Edwardian suburb – Talk by Mike Tuffrey


Clapham South: The making of an Edwardian suburb


Video presentation of a Talk for the Clapham Society and the Lambeth Heritage Festival by Mike Tuffrey about how the neighbourhood around Abbeville Road came to be built. In the 1880s the mansions around Clapham Common were being demolished and new roads laid out. Discover the interesting people involved and the part they played in the development of the area.

Clapham South: The Making of an Edwardian suburb

In this talk we discover how a corner of Clapham Common changed over a 100 years from the place where the grand merchants and bankers of the City of London built their country mansions to escape the city and enjoy the fresh air and clean water of rural Clapham, and became a thriving Edwardian suburb, with a church, school, shops, police station and streets of housing for the growing middle class.

Orientation and Important Buildings

The talk starts with the topography of Clapham, illustrating through four maps the accelerating trend towards urbanisation, and uses these to show where some of the big players in the campaign to abolish the slave trade lived – Thornton and Wilberforce on one side, Vassall and Hibbert on the other. It focuses on one mansion in particular – Clock House on Clapham Common Southside – built in 1775 and demolished in 1885, occupied during that period by five affluent families: Charles Eyre, the King’s printer; William Esdaile, banker and art collector; Thomas Adlington, co-founder of the Law Society and director of Legal & General; John Farrie, Scottish sugar refiner; and John Kemp-Welch, non-conformist, Liberal and owner of Schweppes.

Redevelopment Timeline

The process of redevelopment kicked off in 1872 when Henry Smith Adlington sold 16 acres to a Norwich solicitor, Isaac Bugg Coaks, who laid out some streets for housing. In 1885 the central character in this story appears on the scene: Edward Hammond Thompson – a linen draper, land agent, sometime felon, and later cinema proprietor in Surrey. He bought the main estates from the Hankey family and as the main developer laid out the residential streets – Lynette, Lessar, Cautley and Klea Avenues. Later he sold the ground rents to Prudential Assurance and released parcels of land for Cavendish Road police station, Holy Spirit Church Narbonne Avenue, Bonneville School and the shops in Abbeville Road.

People and Personalities

Edward Hammond Thompson’s complex personal life is also uncovered – census records show he had three families with ‘wives’ and children at different addresses concurrently. He also had many brushes with the law due to his sharp business practices. The story concludes by citing others involved in the redevelopment – architect Frederick Wheeler, lawyer Edward Alfred Woolley and financier Henry Nicholas Corsellis – and ends with an assessment of Thompson’s legacy.

Along the way the talk includes many illustrations, with plans, photos and maps drawn from Lambeth Archives and other public records.

The Clapham Society hosts many Free talks and events. Please click here for the programme of the year.