Archives at Home, Memories

Archives from home, part 21

Many of our regulars have been documenting this period of lockdown in their own way.  Hilaire and Stephen, a poet and an artist respectively, have been working together (apart!) during lockdown to produce an illustrated poetry pamphlet which documents their experiences of lockdown in Battersea.  We were delighted to receive a copy of the pamphlet, and even more so when Hilaire and Stephen agreed to answer a few of our questions, and let us share some poems and illustrations from the pamphlet!

How important is observation to your work, and what sort of things do you notice that most of us don’t?!

Stephen: I now see what birdwatching is about. The singing – they respond to whistles. The various flights and featherings, and their learnt fear of humans.

Hilaire: It’s often a small detail that will start me off on a poem. A sound, an odd juxtaposition, and perhaps an attention to the linguistic or personal associations that the detail may prompt.

How has nature reclaimed your part of Battersea while we are all indoors?

Stephen: The air is much cleaner. There is a partial loss of that horrid dirty thick layer of filthy air spread over the capital!

Hilaire: I hear much more birdsong. The skies have been beautifully clear, though recently I’ve noticed more planes flying overhead again. Also parks and open spaces are looking less manicured. I love how nature quickly asserts herself when given half a chance.

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How does Stephen choose the style of font for each poem?

Stephen: The font is one things, calligraphy another. If your heart is in it, you are free to follow your own zeitgeist & inspiration.

Haiku and Tanka – can you tell us a bit about these forms?  What made you choose them?

Hilaire: These are both Japanese forms. Haiku, in English, is traditionally three lines containing 17 syllables in total, spread over the three lines as 5/7/5 syllables. Tanka is like an extended haiku, of five lines, the first three the same as a haiku, and the last two lines both seven syllables. Usually a haiku or tanka will contain a reference to the season or elements of nature. I chose these forms because they are short – which felt manageable, especially as I was aiming to write one every day – and also as I like the challenge of trying to say something new or different in a condensed way.

How has this creative outlet helped you both during this time?Stephen: An apple a day… a little art can make you happy all day

Hilaire: It’s been great to have a focus, to realise that even in restricted circumstances I can create a small poem that didn’t exist until I sat down at my desk with a mug of coffee. And then to see that transformed by Stephen into a striking visual version has been really exciting. Working together gave it a momentum I’m not sure I’d have been able to maintain on my own.

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 Stephen was a theoretical physicist in a past life!  How does this influence his art?

Stephen: I cannot be a happy and peaceful person except through creativity and invention, but even in those pursuits I cannot be rid of intellectuality. The plus side is that not many do art in my way!

Lastly, where do we get a copy?!

You can order a copy from Hilaire’s blog: https://hilaireinlondon.wordpress.com/shop/

Or contact Stephen on: 07955 400682

We are now open on an appointment only basis – if you would like to make an appointment to visit us, we’d love to see you!  Contact us at Heritage@gll.org.

Archives at Home, Housing, Memories, Women

Archives at home, part 20

The theme of this year’s heritage festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Many of the personal papers in our collection come to us via serendipity.  Perhaps they are found by new occupiers of a house on clearing out the attic, or by relatives when they have the sad task of clearing out a family home after a death.  Most of the time the would-be donor knew the person who created the papers – sometimes they were a close friend or relative.  Inevitably, these records are offered to us almost apologetically – with the caveat ‘you probably won’t be interested in these, but…’ and we just know  we are about to be offered something both ordinary and special!

Last year, we were offered two school jotters dating from 1926 which once belonged to Margaret White (1914-1979), who lived in Bolingbroke Road and went to Honeywell Road School.  One from housecraft classes, and one from cookery classes.  Margaret’s daughter wasn’t sure we’d be interested in these – but we were delighted to add them to our collection.  These two jotters tell us a great deal about the lives the girls in Margaret’s school were being prepared for.

Margaret was eleven years old when she wrote in these jotters.  Her very first lesson was in washing clothes – and there is a hint here that she got up to no good before even starting:

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Washing and drying the clothes is broken down in Margaret’s jotter into six (seemingly straightforward) steps, which in reality would have taken several hours:

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Quite apart from being horrified at the prospect of eleven year old girls sloshing boiling water around  and crushing their fingers in mangles, I was baffled as to what ‘bluing’ was.  Turns out that it is a process still used today, although far less common, and is largely for white fabrics.  Adding a touch of blue dye to the wash mitigated the yellowing and greying of the whites.  Further lessons documented in Margaret’s jotter include care and cleaning of glass, window cleaning, caring for leather boots and shoes, ironing, dusting, care and use of household brushes, cleaning cupboards, washing wood,  and cleaning utensils – all of which sound complicated and time consuming!

The likelihood was that Margaret and her classmates would have been putting the cleaning and washing skills they learned at school into practice at home – a reminder of this is the inclusion of infant care classes:

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Apart from the [extensive] work involved in keeping the home clean and orderly, there is also cooking to be done.  Very little of which, it has to be said, sounds terribly appetising.  One of the first things Margaret attempts is ‘Baked Stuffed Fish’, which sounds as flavoursome at the title would suggest:

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For her efforts, Margaret is awarded 6 out of 10 – and her teacher’s fading hand indicates that she should also have added parsley, suet, and seasoning [really not sure that the suet would have helped matters – don’t we use that mostly in bird feed these days?!].

I wish I could ask Margaret why she kept these jotters all these years.  It seems unlikely she would have referred back to them when cleaning her home as an adult, so perhaps her reasons were more sentimental.  Maybe she was fond of her teacher, despite the teacher’s tendency to be a harsh marker.  Or perhaps Margaret kept these jotters as a reminder of the expectations and limitations imposed upon women of her generation to share with her own daughter.  We’ll never know – but we’re grateful to give them a permanent home!

Archives at Home, House history, Housing

Archives at home, part 19

The theme of this year’s heritage festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

One of my favourite tasks as an archivist is exploring the history of a particular patch of land – seeing how it developed over the centuries, what it was used for, and – if it became housing – who lived there.  I often undertake this sort of research for school workshops, as I find looking at the microcosm of a school and its surrounding areas helps children undertake very practical tasks, such as interpreting maps; as well as more imaginative tasks, such as thinking about the different experiences of those who lived and worked on their patch.

In the context of house history, one school I thoroughly enjoyed doing this for was Broomwood Hall, which is located in Ramsden Road, Balham.  Broomwood Hall’s year one pupils are taught in a building which was once the vicarage of St Luke’s.  I spent a delightful morning with their year ones exploring not only the vicarage, but what was there before.  (And they must have enjoyed it – as I’ve visited their year one intake for the same workshop for the last two years!).

I like to start with the Roque map, so called after the cartographer, John Roque, who created it.  This map was surveyed between 1741-5, and covers London and parts of what was then Surrey.  We don’t have an original of this map, but we have a 19th century Stanford’s copy:

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Copy of the Roque map of 1741-5 with the position of the school indicated

I like this map because it is beautiful, but also because it shows us how rural the area was.  The children think about what kinds of crops were grown in the area, and what kinds of sights and smells they might encounter if they were to travel back there.

We can see that there was certainly a house on the site prior to the vicarage by looking at the 1865 ordnance survey map:

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Ordnance Survey Map, 1865

A look at the census record for this property from 1861 tells us that there was a lodge attached to Old Park House which housed the Ling family (the head of which was Henry Ling, the gardener of Old House):

The house itself was home to the Dent family, a family of four consisting of Villiers Dent; his wife, Susan; and their sons, Douglas and Villiers.  What was particularly fascinating to the children was that this household of four had six servants.  One of these servants was Ann Ling, who was doubtless the daughter of the Dent’s gardener.  On the night the census was taken, we can see the family have four visitors staying with them.

The first time we see St Luke’s Church in our map collection is in the 1894-6 Ordnance Survey map:

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1894-96 Ordnance Survey map showing position of vicarage

But it is not until the 1913-16 ordnance Survey map that we see the vicarage on the map:

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Ordnance Survey map, 1913-16, with vicarage highlighted

The children were rather delighted to discover who had lived in the house from the 1911 census:

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At this point, the minister is John Erskine Clarke, born in Calcutta, aged 83.  He has a visitor staying with him, as well as a house keeper, servant, house maid, and kitchen maid.  One class is taught in what was an attic room, and were delighted to think that their classroom was perhaps where Georgina, Thomas, Alice, or Em[?] had slept!

We talked about the sorts of jobs Georgina, Thomas, Alice, and Em would have done, and what their lives would have been like.  And some of us shouted out their names – though we didn’t get an answer back!

If you would like to know a bit more about the history of your house, while we have limited access to our collections at the moment, we are still answering enquiries!  Get in touch at Heritage@gll.org! 

Archives at Home, Memories

Archives at home, part 18

Geoff Simmons is a local historian and a graphic designer.  He has worked on and led a great deal of community projects in Wandsworth, including most notably the Summerstown 182 project, which charted the lives of the 182 servicemen inscribed on the war memorial in St Mary’s Church.  Before lockdown, Geoff frequently led walks throughout the borough, bringing alive layers of history to those who attended.  Themes included Tooting’s jazz singer, Sadie Crawford; Peter Barr, a nurseryman who popularised the daffodil; and the horses of Garratt Lane.  He has very kindly made these walks available on the Summerstown 182 blog.  He has also campaigned for plaques around the borough, including that of Peter Barr, Sadie Crawford, Sidney Lewis the youngest WW1 soldier, and Hazelhurst Road’s V2 site.

How long have you lived in Tooting, and what do you like most about it?

When I first came to my present abode, a long-time resident referred to it as Summerstown which is a pretty name. Its also next door to Wimbledon Stadium. That makes me quite mixed-up but I like to think it also allows me to free-range a bit. Certainly I’ve lived in the SW area, whether Furzedown, Southfields, Wandsworth for over 30 years, the entire length of Garratt Lane and all the way through Tooting to the bottom of Southcroft Road (hence my appreciation of all things Streatham).

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Image courtesy of Geoff Simmons

You have done a great deal of work to make local history visible and accessible to your local community – what initially inspired you to do this, and what keeps you doing it?

I had done a lot of my family’s history but always wondered if I could be intrigued by the stories about people I had no knowledge about. The First World War centenary got me going when I had a chat with the local vicar and he showed me the war memorial in the church next door to my house. It was sad that no one knew anything about any of the names on it. It took about five years but we put that right. Growing up in Northern Ireland in the troubles made me very aware of history unfolding around me. I feel its really important that people know something about where they are living and what went on there. It always amazes me that so few people do so I love to get out there and try and make them interested. Who wouldn’t be curious about a group of people doing a tour down their street or around their estate? On one occasion it was the anniversary of a soldier’s death and we were outside his home and I called for a minute’s silence. There were about thirty of us with our heads bowed when the person living there came out. He didn’t bat an eyelid. I really love being out on the streets doing a Walk. My Dad was a Clergyman and my Mum was a Cook’s Guide so maybe I’ve taken a bit of both but its been great to discover something quite late in life which gives me such fulfillment.

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Image courtesy of Geoff Simmons

A lot of your work is about uncovering the hidden history that is right under our noses! Is their a particular project you have enjoyed working on most, and why?

I loved seeing the story of Peter Barr ‘The Daffodil King’ get such a good response! It was just wonderful, everyone loved hearing about the nurseries and how relevant our area was in the development of this humble flower. I was really proud of the way it was extended into a growing project, sourcing and distributing ‘historic’ bulbs. My friend Kate really helped with this and its lead to a dynamic gardening project for Fircroft School. We walked around Tooting with sacks of labelled bulbs giving them to mosques, community centres, churches, charities and every primary school. It all finished off with BBC ‘Gardener’s Question Time’  visiting Peter Barr’s house on Garratt Lane. All this only happened thanks to George Dear’s research 25 years ago and it was a privilege to take that a step further. George was a grounds maintenance manager with Wandsworth Council who sadly passed away a few months ago. He didn’t think he was going to be able to attend the plaque unveiling but ended up coming all the way over from Furzedown on his mobility scooter. The latest downloadable walk is named after him.

George Dear
Image courtesy of Geoff Simmons

The ‘Stripes of Peace’ doves were very close to my heart. It was so incredibly moving to have them dangling on fences, gates and front doors of locations where the Summerstown 182 once lived in the weeks leading up to the Centenary Armistice. A really great way to climax those five years. It was so fitting that the council made a posthumous civic award to Judith Lawton who played such an important part in this and on a previous occasion to Sheila Hill who did so much research.

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Image courtesy of Geoff Simmons

How important have volunteers been to the work you have done, and what new skills have they learned from working with you?

I couldn’t do any of this without the support of people like Sheila and John who have helped since the first project began. So many others have helped such as on the craft side of things, like Berit and everyone at the Scrapstore. I think its more a case of me learning skills from them rather than the other way round. Undoubtedly its encouraged us all to look more closely at our community and break out from our comfort zone. We’ve collaborated with groups like BATCA, got involved in Hazelfest, Wandsworth Heritage Festival, Tooting Community Fun Day, Wandle Fortnight, and dare I say it crossed over into some other boroughs! We’ve all learnt about the great resources on our doorstep here in London, places like Wandsworth Heritage Service, London Met Archives, National Archives, Migration Museum. Also we’ve made strong connections with local groups and historians who’ve been active in this field for years. The Streatham Society have been particularly generous in sharing their knowledge and have always been so enthusiastic and supportive. We continually learn new things and its an exciting time to have an interest in history with a clear need to promote our more recent heritage and a different way of looking at things that happened a long time ago.

You have recently been researching gypsy and traveller presence in Wandsworth – much of which is undocumented. How did you go about your research, and what did you find out?

I’ve long been fascinated by local stories about a community based in the Wardley Street area and the way a very marginalised group still have a presence in the area today with two sites on opposite sides of the Wandle. That strikes me as quite phenomenal with so many changes and developments in our area. I’ve been talking about it my Wandle walks for the past few years, weaving it into some of the WW1 soldiers’ stories. Then I heard that the London Gypsy Travellers organisation were setting up a heritage mapping project and they came on a walk and have become friends. Before lockdown we had an incredible event in the Anchor Church where over 100 people turned up on a cold Wednesday lunchtime. I gave a brief talk but there was so much knowledge, enthusiasm and information in that room and the aim is to try and get some of that onto the LGT map and put up a plaque to create local awareness. The Surrey History Centre in Woking are very keen to help and this will I’m sure pick up momentum again after Lockdown. In the meantime ‘The Horses of Garratt Lane Walk’ which was part of the postponed Wandsworth Heritage Festival was one aspect of this and you can still get a sense by downloading a guide online.

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Image courtesy of Geoff Simmons

Lastly, what have you been working on during the last few months, and how are you staying sane during lockdown?

I’ve really missed being out on the streets doing tours but repurposing my walks and coming up with a few more has really kept me going and been a great way of expanding my boundaries even further. Lockdown life suits me fine and I’ve been cycling around planning new circuits and there are now 20 of these Walks for people to do. I’ve had some really great feedback and hopefully I can keep adding to them. Another good thing was when ‘Meet and Make Spaces’ asked me to get involved in an online community event at the end of May and I did a Tooting History Walk which was filmed and edited by Lawrence Evans. The end result is pretty amazing and will be a great way of attracting people to take an interest in local heritage in this area and also for anyone living further afield to see what’s going on.

Thanks very much, Geoff!  Geoff’s walks are available here.

Archives at Home, Housing, Women

Archives at home, part 17

This fortnight would have been the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.  Wandsworth Libraries & Heritage Service coordinates the heritage festival each year – but it only happens because so many of our local societies, organisations, and members of the community give up their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm so willingly.  The theme of this year’s festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Dr Sue Demont is a local historian, and was a teacher (and headteacher!) for many years.  She is an active member of the Battersea Society and the Friends of Wandsworth Common.  She was part of the War Comes Home committee which delivered a community project documenting the experiences of those who lived in Battersea during wartime.  Her most recent publications include ‘the Bombing of Battersea’ and ‘Battersea’s First Lady: the life and times of Caroline Ganley MP’.  Sue would have been leading a walk through Caroline Ganley’s Battersea today (though given the torrential rain and thunderstorms, she might be relieved it was postponed until next year!).  She has very kindly agreed to be interviewed about Caroline Ganley’s home life.

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Portrait of Caroline Ganley, National Portrait Gallery

Can you tell us why Caroline Ganley MP is so important?

 This is a big question with two big answers!

In terms of activity…65 years of public service in a whole range of roles, spanning a lifetime from Queen Victoria’s reign well into the Swinging ‘60s. Having left school at 14, Caroline Ganley became one of the first female magistrates in Britain, a district and county councillor, the first woman President of the 800,000-strong London Co-operative Movement, and Battersea’s first woman MP. Within and between these roles she was an ardent internationalist and peace campaigner, a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, the proud instigator of Battersea’s first maternity home and VD clinic, and a passionate officer of the Women’s Co-operative Guild at local, national and international level. In 1953 she was awarded the CBE, and she continued to sit on Battersea Borough Council until it was abolished in 1965 – by this time she was 85 years old and using a wheelchair.

And in terms of symbolism… Caroline Ganley’s life and work demonstrated what a working-class woman of limited education could achieve at the same time as raising a family in straitened financial circumstances – even before women had the vote.She proved that the money worries with which she grappled for most of her life need not prevent women from carrying out public and political service.Being elected the oldest Labour woman MP at the age of 66 she further demonstrated that age need not be a barrier to success. Caroline Ganley was a role model for other women both within Battersea and across the Labour and Co-operative Movements.

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Caroline and James Ganley at a celebration for their golden wedding anniversary, image courtesy of Sue Demont

What was Ganley’s home life like, and how did it influence her work?

Caroline Ganley’s own home life was overshadowed by bereavement; her father died before she was born and for ten years she was raised by her Irish grandmother so that her mother could go out to work. When her grandmother died Ganley was sent to an orphanage until she was 14, when she left to take up employment, ending up as a ‘nurse domestic’ for a stockbroker’s family until her marriage in 1901.

This sounds quite grim to us today but Ganley emphasises in her unpublished memoir that her grandmother, ‘a good wife and mother’ was very affectionate towards her. She also instilled in her grand-daughter the belief that women had rights as free citizens well as responsibilities within the home. 70 years later Ganley wrote that it was ‘upon the foundations of thought laid by her (that) I have built my life’.

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Unveiling of Battersea Society plaque at Thirsk Road by Councillor Tony Belton, image courtesy of Sue Demont

Can you tell us anything about her home itself?

Like many Battersea families the Ganleys struggled for years to find a decent home in which to bring up their family of three, and when in 1910 they managed to acquire no.5 Thirsk Road,with its own bathroom, it literally transformed Caroline Ganley’s life. She was to live here for the rest of her 56 years. A visiting reporter in the 1920s described no.5 as‘her pretty home’ and the house played an important role for generations of the family, including in old age Ganley’s mother Selina as well as her host of grandchildren. Even during the war Ganley continued to host regular Sunday family gatherings ‘where the news and happenings of the week were condensed into hours between the interval of meals and odd jobs.’ And it is clear that Ganley took her home-making role seriously; her memoir is full of references to domestic chores such as sewing, knitting, cooking and washing.

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Caroline Ganley with her Mother, Son, and Grandson, image courtesy of Sue Demont

Mention should be made here of Ganley’s husband James, who appears to have been unusually supportive and accommodating of his wife’s numerous public roles. The two of them sometimes shared domestic tasks, for example James might cook the dinner or Caroline would help him fit new light switches, and on one occasion the pair of them combined to redecorate the Labour Party’s headquarters at 177 Lavender Hill. Their long and happy marriage was the first to be celebrated by a Golden Wedding reception in the House of Commons.

How important was the issue of housing to Ganley in her role as MP?

This was a huge issue for Ganley as a constituency MP elected straight after the war. Battersea’s housing stock had been devastated by bombing with over 28,000 homes wholly or partly destroyed. By 1951 a quarter of the Borough’s population had moved away yet there were still nowhere near enough houses for those who remained, and much of what did survive was overcrowded and insanitary. Ganley’s constituency case load was dominated by housing issues and their associated problems, including broken marriages. She never forgot her own experiences of traipsing round Battersea with three small children trying to secure a decent home for her family – even in the 1940s she was still recording in her diary her joy at being able to have a hot bath. This made her a strong supporter of Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health and Housing in the 1945 Labour Government who was fighting to build houses of good quality as well as in large numbers.

What impact do you think the Co-operative movement had on the lives of housewives?

It was transformative for many women. The Women’s Co-operative Guild was one of the first ‘safe spaces’ within which women could gather and discuss not only the issues that affected their own lives but big social and political questions like divorce and abortion. The Guild ran extensive training programmes on public speaking, chairing meetings and setting up organisations and events, enabling women to participate in public life on more equal terms with men. One elderly member recalled in the 1970s that these programmes ‘altered the whole course of my life… I always had something to talk to’ whilst another noted that her Guild role made the drudgery of housework much more palatable because she always had something interesting to think about.

On a practical level the Co-op reached even more women, as the daily food shop was the one area of home life over which they had control of both purchase and purse. The Co-op prided itself on the quality of its goods and the fairness of its distribution,and its women members led numerous campaigns to promote the movement’s healthy eating options.

How important was female friendship to Ganley?

This was something else she particularly gained from the Women’s Co-operative Guild, though her friends were by no means confined to this area. The Guilds certainly knew how to enjoy themselves, running a host of social activities such as birthday parties and drama productions, and Ganley clearly relished these. Reading her memoir one is struck by the constant approving references to collective action and shared endeavour at every level. In 1929 she attended an international Co-op conference at the Hague and praised the hospitality of ‘our Dutch friends’, whilst at the other end of the scale she was much loved by the Lavender Hill Branch of the Guild, who referred to her as ‘our Mrs G’, always ready to do any small job.In Parliament she counted Prime Minister Clem Attlee and Liberal MP Lady Megan Lloyd George as her friends as well as the Labour women MPs.

Like any woman in public life before the late 20th century, Ganley had to operate in male-dominated arenas, and she clearly appreciated the support of her fellow women activists.These included Charlotte Despard, who engineered Ganley’s first public speaking engagement in Battersea Park, and her local colleague Mrs Winton Evans with whom she had fun over the issue of children’s feedingat the expense of the Chairman (sic) of the LCC’s Education Committee.

What made you write your book on Caroline Ganley?

Put simply, I felt it was terribly important that she shouldn’t be forgotten. Unlike most of the women MPs of 1945 (Barbara Castle, Jennie Lee, Bessie Braddock, Edith Summerskill etc) Caroline Ganley does not feature in the history books and has left no published memoir. Her constituency of Battersea South was abolished decades ago as were the LCC and Battersea Borough Council; even the Women’s Co-operative Guild has finally been disbanded. Yet these institutions were crucial to the history of our borough and our city, and to the history of women across Britain, and I wanted to salute the woman who made such effective use of them all to improve working people’s lives – especially those of women.

Many thanks, Sue!  To purchase a copy of Battersea’s First Lady: the Life and Times of Caroline Ganley MP, please email suedemont57@gmail.com