Penge People

This section celebrates and casts light on the many distinguished people who have lived in Penge and who have made a significant contribution to society. Their lives are interesting in themselves, apart from their achievements.

Some may not be household names — or even known in Penge – but that does not bar them being celebrated here. The Penge Heritage Trail has an educative function as well as being, we hope, informative and fun. We’d like our distinguished Penge People to be better known. Without exception, all had their dream and spent their lives trying to make it come true.

Some already have blue plaques installed on the houses where they lived — Thomas Crapper, George Daniels and Walter de la Mare. These are internationally-famous people.

All Penge People are listed in alphabetical order. Click on the name on the drop-down list to access further fascinating details about their lives and work, website and You Tube links.

First up is famous Afro-American actor Ira Aldridge (1807-1867). Aldridge came to London from New York at the age of seventeen in 1824 and within a year was playing Othello on the London stage. A play about him, Red Velvet, starring Adrian Lester, was performed on the West End stage. Link with Penge? He was married in St John the Evangelist Church on Penge High Street in 1865 and lived in Hamlet Road.

Second is successful Hollywood actor Lionel Atwill (1885-1946). Atwill was born in South Norwood but came to live in Penge with his family at the age of five. Making his debut at the age of twenty on the London stage in Ibsen and Shaw, Atwill went to America in 1915 to seek his fortune. By 1919 he had made his first movie and went on to star in fifty more. Link with Penge? He lived at 54 Lennard Road for over twenty years.

Third is Victorian cookery expert Isabella Beeton (1836-1865). Mrs Isabella Beeton is famous for her cookery book, Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861), one of the first of its kind for the general public. Hers was a short but intense life but in her time she was the Mary Berry of cookery though without the mass media adulation. Link with Penge? Isabella Mayson often stopped off at Anerley Bridge to meet her ‘intended’ on her way up from Epsom.

Fourth is singer and composer David Bowie (1947-2016). Bowie was born in Brixton, inaugurated an ‘Arts Laboratory’ in 1969 at the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham, created his own music and set forth on a meteoric international career. Link with Penge? Bowie references Penge in one of his songs.

Fifth is composer Arthur Carnall (1852-1904). Carnall was a popular and prolific composer of organ music. His work, pleasingly, is being nationally re-discovered, recorded and cited on the internet. One of his pieces, Melody was played at a Penge Festival organ recital at Penge Congregational Church in 2015. Link with Penge? He lived in Avington Grove and was organist and choir-master at St John the Evangelist Church for 31 years.

Sixth is Private Herbert George Columbine (1893-1918). Aged 24, Columbine defended a hill in Hervilly Wood, France, with his Vickers gun,during the first world war and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery.His last words were ‘Save yourselves. I’ll carry on.’ Link with Penge? He was born there.

Seventh is sanitary-ware developer Thomas Crapper (1836-1910). Crapper is often credited with inventing the flush toilet. He did not invent it but added further ideas to how it could be commercially developed from 1861 onward. Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd have a thriving business today which trades globally. Link with Penge? He lived at 12 Thornsett Road for the last six years of his life.

Eighth is horologist George Daniels (1926-2011). Daniels broke new ground in watch design when he unvented the coaxial escapement. This revolutionised the making of mechanical watches, bringing them into line for accuracy of time keeping with electronic devices. Ignored at first, his invention was taken up by Omega watches. This made Daniels a multi-millionaire. Link with Penge? He lived in Thornsett Road for over twenty years.

Ninth is poet and novelist Walter de la Mare (1873-1956). De la Mare lived in Anerley from 1899 to 1924. Much of his best work was written while living there, including his poem The Listeners, once judged Britain’s favourite poem. His work has reached a new audience via the internet and has been celebrated since 2008 in the Penge Festival. Link with Penge? He lived at 5 Worbeck Road, in Samos Road (house number unknown), and at 14 Thornsett Road.

Tenth is writer Monica Furlong (1930-2003). Furlong was a successful broadcaster, journalist, novelist, poet, feminist and writer of children’s stories. She was a strong advocate for the ordination of women and was religious affairs correspondent for the BBC. Honoured with an honorary doctorate from Bristol University. Link with Penge? She lived at 11 Station Road and edited the Holy Trinity Church parish newsletter.

Eleventh is French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Pissarro left France to escape the ravages of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870/71. All his paintings had been destroyed by soldiers. Settling in South London, he painted many local scenes. Some of these can be seen at the National Gallery and in collections all over the world. Link with Penge? He lived for a while in 2 Chatham Terrace, off Anerley Hill.

Twelfth is choreographer Peggy Spencer, MBE (1920-2016). With her husband Frank, she was famous for the Penge Formation Dancers which appeared frequently on television. She was involved with Come Dancing, a show watched by millions and the inspiration for Strictly Come Dancing. She taught Rudolf Nureyev to do the tango for Ken Russell’s film Valentino (1977). Link with Penge? They lived at 12 Percy Road and ran dance classes at Royston Hall.

Thirteenth is guitarist Bill Wyman (1936-). Wyman was a bass guitarist for the Rolling Stones, 1962-1993, although he had set up his own band before that. The Rolling Stones and the Beatles were bands which dominated British popular music of the sixties. Link with Penge? He attended Beckenham and Penge Grammar School (now the Kentwood Centre) from 1946 to 1953 and lived in Blenheim Road.

To be added: Tom Hood, Malcolm Muggeridge and Sid Vicious.

We’d like more blue plaques for our Penge People. Various fund-raising activities will be set in motion to achieve this.