Harry Brown

Harry Brown Thessalonika 1916 cropped


The gallant-looking World War I cavalry officer in this photograph, taken in Thessalonika in 1918 is Harry Brown, whose grand daughter has lived in Chelmsford Road since the 1970s.

Harry was the son of an Islington milkman who met the 4am milk train every day; his son was fostered with neighbours after his early death from asthma. Once grown up, Harry worked in the rag trade, married a girl he met in the church choir and had a son. But he volunteered for the army on the outbreak of the First World War – he was soon made an officer, survived four years’ service, and returned home to continue in the business he had started. Harry and Maud’s son, Leslie, was a promising pupil, but the family did not have the money to send him to university. So Leslie went to work in the accounts department at W H Smith, where he saved enough to put himself through theological college.

Leslie Brown became Archbishop of Uganda, where his daughter Alison spent much of her childhood. Alison remembers games, jokes and the excellent “sea lion” faces her grandfather made on her occasional visits to England. Evidently he never lost the family trait of ultra early rising.

All our stories


The First World War affected our area fundamentally, tearing families apart and forcing change as it did all over the world. In June we staged a performance day during the E17 Art Trail, telling just a few of the stories of individuals we have rediscovered. Children had talked to relatives about what they had been told as children, brought in family photographs and undertaken research. We also used existing interviews with, and diaries of, Walthamstow people who had lived through the Great War, and researched stories of those with memorials in Queen’s Road Cemetery.

As well as an installation in the chapels we staged a musical play we had devised together, recalling the experiences of local people in 1915 as well as some of our own families.

The children of 1915 had to grow up quickly. The school leaving age was still only twelve, and even before that many youngsters had part-time jobs. With tens of thousands of men away fighting, some jobs became available to women for the first time, although the war itself was causing much unemployment – and it was becoming clear that the war was not going to end any time soon. In recalling the children of a century ago we were imagining complicated, often hard and sometimes hungry lives.

We also learned a number of the popular songs of the day, adding new words to one of them.

This was the day of the Edinburgh Primary School Summer Fair, and our performers sang for the guests, becoming both First World War recruiters and publicists for our drama.

There were two well-attended performances, in addition to which children led tours of the exhibition, of the flower beds they had planted and of the memorials of some of the people whose stories they knew.


Chapel Clean up

Queens Road Cemetery Chapels, Walthamstow, E17

The two chapels within the Queens Road Cemetery date from the opening of the Cemetery in 1872. The Anglican chapel (orientated East-West,) is joined to the Non-Conformist Chapel (orientated North-South) by an open arch with a bell tower. Neither chapel has been used for services for several decades. The Non-confromist chapel still has it’s original beamed ceiling, and Victorian tiled floor; the Anglican Chapel had
We have been given permission by the Cemeteries Operations Manager to use the chapels for project events, and have set about giving the Anglican chapel a face-lift.( the Non-Conformist chapel needs some work to the ceiling before we can use it for public events)
Over the spring and summer we have had several clean up and painting days. The chapel walls had been painted a pale pink, but cracks in the plaster had been mended over this, so we needed to give the interior a coat of fresh paint.
Cleaning the chapel in preparation for painting took a while – the dust of years had settled on the window tracery, and there were cobwebs everywhere. With volunteer help we set about washing down walls and woodwork, and sweeping out huge accumulations of leaves from the outer porch before putting a coat of white paint on the walls. It has made a huge difference.
We are planning more works; we aim to apply another coat of white paint to the walls in the near future, and are hoping to get advice and funding to undertake more substantial restoration in both the Anglican and Non- conformist Chapels

Flower beds created by nine-year-olds

Queens Road Cemetery planting June 2014 smaller

Children from Edinburgh Primary school are working with Clio’s Company to create and maintain new flower beds in Queen’s Road Cemetery. For most, this is a first experience of gardening – there was a lot to learn about preparing and feeding the ground, planting the shrubs and bulbs with care, watering them in and continuing to look after them when needed.

There are now five new beds – one near the main gates of the cemetery, and four round the war memorial behind the chapels. The beds are getting well established, with wonderful displays of roses and lavender in the summer.

Sadly, human and squirrel predators have stolen some plants and bulbs, but plans are underway to replace the losses and expand the planted area.

When the cemetery was new in 1872 there were eleven full-time gardeners to tend it – now there are only occasional visits by contractors. So the local community is stepping up to care for this very special place.

Future plans include raised beds outside the chapels – and many more bulbs.