Miss Eden’s Album

Miss Eden’s Album – the story of Florence Neville Eden

This album is on extended loan to me by Peter Wiseman who was given it by a neighbour in Beckenham.

Florence worked as a VAD nurse from August 1915 to July 1947.

She left a neighbour a bulging album which covers the detail of her voluntary work in great detail with photos, letters, citations, certificates, poems, invitations and lots of press articles about local and national events relating to her dedication as a nurse/orderly.

The album has brown leather covers and gold edged leaves. It is 9.5” long by 8” deep. Originally it was likely to have been 1.25” thick but it now closer to 2.5”

Because of constant use and the vast contents someone (perhaps Florence?) has bound the spine with 3.5” wide bandage.

Belgian soldier’s funeral 01

Belgian soldier’s funeral 02

A couple of pictures from the album

I have photographed the exterior and most of the album’s contents.

To me, she comes across as a lady with a comfortable background who developed a passion for service to others.

With Pat Manning with whom I worked when she was compiling her book “Less We Forget – Beckenham & the Great War”, we traced Miss Eden’s life from her birth in 1889 in Charlton, moving to Bromley in 1891, thence to Lambeth in 1901, and Staines in 1911.

Miss Eden came to Beckenham in August 1915 to join Kent VAD 86 in Christ Church in Beckenham before transferring in April 1916 to Kent VAD168 in Bromley where she worked until 1925. When WWII began, she joined the Beckenham Mobile First Aid Unit for the duration of the war and later.

Cliff Watkins

David Bowie Festival 2019

Maybe I should announce it? Should I?…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

This year the Bowie Archive has donated another item signed by him, more details of which will follow before the festival in August.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund. Meanwhile here’s the press release from Wendy Faulkner, with ticket links, etc…

More below…

“Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity Celebrates…

The 50th Anniversary of The Growth Summer Festival of 1969

Music lovers and fans worldwide will again be invited to come together in Beckenham, South London on Saturday 17th August to celebrate:


The fourth Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity will take place at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, centred around the same iconic bandstand where Bowie and his friends from the Beckenham Arts Lab held their Growth Summer Festival and Free Concert back in 1969. The festival coincided with the release of Bowie’s first hit single, Space Oddity, and the day was later immortalised with another song, Memory of a Free Festival.

This year’s event kicks off at noon and we’re pleased to announce the return of some of the Growth Festival line up, reuniting for the first time in 50 years. These include Keith Christmas, Bridget St John, David Cousins (The Strawbs), Amory Kane and Bill Liesegang.

The event will also see the return of Maggi Ronson and her band. The full line up will be available on the Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity Facebook page shortly.

We also have the pleasure of announcing that Kevin Cann and Phil Lancaster will be at this year’s Oddity. They will be signing copies of their books; Any Day Now and At the Birth of Bowie – Life with the Man who Became a Legend.

Other attractions on the day will include food and drink by local vendors, memorabilia stalls, face painting, kids’ rides, raffle and of course the auction of Bowie related items (including a signed David Bowie item kindly donated by davidbowie.com /David Bowie Archives.)

£15 adults, although we have a limited amount of Early Bird tickets priced at £10 *available online only*
£5 for ages 10 to 16, , under 10’s go free!

Tickets are available online in advance from:

Tickets will also be available at the gate on the day of the event.

Just over £71,000 has been raised via the Festival, brick sales and donations, the H.L.F (Heritage Lottery Fund) grant application failed for the second time and because of that the council has put in £83,000 into the bandstand fund. The restoration cost is at present £191,000, so we’re not that far away from the work being started now.

Fans can also support the event via the personalised brick sales, which will be laid in their name (or a loved one etc) around the bandstand on its restoration. They can also donate to the Bowie Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund, that will honour not only David Bowie, but everyone that took part in the initial 1969 festival.


B.B.O. Organiser Wendy Faulkner

“We are so close now to reaching our target to finally be able to get this iconic bandstand restored and this is down to the Bowie fans worldwide uniting and getting this done! Beckenham has never been on the main Bowie related map of places to visit – let’s hope that changes when the bandstand’s finally restored!

I hope to continue with the Festival but when the work on the bandstand has been completed, we can move on to raising funds for other Bowie related projects etc., only time will tell.
A massive thank you to everyone that has supported the Festivals to date. To quote a certain Bowie song lyric – I bless you madly.

I’d like to give a special mention to Vernon Dewhurst and thank him for kindly allowing us to use his iconic Space Oddity album image of David Bowie for this year’s event. and of course to Mark Adams, davidbowie.com, Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey for all their support”

“To paint that love upon a white balloon”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is supported by the Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground, idverde, Bromley Parks and the London Borough of Bromley, who have named the bandstand The Bowie Bandstand in his honour. For further information go here: Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity

Photograph by Vernon Dewhurst.



David Bowie Festival 2018

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund.

More below…


Saturday, 11th August – 12 noon to 8.30pm
Croydon Road Recreation Centre, Beckenham, BR3 3PR

“Someone passed some bliss among the crowd…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity continues…..


Tickets: http://bowiesbeckenhamoddity.com/tickets
Email: bowiesbeckenhamoddity@gmail.com
Mobile: 07538 984631


David Bowie Festival 2017

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

This year the Bowie Archive has donated another item signed by him, more details of which will follow before the festival in August.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund.

More below…

flyer image 1


Saturday, 12th August – 12 noon to 8pm
Croydon Road Recreation Centre, Beckenham, BR3 3PR

“Someone passed some bliss among the crowd…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity continues…..

In 1969 a young curly haired man who went by the name of David Bowie co-organised a festival at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, South London. He even later went on to immortalise that day in his song ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’, which also appeared on his Space Oddity album. Bowie fans worldwide – join us in celebrating the life and musical legacy of David Bowie, The Growth Summer Festival of 1969, The Arts Lab, The Spiders From Mars and beyond….

Our celebratory day promises to be better than ever with food and drink, market stalls, merchandise, face painting plus a Bowie themed raffle and auction. This year’s festival kicks off at midday. Our line-up will be announced shortly, so watch this space: http://smarturl.it/BowieBandStand

Tickets are £10 (under 10’s free) and all money raised will go to the Bandstand Restoration and Plaque Fund.

At last year’s event Bowie fans united from around the world and helped raise over £17,250 for the project. The Edwardian bandstand in Beckenham (now named the Bowie Bandstand), will always be the ideal place to honour his memory (especially in the Beckenham/Bromley area), as well as being an important part of local history.

This is the first Festival anniversary year without Bowie. In 2016 we were all shocked by the news of his death as for many of us he was the soundtrack to our lives. His musical legacy continues and will gain new generations of fans around the globe for many years to come. The Oddity event organiser, Wendy Faulkner, had this to say:

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“Aylesbury will soon have a Bowie statue as a lasting tribute to the great man, Brixton also has its mural. And so we need the Bowie Bandstand in Beckenham fully restored in his honour and for all the other musicians that performed at that original event of 1969.

Bowie will always be loved and sadly missed by millions of people worldwide, so let’s get this bandstand restored!”

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Tickets: http://smarturl.it/BowieBandStand
Email: bowiesbeckenhamoddity@gmail.com
Mobile: 07538 984631

The event is supported by London Borough of Bromley Council and sponsored by Lollipop Events

“We’re gonna have a party…”

W G Grace Centenary Celebrations

W G Grace Centenary Celebrations

The Centenary Celebrations for W G Grace , in Beckenham on Friday 23rd October, 2015,  who died age 67 on 23rd October 1915,

“He  swung his bat and turned his arm on the green and pleasant fields of Beckenham in his last years; his memory remains with us forever.”

On Friday, 23rd October 2015 there will be two W.G. Centenary Events:

1.       At 4.30 pm Derek Carpenter will be conducting a Remembrance Service at W.G.’s grave in Beckenham Cemetery.

2.       At 7.30 pm in St George’s Church, Beckenham, W.G. ‘s life will be commemorated at a Service conducted by the former Bishop of Rochester and Durham, The Rt Revd Dr Michael Turnbull (a MCC member) when the guests will include  notable cricketing names and the BBC Sports personality, Rob Bonnet who will be talking about ‘Cricket and a Beckenham Boyhood’ .

All are invited to the Service when high class music will be provided by St George’s Choir and Peter Warlock’s Cricketers of Hambledon will be sung by the professional singer Malcom Banham who lives in Beckenham.

Background Notes:

The cricketing career of Dr William Gilbert Grace, W.G. as he was known, spanned 48 years from 1861 to 1908.  During his 43 years as a first-class player he scored 54,896 runs, including 126 centuries, and took 2,876 wickets. He made his Test debut at the age of 32 in 1880.

Aged 52 in 1900, when his international career was over, he formed the London County Cricket Club based at Crystal Palace Park, Beckenham. He played first-class county matches with them until 1908.  During these years he often appeared during the annual cricket weeks at Beckenham Cricket Club when he drew huge crowds to Foxgrove Road.

W.G. continued to play minor cricket after his retirement from the first-class version. His final match was for Eltham Cricket Club at Grove Park on 25 July 1914, a week after his 66th birthday.  He died in Eltham on 23rd October, 1915 and is buried in the Beckenham Cemetery in Elmers End.

In October 1998 to mark the 150th anniversary of Grace’s birth, the Revd Canon Derek Carpenter organised a graveside ceremony in Beckenham Ceremony and conducted a service in St George’s Church, Beckenham.

On March 26th  2011, Grace was celebrated in the  Fanfare for Beckenham, Concert  which took place in the Church on March 26th when  the audience were invited to join in the chorus when the Lewisham Concert Band and Paul Allen performed Peter Warlock’s rousing drinking song  The Cricketers of Hambledon.



David Bowie Plaque



Foxgrove Road was David’s first home in Beckenham in 1969 before he moved later that year to Haddon Hall, an Edwardian mansion in Southend Road, where he lived until 1973. 

With friends from Foxgrove Road, David founded a Folk Club in the Three Tuns in 1969. This developed into the Arts Lab which attracted all types of artistic talent from all over London.

The anthem to the 1960’s, Space Oddity, became a hit in 1969 and in 1972 David launched his career with the mega hit  Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

The plaque is not blue.  Blue plaques commemorate the departed.  This plaque is red (Ziggy Stardust’s hair) and gold (which glitters) in celebration of the living legend of Bowie and all those who performed in the Arts Lab and were with him during those Beckenham Years.

The plaque was unveiled by Mary Finnigan and Christina Ostrom at the Three Tuns, then called The Rat & Parrot, on December 6th, 2001.

Thanks are due to the family business of Ridgequest Foundry for the manufacture of the plaque which was funded and erected by the Copers Cope Area Residents Association (CCARA) and the Noble House Pub Company.  The plaque was designed by CCARA member Cliff Watkins who, with Paul Kinder of bowiewonderworld.com, organised the day’s events.

 Design:  Cliff Watkins

Manufacture:  Ridgequest Foundry

Paint:  Bolloms

 The Plaque was funded and erected by Beckenham’s Copers Cope Area Residents Association and Noble House Pub Company.


This is an excerpt from the unveiling of the David Bowie Plaque unveiling video. The original video includes interviews with various figures from The Arts Lab days.

Video ©2001 EditPoint  www.editpoint.co.uk.

Bowie Plaque Day, 6th December 2001. Report on Paul Kinder’s Website 7.12.2001

Yesterday 6th December 2001, Beckenham celebrated their famous former resident DAVID BOWIE with a plaque hung at The Rat & Parrot (formerly The Three Tuns) to celebrate and recognise David’s involvement in their town with The Arts Laboratory he co-founded at the pub.

Some people like to arrive fashionably late, we arrived an unfashionable 4 hours late! And unfortunately missed the unveiling, Steve Harley’s performance and at least 8 pints necking down time. Motorway traffic was horrendous, and chauffeur for the day poor Stephen K drove for a record 7 hours non stop. The journey should of been 4 hours at the most but having arrived in Beckenham via the scenic route we unfortunately didn’t arrive until gone 2 o’clock. Aren’t traffic jams wonderful?

I felt worse for the DJ Craig (aka Tony Day), he’s probably Steve Harley’s biggest fan and sadly missed it all. Craig got his set up, set up in record time and started spinning his discs and doing his thing. He did a grand job. As a special thank you to Craig I had a word with Kevin Cann and explained the situation and he kindly promised he’d sort him out next time Steve performs and get some autographed items. Thanks Kevin 🙂

Pictured here (courtesy of Total Blam Blam and Eddie Harris) are Mary Finnigan and Christina Ostrom who unveiled the plaque, with Mary giving her speech followed by recollections from Christina.

Stephen Roberts says he just watched the the video footage he shot through the day and the evening. There were loads of police there because they were training some new police officers in crowd control, so there were about 10-14 of them. This started a rumour that David was going to turn up which in turn brought more crowds.

Everyone I spoke to said Steve Harley gave a great 30 minutes along with his brilliant guitarist Robbie Gladwell. He performed classics such as ‘Judy Teen’, ‘Sebastian’, ‘Star For A Week’, ‘Mr Soft’ and ‘Make Me Smile’ (Come Up And See Me).

Stephen Roberts performed one song with his acoustic guitar, which went down really well. After speaking with sore-throated Stephen today I get the feeling he’s got some of the old taste back for performing. Go for it son!

Mark Carr Pritchett brought along his Hagstrom 12-string acoustic guitar that formerly belonged to David. Comment from someone in the crowd: “I can’t believe that’s THE actual guitar!”

Paul Henderson and Rob Storm both played great sets and went down really well. How on earth they’ve got the bottle to perform live in front of 150 or so hardcore Bowie fans is beyond me. I think it just goes to show how good they actually are.

Seven piece band Little Wonder performed a great tight set, playing a bag full of Bowie songs. The sound of 7 musicians playing in a very small venue was overwhelmingly wonderful. They sounded absolutely brilliant. For me ‘Scary Monsters’ did it – brilliant! Then to top it all, the encore at the end, Paul and Rob joined in with the band and got the crowd going ape.

A lot of the credit for the excellent sound with all the musicians goes to all the sound engineers. Brilliant job done guys.

Band member Craig from Little Wonder said: “U lot rock! What a great crowd in Beckenham! Thanks to everyone who came – we had a great time. Good to meet everyone. Faces to names and all that.You all know far too much about Bowie, far too much about the songs, and I think you’re all mad as hat stands, but to use the cliche… you certainly know how to party. I know the band loved it, as did all of the other acts. Thanks for a great night.”

The auctions and raffle went down rather well. Big thanks you to everyone who bought tickets and bid on items. All the money raised goes directly to the childrens charity. You’re a generous lot 🙂 All in all, with the collection boxes, raffle, auctions, barstaff charity events, and with the forthcoming DB and Visconti signed photos to be auctioned online – we estimate it will easily reach a thousand pounds raised for the childrens charity 🙂

Apart from this amount there is also the donations to be added from the forthcoming “photo packs” as well as donations from every video sold by Brett. If you saw the photos behind the bar on the large white board, which later raised over £50 each in the auction, these will be part of the special limited edition ‘Three Tuns’ photo pack along with recently written contributions from people who were directly involved in the Arts Lab, will be available to order. Proceeds from the ‘packs’ are to help raise money for the Chernobyl Children Life Line Charity of which Stephen is heavily involved with. Exclusively written contributions from David Bowie, Mary Finnigan, Ken ‘Wild Man’ Simmons, Stephen Roberts, The Diary of Steve Hippy, Mark Carr Pritchett, as well as extracts and information about The Arts Lab taken from various sources. Watch this space for full details in the next few days.

The video shot by Brett Allen to produce a professional record of the daytime events. Brett captured people recalling their own memories of the Arts Lab days. Along with this, Brett is to film various places relating to David Bowie in the Beckenham and Bromley areas. Brett has very kindly offered to donate money to the children’s charity on each video sold. Again, watch this space for full details in the next few days.

Landlord Alan and Tammy did a absolutely marvellous job of pulling all this together. Their generosity in ‘sponsoring’ the children’s charity before and after the event helping raise money is more than we ever wished to hope for. Many thanks from us all.

A big thank you to the barstaff who did an absolutely wonderful job. Dressed in their Bowie T-shirts and Aladdin Sane lightning bolts across the faces, they collected money and sold raffle tickets above and beyond the call of duty.

I emailed David this morning and sent him the above photograph of the plaque. I’m sure he won’t mind me informing everyone that he responded immediately with the comment: “It’s so swishy.” I think you can safely take from that he’s well chuffed about it.

On behalf of everyone involved in this event I would like to personally send a huge thank you to everyone on behalf of the Chernobyl Children Life Line charity who contributed, helped, donated, sung, sang, played, attended, supported, gave money, gave time, gave effort, wrote, reported, filmed, drove friends, travelled, gave encouragement and signed stuff – it was an absolutely marvellous event and fingers crossed it will renamed back to The Three Tuns and turned into an annual event.


A big thank you also goes out to Matthew Fisher who made The Three Tuns a subject of national importance when he nominated its inclusion in the BBC History Magazine Domesday project. *


Last but not least, on behalf of all David Bowie fans everywhere the biggest thank you goes to Mr. Cliff Watkins of the CCARA, who has spent the last six months organising this whole overall event, including a video made by Brett Allen. We Bowie fans salute you… you did the boy proud!


7th December 2001.

BW MB Profile…


*  In the March 2001 of the BBC HISTORY magazine  the winners for their ‘new Domesday Book for the new Millennium’ were featured. In second place was the The Rat and Parrot Pub (aka The Three Tuns), Beckenham, Kent. Nominated by Mr. Matthew Fisher.

This was the venue for Sunday evening meetings of David Bowie’s ‘Beckenham Arts Lab’ in 1969 – an informal gathering of musicians and artists. In the face of local opposition, The Three Tuns was renamed The Rat and Parrot in 1995 and is now part of a chain of similarly branded pubs. The judges were enthused by this nomination and its importance for the history of popular culture, unrecorded at present. It also highlighted the familiar issue of changes to historic pub names. CDW , although the brewery tell us it is not inconceivable that the pub could one day be renamed The Three Tuns. ‘What’s in a name? A lot when you look into it,’



Enid Blyton’s Beckenham

Enid Blyton’s Beckenham   –   Map of the Clock House District



Homes:195Chaffinch Road1897 to 1903
235Clock House Road1903 to 1907
331Clock House Road1907 to 1912
414Elm Road1912 to 1916
513Westfield Road1916 to 1917
634Oakwood Avenue1917 to 1924 (see separate map)
783Shortlands Road1924 to 1929 (see separate map)
SchoolsTresco Kindergarten79Cedars Road
St Christopher’s88Croydon Road (not shown)
St Christopher’s2Rectory Road
Baptist Church & Sunday SchoolElm Road
Important FriendsMary Attenborough9Beckenham Road
Phyllis Chase7Queen’s Road


On the Trail of Enid Blyton

On the day I meet up with Cliff Watkins from the Enid Blyton Society for my Enid Blyton tour it’s hot. So hot in fact that The Famous Five would’ve been taking off on their bikes and picniking on doorstop sandwiches, fruit cake and lashings of ginger beer, not walking around the streets of Beckenham. But I’m determined to see where this famous author who wrote 600 books, and who coloured my childhood with her stories, lived.


Street in Beckenham named after the Malory Towers series.

I’ve gathered already from email that Cliff is an intelligent man, but in person he’s even more so. Ten minutes into the tour he’s already told me more about Beckenham than I’d probably learn in a history book.

In his 70′s at least, Cliff also posseses an old-school gallantry, worrying that he’s walking on the inside of the footpath and that I could be in danger if a car mounts the kerb. We stop briefly at the BaptistChurch where Enid was baptised when she was in her teens. He manages to secure me a glass of orange juice from the ladies who run the church as he’s worried about me dehydrating.

As we’re closer to the three middle houses she lived in we do the tour in reverse order by starting in Elm Road and Clockhouse Road. Cliff knows a lot about Enid’s parents, their separation and young Enid’s ‘adoption’ by the Attenborough family who encouraged her writing. It appears she didn’t have much time for her father, a cloak-maker who ran off with a mistress. Or for her mother either who tried to hide her failed marriage by asking Enid and her brothers to tell people her husband was away on business. In fact Enid didn’t show up to either of their funerals.


One of Enid’s two childhood houses in Clockhouse Road.

I ask Cliff if he thinks that grumpy Uncle Quentin in The Famous Five series was perhaps representative of her absent father? Cliff seems perplexed about that, and is not sure. I gather he’s not read much of The Famous Five, as he is more interested in Carey Blyton, Enid’s nephew who was a composer and wrote a song which inspired the Australian TV show Bananas in Pajamas. Shame, I would’ve liked to have an indepth discussion about Uncle Quentin.

Moving on….we reach Enid’s first home in Chaffinch Road which is a quiet, green leafy street. Cliff is interested that the home has just been sold and takes down the details of the real estate agent from the sign outside the house. He says he tries to keep in touch with the owners of Enid’s houses and has been inside several of them. He wanted to knock on the door of one of the previous ones and ask the owners if I could look inside as I was all the way from New Zealand, but I wasn’t keen on that idea.


Enid’s first home in Beckenham: 95 Chaffinch Road.

After Chaffinch Road we stop for lunch in a cafe and I buy us lunch, since Cliff is giving me the tour for free. I eat my cheese, ham and coleslaw sandwiches while he nibbles on his cheese and pickle and keeps talking until his tea gets cold.

By now I’m beginning to appreciate the depth of Cliff’s knowledge of Beckenham’s famous people and famous people connected with Beckenham by any means possible.

I hear about Charles Darwin whose mail had to have ‘Beckenham’ written on the address, as that was where the sorting office was, otherwise his mail ended up in Northern Ireland. Then there was Harold Bride a Beckenham lad who was a telegraph officer on the Titanic and who was the town’s hero because he’d jumped into the water (after helping lots of people) and managed to survive.

After lunch the tour continues and we catch a tram, and then a train, to visit Enid’s final two houses that she’d lived in when she was married. By this time she was starting to make decent money from her writing and had children of her own. I ask Cliff about this as I’d read she didn’t pay them much attention. He said this was pretty accurate and that her own daughter had described her as ’a bit of a bitch’.


Enid’s final house in Beckenham at 83 Shortland’s Road before she moved.

Perhaps ‘George’ in The Famous Five was actually Enid’s alter ego then? And if she’d only had two children why was there Julian, Dick, Anne and George in the Famous Five? Unfortunately Cliff was not forthcoming about this side of things. But he does tell me there was a BBC TV drama starring Helena Bonham-Carter as Enid, and that there was a ‘primitive’ scene where Enid/Helena told the maid to ‘remove the child’ as she couldn’t bear it screaming while she was trying to write. Cliff thinks this is a bit over the top but says I should watch it anyway, even if it wasn’t filmed in Beckenham.

By this time it is mid-afternoon and I’m drooping from the heat. In contrast Cliff still seems quite lively and able to talk for at least another hour. We catch a bus and head to his house to meet his wife Veronica who kindly makes us sandwiches (better than the cafe’s) and gives us orange juice. Cliff then sells me a book he’s written on Beckenham for £6, discounted from £8.

Finally he escorts me to the bus-stop and waits with me until the bus arrives. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my Enid Blyton tour, even if it wasn’t about Uncle Quentin or George, it’s that chivalry is definitely alive and well in Beckenham.


Enid Blyton’s first known published works

At the age of three months, Enid Blyton arrived in Beckenham where she lived in seven different houses. Life at home was disrupted after her mother successfully petitioned for a legal separation in 1911 following her father’s three years of adultery. At that time Enid was at St Christopher’s  a typical small private school run by two ladies in a large converted Victorian house in Rectory Road, Beckenham.



There were just 50 pupils (see photo c. 1914- Enid is seated with tie and a pony tail) and hardly more than ten girls in Enid & Maud’s peer group.  They all knew each other.  Enid was the leader of a group of four close friends – the others being Phyllis Chase,  Mirabel Davis and Mary Attenborough. Enid had being trying for years to be recognised as a writer before her first known published work appeared in 1917. As she explained to her nephew, Carey Blyton forty years later:   It’s very difficult to get a start in anything – I had  over 500 rejections when I first began writing!  You don’t put me off with the tale of your disappointments – such a tale is quite usual – most of our well known music writers would be able to vie with your disappointing beginnings!

In 1917, three poems appeared in Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine by or related to Enid. They were: Title                             Date                 Author                         Author’s Home           

“Have you ———?”   March 1917     Enid Blyton                 Beckenham, Kent

“I Have  ——–?”        June 1917        Maud Dyrenfurth         Sydenham, Lewisham

My Summer Prayer      August 1917    Enid Blyton                 Beckenham, Kent

The poems were not for children.  Previous contributors to Nash’s Magazine included Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and HG Wells.

Who was Maud Dyrenfurth?  There was only one Dyrenfurth family in the UK in the 1911 Census. In 1917 they were living on the border between Lower Sydenham and Beckenham.  Like Enid, Maud might have been a pupil at St Christopher’s School in Rectory Road, a one mile pleasant walk across farmland from her home.

Enid had been trying to have her work published for some time. Was Maud the author of the second poem or did Enid steal Maud’s name to reinforce recognition for her first Nash poem?  If so this ploy worked because Nash published the second poem in June and a third in August.

March 9th 2013 saw the world premiere of Gordon Carr’s setting of the three 1917 poems to music in St George’sChurch, Beckenham. Both Gordon and Enid Blyton came from Beckenham. The musical accompaniment was by members of the Lewisham Concert Band whose DirectorLeslieLake was educated in Beckenham.

Subsequently, the soprano Marie Vassiliou who sung Carr’s songs, and local poets were firmly of the opinion that Enid had written all three of the poems.   In 1917 when the poems appeared in Nash’s Magazine, Britain was embroiled in war with Germany. People who bought the magazines were asked to stick a stamp on the cover and take them to a local post office whence they would be sent to the troops.


I have yet to learn the thoughts of  any of the front line troops, who spent much of their time living a Hobbit like existence underground waist deep in water and suffering with lice and various diseases,  when they were given magazines advertising beauty soap and shampoo.

Carey Blyton – The Beckenham Years

Carey Blyton was born in 62 The Drive in March 1932, the son of Enid Blyton’s brother, Hanly, and Bermondsey born mother, Floss. At Carey’s birth, Floss became very ill with puerperal fever a condition which was followed by the onset of rheumatoid arthritis a few years later.

Carey was educated at Bromley Road Infants, The Grange Prep school  in Wickham Road (shortly after Bob Monkhouse) and at the Beckenham County Grammar School for Boys (BCGS).

He came close to death twice as a boy. The first occasion was in 1944 when a V1 flying bomb (doodlebug) landed diagonally opposite his house in The Drive and again three years later when he was struck down by polio during the notorious summer of 1947.

As well as the devastation in The Drive, Hitler’s flying bombs destroyed the heart of Beckenham and Beckenham Road. The resulting ruins were described by Carey in a memoir Summer in the Country “like living through an Hieronymous Bosch nightmare.”

The Blyton’s house in The Drive was uninhabitable and Hanly arranged an evacuation for Carey and his mother to the West Country where he confronted the English class system, deepened his affinity with the natural world, and learned the elements of capitalism bartering cheap jewellery with American GI’s for their cigarettes.

During the war, his father was battling on four fronts (moving his clothing business every time it was bombed out in The City; acting as an Air Raid Warden at night; caring for Floss with her worsening arthritis; and looking after his mother Theresa, abandoned by Enid since 1920 and living in straightened circumstances in Clevedon Road, Penge, opposite the County School).

Thus, Carey was allowed free rein to create his own real life adventures while other children read the fictional adventures created by his famous aunt. Many of Carey’s activities took place in the private woodlands behind The Drive which Hanly and other residents had the foresight to buy back in 1927. His main chum was Tony Bristow and together they engaged in “Just William” like activities, well-meaning but so often destined to cause trouble.

In 1947, his GCE O-level results were delivered by BCGS head “Jumbo” White to Farnborough Hospital where he told Carey that they were “the best in school” that year. After months in hospital, the tedium of his long convalescence at home was changed by a neighbour who suggested Carey learn the piano. This “therapy” became converted into a passion for music and when Carey returned to BCGS in 1948 he joined the Music Society, a joint venture with the Girls County School.

In 1949, the Girls County School sixth formers invited the boys to a dance in the hall in the school in Lennard Road. The boys were told to “come as you are”. With his legs in irons, Carey could not dance so he suggested the boys provide some entertainment, an idea endorsed with enthusiasm by his colleagues and several like Brian Sanders, Mike Hopkins, Francis Weiss, John Miles and Peter Mitchell vividly remember how Carey, dressed in a black cloak as the anarchist, Count Bombski, led the BCGS sixth form on a “band storming” march to Lennard Road via Penge High Street and the astonished constabulary of the police station.

In the Girls School hall, Carey provided decorations in the provocative form of sets of three balloons and later he startled everybody by throwing his “bomb” – a black painted ball cock – on to the dance floor.  This behaviour horrified Miss Henshaw and it was not surprising that no girls were present at the next Music Society meeting.

With this exuberance behind them, Carey and a small group of friends took part in concerts, one being at Elm Road Baptist Church Hall (with John Mann – Snowey White in the Dick Barton radio serials) and another (with Hugh Bean) in the Arts & Music series held in the BCGS hall and organised by Tom Williams who had been a senior English master at the school and who also found time to set the questions for the BBC radio programme, “Top of the Form”.  In 1952, Carey and a local actress, Benita Powell, appeared in the film “The Blue Beads” shot in Kelsey Park and Beckenham High Street. (Insert link to see the film).

From these beginnings emerged the Beckenham Salon 1952-54, described  by Carey as “a collection of arts-interested young people in ‘downtown Beckenham’ who wrote music, poetry, plays, took ‘artistic’ photographs, etc”. Their members included Carey, David Munro, Mike Hopkins, David Roberts, Arthur Dodd. Jack Frost, Hugh Bean, Benita Powell, John Vosser, and Mollie and Geoffry Russell-Smith.  They performed five public concerts and others in the drawing rooms of the fine houses in Beckenham. The Salon’s President, Sir Arthur Bliss attended several events.

Writing to a fellow composer, Mike Cornick, in 1997, Carey said, “As I think more and more of my beginnings as a composer, and thus of ‘early days’, the more I realise how very crucial were the years 1949 to 1953 – the Beckenham salon was clearly seminal.” Most of the 100 solo and choral songs were written early in his career, several being premiered in the Salon Concerts.

In 1953, he started his four year music degree at Trinity College of Music (London) where obtained all three College Diplomas and was awarded a ten month scholarship to the Danish  Conservatoire in Copenhagen.  He returned in 1958 to be music editor for Mills Music and became Professor of Harmony, Counterpoint and Orchestration at Trinity until 1973. For the next ten years he was Visiting Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he pioneered the tutoring in composition for Films, TV and Radio.

During this period Carey’s own output was also for films, TV (including three Dr Who series) and radio plus a lot of highly remunerative advertising and commercial music. He worked with and wrote music for schools and gave private tuition as well as acting as a music editor, most notably for Britain’s leading composer of the 20th Century, Benjamin Britten, whose centenary takes place this year. Carey also wrote a number of short stories, including two very evocative accounts of his ‘Summer in the Country’ in 1944 when he was evacuated to the West Country. Friends and colleagues recall his charisma which reflected his love of the natural world and a whacky but infectious humour – involving puns, pseudonyms, limericks, and nonsense verse.

One piece of nonsense versus was concocted on a long car journey as a soporific for his first son, Matthew. This was Bananas in Pyjamas (BIP) which his wife, Mary, urged him to write down the words and music which in a collection of his nonsense songs and poems were published in 1972 by Faber. Ten years later, BIP videos were produced by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Since then, ABC have issued licences world-wide for over 1000 items of BIP merchandise: books, toys, toothpaste, toothbrushes, clothing etc.

Carey was very much his own man and rarely spoke of his famous aunt. However, in 1965, Boosey & Hawkes Ltd issued “Mixed Bag – Six Action/Unison Songs for Schools”, with words by Enid Blyton and music by Carey Blyton which remained in print for ten years. The work was the fulfillment of correspondence between, and two meetings of, the two famous Blytons during six years from 1959. Towards the end of this collaboration, Enid was suffering from the onset of  Alzheimer’s (she died in 1968) but the letters showed that Carey was kind and understanding throughout.

In 2002, Carey was delighted to learn that the infant pupils of his first school – Bromley Road – had created a mural depicting their favourite song, Bananas in Pyjamas. A copy was presented to his youngest son, Daniel at a civic reception held in Beckenham Library to mark Carey’s 70th Birthday. A video was made of the occasion and presented to Carey who was too ill with post-polio syndrome to travel from his home in Woodbridge.  Carey died in July 2002.



The Hobbit – Blyton got there first

In time for Christmas 2012 the latest Tolkien based blockbuster movie – The Hobbit – was released in the UK.

Almost fifty years before the film the Beckenham composer Carey Blyton wrote to Tolkien in 1963 seeking his permission to put his literature to music. Tolkien had completed his novel in 1937 and in his reply to Carey he said that that ‘As an author I am honoured to hear that I have inspired a composer. I have long hoped to do so, and hoped also that I might perhaps find the result intelligible to me, or feel that it was akin to my own inspiration.’

With Tolkien’s blessing, Carey – who at the time was adapting some of his aunt Enid’s poems to music – completed his musical rendition in the form of a concert overture, The Hobbit.

Typical of his masterly miniaturist style, Carey’s composition lasted just four minutes and told the full story of how Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, with the help of the Magic Ring, Gandalf the Wizard and thirteen dwarves reclaimed treasure from the dragon Smaug.

Tolkien was very pleased with the Hobbit’s first appearance in music. In 1968, he invited Carey to a reception which launched Bilbo’s Last Song, a song cycle by Donald Swann with a performance by the composer and the bass-baritone William Elvin. The event was filmed by the BBC in front of 100 members of the press and the book trade. Among other guests invited by Tolkien were Michael Flanders and Sir Thomas Armstrong, the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music.

A concert organised by Cliff Watkins in St George’s Church, Beckenham in March 2011 included both Bilbo’s Last Song about the last moments in the life of Tolkien’s creation and Carey Blyton’s The Hobbit – the first ever musical interpretation of a Tolkien work.