Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wandsworth Council Commemorates John Archer

At its meeting on Wednesday 4 December the Tory and Labour Leaders on Wandsworth Council jointly proposed a motion to commemorate John Archer being Battersea’s Mayor for the year from November 1913. 

The following was unanimously approved at the meeting:

That this Council:

a) record its appreciation of the life and work of John Archer on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his election as the Mayor of Battersea and as the first black mayor in London;

b) commend him not only for his service to Battersea Borough Council, but also for his commitment to many charitable causes, including establishing a relief fund for families of those enlisted in the First World War and providing assistance to the poor, disabled and elderly through the work of the “Wandsworth Guardians”;

c) acknowledge his work as a Trustee of Sir Walter St. John’s School and Battersea Polytechnic and as President of the Nine Elms Swimming Club, and his involvement more broadly in health, welfare and educational issues including at the international level;

d) note with pride the Royal Mail’s issue of a commemorative stamp bearing the image of John Archer in the “Great Britons” series, and the installation by English Heritage of a “Blue Plaque” to his former home at 55 Brynmaer Rd, SW11;

 e) thank the present Mayor for holding a special citizenship ceremony in John Archer’s honour, including her special address at that ceremony dedicated to his life; and

f) encourage residents and others to visit the exhibition on John Archer’s life which will tour the Borough’s libraries and acknowledge the contribution of his biographer and former Wandsworth councillor, Sean Creighton, in the material used for the exhibition.’

The decision to do something was a personal one by Ravi Govindia, the Tory Leader. In his speech he stressed that Archer was a small business man and an aspirational example. In due course a video of the meeting will be loaded up on A page about John Archer is also included in the December issue of the Council’s magazine Brightside – so thousands of people in the Borough will get to know something about him. The excellant display put was together by GLL Heritage Library archivist Ruth MacLeod and the Council design team. 

Ravi Govindia’s Speech

‘John Archer was a man of many parts.  On one occasion he said that he was a Lancastrian born and bred, which for a man born in Liverpool will be accurate.  His father was from Barbados, but it was as the Battersea man that he became well known. 

John Archer was not always welcome within his party and at one point was told by the Battersea Vanguard, a publication of the Battersea Labour Party “Should take a trip around the world to improve his political judgement”.  Of course he was not always a winner, for in 1909 he lost, following internal squabbles.   John Archer was also not the first black Mayor in Britain, that honour went to somebody who became Mayor of Thetford in 1904. 

When I first got interested in local politics and subsequently joined the Council I knew nothing about John Archer.  I guess many others would have been the same.  Therefore I am grateful to Sean Creighton who, through his diligent research, has filled that gap for me and many.

What is important about John Archer is that he was a character who spotted opportunities for himself and made the most of them.  Self improvement was obviously a mark of his character.   He was a small businessman and ran a photographic studio in Battersea.  For him things did not end there,  he was also committed  to improving the lives of others.  For us in local government these days, we are mainly involved in managing a local authority, however, in John Archer’s time local government was a power for change.  For me what is important is that John Archer should be a role model for young men and women in our borough.  As we embark on our ambitious regeneration plans for the two Battersea estates we want to see a vast improvement in the lives of the residents, they have a golden chance to make the most of these opportunities.  In his day, John Archer in improving the lives of others, opened up opportunities and I am sure he would expect, as I do, that people should make the most of the opportunities opened up for them.’ (Re-constructed by Ravi Govindia from his notes.)

To be kept informed by future activities about John Archer, 
including talks and walks, up to November 2014
 please contact
Sean is available to give talks to organisations in Wandsworth and elsewhere


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