Hello dear readers and welcome back to the twelfth day of my walk round the London LOOP orbital path. If you’ve been reading the previous posts then just skip down to the read more button as the next paragraph is merely a cut and paste of an earlier one for the benefit of readers who have just landed on this post.
The London LOOP is a little over 150 miles of designated and way-marked public right of way which is just concentric to the M25 motorway and as always I start with a quick word of advice. This post is one of a series and it will make more sense if you start at the beginning to discover what lunacy had compelled me to undertake such a large project.
Thanks for clicking and welcome to this instalment.
Hopefully you have been reading these posts sequentially and you should know that the last instalment was only half of my twelfth day of walking the LOOP. I had only gone three and a half miles from Banstead to Ewell and it had taken me a couple of hours but I had seen so much of interest when I researched it that the post had turned into a bit of an odyssey. Rather than have it become totally unwieldy I decided to do something I have never had to do before even with my admitted verbosity and split the day into two posts. I just hope it works and they appear in the correct order.
Due to the discrepancy in the sectioning of the walk I was in the grounds of Bourne Hall and about to start Section 8 if I had been using the excellent TFL website linked above but I wasn’t as it didn’t exist then! I was travelling “old school” as I still do in 2020 when I am writing this. A guidebook or map are not subject to the whims of batteries or ‘phone signals and I cannot use technology anyway. My guidebook showed me that I was still on Section 6 and still had another seven miles to go to Kingston Bridge if I wanted to complete the Section that day.
I was not particularly worried if I finished the Section or not as the weather was atrocious even though it was Mayday and I had never set out to do this as a route march anyway. If I got to Kingston that would be great and if not there was always another day. The LOOP is great for this as you can drop in and out of it more or less where you want and still have access to public transport. Come on then, let’s have a look at Section 8.
In the last entry I had been teasing you with the Hogsmill River although it wasn’t done intentionally as I really was going to do the whole day in one piece until my digressions and obsessive researching got the better of me so we shall start with that and again I give fair warning that this is probably going to be another long one so usual SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures) for reading a Fergy’s Ramble. Old slippers on, a drink of your choice, bit of music on and away we go.
The Hogsmill rises here, or rather it doesn’t. Don’t worry I have not gone completely barmy this early in the piece. The Hogsmill actually begins in the chalk under the North Downs but only breaks the surface here where it feeds a rather attractive lake before flowing on North for six miles to empty into the Thames at Kingston so we shall be following it’s course closely on this section. I was rather surprised to discover that there are only about 200 chalkstreams left in the world.
Hogsmill is not particularly attractive name for a reasonably attractive river even in the 21st century with buildings all along it’s length although it was not always thus as we shall see. The name probably derives from a man called Hog who had lands here in the 13th century and the mill part is fairly obvious. The river was used to power various mills over the years, specifically gunpowder mills in the 18th and 19th centuries and much of the powder used for the slaughter of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War originated on banks of this innocuous looking watercourse.
Leaving Bourne Hall I crossed the Chessington Road and walked alongside the rather pleasant pond you can see. Local legend has it that William the Bastard as he was known in his day, or Conqueror if you want the polite version, watered his horse here when he was invading and occupying the British Isles. So far on the blue third of the LOOP we have had Julius Caesar watering his horse at Keston and William watering his here in Ewell. I am desperately trying to think who else has invaded Britain that might turn up somewhere before we get back to Uxbridge. If you look at the surface of the pond you can see just how hard it was raining by then, it was tipping it down.
A short while further on I had a problem and the images above explain it pretty well. The LOOP here follows boardwalk which is built above the river and goes through a tunnel under the railway. As you can see, the headroom is 5’4″ which is OK for children and munchkins but not much good for me at 6’5″. I have a bad back and shuffling along bent double is neither particularly comfortable nor dignified but thankfully there was nobody to see me as only a maniac would be out walking in this weather. I was out walking in this weather. QED. Even after I had negotiated the tunnel I still had to contend with a bloody great pipe and I was quite glad when it was all over and I was able to stand as straight as my dodgy back allows and carry on.
The next feature of interest is referred to on the website as stepping stones but I’ll let you decide. In the last instalment I boasted how my old boats, complete with silicone waterproofing, were impervious to water but I think this might have tested them a bit. Thankfully my guide book told me not to cross here but carry on along the bank I was on.
The stones, or what you can see of them looked to me like a fairly functional way of crossing a small river, at least in reasonable weather, and I had no inkling until I was researching this piece that they hold a rather wonderful secret. I mentioned in the last piece that I was wearing totally impractical denim jeans which were sticking to my legs a bit but I cannot say I was uncomfortable, I have endured a lot worse. Writing about this walk years later I am going to go figuratively way outside my comfort zone and talk about something I know nothing about not once but twice.
I detest modern so-called art which I consider to be a confidence trick perpetrated by self-promoting charlatans upon rich gullible idiots but I like fine art as much as the next man and have been to the Tate and gazed in wonder at the Old Masters in the Riksmuseum in Amsterdam, to name but two venues. My problem is that I know absolutely nothing about art although I have found myself watching a lot of art related documentaries during my 2020 CoVid house arrest. I can’t help but think that the Victorians I have admired so frequently in my writing would have approved of this non-University educated type “improving himself”. I can even tell you a little about Matisse now. Only last night I discovered that the first recorded art is 37,000 years old which staggered me. Think about it, Neanderthals had just about died out then and man was making art.
What I couldn’t tell you about until a few hours ago was William Holman Hunt although I think I had heard the name. Hunt was one of those pre-Raphaelite painters, the most famous of whom were Hunt, Millais (who we shall come to in a moment) and Dante Gabriel Rosetti, an odd drug addict who exhumed his wife’s body to retrieve a book of his poems so he could publish them and who we shall also meet later. I learnt about Rosetti a week ago watching another BBC documentary and “improving” myself a bit more.
The pre-Raphaelites were determined to paint natural scenes and it appears the Hogsmill was a favourite spot. It was here that Hunt painted one of his more famous works in 1851, entitled the Hireling Shepherd which is now in the Manchester Art Gallery.
I have included a Commons image of the painting here so you can have a look and, although the stones are not depicted, we know from contemporary records that this was where the background was painted.
The human subjects were painted in a studio in in Chelsea (London) and we even know that the flirtatious shepherdess was a Ewell girl called Emma Watkins and, needless to say, I have discovered a bit of a story about her. Yes, this is going to be another long post!
Holman Hunt was happily painting away on the banks of the Hogsmill when he saw two girls walking across the field, who turned out to be Emma and her sister Jane. Their Father had died and so her 14 year old brother Edwin ( a weed seller would you believe?) was “head of the house” as the only male. Strange how things worked in those days. Hunt determined to do the thing right and sought permission from the widowed Mother and the barely pubescent boy for Emma to come to his studio in Chelsea which was granted. Hunt was only 24 at the time and this was to be one of the earlier paintings of a long career but it must still have been odd for the well-to-do graduate of the Royal Academy to have to go “cap in hand” to a presumably barely literate peasant lad.
Emma duly appeared in fashionable Chelsea where the Brotherhood were based and Holman Hunt’s brother-in-arms (or should that be brother-in-smock) Rosetti immediately fell madly in love with her. That is hardly surprising as he seems to have been besotted with just about every young female he met. I ascribe it to the chloral and whisky myself as he was permanently out of his skull and it finally did for him at the age of 52. He nicknamed her “the Coptic” although her looks don’t appear particularly Arabic to me if Hunt’s depiction of her is accurate. We must assume it was as the ethos of the Brotherhood was to paint naturally and realistically.
At the time, Emma was engaged to a Marine who accompanied her to Chelsea for the first few sittings but then stopped coming and there were suggestions that something improper was going on which he vigorously denied. Probably wise with a Marine fiancée in the wings. When the sitting was done she took off back to Surrey, married her Marine and raised a family but sadly her story does not end happily. Records are sketchy but at some point she and her husband Robert split up and the once pretty young country girl spent the last years of her life in Brookwood lunatic asylum where she died in 1914.
For Emma’s story (and much else) I am indebted to the wonderful Fanny Cornforth blog and even that is a bit of an “in joke” if you are into the pre-Raphaelites, as I fear I am becoming, because Fanny Cornforth (nee Sarah Cox and obviously not to be confused with the DJ of the same name) was the muse and mistress of the afore-mentioned Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
Despite her sad end, at least Emma is immortalised forever in a very famous painting which is so much more than her contemporaries achieved in the days when photography was in it’s infancy and only for the rich. The painting is a lovely pastoral scene but, as with all art, the “experts” try to read all sorts of meanings into it. If they are to believed, this apparently simple image is nothing less than a condemnation of the established Church and “a warning against the dangers of alcohol, casual sex, and idleness”. Really?
Here, briefly you’ll be glad to know, is the argument.
One man, one woman and a half-eaten apple = Garden of Eden and the Fall. Flushed faces and the cider keg on his belt = drunkenness. The untended sheep are over-feasting on the corn and will die if not attended to whilst the lamb in her lap eats sour green apples which will sicken it. Obviously the Judeo-Christian allusion to Jesus as the Good Shepherd is well known but out shepherd here is a bad shepherd, not tending to his flock and this is supposed to represent the established Church not tending to the spiritual needs of the faithful.
Normally I would be cautious about reading too much into paintings but this may well be true as Holman Hunt included this quotation from King Lear in the catalogue when the painting was first exhibited,
‘Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd?
Thy sheep be in the corn;
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth,
Thy sheep shall take no harm.’
I really would never have thought of any of these things, I just like the look of the painting and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that. For the excellent explanation of the meaning of the Hireling Shepherd, I am indebted to another fascinating website.
Again I am not complaining at all but it has already taken me about five hours to write up half a mile of walking as I have been diverting off into reading about all sorts of new subjects. With all the links I am providing, you may well end up dong the same thing.
Holman Hunt, who had been baptised in St. Mary’s Church which we visited earlier, retained a fondness for Ewell and the Hogsmill throughout his life and used the river in another of his famous paintings, “The Light of the World” painted in the same period as the “Hireling Shepherd”.
In this painting Christ is seen knocking on an obviously unused door with a lamp in his hand and it was inspired by the Biblical quotation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me”. Using the same Brotherhood principles as before, he painted the background from life and the overgrown door and building are an old disused shed associated with the powder mills and now demolished. Another Commons image for you here.
Until about a week ago I had heard the term pre-Raphaelites and had the vaguest of notions about what they did and now I find they has become something of an interest for me. I do rather like the style as it at least looks like what it is meant to be and I suspect this is another manifestation of the compulsive mental condition I seem to have. I am going to prove it in less than a mile along the Hogsmill where we are going to have a look at Holman Hunt’s mate, John Everett Millais, the third of the “Holy Trinity” and specifically his most famous work “Ophelia”.
Before we do I am going to hit you with another piece of completely useless trivia, musical this time. I knew the term “she has pre-Raphaelite curls in her hair” appears in the lyric of the song “Cooksferry Queen” by one of my all-time favourite artists, the brilliant Richard Thompson. I just had to look it up and the term pre-Raphaelite also appears in song lyrics by the Buzzcocks and Pulp, just thought you might like to know.
I was now in the Hogsmill Local Nature Reserve, which is split into two parts and to get from one to the other I had to cross yet another busy road which was probably no more than a cart track when Holman Hunt was wandering around here painting. I wonder what he would make of it now. I have not included this image as I think you want to look at the A240 but it gives a good indication of how foul the weather still was. It showed no signs of letting up at that point and indeed it didn’t all day.
Into the second part of the Reserve and, oh dear, another obstacle to overcome as you can see. I am guessing these trees were brought down in the violent storms of a few months previously but I picked my way over and under them without too much bother and it was a pleasant enough walk despite the awful conditions.
A bit further along and I was in the area of Church Road, Tolworth and the Six Acre Meadow. I promised you Ophelia and Ophelia you shall have, my dear faithful readers. Shakespeare buffs will know that Ophelia is a character from Hamlet which is set in Denmark so where does a tiny river in Northwest Surrey, which is not much more than a stream in normal weather, come into it? I’m just about to tell you.
In 1851 as Homan Hunt was painting the Hogsmill and inviting young betrothed country girls to London to model for him, Millais was in the area as well, painting this stretch of river for the background of what was to become his “magnus opus”. Again, I have provided a Commons image here to save you looking it up.
I’d better tell you a little about Millais before we come to Ophelia and the Hogsmill and his story is as unusual as you would expect given my track record of stumbling inadvertently upon interesting subjects.
He was born in 1829 to a wealthy Jersey family and had a privileged upbringing. By the age of four had been expelled from his kindergarten, presumably for being precocious because he had a prodigious artistic talent and he was accepted into the Royal Academy art school at the unprecedented age of 11, a feat that remains unrivalled to this day. He was first exhibited in the Royal Academy itself at the age of 17, another remarkable achievement.
Millais became friendly with the most prominent art critic of his day, John Ruskin, who was also an accomplished artist. Ruskin later regretted this friendship and also inviting the artist on holiday with him and his wife Euphemia aka Effie as Millais promptly fell in love with her whilst she was posing for him. In 1854 she filed for annulment of their unhappy and unconsummated marriage and married Millais soon therafter. The reason given in Court for the annulment was “incurable impotence”. Ouch.
The union with Mallais most certainly was consummated as they went on to have eight children. Naturally Ruskin’s previous patronage of Millais, including his defence of the unpopular and supposedly blasphemous “Christ in the house of his parents”, was immediately withdrawn although he pointedly continued to patronise Holman Hunt and Rosetti.
After marrying Effie, Millais changed his style considerably which he attributed to having become more mature as an artist and able to expand. Others, predictably including the cuckolded Ruskin, castigated him and accused him of merely trying to make money. Millais did nothing to help counter this allegation when he allowed his picture “Bubbles” to be used in a Pear’s Soap advertisement.
In 1885, Queen Victoria granted him a baronetcy, making him the first artist to receive a hereditary peerage although he did not live long to enjoy it as he died of throat cancer later the same year and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, a huge honour. Effie died and was buried in her beloved Scotland 16 months later.
That’s Millais, but what about Ophelia? Firstly, I can tell you that, at time of writing in May 2020, the painting has been on a world tour along with other pre-Raphaelite paintings and has been seen by more than one million people. It is also the best selling postcard in the Tate Gallery where it is normally on display and is the most viewed image on their website so we are not dealing with any old inconsequential daub here. Ophelia is a very major work of art and I do hope I get a chance to see it some day.
Strange to think that the little Hogsmill was the setting but who is Ophelia? Although Effie had posed for Millais for various paintings but this is not her. The poor drowned beauty is a woman called Elizabeth “Lizzie” Siddall and yes, you are going to get another story.
If you don’t know who Ophelia was in Hamlet, and to my eternal shame I didn’t as I have never read nor seen it, she was Hamlet’s lover and when Hamlet murders her father she is distraught and falls distractedly or jumps into a river while picking flowers and according to the Bard she was singing the whole time. So Millais needed a drowning woman and I am glad to say he did not immerse his model in the Hogsmill.
Millais followed pre-Raphaelite principles in that he considered the landscape as important as the subject. Hitherto, artists had made a few sketches of a landscape, painted the main subject in the studio and then filled in the background from the sketches almost as an after-thought. The Brotherhood did all the background painting “on site” and this whole work is a study on “suffering for your art”. I shall reproduce here a letter Millais sent to a friend which is quite lengthy but which I find hilarious.
“My martyrdom is more trying than any I have hitherto experienced. The flies of Surrey are more muscular, and have a still greater propensity for probing human flesh … I am threatened with a notice to appear before a magistrate for trespassing in a field and destroying the hay … am also in danger of being blown by the wind into the water, and becoming intimate with the feelings of Ophelia when that Lady sank to muddy death, together with the (less likely) total disappearance, through the voracity of the flies … Certainly the painting of a picture under such circumstances would be a greater punishment to a murderer than hanging”.
The poor love! There were certainly no flies the day I was there, they would have drowned!
In fairness to the artist, to create such a gloriously realistic background he did stand on the bank of the Hogsmill for five full months recording in exquisite detail the flora and this explains why flowers that bloom at different times of year are seen side by side.
There is also symbolism associated with the blooms as they are all either mentioned in the play or have traditional allegorical significance like the violets round her neck which can stand for faithfulness, chastity or death of the young, sadly all three in poor Ophelia’s case.
Millais was not the only one to suffer in the cause of his art. I mentioned that he did not immerse his model in the Hogsmill but he did immerse her in a bath in his London home over a four month period. The bath was supposedly kept warm by oil lamps but one time they went out and Millais was so engrossed in his work he did not notice. Lizzie, like the good model she was, said nothing and stoically froze. Needless to say, she caught cold and got quite ill requiring the services of a Doctor. Her Father sent Millais the bill which amounted to about £3,000 in today’s money but it was no problem for him as he was loaded. Thankfully, she recovered quickly and got back in the bath, antique dress and all.
With all this painstaking attention to detail it is no wonder that the painting is so hauntingly realistic. I feel like I want to wade in and drag her out before she goes under for the last time. I promise you I do not have an artistic bone in my body and yet I have been staring at this picture for ages now. Looks like this is going to end up as another two day writing session for six miles of walking!
Lizzie, lovely Lizzie, with your pre-Raphelite curls as Richard Thompson said, who were you? Actually, I had a bit of an idea as I told you earlier I had watched a documentary about Rosettti recently but no spoilers just yet. Another great tale coming up.
Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall was born in 1829 a month after the artist who was to immortalise her. She initially lived in Hatton Garden where her Father had a cutlery business in an area which to this day remains a centre for precious stones and metals. The family must have fallen on hard times because they moved to the much more down at heel Southwark area when she was still a toddler. When she was 20 she was working in a milliner’s shop in Covent Garden and she happened to show some of her drawings to a customer called Deverell whose son Walter was an artist associated with our pre-Raphaelite chums whereupon Deverell Sr. suggested she sat for his son.
At the time the younger Deverell was working on a painting of a scene from Twelfth Night which was coincidental on my twelfth day’s walking (note to self – sort your mind out, Fergy) and needed a female model. Given her incredible beauty in Ophelia, which is presumably an accurate portrayal given PRB thinking, I cannot believe some reports I have read that she was chosen for her supposed plainness. Again, I had to look up Twelfth Night as I had never seen nor read it, my knowledge of the Bard is seriously lacking although my Bottom was favourably commented on many years ago! Work that one out if you dare.
There are three figures in the scene, Duke Orsini, Feste the Clown and Viola aka Cesario, a female who in days long predating the LGBTQ+ age had indulged in a bit of cross-dressing to work as a page for Orsini with whom she was besotted. Deverell based Orsini on himself, Rosetti as Feste and Lizzie as Viola / Cesario.
Deverell was obviously taken with Lizzie as Holman Hunt reports him as describing her to himself and Rosetti thus, “She’s like a queen, magnificently tall, with a lovely figure, a stately neck, and a face of the most delicate and finished modelling: the flow of surface from the temples over the cheek is exactly like the carving of a Phidean goddess”. Obviously he did not see her as plain and I think the image of the painting here shows that. Sadly, Deverell did not live long enough to paint much more as he died at 27 in 1854 from Bright’s disease.
Lizzie’s meeting with Rosetti was to prove fateful and ultimately tragic. In his way, as previously mentioned, Rosetti became totally besotted with Lizzie and started to obsessively draw and paint her from 1851 onwards to the exclusion of all other models. He banned her from sitting for any of the other artists of his circle and
Lizzie started to study under Rosetti and eventually exhibited with the PRB in an exhibition in 1857. She was so talented that John Ruskin, who we met before, was subsidising her from 1855 onwards. She wrote poetry, often very dark and that would probably be described as “emo” today.
She moved in with Rosetti in 1852 and the two became completely obsessed with each other and fairly anti-social. Rosetti made her change her name from Siddall to Siddal. Of course, he had form for that sort of thing as he had previously changed his own name from Gabriele Charles Rosetti, as he was christened, to Dante Gabriel Rosetti which is how he is remembered today. There is much debate (as with many thing pre-Raphelite) as to whether this was a form of “control freakery” or not.
Whilst Rosetti was painting and drawing Lizzie ad nauseam her health was literally deteriorating ad nauseam. Again there is much debate with tuberculosis, an intestinal disorder and anorexia all being cited, or even a combination of these. There is plenty of contemporaneous evidence of her not eating for weeks on end. I know the feeling and I sympathise. She travelled frequently to France for her health but it did no good and she continued to go downhill.
Of course it did not help that she was addicted to laudanum (a morphine / codeine mix). In Rosetti’s later numerous images of her we can literally see her fading away before our eyes, her Ophelia slowly going under for the final time.
The pair finally got married in Hastings (Sussex) on 23rd May, 1860 by which time she was so frail she had to be carried the five minute walk to the Church. There were only two witnesses in attendance. I have no evidence for this but I suspect Rosetti could see what was coming and wanted to do the “right thing” by making an honest woman of her.
Lizzie fell pregnant in 1861 but with the state of her health and drug abuse it is no surprise the child, a girl, was stillborn. This added post-partum depression to all her other woes. She did fall pregnant again in late 1861 but this child was not to draw breath either. On the evening of 10th February, 1862, Rosetti went to his usual evening teaching job at a night school and when he returned he found Lizzie unconscious, overdosed on laudunum. When the first Doctor he called said he could do nothing for her, Rosetti called another three but it was no good and she was pronounced dead at 0720 on 11th February, 1862. She was 32.
Like just about everything else to do with this brilliant but seriously dysfunctional group there is controversy about Lizzie’s death. Was it suicide or accidental OD? The Coroner determined the latter although there is a suggestion that Rosetti found a suicide note pinned to her nightdress and disposed of it on the advice of a friend. In 1862 suicide was not only a sin in the Judeo-Christian religion but also a crime and would have brought shame on her family. It would also have precluded her having a Christian burial which she did have and she was laid to rest in Highgate Cemetery which brings me right back to something I mentioned much earlier in this piece which seems like an awfully long time ago.
Rosetti, distraught at the loss of his muse, lover, pupil and wife placed his uncopied book of unpublished poetry in the casket with her and I have already told you how that ended up.
It is funny how Fate plays with us, isn’t it? If Mr. Deverall Sr. had patronised a different milliners what would Lizzie have become? Would she have married a junior bank official, raised a family, seen in the new century and witnessed the death of the monarch who so defined her age and died in complete obscurity in a suburb somewhere? Who knows?
To me, Lizzie Siddal(l) defines the concept of the “tragic beauty” in much the same way Marilyn Monroe (who had also changed her name) was to do a century later. What is it they say? Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse?
I’ll leave my final thought on Mrs. Rosetti to 21st century technology of all things. Whilst researching this intriguing woman who I had not heard of a fortnight ago, I did a Google search on laudunum to find out it’s chemical properties. The results page came up and, as usual, there were five images shown. Three were of old laudunum bottles, one was a newspaper advert for the product and the fifth was a photograph of Lizzie,head resting on her hand, eyes closed. That is the complete antithesis of obscurity.
Right, no more art history today and we still have about five miles to go to Kingston in the rain, so come on.
It was now about 1530 and I still hadn’t had a pint so time to sort that out. The first watering hole I came to was an establishment I wouldn’t normally bother with as it is a Toby Carvery.
These are just big chain restaurants (big as in big chain and big as in that they are usually huge) which happen to serve alcohol as a sideline. Pubs they are most definitely not. Still, needs must when the Devil drives as the old saying goes, even if I have yet to work out what that actually means, and so in I went. The second image shows the huge, corporate and virtually deserted bar. Well, it was a wet Thursday afternoon. Adequate but unremarkable and so it was time to brave the elements after one pint.
If you know English geography at all you will know that Worcester is about 130 miles Northwest of London so why Worcester Park? In the last instalment I told you about Henry VIII and Nonsuch Palace which he built to be near his hunting grounds. Nonsuch was in Little Park which was adjacent to Great Park (imaginative, eh?) and the 4th Earl of Worcester was the Keeper of the Great Park, hence the name. It is a bit of a nondescript, quiet suburb whose greatest claim to fame is probably not that great really. It is mentioned by H.G. Wells in one of his less well-known sci-fi short stories “The Argonauts of the Air” as being the site of a huge launch pad to pioneer manned flight. This was published in 1895, eight years before the Wright Brothers got off the ground with a powered aircraft. H.G really was ahead of the game, I just hope “War of the Worlds” doesn’t come true.
Another bit of a walk in the rain brought me to Church of St. John the Baptist which was closed like most churches but there was a graveyard to look at so I was happy enough.
There has been a Church here since at least Saxon times and the name Maldon derives from the old English mæl duna which means the cross on the hill so presumably there was some sort of religious meeting place here then. The building itself is architecturally a bit of a mongrel and not too pleasing to my untutored eye. It is an amalgam of the 1611 flint structure, the 1875 Victorian alterations and the 2004 extension and it is, frankly, ugly.
I took images of a couple of the Commonwealth War Graves for inclusion on their site although it turned out they were already recorded but I did find a rather splendid Celtic cross which caught my attention. It is the last resting place of Col. Thomas Hamilton of the Royal Irish, which would explain the design of the memorial but I am afraid my researching powers have deserted me as I can find out nothing about him.
I was walking towards the exit to continue my walk when something very strange happened and I have now really fallen down another rabbit hole of investigation and mystery. I honestly thought that after my earlier art odyssey it was a clear run to the end of the blog entry but nothing is ever simple with me.
I was wandering along, seeking out War Graves and just having a look at some other memorials and my eye fell on the cross you can see here. It was the final resting place of a man and wife and totally unremarkable but I took picture of it anyway, probably as a “filler” for a tip I would eventually write on my Virtual Tourist pages as I was doing a travelogue there about the LOOP.
Again, I don’t want you to think I am mad or that I hear voices or am guided by some higher power or anything like that but you can see in the image exactly what I saw and that the path does not go alongside the grave so what compelled to me to go and look at the back of this particular memorial out of the thousands there I had no idea then and I do not to this day but the second image tells you all you need to know. I think my travel Gods were shoving me about again.
On the rear of the memorial was a commemoration of Leonard Edwin Oatway who died in 1918 just two months before the Armistice and is obviously buried elsewhere, if indeed he has a grave. Then there is his elder sibling Arthur Cecil who lingered on until 1925 before finally succumbing to his wounds. I wonder what his final years were like and sadly I can find out nothing about him online. Without a service number, rank or Regiment I have nowhere to start.
I should explain here about the fantastic Imperial War Museum War Memorial website which is linked to the equally impressive Commonwealth War Graves Commission site. They are both wonderful resources and between them have literally millions of entries of the graves of, and memorials to, 1.7 million British and Commonwealth war dead. It is very unusual for them not to have a grave or memorial listed for a dead service person and yet this appears to be the case with poor Leonard. I can understand Arthur as perhaps the gap between injury and death was deemed to make his death not war-related but Leonard’s absence I don’t understand.
My secondary reason for taking the image was for submission to the website, which I do contribute to, although I had wretchedly failed to do so until I rectified my omission whilst writing this piece today. The IWM had this gravestone addition noted as WMR 76807 but no image so they have one now. I do urge my readers if they have images of war memorials of any type, not just the traditional ones, in their computers that they send them to the IWM as they will really appreciate it and you will be properly credited. I am now waiting for a reply from the IWM and will amend this entry as and when I hear from them.
Leaving the Church behind I soon found myself in Elmbridge Meadows, which is also known as Elmbridge Open Space and Hogsmill Park Nature Reserve. Confused? You should be! This is what happens when not one but two local authorities try to work something out. It is surely the definition of double trouble. Whatever you choose to call the Park it was wet and muddy and I was very glad I had my boots on and not my nice white trainers. I am sure it is lovely on a good day but this just wasn’t.
You may remember that in a previous post I was lamenting the number of different acronyms that are attached to open spaces and I have just found another one as this area is a Site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation (SBINC) which is obviously not to be confused with a SINC an SNCI or a RIGS (yes, they all exist) or any of the other myriad designations.
Unbeknown to me I had now passed into the area known as Berrylands, another old Saxon settlement, although the huge sign on the top of the very welcome Berrylands pub should have given me a clue. It was good to get in out of the rain and, having followed the Hogsmill River all afternoon and being a lover of cider, what else was I going to order but a pint of Hazy Hog cider from the Hog’s Back Brewery in the County I had been walking in most of the day? I’d never had it before (or since) and I love cloudy cider. Normally, such brews tend to be idiotically strong but this was a civilised 5% and it was so nice I believe I had another, judging by the time my images show I was in there.
Good as the fermented apples were, I had one final push to get to Kingston. The pub has a KT (Kingston) postcode so we’re nearly there – honest.
By the time I got out of the “Berry” as it is apparently known, it was raining cats and dogs and where did that ridiculous expression come from? The two images above aren’t at all pretty, they are just to give you an indication of how awful a day it was. I was close, very close, but you can guess what happened next. That’s right, another pub.
I was beyond caring how wet I was and so I dragged my sodden carcass into the Duke of Buckingham which looked to my amateur eye very 1930’s and, surprisingly, I was right. It is a beauty both externally and internally and the semi-circular doors to the still separate public and saloon (slightly posher) areas are a joy. It is still beautifully 30’s inside although I inexplicably failed to take any images but I did manage one of the coat of arms above the entrance.
I thought at the time that it might have been the Kingston coat of arms due to the K but it is actually the armorial device of the long defunct Hodgson’s Brewery who built the place before they stopped brewing in 1949. I am not sure which is the more tragic, a closed pub or a closed brewery, it is a close run thing.
The Duke of Buckingham stands on Villiers Road and both these names are relevant. The pub is named for the Second Duke of Buckingham, born George Villiers who was a favourite of Charles II and was brought up in the Royal Household with his brother Francis after his Father, the 1st Duke, had been assassinated by an Army officer when he was young. When Charles I literally lost his head, the brothers went into exile in the Court of the man who would become Charles II and returned, fighting in the Second Civil War. In a minor skirmish near where the pub now stands his brother was killed. After a very eventful life which you’ll be glad to know I am not going to relate here, he eventually died penniless from a chill contracted while hunting at the age of 59. You see, it all makes sense if you look hard enough.
Nearly there now and another soggy walk through the fairly mundane residential part of Kingston led me to my final meeting with the Hogsmill which I am now rather fond of in full spate after the torrential rain. I had made it to the Thames which meant I had done the entire Southern (blue) segment of the LOOP in six days which I thought wasn’t too bad. Hold on Fergy, not so fast.
I’d reached the river but the official end is Kingston Bridge and I was going to do the thing right and finish there but first I had to do the other thing right and so it was into the Mill pub for a last one before I squelched my way to the station and then home. I was at the end of Section 6 in my book, leaving me only two to go or, if I had had access to the website, which you are more likely to be using, I was at the end of Section 8 which leaves me four more. It is the same distance either way!
Surely that must be it, I could throw a stone and hit the bridge but there was another bridge to look at and photograph first, the charmingly named Clattern Bridge. This name has changed slightly over the years but the names are remarkably similar and refer to the clattering noise horses made when they crossed it. It is certainly the oldest bridge in use in Surrey and one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the entire country. This structure dates to 1175 and replaced an even older Saxon Bridge.
It has an interesting history as it is here that “scolds” were ducked on the ducking stool which is inexplicably also called a cucking stool in some places. This archaic practice carried on as late as 1745 when the landlady of the Druid’s Hotel had an unwelcome dip in the Hogsmill here. It was also the site of a riotous (literally) game of football which the authorities only managed to relocate to a playing field in 1867.
After that it was a 200 yard walk to the Kingston Bridge and the finish. I’d come far enough and I was not going to dip out that close to the end. Then it was up the road to Kingston Station and home, wet but happy.
I am now metaphorically wiping my brow as this has been a bit of a slog and if you have made it all the way through, thank you so much. While I was walking it, this day didn’t seem like the most interesting one I had had on the LOOP and it was certainly the wettest. As you can see though, it has repaid me handsomely in researching and writing not to mention giving me a completely new interest which I intend to pursue when I am allowed out again.
I am so glad I decided to split this day in two as the post would have been ridiculously long otherwise. I don’t sleep much so I have been doing 16 – 18 hour days putting this together and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I reckon this one day’s walking has taken about 50 man hours to write up but I don’t mind as it really does get me through the long nights and I have learned so much.
I reckon that if I had applied my curiosity to something more productive I’d be well on my way to an Open University degree by now! When all this CoVid blows over, as it will, I shall be interested to see if there was an increase in uptake of distance learning. It’s as good a way as any to spend lockdown.
In the next instalment we will go back North of the Thames, go wading again through some lovely if totally waterlogged and muddy parks, get up close and personal with Bambi & Co. and, would you believe, visit a pub or two? Stay tuned and spread the word.