I’m writing this newsletter two days before we meet. My excuse is that for three weeks I had to be a carer (to my wife’s injured arm), then we finally made it to America to see our family and grandchildren and I’m well into my second week of a nasty cough and cold. And, of course, there’s all the other commitments one has for various bodies – how does one ever fit it all in? I’ve given our June speaker, Dr Ron Cox extra coverage this month. It seemed to me such an important historical analysis that I found it impossible to précis without losing the sense of what was being related.
Today: Bob Ogley: Biggin on the bump
August 7th: Talk by a Chelsea Pensioner to commemorate start of WW1
There were 35 members plus our speaker in June. £35.64 was collected for the Chairman’s Charity and £32 for the Amenity Fund (raffle).
Laurie Painting is getting stronger and hopes to be with us in August. Eugene Lightbody’s wife, Christine, passed away early last month. We send condolences to Eugene and his family on this very sad news.
Ken Carter’s funeral on 20th June was well attended by Probus members for which his family were very grateful and each was personally thanked.
Martin Bergs has been too energetic since his second hip replacement so won’t be with us today. Don Wilkinson has fallen again and is in hospital.
Please advise news of members to almoner, email@example.com tel: 01737 202243. Please remember to let Andrew Kellard know if you can’t attend a meeting: tel: 01737 554055.
Outings and Events
Old Coulsdon Fair, Saturday 5th July: Please support Jim Mulvey.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Thursday 10th July: full.
Last Night of the Proms, Fairfield Halls, 27th September: £18 tickets available (usually £20) from Hugh Roberts (tel: 01737 202243).
Ladies Lunch, Thursday 16th October at Coulsdon Manor: Coulsdon Probus Quiz, Thursday 20th November evening: Diarise
Guest Speaker: Dr Ron Cox
How the Railways altered Britain
Dr Cox took us through the history of the railways in Britain and wherever possible related events to those in Croydon and the South of England. He set the scene with Daniel Defoe who in 1753 noted that roads were worst in Southern England especially on clay and that large loads could only be hauled in summer. Most heavy goods, e.g. mill stone, salt and coal, went by water – the sea, the Thames, Medway, Lea and locally, the Wandle. Perishable goods hardly travelled at all.
The first goods railway was in Darlington in 1825. In the 1830s there were passenger services between Liverpool and Manchester, London Bridge to Greenwich and in 1839 London to Croydon and then Brighton and Dover in 1844. The promoters insisted on using the same terminus (London Bridge) and dedicated route.
Railway promoters were speculators. Their motives were to link London to the ports and industrial centres and in between there was Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Horsham, Kingston, Salisbury, Gloucester and the coastline. The battle was on to take lines to missing centres to prevent rivals getting there first. Railways were authorised by parliamentary bill sometimes promoted by speculators who would then sell on. Railways could promote new buildings and rail shareholders were also investing in housing developments. House prices doubled in Forest Hill, Sydenham, Norwood and Warlingham.
The lord of the manor of Sanderstead wanted his own station to support his application for building land. Similarly Kingswood station was built for the promoter who lived there. Often the railway, e.g. Reading/Reigate via Guildford, was built by housing developers who then sold the railway to another company.
There was opposition to the railways which sometimes managed to change the route, e.g. London Brighton line. Wordsworth opposed the Lakes rail. Queen Victoria only gave gracious consent after £80k was agreed for drainage in the Great Park. Often there was shambolic development, e.g. there were three railways between three stations in Manchester and three stations in Wigan.
Due to day excursions to the seaside, Blackpool’s population rose from 473 in 1841 to 50,000 by 1900. Blackpool North had 15 platforms and Blackpool Central 14. A Lancashire and Yorkshire advertisement for sea bathing at Fleetwood had fares of 2/- for men and 1/6 for women and gave an itinerary which allowed time for worship. Some men dressed as women for the lower fare.
Horses were taken by train to new racecourses now in range and facilities there were improved. The Duke of Wellington said ‘progress be damned, it will just allow in the working classes’. Goodwood’s exclusiveness was in danger of being lost – hence the invention of enclosures.
Stations had to be improved for health and safety of employees – this concept spread to other companies. Sick people were able to access hospitals and specialists were able to travel. Dorking branch line had a north station for the RC cemetery and a south station for the C of E. The railways necessitated the standardisation of time to London time.
Railways carried lime, coal, building materials, Horsham stone, Welsh slates, artificial and stable manures, fertilisers, glass and pottery. Perishable goods were now transportable – milk, tomatoes and fresh fish. Local industries closed, e.g. tanning and wool industries. Cheap labour could be taken from London to the Kent hop fields – many extra trains were laid on (the last in 1969). Railways also gave more opportunity for crime (Great Train Robbery 1963) and early on cavalry and yeomanry could be brought in to control mobs and riots.
The pattern of retail trade was altered by the railways. The rich could travel to Harrods and Liberty in London and have cumbersome goods delivered. There was a vast expansion of employment opportunities including on the railways themselves. Benefits including good pay, health, uniform, promotion, training and secure (not seasonal) employment. Jobs included engine drivers, signalmen, clerks, porters, ticket collectors – a typical small station would employ 18 people. Then there were pubs, hotels and station bars. In 1861, the London Brighton South Coast Railway built the Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria.
Many other opportunities were promoted by the railways – Thomas Cook, WH Smith (who had a railway monopoly), printers (tickets, postcards), insurances agents, designers, contractors and engineers. Machines were designed for chocolate (1d a bar) or to print your name on a metal strip. Hornby produced model railways, there were railway books and magazines. Railways changed small villages in to large towns and enabled warfare by carriage of troops and stores. Finally, railways have brought us health, travel, wealth and employment opportunities.
Dr Ron Cox was heartily thanked for his very informative and searching talk.
Don Hugo and ‘A Commendable Scheme’
Don Hugo, otherwise John Hugh Barnes Rowlatt, was Hugh Roberts’ grandfather who spent 53 of his 79 years in Huelva where he had many adventures as his many letters back to his wife Kathleen in England confirm.
The Spaniard is a highly responsive fellow, and he delights in showing his appreciation of the good qualities and behaviour of those who befriend him, by bestowing on them, not only his affection and loyalty, but also a special form of address: “Don”; three letters which condense everything that is love, respect, good-feeling, not easily described in writing, plus a lot of good feeling, but well felt when heard or seen in actual life. John Hugh Barnes Rowlatt arrived in Spain in 1889, at the age of 20, and such was his charm and his winning personality, that the people he met gave him the treatment of “Don” on his own right, from the very beginning. Don Hugo, as they called him, was an important member of the Rio Tinto company, a Consular representative, a shipbroker, an agent for the export of the local produce, and in all these capacities, he met people of all and every class, who, won immediately by his fascinating manner, would discard at once the “Mr.” so formal, and call him for every “Don Hugo”. After 50 years of fruitful activity and friendship with the people of Huelva, he returned home to offer his services to the nation, and here he passed away lamented by all here and in Spain. Now Mrs. H. L. Roberts [Hugh’s mother], our neighbour from Coombe Road, his daughter, has inherited the house he built in Huelva, and has thought of a scheme to perpetuate the memory of so striking a personality, by adapting that house and adjoining 7½ acres of orchard to establish a home from home for English people of small means, who would like to spend a time in sunny Spain without the feeling that someone is after their money or without any of the restrictions of the conducted tours. She wanted to give to those who visit Spain the certainty of a solid comfortable home, with English management and point of view, and at the same time freedom to roam about, see and enjoy things, and go back to when and if they feel like, without any restrictions whatsoever, and the guarantee of a hearty welcome.
The house has 10 large rooms which can be converted and divided, 7½ acres of tree-planted land, where tents can be put up, is situated a mile from a river, Rio Tinto, and not too far from the sea.
The authorities in Great Britain have been consulted and are very sympathetic, and application is being made to the Spanish Government and touring department, as well as to some of the shipping agents running lines to Cadiz; to grant facilities for the realization of this scheme. There should be a possibility of ship being run straight to Huelva as Don Hugo Rowlatt was agent of Lloyds, Cunard and MacAndrew (Shipping agent). Buses could be run from the port to the house, about 1½ miles.
We are not informed as to whether the scheme was ever realised.