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A Stepney Remembrance

September 15, 2014
by the gentle author

Jimmy Paige at St Dunstan’s

St Dunstan’s Stepney is the oldest church in the East End and was once the parish church for the entire area that we know as Tower Hamlets. Within living memory, it was surrounded by streets of modest nineteenth-century terraces which were home to a long-established community of inter-related families. Today, although many of those streets are gone, the old church stands as a sentinel of this vanished world and the receptacle of its history, providing a focus for those whose familial traditions are closely woven with this place – such as Jimmy Page whose ancestors have been resident here for generations.

When you step into St Dunstan’s Church, you enter a space that has altered little in the last century, as if time had stopped. For parishioner Jimmy Page, an ex-soldier with the Royal Green Jackets, the side chapel has particular meaning because it is home to the memorial for those of his parish who died in World War One. The long columns of names inscribed upon five wooden panels confronted Jimmy with the scale of the loss that was suffered here in Stepney a century ago, inspiring him to learn more about these former parishioners and rekindle their memory.

Searching these names in the records, Jimmy sought to find out their regiments, the date of their deaths and their home addresses. At once, it became apparent that families in every street surrounding St Dunstan’s Church suffered losses of young men and, soon, as Jimmy grew aware of the former homes of those who were killed, the map of the neighbourhood was redrawn in his perception. The presence of the loss became immediate when Jimmy discovered that one of the parishioners he was researching had lived in a house that is inhabited today by a friend of his.

Today I am publishing the names and addresses from Jimmy Page’s book of remembrance, so that those who know Stepney may be able to place the former homes of those who left a century ago and never returned. The list is far from complete, as I have only included those for whom we have addresses, but the scale of the loss in this small neighbourhood alone may be extrapolated across the East End to give a sense of how many died in the relentless accumulation of fatalities of World War One.

23rd October 1914. Robert Elder, 59 Beaumont Sq

9th May 1915, Stephen Freshney, 35 Ben Jonson Rd

23rd May 1915, Robert Frehney, 35 Ben Jonson Rd

10th August 1915, Norman Winterbourne, 9 Portland St

10th August 1915, William Wittey, 278 Oxford St

10th September 1915, William Fox, 97 Grosvenor St, Commercial Rd

27th September 1915, Percy Stewart, 38 Belgrave St

13th October 1915, Richard Vicat, 7 Lufton Place, Halley St

3rd July 1916, Edgar Watts, 89 Belgrave St

24th August 1916, Thomas Pocock, 127 White Horse St

15th September 1916, Alfred Knowden, 22 Durham Rd

15th September 1916, Sidney Squires, 6 Chaseley St

23rd September 1916, Harry May, 59 White Horse Lane

21st October 1916, George Legon, 32 Copley St

13th October 1916, Richard Bull, 6 Market St

13th November 1916, Henry Turner, 30 Portland St

21st December 1916, George Palmer, 13 Bromley St

2nd February 1917, Frederick Page, 17 King John St

4th February 1917, William Wotten, 5 Wakeling St

9th February 1917, Joseph Ellis,  3 Oley Place

27th March 1917, William Page, Flat 4, 45 Jubilee St

14th May 1917, John Jenkins, 27 Commercial Rd

9th May 1917, Herbert Graves, 78 Diggon St

10th May 1917, Henry Middleton, 82 Old Church Rd

16th June 1917, John Moonie, 85 White Horse Lane

6th July 1917, Thomas Crouch, 21 White Horse Lane

9th July 1917, Walter Page, 63 White Horse Lane

11th July 1917, Robert Kirby, 73 Ernest St

16th July 1917, William Long, Pole St

26th July 1917, William Lynch, 41 Belgrave St

30th July 1917, George Reid, 38 Diggon St

3rd September 1917, Sidney Biggs, 12 Matlock St

20th September 1917, Edward Webber, 16 Dean St

24th September 1917, William Grainger, 49 Diggon St

26th October 1917, Alfred Walmer, 12 White Horse Lane

26th October 1917, Ruchard Tyndall, 3 Rectory Sq

2nd November 1917, John Fox, 3 Oley Place

10th November 1917, Henry Nicholas, 38 Latimer St

25th November 1917, Albert Clarke, Salmon Lane

8th December 1917, Albert Stokes, 9 Louisa Gardens

21st March 1918, Harry Gray, St Thomas St

21st March 1918. Arthur Hallett, 52 Bromley St

3rd April 1918, Horace Vincent, 21 Copley St

1st May 1918, Robert Parlett, 51 Belgrave St

27th May 1918, Albert Mitchell, Grosvenor St

15th July 1918, Henry Smith, 169 Stepney Green

1st September 1918, Walter McMinn, 635 Commercial Rd

19th September 1918, Arthur Murphy, 23 Rhodeswell Rd

17th October 1918, Raymond Smith, 10 Latimer St

18th October 1918, Arthur Reids, 38 Diggon St

2nd November 1918, Charles Legon, 107 Rhodeswell Rd

& 106 more from the parish for whom we have no addresses

St Dunstan’s, Stepney

Portrait of Jimmy Page copyright © Sarah Ainslie

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East End Soldiers of World War One

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. jeannette permalink
    September 15, 2014

    MCMXIV
    Phillip Larkin

    Those long uneven lines
    Standing as patiently
    As if they were stretched outside
    The Oval or Villa Park,
    The crowns of hats, the sun
    On moustached archaic faces
    Grinning as if it were all
    An August Bank Holiday lark;

    And the shut shops, the bleached
    Established names on the sunblinds,
    The farthings and sovereigns,
    And dark-clothed children at play
    Called after kings and queens,
    The tin advertisements
    For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
    Wide open all day—

    And the countryside not caring:
    The place names all hazed over
    With flowering grasses, and fields
    Shadowing Domesday lines
    Under wheat’s restless silence;
    The differently-dressed servants
    With tiny rooms in huge houses,
    The dust behind limousines;

    Never such innocence,
    Never before or since,
    As changed itself to past
    Without a word – the men
    Leaving the gardens tidy,
    The thousands of marriages,
    Lasting a little while longer:
    Never such innocence again.

  2. September 15, 2014

    Lest we forget.

  3. September 15, 2014

    St Dunstan’s is a beautiful Church. I went to Raine’s Foundation School in Arbour Square for 7 years and this was our school church, and the wonderful Father Young was Rector at that time. Valerie

  4. September 15, 2014

    NO MORE WARS — GIVE PEACE A CHANCE — IN SYRIA, GAZA, IRAQ & UKRAINE !!

    They rest in Kassel on Niederzwehren-Cemetery:
    http://www.ww1cemeteries.com/other_cemeteries_ext/niederzwehren_cem.htm

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  5. September 15, 2014

    One hundred years ago to this very day my great-grandfather died in WOI. When I see what’s happening in the world today, I wonder, will we ever learn?

  6. Pauline Taylor permalink
    September 15, 2014

    I am in total agreement ACHIM, it is time to name and shame all those who perpetrate wars, war is never the answer.

    It is shocking to think how young all of these men named here probably were, multiply that by all the parishes in this country which suffered losses, then look at all those memorials in France with the names of what must have been virtually every young man from every village there. It tears at the heartstrings and must never be allowed to happen again.

  7. Katrina permalink
    September 15, 2014

    I think Jimmy will find if he enters the name of those he doesn’t have addresses for in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site, they will have not only where the graves are but also information including home address on the soldier in question.
    Hope this helps.
    What a wonderful thing to do, and as you say brings home the terrible losses suffered by local communities. Katrina

  8. September 15, 2014

    The pity of war.

  9. Steve Glover permalink
    September 17, 2014

    Excellent piece,brings home the loss of WW1 on a much local level.Was brought up in Salmon Lane and noticed an Albert Clarke lived there and died in 1917.Well done Jim on this labour of love!

  10. September 17, 2014

    Please also visit/mention the book of remembrance in the foyer of Bethnal Green Public Library. It’s displayed within a glass cabinet but notice next to the book are a bundle of supplementary name tags that just didn’t make it into the book. Powerful messages to reflect on such monumental madness and unfathomable suffering and tragedy.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring this old neglected building back to life as our own East End Museum – transferring the archives from Bancroft Road and celebrate our history in a building meant for reflection, and learning about our past..and is adjacent to the Stairway to Heaven…

    Local Cllrs take note…

  11. October 4, 2014

    I was moved by this project, and wanted to see how many of the soldiers’ addresses I could locate on a modern map. I think I found about 38 of the 52, with another couple I’m not sure about. Here’s the map I created with markers for each person:

    http://batchgeo.com/map/841032a61236a5be14af66d288bef190

  12. T Moore permalink
    November 9, 2014

    Robert Henry Parlett (1/5/18, age 21) was my great grandfather’s (Joseph Frank) brother. Another brother, Alfred Andrew was wounded during the war and discharged Sept 1916.
    Between 1921 and 1926 my great grandfather and his wife Elizabeth went on to have 4 children, the youngest being a girl, my nan Rosina (Rose). His 2nd son was also given the name Robert Henry, who tragically became the only one of his sons to be killed during WW2, shot while laying on his bunk by a friend cleaning a German gun that had been kept as a souvenir. The date was 27th June 1945 – Robert was 22 years old.
    Many thanks to Jimmy Paige for his research and for pinpointing the memorial to my nan’s family – I will be visiting St Dunstan’s Church to pay my respects.

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