Sue Hubbert tells of how occasion was marked on Wimbledon Broadway
William Morris House and one of its meeting rooms. Picture: Susanne Hakuba
December 13, 2022
On 21 October there was a celebration of the opening of William Morris House in the Wimbledon Broadway 100 years ago. This was a wonderful occasion where those present met up with many old friends and made new ones. People who use the house for their activities came to share the occasion with us. The house looked its best with the many artefacts associated with William Morris on show and the Suffragette display reminding us of the beginnings of the building. We had to turn people away.
Hassan Mahamdallie gave a passionate and riveting talk about William Morris’ socialism which has largely been marginalised by mainstream commentators over the years. In his later years Morris tirelessly travelled the country promoting his ideas. Hassan is a playwright, theatre director, artist and activist and also a founder member of the campaigning organisation Unite Against Fascism. He published a biography of Morris, ‘Crossing the River of Fire: the Socialism of William Morris’ (2008). I think I’m not the only one who could have listened to him all night.
The event saw the launch of Peter Walker’s fascinating booklet with its interesting illustrations about the history of William Morris House and the radical people and groups that promoted led to its opening: “Celebrating 100 Years of William Morris House and Wimbledon’s Radical Past”. The directors plan to put a copy of the booklet on the WMH website and provide each shareholder household with a physical copy early in the New Year. It will also be in libraries.
The house was opened by the Rt Hon Arthur Henderson MP who was reported as saying:
“The Labour movement had not always acted as expeditiously as it might in securing centres such as this, especially considering the way in which the older orthodox parties had always tried to cover constituencies with clubs and similar institutions.” (Wimbledon Borough News)
The booklet includes a recently discovered copy of the document as pictured which launched an appeal for funds to purchase a building and outlines the three key figures who shaped Labour and Socialist history in Wimbledon.
William Morris, world famous designer, founder of the Merton Abbey Branch of the Socialist League, and owner of his company based in Merton Abbey South Wimbledon, whose employees were instrumental in founding William Morris House.
Rose Lamartine Yates , leader of Wimbledon Suffragettes who assisted in raising funds for the acquisition of the House.
Tom Braddock MP, a keyfigure in setting up the house, who joined the Wimbledon Socialist Society in 1905 and was a local activist in the Labour movement into his eighties when he stood as Labour candidate in the General Election of 1966.
The booklet also outlines the economic ups and downs of William Morris House through the years, but encouragingly concludes that the house today is debt free with money in the bank, which should ensure it is still providing a campaigning base for the Labour Movement in Wimbledon for the next one hundred years!
Peter delighted his audience with amusing highlights from his book. I loved the story about how Lord Spencer’s house burned down and delighted Wimbledon citizens discovered his wine cellar. Spencer came home to see the common strewn with bodies – the first example of the redistribution of wealth in Wimbledon’s history. We were inspired by the discovery of a programme of events with titles such as “Labour’s Next Step” and “Current Politics and Politicians”. If only we had the gift of time travel. There were musical evenings and even a choir.
The house and its unique atmosphere offers a friendly base for meetings, so if you belong to a group why not try it out. If you have suggestions as to possible speakers or events, particularly local community workers or activists from every part of our diverse Wimbledon community, do get in touch. See the website for future events: www.williammorrishouse.org.uk
Director of William Morris House
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