Petersham’s First World War Remembrance Walk
This route was devised to avoid areas of heavy traffic and the narrow pavements near the bend on the Petersham Road, known locally as Tommy Steele’s Corner.
The blog Petersham Remembers [https://petershamremembers.wordpress.com] has further information on each person commemorated on the Petersham War Memorial. There are hyperlinks to the main blog post for each person mentioned in the course of the Walk, but you might also wish later to use the search box on the blog to find any information updates or mentions elsewhere of people in whom you have a particular interest.
This walk starts in front of Douglas House, which is situated on the Avenue leading from the Petersham Road towards Ham House. The numbers refer to markings on the map for this walk, one of the boards created for the Petersham Commemoration of the centenary of Armistice Day.
Known since 1725 as Douglas House (1), after Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, it now forms part of the Deutsche Schule London. This house was the childhood home of Victor Biddulph, whose father, George Tournay Biddulph became President of the Petersham Land Troop of Baden Powell Scouts the year after it was founded.
Turn, and walk a short distance in the direction of Petersham Road until you reach a wide path on your left. Turn left on to that path and continue along it to the gate which leads to the Scouts’ field (2). It is over 100 years since Mr Biddulph made this field available to the Scouts when their earlier meeting places were either no longer available or deemed unsuitable. Subsequent owners of Douglas House and its grounds have continued to allow the Sea Scouts to make use of this meadow, and to maintain a hut and boathouse there.
The Petersham Troop, founded in 1908, provided three of the first four Scouts to qualify as King’s Scouts in this country, one of whom was Harold Joel, a high achieving student throughout his school career. His father, Walter, had become involved with the group from 1909, when the Troop’s Founding Scout Master, Alfred Thomas Jewitt, emigrated to Canada. Harold Joel and Victor Biddulph became best friends and after their deaths, their fathers took on the role of Joint Scout Masters. Sixteen former Petersham Scouts lost their lives in WW1—the percentage of this troop’s servicemen who died on active service was more than double the national average.
Turn back and walk a short distance to a footpath on the left. Continue along this narrow path to River Lane—Frank Charles Liddle was buried from one of the houses in this road. Cross River Lane and continue to follow the footpath on the other side of the road. At the end of this path you should find that you have come out next to the entrance to Petersham Nurseries. Follow the unmade road, bearing right at the bend and follow it a short distance to the gate of St Peter’s Churchyard (3). The Parish War Memorial is just inside the gate—it was unveiled and consecrated in 1920. Close by you will find the graves of Frank Liddle and also of Gerald and Montague Hindson-Farren, sons of Henry Farren, the actor, whose former home backs on to the Churchyard. Nearby, at the foot of his mother’s grave, is a memorial to Victor Biddulph.
Turn right as you leave the Churchyard, walking back to the end of the churchyard wall and then follow the path to your right. Take care here as the ground is uneven. It will lead you to the Petersham Road; as you emerge, the Dysart Arms will be on your right.
Looking across the road and to the left, just inside Petersham Park, was the site of the Petersham British School (4), established by Lord and Lady Russell in 1852 as a non-denominational school for the children of the poor. After its destruction through enemy action in 1943, the Russell School moved to its present location, where it is a close neighbour to Douglas House.
After crossing at the traffic lights, you need to turn right and walk towards Cedar Heights. On this corner is Bute Lodge (5) (182 Petersham Road), home of Frank Allum, a bright and promising lad employed as a clerk in Kingston’s Education Department, who enlisted, soon after the outbreak of war, in the prestigious Honourable Artillery Company. He was the son of Alfred Allum, Overseer and Rate Collector for Petersham, who also served as a Sudbrook Ward Councillor for many years.
On the other side of this road, and next to the Dysart Arms, is Parkgate (6) (137 Petersham Road), home of the Farren brothers, the last two casualties from Petersham. Both brothers died at home—Gerald in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and Montague, in March 1919, as a consequence of shell shock, aggravated by his brother’s death.
After crossing Cedar Heights, walk until you reach a footpath on the left. Pause before taking it, to view from this point three significant houses. Ahead of you, on your side of the road, is Reston Lodge, on which Felix Hanbury Tracy’s mother, Ada, Lady Sudeley, took a lease. Her son, Algernon Hanbury Tracy, is buried in St Peter’s Churchyard; neither he nor Frank Liddle is commemorated on the War Memorial.
Look towards the bend, and the house on the opposite corner, at the start of River Lane. This is Rutland Lodge (7), which was leased to Jack Stuart Wortley, the highest-ranking officer commemorated on Petersham’s War Memorial. A gallant soldier and colourful personality, Jack was a close friend, and relative by marriage, of the author and war historian, John Buchan, later Lord Tweedsmuir and Governor-General of Canada.
Opposite Rutland Lodge is Montrose House (8), best viewed, because of the wall and non-existent pavement, from the upper deck of a passing bus. This grand mansion was once the home of John Marsh and his wife Gertrude Emma Marsh, and it was there that their grandson, Roger Victor Cecil Hunt, was born in 1895. Although a native of Petersham, his name is not on the War Memorial. Mrs Marsh, a philanthropist and temperance enthusiast founded the local Mission Hall and Coffee House in Petersham, a venue known to locals as the ‘GEM Palace’ (183 and 185 Petersham Road).
Now take that footpath on your left and, ignoring a right-hand fork, follow the path to the end, taking a left turn when you re-join the Petersham Road and continuing into Sudbrook Lane. The childhood home of Hermon Harold Figg was 2 Bute Gardens (9). Harold was a teacher at King’s School, and the only son of Hermon Herbert Figg, for many years the Petersham Parish Clerk and Rent Collector.
Continue along Sudbrook Lane, from which you will turn left into Bute Avenue. This will take you to the prominent building which was once All Saints’ Church (10), a church commissioned by Mrs Lionel Warde as a memorial to her parents. While the church was never consecrated, it was in use as a church and it was there that memorial services for the fallen Scouts were held, as news of their deaths reached the Troop. The fine Memorial Tablet to the Scouts, now in St Peter’s, was moved there when All Saints became privately owned.
Retrace your steps to Sudbrook Lane, and turn left, walking as far as the entrance to Sudbrook Park. Turn right into Hazel Lane, just before the entrance, and follow it to the end, where you will again re-join the Petersham Road. This is a busy road, so you may prefer to take a detour to the left, and to cross it at the traffic lights, before heading back along the Petersham Road.
6 Park Place (215 Petersham Road) was the home for many years of the family of Frederick Morffew, the oldest Petersham man to meet his death on active service. He enlisted, but was soon discharged when his deafness became apparent. Undeterred, he kept attempting to re-enlist until, at a point when the need of the Army for diggers and tunnellers was paramount, his skills as a roadworker won him a place in the Labour Corps. George Cain, killed in a raid that destroyed parts of Chatham Dockyard, once lived at Brick Cottage (179 Petersham Road). Across the road, (at 226) you will glimpse the home of Frank Hughes, the son of a prominent local builder. The house has recently been renovated but the drain made by Frank, as part of his apprenticeship as a plumber, has been retained and is visible from the road.
Continue on and turn left into Sandpits Road. Ernest Wheeler was the son of Edward Wheeler, Queen’s Waterman, and a member of the Wheeler family of Boat Builders in Richmond. W Wheeler can still be seen on the arches at Richmond Bridge. Ernest grew up in Petersham, at 3 Mayleigh Cottages, later moving to 4 Park Place (219 Petersham Road, just two houses away from the Morffews) but neither he, nor any of his siblings could be induced to continue in the family business. Ernest left the parish, acquired a Scottish wife and found employment elsewhere as a domestic gardener.
On the left, at the very end of this road, before you come out at the Russell School, is 10 Mayleigh Cottages,the home of Sidney Wilson, who was fostered out at an early age to a local woman, Jane Dulley, whom he named as his next of kin. Like other young men in the parish looking further afield for work and hoping to acquire a trade, Sidney had signed up in his teens for 7 years’ military service, after which he returned to his foster family. Because he was in the Reserve Army, he was called up when war seemed imminent and was never to achieve his aim of becoming a Carman.
At this point you have the option to return back along Sandpits Road to the Petersham Road. Alternatively, you can continue past the Russell School, and then take the rough path to the right which will come out at the Avenue which leads to Ham House, if you wish to take a detour to the left. Otherwise turn right and go back to your starting point at Douglas House.
If you continue to Ham House, which is most obviously associated with Jack Tollemache, his distant Tollemache cousins, Arthur and Leo, and the Hanbury Tracy families, spare a thought also for Albert Ernest Knowles, a Petersham Scout and the son of the Head Gardener at Ham House. Also associated with Ham House, and commemorated on the Ham Parish War Memorial are Herbert Clarke, a gardener employed at Ham house, and Charles Edward Hack. Charles’s mother, Emily, was a first cousin of the 9th Lord Dysart and after his wife left him, Lord Dysart invited Emily and her two daughters to join his household and to act as his hostesses when he entertained.