Tag Archives: Marylebone

Citizens in Marylebone, for International Women’s Day

The St Marylebone Women Citizen’s Association arose out of a meeting convened by the local branch of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was decided to form an association to promote ‘citizenship’ among the women of St Marylebone.

St Marylebone Women Citizen's Association - draft constitution, 26 September 1918. Image property of Westminster City Archives

St Marylebone Women Citizen’s Association – draft constitution, 26 September 1918. Image property of Westminster City Archives

A draft constitution dated 26 September 1918 declares that the Association was to be non-sectarian and non-party-political, with membership open to all women from the age of eighteen upwards. Other societies with women members could affiliate to the Association. The initial subscription rate was a minimum of 6d for individual members, 3s 6d for the first fifty members of affiliated societies and 1s 6d for each succeeding fifty. The Association was to be run by a Committee of twelve members to be elected annually each spring by the method of proportional representation. Following strict democratic principle,

“[o]rdinary members of the Committee shall serve for three years – four shall retire each year in rotation and shall not be eligible to serve again until the following year”.

Meetings were to be called upon written requisition of 30 members of the Association, or by 2 members of the Executive Committee.

St Marylebone Women Citizen's Association - entry ticket. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Promoting citizenship meant advancing women’s understanding of social, political, and legal issues, thus encouraging their greater involvement in decision-making and the electoral process. During the first year, members of the association gave lectures to the Girls’ Friendly Society, the North and South Marylebone Schools for Mothers and Church Army Girls’ Club. External speakers were invited to speak on such subjects as housing, women’s working hours and the Ministry of Health Bill.

St Marylebone Women Citizen's Association - schedule of meetings 1921-22. Image property of Westminster City Archives

St Marylebone Women Citizen’s Association – schedule of meetings 1921-22. Image property of Westminster City Archives

The Association was always keenly interested in local government and women candidates for both St Marylebone Borough Council and the London County Council often came to address meetings. Speakers covered subjects like ‘Finance of Government’ (23 February 1921), ‘Criminal Law Amendment Bill’ (16 March 1920), ‘Abolition of the Death Penalty’ (16 November 1925), and ‘Suffrage of Women in India’ (18 December 1931) – topics which, at least at the Association’s early beginnings, would have been unusual conversation topics for even the most learned women whose interests had been frequently confined by social norm to the arts and philanthropy.

The Association also organised visits to the Palace of Westminster (13 January 1923) and to the new Public Library (2 November 1923) before it opened a month later on 18 December.

The first meeting took place on 1 July 1918 and the first Chairman was Mrs Lauritson Shaw. She was succeeded in May 1919 by Miss E Bright Ashford who remained as Chairman until 1938 and who also served for many years as a Councillor on St Marylebone Borough Council.

St Marylebone Women Citizen's Association - event invitation. Image property of Westminster City Archives

By May 1919 the Association had attracted 40 individual members and around 192 members in affiliated societies (Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society, Women’s Liberal Association, Women’s Local Government Association and the Women’s Section of the Labour Party).

In 1928 the Association had 89 members, a number which had declined to 66 by 1933. In that year a circular was sent to members seeking their opinion as to whether the Association should continue to function. This seems to have been provoked by falling membership and poor attendence at meetings. Only 15 members expressed a positive opinion that the Association should continue and there seems to have been little activity between November 1933 and April 1938 when the Association was finally wound up. It is clear that throughout its existence the Association played an important role in helping to educate the women of St Marylebone and encouraging them to take an active role in local government.

[Michelle]

A Blue Plaque for a Marylebone Punk Rocker

Marylebone is not lacking in blue plaques recording the former residences of the great – and not-so-great – local residents. Several examples have been the subject of previous blog posts. The official plaques were erected formally first by the London County Council / Greater London Council and are currently administered by English Heritage.

Blue plaque for Joe Strummer

English Heritage’s selection criteria include a minimum time frame of 22 years between the subject’s death and an erection of a commemorative plaque. December 2016 saw an unofficial blue plaque erected to Joe Strummer of influential punk band The Clash. Strummer died in 2002 and thus fails the formal selection criteria. Nonetheless, a ceremony was held at the Seymour Housing Co-op building (33 Daventry Street NW1, between Lisson Grove and Edgware Road). In nearby Bell Street, Malcolm McLaren and two of the Sex Pistols were also residents in this period. This is the second public commemoration to Joe Strummer in the area. The pedestrian subway linking the two halves of Edgware Road, bisected by Harrow Road, is named the Joe Strummer Subway. Fittingly above this junction and subway soars the elevated Westway, an major inspiration for the band.

Joe Strummer's entry in the ODNBJoe Strummer has also made it into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card). Other resources one can use for research into his life and the band’s significance in music history are the several newspaper and magazine archives which can also be accessed free online with a Westminster Libraries membership. Those readers who were around in the late 1970s will remember the moral panic that bands such as The Clash and the Sex Pistols generated and this is reflected in many newspaper articles. I found an interesting slant upon the punk rock phenomenon in an Economist article entitled More money than music in nihilism, (June 11, 1977, page 22).

Away from these contemporary reports Westminster Libraries hold a number of books relating to The Clash and the punk rock phenomenon:

Punk rock so what?by Roger SabinRedemption song: the definitive biography of Joe Strummer by Chris SalewiczJoe Strummer and the legend of the Clash by Kris Needs

[Francis]

Today we say goodbye

Today I write to remember and celebrate a treasured Westminster Libraries colleague, David Oldman, who died earlier this year while walking in southern Spain.

David Oldman

Customers at Marylebone Library will doubtless have their own memories of David, and many of you wrote in the Book of Condolence that has been held there. Users of Westminster Reference Library, especially the former customers of IfB (Information for Business), will remember David’s expert information seeking as well as his incisive sense of humour. Many others across the whole City of Westminster will have met him during his tireless sharing of skills and promotion of the library service on the 24/7 Library Roadshow, his Adventures on the Internet IT training sessions, as well as the exhibitions and talks he gave on the subjects of photography and his beloved walks. His enthusiastic stints on library stalls at various community events were symbolic of his constant championing of the customer point of view. And of course David wrote and illustrated many funny and erudite posts here on Books & the City (click to read them all), setting the tone for the blog in its early days (as well as providing the header image and our social media avatars) and always managing to spark an interest in what were often – on the surface at least – quite dry topics.

But it is as a colleague and friend that we remember him today. Many of us are attending his funeral and still others will be there in spirit. We have written, shared pictures and anecdotes and held his family in our thoughts. One staff member wrote:

“He was a colourful, playful one-of-a-kind maverick whose joie de vivre and sardonic turn of phrase could always be relied upon to call a spade a spade…  We feel his absence now especially in these times of change.”

Goodbye, David, and thanks. You are missed beyond words.

David Oldman

[Ali]

The great and the good

George Ryan, pictured in bas relief at the base of Nelson's Column, London

All of us who live or work in Westminster have walked through Trafalgar Square dozens of times, but how many of us have actually looked at Nelson’s Column  properly? Certainly not me until recently when I happened to look at the bas-reliefs at the base of the pillar and wondered what they actually represented. Coincidentally on the bus home I heard a trailer for an excellent-sounding radio programme, Britain’s Black Past which mentioned the reliefs and revealed that at least one of the sailors pictured was black. A bit of research revealed that a third of the crew of the Victory, Nelson’s ship, were born outside Britain (including, somewhat surprisingly, three Frenchmen) and that one of the men pictured, George Ryan, was black.

As we celebrate Black History Month, what other memorials of interest can we find in Westminster?

Well, for a start there’s the oldest monument in London – Cleopatra’s Needle. Nothing to do with Cleopatra, it actually predates her by 1500 years, being made for Pharoah Thotmes III. One slightly odd feature of the Needle is that the four sphinxes, ostensibly there to guard it, actually face inwards so you’d think they’d be fairly easy to surprise…

Cleopatra's Needle, London

Moving forward to the eighteenth century brings us to Ignatius Sancho (1724-1780) who, despite pretty much the worst possible start in life (he was born on  slave ship and both his parents died soon after) became butler to the Duke of Montagu and, after securing his freedom, was the only eighteenth-century Afro-Briton known to have voted in a general election (in Westminster). He wrote many letters to the literary figures of the time such as the actor David Garrick and the writer Laurence Sterne, was painted by Thomas Gainsborough and was also a prolific composer.

IgnatiusSancho

You can read more about Sancho in several books available to view at Westminster City Archives, and listen to some of his compositions.

And if you happen to be passing the Foreign and Commonweath Office, see if you can spot the memorial to him.

A more famous near-contemporary of Sancho, was Olaudah Equiano (1747-1797), another former slave and author of one of the earliest autobiographies by a black Briton.

Olaudah Equiano

Like George Ryan, Equiano (or Gustavus Vassa as he was known in his lifetime) was a sailor who travelled to the Caribbean, South America and the Arctic, having been kidnapped from Africa as a child. While still a slave, Equiano converted to Christianity and was baptised in St Margaret’s Westminster. His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was one of the first slave narratives and was reprinted several times in Equiano’s lifetime. He became a leading member of the  abolitionist movement, as one of the Sons of Africa, a group of former slaves in London who campaigned against slavery. You can see a plaque to him at 73 Riding House Street, Paddington and see him portrayed  by Youssoo N’Dour in the  film Amazing Grace.

Olaudah Equiana Plaque, London

One black Briton who needs almost no introduction is Mary Seacole (1805-1881), who fought racial prejudice to nurse and feed  soldiers in the Crimea and who was so popular with her former patients that the Times reported on 26th April 1856 that, at a public banquet at the Royal Surrey Gardens:

“Among the illustrious visitors was Mrs Seacole whose appearance awakened the most raputurous enthusiasm. The soldiers not only cheered her but chaired her around the gardens and she really might have suffocated from the oppressive attentions of her admirers were it not that two sergeants of extraordinary stature gallantly undertook to protect her from the pressures of the crowd.”

You can follow the famous war correspondent WH Russell in the Times Digital Archive (log in with your library card number) – he was a great admirer of Mrs Seacole. And if you haven’t already, do read her extraordinary autobiography The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. There are two plaques in her honour in Westminster – one at 147 George Street and one at 14 Soho Square.

Mary Seacole

Less well-known than Mary Seacole  is Henry Sylvester Williams (1869-1911), a Trinidadian teacher who came to London in the 1890s, studied Latin at King’s College and qualified as a barrister in 1897 (though he earned his living as a lecturer for the Temperance Association). He was a founder-member of the Pan-African Association, whose aims were

“to secure civil and political rights for Africans and their descendants throughout the world; to encourage African peoples everywhere in educational, industrial and commercial enterprise; to ameliorate the condition of the oppressed Negro in Africa, America, the British Empire, and other parts of the world”

In 1906, Williams was elected as a Progressive for Marylebone Council and, along with John Archer in Battersea, was one of the first black people elected to public office in Britain. You can read more about Williams (and the other people listed here) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and see a plaque erected by Westminster Council in his honour at 38 Church Street.

Bringing us nearer the present day are two former residents of Westminster who everyone knows. Guitarist Jimi Hendrix, discussed before in this blog, lived for a short time in 1968 at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair, and you can see a blue plaque to him there.

Jimi Hendrix, blue plaque

And we finish on perhaps the most famous memorial of recent years – in 2007 a bronze statue of Nelson Mandela was erected in Parliament Square in the presence of Mr Mandela himself.

Nelson Mandela stature, Parliament Square

You can find out more about the people in this blog by checking out our library catalogue and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as our Newspaper Archives. Plus if you want to know who the first Black British woman to write an autobiography was, don’t miss the event at Paddington Library on 27 October!

[Nicky]

Westminster Music Library – a fresher approach

Despite September’s impressive attempts to imitate our August heat wave, summer is finally over. Autumn has rolled in and schools and universities have resumed business as usual.

Autumn from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, at Westminster Music LibraryHere at Westminster Music Library, however, we do not resent the end of summer. The beginning of the school year brings with it thousands of students, and many of them musicians. Did you know that there are five specialist music conservatoires in London alone? Even conservatively estimating an intake of 100 per college per year, that’s 500 new music students in the Greater London area each year – all of whom could benefit from our wonderful collection at Westminster Music Library.

We are proud to have one of the finest public music collections in the country, and are keen to share it with as many musicians as possible. But how does one reach all of these newly-settled musicians? This is where we are immensely thankful for Freshers’ Fairs. Conservatoires’ Student Unions do a fantastic job arranging these each year for new students to discover what services they could benefit from during their time in London. I was fortunate enough to get to two of these Fairs this year, and meet hundreds of students in the process.

View from the Westminster Music Library stall at the Royal Academy of Music’s Freshers' Fair 2016

I first attended Royal Academy of Music’s Fair, in their very grand concert hall. Over an intense two hours, students flooded in. The amount of foot traffic was amazing and our stall was always surrounded. Fortunately, I was sharing a table with my colleague Barry, who was representing RAM’s local public library, Marylebone Library and Information Service. Between us we were able to keep up with the interest in our stall! A large number of students signed up for memberships after learning about our wide selection of stock and generous loan allowances. Being music students, many were particularly interested in our rehearsal space with piano. Here I also met our friends from Barbican Music Library, with whom I would be sharing a table at our next Fair. By the end of the Fair Barry and I were exhausted but satisfied with the interest shown.

Barry from Marylebone Library at the Royal Academy of Music’s Freshers' Fair 2016

After a few days I was out on the road again, carrying with me our same sheet music samples, fliers, membership forms, and, most importantly, free chocolates to entice hungry students. I was slightly concerned that my poor little folding bicycle would collapse under the strain on the way to Guildhall School of Music and Drama! Guildhall’s Fair was in their downstairs Theatre, a huge underground space. The size of the space allowed many more stallholders to be present, and I particularly enjoyed seeing my friends from Paxman Musical Instruments Ltd., who sold me my own instrument many years ago. Other stallholders ranged from the local police force to the Royal British Legion, and even a stall selling second-hand bicycles to new students. (Fortunately my bike had survived the journey and I didn’t need to replace it!). The Guildhall Fair was spread over five hours, and the stream of students was thinned out compared to RAM’s. Over the afternoon I was able to engage many interested musicians in conversations about their musical needs and how we can help them at the Library. Once again we had a great success, handing out many shiny new membership cards. Jacky, representing Barbican Music Library, was a wonderful table partner. The students could hardly believe it when they discovered that there were two specialist music libraries in London!

 Jacky from Barbican Music Library at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama's Freshers' Fair 2016

We are thankful to these two conservatoires for hosting us, and look forward to meeting more students in years to come.

If you’re a student new to London, whether or not we visited your institution we’d love to see you – come in and find out what we have to offer!

[Jon]

The Man Who Could Work Miracles

H.G. Wells by BeresfordA recent enquirer to the Guardian Notes and Queries column asked

“Which sci-fi author has come closest to predicting the future? Perhaps Isaac Asimov? Aldous Huxley? George Orwell? JG Ballard? Philip K Dick ? Arthur C Clarke?”

Guardian commenters weren’t slow to point out the name most conspicuously missing from that list with reader ‘geot22’ pointing out that

“Guys like Huxley and H.G. Wells’ do it for me. Huxley, spot on, predicted how our, ‘scientific,’ culture would evolve, and all culture with it. Wells’ Time Machine hit lots of sweet spots. My favorite is the bifurcation of man. Whereas we commonly, now, refer to the 99% and the 1%, or 0.1% …, Wells gave us the terms Eloi and Morlock, so vital for us to see our way through today.“

So what else did Wells predict? Moon landings, the second world war, lasers and genetic engineering have all come to pass, time travel, invisibility and alien invasions haven’t so far as we know…

And why are we thinking about Herbert George Wells at the moment? Because 21 September is his 150th birthday and we’re big fans of his books here in Westminster. Plus, he spent the last decades of his life living in Marylebone, first at 47 Chiltern Court, next to Baker Street Station and then at 13 Hanover Terrace just by Regents  Park (where his windows were shattered in an air-raid).

The War of the Worlds by HG Wells

So which Wells should you read? Well, if you’re in any way a science fiction fan, The War of the Worlds is essential. It’s one of the first stories of alien invasion, this time in the homely surrounds of Surrey and South London, and contains some unforgettable images of the invading Martians and London, empty and silent after the population have fled. There have been several film versions and those of us of a certain age grew up with Jeff Wayne’s concept album, but the most famous adaptation is undoubtedly Orson Welles’ 1938 radio play which allegedly caused panic throughout America.

You can listen to it below and judge for yourself how frightening it is:

You can also find out what Wells himself thought, in this conversation between Wells and Welles:

Or perhaps you might prefer The Time Machine with its futuristic story of the feeble luxury-loving Eloi, evolved from the leisured classes, and brutal light-fearing Morlocks, once the workers. If you’ve never seen the 1960 film adaptation with Rod Taylor, you’re in for a treat. Another favourite is The Man Who Could Work Miracles, a short story within The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories (read it online here), about an office clerk who finds he has magical powers.

The Time Machine by HG Wells     The Country of the Blind and other stories by HG Wells

Science fiction is all very well, but Wells really deserves to be known for his social realism too. The History of Mr Polly and Kipps (soon to be seen in the West End as the musical Half a Sixpence), both of which draw on Wells’ unhappy experience as a draper’s assistant, are probably his best known novels but the lesser known ones offer their own charms. A particular favourite is The Dream, which combines both Utopian fantasy and harsh realism as a man from the future tells his friends of his dream of being a publisher’s clerk who becomes a soldier in World War I.

Kipps by HG Wells     The history of Mr Polly by HG Wells

There are plenty of places to find out more about Wells’ long life and career. Your first port of call should be the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your Westminster library card) but having had your appetite whetted you may well want a full biography – there are many to be found in Westminster Libraries. Or you may wish to try David Lodge’s novel A Man of Parts which focuses on Wells’ many affairs.

Whether you commemorate Wells’ sesquicentennial with a book, a film or a radio play you cannot fail to be amazed at the extraordinary range of his works. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a treat.

[Nicky]

The digital revolution in our lives

ICT training in Westminster LibrariesWhile helping to plan the forthcoming ‘Computers in the Fall’ IT training for beginners, I began to think about the huge changes the digital revolution has brought about. A great place to start when looking into this topic is Issues Online. We’ve written about this great series before on Books & the City and I went straight to check recent additions to its contents. This can be done by going to Issues Online (log in with your library card number) and selecting a topic: in this case, The Internet. Among recent additions to this resource were surveys and statistics of digital usage.

The first link I checked was a snapshot of key digital statistics (January 2016) which revealed that from a total UK population of 64.91 million there are 59.47 million active internet users. Social media and mobile phone/tablet/pad active accounts statistics were also compiled. ‘Active accounts’ recognises the fact that many people have more than one device and use several social media platforms and therefore does not refer to individuals. The survey found 33 million active mobile phone users and 38 million active social media users.

These figures whilst impressive do not provide much detail. Some idea of how people use the internet can be found in a second survey from YouGov which asked the question ‘Which is the most important consumer invention?’

Issues Online - The Internet of Things Not surprisingly, examples from the digital revolution ranked highly. In first place at 55% was the invention of the smartphone (62% of 18-24 year olds put smartphones first). Age differences are reflected in the methods of digital communication that appear in the survey results. For instance, there was a large age discrepancy in the ranking of Facebook in the survey. It was ranked second by the under 40s but only fifth for older people surveyed. Older people were more likely to use Skype as a means of communication.

If you feel that you are being left behind in the digital revolution, there is hope. Take a look at the topics we’re covering in the ‘Computers in the Fall’ training at Marylebone Library – from mouse skills for beginners to how to shop safely online. Choose your topic or topics and just turn up – there is no need to book in advance.

[Francis]