Sunday, 19 August 2012


A novel competition was held a few weeks ago along the Brighton, to London road between two men, each of whom claimed the title of champion bottle walker of the world. The terms of the competition were to walk from Brighton to London with a two gallon stone bottle weighing about 12lbs. balanced neck downwards on the head. Three stoppages not to exceed two  minutes were allowed, which meant that the bottle could only be lifted from the head three times and if a man missed-stepped and over balanced his bottle so that he had to put his hands up to save it from falling this counted as one stoppage. James Fowler won the race in fine style. His finish along the crowded streets of Deptford, where he dexterously avoided pedestrians and vehicles without overbalancing his burden, and was cheered by a great crowd!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

An Elopement Romance in Deptford

Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 19 March 1892

A Deptford correspondent tells a remarkable story. Three months ago a couple of rooms in a dingy cottage in a court off the High Street were taken by a middle aged man and his daughter, a girl of about 18. Of the history of the new arrivals nothing was known in the district, and beyond the facts that the man's name was John M'Kenna, that he was out of employment, and had latterly existed on a few shillings a week which his daughter was able to earn at shirtmaking, nothing was discovered about him until a day or two ago. At the be- ginning of December the girl was seized with influenza. In a fortnight she was dead, and M'Kenna was left to shift for himself, with a mattress and a dose of influenza as the sum total of his earthly possessions. Parish relief he declined to solicit, and though the old woman of the house, who was not much better off than himself, did all she could to alleviate his distress, death from starvation and disease combined loomed near. But when things were as bad as they well could be, a fashionably attired lady called at the house and enquired for M'Kenna. On being ushered into his poverty-stricken room she fell on her knees beside the sick man's bed, and exclaimed, "Oh, Jack, forgive me" During that night and the two succeeding days the strange visitor nursed the patient with loving tenderness, and all that money could command was provided. The devoted nursing, the proper remedies for his malady, and the nourishing things got for him to restore his failing strength, between them had a beneficial effect, and M'Kenna began to mend. Now comes in the pathetic part of this remarkable story. His nurse, worn out by watching at length herself fell a victim to the influenza. She was removed to another house, and medical men gave her every attention. Pneumonia, however, the accompaniment of influenza, which is worse than the disease itself, supervened, and proved fatal on January 26, to the intense grief of M'Kenna. The fashionably dressed lady was his erring but repentant wife. They were married nearly 20 years ago, M'Kenna being at that time in business at Hammersmith. Their married life appears to have been unhappy, and the wife eloped with a common friend. America was the country to which the runaways went. They experienced, many vicissitudes, and the man at last made up his mind to try his luck at the goldfields in Lower California. Finally he and a few others obtained a concession to work a claim in Cacachiias. which proved to be one of the richest districts in the Mexican Republic. Their efforts were attended with phenomenal success, and each of them made a huge fortune. Last year Mrs. M'Kenna's lover met with a fatal accident, whereupon she sold out his interest in the mine for £65,000, and returned to England to try and find her first love. She traced M'Kenna after a weary search to his destitute abode in Deptford, and the pair were completely reconciled. M'Kenna is "a richer man today richer," at least, from a monetary view by £62,000, his wife leaving all her money to him.

The Railway Tavern

This photo is of the Railway Tavern, Hamilton Street, Deptford. John Hoare kindly gave permission to me to post. It was sent to him by Richard Menari. John thought the photo was taken in the 1880s, detail from the early photograph of 'The Railway Tavern', of a poseter for the Film 'Birth of a Nation'but having 'tweaked' the image he noticed the advertisement for the 1910 film 'Birth of a Nation' at the Scala Theatre! 

I carried out further research and found that the Scala Theater was one of a few venues allowed to loan the film in 1915. Unless the poster has been in the window for 5 years 1915 through 1916 looks about right.

 The Scala Theatre had a few successful runs in its early days including “A Royal Divorce” (1906) but by 1911 it was being used as a cinema. Films provided the main fare through much of the First World War and “The Birth of
a Nation” was a big attraction in 1915. 

The landlord in the 1880s was Duncan Jenkins, who was thought to have been one of the gentlemen standing at the door. Mr. Jenkins bought the Railway Tavern some time after the 1881 census, and sold it in 1888.

My thanks again to John Hoare and Richard Menari for allowing me to post the photos.
You can find out more about John Hoare's family at

Friday, 17 August 2012

Nelsons Home for Sale 1932.

 I have always been interested in the history of numbers 34 and 36 Albury St, in particular the connection between these properties with Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton These interesting articles appeared in Australian Hobart newspaper "The Mercury" on Friday 1st January 1932 

America has eyes on the old home of Nelson, at Deptford, London, and unless the building can be scheduled as an ancient monument or funds are forth-coming to have it, the mansion will go over the Atlantic. It is No. 34 Albury Street, tucked away in a mean neighbourhood, and it is full of memories to the hero (says the "Sunday Dispatch"). The front door chain is a portion of an anchor chain taken from the Victory by Nelson when the ship was home for refitting a few years before the Battle of Trafalgar. The back door was taken from another of Nelson's ships, the Bellerophon, which he commanded at the Nile. It served as a hatch aboard the ship, and Nelson fitted a couple of massive hinges. The hatch handles are still employed to open the door. The oak staircase has been smothered with thick paint since Nelson's day, but its beauty may still be seen in places where the paint has been rubbed away. The front door knocker is that which Lady Hamilton must have often raised when she called on Lord Nelson at this wonderful old house. Over the doorways is a carving attributed to Grindling Gibbons. Many of the tenement houses which now compose the street have similar carvings over their doors. Offers from Americans have resulted from an advertisement inserted in a New York newspaper. It was headed, "Nelson’s Old Home for Sale" and it offered the house as a whole or in parts. No price was named, and buyers were asked to get into touch with the vendors at Albury Street. The vendors are the Committee of the Deptford Babies Hospital, which occupies the house and another adjoining it.



An old cottage has just come into tho news again. Perhaps ilt is the most romantic cottage in England after Anne Hathaway's. It has a splendid present as well as a past. It is one of a pair of cottages believed to be over 300 years old, and today the house is the Deptford and Greenwich Babies Hospital. But there are touches about the hospital which are like no other hospital. The kitchen door is a cabin door and the front door chain is from Nelson's Victory. Long ago in Deptford's heyday, Lord Nelson rented one of these cottages, says the "Children's Newspaper." Deptford has known both Nelson and Drake. Where Nelson used to live there are now 20 babies. But unluckily there are scores of sick babies outside the hospital waiting to come in. The hospital stands in one of the most crowded parts of London, and 20 beds are not enough. Princess Alice, one of the voluntary workers maintaining the hospital, is asking for help. They would be sorry to leave Nelson's cottage, yet 300-year-old cottages do not make ideal hospitals, and certainly 20 beds are not enough for the demand upon them.

HMS Bellerophon.