Thursday, 28 April 2016

Barbara Ludlow - An obituary


Barbara was a Wellard who were a remarkable local family heavily involved in local politics.  Her parents – and in particular her communist uncle, Charlie – were well known in Greenwich and Woolwich. His son Chris’s record shop was the place to be in the 1960s.  Her parents were both strong Labour Party activists. But Barbara made her own mark as an important Greenwich historian. Brought up in Greenwich she attended Invicta and then the Roan Schools.

Julian Watson writes ‘I started work in the Local History Room at the old Blackheath Library in St John’s Park 1965 and it wasn’t long before I became assistant to June Burkitt in the Local History Room. It was there that I first met Barbara and we got along well immediately. She had already finished her London University diploma course in local history and I remember reading her dissertation, which is preserved in the Greenwich Heritage Centre. 
Barbara at Woodlands helping researchers

The Local History Library was a fairly new initiative, which was far too big for one small room so an attempt was made to create a Local History Library at Charlton House. Sadly this failed because suddenly ‘Woodlands’ in Mycenae Road was on the market and threatened with demolition. Greenwich Council acquired it and the Local History Library was created there rather than at Charlton House. I, with two new members of staff, moved the collections there in 1970 and Barbara, who had been working as an adult education lecturer, was appointed as our Education Officer and Senior Library Assistant – she had worked at the National Central Library. She did all our timesheets and most of the general administration because I was gathering in all the other large and dispersed collections: the Woolwich and Kent Collections from Woolwich Library, council archives from the old Greenwich Town hall and Woolwich Town hall plus collection from Eltham library.

Barbara was an outstanding historian and communicator and always great company. She was married to Roy Ludlow who was a very talented and engaging man. He designed bank note printing machines for De La Rue and had a very busy life particularly when former colonies became independent and needed their own currency.  They had two sons, Christopher and Michael.
Barbara was needlessly anxious about her ability to write but produced many outstanding pieces of work. She wrote many fine articles in the Transactions of the Greenwich and Lewisham Antiquarian Society and the Journal of the Greenwich Historical Society, made a substantial contribution to Sally Jenkinson’s series of publications for the Gordon Teachers’ Centre - effectively a joint author. Barbara co-wrote the Combe Farm volume with Sally in that series.  Barbara’s ‘Greenwich’ book for the History Press, published in 1994 has been reprinted many times and still sells well. She and I produced “The Twentieth Century: Greenwich” and later “Greenwich Then and Now.” She also contributed an important chapter to “Aspects of the Arsenal” which was published in 1997.

Barbara was a fine speaker and was, in retirement, recruited by the late Ivan Howletts, the producer of the Radio 4 ‘Making History’ programmes. They became friends and he used her on several of the programmes. She and I did one programme about the Enderby family of Greenwich. Her work in schools and colleges was much admired - the students were not only fascinated by the content of her talks but they also behaved well. She was a natural teacher and lecturer. A powerful memory for me and a great achievement for Barbara were her talks to the patients at Bexley Mental Hospital. There was constant noise from the audience, which flowed in and out of the room with much shouting, but it was a very great success and the patients all loved her visits.

Barbara was a natural scholar – she said that she had only one ambition and that was historical research. She applied great intellectual rigour to her research and writing, never fully trusting published works but always going to the primary sources. She solved the mystery of the local Domesday Book entries, which had defeated generations of learned professors and antiquarians. After her retirement she was contracted by Greenwich Libraries to research historical documents relating to the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich as part of the European funded Konver project. This she did with great thoroughness, researching at many repositories including The London Metropolitan Archives, The National Archives and the Ministry of Defence. It was a very fine piece of work. On my last visit to the Greenwich Heritage Centre, I noticed that a volunteer was using her work and was thrilled with what she had done.

I have missed and will always miss our regular long telephone conversations about historical matters and shared memories. To finish, I treasure this tribute from June Burkitt, Greenwich’s first Local History Librarian, in reply to my message telling her of Barbara’s death:
“She was an extraordinary person, highly intelligent, compassionate and with a strong sense of human justice and decency. I have never known anyone quite like her. “ ‘

Barbara stands at the far left in the founding group of Greenwich Industrial History.
This picture is from the Mercury in 1998. If anyone from the Mercury objects to its use
let me know and it will be removed
Others are - Peter Kent, Howard Chard, Juliette Cairns, Jack Vaughan, Mary Mills

No comments: