1 year ago

The blue plaques of Brixton

Everyone knows Brixton and its surrounding area has a rich history. Here are the people commemorated via official English Heritage Plaques.

Who: Vincent Van Gough (1853-1890)

Location: 87 Hackford Road, SW9 0NB

Credit: vangoughhouse.co.uk

A man that needs little introduction. The ‘Van Gough House’ is where the famous painter lived for a brief spell between 1873 and 1874. Whilst lodging at his South London home, Gough apparently fell in love with both his landlady and her daughter. He left Hackford Road at the age of 21, but not before drawing his London home. You can have a peep behind the curtain too; the house is open for tours on the last weekend of each month.

Who: Lilian Baylis (1874-1937)

Location: 27 Stockwell Park Road, SW9 0AP

Theatre manager of the old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres lived and died in her beautiful Stockwell home. As well as managing the two theatres in her career, she also ran an opera company which developed into the English National Opera, ran a theatre which developed into the English National Theatre and ran a ballet company with developed into The Royal Ballet. Without Baylis, the British cultural scene would look very different. It’s no wonder, then, that the Lilian Baylis Technology School in Kennington was named in her honour.

Who: Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)

Location: 15 Glenshaw Mansions, SW9 0DS

Chaplin was both an actor and film-maker, known by his signature bowler hat and moustache look. The silent-film pioneer found fame in his comedic characters and was especially known for his screen persona ‘the Tramp’. He lived in flat 15 of the Mansions for 2 years from 1908.

Who: David Cox (1783-1859)

Location: 34 Foxley Road, SW9 6ES

Famed for his landscapes, Cox was a watercolorist who turned to oils towards the end of his career. Thought of as being an early precursor of Impressionism and a key figure in watercolour, Cox moved to London from Birmingham in the early 1800s where he taught many aristocratic pupils to make a wage.

Who: Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)

Location: 14 Dover Mansions, SW9 7QF

Described on the blue plaque as a ‘pioneer in the scientific study of sex’, Henry was one of the first to develop scientific research on homosexuality, sexual practices and transgender psychology. He lived in Brixton where he had an, unconventional at the time, open marriage with his wife and author Edith Lees.

Who: C.L.R James (1901-1989)

Location: 165 Railton Road, SE24 0JX

Political activist, historian and author, James’ plaque sits on Railton Road. The West Indian-born figure became heavily involved with Marxist politics and the African and West Indian independence movements and was especially known for his work ‘The Black Jacobins‘, published in 1938.

A plaque to commemorate Darcus Howe joined C.L.R James’ plaque in January 2022. Though not commissioned by English Heritage, Howe’s contribution to racial struggles in the 70’s and 80’s is recognised at the site where he co-founded the ‘Race Today Collective’, the ‘epicentre of the struggle for racial justice in Britain’.

Who: Arthur Mee (1875-1943)

Location: 27 Lanercost Road, SW2 4DP

Author, journalist and education, Arthur Mee was especially interested in children’s education. During his career he edited children’s fortnightly magazine ‘The Children’s Encyclopaedia’ before starting the weekly ‘Children’s Newspaper’ which was the first newspaper published for children. It was published for over 50 years, until it ceased publication in 1965.

Who: Violette Szabo (1921-1945)

Location: 18 Burnley Road, SW9 0SJ

Secret agent Violette Szabo lived at 18 Burnley Road. In her brief 24 years of life she worked as a British-French Special Operations Executive agent during World War II, she was captured on a mission in occupied France and executed in Germany. She was awarded a posthumous George Cross in recognition of her contribution to the French Resistance.

N.B: These are the official blue plaques of Brixton and its surrounding area as commissioned by English Heritage. A walk around Brixton will show you there are many more memorials that aren’t technically ‘official’, from David Bowie to Cherry Dorothy Groce, it’s worth keeping your eyes open for these plaques too.

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