers. Great excitement ensued when rockets were launched outside using plastic bottles, water and air pressure. Thanks go to Florence Goodhand-Tait for running the workshop with Art in the Park, Alice Sheppard, Citizen Science and Sue Smith, Camberwell Arts.

Flying machine design and model

The exhibition was then was formally opened by Councillor Johnson Situ, who was introduced by Susan Crisp, chair of the Friends of Burgess Park.

Councillor Johnson Situ opens the exhibition, with our speaker, Ian Castle looking on

Honoured Guests

Later in the afternoon we were honoured to host members of the two families at the heart of our project – descendants of the Balls and Glass families. The Boyce/Balls family includes Mrs Greta Druce (102 years old next month), who actually survived the raid, although, tragically Greta’s two brothers Eddie and Sonny Balls died and brother Leslie never recovered from the trauma. We also loved chatting to John and Barbara Shaw (up from the south coast) and Mark Draper (down from Crewe) all relatives of the Glass family – who lost 4 members that night.

Diane Druce (Balls family – centre) talks with John Shaw (Glass family – right) and Cllr Hargrove

At 4pm, Ian Castle gave a fascinating talk on ‘The Silent Raid’. The talk, illustrated with vivid images, was  dramatic, touching, and funny at times. Above all, what Ian gave us was an evocative journey through the mind-set of the Zeppelin commanders and the damage they did to ordinary people and even to their own crews.

Warm thanks are due to our gallant speaker Ian Castle and his partner Nicola Price who overcame many obstacles to be with us. It was especially poignant to hear from the family members during the talk Q&A.  It brought home what life was like for bombing victims – no one in the room could fail to truly understand the human cost of war.

 

Special thanks to John Whelan who has kept us on a steady course, coordinating the researchers and the fantastic volunteer sessions with our supporting partner organisations. John, will of course, be leading the Animated Walk on 21st October 2-4pm (meet at TheatreDeli), which promises to be a fitting coming together of all the research and experiences we have painstakingly gathered. I personally can’t wait for this experience!

The exhibition can be seen on Saturdays through October, and especially at our next talk ‘Black Poppies’, on the black community in WW1. On Saturday 14th, given by Stephen Bourne – book now!

Lastly a huge vote of thanks to our army of exhibition and walk research volunteers:

Joan Ashworth, Katie Bates, Neil Bright, Joy Campbell, Giles Camplin, Christine Camplin, Helen Crisp, Susan Crisp, Carol Field, Oran Hassan, Monica Heeran, Mercy Hopper, Sally Lynes, Joe May, Andrew Pearson, Jon Pickup, Barbara Selby, Frank Silva, Peta Steel, Peter Stevenson, Mercy Sword, Sam Tilling, Marion Wallace, Judith Wardle, Stella Young

Posted by Sam Tilling, 9th October 2017

 

 

The Bridge to Nowhere Podcast is now available!

We’re very excited to announce the launch of the brand new Bridge to Nowhere Podcast!

Over the past few years we have made a number of audio recordings of our most popular events that the Friends have organised, and we’ve posted them up on various sites along the way (YouTube, Soundcloud, and indeed here on our own website). Now for the first time we’re bringing all our audio features together in one place in the form of a new podcast series, which will feature not only the highlights from our previous talks, but will also continue to be updated with all our audio offerings in the future.

And as with any podcast series, this means you can now download the audio to your own device, and if you choose to subscribe (it’s free!), you’ll be able to receive all our new episodes automatically.

Available from today are newly reversioned highlights of recent talks including From Bombs to BMX, and the excellent Oral Histories series, and if you subscribe you’ll be among the first to receive the next new edition which will form part of the forthcoming Zeppelin 1917 series of commemorative events this October.

So, please start listening and let us know what you think!

The bells are installed in Chumleigh Gardens

Local artist Keith Roberts, who has a keen interest in the First World War, installed his sculpture Silent Voices in Chumleigh Gardens this week.

Keith has exhibited a similar piece in the exhibition ‘War in the Sunshine: The British in Italy 1917-1918’ at the Estorik Collection in Highbury earlier this year. We are delighted he has chosen to show this work here during Zeppelin 1917.

Many cups of tea and coffee from Parklife Café were consumed during the installation and there was lots of interest from regular visitors to the lovely English garden. Sadly the bells can’t go on the lawn but are instead looking equally amazing nearby on the broad central pathway. A word of thanks to the park’s staff who were so helpful on the day.

Keith has also made a Zeppelin to hang in the exhibition at Theatre Delicatessen and there is a plan being hatched to film its journey from his studio through the park to the Old Library on 6th October. Watch this space….

Check out all the other Zeppelin happenings this October!

You can also volunteer to help us!

Posted by Monica Heeran

 

Southwark News Article #2!

On 14th September, Southwark News published a second article on our remembrance of the 1917 Zeppelin raid on Camberwell.

The article covered the story of the Boyce-Balls family who Jon Pickup and Andrew Pearson, volunteers on the Friends of Burgess Park Zeppelin research project, met recently. They spoke to Greta and Peter, younger siblings of the two brothers killed in the raid. Peter described how their family had crossed the road from their father’s grocers shop to be with the doctor’s wife who was nervous in air raids, on the night of 19th October, 1917. The surgery and surrounding houses were subsequently hit by the Zeppelin bomb.

Southwark News article, 14th September

Read the article in full here.

 

Southwark News: Zeppelin 1917 story

Last week, local south London paper Southwark News published our story on plans to remember the raid in October. On page 5, in the Walworth section, they previewed our story of the Boyce-Balls family, who had to be rescued from 101 Albany Road after the bomb hit, and lost two young sons. Members of the family hope to be at our events in October.

BoyceFamily

The Boyce family pictured around 1914

Sonny (standing) and Eddie (on his mother’s lap) both died in the attack, and Leslie (on his father’s knee) was permanently affected.

Read the full article online here.

St George’s War Memorial

Friends of Burgess Park and the Walworth Society are supporting the application by Historic England to have the World War One war memorial outside St Georges Church listed as having special architectural and historic interest. Some people may be surprised that this wasn’t already done. You can see more information on the bronze sculpture by Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz on our page on St Georges Church.

Although born in Denmark, Rosenkrantz grew up from the age of three in Scotland and settled in London at twenty eight. He had a strong interest in mysticism and spirituality, and worked mainly in stained glass and painting. He studied and worked in Rome, Paris and New York, and also worked in Switzerland for Rudolf Steiner.

Bronze Sculpture of Christ holding a crown of thorns

© Jon Pickup

The memorial was unveiled on Sunday 19th September 1920 by Camberwell Mayor John George Spradbrow, and Reverend PM Herbert, Vicar of St George’s church. The funds for the memorial were raised by local parishioners.

The listing should give it a degree of protection, which would be useful, considering that it’s already been stolen for scrap and recovered once, and considering that the other memorial to war in the area has also disappeared. There had been a plaque to the memory of the 10 people killed in the Zeppelin raid in Calmington Road, until the buildings were demolished for the formation of the park.

WarMemorial

© Susan Crisp

A memorial stone was recently placed in Chumleigh Gardens, in recognition of all the lives lost during the first world war in the Camberwell area.

 

We intend to commemorate the centenary of the Zeppelin raid in October this year – watch this space.

Stop Press!!

We heard on 3rd July 2017 that the War Memorial has now been given grade 2 listed status. The reasons for the listing are given as

  • Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the
    sacrifices they made in the First World War;
  • Design: as an attractive and emotive sculpture of Christ by Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz;
  • Group value: with the Grade II-listed St George’s Church.

The  memorial is now officially known as the Burgess Park War Memorial.

Trafalgar Avenue bridge

Yes – there is still a bridge taking Trafalgar Avenue over the route of the former Grand Surrey Canal! It was news to this author that the slight rise in the road where it crosses the park disguises a modern concrete replacement bridge, not merely a pile of demolished buildings.

Early Glimpse

A first glimpse of the bridge appears in 2016

It’s not quite clear (maybe someone can explain) why an expensive bridge was built, although the canal had been filled in in 1970.

Unfortunately, bridges need inspecting periodically, and when that time came around last year, it proved to be a bigger task than at first envisaged.

Typically for the development of the park, it was discovered that the void beneath the bridge had been used to dispose of all kinds of waste, including asbestos.

Works have therefore taken quite some time, and the whole space beneath has been excavated in order to build permanent inspection chambers, so that in future, the job will be a bit easier.

Cleared space beneath 2 bays of the bridge

Under-bridge area cleared – visualise a canal now?!

The brick tower next to the bridge above is a ventilation chamber for the 132kV London electricity ring-main, cables for which were laid under the park as it was being developed in the 60s or 70s.

Of course, an imaginative administration might have thought about the posibility of restoring some water to the area, in some sort of memorial to the days of the canal. However, a brick-built inspection chamber is going in and the whole are will be backfilled and restored to grass.

Glass bottle

Archaeological find

 

Did you spot the ubiquitous R Whites lemonade bottle in the image above? Somehow recovered intact, despite the heavy earth-movers, these can be found all over the park, wherever a hole is dug.

 

 

Wooden hump-back bridge over canal

1830 view of what was probably the first Trafalgar bridge, looking west. Glengall wharf and the Peckham branch are behind the artist/extreme left. St Georges church in the background

 

Glengall Wharf Canal Wall – Update 1

GWG

You may have seen our blog 2 years ago on this historic bit of Surrey Canal infrastructure. The only remaining section of canal bank, which marked the junction of the Camberwell branch (1810) with the Peckham branch (1830) of the Grand Surrey Canal, has probably stood in this position, if not this state, for 120-150 years.

However, although still absolutely solid, the surface is beginning to crumble and become unsightly, especially for the new flats opposite, and the council have been determined to replace it. Work started at the beginning of 2017 on a like-for-like replacement (rather than suburban bypass-style concrete block planters), as far as funds and practicality allow. The top end of Surrey Canal walk has been closed whilst this happens.

Cobbles before removal, garden pergola built on top

Cobbles of the former council refuse yard forming a beautiful basis for the garden. Pre-works test pit in the foreground

First up was the removal of a two metre-wide strip of the beautifully worn cobbles on the top surface, which now forms the ground level for the  Glengall Wharf community garden.

The work has been majorly distruptive for the garden, involving the removal of a fine old self-seeded plum tree and many garden structures. However, it was arranged to take place in winter, outside the growing season, to at least minimise this.

These cobbles, known as granite setts, have been taken up with a JCB and as far as possible preserved for replacement when the wall work is complete. It was thought that they’d been set solidly in concrete, but they’ve mostly come away cleanly, minus a few breakages.

Plum tree chopped down and rubble for cobbles

Plum tree cut down and cobbles being taken up

 

Stacks

Granite setts being sorted and stacked for storage and reuse

Around the end of January, work started on excavating beneath the garden surface and removing soil from behind the wall. Here things got interesting for the contractors, as they discovered the foundations of the rubbish chutes, visible in the photo beneath, and on our previous blog

Girders

Bases of rubbish chutes, buried in concrete beneath the cobbles. Probably cut down at the closure of the yard and formation of Burgess Park

68a

Sailing barges moored up next to steel girder refuse chutes

Now, it’s a case of tearing down the old wall and carting it away.

teardown

Note the girder, impossible to remove from the concrete, to be cut back

One or two interesting finds were made:

Earthenware

Stash of earthenware mineral water bottles, various manufacturers. All previously broken, unfortunately!

It also became clear that a previous wall had existed further back than the concrete wall, judging by the foundations uncovered:foundations

Work is due to finish in March 2017, so watch this space for updates. Please do go and see the works for yourself, and don’t hesitate to leave a comment here!