Wandsworth Historical Society


Battersea : Balham : Putney : Tooting : Wandsworth Town

Three significant past members:

PollockDon Pollock (1911-1979), a mainstay of the WHS for a quarter of a century through his talks, heritage walks, and highly readable articles.
LoobeyPatrick Loobey (1947-2005), who attracted a whole new audience of local history enthusiasts with his popular books of vintage photographs.
FuentesNick Fuentes (1934-2010), a major player in London's archaeology, who also revolutionised our understanding of the archaeology of the Borough.

Preservation:

GazetteNewspaper advertising from 1917 for Tooting's leading drapers, Smith Bros., part of an archive safely preserved by means of a grant from the WHS.

The Society's Achievements

Formative years

The Wandsworth Historical Society was founded in September 1953, born out of a fear that, if action wasn't quickly taken, historic buildings would be indiscriminately pulled down, and old records and photos irretrievably lost. The Society immediately set about its task, arranging talks by big-name speakers, and even travelling to Althorp Park in Northamptonshire, where many valuable documents relating to Earl Spencer, the Lord of the Manor of Wandsworth, were stored at the time.

One of the Society's greatest achievements in its first two decades was the completion of a ground-breaking Street Survey of the whole of Wandsworth. Major changes had taken place to the Borough's boundaries in 1965, when a new authority was created incorporating Wandsworth Town, Putney, Tooting and Battersea, and in the years between 1968 and 1971, triggered partly by the demolitions that were removing vast areas of nineteenth-century Battersea, information about the houses, other buildings and even street furniture in some 1370 roads was recorded right across the district.

Successes in local archaeology

In 1962, following the discovery of Roman burial urns in Bemish Road, Putney, the WHS set up its own Archaeology Group, and in the years that followed it spent much effort on excavating and recording sites in Putney, Wandsworth and Battersea. The main objective and success has been identifying the Roman and prehistoric settlements at Putney, not forgetting the discovery of previously unknown sites and the excavation of medieval and later buildings such as St Mary's Church, Putney.

FelshamThe WHS's biggest excavation: the 'dig' at Felsham Road, Putney in the heart of the Roman settlement, photographed in September 1977.

From 1964 down to the present day, the Society has been deeply involved in a long-standing survey of the Thames foreshore from Battersea to the Beverley Brook, and especially from Wandsworth to Putney where some outstanding sites and finds have been made and recorded. Notable amongst these are a fifth- to seventh-century AD fish trap and a rare fourth- to third-century BC Iron Age sword.

Supporting research

From its earliest days the Society has encouraged its members to undertake historical research and has published their findings. Starting with short articles on the Shakespearean actor, William Pole, and the French writer, Voltaire, many of their accounts have appeared in the WHS's three serial publications: its Newsletter since 1955; its journal, the Wandsworth Historian, since 1971; and, in the case of longer studies, its 'Wandsworth Papers' series since 1973. This last collection now runs to nearly thirty titles, many of which have drawn praise from reviewers.

Promoting heritage within the community

From as early as 1954 the Society has reached out to a wider public through organised exhibitions and open days at festivals, libraries, and shopping centres. It has rescued many important items from the past for future generations, such as its purchase for Wandsworth Museum in 2002 of a Georgian clock made in Putney. More recently it provided the funding to enable the Wandsworth Heritage Service to preserve on microfilm its fragile World War One files of the Tooting & Balham Gazette.

The Society eagerly promoted the establishment of a museum in Wandsworth from as far back as 1958, and energetically campaigned for its successor, when the Museum created in 1986 was abolished in 2007.

Today, stronger than ever, the Wandsworth Historical Society still strives to promote a keen interest in the history and archaeology of the Borough of Wandsworth through its monthly talks and its visits to many historic sites.

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WHS_at_bbc_studioA group from the society visiting the newly extended BBC Broadcasting House on 23rd March 2013. Here the group gets the chance to act out a small radio play.