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
Beryl Evans, nee Thorley (1929-1949) – Lewisham born Beryl was a victim of John Reginald Christie, one of the most notorious serial killers in British criminal history. In 1949 he killed, Beryl and her daughter Geraldine.
He then persuaded her husband Timothy to help dispose of the body. Evans left London but soon confessed to police in south Wales. The bodies were discovered in 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill. Evans was charged with the murders but only stood trial for the murder of his daughter. Christie gave evidence against him.
He was found guilty and executed in 1950. He was granted a posthumous pardon in 1966. She lived for a time at 15 Halesworth Road, SE13. John Reginald Christie was hanged at HMP Pentonville in 1953.
Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960) artist, illustrator and teacher – Evelyn is notable for recording women’s contributions to World War II on the home front, particularly the work of the Women’s Land Army. She was the only woman working for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee on a full-time salaried basis.
In the 1930’s, she painted pastoral murals in the main hall at Brockley County Secondary School (now Prendergast-Hilly Fields School). Evelyn painted some of her vistas of Hilly Fields from the top of a local landmark, The Ladywell Institution water tower, Dressington Avenue.
Olivia Cockett (1912-1998) – Olivia was a 26 year old civil servant in 1939 when she responded to an invitation from the social research organisation Mass Observation (established in 1937) to ‘ordinary individuals’ to keep a diary of their everyday lives, attitudes, feelings, and social relations.
Her candid and evocative diary (published in 2008 by the History Press) in particular her long term relationship with a married man, offers an intimate emotional account of mid-century attitudes and mores to divorce and relationships in wartime London. Olivia attended Haberdashers’ Askes’ School for Girls, New Cross, and lived at 33 Brakespeares Road, SE4.
Harold Reynolds (1891-1912) Titanic victim – Harold was the son of George Reynolds, a house painter, and Rachel Liddle (1858-1932), both Kent natives who had married in St Mary’s Church, Lewisham in 1877. The family had relocated to 37 Ladywell Park, Lewisham by the time of the 1901 census.
Harold was aged 21 when he boarded the RMS Titanic at Southampton for its fateful final voyage as a third class passenger. He gave his address as 10, Courthill Rd. Lewisham. He worked as a baker who was on his way to join a fellow baker who had travelled to Toronto, Canada, and appeared to have done well for himself. Harold died in the sinking and his body was later recovered by the SS Montmagny on 10 May 1912. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 22 May 1912.
Dr William Henry Power (1811-1877), Physician – William who was born in 1811 to John and Charlotte Power was christened on 14 June 1811 at Market-Bosworth, Leicester. In the 1871 census he was living with his family then resident at the Baines Villa, Ladywell (The houses situated on Ladywell Road, where then called Baines Villas, having been built in 1858 as a response to the nearby railway’s arrival). He worked as a doctor at St Andrews Hospital and is buried in Ladywell cemetery.
He was the father of Sir William Henry Power (1842-1916) (above) who in 1898 was awarded the Edward Jenner medal of the Epidemiological Society of London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1895 and awarded their Buchanan Medal in 1907. He was appointed Chief Medical Officer of England from 1900 to 1908. One of his predecessors in that role was Sir John Simon (who is buried in Ladywell cemetery ). He was knighted in 1902 and is buried at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.