Friday, 3 March 2017

Connections ...... Edith Nesbit of Well Hall and William Barefoot Labour politican and councillor for Eltham

Edith Nesbit, circa 1890
Now I like the way that history continues to surprise you, often taking you in directions which you could not have imagined.

Until recently I was not aware that Edith Nesbit had lived at Well Hall and knew only that she had written the Railway Children.

But she was far more than just someone who wrote children’s books.

Her marriage appears to be what we might today describe as an open one and she adopted two children from her husband’s relationship with another woman who was employed as their house keeper.

She was one of the founder members of the Fabian Society, a member of the Social Democratic Federation and wrote and spoke regularly on socialism.

Amongst her friends were H.G. Wells, Bernard Shaw and the Webb’s, all of whom visited the house in Well Hall.

She was also a member of the local Labour Party and it was here she met Tommy Tucker an engineer on the Woolwich Ferry, who she married three years after the death of her husband Hubert.

All of which fits nicely as like Edith, Hubert and Tommy I was also a member of the same local Labour Party.

Woolwich Labour Party was formed in 1903.  At that time the Woolwich constiuency took in Woolwich and Eltham, and even when it was split between Woolwich East and Woolwich West for the 1918 General Election the Labour Party took the decision to stay as one party.

So when I joined in 1966 aged just 16 I was walking with Edith, Hubert and Tommy.

William Barefoot, date unknown
And also William Barefoot who will have known Edith and may well have been a guest at her home in Well Hall.

He was one of the leading forces in the Woolwich Labour Party having been its secretary from 1903 till 1941.*

He had become secretary of the Woolwich Trades Council in 1899 a post he held until 1921, was editor of The Woolwich Labour Journal and the Pioneer a weekly paper.**

Now if I were prone to idle speculation I might well go ‘off on one’ pondering on how well Ms Nebit and

Mr Barefoot knew each other and whether she contributed to either The Woolwich Labour Journal and the Pioneer.

Now the Greenwich Heritage Centre holds both the Journal and the Pioneer but the collection only cover the years 1919-1926, and I am not sure when she left Well Hall.

I know she married Mr Tucker in 1917 and later moved to Friston in East Sussex, and later to East Kent, and died in 1924.

That said I shall go digging elsewhere for both journals and the first port of call will be the archives of the People’s Museum.

Now it would really be nice to discover some of her political writing which in turn will have crossed William Barefoot’s desk and so I shall go looking.

Pictures; Edith Nesbit courtesy of The Edith Nesbit Society, http://www.edithnesbit.co.uk/ and William Brefoot, courtesy of Archives & Study Centre, at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, http://www.phm.org.uk/

*William Barefoot and a day in the archives of the Peoples’ History Museum in Manchester, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/william-barefoot-and-day-in-archives-of.html

** ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE LABOUR PARTY AT LOCAL LEVEL, The Woolwich Labour Party, 1903-53, Dr Roger Eatwell, 1982,  http://www.microform.co.uk/guides/R97253.pdf

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