By Naomi Clifford
Earlier this year, Vauxhall History was made aware of two previously unknown images of the unveiling of Stockwell War Memorial on Wednesday 3 May 1922. The photos were discovered in an album kept by Charles Christopher Patrick (1904-1996), whose father, John Frederick Patrick (1869-1943) was commissioned to build Stockwell War Memorial. The Patrick family lived at 41 Dalyell Road, Stockwell.
The pictures are from a memoir Charles Patrick compiled for the Patrick family in 1996, shortly before he died, and have been published as Electric Boy by his grandson Richard Paul Kingston. The photographs and following excerpt about the building of Stockwell Memorial appear by kind permission of the author.
My Father’s next contract was to build the Stockwell War Memorial. When they were preparing the footings for this memorial they came down on to the concrete around the South London Tube. In those days the trains used to come up from underground to an open space on the other side of Clapham Road.
My Father used to go to the yard and set out the stonework for the masons to work ready for the next day and, with a mate, he fixed every stone in the memorial. The brickwork on the inside, backing up the stonework, is superb. It was carried out by an elderly retired bricklayer as a memorial to his sons who were killed in the War. The boys from Brixton School of Building in Ferndale Road, who were learning to be bricklayers, were taken there to see perfect brickwork.
The memorial was to be paid for by public contributions, collected and arranged by a committee of local trades people, etc. and the contract stated, ‘payment as contract proceeds – balance on completion’. When Dad asked for a payment, the money wasn’t forthcoming as the public were tired of contributing. So Father promptly stopped work, much to the annoyance of the committee who had arranged for the Princess and high people to attend the unveiling. After a time the committee found the cash and Dad completed the job on time. He told me he considered he would never have been paid if he had left things until the completion.
Messrs. Keeble Limited [who contracted John Patrick for many projects and where Charles Patrick was an apprentice] were very good and loaned my Father the pole scaffolding and scaffold boards to help build the memorial, together with a very long pole ladder. When this plant arrived at Stockwell on a motor van belonging to Messrs. Keeble Limited there was a gas street lamp on the end of the pole ladder that the van driver had accidentally knocked off from a lamppost on his way from Soho. This lamp was promptly disposed of! Now, this old fashioned van had protruding wheel hubs, similar to cannon wheels. It was, in fact, an old army truck. At the curb side in Stockwell Road, by the memorial, was a large cast iron cupboard, housing the fuses for the LCC trams running along Clapham and Stockwell Roads. Unfortunately, the hub of the near side wheel of the Keeble van pushed this fuse box half way over, a terrible flash! The van was reversed and the fuse box pushed back to its original position and off went the van. The trams were all stopped and the electrical engineers couldn’t understand how the heavy cables had got pulled out of the fuse carriers. It was hours before the trams started running again. Strange how things happen, nobody said a word at the time.From Electric Boy: “Anything wil do, nothing won’t” © Richard Paul Kingston
In the process of compiling the memoirs for publication Richard Paul Kingston found a note in his grandfather’s papers. He writes:
Dad was asked by the committee to carve the following onto the War Memorial. On three sides the list of the fallen and above each panel the following verses:
These were our sons who died for our lands
In glory will they sleep and endless sanctity
Their name liveth for evermore
Above the door the following was to be inscribed:
To the Stockwell men who served in the Great War
Dad was given permission by the committee to name himself John Patrick as the builder and Frank Twydals Dear as the designer. Dad was told that this could be placed low down and at the bottom of the memorial
Sadly, in the latest refurbishment of the Memorial these carvings have been lost.
The first of the images of Stockwell Memorial that Charles Patrick included in his album shows John Patrick, the tall man in the crowd on the left, hat in hand, peering up anxiously at the memorial after the unveiling. His wife Ellen is to his right. Captain Wallace M. Young, the chairman of the Committee, of the Royal Engineers, who lived at 14 Stockwell Park Road, has just formally invited Princess Alice, the Countess of Athlone (centre stage) to unveil the monument. She declared, ‘To the glorious and lasting memory of the men of Stockwell, who laid down their lives for their King and Country’ and released the Union Jack covering the face of the Memorial. Second from right on the platform is William Sampson Bishop, the Mayor of Lambeth from 1920 to 1922. The memorial was then dedicated by the Bishop of Kingston, the Right Reverend Percy M. Herbert (in the long white surplice), after buglers of the East Surrey Regiment sounded the Last Post and Reveille. The men on the left with John Frederick Patrick are probably other members of the Memorial Committee. The photograph, whose author is unknown, was published in the Daily Mirror on 4 May 1922.
The other photograph is from the same series of the bird’s eye shots of the unveiling that were published in the South London Press on 5 May 1922. This version, scanned from an original print in Charles Patrick’s album, reveals an astonishing level of detail. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) The photograph may have been taken from the roof of the Stockwell Palladium (now TDA house), where the dignitaries were given rooms to change into their ceremonial clothes before the ceremony.
At the far end, standing by the left hand half of Stockwell Terrace, was the choir of children from Spurgeon’s Stockwell Orphanage (now the site of Platanos College), who sang the opening hymn ‘They Will Be Done’. The band of ‘W’ Division Metropolitan Police, to the right, performed Chopin’s ‘Marche Funebre’. Detachments of the British Red Cross (Lambeth division), Church Lads’ Brigade and Girls’ Life Brigade were also present.
Among the onlookers were many ex-Service men and women wearing medals and decorations, and a large number of women in mourning, carrying wreaths or little bunches of flowers, according to circumstances, to place at the foot of the memorial in honour of their fallen.South London Press, 5 May 1922
Directly after the ceremony, the thunderstorm had threatened all afternoon broke, and this must have felt to many like the release of the unbearable tensions of the day.
Electric Boy: “Anything will do, nothing won’t” is available from Amazon.
Copies of These Were Our Sons: Stories from Stockwell War Memorial (2010) are available from Amazon, on Kindle or direct from the author.
Also visit stockwellwarmemorial.org
Vauxhall History co-editor Naomi Clifford is also the Chair of the Friends of Stockwell War Memorial and Gardens