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Windrush history explored at Clapham South Shelter

HISTORY: Caribbean migrants settling in at the Clapham Deep South Shelter (Photo credit: TopFoto)

THE 70TH anniversary of Windrush celebrates the pioneering generation that came to Britain from the Caribbean on 22 June 1948 on the SS Empire Windrush ship.

These enterprising individuals helped to rebuild Britain after the war when there were labor shortages in housing, transport and hospital work.

Upon their arrival, around 236 migrants from the merchant vessel were housed in the labyrinth of underground passages at Clapham South when they first arrived from the former British colonies.

This site forms part of the UK’s diverse history and was also used for civilian sheltering during the Second World War and as budget hotel accommodation in the post-war years during the Festival of Britain 1951.

In commoration of the Windrush 70th anniversary, London Transport Museum are providing tours of the underground shelter to the public, giving people the opportunity to explore the 16 sub shelter space which played an integral role in British history.

The lack of housing after the Second World War meant that accommodation for British citizens from the Caribbean was in short supply. When the authorities became aware that over 200 migrants had nowhere to stay, Clapham South was used as a short-term residential base for them until they could fine their own homes. Within four weeks of arriving, all the Windrush migrants had moved out the site.

PICTURED: John Richards

One of the Windrush migrants who stayed at the shelter was 92-year-old John Richards from Jamaica. Mr Richards arrived in Britain on the Windrush in 1948, and lived at the shelter for three weeks before moving into a hostel in South Kensington. From there, he has lived the majority of his live in the Kensal Rise area and received his first job opportunity with British Railyways after meeting someone at the shelter.

“He was recommended to visit a recruitment centre for British Railways where he got his first job”, recalled Siddy Holloway, engagement manger for London Transport Museum who spoke with Mr Richards.

“He worked primarily at Orpington station and a few other surrounding stations in London.”

Clapham South Shelter

“I’ll always remember the trains that ran overhead in the morning woke me up. There were beds all around with crisp white sheets. They had a tea cart at the station…pie in the evening” remembered Mr Richards.

“I survived because friends know friends. It was hard but in the long run you find a way.”

Chris Nix, Assistant Director, Collections and Engagement at London Transport Museum, added: “It was a real honour to meet Mr Richards. He is now 92 and was able to share some fascinating insights into what life was like for Caribbean people back in 1948 when they first arrived in London and lived in this former Second World War bomb shelter.

John Richards and Chris Nix, Assistant Director, Collections and Engagement at London Transport Museum, inside the Clapham Deep South Shelter

“I am looking forward to communicating these precious moments of history with people on our Clapham South Hidden London tours”.

Tickets are now on sale for tours starting 11 August and run on Wednesday to Sundays. Tickets for adults cost £38.50 and concessions are £33.50 (£1.50) booking fee per transaction). Tours finish on 16 September 2018.

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