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The mystery of Goldsmiths ‘College Beggar’

postcardofgoldsmithswithbeggartoleftofentrance

Entrance to Goldsmiths College – a picture taken between 1910 and 1912. Three small boys are standing left, right and centre. To the left of the entry route into the college you can see the figure of a man sitting on a box and the outline of his broom leaning against the wall.

In the early part of Goldsmiths history a character known as ‘The College Beggar’ occupied a makeshift box to the left of the college’s entrance.

Fully equipped with a broom stick he kept the pavement and drive-way of the college clear of rubbish for many years.

He has no name. In the portrait he looks distracted. It is possible his right arm is missing as it does not appear to be present in his apparently empty jacket and coat sleeve.

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The ‘College Beggar’ outside the entrance of Goldsmiths College 1910-12.

He wears a big, shabby coat and bowler hat. He has a white, long, unkempt, and drooping moustache.

His boots or shoes are worn. His right eye is bright and focused on the camera, but his left eye is closed.

Perhaps he is a wounded and vagrant veteran from some Victorian colonial war.

Had he been a cadet in the Royal Naval School that inaugurated the building from 1844 and was grievously disabled in battle, losing an arm and an eye?

Ex-servicemen have always made up the ranks of the homeless in history.

Who was this elderly gentleman of the road who decided to make this position on Lewisham Way his home?

His presence and character had been so strong that somebody who worked in the college, and was ready to put together a photographic album of its staff, key interiors and locations, decided that he should be included.

That album was acquired by a former Director of Marketing, Recruitment and Communications,┬áVicky Annand, and donated to the College’s Special Collections and Archives.

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