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Fredrick William Winder (1817-1912) - An Old Thames Postman.

Browsing through old newspaper cuttings, seeking interesting stories on Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, I struck gold with this interesting article on the life of Frederick William Winder, an old Thames Postman. 

Postman’s Adventurous life. 

The Funeral took place at Lewisham Cemetery on Saturday of Mr. Frederick William Winder, who has terminated a remarkable career at the age of 95 years. He was an old Thames Postman, and handled the Crimean mails. In the terrible winter of 1855, which stands out as one of most awful memories of the Crimean campaign, he carried the bags of letters over the Thames ice to the troopships lying opposite the old Deptford Victualling yard. 

The story of his career is a romantic one. He was the son of an army surgeon who went through the battle of Waterloo, serving in the 36th Regiment, who as the results of the terrible sights he witnessed, lost his reason. Only a short time before his death. Mr Winder chatted upon his remarkable experience with a representative of the Press. “I was named Frederick after Blucher,” he said. “I was been at Harwich, and when I was quite a kid I ran away to sea. I was always fond of the sea, when I was still a youngster I remember being frozen up for four months off Newfoundland. I went to Australia, and used to see the chained gangs of transported convicts hard at work on the land. It was in 1840 – the year the penny post came in that I first become a Thames Postman. My predecessor was on the river for 42 years. For about 30 years I used to deliver the letters to the ships lying between Limehouse and East Greenwich. They were all timber built ships in those days, and it was a wonderful sight to see them all on the water. I have counted as many as 300 “sail of ships” between Deptford Creek and Deadmans Dock. When the Crimean War was on, the Thames used to look like a forest with all the transport vessels and there big masts lying of the Deptford Victualling Yard” 

Clipping from the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 9th April 1912

The family grave of Frank William Winders Lies to the side of the Columbarium in Brockley Cemetery, Frank passed away on the 31st March 1912, his address at the time of his death, 106 Albacore Crescent, also interred with him, his first wife Hannah, and their infant sons and daughters, Hannah, Elizabeth, Samuel and Joseph. Sadly I can find very little of his parents. 

 Put together by FoBLC member Phill Barnes Warden

Greek-American Tycoon's grave found in Ladywell cemetery!

Located close to the Cross of Sacrifice in Ladywell cemetery is the final resting place of a truly remarkable man who 'spoke twenty languages'. Indeed Nicholas John Coundouris who died in 1929 whilst residing in Forest hill is perhaps the only Greek-American buried in the cemetery? His gnarled cruciform headstone is presently entwined in summer undergrowth. Sadly, to date I have not been able to locate any extant photographs of Nicholas and have had to rely mainly on contemporary newspaper clippings to piece together his life story.

Headstone of Nicholas John Coundouris in Ladywell cemetery,
( Source ; Find a Grave)

Born on the Greek Ionian Island of Cephalonia c.1835, at the time part of a British protectorate, his enterprising outlook and sharp witted business sense resulted in him becoming one of a small group of Near Eastern merchants who 'taught Englishmen and Americans the pleasure of smoking cigarettes'. At the invitation of the Duke of Cambridge he sent bales of Turkish tobacco into this country in the 1850's befriending the future King Edward V11 and his then mistress, Lady Mordaunt (offering her a special brand of customised cigarette!)  A proprietor of over twenty shops of the Ottoman Tobacco Company, his fortunes dipped after becoming an American citizen and his expanding business empire fell foul of US customs for putative fraudulent declarations and as a consequence he found himself imprisoned for a brief period in 1894 in New York's Ludlow Street Jail.


His earnings from his tobacco business were estimated at one time to measure in the tens of thousands of pounds and he owned properties in Smyrna and Constantinople as well as 200,000 acres of land in the Near East. The outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War in 1919 betokened a dramatic collapse in his business interests in the area, culminating in the burning down of his bonded warehouses (ostensibly by Greek forces ) in Smyrna in 1920* The great conflagration which ended the War in 1922 was the destruction and massacre of many parts of the city of Smyrna, mainly impacting on Greek and Armenian areas by Turkish forces.

Dramatic depiction of the burning of Smyrna -September 1922

A dark day in Greek history with the burning in Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey) costing over 200,000 lives and sending hundreds of thousands of Greeks to a homeland they had never known. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos of Smyrna (insert) was brutally hacked to death by a frenzied mob.(Source: A History of Greece.Com)

In 1923, Nicholas found himself in the Bankruptcy court in Greenwich, 'white-bearded and grave with the dignity of his eighty-seven years'. Such a fall from grace, valued as worth two million pounds in 1914 his saleable assets were recorded  as showing  a surplus of under a thousand pounds in 1923! Although Nicholas' international fame ensured an article on his life in the second edition of Time Magazine in the same year, in which he bemoaned the fact that 'I taught the English how to smoke cigarettes, made a fortune in tobacco, and now at 88 am declared bankrupt.'  

Nicholas spent his final days living in a small rented property in Forest Hill, where he died at a venerable age of c92 years. He was interred in Ladywell cemetery on the 13th February 1929. His posthumous fame was however recounted in a picaresque novel written by Constantine Rodocanachi,  called ‘No Innocent Abroad’ and originally published in the USA as ‘Forever Ulysses’ (Viking Press, NY, 1938),it was translated into English by the travel writer, Greek scholar and Cretan WW2 hero Patrick Leigh Fermor. It was his maternal grandson , Robert Hamilton Boyle who claimed that Nicholas was one of the models for the character of ‘Ulysses’.

 Nicholas grandson, was a prominent American writer and environmental campaigner, called Robert Hamilton Boyle d. 2017 -this posts offers the reader a link to his achievements -

* By a curious cemetery coincidence , a few yards from Nicholas headstone , the name of another Greek born naturalised British citizen is visible on a faded headstone - although buried elsewhere. Themistocles Ados Parvanoglu ( 1832-1869 ) He was born in Smyrna ( now called Izmir, it lies on Turkey's Aegean coast)

FOBLC Open Day Sunday 10th July 2022 11am-4:30pm including Guided Tours



11:30  -  Military heroes from 1802 to 1918 led by Peter Mealing;

12:30  -  Nature walk: the flora and fauna of both cemeteries led by Tom Moulton & Peter Robinson;

13:30  -  Poets, Painters & Pirates led by Mike Guilfoyle;

14:30  -  General tour of Brockley cemetery led by Jeff Hart;

15:30  -  Women of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries led by Julie Robinson. (NB: This tour is not suitable for children and contains references to murder and suicide)

Burt Lancaster, Zulu Dawn and Colonel Durnford link uncovered in grave find in Brockley cemetery

Burt Lancaster as Colonel Durnford. In the film Zulu Dawn he used an authentic break frame Webley revolver. He had to do all this acting and action with a crippled left arm and he devised a way he could handle and reload this type of weapon.. He proved a fit and skilful rider and comes over well as the doomed Colonel.

Source : Zulu Dawn , behind the scenes ( 2021)

Link to the original film trailer.

Anthony William Durnford was born in County Leitrim, Ireland in 1830 but spent his formative years in Germany. In 1848 after cadet training at Woolwich he entered the Corps of Royal Military Artificers (in 1856 they became the Corps of Royal Engineers). He served in Ceylon from 1851 to 1856 building the harbour at Trincomalee and later saving it from burning. He was then in Malta, returning to England in 1858. From 1861 to 1864 he was in Gibraltar then spent 6 years in England and Ireland, with the rank of captain, before going to South Africa. During his time in Cape Colony, he was part of the pursuit of Langalibalele ( during the 1873 rebellion) at Bushman's River Pass during which he was wounded by an assegai spear. The wounds healed but a nerve had been severed and he permanently lost the use of his left hand. In a report on him, a superior officer wrote that he had 'a commanding presence, untiring energy and undoubted powers of leadership'.

Colonel Anthony William Durnford, Royal Engineers, killed in action during a last stand at Isandlwana, in Zululand, South Africa, on 22nd January, 1879. Source -Durnford blog

 Lord Chelmsford regarded him as headstrong. When the British and colonial army was sent into Zululand in 1879 for the first invasion it was divided into 5 columns and Brevet Colonel Durnford was placed in command of no.2 Column with the intention of starting from the Middle Drift. This column was made up 6 Troops of Natal Native Horse, 3 battalions of the 1st Natal Native Contingent and a Rocket Battery. In the event Chelmsford combined Columns 2 and 3 to proceed towards Isandlwana.

At the fateful battle of Isandlwana on 22nd Jan 1879, Durnford was technically in command of the camp while Chelmsford took half the force 10 miles forward. But he and his mounted troops were 4 miles to the east of the camp when the Zulus began to attack. Although some of the 24th Regiment were deployed eastwards to help Durnford they had to be pulled into the camp area. Durnford's men were dismounted and firing to hold off the left horn of the Zulu impi (regiment), however, they ran out of ammunition and when Davies and Henderson were sent to get more from the Quarter Master of the 24th, they were refused. Durnford's men had no option but to mount up and ride to the camp. This allowed the encirclement of the camp to continue and contributed to the final tragic outcome. Most of the native troops escaped towards the Natal border, including Durnford's mounted men. Durnford himself was part of a last stand near the nek (pass) at the southern end of Isandlwana mountain, where he was killed.

Incontrovertibly the senior officer present, history has blamed him for the disaster for failing to exercise effective command and control!

Located alongside the outer cemetery pathway aside the busy Brockley road lies a truckle shaped headstone , which until recently this astute local cemetery historian had overlooked! Partly as it was often covered in vegetation and is conveniently situated close to the graves of other more ' notable ' residents of the cemetery who have featured in past guided walks.

The headstone is that of a Arthur Hamilton Durnford d.1915 . Closer genealogical scrutiny discloses that Arthur who was born in Waltham Abbey ( Essex) in 1856 hailed from a truly remarkable family background that had around 13 generations in the military, mostly the Royal Engineers, holding prominent positions throughout the world, some were governors, some built forts in Bermuda, Quebec City and the further reaches of the British Empire and one particular family member's heroic death was cinematically celebrated in the 1979 film ' Zulu Dawn' portrayed by none other than the famous Hollywood actor , Burt Lancaster!  Anthony William Durnford of Zulu fame was his 3rd cousin.

Arthur's occupationally hazardous employment was no less than that of a manager, at different times ,of several gunpowder mills , one in particular factory known as the Kames, being located on the scenic Kyles of Bute( Firth of Clyde, Scotland) which is the subject of a fascinating article for those keen to know more about the gunpowder industry :

Arthur later worked in Hounslow ( 1902) and was cited as a witness in various patent disputes , centred on improvements in the manufacture of gunpowder. He married an Emily Thomson in Lewisham in 1886. Arthur died at the relatively early age of 58 in London and was interred in Brockley cemetery on the 19 th February 1915. Emily who died in 1943 is also interred here. The couple appear not to have had children.

Headstone of Arthur Hamilton Durnford d. 1915 in Brockley cemetery ( Image : courtesy of Find a Grave)

The historical reach of the Durnford's is simply too vast to reasonably encompass in a brief post - but another of Arthur's ancestral links merits a worthy mention 

Elias Durnford and Rebecca Walker ( wife) undated. Source : Encyclopedia of Alabama.

Born in Ringwood, England in 1739, Elias Durnford joined the Royal Engineers in 1759 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1762. During the Seven Years’ War, he was part of the expedition to Havana intended to cripple the Spanish West Indian colonies. The force landed at Havana and attacked its main fort,  Afterwards, in London, he produced a series of six engravings with views of the city of Havana, which - together with the series of 12 engravings of the siege operations by - form the some of the earliest in situ representations of the island of Cuba.

In 1764, Durnford earned a commission to design new plans for British West Florida and was made Lieutenant-Governor of the area. He laid out the city of Pensacola in the Seville Square district and created a new town design based upon a classic pattern. There were separate squares built for government, public affairs, and military drills. Streets were set at right angles and named for the royal family and principal personages in government. He developed a thoroughfare along a long row of family gardens which was logically called Garden Street. The name still applies. Elias Durnford died from yellow fever at Tobago on June 21, 1794. *

* Andrew  Durnford (1800– 1859), free man of colour, planter, and physician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Thomas Durnford, an English immigrant and merchant, and Rosaline Mercier, a free woman of colour. Thomas Durnford was a cousin of Colonel Elias Durnford

Readers who wish to know more about this remarkable family should follow this link - a website which offers an extensive research on the Durnford family - courtesy of Cynde Durnford ( personal communication)

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING with talk by Tessa Boase: Saturday 18th June at 2.30pm

The FoBLC will hold its Annual General Meeting on Saturday 18th June* at 2.30pm in the Ladywell Cemetery Chapel.  Both members and Non-members are welcome.

Following the business, there will be a break for refreshments, then Tessa Boase, social historian, investigative journalist and author of Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds will speak about her book and its subject. Margaretta Lemon is the magnificent woman who built the RSPB, growing it from an all-female Victorian tea party to Britain’s largest conservation charity.

She relentlessly called out the cruel fashion for feathers in hats. She fought a running battle with the plumage trade, triumphing with the Plumage Act of 1921. But her legacy has been eclipsed by the more glamorous campaign for the vote, led by the ultra-elegant Emmeline Pankhurst.

This will be an interesting talk by a well-regarded speaker so please do come along.  There will be the opportunity to buy her book as well. Here is a video where Tessa Boase gives a brief introduction to the founding of the RSPB

Etta Lemon The Woman Who Saved The Birds by Tessa Boase

* apologies this was previously listed as 24th July