Welcome to the Exhibition
Our first exhibition, “Reflections”, is a series of photographs taken by Mel Winning of residents of the Merchant Taylor’s and Christopher Boones Almshouses in South London. The exhibition was originally held at the Boones Chapel in Lewisham in December 2011 and again at The Merchant Taylors’ Hall, in the City of London, during April 2012. The photographic memories project is part of a three year programme of reminiscence arts for Almshouse residents, supported by The Merchant Taylors’ Company.
Photographer & Illustrator
I would like to thank all the Ladies, and of course Bill, who allowed me the great privilege of taking these lovely portraits. I hope I have managed to capture my subjects character and beauty.
The stories were fascinating along with the hospitality, tea, cake and beauty tips, but most of all two days full of laughter and fun.
Thanks also to Malcolm who captured the stories with his witty and thoughtful text.
I feel the objects chosen are a true reflection of a generation where friends and family looked after each other and the value of that meant so much more than the material worth of the objects.
Anna was born in Kew and moved to Blackheath when she was two. Both Anna’s parents were writers and she grew up in a world of art, literature and music and she spent 10 years working in the Antiquarian book trade. She had three lovely children and two beautiful grandchildren. The object Anna chose was a simple bone handled kitchen knife. When her grandparents married in the early 20th Century her grandfather gave this knife to her grandmother who used it for all her cooking. It was subsequently passed to Anna’s mother who used it for all her cooking and then it was passed to Anna. It is made of steel with a bone handle and has been used almost everyday for cutting and preparing vegetables through three generations. The stories this knife could tell.
Anna Palermo was born in Napoli but in 1950 she came to England to find work as Italy was so poor after the Second World War. The object she has chosen is a photograph of her children, Peter, Vincenzo, John, Stephen, Rocco and Camilla. She also holds a crucifix given to her by her son Vincenzo 10 years ago, which she never takes off. She also has a locket given by Peter and rings, which were also gifts from her children. She was married to her husband Mario for 15 years until he died in 1977. They met when they worked together at Edgware Hospital.
Betty and Bill Jones have been residents at Christopher Boones Almhouses for 23 years. Betty was born in Islington but moved to South London after she met and married Bill. They were both in the army. Bill was a lorry driver and Betty was asked if she would take bread to POW camps so she and Bill ended up sharing the drive in the lorry.
Betty’s chosen object was a Buddha that was given to her by her first-born son, Ray who bought it for her with his first weekly wage packet when he was 16. Her other son Steve is three and half years younger. Ray was working in a Print and Design company in Nunhead. He ended up designing shop windows and fascias. Betty never really knew why he chose the Buddha but it holds some important memories.
Bill and Betty Jones have lived at Christopher Boones Almhouses for 23 years. Bill was born in Woolwich and he was always a footballer. Bill’s dad had to stop him playing as lad because he was wearing out all his shoes and a pair of shoes cost a half crown. Bill’s object is one the many football trophies he has won for playing and refereeing. Throughout his life Bill played for teams and created teams across South London. He later turned to refereeing and officiated in many finals including games at Dulwich Hamlet and was given an award for his years of service. He refereed his last match on Blackheath at 73 years old and was still quicker than some of the players.
Doreen Marshall has been a Merchant Taylors resident for 21 years. The object she chose is a photograph taken at 12.00 midnight in 1999 on the eve of the new Millennium. It was taken in Bournemouth where Doreen had gone with her son Peter and several members of her family to celebrate the New Year. They wanted a picture where a clock was showing. It was a tremendous moment to be surrounded by children and grandchildren and is now a shared family memory. As a young woman she worked at Peek Freans Factory and she was living in Peckham when she met her husband Eric. They went to a christening separately. When Doreen and her friend left and had tea in Rye Lane they were surprised as they suddenly met the two young men whom they had seen earlier at the christening. They married in 1947. Eric passed away in 1985.
Eileen was brought up in Deptford. Her father was Alfred John Barnes and her mother was Caroline Eliza. In 1945 her father was stationed in France with the Royal Engineers. The object Eileen chose was a small black box that her father bought back from France, which could be held up to the light and allowed you to view slides with views of French towns and cities. Alfred worked for Lewisham Council for 30 years first as a tree feller and later as a first grade gardener. Her image of her father is as a family man playing cards with the family at home. He was a butcher before the war and her mother met him while hopping during the summer. Eileen’s grandmother advised her daughter ‘to get in with him’ as he was a butcher!
Eileen has lived at the Merchant Taylors Almhouse’s since 1999. The object she has chosen is the watch, which belonged to her partner Danny. They were together for 25 years until he died in 2001. They met in 1972 when Eileen moved into Courthill Road and in 1973 they started going out together. It is a Sekonda watch and was a present from Eileen to Danny in the 1980s. He didn’t like jewellery but he would wear a watch and he wore this all the time. He was a kind, gentle and generous man. Holidays were a family time and the children always went with Danny and Eileen. Danny was much loved and at his funeral he had a cup on his coffin as a cup of tea was always his favourite drink.
Greta grew up in Upper Norwood. Her chosen object is a vase. It belonged to her Aunt Lillian who lived in Hammersmith and who died in 1986. Aunt Lillian was like a second mother to Greta whose birth mother died when Greta was 18. When her aunt died Greta was asked if there was something she would like to take as a memento and she chose the vase. She spent a lot of time with her Aunt Lillian, who had been a dancer in the theatre, and her Uncle Sam, who worked as Stage Manager at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Lillian was born in 1900 and was a survivor of two World Wars. She and Sam would visit every other Thursday to visit at Upper Norwood and they would slip Greta a half crown.
Mary was born in Lewisham Hospital and is an identical twin with Sylvia. They both had three children and were pregnant with their first children at the same time.
Mary grew up in a prefab on Belmont Park where her family moved when she was 9. Her family had one of the first fridges in the street and it was a very happy childhood. She remembers climbing the big trees on the bomb site behind her road.
Her object is the programme from her visit to the O2 Arena to see the orchestra of Andre Rieu. Two years ago she saw Andre Rieu on TV at friend’s house in Devon and her real interest began. She said to see him live was an unforgettable experience.
To see Andre Rieu’s Johan Strauss Orchestra is a complete experience with music, predominantly the music of the Strauss family and the Viennese composers, and humour and spectacle.
Millie Cooper has been a Merchant Taylors resident for 28 years. The object she chose was a cap, which belonged to her husband Samuel. They lived in Downham and he worked in a print in Stratford and she remembers him always going to work in his cap. The photographs include a picture of Samuel having just crossed the border into Switzerland after escaping from POW camp in Italy during World War Two. One day after the war when Millie was working in a school kitchen a policeman called and asked for Mrs Cooper. He had to tell her that Samuel had been blown up in a gas explosion, which they both felt was rather ironic given he had survived the war. Samuel survived and he and Millie were married for 38 years when he died in 1982.
Rose has been a resident at Merchant Taylors Almhouses for 2 years and 6 years at Christopher Boones. Her chosen object is a statue of a dog given to her by her sister Violet about 15 years ago. It reminds of her Yorkshire Terrier called Fred who died about 8 years ago. He was good-natured dog except when he was with his brother when he would enjoy a scrap.
Rose’s husband was also called Fred and was a messenger at Nat West Bank in the City of London. They met when they both worked for the National Cash Register Company in Paddington where Rose was born. They married in St Mary Magdalene Church in Paddington in 195. They would often go to the variety shows at the Metropolitan Edgware Road to see stars like Max Miller, Tessie O’Shea and Max Bygraves. Fred died in 1991.
Sylvia was born in Lewisham and brought up in Catford. In Shorndean Road and was lucky to have escaped the bombing of Sandhurst Primary School. In the 1960s she went to work in America as an Au Pair.
The object she has chosen is a ring that her father Leonard came home wearing after his time with the 8th Army in Egypt during the Second World War. She also has a locket with a picture of him in it. Her father worked in Jerome’s Photographers in Catford. It was there where he met Sylvia’s mother. He always said ‘I met your mother in the dark’.
He was a tall man over 6 foot tall and a real gentleman. He loved his garden and doing work around the house. He died in 1979 a much loved father.
Win was born on Downham Estate and lived in Shroffold Road. Her chosen object was a cart made by her husband, Bert before he died. One day about 30 years ago Win and Bert were in Tunbridge Wells and Win had been looking at some beautifully made carts in a shop window. She asked if they could buy one but it turned out to be £110 and Bert said, “I’ll make you one.” About 18 months before he died Bert was too ill to work and at home and as a pastime he began making carts. Win would knock at doors and collect any old wood from people’s gardens and bring it back to Bert. He had about a dozen carts still to be fitted together when he died. It gave Bert a great deal of pleasure and the carts are beautifully made in great detail and are replicas of genuine agriculture models. Win still has two carts and her children have one each.