When setting up Earlsfield Talks, countless local business and community members offered their support. The one name they all told us we must track down was Geoff Simmons, who hosts guided walks around Earlsfield and is a passionate historian in the area.
We asked Geoff for ten of his most unknown Earlsfield facts with Earlsfield Talks- he kindly oblidged (including a bonus one!) and they are fascinating.
One of the biggest employers in the area was the Stevensons Cardboard Box Factory AKA the Corruganza Works. A strike here in 1908 by 44 young female workers was a landmark event in the trade union movement and empowerment of working women. It climaxed in a march to Trafalgar Square lead by the founder of the National Federation of Women Workers, Mary Macarthur.
The second largest supplier of gunpowder to the English Army based their production at the end of what is now Trewint Street in 1688. Too late for Guy Fawkes, but good for fighting colonial wars against the Dutch and the Irish.
Hollywood star Dirk Benedict was 'tattooed' for a movie by the legendary Barry Louvaine. 'The A-Team' heart throb confirmed this to me in a recent twitter exchange.
Earlsfield is named after Robert Davis who built Earlsfield House on All Farthing Lane in the mid-nineteenth century. He was originally from Co Sligo and this in turn may have been named after a house in the west of Ireland. It was until recently a convent run by the Sisters of Mercy and was on the market recently (if anyone is interested, eleven bedrooms for 205,000 Euros).
In 1862, at a time when cowboys were fighting indians in his own country, a native north american called Deeerfoot competed at Robert Sadler’s Copenhagen Running Grounds on Garratt Lane. He was a star attraction who ran in traditional costume with a feather in his hair accompanied by blood-curdling 'whooping' cries.
Run for almost four decades by the formidable Mrs Creeke, the Anglo American Laundry on Burmester Road used to take in dirty washing from Buckingham Palace. It was collected in horse-drawn wagons emblazoned with their 'stars and stripes' logo which is still visible on the beautiful building.
The waiting room on Platform One at Earlsfield Station was used for Friday night gatherings of the internationally renowned Earlsfield Pigeon Club. Devotees would pack their birds off on the ‘Pigeon Special’ train to Southampton, from where they would fly home.
Ian 'You Stupid Boy' Lavender, Private Pike in the much-loved and often-repeated ‘Dad’s Army’ lived above the radiator shop on Garratt Lane at the height of the programme's fame in the mid-seventies.
Harrison Barber Limited were the largest horse-slaughtering yard in London, despatching 25,000 horses a year from their premises on the banks of the Wandle near the Henry Prince estate between 1838 and 1929. With its associated 'cat's meat and chemical manure' factory, not to mention the bone-boiling facility, the smell around here was surely less than pleasant.
Earlsfield is renowned for its coffee and the popular Kenco brand had a factory on Strathville Road - local residents often had their washing turn a lighter shade of brown on roasting days.
The small oval track in Garratt Park is an example of a forgotten sport called ‘cycle speedway’. It was popularised in the 1950s, perfect for teenage riders before they moved on to the motorised version. This track was constructed at the bequest of a Mrs W.J. Cairns, who persuaded the Council to build the new track 'to keep the youth of the day off the streets'
If you would like to join Geoff's next event, the 'Wandle Wake Up' Guided Walk will take place on Saturday 24th February, starting 2pm from St Mary's Church, Keble Street.