The Clapham Society


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Our meetings will recommence in January 2018 at Omnibus, 1 Clapham Common North Side, SW4 0QW. The bar will be open as in the past from 7 pm, our guest will speak at 8 pm for about 45 minutes, with around 15 minutes for questions and the bar will remain open until late. The full programme for the year is shown below. We hope you will put the dates in your diary to ensure that you do not miss the meetings.

Secret London book cover Monday 22 January
Secret Underground London is a comprehensive photographic record of a hidden world which lies beneath the capital but which is not generally seen by the public. In his talk Nick Catford includes a miscellany of sites, from the disused tube stations and closed sections of the London underground railway system, many of which were given some other lease of life, to the secret central government and military bunkers - operations rooms and control centres - which protected London against the German bombers during the Second World War. The book also tells the story of London's Cold War bunkers, never used in anger; and similarly the more modest Royal Observer Corps posts. There are air raid shelters, large and small, public and private; mines and underground quarries, some going back to the 17th century, and tunnels of all sorts: pipe tunnels, horse tunnels, tram tunnels, service tunnels, and the tunnel under the Thames Barrier. Last but not least, and not for the fainthearted, is a collection of photographs showing the capital's creepy Victorian cemetery catacombs.
Nick will have copies of his book for sale during the evening.

Voyage to Antarctica Monday 26 February
Shackleton’s Heart – not his best bit? Clapham resident Dr Ian Calder has long been fascinated by the extraordinary Antarctic journeys undertaken by Sir Ernest Shackleton, and in particular his repeated breakdowns. Ian and Consultant Cardiologist Dr Jan Till believe that Sir Ernest had a congenital heart defect. As well as physical heart problems Sir Ernest had a colourful romantic history. Ian researched Sir Ernest’s career by learning to manage sled dogs, sailing to Antarctica on a square-rigger, yachting to and crossing South Georgia on skis, and rummaging about in the archives of the Scott Polar Research Institute.

Redemtorist monastry Monday 19 March
Lambeth’s Victorian Architecture. One of our most popular speakers in the past, Edmund Bird, returns to tell us about Victorian architecture in Lambeth with a focus on our area. After four books about 20th century architecture in Lambeth, Edmund takes us back to the era of intense building activity in south London. Now heritage advisor to TfL Edmund is a former Lambeth Conservation Team Manager and local resident with unrivalled knowledge of local historic buildings.

Pippa Kelly Monday 23 April
Let’s Talk: About Old Age And Dementia. Local journalist and author Pippa Kelly began charting her elderly parents’ declining years in the national press over a decade ago, describing her battles to secure state funding for them both and her mum’s descent into dementia. Since their deaths she has become one of the UK’s foremost writers on older people’s care and dementia.
Her talk will explore society’s attitudes towards its elderly, particularly those with dementia, and highlight the uplifting yet unsung initiatives that are changing lives. She will also be signing copies of her novel, Invisible Ink.

Sunday 6 May
The Trees of Clapham Common – This walk has been re-cheduled to 17 June. Please See below.

SLPI Monday 21 May
The South London Botanical Institute (SLBI), in Tulse Hill, was founded by Allan Octavian Hume, who was also a founder of the Indian National Congress, in 1910. The SLBI maintains a small botanical garden, a herbarium and library, and promotes a wide range of plant-related activities.
Roy Vickery worked for over 40 years in the Botany Department of the Natural History Museum, and remains a Scientific Associate at the Museum. He is currently president of the South London Botanical Institute, having served as a trustee for many years, including 10 as chairman. His present work focuses on the folklore and uses of plants in Britain and Ireland.

Thursday 31 May
Clapham in World War Two. A walk along the south side of Clapham Common seeing how the war came to Clapham and the lasting effect it has had on our streets and the development of South London. Led by Derrick Johnson, leaving from
Clapham Common Underground Station at 6.30 pm.
This walk is part of London History Day and of Wandsworth Heritage Festival.

Tuesday 5 June Development of a Victorian Suburb. A walk Twixt the Commons to help understand how the area was developed by a series of speculative builders as the older houses were knocked down. Led by Timothy Walker, leaving from Clapham South Underground Station at 6.30 pm

June Bowden Monday 18 June
ADA - how Lord Byron's daughter became the patron saint of computing.
Local resident and Clapham Society member, David Singmaster is retired professor of mathematics and computer science at London South Bank University and also an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London. He has been interested in the history of computing since arriving in London in 1970. He instigated the erection of the Blue Plaque to Ada Lovelace in St. James's Square and the Southwark plaque to Charles Babbage in Walworth Road. His Chronology of Computing is on display at the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation Museum of Computing in Paderborn, Germany.

Sunday 17 June
The Trees of Clapham Common – their origins, uses and the future. A walk looking at the geographical origins of the trees on Clapham Common, how they came to be there and their past and present uses. What’s the future for many of our commoner trees in the light of climate change or changes in water availability or pollution? Led by Iain Boulton, leaving from Clapham common Bandstand at 2 pm.

Sunday 8 July
The Bugs and Other Beasts of Clapham Common. A look at the many different invertebrates (animals without backbones) that are found on Clapham Common; learn how to survey for insects, spiders and the like, and their importance for the health and wellbeing of the Common and its users. Led by Iain Boulton. Leaving from Clapham Common Bandstand at 1 pm.

Wednesday 25 July
Historic Clapham. A stroll round the Old Town area, to see the development of the village and hear about some of the interesting people who lived there. Led by Peter Jefferson Smith. Leaving from Clapham Common Underground Station at 6.30 pm.

Sunday 9 September
Around Park Hill. A walk along Crescent Lane to Abbeville Road, and up Park Hill returning down Kings Avenue past some of the last remaining villas of Clapham Park. Led by Alyson Wilson. Leaving from Clapham Common Underground Station at 2.30 pm.
This walk is part of Lambeth Heritage Festival.

Sunday 30 September
Clapham Ghostsigns. Sam Roberts (aka Mr Ghostsigns) whose talk to us last year, members will remember, leads two walks that read Clapham’s history through its wonderful collection of fading painted advertisements. He uses these signs to discuss local craft and advertising history. Some research has been done by the Clapham Society and Roy Reed. Leaving from Clapham North Underground Station at 10 am and 2 pm . Very limited places, booking is essential by email alysonwilson.sw4@gmail,com. Charge 5.00. This walk is part of Lambeth Heritage Festival.

There will also be possibly two bat walk, led by Iain Boulton on Clapham Common during the summer. More details later.

Walks are free (except the Ghostsigns one) and last around one and a half to two hours.

Vesta Tilly Monday 17 September
Vesta Tilley and Her World - an illustrated talk (with film clips). Vesta Tilley (1864-1952), was music halls legendry male impersonator, recognised as one of the most successful performers of her generation, often billed as: ‘The London Idol’. Vesta lived in Lambeth for a period, and she was also known for her work in recruiting solders during the First World War. She introduced many popular songs e.g. ‘Burlington Bertie’, ‘Jolly Good Luck to the Girl who loves a Solder’ and ‘Following in Father’s Footsteps’.
Presented by Keith Fawkes and Richard Norman who are members of the British Music Hall Society for which this talk was created.

Monday 15 October
Annual General Meeting. After the formal part of the meeting there will be a brief presentation by Andrew Wilson of his new book Wild About Clapham, which will be available at the meeting.

The guest speaker will be Councillor Sonia Winifred, who recently presented to Cabinet the report on the future of Lambeth Archives, which resulted in the decision to relocate the Archives to a new building in Kennington.

Museum of the Mind Monday 19 November
Past Caring; The History of Bethlem. Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 and was the first institution in the UK to specialise in the care of the mentally ill. The hospital continues to provide in-patient care as part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and has been based in south London since 1930. Amy Moffat, Community Engagement Officer from Bethlem Museum of the Mind, will speak about the long history of the institution, whose name Bedlam became a synonym for chaos and confusion.

There is no meeting in December.

We hope that you will find this an interesting and varied programme with something to suit everyone.
If you have any suggestions for future meetings do please pass them on to the Events Organiser, Christine Armstrong, telephone 020 7720 7449 or

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