Hammersmith & Fulham’s Black history

For Black History Month 2021, Urbanwise brings to life the stories, locations and people connected to Hammersmith & Fulham's local Black history.


Manny: Follow me, as we discover fascinating stories of some of the key people who helped shape Hammersmith and Fulham's Black history.

[Title card] The pre-Victorian era (before 1837)

[Visual description] Manny is standing on the riverside walk with Hammersmith Bridge in the background.

Manny: Let's start by talking about the pre-victorian era. The Hammersmith and Fulham that you see today was a lot different back in the 17th century.

The area was a countryside filled with farms, orchards and market gardens that sold fruits and flowers to the city of London.

Where I'm standing on the Thames riverside, is where many rich people built large houses and travelled to London by boat. One such man goes by the name of Nicholas Crisp.

[Title card] Nicholas Crisp (1599 to 1666)

Manny: Nearly 400 years ago in 1629, Crisp helped establish the first ever chapel in Hammersmith later to be known as St Paul's Parish Church. He supplied money from his family business and the bricks for the church were made in his factory in Hammersmith.

But Nicholas Crisp was also involved in the slave trade. His company shipped goods such as cottons and metals to trade for slaves in west Africa.

Now someone who you might say is the opposite to Nicholas Crisp, is Granville Sharp.

[Title card] Granville Sharp (1735 to 1813)

[Visual description] Manny is outside Fulham House surgery.

Manny: Sharp was one of the earliest campaigners in Britain for the rights of enslaved people. His concern about slavery began in 1765 when visiting his brother's surgery in Fulham.

There he met Jonathan Strong a slave from Barbados who was beaten by a slave master and left in the streets. Sharp took the beaten man to hospital and paid for his treatment. Thanks to Sharp, the Lord Chief Justice of England ruled in 1772 that a master could not force an enslaved person to leave Britain.

[Visual description] Manny is in the churchyard at All Saints Church, Fulham.

Manny: A pioneer of Britain's abolitionist movement, Granville Sharp died in 1813 and is buried here in the churchyard of All Saints Church in Fulham.

[Title card] The Victoria Era (1837 to 1901)

[Visual description] Manny is in Lyric Square Hammersmith.

Manny: During the Victorian era, the population of Hammersmith from Fulham boomed from 5,000 people to over 100,000 people.

The Metropolitan and District lines were built and Hammersmith Bridge was opened. An American couple who came to live in the middle of Hammersmith during Victorian times, have an incredible story to tell.

[Title card] Ellen Craft (1826 to 1891) and William Craft (1824 to 1900)

[Visual description] Manny is on Cambridge Grove (formerly Cambridge Road) in Hammersmith.

Manny: William and Ellen Craft were former African-American slaves turned fugitives. They came to live right here in 26 Cambridge Road in the 1850s.

[Visual description] There is an English Heritage blue plaque outside 26 Cambridge Grove to commemorate where the couple lived and the work they did.

Manny: They met and married in William's home state of Georgia USA. In the winter of 1848, William and Ellen devised a plan to leave the plantation after realising they might be separated forever. Their escape became famous.

As Ellen had light skin, she dressed as a white man pretending to be with her enslaved servant William. They traveled all the way from the warmth of Georgia to arrive in Philadelphia on Christmas Day.

By 1850 the couple sailed to England settling in Hammersmith where they lectured against American slavery. William told this story in the best-selling book called Running a Thousand Miles to Freedom.

[Title card] Mary Seacole (1805 to 1881)

[Visual description] Manny is standing by the Mary Seacole memorial statue outside St Thomas' Hospital in Waterloo.

Manny: Another inspiring character from the Victorian era with a local link is Mary Seacole. And by the way, I'm standing now right here at St Thomas' Hospital in front of her memorial statue which is believed to be the UK's first in honor of a named black woman.

She was born in Jamaica. Her father was a British army officer and her mother was a free Black woman.

Mary learned about medicines, herbs and plants from her mother's career practices in the 1820s. She traveled to England to learn about modern European medicine, and in the 1850s Mary funded her trip to Crimea where she healed the injured and sick soldiers.

[Visual description] Manny is in St Mary's Catholic Cemetery.

Manny: She returned from the war with no money soon to be forgotten. Mary died in 1881 in London and is buried here at the St Mary's Catholic Cemetery where she laid unknown for almost a century.

[Title card] Britain in the 1930s and 1940s

Manny: Moving on to Hammersmith and Fulham in the 1930s. The first person we meet is Marcus Garvey.

[Title card] Marcus Garvey (1887 to 1940)

[Visual description] Manny is on Talgarth Road, Baron's Court.

Manny: Garvey was born in jamaica in 1887. In 1912 he moved to Britain to become a reporter. He returned to his native home in 1927. He founded the UNIA which stands for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which aims to improve the lives of all Black people.

He returned to Hammersmith in the 1930s and he lived right here on Talgarth Road.

[Visual description] There is an English Heritage blue plaque outside 53 Talgarth Road to commemorate that Marcus Garvey lived and died there. 

Manny: He published a small newspaper called The Black Man from his offices in Beaumont Crescent.

[Visual description] There is a Narrative Eye blue plaque outside 2 Beaumont Crescent to commemorate that UNIA was based there.

[Visual description] Manny is in St Mary's Catholic Cemetery.

Manny: He died in 1940 and was buried here at the St Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery, the same place where Mary Seacole rests in peace. But his remains were returned to Jamaica in 1964 where he became the first recipient of the Jamaica Order of National Hero.

[Title card] The Windrush generation (1948 to 1958)

[Visual description] Manny is in Lyric Square Hammersmith.

Manny: Between 1948 and 1958 more than 100,000 West Indians came to Britain. Most of whom served in the British forces during the war. The arrival of Caribbean settlers on board the Empire Windrush has changed British history. The Windrush promised hundreds of new life in the mother country.

Sadly the Windrush generation faced racism and discrimination for years, but the determination of these heroes to rise above inequality would not be denied. One inspirational character from the Windrush generation is Connie Mark.

[Title card] Connie Mark (1923 to 2007)

[Visual description] Manny is outside Mary Seacole House in Hammersmith.

Manny: Connie was born in Jamaica and served as a medical secretary in World War 2.

After the war she moved to London where she became an activist for local West Indians. She co-founded the Mary Seacole Memorial Association to honor the famed nurse and bring recognition to Black service personnel. A plaque was installed in her honor at the Mary Seacole house in Hammersmith, former home of Connie Mark.

And here are three other places in Hammersmith and Fulham named after individuals who are central to our more recent Black history.

Randolph Burstford, former Mayor of Hammersmith Fulham, has a community center in White City named after him. Janet Adigoge the first Black woman in London to be mayor, has a swimming pool in White City named after her.

And the White City stadium was renamed the Lindford Christie stadium in honor of the olympian in 1993.

And let's not forget Hammersmith and Fulham has also played an important role in Black British music history. Here you can find iconic record labels and venues such as Peckings Records, whose owner George Pecking, was the first to export Jamaican sounds to the UK. It's still open today in Askew Road.

Greensleeves Records, which from 1977 onwards, became the number one label for Caribbean sounds. It used to be at 44 Uxbridge Road but is now occupied by the new Shepherd's Bush station.

The former worldwide headquarters of Island Records, where Bob Marley recorded some of the tracks for the album Exodus, [is] now an architecture studio.

The legendary Hammersmith Apollo which is still a famous music venue today. And the now gone venue the Hammersmith Palais, which for a period in the 1970s and 80s, felt like the epicenter for black music in London.

If some of the people and events of Hammersmith and Fulham's Black history got you thinking, go to the Urbanwise website for more information.