Congratulations Arthur Stroud!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yesterday I ventured into a brilliant independent bookshop in Wimbledon called Copperfield's Second Hand Bookshop. I won't bore you with all the details as I was in there for ages and looked slightly suspicious as I cruised around the shelves gawping at the vast range of books stacked so neatly in such an efficient way. The important thing is that I found a very small and very modest looking book called Soldier Fritz and the Enemies He Fought. The cover is a gorgeous green with gold embossing and it was one of those times when a small book booms out at you and you just can't ignore it.

As some of you may already know I have a soft spot for old children's books and an even softer spot for books with inscriptions. This little book ticked both boxes as its pages were not only full of lively stories of victory and triumph but it also had this inscription...

'Presented to Arthur Stroud as a reward for constant attendance during the year 1880 - Holy Trinity Sunday School, Richmond'.

And that was me hooked.

Soldier Fritz and his enemies are now on my bookshelf, but not being content with knowing I had a piece of history on my shelves, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who Arthur Stroud was and how old he was when he was awarded this prize? Of course I will never know if he was chuffed to receive it or if his mother dragged him to the church every Sunday but thanks to the National Archives I have been able to dig a little bit deeper and I now have a sketchy outline of who this young boy was.

Arthur Stroud lived with his Mum and Dad, George and Martina, and had two brothers, George (older) and Albert (younger). He was born around 1867, making him 13 when he was given Soldier Fritz. Now isn't that something? To think that his grandparents would have been born around the early 1800's makes history seem shorter, as though we are not as far from the late 1700's as I once thought. Quite a productive trip into town.

So I would like to say congratulations Arthur! Whether or not you were dragged to church, you looked after your books and I hope you enjoyed the story. 131 years later and I'm wondering what happened to that thirteen year old boy who grew up in Richmond?

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