Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries and a local historian, reveals the stories of some of the people – the rich and famous as well as the poor and long forgotten – who had links with our neighbourhood.
Louisa Smith, murdered on Algernon road, 1889 – was she a victim of Jack the Ripper? Louisa is buried in an ‘unmarked grave ‘in Ladywell cemetery – she is mentioned in David Bulloch’s 2012 book ‘The Man Who Would Be JACK’ as a possible victim of Jack the Ripper? Mr Wood, deputy coroner for West Kent, held an inquest at Lewisham Workhouse on the body of Louisa Smith, aged 35, of 7 Giffin Street, Deptford. The evidence showed she lived there with a labourer named John Luxford, and on Saturday morning was with a woman named Emily Atkinson, who left her at 10.45pm, talking to another woman, Emma Maguire, at a corner near Hilly Fields at Lewisham. Shortly after, John Brown, living at Lee’s Fields, Lewisham, saw Louisa and a man near the gate, and turned them outside. On Sunday morning, about 12.30pm, John Cheeseman, of 171 Algernon Road, Lewisham, found the deceased lying about a yard from the kerb, about 150 yards from Lewisham Road.
Robert Honey Fabian (1901-1978) –legendary Scotland Yard detective. In his day , the most famous police officer in Britain, Chief Inspector Robert Fabian, was immortalised as ‘Fabian of the Yard’ in a 1950’s crime drama series which followed many of his most famous detective cases. As head of the Flying Squad he became one of British television’s first bona fide detective heroes. He was played by the actor Bruce Seton. Fabian was awarded the King’s Police Medal for dismantling an IRA bomb in Piccadilly in 1939. He was born on Malyons road, Ladywell and died in Epsom, Surrey
Mary Ann Soal (1868-1956) –Queen Victoria’s private nurse. Mary Ann Soal was born in Poplar. According to the Privy Purse Establishment Book she entered Royal service in 1898.According to the family Mary Ann nursed privately for Sir James Reid, the Queen’s physician, especially in the Battenburg (Mountbatten) family where there were haemophiliac children. It is from this opening that she seems to have become the Queen’s nurse. Burdett’s Directory entry 1903 suggests she was still at Osborne House when it went to press, at least a year after Queen Victoria’s death.
Lieutenant Gilbert Arthur Price, a British intelligence officer, was killed in a dramatic shoot-out with the IRA in 1920. Republican leader Seán Treacy was also killed in the gunfight. The moment was captured in this iconic photo taken by by celebrated photographer Johh Horgan and used in many history books including the cover of Peter Cottrell’s respected book ‘The War For Ireland 1913-1923. But work by the Irish Film Instituterevealed that this iconic picture was in fact a still from a 1926 film called ‘Irish Destiny’. Lieutenant Gilbert Arthur Price of Marsala Road, Ladywell, is buried in Ladywell cemetery.
Augustus Montague Summers ( 1880-1948) – Summers was an eccentric English author and clergyman. He is known primarily for his scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century, as well as for his idiosyncratic studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe. He was responsible for the first English translation, published in 1928, of the notorious 15th-century witch hunter’s manual, the Malleus Maleficarum. He was for many a Senior English and Classics Master at Brockley County School (now Prendergast) until 1926 when he left to focus on his writing.
To be continued