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Fowl Play – The Story of the Millwall Poultry Club 1939


Checking the hen

Once again many thanks to Eric Pemberton who sent me this article that was published by the  Picture Post in 1939.

In this fascinating article, it is important to remember that in the time before  Television was widely available, people pursued numerous hobbies and interests. In the 1930s keeping Pigeons were very popular, however in Millwall it was obviously bigger birds that took their interest.


A team of Pullets and trophies.

left to right Mr Budd, Borough councillor,Mr W White steeplejack, Mr S Hayward railway shunter,

Mr Dave Love Jnr plater,Mr C Sieloff labourer,Mr Dave Hedley lorry driver.

School for Hens in the Isle of Dogs

Every Monday at Millwall,in the Isle of Dogs, forty men meet together for the evening.

What brings them together in their interest in fowls –the way which poultry should be bred, housed and looked after.

Towards eight o’clock every Monday evening in Millwall, a crowd of men can be seen making their way in twos and threes towards the L.C.C. Mens’s Evening Institute, in Glengall  Grove. Under the arms of some there are small crates. Each of these crates contains a fowl; a sick fowl in this one, a particularly healthy and beautiful fowl in that. These men are all members of the Millwall Poultry Club. By profession they are dockworkers, lorry drivers, steeplejacks, metalworkers or casual labourers.

On arrival at the Evening Institute they park their crates in the “classroom” and wait for the instructor to arrive. Some hold conversation with their fowls; others discuss the day’s news with their fellow members. As soon as the instructor appears, a piece of newspaper is spread over the desk in front of him, a sick bird belonging to one of the members is brought from the crate, and is stood up on the desk.

The members then take it in turn to make their diagnosis. First , the new students express their opinion, then come the veterans, They examine the state of the bird’s eyes, they analyse its droppings. Their diagnosis may be that its condition is due to bad feeding or bad housing. Alternatively they may trace symptoms of some organic disease. When the members have had their say, the instructor sums up.


Mr George Hedley washing with soap

One of the most popular lecturers at these classes is Mr W. Powell-Owen, the president of the Club, who is an internationally known judge of poultry. Sometimes it is his duty to preside at an inquest on a fowl that has died. In that case the dead bird is opened up in the presence of the class of the class, who take it in turns to try and discover the inflammation or growth or other cause of death.

This hobby of poultry breeding helps the members to increase their income and to make ends meet , apart from providing them with specialised interest and plenty of amusement. They keep their poultry in their backyards. They bring up their fowls to the Evening Institute to find out about their good and bad points. And how to feed, house and manage them.

All members are taught to keep fowls which will lay eggs and yet be beautiful to look at. “Beauty with Usefulness” is the club’s motto. The sale of the eggs enables many a member to take its family for a holiday.

The  members are encouraged to exhibit their fowls at shows and to keep only the best grades. They send the birds all over England and even to the continent. Before the show, every bird with white plumage has to be washed and shampooed, every black coloured fowl has to be sponged and have its legs manicured.


Mr C  Sieloff in his backyard

During the day, when their husbands are at work, the wives have to look after the poultry, and the instructor often makes the round to see whether all the chicks and hens are getting on all right.

The club has been running for eleven years, and members pay as little as 5s. 6d per annum. There are some forty members  – very much happier for having so useful a hobby.

Each year the members have a country outing , in company with their wives. But even on this occasion the club members show themselves to be serious minded on the subject of fowls. The morning of this day is invariably spent in looking over some well known modern poultry farm. The rest of the day is given over to the usual activities of an annual outing.


The instructor Mr W Powell – Owen

Although the” backyarders” of Millwall compete keenly with each other to rear the best birds, they are always willing to give each other help and advice between club nights , if a fellow members fowls happen  to be ailing.


Dave Love Snr ,Manicurist

One of the older members , Dave Hedley, has won so many prizes with his birds, that he decided to try rearing another breed, in which he had no experience , just to encourage the others.

Dave Hedley says that his fowls play a valuable part in balancing of the household budget . With the cash which he gets from the sale of his eggs, he can buy silk stockings for his wife and his wife can buy all the household food. And even then there is something left over.

The Millwall Poultry Breeders have remarkable successes at poultry shows. They sent a strong team of pullets to this year’s  International  Show at Antwerp. Each of their pullets won a prize, though unhappily , one of them , which many of the members believed to be the finest bird of the team, fell ill on the journey and died.

The Trudgen Stroke – The Sporting Legacy of John Trudgen


The Trudgen Stroke Part 1

Some of the great moments of last years Olympics were in the Aquatic Centre but how many people realize that one of the founding fathers of modern competitive swimming was born in Poplar.


The Trudgen Stroke Part 2

John Arthur Trudgen was born in Poplar in 1852, at the age of 11 he went with his parents to Buenos Aires in Argentina. John’s father was sent to Argentina by his employer Blyth and Co Engineers who were based on the Isle of Dogs.

Whilst he was in Argentina he would swim with the local children who used  a overarm swimming action rather than the more usual breaststroke.

When John returned to England in 1868, he developed the stroke he saw in Argentina to use in competitive swimming.

It is important to remember at this time Britain was the home of competitive swimming with many swimming clubs being formed and national championships being created.

In 1873 John Trudgen swam in a championship in Lambeth Baths and caused a sensation , a sports journalist R Watson writing in a sports paper the Swimming Record describes what happened.

 A surprising swimmer carried off the handicap we allude to Trudgen ; this individual swam with both arms entirely out of the water, an action peculiar to Indians. His time was very fast, particularly for one who appears to know but little of swimming, and should he become more finished in style, we shall expect to see him take a position almost second to none as a swimmer.

I question, indeed, if the swimming world ever saw a more peculiar stroke sustained throughout a 160 yards race. I have seen many fast exponents retain the action for some distance, but the great exertion compels them to desist, very much fatigued. In Trudgen, however, a totally opposite state of things existed ; for here we had a man swimming apparently easy, turning very badly, and when finished, appearing as though he could have gone at least another 80 yards at the same pace. His action reminds an observer of a style peculiar to the Indians ,both arms are thrown partly sideways, but very slovenly, and the head kept completely above water.

What Trudgen had done was to develop a version of the front crawl which gave him incredible speed over sprint distances and he soon dominated sprint races in many championships. John’s version of the crawl became quickly known as the “Trudgen” and quickly dominated the early years of competitive racing.

In 1875 Trudgen swimming for the Alliance Swimming club used his new stroke to win an English championship race at Edgbaston reservoir in 1875.

Many swimmers copied Trudgen but developed the stroke to get greater speed. The Trudgen stroke was also used in the sport of Water Polo.

Although the Trudgen was a major advance for competitive swimming , his achievements were overshadowed by the exploits of Captain Webb in 1875.

Captain Webb’s swim across the English channel was national and international headline news and his exploits dominated the swimming world rather than the competitive swimming scene.

In the years up to the first Olympic games the Trudgen stroke was being developed and dominated competitive swimming over the sprints and middle distances.

Trudgen himself faded from the racing scene and found work as a fitter and machinist in the Isle of Dogs and Woolwich Arsenal. It was in Woolwich that John Trudgen died a relatively forgotten man in 1902.

If the man himself was forgotten, his name was being used extensively in the Swimming World where his stroke was being constantly refined and dominating the early Olympic games.

Even when the stroke becomes overtaken by front crawl style,  in freestyle  the name of Trudgen is still used up to the present day.

John Trudgen’s role in the development of modern competitive swimming was recognised when he was chosen to be inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame  in 1974.

The citation records why:

John Trudgen

FOR THE RECORD: Introduced the “trudgen” stroke he picked up from South American Indians to England in 1875; the stroke was considered a breakthrough in modern swimming.

A few days apart, in the same month and year (August, 1875), Capt. Matthew Webb swam the English Channel (21 miles in 21 hours and 45 minutes) going all the way breaststroke, and John Trudgen of the Alliance Swimming Club of London won the English 100 yards Championships at the Edghaston Reservoir in 1 minute and 16 seconds. Trudgen swam with his own version of a stroke he picked up from the South American Indians. Ninety years later Roy Saari of the University of Southern California won more NCAA Championships than any swimmer in U.S. College history using a stroke called the Trudgen. While Trudgen won his English Championship at 100 yds., his stroke was considered too strenuous for distance. Twenty-five years later, the advent of the crawl stroke also considered too strenuous for distance, relegated the Trudgen to a middle distance and distance stroke. With sprinters using some version of Alick Wickham’s “crawl” everybody from 200 yds. and up used the Trudgen at least until Norman Ross, a triple Trudgen winner at the 1920 Olympics. After 1920 most winners used the crawl, but almost anything else that passes for freestyle is still called “The Trudgen” ( a sidestroke leg thrash that accommodates a turn onto the side with a breathing pause in the arm stroke).