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Clock House festival explores Beckenham's rich history

PUBLISHED: 16:06 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:08 03 May 2016

Roy Hanscombe gave a talk about his family's experiences in World War One

Roy Hanscombe gave a talk about his family's experiences in World War One

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The festival includes talks and exhibitions by people linked to the area

A new festival is being held in the Clock House area of Beckenham to explore the rich history of that part of the borough.

The event, which began last Saturday (April 30), will run until Saturday, May 7, featuring exhibitions and talks by people connected to the district.

It has been organised by local resident Cliff Watkins, who wants to raise the profile of the area.

Mr Watkins said: “The Clock House was a Huguenot mansion built in the 18th century, which housed most of the great and the good of Beckenham, until the county needed somewhere to build a new technical institute.

“Britain was being overtaken by Germany and America so the government found some money and ordered local councils to set up technical colleges, and the Clock House Mansion was demolished and Beckenham Institute was opened in 1901.”

A retired steel worker, Mr Watkins has been organising events and concerts in the area since the millennium, with the aim of broadening people’s knowledge of its history.

“We now have a more mobile population with people moving in and out all the time, he said. “The people who I took on a walk this morning were very appreciative and hadn’t realised the significance of Beckenham.”

One particularly interesting story centres upon a family from the Clock House district whose nine sons all went to serve in the First World War - and came back alive.

A grandchild of one of the men, Roy Hanscombe, came down from Wakefield in Yorkshire on Saturday to give a talk about his family’s fascinating story.

Although the soldiers suffered some serious injuries on the battlefields of France, including being shot, gassed and taken prisoner, they all returned.

Mr Watkins said the festival has been a success so far. “We had a full house at the first concert, and on the smaller walks and talks I think it is fair to say people did not realise that Beckenham had so many famous people and was so interesting.”

It is hoped that enough money will be raised to make donations to the Woodlarks Trust, which supports people with all kinds of disabilities, and St Christopher’s Hospice.

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