Sunday, 22 May 2016

May 2016 Newsletter

May 2016

Dear All,

The Easter Eggstravaganza was a great success and we all enjoyed the afternoon. We would like to thank Mrs. Judy Smith for judging the Easter Hat Competition.

Our first event this summer is a Race Night, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. It is being held in conjunction with the Irish Community Services who provide weekly lunches for the over 55’s in the Progress Hall each Thursday.

The second is our Summer Fete on Lovelace Green, being held this year in conjunction with the Greenwich Heritage Centre who will be displaying their mobile exhibition Here Come the Girls: Women in Wartime 1915-18.   This features actors taking on the roles of families living on our Estate during the war, munition workers at the Royal Arsenal and Voluntary nurses.   Come along with your family between 11am and 4pm on Saturday, 13th August.   Picnics welcome.

Robert Ledgerwood


A race night
on saturday 11th june 
from 7:00 – 10:30 p.m.

Progress Hall

Admiral Seymour Road SE9 1SL

TICKETS £12.50

Tea, coffee and cake on sale. 
Otherwise, bring your own drink and glasses.

For tickets, please email
or call 07599 610262


As said in the Chair’s letter, and following the success of 2015’s event, we will be holding our 2016 Summer Fete on Lovelace Green from 11am and 4pm on Saturday, 13th August.    

We welcome businesses large and small and voluntary organisations.   There will be musical entertainment throughout the day as well as the Greenwich Heritage Centre’s First World War touring show Here Come the Girls: Women in Wartime 1915-18. 

To book a stall, please write to
or call 07947 043479. 


We launched our Trusted Tradesmen initiative just over three years ago, since when the number of people on the list has increased to over thirty.   Between them, they cover just about every skill one might need around the home, including architecture, carpet cleaning and the home-delivery of fresh vegetables. 

The important difference between our list and most others is twofold.   Firstly, people are only included once they have worked for someone living in our Conservation Area.   

Secondly, that person must have confirmed they will provide references to other residents, if asked.    (References are via the Residents Association so referees may protect their anonymity if they so choose).

Anecdotally, we understand a number of residents have had work done by people on the list.   We are now be very interested in receiving as much feedback as possible, so if you would like to provide yours please write to committee member Rui Dias at

If you are unfamiliar with Trusted Tradesmen, please go to our website, and, down the right-hand side under Navigation, click on ‘Trade Directory’ or click here.   You never know when it might come in handy!


We are holding a number of events this year and would appreciate any unwanted gifts as prizes for our raffles. 

If you have any and would like to donate them, please contact the Chair of our Social Group, Rita Billinghurst (email or telephone 07947 043479).   


We issue information between quarterly newsletters by email, Facebook and Twitter.   It might be anything from a warning about a scam to bringing local news and events to peoples’ notice.   If you do not hear from us via one of these means at the moment, please visit our website and, under ‘Connect’ part way down the right hand side of the home page, click on whichever method you would like to adopt.   If you write asking to be added to the email list, please put ‘Email List’ in as the subject. 

Alternatively you can connect via the following links:

Making Progress is published by the Progress Residents Association and copies for delivery throughout our Estate are printed on their behalf by Hyde South East.

Please send articles and comments to

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Diary of Eda Kathleen Biddlecombe

Original post:

It is wonderful to have a diary of a fourteen year old living on the estate giving an insight into daily life. The diary of Eda Kathleen Biddlecombe was donated to the Greenwich Heritage Centre in the 1970s. Eda’s family came from Totnes but moved first to Bexleyheath and then to 6, Cobbett Road during the war. Eda Kathleen herself was born on July 3rd 1903, her sister, Eileen Violet A, in 1901 and her brother, William Holman Elmes (who seems to have been called Tom in the family) was born in 1905.
Well Hall Estate c1920

Their parents, Eda Kate Ewens and William Henry Ewens Biddlecombe married in 1895 in Totnes. Eda also refers to her baby sister Mary in the diary. She was born on 30 March 1914.
Her little diary for the first six months of 1918 reveals lots of things about her life and the life of her family. It stops rather abruptly in June. On the personal side it reveals that she took a size 4 in hats, 4.25 in boots and 9.5 in gloves and we learn she was important in carrying out family and household chores because both her parents were working and there was a baby and younger brother to look after. The family still had links with relatives in Dorset, and there was contact with the older sister Eileen although we can’t tell where she was living. Eda’s mother was working at the Arsenal in the fuse shop and it is likely that her father who she called Dada, was there too as he was working shifts. However when they had first moved to Bexleyheath he was a tanner.
Ada 2
Eileen and Eda 1903. By kind permission of Karen Hansen.
Eda didn’t have to go to school. With a school leaving age of 12 at the time she might have been out of education for two years and so she stayed at home and seems to have looked after her siblings, but especially the baby, and to have done the household chores of cleaning, cooking and shopping.
She doesn’t refer to the necessity of cleaning the windows once a week as originally specified in the Tenants Book, but she cleaned inside the house: bedrooms, a passageway, scullery, bathroom and the stove are mentioned. She mentions her own cooking occasionally – boiled fish heads and rissoles made of fish heads – and also making pancakes and having a fine roast beef meal which made life worth living!. She could salt beef and make jam with locally picked fruit. 
Ada 1
Tom, Eileen and Eda 1906. By kind permission of Karen Hansen.
Of all her chores shopping is mentioned the most. Food shortages at the beginning of 1918 had got quite serious and queuing for some things might take two hours. Many items are in short supply but the lack of bacon, margarine and cheese was a problem. To help with this brother Tom was kept off school but that led to trouble. Mother got a letter from the authorities and had to appear in court because of Tom’s repeated absences. The case was dismissed on April 23rd perhaps because by then he was 12. Food was bought in Woolwich market and also locally. Once rationing was introduced on February 25th 1918 it seems as if queuing was less of a problem.
To help with the supply of food their family in Dorset sent them sacks of vegetables and there are comments about the things that would be grown in the garden. Flowers (roses, lupins, chrysanthemums, pinks) – yes, but also potatoes like King Edwards and parsley and radishes are mentioned The family’s diet was also helped when Dadda learned to skin rabbit. Clearly however, Eda’s help was vital in allowing both her parents to work.


Monday, 9 May 2016

A Progress Estate Family – Well Hall Estate

The Tester family moved into 18 Dickson Road with their children in 1915. Frederick Tester was a munitions worker at the Arsenal and was 40 at this time. He had been married eighteen years and he and his wife Ada had had seven children the eldest of whom would have been eighteen and the youngest about four years old. Five of the children were registered at Deansfield Primary School in December along with many other children from the estate.
Albert Edward born 26th August 1903
William John born 2nd November 1905
Ena (or Edna) May born 30th April 1907
Ernest born 30th July 1908
Marjorie Lily born 7th October 1910
The two oldest children Frederick James (18) and Ada Alexandra (14) may have been working and so living elsewhere. In the 1911 census all the family had been living in Wandsworth Road in a nine roomed house. Frederick was a licensed victualler and the family had a live-in servant and also had room for a tenant. 18 Dickson Road seems to have been a Class 3 House with living room, scullery and three bedrooms and so this move to Dickson Road was to smaller accommodation.
We have no way of knowing whether he earned more or less money through this move especially as the school register gives no detail about the nature of his work. It might at least, however, have provided a more reliable income. We don’t know whether Ada had time for paid work, especially given the five children. In addition, during the war a further child, Queen, was born in 1917 so there was a small baby to look after.Frederick and Ada were still living at 18 Dickson Road with some of their grown up children during the ‘30s although by the end of the Second World War they had moved to 31, Granby Road.

Support for a Widow – Well Hall Estate

In November 1915 there was a bit of a local ‘to do’ about some remarks made by the curate at St John the Baptists. Because these remarks were critical of the residents of the estate and the hutments and resulted in a response from the Secretary of the Tenants Association, T.E. Morgan in the form of a letter in ‘The Pioneer’.
On October 20th an Arsenal worker from the estate – James Henry Jeffery of 162 Well Hall Road – had died as the result of an accident leaving a widow, Sarah Anne, and nine fatherless children. Not only did the Arsenal workers make a collection of £20 for the widow before the funeral, but a fund for her collected at the Arsenal later totalled £416. In addition residents on the estate collected some £13 which they asked to be used for clothing for the fatherless family. The Chairman of the Tenants Association states he also helped her to find a job which paid 28s (£1 40p) a week. No wonder The Tenants Association were affronted when the curate said from the pulpit that they had not assisted her calling this ‘abominable’. No wonder they insisted on an apology.
The nine children ranged in age from about sixteen to one year old. There were five boys
(including twins age about four) and four girls. On December 15th 1915 two of the children, May (13) and Olive (9) previously at the Gordon School were registered at Deansfield School at which point Sarah gives ‘ munitions worker’ for the parental occupation. Perhaps she had found employment at the Arsenal and perhaps too the oldest girls Linda Muriel (15) and Nellie (14) found work to supplement the income or were able to help by looking after the younger children – Bertie (7), John and Colin (5), Sydney (3) and William (1). Whatever else happened the family were able to go on living on the estate and were still there at start of the Second World War.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The Well Hall Pioneer Circle

Lynne has been researching the Well Hall Estate. She has come across an interesting group who met regularly …
In summer 1916 the women of the estate formed a Pioneer Circle, originally for Well Hall but later extended to Eltham as well. The purpose of the circle was to promote and distribute the Woolwich labour newspaper ‘The Pioneer’ but as part of this the women met weekly to discuss items of topical interest. They met in the house of one of their number, Rhoda Baillie, at 34, Prince Rupert Road. Other names that were mentioned in the newspaper include the Mmes Woodnough, Bromley, Webster, Cockham, Skidmore, Pope, Mayes, Scarlett, Jeavons, Banks Ginns, Walker, MacDonald, Stewart and Bell together with a Miss A Stringer. its possible that not all of these women lived on the estate.
And what a range of issues they covered! During the war period they covered topics ranging from food shortages to pioneers of the past and from the need for communal kitchens to Venereal Disease. In December 1917 they made a visit to the Rachel Macmillan Baby Camp in Deptford as part of discussions they had had on education generally and on nursery education specifically. The meeting often began with one woman reading a paper, sometimes by an authority on their chosen subject, followed by a discussion. The newspaper coverage of their meetings in the Pioneer reports their discussions and findings. There were however other activities. In 1917 delegates were sent to the Woolwich Labour Food Conference and they also began making contributions to an inquiry on house planning organised by the South Wales Housing and Development Association in the form of responses to a schedule of some 70 questions. The women not unnaturally felt strongly about the lack of school accommodation for the estate especially as many young children had a walk of twenty or thirty minutes. They passed a resolution about this which was sent to the London County Council Education Committee.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Here Come the Girls - Women in Wartime 1915-18

From Greenwich Time, March 29 2016

The lives and contributions of local women during the First World War are celebrated in a new touring museum launched next week.

“Here Come the Girls - Women in Wartime 1915-18” will tour libraries and community centres around the royal borough over the next six months, starting at Greenwich Library on Friday, April 8.

Based on a compilation of true stories, the project focuses on the women who worked at the Royal Arsenal (pictured), the nurses and the Voluntary Aid Detachments in the borough’s hospitals and temporary auxiliary hospitals, such as Charlton House, and the families living on the Progress Estate in Eltham.

Actors will take on tree mobile exhibitions - one based on nursing, one on the Arsenal and one on the life at home - to different venues where they will portray the stories about women on the Home Front during the war years.

Families will be invited to get involved, for example, packing yellow lentils into crisp posts - a way of portraying the way ammunition was packed into shells.

The project by the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust is funded thanks to a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Tracy Stringfellow, chief executive officer of the heritage trust, said “We are very excited to have been awarded a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support this local women’s project.  The role of in the royal borough during the First World War was vital to the war effort and this project allows us to explore their role in much greater detail with our local community.  With touring interactive performances and an online blog, families will get the chance to explore the lives and contribution of Greenwich women at war.”

Stuart Hobley, head of the fund in London, said: “The First World War transformed the role of women in early 20th century British society by drawing them into a wide range of employment, including, at Woolwich, some of the most hazardous jobs on the home front.”

The first performances are at Greenwich Library on Friday, April 8 and Eltham Library on Saturday April 9, both from 11am-2pm

Other venues include Severndroog Castle, Charlton House, which will be turned into a wartime hospital on July 28, and a summer fete with residents on the Progress Estate in Eltham on August.

The trust hopes to add more tour dates and join in other events in the borough over the summer.  For more details visit

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Wives as Joint Tenants

Interesting article from The Pioneer 22/11/1916 uncovered by

Good to read that the early version of the Progress Estate Residents' Association was forward thinking.

"Wives as Joint Tenants

The Pioneer 22/11/1916
The recently adopted constitution of the Well Hall Garden City Tenants' Association contains a claus requiring that its executive committee shall be composed equally of men and women.  Moreover, this representation of women on the executive committee is not dependant upon the vagaries of a vote at a general meeting, but is actually embodied in the constitution as an unchallengeable right belonging to the women.

Unfortunately men have not yet become accustomed to voting for women as they do for men, and it was felt that women's position on the executive committee should be safeguarded till that time arrives.  The association has, from its inception, admitted women to its membership on the same terms as men and has loyally endeavoured to allow them equally opportunity for expressing their needs and opinions.

This practical recognition of the moral claim of wives to be considered as joint tenants deserves our full appreciation.  

Legally, of course this wife has neither rights, nor responsibilities for the house she inhabits, although the majority of tenancies depend, in a very real sense, upon her existence and upon her fulfilment of necessary, though legally unrecognised, duties.  Most wives occupy their house about twice as much as their husbands, because the house in not only their living place, but their place of employment.  And it must be remembered that the house is a workshop to which no laws penetrate to regulate hours of labour and prevent sweating.  T'here is no legal enforcement of payment for the services rendered there."