Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Find a sixpence and lose ten bob ............. another adventure down on Asylum Road

Find a sixpence and lose ten bob appealed to mother’s sense of morality and has stuck with me all my life.

And I can point to more than a few times when that momentary feeling of being  flush with luck was dispelled and dispelled in a big way.

Usually they happened during an adventure and the Saturday down at Asylum Road in the summer of 1959 was no exception.*

To this day I can’t remember how I got to know about the Fun Day at the old Alms Houses but there was that familiar mix of stalls, silly things to do along with popcorn, and gas filled balloons which lifted up into the air and were gone in an instant.

Back then I had no idea of the history of the place.

According to Historic England the former almshouse chapel at the heart of the complex which dates "from 1827-31 ...... is leased by the London Borough of Southwark to a local artists' group. The condition of the building continues to decline and extensive repairs are required. Discussions are progressing to identify funding for full condition and structural surveys in order to assess the extent of necessary works."**

All of which was lost on me back then.

I remember spending all my pocket money and then walking the long walk home under the railway bridge on Clifton Road, via Pomeroy Street to Lausanne Road.

And it will have been somewhere by the railway bridge that I found the parcel, neatly wrapped in brown paper tied with string with a local address.

I could have just left it on the pavement which would have been the easy thing to do or worse still opened it but no I chose to deliver it with that sense that this was the right thing to do superimposed  with the hope that here might be a reward.

I can’t now remember where on Queens Road but it will have been one of those houses between Lausanne and St Mary’s Road, which back then were trading on former glory and looked a little sad.

Undaunted I delivered the parcel, was thanked for my honesty and left on the door step with just the knowledge that it contained nothing more than a sandwich.

To this day I have no idea why it had an address or how it got to be under the railway bridge but it is one of those memories long lost which has been brought out into the day light by Adam’s pictures of the alms house in Caroline Gardens.

They were originally known as the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum and provided homes for retired pub landlords.

“During the last war the residents had been moved out and while they returned when the war was over the decision was made to relocate to Buckinghamshire in 1959 and the asylum was sold to Southwark Council in 1960, "which to this day uses it as social housing. 

Southwark renamed it “Caroline Gardens” after Caroline Secker, a former resident and widow of James Secker, who was the marine in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), said to have caught Nelson when he fell."***

Now I have to confess I have never been back but I am minded to do so and may will revisit a few more of those “find a sixpence and lose ten bob” stories.

Well we shall see.

Pictures; Caroline Gardens, 2015 from the collection of Adam Burgess

* A day on Asylum Road trying to remember that event 56 years ago,

** Licensed Victuallers Almshouses: Chapel, Asylum Road SE15 – Southwark, Heritage At Risk Register, 2015,

***Asylum history,

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