When you visit Lambeth Archives you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a bit dull. The archives are located in The Minet Library, a squat 1950s public library built to replace a more ornate Victorian building destroyed by a direct hit from a bomb in WWII.
You’ll see what I mean on our website.
On entering you’ll find the public search-room is lined with directories, electoral registers , map cabinets, card catalogues and books on the history of the South London borough it serves. While these resources contain a wealth of information for family and local historians they hardly inspire or excite the uninitiated. But the heart of this record office, archive and local history library is hidden beneath the ground in the rolling stacks and storage rooms.
Whilst many of the items are mundane there are amongst the boxes of files, council minutes and personal papers some real gems. Not least of which is Lambeth’s collection of over 50,000 illustrations and photographs spanning more than five centuries.
It’s from this collection that 40 works have been selected for the exhibition I attended this evening.
While all of the images displayed are important there are three, which you can view at on Lambeth Landmark, that stand in my opinion.
A simple pencil sketch of a view of Brixton by an unknown artist showing the newly built tower of St Matthew’s church in the centre of Brixton, from the 1830s, is a dramatic contrast to the hustle and bustle of inner-city Brixton as we know and love it today http://landmark.lambeth.gov.uk/display_page.asp?section=landmark_fullsize&id=4096
A couple of tinted photographs from the late 1930 showing people enjoying the summer at Brockwell Lido http://landmark.lambeth.gov.uk/display_page.asp?section=landmark_fullsize&id=1627 and http://landmark.lambeth.gov.uk/display_page.asp?section=landmark_fullsize&id=5439
And another view of central Brixton, this one a water-colour, from what is now the site of Lambeth Town Hall http://landmark.lambeth.gov.uk/display_page.asp?section=landmark_fullsize&id=4512
There is also one image which I would say is my favourite but sadly it’s not on the website yet. It’s a 1938 black and white photo of two young girls outside The Artichoke pub in Lower Marsh, Waterloo. One of the girls holds out a lolly which the other child pops in her mouth, while their parents are probably in the pub enjoying a beer or two. It’s really cute and delightfully innocent. But to see this image you’ll have to go to the exhibition yourself – or visit the archives.
The exhibition, Gems of Lambeth Archives, is being held at Brockwell Hall in Brockwell Park between Brixton, Herne Hill and Tulse Hill and it is open to the public from Friday 15 April to Sunday 17, 10:30am to 4:30pm and best of all it’s free.
The evening was a pleasant one for me, having just returned to the archives from a two year secondment it was a great chance to see some of the lovely people I’ve become acquainted with in the seven years I’ve worked in Lambeth.