The Dulwich Society Journal for Winter 2021.
The length and breadth of Dulwich is being plastered with signs all concerned with new or amended traffic measures. In Gallery Road alone there are four signs of varying size and different messages within a 30 metre length of road. No wonder drivers are distracted and in consequence invariably fail to notice cyclists negotiating the roundabout. A fatal accident is waiting to occur.
We now hear that cameras are to replace the planters at the junction of Dulwich Village/Calton Avenue/Court Lane. They will of course be surrounded by more signs. If signs are vital then surely a better way would be to put lettering on the road surface.
We are also told that there have been protests about the signage of the new parking facility in Dulwich Village. The protesters say that they are being brushed off by Southwark Council over a requirement for users to call a centre on a mobile phone, despite the first hour of parking being free. Elderly people using the parking facility, perhaps to get a doctor’s prescription, and are very likely not own a mobile phone are also penalised. Worse still, actual mobile phone users complain of the poor signal and inability to register for parking.
The formerly delightful views around Dulwich Park Lake, especially fine in Autumn, have become blocked by the extensive growth of reeds as the two photographs show. Although the reeds are a necessary form of protection for the water birds who live there, they have become invasive since the onset of the pandemic prevented the annual clearance by Groundforce, the specialist contractor from carrying out the necessary work.
The need for ‘windows’ in the lakeside herbage to be created is now urgent if park users are to continue to enjoy a scenic stroll around the lake.
The strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo, has no close botanical connection with strawberries, but it is easy to see how it gets its name when one sees the fruits in autumn. Like strawberries, they darken from pale yellow to a bright red. The fruits from the previous year may be seen alongside the off-white flowers, in clusters of bells.
The tree is native to the Mediterranean but quite often planted in warmer parts of the UK. It is evergreen, with glossy green leaves about 3 cm × 8 cm with a serrated margin. In more mature trees its reddish grey scaly bark peels in small strips. It is generally a small tree, and not often prominent. There are several in Dulwich Park, of which perhaps the best example (and certainly the easiest to find) is east of the public toilets near the café, overshadowed by a red oak (Quercus rubra) next to it. One of several examples in Peckham Rye Park features in the tree trail produced by the late Christopher Howard, downloadable from the Park website www.peckhamryepark.org. On entering the park through the gate at the north-west corner, bear left for about 50 metres, walking under two Caucasian wingnuts (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), and the strawberry tree (labelled) overhangs the path. There are other examples in the Alleyn’s School Memorial Garden on the corner of Calton Avenue and Townley Road.
The specific name “unedo” is said to come from Latin meaning “I eat only one”. The taste of the fruits is not recommended! In Portugal, however, they are made into a traditional fruit brandy, Aguardente de Medronhos; its strength is perhaps hinted at by the fact that “água ardente” is Portuguese for burning water.
Not for the first time it is a Sparrow Hawk which has provided the most dramatic wildlife incident of the year. Just imagine how it feels when you are relaxing in the glass extension to your house when through the open door at high speed flies a Parakeet hotly pursued by the biggest brown bird you have ever seen. Such was the experience of Kenneth Wall in Calton Avenue. Of course, the offending bird was a female Sparrow Hawk in pursuit of its newly introduced food supply. There was a moment of confusion in which the Parakeet made its escape and the Hawk got itself behind a French horn which was leaning against the wall. Somehow it extracted itself and flew up towards the ceiling and they were faced with the problem of how to get rid of it. They attempted to throw a blanket over it and then somehow it managed to find its way out. Sparrow Hawks rely on surprise attacks but perhaps fortunately did not on this occasion catch its Parakeet.
I am asked from time to time my opinion on the feeding of foxes. My answer is definitely not. Foxes are wild animals and should not be allowed to become tame.
They are opportunistic carnivores and scavengers and given the chance could enter houses by cat flaps or open doors. Many carry a skin condition called mange and would constitute a health risk including scabies. The young fox pictured chose to join our family party of thirty, perhaps having smelt food, much to the surprise of the non-Londoners. It still reappears and will come to within a few feet almost as an act of provocation. It looks very healthy, and I only hope this is not the consequence of it being fed.
With the COP26 conference a major topic of the moment it is timely that we should look at what we can see as the likely effects of global warming on our local wildlife, not just from the extreme events which may be disastrous but the alteration of our seasonal climate.. For over ten years Dave Clark has been doing systematic regular bird counts both in Dulwich Park and Sydenham Hill woods. Although as he states these are not strictly scientific, they do give an indication of the gains and losses over this period. As expected, we see evidence of the rise of Parakeets and Corvids particularly Jackdaws which have quite recently taken up residence here. But we are clearly losing some of our best loved songbirds that live and breed at shrub level, most notably members of the Thrush family, Song and Mistle Thrushes and now also Blackbirds. May is a crucial month as that is the point at which their young fledge and in 2020 there was a May drought and 2021 a stormy deluge. The lives of these birds are short and if they do not replace the numbers will spiral downwards. and this would appear to be happening.
There are of course other factors. There is an ever present tension between the need for space for human recreation and the provision of undisturbed wildlife habitat and also nest predation by crows and cats. But if we wish to continue to see and hear Blackbirds in our gardens we need to leave hedges uncut in May, and leave Ivy alone. We should also beware pf searching for a nest where we might also carve a route for a Magpie. There are very few Song Thrushes now so it may already be too late for them, but we still need to save our Blackbirds. If we have a May drought, meal worm feeds may help supplement the lack of worms.
May is indeed crucial for other wildlife. We have had a succession of poor years for those butterflies that hibernate such as Peacocks and Tortoiseshells and need good weather for early breeding. The national big butterfly count this year confirms the loss which probably relates to poor survival of those that emerge in the Spring. Winter moth caterpillars need to be available in May for the Blue and Great Tits and if a warm Spring brings them out too early the nestlings will starve and there has been evidence of this. Interestingly I have received an observation from Harry Rutherford who records his trapped moth numbers that the Horse Chestnut leaf miner moths were a fraction of their usual numbers. It may be noticed that our local Horse Chestnuts which have in recent years been defoliated by the leaf miner larvae by the end of August have retained their leaves until October, so even this indicates the sensitivity of our wildlife at all levels to weather unpredictability.
In contrast to the butterfly story the British Dragon Fly Society reports that the warmer temperatures have been a benefit and this has been noticed by our entomologists. Jeff Doodson reports having seen three species of Azure Damsel Fly and the Large Red Damsel Fly with Southern Hawkers and the Common Darter which he has photographed. He also notes however a relative absence of Ladybirds this year but includes for interest a photo of a Green Shield Bug that innocently occupies our gardens. This now may have to be distinguished from the American Stink Bug, a nasty brown invader, catastrophically destructive of fruit trees and with an odour of Ammonia or even an American Skunk.
As part of our hope that we can maintain and indeed improve the bio-diversity of “leafy” Dulwich I would be interested to hear records of observations of any form of local wildlife that excites readers curiosity. There is expertise among us and we can usually manage to help with identification and add to interest and we can all learn. As a final thought has anybody seen any Hedgehogs as I have not had a record for the past two years. It would be sad to have to declare them as locally extinct.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder
Tel:020 7274 4567
It lurks in the broadleaf
woods around my home,
in the mature oaks of
its scathing yellow eye
pierces the darkness of
the shrill cry of its
young can be heard
above the canopy of
I’ve seen it chasing
green parrots over the clearing,
I’ve seen it sitting in the bare
branches of an ash
back turned, brooding.
I’ve seen it over breakfast,
a long steady glide
as a speck to the
shape of the garden.
I’ve seen two young
birds playing, boasting
of flight in a still
Today I watched
its tail feathers fanned
out from my kitchen table.
And in the afternoon,
in the freezing frost-
covered wood we inspected
a headless blackbird
lying in sycamore leaf
litter, the Christmas red
of its innards exposed.
From I am living with the animals
Selected Poems by Daniel Greenwood
Reproduced with the permission of the author.
Bertie Sheldrake was an East Dulwich pickle manufacturer who converted to Islam and became king of a far-flung Islamic republic before returning to London and settling back into obscurity.
Bertie William Sheldrake was born in 1888, the grandson of Gosling Mullander Sheldrake who had started a pickle business, his factory was behind his house in Albany Road, Walworth. Bertie’s father, William, worked for the firm as a commercial traveller and with his wife, May, brought up their son and three daughters in various houses in the area, always close to the factory (which later moved to Cobourg Road), sometimes sharing with another family, as was common then.
Bertie was baptised at St Luke’s, Peckham and brought up ‘in strict conformity’ to the Church of England, he was a child chorister for seven years. However, the challenges of two friends, an agnostic and a Catholic, led him to question his faith. Reading the works of free thinkers like Charles Bradlaugh and studying eastern religions gradually brought him to Islam, before he had ever met a ‘Musselman’ as he once called Muslims. In 1904, aged 16, he was accepted into the Islamic faith by Abdullah Suhrawardy, taking the name Khalid. He was an active Muslim networker from the start, founding the Young England Islamic Society in 1906 aged just 18. His faith caused friction in his wider family, in 1912 he said that he was ‘at variance with my nearest and dearest’.
Khalid began work as a commercial traveller in the family business but it wasn’t long before he became a journalist, writing enormous numbers of articles on Islam and serving as editor of The Minaret. He was a provocative writer: his suggestion that Napoleon had flirted with conversion to Islam caused uproar in both England and France. He began using his family fortune to promote his new faith, helping to launch the journals ‘Britain and India’ and the ‘Muslim News Journal’.
World War One
In WW1 Sheldrake enlisted with friends and fellow converts Omar Richardson and Frank Mohammed Crabtree. Khalid was 5ft 9½in, tall at a time when the average soldier was 5ft 6in and was described as a good physical specimen. Although he had served as a territorial before the war he was not sent overseas: the converts were not trusted and were carefully watched by the authorities, with Crabtree in particular being singled out for a range of slurs including that his conversion made him ‘morally and politically undesirable’ and ‘an English Muhammadan crank’.
In 1917, aged 29, Khalid married the 20- year-old Victoria Catherine Sybil Gilbert. She also converted to Islam, and took the name Ghazia.. They lived in Tarbert Road and Melbourne Grove before moving to Fenwick Road in 1920 where they lived until the early 1930s and it was here that they became parents. In 1922, when their son Rashid was born, two Muslim clerics visited Mrs Sheldrake in East Dulwich, ‘their turbans provided some interest in the neighbourhood’. They whispered the Muslim call to prayer into the baby’s ear after which the proud father was taken off to dinner at the Afghan embassy. Their other son, Kemal, was born in 1926. Around this time Khalid was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature, possibly from Ecuador, and was henceforth referred to as Dr Sheldrake.
Sheldrake became one of the foremost English Muslims, among whom there were often arguments and schisms. He supported the Woking Muslim Mission but then broke away from it to found the Western Islamic Association. He was fluent in Esperanto, a language he believed had the capacity to ‘break down the barriers of colour, creed and caste’ and translated the Koran into it. He helped finance a mosque in Southfields and also converted part of his house in Fenwick Road into a mosque, called Masjid-el-Dulwich. In 1928 he conducted the funeral service of Sayaid Ali, an elephant keeper at London Zoo who had been murdered in his bed by a rival elephant keeper. Dr Sheldrake took the service at Waterloo station, after which the coffin was taken on the Necropolis Railway to the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery.
We do not know exactly why Khalid converted though that didn’t stop press speculation which became the source of many enduring inaccuracies about him. He was supposed to have been an Irish-French nobleman called Count de la Force. He wasn’t; his family came from Suffolk and his grandfather was a self-made man. He was called the ‘Sheik of British Muslims’ though no such title existed. He was supposed to have converted to gain several wives, again untrue, Ghazia was his only wife until his dying day. At the time there was a widespread aesthetic appreciation for ‘Arabia’ that gave rise to Orientalism and to some highly publicised conversions but Sheldrake was a relatively early convert, before most of these, and it could simply have been that he chose Islam as the religion that suited him best.
A mid-air conversion
Dr Sheldrake himself performed many high-profile conversions, such as that of Gladys Milton Palmer. Gladys was the Quaker daughter of Sir Walter Palmer of the Huntley & Palmer biscuit empire, and the wife of Bertram Brooke, the (Protestant) son of the ‘White Rajah’ of Sarawak. Gladys, who had previously converted to Catholicism and Christian Science, had firm ideas about how her conversion to Islam should go. She wanted it performed ‘on no earthly territory’ so in 1932 she chartered a 42-seat airliner to fly from Croydon Airport to Paris; Khalid performed the ceremony over the English Channel. Gladys wore a fur coat and carried a gold copy of the Koran, Khalid wore his customary red fez. Gladys took the name Khair ul Nissa. Lord Headley, President of the British Muslim Society, commented: ‘When a woman of such importance selects an aeroplane for so serious a ceremony it is, to say the least, unfortunate’.
Sheldrake toured the country talking about Islam and supporting Muslims, even visiting Yemeni seamen who had settled in South Shields and Hull since the 1860s, later taking their case to the Home Office and the House of Commons. He also travelled abroad, with lecture tours of Morocco and India boosting his reputation further afield.
By 1928 there were three mosques in London: in Woking, Southfields and East Dulwich and in the same year Sheldrake expressed disappointment at the slow progress of British Islam since his own conversion. He said that in 1906 there were 300 adherents but that this had only increased to 600 by 1928. He blamed sectarianism among British Muslims (division to which he contributed) and thought it had caused such inertia that the London Central Mosque, first announced in 1906, was unlikely to be completed before the year 2000 (it was finished in 1977). Still, he concluded, there were some positives: ‘We do not conduct our campaigns on the lines of the Mormons’.
The English Emir of Kashgar
Sheldrake’s fame was growing beyond these shores when, in what is now Xinjiang, the Uygur people were looking for independence from their Chinese masters. In 1933 the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (known as ETR) was announced, with Kashgar its capital and a population of about 2 million. When China and Russia ignored the fledgling Islamist republic a deputation to Gaynesford Road in Forest Hill, where the Sheldrakes now lived, fell on more fertile ground. The men from Kashgar took tea, admired Mrs Sheldrake’s marigolds and dahlias and asked: would Dr Sheldrake become king of the Islamic kingdom, his wife queen, and would they run ETR? Sheldrake said they would. He set off east almost immediately, giving lectures on Islam along the way in the Philippines, Borneo, Singapore and Hong Kong and telling a few people of his impending kingship but swearing them to secrecy. By 1934 he had reached Peking where he was closely watched by the Chinese authorities. He officially accepted the throne and the title His Majesty King Khalid of Islamestan, later saying, ‘I had the choice of becoming a monarch or refusing these earnest and poor people, who might lose heart and become desperate, or fall the prey of some political adventurer’. Ghazia went out to join him, having had her royal robes made by a Sydenham dressmaker. Together they travelled the 4,000km to Kashgar by camel train, accompanied by two metal bathtubs Ghazia had bought in Croydon.
The press had a field day: calling him ‘The Pickle King of Tartary’, saying ‘Dr Sheldrake is heading into 57 varieties of trouble’ and that he had ‘deserted the ancestral pickle vats of 295 Albany Road’. None of the area’s geopolitical complexities were reported, or that the previous ruler had been beheaded, or that there were other contenders for the throne, some of them warlords backed by China or Russia. The story was treated as a jolly jape and many newspapers didn’t even use a photo of Sheldrake, an unknown Muslim in a fez was used instead.
In June 1934 the Sheldrakes arrived in their kingdom to find that events had overtaken them and the Russians, fearful of a potential British annexation of land so close to India, had toppled the fledgling republic. King Khalid and Queen Ghazia headed straight to Hyderabad where Sheldrake announced, ‘I am not ready to be the pawn of any political game … I prefer to be an absentee king. I am awaiting events before actually proceeding to my kingdom’.
The Sheldrakes never did proceed to their kingdom. They returned to Forest Hill and later moved to Harrow where Khalid died in 1947; Ghazia in 1978. There were no obituaries, no mention in the press. The name of Khalid Sheldrake appears to have been forgotten until recently, when scholars have given him his rightful place in the history of 20th century British Islam.
Thomas was a leading trade unionist and served in three governments, the Labour governments of 1924 and 1929-31 and in the National government of 1931-35, as Colonial and Dominions secretary and Lord Privy Seal. From 1920, he lived at 125 Thurlow Park Road, West Dulwich, in a house bought for him by his union, the National Union of Railwaymen. He was also president of the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill golf club. 125 Thurlow Park Road is now part of Oakfield Preparatory School.
Thomas is a largely forgotten figure in British labour history. He has no entry in the 15 volume Biography of Labour History, and there is only one biography of him, by Gregory Blaxland, published in 1964 under the rather odd title of ‘ A Life for Unity’. Thomas published his own autobiography in 1937 as My Story. The possible reasons for this disregard is that firstly Thomas, together with Philip Snowden, joined MacDonald’s National government after the 1931 economic crisis and is therefore widely seen as a traitor to the labour movement, and secondly that Thomas in later life became a butt of ridicule, especially by the cartoonist, David Low - for drinking too much, for aping the style of the aristocracy ( a tendency shared with Ramsay MacDonald) and finally for being caught up in a budget leak scandal, which led to his resignation. The snobbish and puritanical Fabian, Beatrice Webb noted in her diary in December 1929 – “ his ugly and rather mean face made meaner and uglier by an almost exaggerated sense of personal failure … Jimmy is a boozer, his language is foul, he is a stock exchange gambler, he is also a social climber…”
This perspective however overlooks the fact that he was one of the leading trade unionists and Labour politicians in the interwar era, and made significant contributions to both industrial and political life. He must have had a sense of humour as several of Low’s cartoons are included in his autobiography.
Thomas was born in Newport in Wales in 1874. Like Ramsay MacDonald, he was illegitimate. His mother was a domestic servant – his father is not known. He was brought up by his grandmother, a washerwoman and left school at the age of 12. He worked in shops and as a decorator before joining the Great Western Railway in 1889, at the age of 15, working for five years as an engine cleaner, before promotion to the role of fireman. He joined the Amalgamated Union of Railway Servants, becoming chair of his union branch, president of the Newport Trades Council and a delegate to his union’s national conference. He married in 1898. He then transferred to Swindon, where he also became Trades Council president, and in 1901 he was elected to Swindon council, defeating his own railway superintendent. One of his supervisors recorded that ‘Thomas is a young agitator of whom no notice need be taken’. Thomas became chairman of the Council’s Tramways and Electricity committee and then chairman of the Finance and Law committee. At the same time, he was cooking his breakfast of bacon and egg on the shovel in the fire of his train’s engine.
Thomas had joined his union’s national executive committee in 1902. He became union president in 1905, at the age of 31, and was then appointed organising secretary, a full-time post, moving to Manchester, Cardiff and then London. His union had a list pf prospective parliamentary candidates, and when Richard Bell, the union general secretary who had been the Lib-Lab MP for Derby since 1900, and who had been sponsored by the union, disagreed with the Labour Party standing candidates independent of the Liberal Party, the union decided to withdraw his sponsorship and selected Jimmy Thomas to stand in his place. Bell had been chair of the Labour Representation Committee as well as President of the TUC but had left the small Labour group of MPs because he could not stick to the LRC rules which required independence from other parties. Before parliament was dissolved for the 1910 election, Bell took an appointment with the Board of Trade, a move not approved by the union or the LRC.
Thomas was elected MP for Derby in January 1910 in tandem with the Liberal, Thomas Roe, who had first been elected in 1900 – the constituency had two members and as a result of Ramsay Macdonald’s agreement with Liberal chief whip, Herbert Gladstone, Bell was not opposed by the Liberals, on the basis that Labour did not stand two candidates either. Thomas was to hold the seat until 1936. He was also elected assistant general secretary of his union, which became the National Union of Railwaymen in 1913, taking over as general secretary in 1916, a post he continued to hold while a Minister. Thomas came to national prominence in the 1911 railway strike. Thomas was also one of the triumvirate who ran the Triple Alliance of 1914, when the NUR allied with the Miners Federation of Robert Smillie and the Transport workers union, led by Will Thorne and Robert Williams. Thomas supported British entry into the First World War but was opposed to Labour joining Asquith’s government in May 1915. However, he supported Labour joining the coalition government led by Lloyd George in December 1916. He had hoped for a post in the war cabinet, but Arthur Henderson, the Labour Party leader was appointed instead. He then declined the post of Minister of Labour (which went to the Labour MP, John Hodge) and other offers of ministerial posts. He was however appointed to the Privy Council (which caused some controversy in his union) and to the government’s reconstruction committee.
In 1920, Thomas published his only book (other than his autobiography) When Labour Rules. Thomas set out a programme for government - limited nationalisation, social amelioration and equality of opportunity to be achieved through parliamentary means. He asserted that “Labour rule will be entirely beneficent, and that its dealings with high and low, rich and poor, will be marked with broad-minded toleration and equity.” Thomas was an opponent of both syndicalism and Bolshevism. At the time he was both TUC chairman and chairman of the International Federation of Trade Unions. His view was that political strikes would only subvert the Labour Party. Thomas was a union moderate and preferred conciliation to militancy and strike action. In 1921, the NUR withdrew its support for the Miners Federation. In 1926, he had sought to avoid a general strike and helped to bring the strike to an end. He was critical of the miners’ more militant policy, and was accused of betrayal of the miners.
Thomas was one of the leaders of the Parliamentary Labour Party from 1918, many of the pre-war leaders such as MacDonald, Snowden and Henderson having lost their seats. Thomas was close to MacDonald and had hoped to be foreign secretary, a post which Macdonald kept for himself, when the first Labour administration was formed in 1924. Instead, Thomas was appointed colonial secretary, a post in which he was considered to be fairly successful. Thomas was a patriot and supporter of the Empire, in contrast with internationalists such as E D Morel, who had also hoped for the foreign secretary post. In 1929, in the second Labour government, when Henderson was made foreign secretary, Thomas was given the post of Lord Privy Seal, with responsibility for policy on unemployment. His broader economic policy, so far as he had one, was fairly orthodox. He supported protective tariffs, opposed tax increases and ought to limit expenditure on public works as he considered this would reduce business confidence and the potential for economic recovery. For his junior ministers, he had George Lansbury, Thomas Johnson and Oswald Mosley. Thomas rejected the reflationary programme proposed by Mosley and 16 other Labour MPs including Nye Bevan and John Strachey in the ‘Mosley memorandum’ which was supported by A J Cook of the miners. The rejection prompted Mosley’s resignation. Mosley first established a New Party in February 1931 with other Labour Party radicals from within the Independent Labour Party, before founding the British Union of Fascists the following year.
Without the support of his junior ministers, Thomas’ position became untenable. Macdonald therefore moved him to the post of Dominions secretary, responsible for relations with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.. Sidney Webb, now Lord Passfield, was Colonial secretary. Thomas’ term coincided with the 1930 Imperial conference, hosted by George V and chaired by Ramsay Macdonald. This brought together the prime ministers of Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland (not yet part of the Canadian federation) and the Irish Free State president. India was represented by William Wedgwood Been, the secretary of state.
With the collapse of the Labour government and establishment of a National Government led by MacDonald, Thomas sided with Macdonald. He was a Macdonald loyalist and shared the view of Macdonald and Philip Snowden, the chancellor of the exchequer, that his patriotism required hm to put the country before party. He was an admirer of the King, who apparently supported a National government as the appropriate response to the crisis. An academic, Andrew Thorpe, has however argued that Thomas’ main motivation was that he needed to keep his ministerial salary to maintain his lifestyle. It has been suggested that it was Thomas who first put forward the idea of a National government, though it is unlikely he believed that the Tories would led Macdonald stay on as prime minister. Thomas’ reward was to retain his position as Dominions secretary. He was expelled from the Labour Party and also lost his trade union position. With Macdonald and Snowden, he became one of the three traitors of Labour mythology. Thomas supported Stanley Baldwin and the Tory leadership in creating a more permanent anti-labour coalition. Thomas had to defend his Derby seat, on behalf of ‘National Labour’ with Conservative support and in partnership with a Tory candidate, against two Labour candidates. Thomas held the seat under the same arrangement in 1935. He was however demoted to the role of Colonial secretary. In early 1936, he was found to have leaked budget information to two friends enabling them to make gains on the stock market. Thomas was forced to resign from the government and resigned as an MP in June. In the by-election which followed, Philip Noel-Baker won back the Derby seat for the Labour Party. Thomas withdrew from political life, but went into business, becoming chairman of British Amalgamated Transport.
Thomas died at his Dulwich house in January 1949. The newspaper obituaries tended to focus on anecdotes about his habits. Even his friend and colleague Philip Snowden, could get a laugh out of his audience by commenting: “I calculate that Mr Thomas spends 150 days of each year attending lunches and dinners of various societies, smoking 320 cigars, and consuming nine gallons of champagne, with a laundry bill for starched shirts of £18 a year.” David Low’s most famous cartoons had Thomas as ‘Lord Dress Suit.’ One anecdote had it that King George V burst a post-operative wound laughing at one of Thomas’ rude jokes, just before the 1929 election. On being appointed colonial secretary that year, Thomas asserted that “one must feel proud to live under a constitution which enables a humble boy with a meagre education to become in so short a time one of his Majesties Principal Secretaries of State.” A son, Leslie, an unsuccessful Labour National candidate in 1935, became Conservative MP for Canterbury in 1953.
DNB entry by Philip Williamson
Blaxland, Gregory J H Thomas: A Life for Unity (Muller 1964)
Thomas, J H My Story (Hutchinson 1937)
Thorpe, Andrew I am in the cabinet: J H Thomas’ decision to join the National Government in 1931
This is the first of three parts of the story of the Friern Manor Farm Estate, in East Dulwich, from the late 18th Century leading up to its development for house building in the last quarter of the 19th Century. The Estate covered some 221 acres, 89.5 hectares. It was bounded approximately by what is now Barry Road to the north, Lordship Lane to the west and a more indented eastern boundary reflecting historic field patterns flanking Peckham Rye and stretched south as far as the present Horniman Museum buildings. St Clement and St Peter Church was built on the site of the Friern Manor farmhouse, the main farm of the Estate.
For most of this period the owners lived elsewhere and used the Estate as a source of rental income and subsequently as an asset against which to secure loans. There is no evidence that the owners themselves had involvement in slavery but they did have close family ties with owners of slaves in the West Indies and a business associate who acted for slave owning families.
Ownership: The Jones Family and the Cartwrights
The history of the ownership of the Estate from the late 1700’s to the purchase of the major part by the British Land Company in 1865 is detailed in an extensive extract of the Sale Agreement, which is held by the Southwark History Library on Borough High Street
The history starts with the purchase in March 1773, by Henry Jones of some 118 acres of land which included Friern Court Farm with its two barns, stables, a granary, outhouses, orchards, together with 10 fields of varying acreages. One of fields was called Ladlands, a name maintained as a block of flats at Dawson Heights. Recently, an orchard has been re-established on the site of the farmhouse, where volunteers have planted a community orchard behind the hall of St Clement and St Peter Church.
In October 1796, Henry Jones acquired from Joseph Ruse and Richard Turner a further 84 acres to the south, including Nodlings Farmhouse on Lordship Lane with 19 fields. He separately purchased a further 3 fields covering 18 acres. The total area from all three purchases forms the Friern Manor Farm Estate, which was under common ownership, but which was occupied by various tenants.
In the period from the 1770’s to 1805, Henry Jones and his son, also named Henry, appear in local records. Henry Jones senior used his ownership as an investment and a source of income from rentals. His son, Henry Jones junior did spend some time at the farmhouse, then called Friern Manor Court, but on his death his heir, his daughter, Mary Anne Jones, lived elsewhere both before and after her marriage to William Cartwright.
In 1780, Henry senior is on the list of Peckham Freeholders qualified for Jury Service, although living at 52 Frith Street, Soho. The Sales document shows that he was building up a portfolio of land holdings, including in the Peckham/East Dulwich area for some time. He was selling annuities and seems to have used the money to purchase land to secure rental income to pay the interest on the annuities.
Henry Jones senior then aged 33 had married Harriet Thomas, the daughter of a City of London Alderman at Bridewell Chapel in February 1777. Henry and Harriet’s eldest son, Henry Thomas Jones was born in December of that year. They had three more children, Harriet Mary born in 1779, Inigo in 1781 and Ann Maria in 1781. In 1793, both Henry junior and Inigo Jones were listed as pupils at Eton who subsequently attended Christchurch College.
On his death at Turnham Green, on 13th September 1801, Henry Jones senior owned land at Plumstead, Turnham Green and in Oxfordshire, as well as the Friern Manor Farm Estate. At the time of his death, he was finalising a deal with the Duke of Bedford for land in St Pancras and Rotherhithe. His sons completed this deal.
Although Henry Jones senior died without having his final will formally registered, his sons agreed not to dispute his final wishes. The major landholdings were divided between them with Henry junior inheriting Friern Manor Farm and land in Rotherhithe while Inigo inherited the Oxfordshire holdings.
In 1801, Henry Jones junior married Mary Ann Thomas and in 1802 their daughter was born, also called Mary Anne. Henry was listed as a Camberwell freeholder, who was qualified for jury service, appearing on the 1803 list with an address of Friern Court Farm. However, land tax records of the same date list the actual occupiers of the Friern Manor Farm Estate as being Edward Edson and John Butcher. In 1805, Henry junior died. His death was reported in The Sun on 10th September 1805, “On Sunday last, at Friern Court Farm, Peckham Rye, Henry Thomas Jones Esq. of Gower Street, Bedford Square.” At this time, the farm was called Friern Court farm. In his will, he left the contents and tools of the farm plus the proceeds of any crops to his wife, but not the farm itself. Inigo became a clergyman and died in 1809. In 1810, Mary Ann, the widow of Henry Jones junior, remarried to a Nicholas Willard. But she died in 1812 leaving her and Henry Jones junior’s daughter, Mary Anne Jones an orphan. She was made a Ward of Chancery under the protection of her Aunt Harriet Tierney. Her inheritance including the Friern Manor Farm Estate was held in Trust for her. Her aunts had both married well, Harriet to Matthew Tierney in 1808 and Anna to his younger brother, Edward Tierney in 1811. Mathew Tierney was a surgeon and became the personal physician to the Prince Regent. In 1818, he was granted the title of Baron. Edward Tierney, a prominent solicitor, became the Crown Solicitor for Ulster. So, Mary Anne Jones grew up in a household with good social connections in Regency England. Her aunt’s husband’s duties meant that they spent a lot of time in Brighton attending social events.
Through their husbands, the two aunts owned slaves on the Douglas Estate on St Kitts. There is no evidence that either Henry Jones senior or junior owned slaves or of Mary inheriting any ownership of slaves. However, while living with her aunt, the household would have been in part financed by slave ownership.
Mary Anne Jones’ future husband, William Cartwright was a member of a well-connected Northamptonshire family. He was born on 24th February 1797 and baptised at Bath on 1st April 1797. He was the second son of William Ralph and Mary Maud Cartwright of Aynho, where his family had owned Aynho House since 1616. His mother was the daughter of Viscount Hawarden. He was educated at Eton, like Mary Anne’s father Henry Jones junior.
As the second son he followed the tradition of a career in the army. He trained at Royal Military College at Sandhurst before, in July 1812, joining the 61st South Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot as an ensign. The regiment was involved in the final actions of the Peninsula War. In January 1814, William obtained a commission as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoons and fought at the Battle of Toulouse on 10th April 1814. The battle took place four days after Napoleon’s surrender of the French Empire to the allied nations of the Sixth Coalition. But the ensuing peace was short lived when on 26th February 1815, Napoleon escaped from exile on Elba and took back power in France and raised a new army.
William Cartwright now held a commission of lieutenant in the 10th Hussars, known as the Prince of Wales Hussars. They formed part of the Duke of Wellington’s army and played an important role at Waterloo where the 10th Hussars were stationed on the left flank. They were unleashed on the French in the final rout of Napoleon’s troops. In total their casualties at Waterloo were killed and missing 2 officers and 237 rank and file plus wounded 46 of all ranks and 127 horses killed, wounded, or missing. So, William was fortunate to have survived unwounded.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he continued to serve in the 10th Prince of Wales Hussars being promoted to Captain in 1821 and Major unattached in 1825.
It is likely that Captain William Cartwright met Mary Anne Jones at a ball in Brighton. However, they met, they were married on 6th August 1822, at the fashionable church of St George’s, Hanover Square.
Mary Anne Jones now aged 20 was still a minor. She had to obtain authority from the Court of Chancery and permission from her guardian, her aunt. Her inheritance, including the Friern Manor Farm Estate, was vested in a new Trust, with conditions to provide her with an income of £1000 per year and to protect against forfeiture should her husband become bankrupt. Also, it allowed for the Trust to be used for the benefit of her children.
The newlyweds settled in William Cartwright’s family home of Aynho. Their first son, Fairfax William was born in 1823 and their second son, Aubrey Agar in 1825. They soon moved from Aynho to the other side of the county to Flore House and William settled into civilian and family life and took on civic duties.
In the middle of the Friern Manor Farm Estate were four smaller fields totalling some 13 acres, which belonged to Sir Edward Bowyer Smyth, a major local hereditary landowner. In 1848, William Cartwright bought these fields from Sir Edward for £1100 completing the land ownership.
Management and Tenancy of the Estate
In April 1823, the Friern Manor Farm Estate, was leased to William Le Blanc, a solicitor, longstanding friend, and associate of the Jones family, since at least 1799. He was present at William Cartwright and MaryAnne Jones’s wedding. He was a partner in Shawe, Le Blanc, Shawe. The first Shawe was Richard Shawe of Casino House, Dulwich and the other Shawe, his brother Robert. Both brothers had died by 1823. The Shawe’s were involved with slavery and so was William Le Blanc. He acted as a trustee for slave owning families and handled the sale of slave plantations. William Le Blanc himself died in 1824 and the estate management was passed on to his son, William Elliott Le Blanc. In 1829, management was handed back to the Trustees.
In the 1796 Land Tax Returns, the main occupiers of the land are Edward Mace and John Baylie and by 1800, Edward Edson and John Butcher. Based on the assessed taxable values, Baylie and Butcher farmed the greater acreages.
In 1823, Thomas Sturley was listed as the tenant of Friern Farm and a Mr Lewis of Nodlings Farm.
Thomas Sturley died in 1834. It is likely that Mr Lewis, is Daniel Lewis, who is listed as the occupier of Nodlings Farm of some 84 acres on the 1838 Tithe Map produced for the Parish of St Giles, Camberwell. He also rented some 25 acres from Thomas Bailey and 7 acres from Richard Edmonds. The land he rented was mostly classed as grass with some arable. He was from a local Camberwell family.
He was born in 1778, the son of Daniel and Frances Mary Lewis, who was related to the Baylie family. Daniel Lewis senior was a blacksmith. On his death in 1791, he left a moderate estate including not only his blacksmith premises but also a butcher’s shop, which was rented out and a stock of ironmongery.
In the 1831 Southwark rate books, Daniel Lewis junior is listed as farming over 130 acres in East Dulwich. In February 1827, Daniel Lewis is reported, along with a Mr Brown, as one of the local farmers whose sheep were being attacked by a large feral dog. The dog was tracked to its lair in the Dulwich Woods but the first man on the scene had to climb a tree to escape injury.
In the 1841 census, he was living at Prospect Place with his cousin, Mary Baylie. Prospect Place which still stands on the west side of Peckham Rye. Daniel Lewis died in 1844, and John Joseph Brown was one of his executors along with Mary Baylie. Mary died a year later in 1845. In “An Old Resident Remembers,” an article in the South London Press of 16th June 1877, Daniel Lewis was described as one of the most successful farmers, who was known as an eccentric though kind-hearted man.
On the 1838, a tithe map, William Blackmore Noble and John Mee are listed as the joint tenants of the Friern Manor farm and are leasing some 118 acres described as 90 acres of grass and 28 acres of arable. Their story will be covered in Part 2.
George Hazeldine was the tenant of the remaining 18 acres of the Estate, south of Wood Lane, now Woodvale. Born in Tunbridge Wells in 1800, he was a partner in the firm of Hazeldine and Matts coach and van works at 5 Lant Street, Southwark.
In 1838, there were additionally a few cottages occupying smaller leases, in the northeast corner of the Estate.
In the 1841, the local historian, Douglas Allport, described the view from the northern slope of Ladlands Hill, “To the westward, the country, though generally open, was still darkened by fine timber trees. Full before me, rose the heights of Champion and Grove Hills, now studded with delightful villas. To the right, the thousand spires of the metropolis were dimly seen, whilst farther to the eastward, the country lay exposed, as to render visible the entire reach of the Greenwich Railway, until interrupted by the rising ground of Nunhead and Plow Garlic Hills. Almost the whole middle was occupied by one perfect and unbroken level, nearly in the centre of which stood Friern Manor House, with its white walls and over-hanging foliage, a conspicuous and picturesque object.”