This is a detail from the painting of Tanners Bridge, which hangs in Molesey Library. The caption of the painting reads ‘Bridge over the Mole 1905 by Arnold Helcke’. Tanners Bridge is the bridge across the Mole at the end of Spencer Road. There is a path between the houses to Tanners Bridge, leading to the new Ember Cut and a second bridge over the Ember, which brings one to Cow Common and the site of the Ember Mill at the end of Orchard Lane. This way was the original road from Molesey to Esher before Esher Road was built in the 1760s, so it is quite important historically.
It was donated to the Library by Miss Veronica Tudor Williams who lived in Matham Manor for several years until the mid-1960s. Miss Tudor Williams took a prominent role in the 1965 protest against proposed development plans for high density housing, involving the Wolsey and Palace Road area and threatening Matham Manor. The concerted action by residents became the basis of the formation of the Molesey Residents Association.
Miss Tudor Williams was also renowned as a breeder of African Basenji dogs. These dogs do not bark, but ‘yodel’, and are considered to be highly intelligent. They were the pampered pets of Egyptian nobility, and the goddess Anubis had a Basenji head. In 1947, King Farouk bought four puppies from Miss Tudor Williams, and they travelled to Egypt by air in a style befitting their heritage, each with its own seat on the plane. She also provided the Basenji, named My Lady of the Congo, to star in the 1956 film based on the book Goodbye My Lady by James H Street, together with four additional dogs to serve as “doubles” for My Lady.
At the end of the film, My Lady was adopted by the 13-year-old star, Brandon de Wilde, and the other four dogs were kept by members of the film crew. Miss Tudor Williams played a key role in the history of Basenjis in England and America and she wrote a book called Basenjis: The Barkless Dogs of Central Africa, which is now out of print, but still highly prized by Basenji lovers.
In 1959, Miss Tudor Williams travelled to the Southern Sudan and brought back Fula of the Congo.
Fula is said to be the single most important native Basenji ever imported and is in the pedigree of most Basenjis throughout the world even to this day. Fula was never shown, but just 9 years after her arrival the impact she had on the stability and improvement of the breed was such as to prompt the late Stanley Dangerfield, writing in the Daily Express, to pen the following: “No dog of any breed has ever made a more dramatic contribution to progress.”