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
Henry J. Golding (d.1931), writer and philosopher – Henry was a man of wide erudition who relinquished a successful business career in London to become an officer and lecturer of the English Ethical Society, before moving to the US to devote himself to the work of the Ethical Movement in America. Many of his articles appeared in the New York Times and he remained a popular speaker and lecturer, one observer generously noting in his delivery his ‘deep voice and virile figure’. Many of his moral insights often appear in more modern thought for the day aphorisms including Forbes Book of Quotations! Often cited as H.J. Golding, he died in New York in 1931. Before departing for the US he lived at 16, Algiers road, Ladywell.
Ieuan Rees-Davies ( 1894-1967), Welsh composer, musician and author -Born in Treorchy, Rhondda, Ieuan moved to London in 1914 and attended Goldsmiths College and the Royal Academy of Music. He became a headmaster in London and organised classes for music teachers in the Literary Institutes. He composed tunes and part-songs; the best known of his works is his setting for male choir of a nursery song which is attributed to Charles I, ‘Close thine eyes’, and which was rendered into Welsh (‘Cyn cau llygaid’) published by Curwen Press in 1938. In the same year, now with the bardic name ‘Ieuan’, he became a member of the Gorsedd (community) of bards during the national eisteddfod at Treorchy. Twice married, he died in Kingston-upon-Thames. He lived for a time on Embleton road, Ladywell.
Private James Edwin Yarnton (1895-1917), Royal Marine Light Infantry – Deptford born James Yarnton enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1914, before the commencement of WW1. He kept an illustrated log book of all of his overseas postings and trips. When he was assigned to the serve aboard the former White star liner, SS Laurentic, he was living at 26 Chudleigh Road, Ladywell. He left this address for the last time to join the ill-fated converted Armed Merchant Cruiser which later sank having hit two German mines off the coast of County Donegal in 1917 with the loss of 354 lives. She was carrying about 43 tons of gold ingots at the time of her sinking, when on a secret mission to the then neutral US, to be used for the purchase of war munitions from Canada and the United States. James’ body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Royal Marine memorial Chatham and on a recently discovered headstone of his parents and maternal grandparents in Brockley cemetery. The gripping story of the last voyage of SS Laurentic (which gained notoriety as the ship that carried Scotland Yard Inspector Walter Drew in 1910 to capture the murderer Dr. Crippen) is well told in Joseph A. Williams 2017 book, The Sunken Gold : First World War Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History.
Charles Angell Bradford (1864-1940), writer and historian – Having passed an exam for the civil service in 1883, Charles Bradford was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1898 and was on the FSL council from 1905. In 1899 he was appointed as Assistant Superintendent in the Registry at the Home Office and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London on 1 March 1900. In 1896 he produced a monograph, ‘The Lady Well, Lewisham (which was reprinted in 2011) and which foreshadowed a 1986 publication by Robert Smith, Chair of the Ladywell Society , whose local campaigning resulted in the unveiling of a plaque in 2015 on the putative site of the famed mineral spring first recorded in 1472.
Sir William James Larke (1875-1959), engineer and industrialist – Born in Ladywell, in 1875, William was the eldest son of William James Larke, builder, and his wife, Rosa Barton. He was educated at Colfe’s School, Lewisham, and trained as an engineer with Siemens Brothers (Woolwich). He became the first director of the British Iron and Steel federation in 1922. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1917, a Commander of the Order in 1920 and a Knight Commander of the Order in 1921. In a move that has a rather familiar contemporary resonance, he led a delegation of British Industrialists to Germany in 1939 with the aim of ‘being made in readiness for individual negotiations between representatives of British and German industries with a view to settlement of their own difficulties’. He died in Sidcup, in nearby Bexley in 1959 and was cremated at Eltham.