A History of Wandsworth Common



"Week of storms", Reynolds's Newspaper, 21 June 1914

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Part-edited transcription:



Many Lives Lost in Disaster at Paris.

One of the worst thunderstorms within living memory, during which seven people - fear of them children - were killed by lightning on Wandsworth Common, burst over South London on Sunday afternoon. The tragedies of the storm were confined to a radius of 300 yards. Four people - ft man and a child he held in his arms and a young woman and her fiance - out of seven sheltering under two adjoining trees were struck down. Three of them killed outright, and a young man received such terrible injuries that be died some hours later in hospital. Three other victims, all children, were killed out of a party of six. The remaining three were injured.

The storm was remarkable alike for its intensity and duration, the ecctentricity of its path and the devastation that it wrought. While North London escaped with a few heat drops the South of the Thames experienced the full fury of the storm. Vivid blue, blinding flashes of lightning accompanied thunder claps which were like the roar of artillery, while so torrential was the rainfall that the affected districts ware almost instantly flooded. Street traffic came to a standstill and many homes were flooded. At Lewisham a church was damaged. Hundreds of homes struck and in several fires followed. Much damage was also done by hailstones of extraordinary size, some of which were as large as walnuts.

The names of the victims art: - Killed.

Albert Bettes, thirty-one, 1, Chivalry-road. Wandsworth Common.

Florence Bettes. three and a half, his daughter.

Florence Grist, twenty-three. 3, Lindore-road, Battersea

Percy West, thirty-one, clerk, 3, Lindore-road. Battersea.

George Legge. five, 20 Currie-road, Battersea.

Lizzie Legge, four. same address.

Walter Hilliard, three. Currie-road.


Henry Hilliard, six, 18 Currie-road, burns and shock.

Emily Budd, four, 94, Winstanley-road, Battersea. burns and shock.

Kate Munday twenty-two. Steelworks-road, York-road. Battersea, burns and shock; serious.

Rose Munday, one, slightly injured.

A storm of even greater severity than that which visited London. and attended by far more disastrous consequences. subsequently swept Paris. causing over twenty deaths and serious injuries in as cams.


Young Man Who was Struck Gives Evidence at Inquest.

Deeply touching If 111 the scene at the Battersea Coroner's Court, when succession of bereaved mothers stood in the witness-box to give evidence of identification of the victims of the storm. The first was Mrs. Hilliard, the wife of a Battersea slater, who had lost a little boy of three; then came Mrs. Legg, a coalporter's wife, two of whose children had been M killed; next Mrs Grist, a widow, whose grown-up daughter and her lover, Percy West, had been struck down side by aide; and, lastly, Mrs. Bettes, who had lost both husband and child.

Mr. Ingleby Oddie. who conducted the inquest, did a his best to lighten the Doh of the unhappy mothers, putting the fewest possible questions to them, and at once freeing them from any obligation to remain in court; but they were so overcome with emotion that it was with great difficulty that they gave their evidence..

A chauffeur named Thomas Henry Green. of Northcote-road, who was standing under a tree within twenty yards of where the three children Legge and Hilliard were killed, said the lash also ',truck him. "It cam* against roe and knocked ine against the tree. For three minutes afterwards I could not see anything; it seemed as if someone had discharged a revolver behind me. I just had time to see a dash above the ground and that was all. When I recovered there seemed to he n red vapour in (runt of me. My feet felt as if they were being pricked. and I felt as if I was being lifted tip and hanged against the tree. In my was a pricking and another noise like a drum being beaten."

The Coroner: Were you wearing rubber soles?

"I had rubber heels on my shoes."

The Coroner: I daresav that saved you.

The witness said he did not see the children actually struck, hut he noticed that they stopped singing when the flash came.

P.C. Herbert Lawrence, also sheltering under an adjoining tree, said the lash threw him against the tree trunk. His sensations were similar to these of the last witness.

P.C. Angerstein, who was sheltering against a wall near the tree under which the children were, said when be got to the children he found two of them dreamed exactly his own and of the same age. thought at first they were his. "That upset me,' said. "but when I recovered I carried them to the hospital." The dash of lightning shook him and almost stunned him, bat it had no effect upon the metal spikes of his helmet.

Dr. James Howell. of Earlsfield-road. said that Mrs. Munday's child, which was in a perambulator with rubber tyre, was unhurt, while Mrs. Monday had a eerinus shock and Rai still in hospital.

The Coroner said it was significant that Mrs. Munday was standing some distance from the tree. Bettes was carrying a metal-handled umbrella, a rote dangerous thing to do in storm. It was far better to get drenched to the skin than shelter under trees during ii thunderstorm.

Under the direction of the Coroner. the, returned a verdict of "Accidental death ' is each case.