Category Archives: St Leonard’s

Fascinating background information on the Attwater brothers

I’d previously read about the cache described in a recent newspaper article on the Cuckfield Museum’s website, but wasn’t absolutely sure previously that it was the same Attwater family that crop up as ringers at St Leonard’s and Immanuel churches in Streatham. The newspaper article leaves no doubt though, as it mentions the death of Ernest during the war.

Ernest Attwater joins up

On 10 September 1914 Ernest Attwater’s attestation papers were formally approved by a major in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had been medically examined at Haywards Heath (where he had been a member of the local Territorial Force company for three years prior to his move to London from Cuckfield) as early as 5 September, and had then completed the attestation papers at Chichester on 9 September. He was posted to 9th Battalion, one of the newly raised battalions of Kitchener’s New Army. He became Private 3305, but with his prior TF experience it’s no great surprise that he was promoted lance corporal as early as 12 October (NCOs were in short supply). He stated his age as 25 years, 220 days, and gave his occupation as carpenter and pro cricketer (he was on Surrey’s ground staff at the Oval).

It’s possible his brother Frank Norman joined up at the same time, but as he ended up in 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, it’s not absolutely clear (and his papers do not survive). Certainly both brothers were serving by 30 October when The Ringing World reported that Frank Norman was at Dover with 3rd Battalion, and Ernest was at Shoreham with 9th Battalion.

This would have been a blow for both Streatham towers, Immanuel an St Leonard, as with their other brothers, Louis and Isaac James, the Attwaters had become leading ringers in the area.

Streatham, St Leonard – a family tower

Six of the ringers from St Leonard’s, Streatham went to war. The relatioships between them, and others of the tower at the time show particularly strong family links. The Attwater family has already been mentioned in connection with Ernest, who is listed on the roll as a ringer at Immanuel Streatham. At St Leonard’s we see two of his older brothers listed, Frank Norman and Isaac James, a fourth brother, Louis, also rang there but did not serve in the war. The reports of ringing in The Ringing World show all four brothers ringing in both towers, and since many of St Leonard’s records were destroyed in a major fire in the chuch in 1975, and Immanuel’s bell swere removed in the 1970s, it is not clear why they were divided up on the roll between the two towers.

William Charles Lee was killed in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme. Originally from Sudbury in Suffolk he was living in London with his uncle John who also rang at Leonard’s (with father William was also a ringer in Sudbury). The war also seems to have ended the ringing career of Francis John Lindley Mitchell. His father, John Christopher Mitchell, was also a Streatham ringer: he was also very senior in London Transport. Francis was one of the handful of ringers on the roll to have attended a public school (Dulwich College), and the only one to go to university: though in fact he only went up to Clare College, Cambridge in 1914 to read mathematics. He had been a member of the Officers’ Training Corps detachments at Dulwich and the University of Cambridge. In early 1915 he opted to leave his degree course and take a commission. With his obviously strong mathematical background, it is no great surprise to see that he joind the Royal Garrison Artillery. In May 1918, while serving with an anti-aircraft battery he was badly wounded in the left arm. After spending some time in hospital he returned to Cambridge in 1919 to continue his studies while he convalesced. In 1920 he took articles with Price Waterhouse and took his accountancy exams, gaining his ACA in 1924, and remaining with the firm as an audit clerk. He worked for them for many years, later becoming Bursar of St Paul’s School. I have found no record of him ringing after the war, presumably the damage to his left arm was such that he could no longer do so.

James William Chapman would later be the tower captain at St Leonard’s, serving until 1963. He worked for the department store Barker’s of Kensington for many years. The final man listed on the roll, A Bradley, has so far eluded identification. He may have had the middle initial B, and one Ringing World entry states that an A Bradley of St Leonard’s, Streatham, ahd joined the Butchery Section of the Army Service Corps. However, the roll states he served with the Machine Gun Corps.