A Report on the Society’s Visit to Lambeth Archives on 4 April

12 Members and guests visited the Lambeth Archives on Friday, 4 April 2014 where they were warmly welcomed and congratulated on finding their way by the part-time archivist Len Reilly. The archives are not easy to find, sharing a small building with the Minet library, in a residential area some distance from public transport.  Health warning No 1:  If you visit the archives via Loughborough Junction railway station, ignore the nearby road sign which points in the wrong direction!  

Fortunately, the modern Borough of Lambeth matches very closely the original parish of Lam-beth with a few bits added on in 1965 such as Streatham and Clapham. Even more fortunate for researchers, is that Lambeth have managed to acquire many of the relevant records from the areas that were added with that local government reorganisation in 1965. Because Lambeth was somewhat off the beaten track in former times, it has no known Roman remains. Indeed the mediaeval settlement changed very little until the Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges were built in the mid 18th century. Lambeth is noted for a number of well-known organisations, including St Thomas's Hospital, the 12th century charity hospital, Brixton prison (1819), Sainsbury's former headquarters (1890), MI6 former headquarters, County Hall former headquarters of the original London County Council (1889), HMSO, Doulton potteries, the Old Vic and, of course, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Palace (no connection!).  Former local personalities include Dan Leno, Charlie Chaplin and John Major, if we dare mention him in the same breath as the others!

Len’s knowledge and enthusiasm for his job shone through, making the visit well worthwhile, especially as he allowed us to use the archives, even though they are officially closed on a Friday afternoon. Whilst Lambeth archives hold a typical local authority collection they also possess a very eclectic range of records which this short account cannot do justice to.  Although their cata-logue is not available on line, the scope of the collection is described in detail at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/lsp-archive-guide.pdf and is fully catalogued on A2A at  http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a

Apart from the anticipated range of local newspapers, Post Office directories, local directories, maps, rate books, rate valuations and electoral registers from 1832, they also have cemetery rec-ords for Streatham (not municipal), Lambeth municipal (in Wandsworth) and West Norwood.  A few examples of the more unusual items include substantial archives of many notable local fami-lies and numerous Surrey manors, dating from the thirteenth century, including an enclosure map of 1806.  Not being a diocesan record office they do not hold parish registers but do possess a significant number of non conformist registers and …. wait for it… no less than 400 loose licences and 5 bound volumes of mainly Vicar-General licences for St George the Martyr and St Saviour, 1754-1908.   Similarly, although poor law records are mostly held at the LMA, they have a large collection of  vestry minutes from 1610 and allied documents, including parish magazines from the late 19th century.  Perhaps their best treasures are a collection of 18000 (yes, three zeros) deeds and similar local documents plus 50,000 photographs, drawings, prints and watercolours.  This latter collection are available on line and available for purchase: http://landmark.lambeth.gov.uk/default.asp

Health Warning No 2:  The Minet library has no public toilets, the nearest being in the nearby Myatt’s Fields Park.  If they are closed the nearest is still Myatt’s Fields Park!

-Barry Hepburn

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