Sunday, 29 March 2009

Postman's Park (42): PC Percy Edwin Cook

We're nearly at the end of this series, as we look at the one remaining plaque in the Watts Memorial - aptly, the last to be added. However, still to come are the Park's missing memorial; a look back at what we might have learned from these stories; and suggestions for further reading. As an aside, the Park itself is now beginning to look really spring-like, so it's a lovely time to visit!


However, it was in autumn that two workmen entered an inspection chamber in Addison Avenue, Kensington. Once inside, they were overcome by poison gas. As other cases have demonstrated, such gases are no respecters of rescuers: when PC Percy Edwin Cook descended in an attempt to rescue the men, he too was overcome.

Addison Avenue offered a genteel location in stark contrast to the tragic drama enacted there. Leading off Holland Park Avenue, it is the road to the west of Norland Square. Both were part of the Norland Estate, built from 1839 as a speculative venture by solicitor Charles Richardson. The latter man raised loans and began building, as well as selling building leases to others including fellow lawyer Charles Stewart, a wealthy barrister and MP. The major difficulty these speculators faced was attracting people to live so far out of London. Although they did succeed in the end, Richardson himself had gone heavily into debt and went bankrupt. He reappeared in Glasgow in 1855 as a seller of patent medicines (bankrupts are not allowed to practice as solicitors). However, he soon bounced back and in 1857 he was back in London with his old law partner. By 1927, though, this slightly dubious early history of the estate had been forgotten, while improvements in public transport meant that Addison Avenue was very much part of London.

P.C. PERCY EDWIN COOK, METROPOLITAN POLICE, VOLUNTARILY DESCENDED HIGH TENSION CHAMBER AT KENSINGTON TO RESCUE TWO WORKMEN OVERCOME BY POISONOUS GAS 7 OCT 1927.

For all Postman's Park posts, click here.

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