Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tooley Street Fire 1861 lecture at BIFHSGO

A very interesting personal lecture at the BIFHSGO meeting yesterday on the Tooley Street Fire of 1861. Myra Conway put a human face on what would have been a catastrophic event in the lives of many on the southside of the Thames River in Bermondsey in 1861. Although my own families were gone from the Bermondsey area by the early 1830s (my 3x great grandfather died at the hospital there in 1832), I found it fascinating listening to her story of her own family living quite close to the actual conflagration and indeed they survived to appear once again on the 1871 census. Perhaps it is the mention of Tooley Street which most fascinates me. On our first tour bus in London we passed by the intersection of Tooley Street and the London Bridge and back in 2008 I never anticipated that I would come even close to seeing anything in London that would bring me close to my Buller, Beard and Hemsley families. But there the roadsign was staring back at me as we slowly rounded the corner. The pull was so powerful that on our trip in 2010 to London we walked the streets of Bermondsey spending our time walking up and down Tooley Street, Bermondsey Street, Long Lane and others where I knew that my families had lived; where they too had walked. I mentioned in an earlier blog the slate reproductions of the wharf before the fire under the Southwark Bridge (my blog 18 Oct 2011).

Interestingly, my 2x great grandfather still had his pork butcher shop near Covent Garden (Lamb Conduit Way) and I wonder if he too wandered down to look at the burning docks so close to the area where he was born in 1805. Henry Christopher Buller used to commute between his pork butcher shop/restaurant in Birmingham and London on a regular basis between the late 1830s when he first went to Birmingham and 1862 when he died 26 Jun 1862 at Westminster Hospital in London. His story is an example of how life can change so drastically for a family once affluent with servants and then lacking a solid income on the death of the father. The young widow returned to live with her widowed mother bringing her large family with her (11 children).

I have discovered descendants of Henry's older sister still living just south of Bermondsey and an email from my fifth cousin reminds me of my promise to visit on our next trip to London. Edward (my cousin) is 86 years old and doing very well. He is quite fascinated by all the history that I have sent his way and to discover that he lived only a few miles from where his 3x great grandmother was born. I have these huge generation lengths which makes me a 5th cousin to Edward although we differ in age by 22 years.

Kudos to BIFHSGO for a most interesting lecture. An image that Myra displayed quite caught my attention and it was the funeral procession for James Braidwood (Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade) who died when a wall collapsed during the fire on Tooley Street. I was trying to place the location but heavily bombed London in the 1940s changed the look of the area in so many places but yet it remains so much the same which is amazing given the bombing that London endured. I look forward to walking those streets once again as I have learned even more about my London roots which extend back into the late 1600s thus far with my Beard and Roland families who lived in the Bermondsey area continuously from this time forward to the early 1800s.

1 comment:

JDR said...

I enjoyed Saturday's talk too. My second great grand uncle Thomas Ordish had a bookseller and stationer business at 27 Lamb's Conduit Street in the mid 19th century. There's a rather nice video on the some of the small businesses on the street in 2008 at