Monday, 22 May 2017

So what is the story behind the tram on Well Hall Road, one sunny spring day?

Now there is a fine line between nostalgia and remembering the past.

The first pretty much takes you nowhere and often distorts the past by making it seem somehow better than it was.

On the other hand remembering the past can trigger not only a series of memories but leads to wanting to find out more.

It often starts with that simplest of questions was this really how it was? And then takes you off into serious history which involves talking to others, cross checking their memories against research and beginning to record it for others to read.

And that often leads to community projects where memories and memorabilia come out of the cupboards, are dusted down and shared which not only adds to what we know but brings an area together, allowing the not so young to recreate the past for those too young to know what it had been like.

So here we are with one of those classic old pictures of Well Hall from a book on trams.*

There is no date on the picture, and the caption just says “early days on Well Hall Road [showing] that the local children had plenty of space to play.  All they had to do was get out of the way of the trams which plied the route every ten minutes. The ride from Woolwich to Eltham would have cost two pence.”

All of which draws you in and makes the picture worth investigating.

Judging by the trees and the children’s clothes I think we must be somewhere in the 1920s or 30s and taking into account the shadows it will be early afternoon.

Now it could be a Sunday which would explain the lack of traffic or we really are at a point in time when Well Hall Road was far less busy.

What I also find interesting is that the children by and large are ignoring the photographer.

Earlier in the century and certainly in the last decade of the 19th century the appearance of a man with a camera would have attracted the curious, the vain and those with nothing better to do.

You see them on the old pictures staring back at the camera, intrigued, mystified and just nosey.  But not here, which means we are either dealing with some very sophisticated young people or the world has moved on and street photographers were taken for granted.

And that just leaves me that little personal observation that however fascinating this picture is it just leaves off our house for the photographer has positioned himself just a tad further north, missing out 294 by a couple of blocks.

That said if I have got this right I have to satisfy myself with knowing that the corner house with its ever so fashionable lace curtains was the home of Mr and Mrs Burton in 1925.

The Burton’s were there by 1919 which means that Mr Christopher Dove Burton may have been an Arsenal worker, and just as an aside, I know that they were married in 1920 in Lambeth, and that Beatrice’s maiden name was Briant and it was as Miss Beatrice Briant that she shows up on the electoral roll in 1919 sharing the house with Mr Burton.

Now there is a story to follow up.

Pictures; Well Hall Road, date unknown, from the collection of G.L. Gundy, reproduced from Eltham and Woolwich Tramways

*Eltham and Woolwich Tramways, Robert J Harley, Middleton Press, 1996, https://www.middletonpress.co.uk/

1 comment:

  1. my father drove the 46 tram which is shown, I can vaguely remember going with him to Woolwich, and back to well hall where my mum met me off the tram. this was mid 1950's

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