Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In June Caroline posted Deptford and the Foreign Legion about Beau Geste author Percival Christopher Wren having been born in Deptford in 1875 as plain Percy Wren. He amended both his place and year of birth in later life. As Caroline outlined accurate details about Wren's life can be hard to pin down, but are by no means impossible.

In 1933 Philadelphia autograpgh collector Frank Tricker wrote to Wren requesting an autographed photograph. Wren sent the autographed photograph (detail on right) with a cigar band attached under cover of the letter below. Frank's son Barry Tricker has kindly agreed to my publishing both on this blog. On Wren's shoulder there is a crown denoting the rank of Major. When he was a headmaster in Karachi and subsequently Assistant Director of Education of the Bombay Presidency (region) of British India Wren was also a member of the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, a position that may, or may not, have involved wearing a uniform. He resigned his commission on 1st November 1915 and was granted the honoury rank of Captain in 1918. It was only following the sucess of Beau Geste in the mid 1920s that Wren promoted himself to Major.

Wren's works of fiction sold in their millions and film adaptions were enjoyed by millions more. With copyright expiring in less than three years (he died 22nd November 1941) renewed interest in his work is quite probable. As well as his works of fiction he wrote a number of educational texts. As recently as 2003 Richard C Smith devoted 250 pages of an academic text to consideration of Wren's methods of teaching English as a Foreign Language. Wren's various embellishments of his personal history should not distract too deeply from his genuine talents.

Both the original photograph and the covering letter are for sale at STOWEVINTAGE.COM

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Dog and Bell (1)

The June / July 2009 issue of the Campaign for Real Ale's London Drinker magazine carries an excellent article by Julian Stone outlining the History of The Dog and Bell. Julian has carried out extensive research in Lewisham Local History Library and suggests that William Boyes's 1749 victualling business in what was then Dog (or Dock) Street was the forerunner of the pub. Julian may well be right but we lack proof.

Currently the earliest documentary evidence we have for the existence of the Dog is an entry in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey for 30th November 1814. Landlord's daughter Miss Sarah Cooper gave evidence at the trial of Manuel John that she had changed a £20 note at the pub.

The next document is the 1820 will of Montgomeryshire widow Catherine Sturkey which refers to property in Dog Street, Deptford, Kent "known by the name & sign of the Dog and Bell". The will goes on to say that the property was then in the occupation of David Archer. When Catherine Sturkey died the auction of the freehold of the Dog and Bell was advertised in The Times on 5th December 1828, along with the long leasehold of a house in Flagon Row (subsequently Wellington Street and now McMillan Street). Trade directories suggest that David Archer survived the change in ownership and was still there in the early 1830s. More about David Archer in a future post.

Catherine Sturkey was the widow of Deptford surgeon Roger Sturkey who died in 1792 and was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard. Any trace of his garve or tomb is long gone but fortunately Daniel Lysons in vol 4 of The Environs of London (1796) lists the monuments in the churchyard. It is possible that Catherine bought the Dog after Roger's death but it is far more likely that both the pub and the house were bought by Roger when he was practising in Deptford. In a Welsh attic or a solictor's basement there may well be a 1780's conveyance that refers to the pub. The conveyance after the sale in 1828 may refer to, or even reproduce, a conveyance to a Sturkey. We can but hope that one or more of these documents turns up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


The Iyengar Yoga Institute, 470 New Cross Road, nestles between Addey and Stanhope School and one of the houses in front of the Zion Chapel.

The shield in the centre of the pediment bears the words ‘’Established 1866’’, but enter the front garden and you find a small plaque underneath the left hand window that tells you that it opened as the Yoga Institute on 14 December 1994.

What was established in 1866 was the New Cross Building Society but in the 1880s the house was the private residence of William George Fulcher who died on 11TH March 1887. The earliest mention as the building society’s headquarters is in 1901.

The society was there until 1984 when the Registrar of Friendly Societies closed it down. The society went to the High Court and won, but the Court of Appeal re-instated the Registrar’s decision. It had been a relatively small society until the mid 1970s but in 1977 the board had embarked on a plan to expand the society. The assets grew from £ 6 million in 1974 to £103 million in 1982, but the reserves failed to grow in proportion to the society’s business.

The Master of the Rolls Sir John (later Lord) Donaldson in the leading Appeal Court judgment commented:

“Another disturbing feature was the decision to raise £10m through the wholesale money market…”

By the middle of this decade the closure and judicial comment had been forgotten and rapid expansion and raising loans on the money markets had become the normal way of doing financial business in the UK.

By 1987 the buiding had become Deptford Seventh Day Adventist Church, but they subsequently moved to Devonshire Drive in Greenwich.