Dinah Maria Mulock

Dinah Maria Mulock was born in Stoke-upon-Trent on April 20.1826 She started writing at the age of 20 and continued writing for the rest of her life and completed some 50 novels, children’s books and poems: of which the most well known is John Halifax, Gentleman (published 1856).

She moved to London in 1846 and In 1865. Dinah married George Lillie Craik. a partner in the firm of Macmillan’s. A year later, the couple moved to Beckenham, living in Chilchester Lodge, a Georgian House in Wickham Road. Today, the block of flats which replaced Mrs Craik’s house is called Chilcester Lodge, opposite the entrance to Kelsey Park.

Her next Beckenham home was in the “Corner House” at the junction of Scotts Lane and Shortlands Road. She died on October 12th. 1887. At a service in St. Mary’s. Shortlands; where Dinah used to worship, the vicar quoted her own words in her memory:

And when I lie in the green kirkyard

With the mould upon my breast,

Say not ‘that she did well – or ill’

Only, ‘She did her best!’

Mrs Craik was buried in the graveyard of Keston church and a tablet to her memory was placed in St Mary’s. Shortlands. St Mary’s  was ruined by bombing in 1944 and all the memorials destroyed. The present church dates from the 1956.

However, in the Abbey in the town of Tewkesbury, which was the setting for John Halifax, Gentleman, there is a fine marble memorial.  This was the work of a committee, which included, among others, the following historic names: Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Robert Browning, Sir Frederick Leighton, Sir John E. Millais, Professor Huxley,  J. Russell Lowell, and Mrs. Oliphant.

Eric Inman

Eric Inman

Although I knew Eric through the first edition of the Beckenham book he co-authored with Nancy Tonkin in 1993,  I did not meet him until I was invited to join the CCARA Executive Committee in 2002.

I was well into local history by that time and I had discovered Eric’s love for our town. When the Beckenham branch of the Bromley Local history Society folded in 2002, Eric embarked on a series of projects to keep our rich heritage in the forefront of people’s minds.

He arranged visits to our Art Deco cinema and to Beckenham Hospital, and he helped with an Exhibition about Elmers End. There were two really eye catching projects at that time. One was the centenary of the first British air mail flight, when he invited the then leader of Bromley Council, Mike Tickner, aloft in a helicopter (a 21st century substitute for the original gas filled balloon).

The other remarkable event was to get the current owner of the Thomas Crapper sanitary ware company to clean up the Crapper grave stone in Elmers end cemetery. Derek Carpenter, the Rector of St George’s at that time, attended the ceremony and confessed that he had to re-read most of the bible to find some appropriate words to say!. That day concluded with a most enjoyable reception in the Bromley Court Hotel.

More recently he arranged a plaque to be installed in Croydon Road Recreation Ground at the place where the balloon had ascended and last December there was the unveiling of the plaque at Thornton’s Corner, marking Beckenham’s father figure.

His interest never wavered despite his ill health.  Two days before he died, he attended the Exhibition in the Civic Centre marking the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Borough of Bromley.

Cliff Watkins

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:

DAVID BOWIE★ THE GROWTH SUMMER FESTIVAL OF 1969,★ THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, ★ THE ARTS LAB and beyond…

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.)

Tickets:
£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:
https://www.wegottickets.com/sct/uhqqwyAj2K

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.

https://www.bromley.gov.uk/…/bowie_bandstand_restoration_ap…

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…

 

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY/BANDSTAND DAY 2018
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

 

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY/BANDSTAND DAY 2017
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:

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

“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!”

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

bowieplaque

 

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!

Rednik.

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

eb_map

 

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.

eb-trail1

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.

eb-trail2

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.

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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’.

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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.

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