This week’s Local History in Lock-down talk is on Thursday evening (14th May) at 6.45.
In his talk, Lambeth in Literature, Jon Newman will take a look at the way that the place has been described across the centuries by writers, poets and novelists; everyone from William Blake to Alex Wheatle. So, one half social history, one half Lambeth ‘Goodreads’
We can join the talk using Zoom , with this link .
Lambeth’s tree surgeons were here this morning and swiftly took down the tree outside numbers 58 and 60.
This was expected – see our earlier report Fawnbrake’s Fantastic Trees. The apple tree had reached the end of its normal life and was suffering from disease. In due course the stump will be removed and, we hope, a replacement tree introduced.
In remembering and commemorating the end of World War 2 in Europe, some of us may not want to dwell on the sentimental Vera Lynn-type nostalgia. But in May 1945, the UK’s feeling of reprieve and joy, tempered by grief, was profound and almost universal.
And the devastating event itself, the global war, is surely worth a thought and a pause for relief and gratitude for what we have today, by comparison with then.
50 million dead
As historians of all shades of opinion have written, it was almost certainly the most catastrophic event in world history. The dead have been estimated at 15 million military personnel, of which up to 2 million were Soviet prisoners of war. An estimated 35 million civilians died, with between 4 and 5 million Jews perishing in concentration camps and an estimated 2 million more in mass murders across Eastern Europe. Afterwards, refugees from the German-occupied territories, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe numbered many millions. Then there’s the Far East …
By comparison with Germany and Russia, Britain suffered less material and human damage on the home front.
All the same, many cities were attacked, some severely.
London, as the principal city, was of course the main target for German bombing. At the height of the Blitz, on 10 May 1941, more than 3,000 Londoners died or were seriously injured. During World War II as a whole, 100,000 London homes were destroyed and over one million houses suffered damage. Over 80,000 Londoners were killed or seriously injured. The landscape of the city was changed for ever.
See the collection of other images on the Imperial War Museum’s site.
By the end, Britain itself had accumulated debts of $20 billion. Germany and much else of Western and Central Europe was in ruins, industry wiped out or exhausted. Much of Eastern Europe fell under the cruel dominance of the Soviet Union and its organs of state security. The human, economic and political aftermath extended over decades.
The Bombsightsite shows where bombs dropped in and around Fawnbrake Avenue during the 1940/41 Blitz. Aerial attacks peaked again nearer the end of the war, especially with the deployment of V1 and V2 rockets, which struck several local sites in summer 1944. The Flying Bombs & Rocketswebsite has useful images and details of severe V1 damage in Carver Road, Guernsey Grove, Stradella Road and other streets.
Lambeth Archive’s programme of weekly talks continues. The next talk A Place of Public Execution, the story of the gallows on Kennington Common, will be given by Jon Newman on this Tuesday, 5th May, at 13.15
The Archive have sent apologies to anyone who ended up being blocked from last week’s talk because of the size of the audience. They have now changed their licence and will be able to accommodate audiences in excess of 100 people in future.
Like all older streets, all over the world, Fawnbrake Avenue has seen many generations coming and going, mostly now forgotten except possibly by their descendants, if they bother to look.
Turning to the 1911 Census for my own house, I discover that it was lived in then by a family of three along with a young domestic servant.
The 42-year-old head of the family was Mr Frederick Reader, who gave his profession as Wholesale Provision Salesman. His wife Mrs Grace Reader was also 42.
She was previously Mrs Grace Hunter(née Wilmott) from Chatham in Kent, and had been widowed, with a young daughter, Sybil Grace Hunter, by now 13: Sybil Grace also lived in the house.
10 years earlier, Frederick and Grace had married in St Paul’s Church, Herne Hill, in October 1901; at that time Frederick Reader was shown as living at 37 Kestrel Avenue.
The domestic servant living with them in 1911 was a 17-year-old girl, Rose Moulton. A quick glance through a selection of the other houses on Fawnbrake Avenue shows quite a number with domestic servants living in at that time.
After the First World War, Sybil Grace went on to marry a Mr Edwin Everett in 1925 and ended up in Esher in Surrey. Sybil Grace died in 1997.
Thus do the lives of residents in our houses overlap, even though they never meet.
Fawnbrake residents will be familiar with Dorchester Court, the imposing 1930s apartment blocks sitting between Herne Hill itself and Dorchester Drive.
It is now threatened with wholly unsuitable development, as set out in a planning application submitted by the notorious and neglectful landlords. (Helen Hayes MP apparently described them as “one of the worst landlords I have ever come across”.) The landlords’ deliberate and cynical neglect over the years has made some parts of the estate almost uninhabitable, and indeed dangerous.
Yet Dorchester Court is a Grade 2 listed building, and is one of only two 20th Century listed buildings in Lambeth
it was designed by renowned architects Kemp and Tasker. Built in the 1930s in the British Moderne style, it is the only example of a residential block by the designers, who are known for their Art Deco cinemas.
The landlords are in fact the ultra-rich Heinrich Feldman and family, sheltering behind Manaquel Ltd, one of their many holding companies. Manaquel Ltd acts as the landlord for Dorchester Court
The long-suffering Residents Association are fighting back and have created an information-rich website which is well worth looking at.
Fawnbrake Avenue is blessed with a glorious variety of trees – we enjoy one of the most varied and well-curated street avenues in our fortunate corner of Lambeth.
We often take them for granted but they need regular human care, including planting, support in their early years, pruning, and in due course removal and replacement when a tree becomes unsafe or when its days are done. And when newly-introduced trees are in their very junior years, we’ve all been called upon to make sure they have enough water to survive in their new habitats until their roots go deep enough.
This work is carried out, unnoticed by many of us, by Lambeth’s tree department. But they are supported, and sometimes reminded, by David and Laurence, our two conscientious street guardian neighbours.
Just this week, another neighbour noticed that some of the posts and supporting ties of a young tree near his house were in need of repair, and wondered what to do about it.
Regular tree inspections
We believe it is all – hopefully – in hand. On this and wider arboreal issues David has been in frequent touch with Lambeth’s tree department, where they have a keen and knowledgeable new man on the job.
After emailing him about the posts and other issues, David met him in Fawnbrake last week – while he was carrying out the street’s four-year tree inspection – and he says that the loose and redundant stakes will, hopefully, be dealt with in about three months. The tree department at Lambeth is currently light on manpower for obvious reasons.
Laurence and David also report that just before lock-down they walked the entire length of Fawnbrake, cutting away basal shoots from all the trees and picking litter from the tree pits. In a few cases – where the stakes were evidently useless, or leaning into the road/pavement – they removed the rubber ties as well as the stakes, several of which had simply rotted through at the base. Many, in fact, have been loose since being disturbed when the pavements were replaced. They didn’t have time to sort out several other stakes that needed attention, but that is in hand. Of course, as young trees become more firmly established they no longer need the stakes that supported them in their early years.
In addition to the imminent removal of the stakes by council contractors, additional work will be carried out on a few trees, to remove low-hanging branches, Lambeth’s man tells us.
Tree removal imminent
Cllr Jim Dickson also passed on a note, from the Tree Department this week, stating the following:
Dear Ward Councillors of Herne Hill, This email is to inform you of 2 trees that are to be removed from Fawnbrake avenue within the next 28 days, the trees will have notices attached to them by Lambeth Council’s Tree Contract manager by Monday 20/4/20, informing residents of the reasons they are to be removed.
The trees are: – A mature apple tree outside 58 Fawnbrake, due to fungal fruiting bodies that compromise the integrity of both of the trees’ 2 limbs, meaning that simply removing the infected limbs is not a viable option. – A young cherry outside 6 Fawnbrake, which has complete crown failure.
These two trees are also scheduled for the stumps to be removed, and will hopefully be replanted in the coming winter planting season.
More trees on the way
Other good news, reports David, is that we should be getting eight additional trees in Fawnbrake, this autumn, four paid for by residents (additional funds were raised after the initial donations of £8,500 were gift-aided) and four paid for by Lambeth. Lambeth has already written to properties adjacent to proposed tree pit sites to canvas opinion, receiving largely favourable replies.
So it seems we’re getting plenty of attention at the moment and everything is moving in the right direction.
London’s urban forest
London itself can be described as an “urban forest”. It is home to over 8 million trees – roughly one for every person. In fact 20% of the capital is covered by tree canopy.
The “forest” is a patchwork of natural havens “from the gardens of suburbia to ancient woodlands… and to parks and open spaces.”
(Quoting from the excellent book by Paul Wood, “London is a Forest”, 2019”)
“… Businesses providing holiday accommodation (including hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and short term lets) should now take steps to close for commercial use as quickly as is safely possible. …”
What have Airbnb said?
‘Airbnb says it will follow government guidance ordering accommodation providers to close except to key workers.’
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News about Fawnbrake Avenue & neighbouring streets in Herne Hill, London