Jo East reports on the Society's 19 October stroll around Clapham Common that was led by Steven King
On a cold but thankfully dry morning, 13 of us assembled at the clock tower by Clapham Common Tube for a tour of Clapham Common led by Dr Stephen King. Stephen explained that being a Clapham resident (Claphamite? Claphamonian?) during Lockdown, unable to lead his usual Westminster and Southwark tours he’d constructed one he could start from his front door. Thinking it would be mainly of local interest he found, as with so much of this city of ours, that the area’s history resonated through to the themes of today such as gentrification and Black Lives Matter. On our walk he took us past the Church where the Clapham Sect figureheaded by William Wilberforce met to plan the Abolishment of Slavery whilst at the same time another local resident fought for massive reparations to the owners. At the back of a post war housing estate the surprise of a Georgian colonnaded orangery stands as the only remnant of a grand house that played host to Phyllis Wheatley – the first black woman to be published in Great Britain.
Leading us across the Common we passed what seemed to be all of South West London at play. Inevitably Football but also Tag Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee and even Quidditch! Along with the runners and dog walkers, community allotments and volunteer litter pickers it was obvious that this vast open space was much prized and used by all. Finishing at the deep level air raid tunnels that had provided temporary residence to Windrush travellers Stephen neatly picked up the theme of the imperial past whilst conveniently depositing us by Clapham South Tube Station for return journeys.
I’ve just given a flavour of this walk as it is now in Stephen’s menu of possible walks which can be found www.stevedoestours.com or @stevedoestours On the way he also uncovered the stories of some dividing lines of London, a beknighted supermarket and a cracking statue.
Glad to have both attended the walk and to have wrapped up warm against the windy open spaces of the Common the group thanked Stephen and hoped that he might lead another walk for the London Society in the near future.