Wendy Mead

It’s always depressing when someone asks ‘what do you know about such and such,’ you google it and all you can find is your own bloomin’ blog.

At least when I did exactly that a couple of days ago, the references were in the comments section and the person who asked me about it was someone who could actually furnish me with some answers.

As I’ve often said, it’s easier to find ancient history about Greenwich than it is to find stuff from the 20th Century, so it’s always something special when I ‘meet’ someone who was a mover and shaker in the community at a time when – well, to be honest, I was just too darn young and arrogant to care about history.

I’ve been talking to the fascinating Hilary Peters, whose extraordinary memories of Greenwich quaysides, the docks, the gangsters, the petty criminals, the local characters – and her own remarkable contribution (teh next part of which  I will come to, I promise – you’ll all know it…)  in the 1960s and 70s are not the only thing worth discussing.

Today’s post is a ‘partial’, though, because this is a recent local character – and I think there is much more to be said about a woman for whom, when I googled her, the only comments that came up always had the word ‘wonderful’ in front of her name. I’m hoping that you folks will chip in with memories (I’d LOVE a photo…) to go with what Hilary’s told me about Wendy Mead. Hilary says “there won’t be anyone of our generation who doesn’t remember her,” so I have high hopes.

Wendy kept a shop at the bottom of Royal Hill, in a Georgian Row. If you’re looking for it now, forget it. The council compulsorily-purchased it and pulled it down, which makes me think it must have been where the Burney Street Garden is now and, of course, where Doug Mullins had his dairy. From what I’m hearing, Doug’s not the only chap who should have a plaque.

For Wendy’s wasn’t just a grocery store, though “her smoked streaky was unsurpassed in South East London” and her cheddar the ‘best in the capital’, which is quite a claim.  It was something more. There was a front room where the usual buying and selling went on – and a back room where “there was always someone in tears.”

Hilary tells me that Wendy Mead made social workers unnecessary; an insomniac who sliced bacon all day and did crosswords all night,” and in between the two managed to counsel anyone who needed it and tell stories to those who just needed to be entertained.
I wish someone had written down her stories – of her childhood in Deptford, of the war, when she worked for the muniments in Woolwich, of Greenwich in the Blitz. Perhaps someone did and they’re in the Heritage Centre – or they just have them in a box somewhere. Any chance of a peek?
Hilary tells me she was on ‘both sides of the class war,” a woman who lived in Hyde Vale in a house with a cellar under the street complete with a (sadly blocked) tunnel to the park, but who also ran a support group for prisoners’ wives, and believed in education for all at a time when it wasn’t a popular idea.
When the council was trying to get rid of Wendy’s store (I’m assuming it was during the dark days when certain people thought it was a great idea to flatten the town centre and put a motorway through it – and no, I’m not kidding…) a fund was set up to fight her corner. Greenwich was much fuller of artists and bohemians then (they are still around but in far fewer numbers) and Jill Day-Lewis, actress and wife of Cecil set up a petition and wrote to Getty, who their daughter had worked for, for a signature. He sent a fiver, too, which Hilary now tells me she sent back (“I never told Wendy that one,” she says.)
After she lost the shop, Wendy went on to become a school secretary, and that’s all I have. I don’t even know when she passed away.
So, as I say, a partial today. I would welcome chippings-in. But I do have to mention one other thing. Wendy Mead is also a character in a book – Every Deadly Sin by D.M. Greenwood. I have ordered a copy and will get back to you on that one…

the attachments to this post:

burney street garden 2 low
burney street garden 2 low

4 Comments to “Wendy Mead”

  1. Ebspig says:

    Yes, “wonderful” is absolutely the adjective to describe Wendy, and her family.

  2. Harriet says:

    I can only see one registration of a death for a Wendy Jean Mead in 1983 but it is Bedfordshire and from the information in the post I would suggest that it possibly not the correct Wendy as it doesn’t tie in with the DoB.

  3. Celia Moreton-Prichard says:

    Wendy was a moving light in helping kick-start what would have been a fabulous 1982 Maritime Pageant in Greenwich Park -part of the Tourist Board’s Maritime England year. Wendy’s shop had just closed & we manned telephones in an office made available by the council in the then Greenwich Baths. Rehearsals had started, principals were cast – but not enough people/schools volunteered for the crowd scenes, so it fell by the wayside. Wendy was a wonderful colleague, always cheerful and with lots of good advice, specially when I got stuck about costume ideas (that was to have been my main task.)

  4. Annabelle says:

    I just came across this brief article of yours and would like to add some of my own memories and knowledge.
    My Mum met Wendy at a job interviewas very young women, not sure if either got the job but they became lifelong friends thereafter, and when Mum was too old and ill to know she received a bequest from Wendy. She had two daughters Elizabeth and Mary, both still alive living in London and Kendal respectively. Wendy was nursed for her last years by Mary in Kendal where she died in the early 2000s, before that she lived with Mary and her husband at Meulds Meaburn, after leaving her lovely house at 64 Hyde Vale.
    As a child of a widowed mother, my early memories were of visits to Wendy at the shop then home to her house for dinner, she was of enormous help to Mum in so many ways some of which I only learnt of later. To me she was warmth, love, humour and wonderful meals that would be conjured in her tiny kitchen (always with the choice of puddings what joy) and afterwards we would often go home with trinkets she would “find” from somewhere. When I visited her in the Lakes years later with my own daughter she unwittingly showed me how to get my daughter to eat by making the process fun, and gave her the tiny chair that was sitting in her room. I think I recall from early visits that her mother lived above her shop, she had married Alan whom she had met in a field in Frome Somerset so my Mum told us, he was a personal and lifelong friend of Paul Getty through a Gym he had run as a young man. He had the most wonderful voice and was the essence of an English gentleman. Wendy was very well read, and so counted an enourmous range of people as friends. I remember going with her to the “Green Man” public House on Blackheath, I have an etching of the pub to this day, it was also the name of the bus stop for her house. We went to the Music Hall events used to raise money for the Greenwich Theatre and Wendy had a plaque as a contributor on the stairs when the new Theatre opened . She will always be to me
    a symbol of what was good, she was proud of everyone she knew and we were proud and glad to have known her.