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Rich history of Somers Town

25 June, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Claudia Jones

SOMERS TOWN is one of the most neglected parts of the borough.

Sometimes it is almost treated with a kind of mild indifference by the council.

Yet it is one of the richest districts in the borough whose population has been made up over the past 300 years by migrations of ordinary people.

The Irish came in their hundreds in the 19th century to help build London, the Bangladeshis came at the Second World War to help rebuild a tattered economy.

And from all that emerged literary giants like the great essayist William Godwin and the radical feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and the radical politician and journalist Claudia Jones who founded the famous London Carnival as well as a West Indian weekly.

I never met her but she was so famous that when she died in 1964 her fame had spread to China where I attended a memorial meeting in the Peace Hotel in then Peking, now known as Beijing.

All of the rich history of Somers Town is encapsulated in a history magazine published by the Somers Town History Club to be launched on Zoom on July 2. Professor Esther Leslie will interview Joyce Fraser who wrote a play about Claudia Jones whose idea of a carnival was first trialled, as it were, at St Pancras Town Hall before it became the annual million-strong event held in August.

One day, hopefully, a plaque memorialising her will be placed at her home in Hampstead.


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