Another Clapham Celebration

The SS Empire Windrush, which brought the first major group of Caribbean settlers from Jamaica to England in 1948 sank in the Med near Algiers around six years later, but a major monument of those times that have changed our country so greatly over the last 60 years remains.

Many of the 492 who arrived on the Windrush came with a suitcase and their hopes but little more. Many had served Britain in the armed forces, sometimes based in this country, and some few had places they could go to, but most were urgently in need of somewhere to stay while they sorted out jobs and a place to live.

One of the deep shelters, built for government use in the early 1940s and later opened for use as a public air-raid shelter in 1944 was pressed into service, quickly being adapted to provide basic living accomodation. This shelter still survives (along with the other London deep shelters) and the surface buildings are on the edge of Clapham Common near to Clapham South station.

The nearest labour exchange to the shelter was in Brixton, about a mile walk, and led to the area becoming the home of the Caribbean community in England. So it seemed an appropriate place to be celebrating the arrival of the Windrush, 60 years ago on Sunday.

Windrush celebration
Children listen to Four Kornerz and the Churchboyz at Clapham Windrush celebration

Although a small group walked from the deep shelter, the actual celebration took place a quarter of a mile away at the bandstand in the middle of Clapham Common, and was organised by Christian Aid, together with the Windrush Foundation and local churches. With speeches and gospel music it was more an aural than a visual event, although the children taking part in their own way made it rather more interesting.

One local church, Holy Trinity Clapham, played a major part in the event, as it had done in the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Act abolishing the slave trade.

A commemoration walk last March started there, where worshippers in the ‘Clapham Sect‘ at the centre of the movement had included William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, John and Henry Thornton, John Venn, Zachary Macaulay and others, and went around the area stopping at notable sites associated with them, including the probable site of the ‘African Academy‘ in the picture above.

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