Gold Ball, Cloth of Gold and Golden Window

Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital Presentation of a golden ball by William Fisher Lord of the Manor Plumstead to Queen Elizabeth
Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital: Presentation of a golden ball by William Fisher Lord of the Manor Plumstead to Queen Elizabeth

One of the delights of the Memorial Hospital is the stained glass that decorates some of its corridors and stairways, and the St Nicholas Chapel. I was lucky recently to have the opportunity to take some photographs of the windows, which I have put on the flickr site. Most of the topics depicted in the windows need no explanation; a view of Eltham Palace, Henry VIII’s Great Harry ship which was built at Woolwich and the religious subjects in the chapel. However I found one window, shown above,  puzzling. Who was William Fisher, I pondered, and what was his connection with the area?

Google wasn’t my friend on this occasion, and couldn’t answer my questions. So I headed down to the local history section of the Woolwich library and the trusty W.T. Vincent’s “The Records of the Woolwich District”. Vincent talks about the visit of Queen Bess to Plumstead in July 1573, but names her host as Thomas Fisher rather than William. He describes Thomas Fisher as having been a clerk or bailiff who was employed by Sir Edward Boughton in the management of the king’s estates,  Sir Edward having been granted “the manor and parsonage, tythes &c., within the parishes of and villages of Plumstead, Bostall, Wickham, Welling, Woolwich, Bexley, Lessness, Erith and Yard, alias Crayford” by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries. Vincent goes on to say of Thomas Fisher:

The old historian, Dugdale, represents Fisher as being:

“As greedy of church lands as other courtiers were,”: observing that “he swallowed divers large morsels, whereof Bishop’s Itchington was one; he made an absolute depopulation of that part called Nether Itchington, where the church stood (which he also pulled down for the building of a manor house in its room); and to perpetuate his memory changed the name of it to Fisher’s Itchington”

He also had a manor house in Plumstead , and much of the land in the parish which had been seized by the late King Henry had apparently come to his share. He was pretty well to do, and on the occasion of the royal visit he presented her Majesty with a ball of gold, with a cover, having a lion standing on the top, crowned and holding the Queen’s arms.

Vincent thought that Fisher’s home was the Old Manor House in Wickham Lane, also known as the Pilgrim’s House or Wolsey’s House.

A Google search for “Fisher’s Itchington” threw up Thomas Fisher MP, who according to wikipedia was MP for Warwickshire and was the person who depopulated Nether Itchington, but no connection with Plumstead or Woolwich is mentioned. So a partial solution to the mystery ….

Gold connections continue in some of the other stained glass windows at the hospital.

The Henry Grace à Dieu, also known as the Great Harry, was the  first ship built at Woolwich Dockyard, and the reason the dockyard  was founded by Henry VIII in 1512.  It was the largest ship of its time, with many innovations such as having two fully armed gun decks, gun ports and 21 of the new heavy bronze cannon. As the window says:  she conveyed Henry to the summit with King Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and ended her life at the start of Mary’s reign in 1553, when she caught fire and sank at her mooring at Woolwich… “by neckclygens and for lake of over-syth,” according to Henry Machyn.

Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital: The Great Harry
Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital: The Great Harry

The  peaceful St Nicholas chapel at the Memorial Hospital opened in 1986 after the closure of the St Nicholas Hospital that was situated in Tewson Road, Plumstead.  One of the windows in the chapel is known as the Golden Window, and illustrates the text “Suffer little children to come unto me”. According to the Lost Hospitals of London web site:

The ‘Golden Window’ was originally installed in 1956 in the Hospital chapel at Goldie Leigh Hospital. It was moved to the Memorial Hospital chapel and rededicated in December 1986.

That was all I could find out about this window, but I’ll add it to my list for the next time I’m in the library at the Heritage Centre.

What a  range of interesting local history was encapsulated in just three windows!

Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital Chapel: The Golden Window
Stained glass window in Memorial Hospital Chapel: The Golden Window

Heroes' Corner

Memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery
The memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery

The Last Post always brings  tears to my eyes, and not just because it was played by a bugler at my Dad’s funeral. Remembrance Day was an important time of year for Dad. In the photograph, framed in black slate, that looks at me as I type he is wearing a poppy in his British Legion  beret. It was taken by  a Mercury photographer to illustrate an article about him selling poppies in Lewisham a few years before he died. Another picture shows him standing proudly to attention as the standard bearer holding the Light Infantry Association standard at a remembrance parade at the Chelsea Barracks.

Heroes Corner, in Greenwich Cemetery, is the area where 263 of the 556 First World War graves in the cemetery are located. As the Commonwealth War Graves Commission describes it:

“Greenwich Cemetery contains 556 First World War burials. More than half of these graves are scattered throughout the cemetery, but 263 form a large war graves plot known as ‘Heroes’ Corner’. Here, two curved screen walls bear the names of casualties buried both in the plot and in unmarked graves in the cemetery. The Second World War plot adjoins and contains 75 graves. An additional screen wall commemorates casualties buried in this plot and ten others buried in unmarked graves elsewhere in the cemetery. In all, the cemetery contains 124 Second World War burials, 3 of which are unidentified British soldiers. Section E contains a plot of 30 Norwegian service graves from the Second World War.”

The tragedy of the First World War is compounded by the courageous futility of mass charges against artillery and machine guns. My favourite poet, Wilfred Owen, captures the gritty reality and sadness, and also seems to express some of the anger we feel today at the waste of a generation.

    Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds.

The close relationship between Shooters Hill and the armed forces is epitomised by the monumental architecture of the cluster of military-related buildings around Woolwich Common – now the site of the shooting stadium for the 2012 Olympics. Close to the Greenwich Cemetery there is the former Royal Herbert Hospital, then the former military academy and of course the Woolwich Barracks. Nearby stands the ruin of St George’s Garrison Church, with its Victoria Cross memorial. Further up Shooters Hill is the Memorial Hospital.

Responsibility for raising the money to build the War Memorial Hospital was the role of the Remembrance Committee at the end of the First World War. They did this largely through public subscription, for example all the staff of the Woolwich Arsenal agreed to have a shilling a month deducted from their pay to contribute to the cost. The hospital was opened on the 2nd November 1927 by HRH the Duke of York, who also planted the Lawson Cypress that still stands in front of the hospital. The heart of the hospital is the Hall of Remembrance where two books of remembrance lie open, commemorating local servicemen and civilians killed in the two world wars. A page is turned every day.  Yesterday the civilian pages included records of six deaths in Red Lion Lane on the 19th October 1940 and deaths in Eglinton Road on 15th October 1940.

Hall of Remembrance at Memorial Hospital, Shooters Hill
The Hall of Remembrance at the Memorial Hospital

And the heroism and sacrifice has continued since the second world war:  Malaya – 40 British service personnel killed; Cyprus – over 105 killed; Korea – 765 killed; Aden – 68; The Balkans – 48; Kuwait – 47;  Falklands – 255; Northern Ireland 719; Iraq – 179; Afghanistan – 382. The last post has been sounded too many times.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”.

Approaching sunset at the memorial at Heroes' Corner, Greenwich Cemetery
The going down of the sun at Heroes' Corner