Many thanks to David Platt and Michael Martin, FOBLC's resident historians, for the following piece about St Cyprian's Church.
The Church of St. Hilda is more correctly known as The Church of St. Hilda with St. Cyprian. St Cyprian’s was located to the north of Brockley and Ladywell cemetery, in Adelaide Avenue, being designed by the renowned Victorian architect A. W. Blomfield and completed in 1901. Bloomfield was appointed architect to the Bank of England, and designed the law courts branch in Fleet Street; he also designed the Royal College of music in South Kensington and the frontage of Victoria Station.
St Cyprian’s was bombed on 6th September 1940 during the Second World War, trapping the Vicar, Father Thorley Hurst and his verger, Mr Cooper, in the basement. The church was beyond repair and when the parish was declared redundant in 1959 it was divided between St. Hilda's, St. Peter's and St. Mary's, St. Hilda's being allocated the largest part, together with the title and the hall in Braxfield Road. The demolition of the ruins was authorised in 1960 and the site sold 1963 to London County Council. Part of the Prendergast School is now on the site, and the only trace of the church is now St Cyprian’s Passage, running from Adelaide Avenue to Ivy Road.
There are at least two connections between the old St Cyprian’s and the Great War. The first is A W Blomfield’s nephew, Sir Reginald Blomfield, apprenticed under him, and went on to design numerous buildings, public works (Lambeth Bridge), and sculptures, including the Cross of Sacrifice for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. These are located in any cemetery, including Blockley and Ladywell that contains the graves of British or Commonwealth service men that died on active service.
The second connection is that like many churches there was a private commemoration to the dead of the Great War within the church. In St Cyprians this took the form of a memorial chapel dedicated to the memory of Lieut. Edward Southon . It contained the following inscription:
“In Loving Memory of Sec.-Lieut Edward Southon M.C who was killed in action near Cambrai on October 2nd 1917 as well as many others who gave their lives for their countries and whose names are here recorded”.
The names of the 86 local men who also lost their lives were recorded on an oak frame placed on the wall opposite the entrance to the chapel.
John Edward Southon was born in Brockley, Kent, in 1898 and lived at 44 Adelaide Road (now Avenue). He was educated at the City Of London School and was a member of the officer training corps, enlisting in August 1915 aged 16. In July 1916 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 17th Battalion of the London Regiment (Poplar and Stepney Rifles).
John joined his regiment in France in March 1917, having turned 18. As a Lieutenant he would have lead a platoon of 40-50 men. They were involved in the Battle of Passchendaele then moved to Cambrai. John won the Military Cross for leading a trench raid; he then took part on the attack on Bourlon Wood near Cambrai where he was killed, still aged only 18, leading his men. His divisional commander wrote to his parents saying “His behaviour throughout the action was characteristically cool and courageous”. The regimental Chaplin also wrote: “I was on terms of personal friendship with him, and well remember the care he took of his men when preparing for the raid when he won his decoration. He certainly thought more of others then himself.” He has no known grave.
The Marquis de Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
Lewisham War Memorials (http:// lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot.com/)
The Long Long Trail (http://www.1914-1918.net/ )
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/ )
The National Archive (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ )
St. Hilda’s (http://www.croftonpark.com/sainthildas/archive/stcyprians.htm)