South Lambeth Road Stories: Your FREE monthly Vauxhall Society guided local history walk

duse mahomed ali

duse mahomed aliWednesday 6 May, 12.30-1.30pm

No booking required, all welcome: meet at Parco Cafe, Vauxhall Park, 12.30pm start

Your guide: Sean Creighton, historian of South London

Once marshland, South Lambeth Road today swirls with the stories of interesting people who contributed much to Vauxhall, London and British culture, history and philanthropy. Join us in Vauxhall Park’s Parco Cafe for this free Vauxhall Society guided walk with author, blogger and historian Sean Creighton, and hear the stories of James I’s Dutch treat; of gardening pioneers the Tradescant family and Elias Ashmole; the Beaufoy family – wine fakers, vinegar distillers, politicians and philanthropists; Arthur Rackham, the children’s’ book illustrator; the ‘Gas workers’ Vicar’ of St Anne and All Saints’ Church; then there’s the South Lambeth Debating Society; Dusé Mohammed Ali (pictured), Edwardian/First World War journalist; the birthplace of the Children’s Society; Claudia Jones, the West Indian-born US exile activist in the growing Caribbean community here in the 1950s and 60s; The Tate South Lambeth Library, gift of a sugar millionaire and now a community powerhouse; and if you’ve got time, what about Albert Square and where the Roller Skating rink was?

This walk is free by courtesy of Vauxhall-based employer CLS Holdings.

Calling all witnesses to South London’s WW2

walcot square after bombing in world war 2
walcot square after bombing in world war 2

Walcot Square 1940. Press & Censorship Bureau Photograph Library. © IWM

Do you or a relative, friend or neighbour with memories of living in the Kennington, Waterloo, Walworth or Newington area during the Second World War?
Particularly of being ‘bombed out’ or living in bomb-damaged streets?

Are there some amateur snaps taken at the time that could be shared?

If so, Jane McArthur, an Edinburgh University researcher working on an oral history project with the Imperial War Museum, asks you to share these contacts, memories and snaps with her.

Jane’s project is linked to newly-discovered photographs, many of them of street life within a mile radius of the IWM in Lambeth and Southwark between 1940 and 1945.

There are, for example, some two dozen official photographs of the death, injury and destruction visited upon East Surrey Grove in Peckham on 17 May 1943. This was the day after the Dambusters Raid, when the RAF hit the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe Dams.

Jane is also looking for snapshots of the area taken during the war to get an idea what the amateur photographer was up to.

If you would like to find out more, or to help, contact Jane McArthur on 01644 440 244 or email her at:

You can also meet Jane and hear some of her recordings on Wednesday 29 April at a Friends of Tate South London event ‘War Witness: Living Memories of the Second World War’.

She’ll be one of a panel of war-generation speakers whose memories are not just of London and life as evacuees, but of life in Nazi Austria and in German-occupied Latvia and Greece.

This event marks the 70th anniversary in May of the end of the Second World War in Europe (August in the Far East).

Further into her project, Jane will discuss her findings at a special Vauxhall Society/FoTSL event.

Jane believes the photographs is working with balance the ‘smilin’ through’ picture of the bombing of London.

I think this IWM is special because it shows the impact of bombing upon the civilian population of London. There are thousands of shots, and as I identify locations, I’m finding many in Lambeth and Southwark, which show people wounded and in confusion and shock, in homes destroyed, searching through the rubble, thrown out in the streets with their possessions.

There are also photographs of corpses and body parts, as well as the standard photographs of London landmarks and posed shots. The images of particular interest are those of people caught unaware by the camera.

walcot square kennington  2014

Walcot Square looking towards Kennington Road, 2014. Jane McArthur

The few published photographs are available at the IWM research blog:

‘War Witness: Living Memories of the Second World War’
Tate South Lambeth Library
Wednesday 29 April 29 2015, 7pm (doors open 6.30pm)
180 South Lambeth Road
London SW8 1QP

Lambeth’s library closures to cause ‘immediate economic damage’

jane edbrooke

jane edbrooke

Cllr Jane Edbrooke: ‘What I need from you now is to help me understand whether we’re going in the right direction [….] on Lambeth’s libraries’ (Cultural Services by 2020)

Lambeth politicians will cause ‘immediate economic damage’ to the borough if they do not rethink their plans to cram the borough archives into Brixton Library in the rush to sell off the canadian rx viagra archives’ current home at the Minet Library in Stockwell.

This is the charge made after an emergency meeting of the Lambeth Local History Forum. LLHF is a grouping of civic and amenity societies (including The Vauxhall Society), Friends groups, museums and archives.

‘At a time when the borough is keen to encourage inward investment, needs to increase job opportunities and get more houses built, to damage [Lambeth Archives] is the height of folly,’ LLHF says.

Lambeth has a statutory duty to keep its archives ‘compliant with current standards’, safe and readily available. Family historians, academics, architects, surveyors and developers are among those who use them. The present Minet premises have long been grossly inadequate for storage, protection and retrieval, let alone adding to.

Lambeth, LLHF charges, issued a consultation on where the archives might go to. Then, six weeks later, Oval Ward councillor Jane Edbrooke, Lambeth’s ‘Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods’, published Cultural Services by 2020. This ‘consultation’ document, says LLHF, ignores the council’s own archives criteria to reveal that Archives will go to the Tate Brixton so the Minet can be sold ‘by 2016’.

The Tate Brixton, LLHF says, has ‘nowhere near’ enough storage space to comply with current practice. Lambeth leaves no time or resources to look for anywhere better.

This, LLHF says, will damage Lambeth Archives’ reputation, and therefore ability to raise funds and generate other income. Cultural Services by 2020 speaks of helping the £7 million purpose-built Black Archives Centre in Brixton to increase ‘commercial sponsorship, traded income and partnerships with local businesses’.

Lambeth’s archives service is overseen by National Archives at Kew. LLHF points out that the Lambeth service’s accreditation and therefore ability to raise funds is now at risk as professional and heritage bodies get wind of the mess Lambeth Council is making.

The Vauxhall Society, together with the Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, has written to councillors in joint support of the LLHF case for a rethink.

Members of Lambeth Local History Forum

The Vauxhall One/Vauxhall Society walk: The Vauxhall Park Saga – Fri 24 April

Vauxhall Park miniature houses photo by Tommy Candler
Vauxhall Park miniature houses - photo by Tommy Candler

The miniature village in Vauxhall Park. Photo © Tommy Candler

Vauxhall Park is an award-winning gem, declared open in 1890 by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and four princesses in attendance, with soldiers the West Surrey Regiment as the guard of honour. The park was created in memory of the social reformer Henry Fawcett, by his widow Millicent and friends for the gardenless poor of industrial Vauxhall. The park later passed into the ownership of Lambeth Borough Council, who smashed up the priceless memorial to Henry Fawcett by George Tinworth, donated to the park by the Lambeth ceramics magnate Sir Henry Doulton. Now Vauxhall Park faces the triple whammy of council maintenance cutbacks, overcrowding by the gardenless rich who will be crammed into skyscrapers that are mushrooming around the park and will blot out the park’s sun. Work starts this month on the demolition of one long-empty neighbouring skyscraper office block, Keybridge House, and its replacement by another and even bigger structure that its developers boast is ‘the UK’s tallest brick residential tower’.

Friday 24 April, 12.30–1.30pm

Polly Freeman of the Friends of Vauxhall Park is your guide, and picks up the story as the volunteers of today lovingly tend the visit web site gift of Millicent Fawcett and friends.

Free, but places limited so please book (and check on where to meet) by emailing

Vauxhall One funds this walk, The Vauxhall Society arranges it.

There’s a full account of the Vauxhall Park story in Vauxhall: A Little History, a souvenir you can buy in the park at Parco Café.

The Book Warehouse, Waterloo: where browsers have legs

May is Lambeth Readers and Writers Month, but with Lambeth selling off two of its nine public libraries, and effectively shutting down another three, any spark of local good news in the book world burns extra bright. Well, here’s one cheering item for book lovers. The Book Warehouse discount bookshop outside Waterloo Station at 158 Waterloo Road may have closed to make way for yet more flats, but lo and the best site behold, it’s cropped up again around the corner at 104 Lower Marsh SE1 7AB. It’s in smaller temporary premises, and once again Richard Brunning and the lovely Olga preside over lots of good stuff.

The new bookshop is a few doors down from Waterloo Library, one of the two public libraries Lambeth is flogging off. The other is Stockwell’s Minet. Still, with The Book Warehouse opening, the Ian Allan store still in business on the opposite side of Lower Marsh and The Bookshop Theatre secondhand bookstore-cum-theatre/cinema a short walk away at 51 The Cut SE1 8LF, it’s still possible in Waterloo to see, touch and be surprised by books on a shelf. Customers became so engrossed in the stock at the old Book Warehouse they left behind belongings that included a Mr Punch puppet, glasses, teddy bears, walking sticks and even two big bags full of towels. From what we have seen (and bought) the new, smaller Book Warehouse is inch-per-inch equally absorbing. Contact: 020 7620 2318.

Come to the Durning Library Crisis Meeting, 20 April

‘On yer bike!’, London community groups tell Nine Elms ‘consultation’

cycling and walking icons

The Vauxhall Society has joined The Battersea Society in backing the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies in pointing out ‘significant gaps and shortcomings’ in the proposals for public spaces (‘public realm’) in the Nine Elms glass canyon on the south bank of the Thames.

The proposals come from ‘The Blob’, the nickname for a gooey alliance of the property development interests of Transport for London, Lambeth and Wandsworth Councils with private-sector property developers.

Among the ‘significant gaps and shortcomings’ the Forum lists is that neither Lambeth nor Wandsworth need abide by the consultation result if people don’t give the answers the Blob wants.

The consultation is ‘very token’ and does not ‘include anyone to represent the public’s point of view’.

There needs, for example, to be a ‘general review’ of the provision for cyclists and pedestrians along the river bank between Chelsea, Vauxhall and the proposed Pimlico Bridge. It is assumed that the cyclists and pedestrians will share the same route at some points, yet there is already ‘widespread concern’ among pedestrians at the speed of many cyclists and the inexperience of many more.

The consultation presents The Thames Path as a route for pedestrians and then ‘without hint of irony’ goes on to discuss the Path’s role ‘as a route for cyclists’.

‘Very much larger numbers’ of pedestrians and cyclists are due to use the riverside. Where stretches of the Thames Path are legally closed to cyclists, the restriction ‘ought to be enforced’, the Forum urges.


SOS: Lambeth’s libraries, two down, five to go? Crisis meeting 20 April

durning library exterior

durning library exteriorThe Friends of Kennington’s Durning Library have sent out an SOS to Vauxhall Society members.

The SOS reads ‘Your local libraries are in danger – please help!’

The Friends add that the Durning is just one of the libraries ‘threatened with closure’ under Lambeth’s ‘Culture 2020’ cutbacks, even though the threat is ‘by no means obvious’ from the messages Lambeth Council is sending out.

Lambeth’s plan for ‘Cultural Services by 2020′ is in libraries and at Few have read it – or understood its dangerous implications.

The Culture 2020 paper proposes to:

  • CLOSE two libraries (Minet, Waterloo) and sell the buildings.
  • STOP RUNNING three libraries (Carnegie, Durning, Upper Norwood), leaving local people to staff and largely fund them (page 18).

This is completely impractical. It effectively means CLOSURE.

Volunteer-run libraries have no record of success in boroughs such as Lambeth. Where they survive at all, they do not provide anything resembling a full library service.

The Friends add:


The library service in North Lambeth is to be shrunk into the tiny Tate South Lambeth Library in Vauxhall’s South Lambeth Road. Yet even the Tate’s existence is not guaranteed after 2020. Libraries and their Friends groups double (and treble) as community-activity and learning centres, and are an important guarantor of community cohesion.

The council’s budget cuts can be made in far less damaging ways, the Durning Friends argue, adding




  • Forward this message as widely as you can.
  • Write: drop into box in library or post (no stamp needed) to Freepost RSYJ-KJAK-HUTC, Room 113, Brixton SW2 1RW
  • Email:
  • Sign the petition:
  • COME TO THE MEETING ON 20 APRIL, 7pm at Durning Library, 167 Kennington Lane.

Friends of Durning Library website

Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library website


Vauxhall Cross ‘consultation': ‘Trust us, we’re Transport for London’

vauxhall bus station by andrea winkelsdorf

The Vauxhall Society is always nagging people to respond to this or that consultation document from Lambeth Council or Transport for London. But a growing number of people are beginning to doubt that it’s worth the effort.

‘Could there be tampering with the replies?’ asks one correspondent of TfL’s alleged findings of a TfL survey on Vauxhall Cross that TfL says rubber-stamps what TfL wants to do.

We have no proof of ‘tampering’, yet. But you could be forgiven for thinking that TfL/Lambeth consultation as it affects Vauxhall is rigged, whether by accident or design or a bit of both. TVS is tabling the consultation issue at the 22 April board meeting of the Kennington, Oval & Vauxhall Forum of amenity groups, so let’s see where it leads.

The Brixton Society in its March newsletter joins Vauxhall amenity groups in complaining that Lambeth is ‘very hit and miss’ on who it sends planning applications to. Accident, design or a bit of both?

Lambeth is in cahoots with TfL on Vauxhall Cross. TfL got off on the wrong consultative foot years ago years ago, when it handed over ‘consultation’ on the Battersea Power Station/Northern Line Tube Extension to a property developer. Shortly before going out of business, this developer publicly apologized for misleading the public in the ‘consultation’.

Our correspondent, who gave her name but does not want it published, is not a member of The Vauxhall Society but is one of the 2,000-plus people who have so far signed the Save Vauxhall Bus Station online petition we host.

She smelled a rat with the TfL’s report on its latest ‘consultation’ on Vauxhall Cross, as does Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey. This is about whether to have two-way traffic on the Vauxhall Gyratory (as TfL/Lambeth now want), rather than one-way (as they used to want). The change would involve carving up or even demolishing Vauxhall Bus Station to make way for property development.

TfL says it received 2,181 responses to its Vauxhall Cross ‘consultation’ and guess what? TfL finds the responses demonstrate that people want what TfL wants.
For example:

  • 77 per cent of respondents either support or strongly support the overall aim of creating a thriving centre in Vauxhall
  • 65 per cent support the conversion of the gyratory to two-way working
  • 63 per cent support TfL’s proposals ‘around the bus station’

All those ‘Yesses’ are to shape detailed plans that which will go to further consultation this year. What price that ‘consultation’ will also be met with a resounding Y-E-S, according to TfL?

‘Give the response of everyone on two-way working and changes to the bus station whom I’ve ever spoken, I find it very hard to believe the figures in this report’ our correspondent writes.

‘If 2,000 people want the bus station to stay as it is [on the petition] why is it a majority of almost the same figure want TfL to change it? Could there be some tampering with the [TfL] votes…|I can’t work out how this has occurred. Can you?’

What else TVS’s correspondent wrote:

I travel through the bus station most days. I live in the area having previously lived in Clapham Junction and then in Battersea and now in South Lambeth and I work in central London. I hear comments on the buses and in the tube station and train station and have never heard one in favour of the two-way working.

I also remember the mess it was when we have two-way working and bus stops were all over the place. The place was invariably gridlocked and it will be so again. The circular motion around the bus station calms the traffic and spaces it much more effectively and efficiently.

You would only have to look at film of the before and after to see the difference. In the proposed model I also see no attempt to apply mathematical queueing theory both to calm and regulate traffic and ensure gridlocks don’t occur.

If LUL had produced a simulated model based on proper mathematical modelling that proved the intended layout would work for traffic from Wandsworth and South Lambeth given the excess traffic that will arrive and block the buses after the new US embassy is on stream, I would have had more confidence but I have seen no such model. I have seen no such simulation.

I am astonished that so many people appear to have voted for this option. No one I know in the area or at the bus station is in favour of two-way working. I should be most interested to see the background of those who did. Generally when there is such an overwhelming vote of approval one knows. It’s only when it’s too close to call that one does not. It just does not ring true.

Let’s say that if this were an election, I would be doing a Lloyd George and demanding a recount, then another and another till the votes were accurately counted. The only thing I can think of to have occasioned such a result is if the forms were either incorrectly read or we get a situation such as that in the US where the vote went to the Court and only for you subsequent counts proved George Bush had not won but no one could be bothered to wait.

The other issue is, where were these forms given out and to whom? What was the catchment area for them? I picked one up in the bus station but nowhere else and anyone who simply travelled through the bus station but did not get off the bus would not have received one.

This just does not ring true.


Kate Hoey MP: ‘You will now understand why the local community have been so clear that they did not trust TFL or Lambeth over the Vauxhall bus station plans. The community are usually proved right

How the  Paul Atterbury Irregulars saved a Vauxhall gem for the nation

the doulton frieze in restoration
the doulton frieze in restoration

The frieze is laid out for the first time after its rescue

Thanks to the historian and Antiques Roadshow expert Paul Atterbury, The Vauxhall Society can now give an eyewitness account of the dramatic rescue in Vauxhall of a masterpiece of English sculpture. But for this audacious ‘guerilla raid’ the work would have become a heap of multi-coloured hardcore in a Vauxhall skip. It’s now on permanent display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The story goes back to 1978/9, and Paul has kindly shared with TVS the notes he made at the time, when he and a team from the Ironbridge Gorge Museum swooped on Vauxhall to spirit away ‘Pottery Though the Ages’. This was – thankfully still is – a Gilbert Bayes masterpiece. A huge sculptured frieze, it now has a wall all of its own at the V&A’s Gilbert Bayes Gallery.

Yet over 30 years ago, Bayes’ masterpiece had escaped German bombers only, it seemed, to be felled by British bulldozers. More than 50 feet long, ‘Pottery Though the Ages’ used to adorn the main entrance of Doulton House, the ceramics group HQ that between 1939 and 1978/9 fronted onto Albert Embankment at the junction with Lambeth Bridge.

Royal Doulton’s association with Lambeth went back to 1815, and gave rise to a Lambeth ‘artistic quarter’ in Black Prince Road and surrounding streets. The Lambeth School of Art, now the City and Guilds of London Art School, was to follow. Doulton diversified, ceased to manufacture ceramics in Lambeth (1956) and moved to Stoke-on-Trent two years later. The Lambeth HQ was sold in 1971, and for seven years Doulton House stood empty.

Then, one day in 1978, the year before Antiques Roadshow started, the demolition men suddenly turned up and natural viagra Doulton House started coming down that autumn. The loss of the building would have been bad enough, for it was one of London’s few first-rate Art Deco buildings, an elegant T. P. Bennett design, faced with cream, black and gold ceramic tiles.

paul atterbury and volunteers with the doulton frieze

The frieze was rescued by Paul Atterbury and volunteers from Ironbridge Gorge Museum

As floor after floor of Doulton House came tumbling down, however, concerned Vauxhallians alerted the now-absent Doulton that ‘Pottery Though the Ages’, would be next in the skip. Bayes (1872-1953) had individually shaped over 300 irregular stoneware blocks and had them coloured at the factory under his direction in order to illustrate his ‘history’. Some say it is Bayes’ greatest and most decorative work.

For all that, prewar art was then out of fashion. No official body would do anything to save the frieze. Despite having no legal or moral responsibility, Doulton decided to step in. In 1971, Paul Atterbury was Doulton’s historian (he joined AR in 1990), and the company gave him the money to attempt a last-minute rescue.

Paul arranged for a party of volunteers from The Ironbridge Gorge Museum to mount a kind of guerrilla raid, not to destroy but to preserve, if necessary by stealth. The team were up against lack of specialist equipment, as well as the weather. But first there was the demolition contractor, and he was on a time-penalty contract.

The Doulton/Ironbridge team managed to persuade the contractor that they could save the Bayes masterpiece, and he finally agreed to leave the frieze as long as possible. The team had now to beat not just the clock, but inadequate equipment as well as the snow and ice of December 1978–January 1979. Worst of all, they had to invent the technology for the removal of this vast ceramic jigsaw; no rescue on this scale had been attempted before.

Eventually, the Bayes frieze was taken off to Ironbridge Gorge in bits, for years of restoration and the search for a permanent new home. Royal Doulton had wanted the frieze to return to London, and so it was to be. An offer of houseroom by the V&A enabled the restoration of ‘The History of Pottery’ to be completed, and it was reassembled and put on permanent display at the V&A. It unveiled in October 1988, and in the following Paul Atterbury was awarded the National Art Fund National Prize for the rescue.

Another Doulton legacy to Lambeth had fared worse. In 1890 Doulton donated a terracotta memorial commemorating the women’s employment reformer Henry Fawcett to mark the opening of Vauxhall Park. Designed by George Tinworth, the memorial stood on the site of the home Fawcett shared with his wife Millicent, later a non-violent advocate of votes for women. In 1959, three years after Lambeth ceased manufacturing ceramics in Vauxhall, Lambeth Council demolished the Fawcett memorial.

One day we at The Vauxhall Society will pluck up the courage to ask Paul Atterbury what price he and the Antiques Roadshow team might put on the Gilbert Bayes frieze or the George Tinworth tribute.

Kennington Choir: Let the people sing

kennington choir

The Tate South Lambeth Library is a good place to be this Friday night (27 March) and indeed any night The Friends of the Tate South Lambeth Library are staging an event.

First, there’s the event itself, guaranteed absolutely politician/general election–free. Then there’s a bonus, an appearance by the Kennington Community Choir. You can join if you like.

What’s more, The Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library, library users and the library staff are a microcosm of community life in Vauxhall.

Events such as Friday night’s are a good place to meet people, including fellow-members of The Vauxhall Society. The Friends of the Tate South Lambeth Library are an associate member of TVS and there’s much cross-membership of individuals between the two.

Among other things, The Friends promote the library’s renovation and refurbishment, both exterior and interior, and have developed a gallery within the library, Tate Local, which now stages exhibitions. The Friends organise talks, parties and events and have just won a hard-fought second ‘reprieve’ – for five years – from Lambeth Council’s property-development plans.

The Kennington Community Choir is led by Elspeth Thompson and is in its third year. The Kenningtons sing ‘anything and a bit of everything’ from pop to classical to world music, and last year appeared at The Royal Festival Hall.

Admission free. Refreshments available.

6.30 for 7pm
180 South Lambeth Road

Kennington Community Choir meets every Thursday at 7.30pm in St Mark’s Church, Kennington, 337 Kennington Park Road London SE11 4PW (opposite Oval Tube). You’re welcome to join the choir, whether or not you worship at St Mark’s. Simply turn up (no auditions necessary) or visit