By way of Compass Hill and Nightingale Lane

Pictured: Alcott House, Ham Common, Surrey, the home of a utopian spiritual community and progressive school which lasted from 1838 to 1848.

We were glad we had booked online for the matinee of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women at Curzon Richmondit was sold out today. Afterwards, we caught a 65 bus passing nearby in the direction of Petersham, via the points named in this post’s title. After Petersham it heads for Ham Common, and here there is a historical link with Louisa May Alcott, author of the original novel of 1868.

She set Little Women in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts (the landscape beautifully presented in the film). Her story is loosely based on Alcott’s childhood experiences with her three sisters, Abigail May Alcott Nieriker, Elizabeth Sewall Alcott, and Anna Alcott Pratt.

Alcott House school on Ham Common was named after Branson Alcott, father of the four sisters, and played engagingly in the film by Bob Odenkirk. He was the founder of Fruitlands, a short lived cooperative vegetarian community near Harvard, Massachusetts. The idealistic Mr Alcott, on a visit to England had proselytised somewhat tediously about adhering to a diet of vegetables, and was unkindly nicknamed Potato Quixote.

Louisa May Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist and remained unmarried throughout her life. She died from a stroke, two days after her father died, in Boston on March 6, 1888.

In 1856 the foundation stone was laid of a new building on the site of Alcott House, Ham: South Lodge, which exists to this day. The new building has been converted to flats and the grounds have been developed as Bishops Close.

Constance Brisley, mother of the children’s author Joyce Lankester Brisley, died on 7th July, 1947. Her last address was 2a, South Lodge, Ham Common, Richmond on Thames.

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