Streatham Remembers the First World War

By: John Brown, The Streatham Society

Image of WW1 Streatham Peace medalSTREATHAM PEACE MEDAL

On Friday 18th July 1919 around 7,000 Streatham school children gathered on Tooting Bec Common for a "Great Peace Fete" to celebrate the official end of the First World War. The children were presented with the Streatham Peace Medal, suspended on a red white and blue ribbon, as a memento of the occasion. The children then sang the National Anthem accompanied by the local Fire Brigade band, and there were sports and entertainments including Punch and Judy; a musical clown; a conjurer, a ventriloquist, a picnic lunch and numerous other attractions. The Fete concluded with a prize-giving and three cheers for Streatham's MP, Mr William Lane Mitchell, who had generously donated the Peace medals the children were all proudly wearing.


For the residents of Streatham, the horrors of war were brought to their very homes when on the night of 23rd/24th September 1916 the town was bombed in a Zeppelin raid on London. A huge German airship, the L31, sailed high above Streatham High Road dropping bombs as it journeyed northwards. The first bombs fell opposite Streatham Common Station destroying Nos 10-13 Estreham Road and killing a lady who was asleep in her bed at the time of the raid.

At Streatham Hill, a bomb completely wrecked Streatham Hill Modern School at 70 Streatham Hill. The blast killed four men in a tram by Streatham Hill Station, and another passenger died soon after being admitted to hospital. During the 15 minutes of the raid, the Germans dropped a total of 32 bombs, killing seven people and seriously injuring a further 27.

Photo of Streatham Hill Modern School (now Streatham and Clapham Girls School of the Girls Day school Strust), damaged in Zeppelin raid 1916 during WW1


In 1915, a War Hospital Supply Depot was established at Hill House, a large mansion that stood on Streatham Common North, opposite the upper pond on the Common. At its peak, up to 1,200 local volunteers worked there producing items for use in treating war casualties in Britain and in field hospitals overseas.  Each volunteer contributed one shilling (5p) a week to the depot's general fund for the purchase of materials. The depot was the second largest of its type in the country and by the end of the war it had produced 684,276 items valued then at £57,731. Surgical supplies made at Hill House went to hospitals as far afield as Alexandria, Milan, Petrograd, Cannes and Malta.

Photo of staff of the Hill House Hospital Supply and Depot on Streatham Common North


On 10th May 1916 Queen Alexandra made an official visit to Streatham with Princess Victoria and Princess Arthur of Connaught. The royal party attended a children's pageant to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of the War Hospital Supply Depot at Hill House. The Queen had previously made a private visit to the Depot on 18th August 1915 when she met many of the volunteers working there. She made her third visit to Streatham on 25th May 1917 to attend a patriotic sale and concert at Streatham Hall to mark the second anniversary of the opening of the Depot.​

Photo of Queen Alexandra with princess Victoria and prince Arthur of Connaught visiting Streatham to attend a childrens' pageant during WW1


The Streatham Rifle Club was formed on 8th September 1914 by local men who wanted to help the war effort and within a month of its foundation over 1,500 men had joined up. Akin to the "Home Guard" in the Second World War, the club mainly comprised men who were too old for active military service. The Club had its original headquarters at 9 Mitcham Lane, and drilled on Streatham and Tooting Bec Commons, as well as the Streatham Cricket Club ground in Pendennis Road. The Club later became the Streatham Volunteer Training Corps which were initially based at the Drill Hall in Estreham Road. A drum and bugle band accompanied the volunteers on church parades and marches, the instruments being donated by the Corp's Hon. Commandant, Mr. G. H. L. Parsons, of Aldrington Road, Streatham Park.

Photo of Streatham Rifle Club as part of the Home Guard of WW1


As the war progressed, the only way the army's increasing demands for manpower could be met was through the introduction of conscription. With so many able-bodied men volunteering or being called to the colours, women had to perform traditionally male tasks to keep the wheels of industry and commerce turning. In Streatham, milkman soon disappeared from local streets to be replaced by "milkmaids" who took over their rounds. The job of a dairy maid was a hard one involving rising at dawn to milk the cows before completing the early morning milk round, after which there were more cows to milk and another round to complete.

Photo of Curtis Brothers Dairy Maid, the newly created female milk delivery service in Streatham, already a hotbed of female suffrage action


With the introduction of rationing in 1917 the demand for locally grown produce to supplement food supplies increased. Various pig, poultry and rabbit clubs in Streatham received a new lease of life to help provide fresh meat. The Furzedown Cultivation Society formed a pig club and housed their animals in wooden stie which stood on solid concrete floors with "a perfect system of drainage" to ensure a minimum of smells for the public and maximum comfort for the pigs.
The sties were inaugurated by the Mayor of Wandsworth, Sir Archibald Dawnay, at a special ceremony held in 1918.

Photo form the early 1900s fromt he Furzedown Pig Club, raising meat for the war effort during WW1


The bronze statue of a lone soldier, his head bowed and his hands resting on an upturned rifle - a military sign of mourning - commemorates the 720 inhabitants of Streatham who lost their lives in the First World War. Standing at the junction of Streatham High Road and Streatham Common north, the memorial was unveiled by General Sir Charles Munro on the 14th October 1922 before a crowd of around 5,000. The statue was designed by Albert T. Toft and identical statues by the same sculptor were later unveiled at Stone in Staffordshire, Leamington in Warwickshire and Thornton Cleveleys in Lancashire.

Photo of Streatham War memorial and site near Streatham Common and the Albert Carr gardens on the former site of Streatham Manor.