Saturday, August 11, 2012

Streatham Strolls 3

Hello again, and welcome to Part 3 of our virtual chess history tour of Streatham and surrounds, accompanied by Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players, and other useful guides.
If you have joined us for the first time, you can catch up by hurrying through the first two sections here and here. In the meantime the rest of us will continue gently southwards, past Brockwell Park, which sports, as does Tooting Common (see part 1), an art-deco open-air Lido.

Brockwell Lido in 1938.
Wikipedia Commons

Our first stop today, Number 13 in the Stroll overall, is Deronda Road, just beyond the Park.

In 1891 Rudolf Loman “teacher of music” lived here, at house number 49, with his wife, two-year old daughter, and a domestic (I'll spare you a picture as it looks like any of the other Victorian terraced houses we've seen already - though this one has an attic room for the maid).

“Teacher of music” isn’t the half of it. A Dutchman, Loman (1861-1932) was the subject of an appreciative article, with portrait below, in the BCM in 1892 - he had been in London for almost ten years - which noted his substantial record in tournaments in Holland and England.
Loman was also an organist at the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, in the City and was regarded highly enough to play at the service for the birth of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in 1909; he had himself been married there in 1907 (OU). He was also a professional concert pianist, having entertained the troops with a piano solo in the musical interlude at the 1895 Hastings Tournament (at any rate a Mr Lohman [sic] did), and here is his programme for a concert at the Steinway Halls in 1899 (click on to enlarge).Chess-wise he had won several national competitions and was to become the official Dutch National Champion in 1912, and on this side of the North Sea the talented Mr Loman was a smooth operator in the London chess divans. Hans Ree re-tells the story of Rudolf, at the turn of the century, coaching another strong Dutchman, Jacques Davidson, 29 years his junior, in the dark arts of relieving monied English gents of their one shilling stakes. The trick was to lose the odd game - about one in five, and always the last – to gull the victim into coming back for more, so that overall they’d leave with less.

Constantly back and forth Loman was to return permanently to Holland in 1915, his tournament record stretching on to 1930 shortly before his death. Not for the first time, or last, on our stroll there is a Gunsbergian quasi-coincidence. Isidor, too, lived in Deronda Road, at number 19; although not until 1923 (TH). He was also close by in 1911, in Knollys Road only a mile away, but by then Loman had moved to Hampstead, north of the river, according to that year’s census (see note).

Now we go from an urbane, cosmopolitan Dutchman to the other end of the spectrum: a demure English lady from the provinces, "careful and...patient in play" (EW/BCM). We’ll meet her on the other side of Tulse Hill.

To our more energetic readers we now offer the opportunity of a long detour east, via, if you wish, a gem in the Palladian style: Dulwich Picture Gallery, although alas it has no chess paintings. Camille Pissarro’s 1871 work Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich is not there, either. It's in the Courtauld Gallery, but let’s have a look at it anyway as it perfectly conveys the contemporary flavour of these South London not-yet-suburbs, i.e. rural, with the railway paving the way for the Victorian terraces that engulf the scene over the next couple of decades or so.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Lordship Lane Station, Dulwich (1871)
Courtauld Gallery, London.

As for the destination of this detour: it’s to Lewisham, for an encounter with the “Black Death”, Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) the 7th of Tom Harding’s EVCPs. He lived in Sandrock Road near to Lewisham town centre and was buried, with his wife, in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery (TH EVCPs) at Stop 14. You may not fancy this side-track but, as suggested above, there are some interesting sights on the way. Personally I would prefer to leave Blackburne for another day as (a) there is another big beast to deal with further on in our itinerary, and (b) it's rather a long walk to Lewisham.

Beyond Tulse Hill we pass close to Knollys Road (we won’t stop to look now, as you can see it here), along the High Street, its Victorian façades suffering the ravages of the 20th and 21st Centuries, past West Norwood Library (mentioned again later), and eventually on to the top of Knights Hill. As you pause for breath on the climb you could be forgiven for complaining that as well as the plentiful green spaces mentioned in Stroll 1, South London also has rather a lot of hills. And that Knights Hill is a bit dull.

At the summit, and Stop 15, is the British Home for Incurables (as it was called then, jarring as it sounds to us now). And it was here that Mary Rudge lived out the final years of her life from 1913 to 1919 (she was moved to Guy's Hospital for her last weeks, aged 77 - see note). Mary, who won the first International Women’s Chess Tournament in 1897 in London, deserves to be fêted as she was, at her peak, “the leading lady player in the world” (CCC 1889).

Mary Rudge (1842-1919)
From Scientific American Supplement, 8 June 1878.
Chess Archaeology
She was born in Leominster in Herefordshire, but lived mainly in Bristol, and sometime in Dublin, her association with Streatham coming only in her last years. Her late peak in chess strength was followed by misfortune. Support came from the chess community, including the redoubtable Mrs. Frideswide Rowland among others. Stricken with arthritis, her time ran out while seeking respite in the heights of Upper Norwood, high above the smog of teeming London in the distance.

Mary Rudge's story is well-told by John Richards of Bristol Chess Club here, and Dr Tim Harding has prepared an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (along with Gunsberg, and Captain William "Gambit" Evans).

Now let’s pause again, a few hundred yards down the road, to gather our strength and to enjoy the Rookery, a delightful public garden laid out 100 years ago (perhaps Mary sat here, too, re-living past glories). Its spring was said, back in the mid 1600s, to be three times more efficacious than those at Epsom, and accordingly the congested hordes made their excursions up from the city to take the waters. That's against the bylaws now, of course; but it was already polluted by the 1700s. However, another stream at the "Streatham Spa" down in Valley Road, was still healthily gurgling away in the 1930's, bottled and delivered with Victorian-style efficiency by Curtis and Dumbrill's dairy, along with the milk.
From the chess remembered hills of the Norwood Streatham borders we go down now to the bottom of the Common and the chance for another optional detour (for a good mile or so) along lowland Streatham Vale to the Streatham Park Cemetery where Isidor Gunsberg (him again) was buried in 1930 (Stop 16). The site is mapped and the precise spot can be located on the turf, but otherwise no trace of his grave remains (see also TH EVCPs).

The plot thickens.
In the foreground is the empty location of Gunsberg's grave.
Streatham Vale Cemetery. #8478, in square 6.
Now north, and on to Stop 17: a séance with Aleister “The Beast” Crowley (1875-1947) at Polworth Road, secreted behind the war memorial. It feels unseemly, at this moment in our stroll, to mention this licentious, self-aggrandising charlatan, so we’ll confine our attention to his chess, for which, yes, he found the time amid all his black magicking.

He learnt the game when eight years old, and in his twenties, up at Cambridge, was taken to visit H. E. Atkins, no less, and tried to catch him out with a home-brewed line of the Muzio Gambit. It’s all there in his “Confessions”, naturally. He would have you believe that he could handle himself at the board, not needing to call on help from, as it were, the other side. This essay on his chess by Robert Tuohey exposes all.

Crowley mentions his brief childhood stay in Streatham in his self-serving autobiography; it must have been around 1891, when he was 16. He also attended school here – possibly Immanuel (demolished). One November 5th he made his own fireworks and pretty nearly killed himself (I ask you: what will some people do to be at the centre of attention?).

We are definitely heading north now, up Streatham High Street and into the home straight. But if you need some refreshment try the White Lion at Stop 18.

The 21st century accretions (it's now a "backpackers hostel and music bar") cannot disguise that this was once a proud Victorian roadhouse. It would have offered a welcome to passing trade, tasty lunches for the locals, a banqueting room for newly-weds, and last but not least a meeting place for guilds, lodges and - a clue - clubs.

It is in fact steeped in chess history, as this press cutting from the 1929 reveals.

It was home to Streatham and (later-amalgamated) Brixton chess club for over 40 years. This, together with other historical press cuttings, was published in the club's magazine Knightmare! that took the chess world by storm with three issues in the late 1970s (watch out for a blog series to come).

We are almost there - with a final mention of Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players, and the subject of Chapter 2: Howard Staunton (1810-1874). He lived at 2 Leigham Avenue, off the High Street, in the late 1850s. He regarded it as his “country home” – unrecognisable today as six lanes of traffic slice the community in two. The High Street can claim, with all due modesty, to be Britain's Worst Street 2002, though they've tried to spruce it up since.

Of all the EVCPs perhaps Staunton’s name is the best known today, so we’ll leave him with just that brief reference (his house no longer exists anyway), and give the last word to a contemporary and thriving chess group at Streatham Library (Stop 19).

It is a self-started semi-detached associate of S&BCC. It meets regularly at Streatham Library (see bottom left in the composite below) which was built by virtue of the philanthropy of Sir Henry Tate (1819-1899), sugar refiner and benefactor of West Norwood Library (top left), the Tate Library in Brixton (top right), and many other improving institutions, including of course the Tate Gallery on Millbank. He installed himself in a saccharine pastiche of his own confection: Park Hill, at the top of Streatham Common (bottom right).

Tate Suite
The Library chessers have been going for maybe six or seven years. They meet at 4.00pm on Wednesday afternoons offering casual games and, for aspiring players, a stepping-stone into the world of local league and competitive chess under the umbrella of S&BCC.

That’s it. We've made it.
I hope you have enjoyed this three-part chess ramble around the chess-rich highways and byways of Streatham. It has been a long haul, but en route we have not let our enthusiasm be dampened by longueurs, Olympic road closures, or dodgy “Keep Off” notices. Thanks to everyone who has willingly helped us along our way.

There is unfinished business, and new directions, to explore, and I hope you’ll come along again for another outing, soon.

Please follow the map a few hundred yards more to Wood Green Tennis Club where we started out two weeks ago.

Acknowledgements , notes etc., and sources not otherwise linked in the post.
OU indicates information kindly furnished by Olimpiu Urcan.
TH and/or EVCPs indicates Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players 2012 MacFarland & Co.
EW CN indicates Edward Winter's Chess Notes.
On Loman
The Hastings 1895 tournament book is downloadable from Chessville, where there are some other useful historical items, including the 1892 BCM. Mr Lohman's recital was on August 15 1895.
For Loman's marriage see Chess Notes 7612 from info. sourced by Olimpiu Urcan.
Loman's census records show him: lodging at 121 Upper Bridge Road in Dorking in 1901; as Head of household, at 36B Heath Street, Hampstead in 1911.
Loman 1899 concert programme is in the British Library: Steinway Hall Concerts, ref e.1402.b.(3.)
On Rudge
Thanks to Tim Harding for the nudge to Miss Rudge in Streatham.
EW/BCM is Edward Winter's Chess Facts and Fables (McFarland 2006) quoting British Chess Magazine August 1897.
Her hospital admission details are in the Lambeth Archives, ref IV/266/4/1/15 page 168. The date of transfer to Guy's was 7 (or 14)/11/19 ("14" appears to be overwritten with "7"). She died 22/11/1919
CCC is Colombia Chess Chronicle, 1st November 1889, given by John Richards referring to EW CN 3281.
"West Norwood" (formerly known as "Lower Norwood" ) is where "An Irish Champion" , the Rev.G.A. MacDonnell, was an acting curate in 1872. EVCPs p.146.
Note another Gunsberg coincidence, albeit not one to celebrate: the tragic Vera Menchik and family (Stroll 2) were cremated (on 4 July 1944) in the Streatham Vale Crematorium (these days Vale is omitted) adjacent to the Streatham Park Cemetery where IG was buried. VM info originating from OU and Leonard Barden, reported in EW CN 7711.
Thanks to Don Harper for the Rookery centenary tip, and Angus French for Crowley.
On Streatham local history, see Ideal Homes: Suburbia in Focus, and including Crowley here. The Polworth Road detail is here.
Knightmare! is viewable on the history page of the Streatham and Brixton Chess Club site.
Staunton in the country comes from EW CN 3979. Morphy visited him in Streatham in 1858 (TH after Lawson's 1976 book on Morphy).
Tate Library is from L.B. Lambeth; Curtis Dairy and Park Hill from Ideal Homes, above. Others by MS.


AngusF said...

'X marks the spot' eh? The 'X' by the map annotation '17 Mind the Beast' is very close to where I live!

Thanks for another informative and engaging post, Martin

Martin Smith said...

And not only Aleister Crowley. Another occultist, Dennis "The Devil Rides Out" Wheatley, was also born in Streatham.

There must have been something in the water.

Anonymous said...

“On 20 July 1923, giving his address as 14a Lunam Road, Upper Norwood SE19, he filed
for bankruptcy at the High Court. The bankruptcy was not finally discharged until 17 April
1930 in the month before his death.”
I assume it is LUNA Road Thornton Heath
Joe S

Anonymous said...

RE Gunsberg - Im wrong it must be LUNHAM road SE19 near Crystal Palace
Joe S

Martin Smith said...

Thanks Joe, nice to hear from you.

TH in EVCPs gives that address of Gunsberg's as 14a Lunham Road SE19, which is east from the top of Knight's Hill, almost at Gypsy Hill and Crystal Palace.

TH also says that in 1925 IG played in an event at Nice alongside the French Championship, at which he may well have bumped into Duchamp; which thought pleases me no end.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Gunsberg was bankrupt perhaps explains the unmarked grave.
Any idea what led to his bankruptcy ?
(Apart from buying THs no doubt excellent book)

Martin Smith said...

Joe, the grave wasn't unmarked to begin with. They have a record at the Cemetery of a marker and someone visiting in 1943 to repair it. A big expanse of adjacent plots are also empty at ground level. One theory would be that there was a WW2 impact, but unfortunately the LCC war damage maps don't extend that far.
One gets the impression from EVCPs that IG was a serial debtor and was always on the move (so many addresses!) to stay ahead of his creditors.

ejh said...

Any idea what led to his bankruptcy ?
(Apart from buying THs no doubt excellent book)

Is it that expensive?

Anonymous said...

Only £44-95 on Amazon. Personally I prefer the South Thames version.

Martin Smith said...

In case anyone is worried about possible bankruptcy, that's actually 44.95 dollars. In sterling it's "only" £32.50 (from Chess and Bridge) - but I see that McFarland say they are it must be popular.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled on this
which suggests there may be an unexploded bomb in Streatham Park Cemetry. Might explain the missing headstone ? Lets hope Gunsberg sticks with the Giuoco Piano - if you hear a loud bang he has just played the Muzio Gambit.

Martin Smith said...

Blimey. I'll tread softly if I ever go there again.