Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Old Swimming Baths in Kilburn

Today there are no swimming baths in Kilburn and the nearest is at Swiss Cottage. If you are old enough you may remember the Granville Road Baths, but there were two older baths which have now been completely forgotten. One was on the Hampstead (Camden) side of the Kilburn High Road and the other, on the Willesden (Brent) side.

The Kilburn Baths
The first to open on 1 April 1868 were in a small building constructed by local builder John Cawley in Osborne Terrace, Goldsmiths Place on the Hampstead side. Today their site lies under the rear of the SO Quartier Maida Vale block at 34a-36 Kilburn High Road, near the Old Bell pub.
Advert for Kilburn Baths (c 1870)

In 1870 Dr Dudgeon described the pool as follows:
‘It is 15 yards long by 6 yards wide; constructed of cement rounded off at the angles. Its depth is from 3 to 4 and a half feet. The boxes are at the entrance end, 12 in number, with three quarter doors, plainly painted buff, without mirrors. The floor here is of cement or asphalte (sic). Round the other side of the bath is a narrow ledge, and at the further and deeper end is a spring-board. The walls, coloured with light blue size, (then used to prepare plastered walls for decoration) rise up from this ledge and support a doubled sloped ceiling braced with light iron rods. The top of the ceiling is of glass along its whole length, giving sufficient illumination. The water is tolerably clear and fresh; but the cement of which the bath is constructed, being discoloured, gives it a dirty look. The ventilation is not good; it has a stuffy feeling. This bath is reserved for ladies on Monday till 2 o’clock. It is first class on three days of the week, second class on the other three.’

At the time it was rented by Sidney Fuller from Cawley but he only stayed a few years and left to become a coffee house keeper in Whitechapel. The next proprietor was a interesting man called Alfred William Ward, who was a professional swimmer and diver. He had various trades before becoming a teacher of swimming about 1876.

The Regents Park Disaster
In January 1867, before he came to Kilburn, Ward worked for the Royal Humane Society (RHS) as an ‘iceman’, someone who tried to keep people safe and help skaters in trouble. As soon as rivers or lakes froze over hundreds of people took to the ice. Heavy snow had blanketed London during early January 1867. The lake in Regent’s Park was thronged with skaters and sliders but by late afternoon on the 14 January, their numbers had dwindled to a few hundred. The centre of activity was a broad sheet of ice in front of Hanover Gate. Hundreds of spectators lined the shore to watch friends and family, as enterprising salesmen hired skates to eager customers. But the condition of the ice wasn’t good and it was getting worse. That afternoon, several people had fallen through into the water. They had got out safely but groups of skaters rushing to see what had happened put the ice under more stress. The icemen on duty repeatedly tried to get people to leave the ice. Alfred Ward had warned skaters in no uncertain terms, ‘For God Almighty’s sake go off, or there will be a general calamity before long.’ In return, all he got was insults. Disaster struck soon after 4pm: the ice collapsed, plunging about 200 skaters into the lake, which was 12 feet deep in places, with a thick layer of mud on the bottom.
The Regents Park Ice Disaster (IPN 19 January 1867)

There was complete chaos as the terrified skaters thrashed about in the freezing water, weighed down by heavy clothes and skates. Within minutes around 100 people had struggled to the shore or one of the islands where they waited to be rescued while others lay flat or clung to pieces of ice and floated to the edge. But some became chilled and let go, with ‘the most piteous calls for help and then sinking with dismal wailings to their death.’ A joined-up rope was stretched from shore to shore, and a few skaters managed to grab it. The RHS had a couple of wicker boats and there were other beached pleasure craft that were launched, but it was hard to push them through the partially broken ice. It was in the middle of the lake that the tragedy played out, where rescue ladders were useless and the broken, lumpy ice hindered the passage of any boat.

‘Women rushed about on the banks screaming out that their children or husbands, or brothers were drowning, and imploring the bystanders to save them. Boys and girls stood hysterically crying and wringing their hands, and between their sobs exclaiming, “Oh, look at father!” Strong men appealed to those who had no had no means of help and pointed out friends and relations struggling in the agonies of death’. Once enough ice had been cleared, the grim task of recovering those who had drowned could begin and went on for several days: ‘All that remained was floating hats and sticks’.

40 skaters and sliders died making this the worst ice accident in the UK’s history. Ward rescued a number of people from the freezing water and was one of several men paid a reward by the RHS. Others were awarded medals. There were no women or girls among the dead, most of whom came from Marylebone, Islington, Camden and Kentish Towns: working men, students and a few professionals. The youngest was Charles Jukes, age 9; the oldest 40. Nearly half were under 20. A black retriever dog, thought to belong to one of the dead, remained by the lake for several days, in great distress and refusing food.

In the 1881 census Alfred Ward aged 37, a teacher of swimming and dancing, was living at 8 Prospect Place, which was later numbered as No.62 Kilburn High Road. Ward and seven or eight of his children became professional entertainers as ‘Ward’s Water Wonders’, swimmers and tank divers, appearing at many venues including Hengler’s Circus in Argyle Street on the site of the later London Palladium.

In 1883 Ward and his 9 year old son Alfred junior, who was wearing Ward’s patent waterproof life saving dress, attempted to cross the Channel. A newspaper gave a report:

‘At 2.15 on the afternoon of the 12th September a lad named Alfred Ward landed at Folkestone, having paddled in a lifesaving dress from Dover. He left Admiralty Pier at 10.30 and consequently was nearly four hours on the journey. The boy was accompanied by his father and a Dover pilot, Thomas Betts. The temperature of the boy’s body was well sustained but be appeared much fatigued. He had intended to try to cross the Channel but has now given up the idea.

The apparatus somewhat resembles that used by divers, only it is much lighter. Made in one piece, it closes round the neck, a thin elastic helmet fitting down over the head and partly hiding the face. Beside this there are a thin pair of India rubber half shoes, a pair of gloves and a paddle. The lad is held up in the water in an upright posture by a cork life buoy.’

Alfred’s daughter Minnie Ward became a famous swimmer who appeared in ‘Professor’ Frederick Beckwith’s (champion of England in 1861), ornamental swimming show with other female swimmers. She toured around the country with the show between 1889 and 1893.

Alfred Ward was at the Kilburn Baths from at least 1875 to about 1886. It had struggled to make money, closed and was eventually taken over by Ropers, the large Bon Marche store on the High Road.

The Pembroke Road Baths
The second baths in Kilburn were built in 1882 in Pembroke Road by Charles Kellond. It was described as a large swimming bath, 64ft by 33ft with an average depth of 6ft. Pembroke Road, which had been laid out in the 1860s, was renamed as Granville Road and the baths were renumbered as Nos.56-58. In November 1893 after refitting, it became the ‘Kilburn Gymnasium and Athletic Institute’ for physical exercise and boxing, both professional and amateur. Boxing was very popular in the heavily working class area of Kilburn. There was seating for 700 people and large crowds turned up to see local fighters. Ned Flynn, an omnibus driver who was also a competitive race walker, ran the Kilburn Gymnasium. In 1898 a local committee held a benefit concert to raise money for Ned who had been unwell and off work for several months.
The empty Pembroke Road Baths in 1901 (Martin Percival)

In 1901 the building was bought by the Kilburn Times who published their paper from there. In September 1944 the print works was hit by an incendiary bomb. In 1952 the company decided to move to Newspaper House at 313 Kilburn Lane, and the first issue was printed there in March 1955.

The Granville Baths
Co-incidentally the third baths were also in Granville Road, these were the last to be built in Kilburn. Many houses in this congested area did not possess bathrooms and Willesden Council decided they would build a swimming pool for leisure and exercise but also provide a laundry and 48 slipper baths for washing. Eventually by means of a compulsory purchase order, the Council acquired a row of terraces with stables and cottages at the rear, and the building was designed specifically for this confined site.
1950s Map, with the old Pembroke Baths now Kilburn Times Print Works (Red), and the Granville Road Baths (Blue)

The baths were next to the Duke of Cambridge pub on the corner with Cambridge Road. The swimming pool was opened 3 July 1937. Dimensions were 100ft x 33ft with depth of 10ft at the deep end. The pool had a 5 metre board, 3 metre and 2.5 metre platform boards, plus 1 and 3 metre springboards. The Southern Counties Diving Competition was held here. In 1949 Willesden Council published a user survey showing the slipper baths were not well patronised by residents, nor were the swimming facilities here and elsewhere in the Borough, but the laundry was popular.
Granville Road Baths (nd)

The Granville Road Baths were demolished in 1990. Flats were built together with the Tabot Centre (1998), a youth centre for after school hours projects. Most of Granville Road has been redeveloped apart from the Duke of Cambridge pub, which today is a residential property.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Kilburn State Cinema

Most people who live here know the local landmark the Kilburn State and its 120 feet tower. When it opened in December 1937 as the Gaumont State, it was the largest purpose built cinema in Europe with 4,004 seats. Today it is a Grade II* listed building.
Kilburn State, 2015, (Dick Weindling)

What was there before the cinema was built? 
Stand and Deliver!
Originally there was a large house on the site called The Elms, which was home to a number of wealthy people. These included the widower John Ebbers who moved in with his two daughters in 1832. He was a publisher in Old Bond Street and the manager of the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket (which is now Her Majesty’s Theatre). In 1826 he met a young writer called William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) who had moved to London from Manchester. It was an eventful year for Ainsworth; Ebbers published his first novel ‘Sir John Chiverton’ and he married Ann Frances or ‘Fanny’, Ebbers’ youngest daughter.

While living at The Elms with the Ebbers, Ainsworth began to write a novel called ‘Rookwood’ which was published in 1834. It is a fictitious story of Dick Turpin, but includes the story many of us heard at school, about his famous ride to York on Black Bess. Ainsworth also includes a scene in the novel which he sets at Kilburn, at the ‘Jack Falstaff’ pub, which he modelled on The Cock Inn. But there is no evidence that Turpin was ever in Kilburn or Hampstead, most of his robberies were in Essex.

The novel sold extremely well and Ainsworth followed it up with more stories including one about Jack Sheppard, another famous highwayman. In 1835 his marriage to Fanny failed and the couple separated, Ainsworth moving with his three daughters to Kensal Lodge. Fanny died on 6 March 1838 in Notting Hill. Ainsworth died in 1882 while living at Reigate and he is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

Allen and Sons
John Allen and his sons built many of the houses in the Hemstal and Lowfield Road area. In 1887 they constructed the large building in Kingsgate Road, which today is the Kingsgate Workshops, home to more than 50 artists. About 1894 Allen and Sons left Kingsgate Road and moved across the Kilburn High Road to The Elms site. The old house was converted into offices and they built a factory in the grounds called the Palmerston Works. The building firm prospered and in 1901 it obtained a large contract to build the new stands at Ascot Race Course, where they employed 500 men.

1894 map, showing Kingsgate Workshops in Red, and Palmerston Works in Blue

Kilburn Aerodrome and the Central Aircraft Company
In November 1916 Richard Cattle, another London carpentry firm, combined with the Allens, and opened the Central Aircraft Company at No.179 High Road, Kilburn. They build wooden Centaur aircraft which they initially flew from ‘Kilburn Aerodrome’ (as it was jokingly called, but which was really a nearby field on Willesden Lane), before offering flying courses and joy rides from Northholt Aerodrome. The company was very successful and sold flights over London, Kent and the Welsh beauty spots, even going as far as the Belgian battlefields, with prices ranging from £2/3/6 up to £60. By June 1920 there were 100 flights a week over London.

A Centaur Aircraft, built by CAC

CAC thought that people would have their own private aircraft, just as they had cars. You could buy a Centaur for £250 (the equivalent of over £7,000 today). But the project wasn’t a success. A further setback occurred in September 1920. Seven people died when a twin-engine Centaur hit the ground soon after taking off from Northolt. The aircraft company closed in May 1926 and went back to furniture making.

The State Cinema
In August 1937 the Palmerston Works on Kilburn High Road and Willesden Lane was bought by the Gaumont Super Cinemas Ltd who were looking for a site for a large cinema.

The State, designed by the renowned cinema architect George Coles, and reminiscent of the Empire State building in New York (1931), opened in December 1937 at a cost of £320,000 (about £19M today). The opulent decorations included black marble pillars, pink mirrors, and candelabra which was a replica of one in Buckingham Palace. Queen Mary (grandmother of Queen Elizabeth), paid regular visits to the Gaumont State matinee performances, saying it was her favourite cinema and she preferred to go there rather than the West End.

Regular film prices were 9d and 1/- for the stalls, and from 1/6 to 3/6d for the circle.

Gaumount State, c1938, (English Heritage)

There was a magnificent Wurlitzer organ that rose from beneath the large stage which still survives today. A special broadcasting room was built in the tower and this allowed Van Dam and his State Orchestra and Sidney Torch the organist, to be heard regularly on the radio. In January 1939 Sidney Torch played a special programme of music which the Nazi had banned in Germany, to raise funds for refugees. The following year in February Torch was playing his selection of classical music to a large audience during the interval between films. What they didn’t realise was that his foot had become trapped between the steel stage and the half-ton organ. After he finished playing, Sidney bowed to the audience and pressed the button for the organ to descend. In hospital it was found that he had broken his big toe and damaged his foot. He was unable to play for several weeks.

The opening night was a major event with huge crowds. The programme had the band of the Grenadier Guards and featured major stars of the day: Gracie Fields, George Formby, Henry Hall, Vic Oliver and Larry Adler. 

Opening night programme, 20 December 1937

The excellent Arthur Lloyd site has a full copy of the opening night programme here:

As a large London venue, the cinema was ideal for major concerts, ballet and musicals. Here are a few of the people who have played at The State:

  • Paul Robeson, the famous American singer and equal rights activist, 1937.

  • On 23 July 1938 the Hyams brothers who ran the State, organised a midnight performance to raise money for Eddie Cantor’s fund for refugee children from Nazi Germany. This was an amazing show with Paul Robeson, Max Miller, George Formby, Gracie Fields, Lupino Lane, and many other stars of the day. Eddie Cantor was the compere; he told jokes, sang songs and even appeared in golden curls and rompers to imitate Shirley Temple singing ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’. The show was a great success.

Hot Club of Paris

  • Django Reinhardt, the gypsy jazz guitarist, with violinist Stephane Grappelli and the Hot Club of Paris, July 1938 and August 1940.

  • In the 1940s there was the ‘Jazz Jamboree’ shows with British musicians, such Geraldo and his orchestra, and Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson, (the first UK black band leader), who was tragically killed by a bomb which fell through the Café de Paris where he was appearing on 8 March 1941.

  • Frank Sinatra, 21 June 1953 as part of his UK tour.

  • The Count Basie band, 24 November 1957, and March 1962.

  • Harry Belafonte, 10 August 1958. He had a huge hit with ‘Day-O’, better known as ‘The Banana Boat Song’ (1957). He starred in several films and was an early supporter for US civil rights.

  • More ‘Jazz Jamboree’s followed in the 1950s with English bands such as Tubby Hayes, Ted Heath, Johnny Dankworth, and Humphrey Lyttelton.

  • ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’ had the top American stars, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane in the late 1950s and 1960s.

  • During the rock and roll era all the major bands played at the State. I was at two of these gigs: Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Buddy Holly

  • During their tour of England, Buddy Holly and the Crickets performed at the State to a sell-out audience on 2 March 1958. It was a punishing tour lasting from 1-25 March, with two shows every night. Less than a year later on 3 February 1959, tragically Buddy died in a plane crash which also killed Ritchie Valens and the ‘Big Bopper’ (J.P. Richardson). This became known as ‘The Day The Music Died’ from Don Mclean’s song ‘American Pie’.

Jerry Lee Lewis with his young wife Myra, May 1958

  • On 25 May 1958 Jerry Lee Lewis played the second night of his UK tour at the State. But that day the press headlines revealed he had married his 13 year old cousin Myra. Some of the audience screamed for his big hit ‘Great Balls of Fire’, others shouted ‘Go home cradle snatcher!’ The noise was so loud Lewis stopped the show and walked off. The tour had to be abandoned and the subsequent media storm ruined Jerry’s career for many years. Cliff Richard and the Shadows were in the audience and got to meet Jerry backstage.

  • Duke Ellington, 15 August 1958 and 26 Oct 1958 at the beginning and end of the UK tour.

  • Louis Armstrong, 28 April and 1 March 1959.
Cliff Richard programme, 1959

  • Cliff Richard and The Shadows, 16-21 Nov 1959.
Beatles on the stairs of the State, 1964

  • The Beatles, 9 April 1963 and 23 October 1964.

  • The Rolling Stones, 19 November 1963.

  • David Bowie, 13 June 1973.

  • Deep Purple, 22 May 1974, live album recorded.

  • Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, billed as 'Woody and Friends', 14 July 1974. ‘The Return of Woody Wood Breaker’ was recorded live and released in 1992. In 2007 a DVD of the show called the 'The First Barbarians: Live from Kilburn' was released.

  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads, 22 December 1978.
His band ‘Kilburn and the High Roads’ formed in 1970/1971, has led many people to believe that Ian was from Kilburn. Although his parents briefly lived at 1b Belsize Road when they married in 1938, they moved to Harrow Weald where Ian was born in May 1942. He never lived in Kilburn, but liked the name. In 1970 he and his friend the pianist Russell Hardy, were driving up the High Road when Ian said, ‘I’ve thought of a great name for the band. What about Kilburn and the High Roads’. The Kilburns played their first gig in December 1971 in Croydon.

Plus many more.

Decline of The Kilburn State
With the rising popularity of TV, the number of people going out to films declined. In September 1957, some seats in the State cinema were removed to provide a ballroom, and the Victor Sylvester dance studio. About 1960 the main cinema was reduced further to 2,800 seats and the building divided to form a bingo hall. A second smaller film screen was added in 1975. The main cinema closed in September 1980 and the smaller screen the following year. After a gap of several years, the smaller cinema became the Odeon Kilburn from 1985 to June 1990. After which the State was only used for Top Rank bingo. Later this became the Mecca bingo club which closed in 2007. The building was sold in December 2007 to Ruach Ministries reputedly for £5.5M. They opened it in 2009 and are still there today.

On 20 April 2018 Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, addressed a packed audience at the State. He told them he had just met Theresa May who reassured him about the future of the ‘Windrush’ generation in Britain.

You can see Anna Bowman’s 2007 film of 70 years at the State here:

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Widow and the Mysterious Marquis

Grace Maud Babb was born in Plaistow West Ham in 1896, the daughter of a boilermaker. In the June quarter of 1915 she married Charles Robert Ewbank Edmundson. This was a marriage of different classes as he was the son of a wealthy solicitor living in Nutwith House, Masham Yorkshire, who was clerk to various councils and organisations. Grace and Charles’ daughter Grace Elizabeth was born on 13 September 1915 in Hitchen, so Grace may have been pregnant when they married.
Charles was educated at Asygarth School and Marlborough College and in 1913 he became a solicitor in his father’s office. When War broke out he joined the York and Lancaster Regiment where he became a Captain in July 1915 and was sent to the Front on 27 August. Aged 24, Charles died on 1 July 1916, the first day of the battle of Somme. This was the worst day in the history of the British Army when 57,470 men were injured, of whom 19,240 died. He is buried in the Adanac Military Cemetery in Miraumont in Northern France, (the name of the cemetery is Canada reversed, and the bodies of many Canadian troops were moved here). Despite such a tragically short marriage, Charles left Grace well provided with £3,281, (worth over £204K today). At the time Grace and her young daughter were living at 14 Cathcart Hill in Tufnell Park.
Charles Edmundson in Army uniform
By 1921 Grace had moved to Hampstead and was living at 48 Willoughby Road. In 1927 she inherited about £60,000 (worth over £3M today) from 57 year old Edward Grattan Foley, who died from a heart attack on 8 May at Grace’s new home, 27 Highcroft Gardens in Golders Green. He had been living with her for the past 18 months, and was the son of Patrick Foley who had founded the Pearl Assurance Company in 1864. 

By 1930 Grace had moved to ‘Frimley’ 554 Finchley Road. She was living here when she was introduced to the Marquis de Mont-Falcon on 29 July 1934 at a tea party in Shepperton. Grace said, ‘Within two hours he said he loved me. That was typical of the man – an amazing and overwhelming personality. After that he courted me at a whirlwind pace. I confess that he made a deep impression on me’. Within a week they became lovers; he moved into her house and promised to marry her. 

He told Grace many stories about his past life: that his father was a general in the British Army and his mother was an Arabian princess, and his ancestral home was Goldstone in Shropshire. He said he was in the Secret Service and in 1931 had taken letters to King Alfonso of Spain which helped him to escape the revolution. For this service the Marquis had been given £500 by the King’s secretary, who said he wished it could have been £5,000. He told Grace that he was an intimate friend of kings and princes, and his diamond tie pin was a gift from the King of England. The Marquis also told Grace he had been the Chief of Police in Cairo and served in the Australian Light Horse cavalry during the War. Grace said that when he wore uniform or evening dress he always had a string of medals.

But the Marquis was a fake. In April 1935 Maurice Mount (or Mont) Falcon, The Marquis de Goldstone, a 35 year old metallurgical engineer of the Mount Royal Hotel in Oxford Street, appeared in court. He was charged with obtaining £3,000 by false pretences from Grace Maud Edmundson of 554 Finchley Road. He said his real name was Maurice Joseph Goldstone and admitted he used the various titles out of vanity. Mrs Edmundson had given him the money to start a monthly magazine called ‘Diplomatic and Political News’, which would give details of the activities of people in Embassies and Legations. He believed this would make a lot of money from the adverts placed in it. 

He had a coronet on his card, cigarette case, and even his many pairs of silk pyjamas. The motto of his crest translated as, ‘I do not change until I die’ and laughter burst out in court when the ‘crested’ pyjamas were mentioned. Maurice had also told Grace that the order he wore around his neck, was that of a Knight of the Grand Cross of Danilo, presented to him by the Prince of Montenegro. Further laughter greeted the counsel’s quick response, ‘Are you sure that it wasn’t the order of Dan Leno, the popular comedian’. In all, sixty-eight medals were found when his flat was searched by the police.

Grace said Maurice had changed after she gave him the £3,000. He became very quarrelsome and jealous: he wrote out a list of all the men she knew which included butchers, bakers and milkmen. She described Mont-Falcon as evil-minded. There was a scene at the Café Royal when she called him a crook and a blackmailer and hit him with her handbag. He tried to gas himself in her bathroom to frighten her. They split up several times, but Maurice phoned her and said he would cut his wrists and die on her doorstep if she did not see him again. 

Grace said things got particularly bad after she had gone to see the famous American spiritualist medium Miss Gene Dennis, who appeared at the London Palladium in April 1934 on her English tour. In America Dennis gave readings for movie stars like Joan Crawford and Lionel Barrymore, and even President Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Maurice was afraid of what had been said; they had a heated argument and Grace asked for the £3,000 back. He replied, ‘You won’t get your money, I have gambled it all away’. A few days later, after she consulted her solicitor, he gave her a cheque for £2,000, but it was refused by the bank when she tried to draw the money. In Maurice’s defence, his counsel said Grace frequently gave money to men she was in love with. He questioned her about an incident in 1931 when she had given £5,000 to a man in Paris. Grace replied, ‘These men find I am not a poor woman, they swear their love for me and then exploit me’.

After the four-day trial at the Old Bailey, Maurice Goldstone was found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment with 12 months of hard labour. 

Who was the Marquis?
As a con man he has been difficult to trace. He was born in Egypt in 1900, as Maurice Joseph Goldstein, but he used Goldstone and several other aliases. His parents were Jewish; rather than a general, his father was a jeweller and dealer in precious stones in Cairo. Aged 16 Maurice joined the Jewish volunteers known as the Zion Mule Corps. In 1923 he had been in the Cairo police, but only as a constable for three months. Frederick Walters said he knew him as Morris Joe Goldstein, but when he came back from France he had changed his name to Goldstone.

At his bankruptcy hearing on 8 Aug 1932, he was called Maurice Jay d’Avison de Goldstone, of No.9 Cleveland Gardens Hyde Park, and he gave his occupation as a secret service agent. His debts were £354. In 1932 in Paris he was known as the Duc de Montfaucon and sentenced to two months imprisonment for issuing a worthless cheque. The following year in Brussels he was imprisoned for a month and eight days for using a false name and assuming a noble title. He was expelled from France and Belgium.

In February 1932 a newspaper item appeared concerning Captain Marquis de Goldstone, Count D’Avison, the secretary-general of the Royal Stuart Society, which aimed to preserve the monarchies of Europe. He took part in a procession to the statue of King Charles I in Whitehall. As Maurice spoke fluent French, German and Italian, he acted as the master of ceremonies at the annual Royal Stuart dinner at Grosvenor House. 

The 1932 Royal Stuart dinner

When the Society received ‘certain information’ about him he was dismissed, and he dropped out of fashionable society. He was described as resembling the actor and film director Erich von Stroheim, complete with monocle, but much better looking.

In 1917 he worked as a translator for Prince Peter of Montenegro, and seems to have obtained finances for him when he was impoverished. The Prince died in May 1932. It appears that Maurice was telling the truth when he said was given the Order of Danilo by the Prince for his help. Goldstone liked women and had mistresses in Cairo, Paris, Brussels and London. A friend said when he got some money for his life story he bought a fast car and wanted to earn his living on the race track at Brooklands. 

From 1929 to 1932 Goldstone worked for Maundy Gregory, as the foreign correspondent of the ‘St James Review and the Pall Mall Gazette’. He had taken letters from Gregory to several ministers in foreign cabinets but refused to give any details, claiming the international Secrets Acts, and worried that he might be killed as a spy. In court he said the fake title of Marquis, and the others he used, had been helpful in his work. Maundy Gregory had a network of informants in all the London hotels, and during WWI he supplied information to Basil Thompson at Special Branch about potential German spies. 

Gregory worked for David Lloyd George to raise money for the Liberal Party: one of many ‘honour touts’. But in 1933 he was found guilty of selling honours: the only man ever convicted on this offence. It appears that Gregory did use Maurice Goldstone for diplomatic espionage work, so his occupation of secret service agent during his bankruptcy hearing was probably correct.

After the Trial
In 1939 Mrs Edmundson’s daughter Grace Elizabeth, married Frederick Pleasants, a surveyor and partner in a firm of estate agents, who was the captain of the Hendon Rugby Club. Grace Maud moved to Hendon in the 1940s and 50s and then to Hove by 1957. When she died on 5 February 1974, Grace was living at 279 Kingsway, Hove. She was still a wealthy woman and left £67,932 worth about £650K today.

The ‘Marquis’ disappeared after he came out of prison, and unfortunately we have not been able to trace what happened to him.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A Wartime Murder in Belsize Road

It was May 1942 and London was in the middle of the War, when Pauline Barker was murdered at 184 Belsize Road. The story did not receive much attention in the press. Here we use the Metropolitan Police files from the National Archives to look at the stories of the main participants in this sad crime. The house has since been demolished as part of the Council redevelopment in the area.

Pauline Barker was born in Islington in 1899, the daughter of Frederick Charles Barker and Lydia Care. He was a solo harpist and she was a leading contralto with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, they married in London in 1898. But the marriage did not go well and Frederick left Lydia in 1910 and she sued for divorce in 1911. Frederick said in the divorce papers the reason he left her was because of:

Her violent temper and ungovernable behaviour and constant and habitual use of filthy, disgusting and obscene language and constant disagreements for ten years which have rendered his married life most unhappy. He has continued to supply her with funds for the maintenance of her and the children, and is willing to continue to do so.

Lydia, who was then living in East Finchley, filed for the restitution of conjugal rights. In a letter through her solicitor, she asks for bygones to be bygones and that he return to her. If not, she will commence legal proceedings. When he got the letter, Frederick replied briefly: 

Dear Sirs, do not waste your eloquence. There is not the remote chance of my returning to my wife. My bitterest enemy could not wish me a worse wish!
Go on with your divorce. It is the only possible remedy.

After the hearing in the divorce court, the judge ordered him to pay Lydia the costs of £18 and 30s per week. He was allowed access to the children every other Saturday at his house, 18 The Parade, Twickenham. Frederick continued to perform and he died in 1924 in South Africa. Lydia bought up the three children in a house on Highgate Hill.

Pauline, the eldest, became an accomplished solo harpist like her father. She had engagements with the Russian Ballet and the BBC. She played on numerous radio broadcasts, especially from Belfast, from 1924 to 1930. Like her mother, she was also with the Carl Rosa Company. When she was eighteen she married 47 year old George Longfield Beasley. He was an electrical engineer who invented the Beasley-Gamewell system, an integrated fire and police alarm used in Windsor Castle and by several local councils. After three years of marriage George sued for divorce in 1921 on the grounds of Pauline’s adultery.

Two years later Pauline married Harry Lowe, who was a viola player and the conductor of the BBC Theatre Orchestra from about 1934 to 1945. But on a boat journey Pauline had an affair with a ship’s officer in 1931 and she and Harry separated. They were finally divorced in 1941.

Pauline first met Achilles Apergis who was a garage proprietor, when she was working in Belfast at the BBC studio.  His full name was Achilles George White Apergis, but he used the name Arthur Anderson. He was brought up in a middle-class family in south London and educated at Dulwich College. His father was a Captain in the Greek Army who married an English woman and he became a naturalised British Subject. Arthur had served in the Greek Cavalry for two or three years. His brother Hector Demetrius Apergis, was a GP at 55 Crouch Hall Road, with consulting rooms in Harley Street. Their parents lived at 47 Muswell Road, Muswell Hill.

In 1931 after his garage in Belfast had failed, Arthur came to London and contacted Pauline again. He worked as a motor engineer with various firms in Kilburn and Cricklewood and then briefly ran the St John’s Wood Garage at 9 Abbey Road. Arthur and Pauline began living together, firstly in 19 Alexandra Road where they stayed for six years. Then her mother Lydia, bought 184 Belsize Road and Pauline ran it as a guest house. But there were problems: the couple often quarrelled and Arthur liked to drink heavily in the local pubs. Lydia told the police she heard Arthur using foul language and struggling with Pauline in the bedroom at Belsize Road. He released her when he saw Lydia, saying sarcastically, ‘I didn’t know you had your ‘seconds’ around’. Pauline told her mother this was not unusual and that Apergis was frequently aggressive.

Katherine Maher, one of the lodgers, had lived there since December 1938 when Pauline Barker took over the boarding house. She said the relationship between Apergis and his wife was unhappy and she often heard them arguing. He used to hit her and on two occasions she heard him threaten to shoot her. Pauline had even asked Katherine to sleep in her room to prevent her husband coming in.

On 27 May 1942 after a particularly heated row, Arthur packed up his things and left. Pauline told Katherine it was because he was jealous of her talking with one of the lodgers, Philip Sedgwick. Pauline said she was glad Arthur had gone and hoped it would be for good, although she was surprised he left so peacefully and not threatened her. Then she showed Katherine bruises on her leg and thigh where Arthur had pushed her over in the kitchen the previous night.

At about 1pm on the afternoon of 31 May 1942, Katherine and Pauline were talking in the kitchen when they heard Arthur shout ‘Pauline’ from downstairs. Pauline called back, ‘I am just serving lunch, I will be down in a minute – what do you want?’ He said, ‘I want to speak to you a minute.’ She went downstairs and when she came back she told Katherine that Apergis had said he wanted to shoot her. Katherine looked out of the window and saw Arthur at the front of the house. He started to enter the gate but then changed his mind and walked in the direction of the Princess of Wales public house.

Princess of Wales, looking down Belsize Road

The Princess of Wales was on the corner of Belsize Road and Abbey Road, where the Lillie Langtry is today. At the time the landlord was Alfred Rice. He said in his police statement that he had known ‘Andy’ Apergis for the past five years and he thought he was a Greek. He also knew Pauline Barker, and that they lived as man and wife, but were not married. At about 7.05pm on 31 May he saw Apergis in the saloon bar and thought that he’d been drinking but was not drunk. Apergis said, ‘Rice, I may not see you anymore; I am going to commit a murder’. Rice said, ‘Don’t be a fool, pull yourself together’. Apergis said, ‘All right’ and left.

Allan Philip Sedgwick said he had only been a boarder at the house since 7 May 1942. On 31 May he was in the lounge, the back room on the ground floor. Mrs Barker as he called Pauline, had left ten minutes previously to go up to the kitchen to get his supper, consisting of some sandwiches and a glass of milk. At about 7pm the man he knew as Mr Barker opened the lounge door and said, ‘Where is Mrs Barker?’ Sedgwick replied that she was upstairs in the kitchen. Mr Barker walked out and shut the door. About two minutes later Sedgwick heard a loud bang, followed by someone running down the stairs and the front door slamming. When he went up to the kitchen, Sedgwick found Pauline lying on the first floor landing. There was a strong smell of gunpowder. Finding no pulse he telephoned 999 and told the police what had happened. He waited at the front door until an ambulance and the police arrived.

Horse bus outside the Princess of Wales

Arthur didn’t go far, just back to the Princess of Wales which was only six houses away. He told Alfred Rice: ‘I have done it.’ Rice said, ‘You haven’t!’ Apergis said, ‘On my honour as a Greek she is lying stone dead. My honour as a Greek means more than anything. It was a clean shot, all she went was ‘ough’. I put a pillow under her head to make her comfortable.

Arthur took the loaded gun from a holster at his waist and handed it to Rice. He said it was a lovely gun and did Rice want it? ‘I don’t want to get you into trouble, so if you want it I will tell the police I threw it away.’ To get it off him Rice said, ‘Thanks old boy, I will have it.’ Arthur took the empty cartridge case out and then gave Rice the gun and the holster. He also gave him a book of National Savings Certificates; ‘this should cover the three or four pounds I owe you.’

Then he said, ‘Buy me a double scotch because I may not see you again, and I am waiting for the police to come.’ The barmaid handed Apergis a double scotch which he drank at the bar. When Rice went into the office to phone Apergis’s brother, Apergis followed him and put 16 bullets into Rice’s jacket pocket. Then Rice heard an ambulance outside and realised that something serious had really happened.

Detective Inspector Herbert Cripps said the landlord Alfred Rice, left the pub and met Detective Sergeant Pilgrim at 184 Belsize Road and told him Apergis was waiting in the pub bar. At 7.33 Dr Rees, the police divisional surgeon arrived at the house and found Pauline Barker had been shot through the heart.  At 7.45 Apergis was arrested in the pub and taken to West Hampstead Police station in West End Lane next to the Railway Hotel. Rice later gave the police the Colt 45 gun, the bullets, the holster, and the book of certificates.

At 11.10am on the 1 June DI Cripps charged Apergis under the name of Arthur Anderson. He made no statement. At 4pm on the same day Cripps was at the mortuary adjoining St Pancras Coroner’s Court when Sir Bernard Spilsbury performed a post mortem. This showed that the gun had been fired at close range, the single bullet passed through her heart and Pauline died instantly.

On 29 June 1942 at the Old Bailey, Arthur Anderson, 52, motor engineer of 184 Belsize Road, was charged with the wilful murder of Pauline Barker on 31 May at the same address. He pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ by reason of insanity.

In court his brother Dr Apergis said there was no insanity in the family. The defence called two eminent psychologists to demonstrate that Anderson was insane at the time he committed the offence, but the jury was not convinced. The medical officer at Brixton Prison rebutted the evidence saying he had the prisoner under his charge for 26 days and in his opinion there was no evidence of insanity. The jury, which included four women, found Anderson guilty of murder. But they added a strong recommendation for mercy.

In his report, DI Cripps says the jury was told by the Lord Chief Justice that what happened to Anderson if found guilty was not a matter for them. Their sole duty was to record a verdict in accordance with the evidence before them. Cripps felt the recommendation for mercy was an obvious response, as having found Anderson guilty of murder, the jury knew he would be sentenced to hang.

On 16 July 1942 the Home Secretary informed the Commissioner of Police at Scotland Yard;
That having carefully considered all the circumstances of the case of Arthur Anderson, now under sentence of death in Wandsworth Prison, and having caused a special Medical Inquiry to be made as to the mental state of the prisoner, the Secretary of State had been unable to find any sufficient ground to advise His Majesty to interfere with the due course of law.

Following the decision, Arthur Anderson was hanged at Wandsworth Prison by Albert Pierrepoint and Herbert Morris at 9am on 21 July 1942.

After reading all the evidence, we still don’t know why he killed Pauline.