Mural: Szabo mural
Erection date: 14/10/1998
1921 - 1945
Site: Stockwell war memorial, and others (6 memorials)
SW9, Stockwell Terrace
This triangle of land is all that remains of Stockwell Common. From London Gardens online: "Now rather isolated amid heavy traffic, Stockwell Memorial Garden is a small triangular space surrounding a fine white stone WWI memorial. It was laid out c.1920 when the site at Stockwell Terrace was conveyed to Lambeth Borough Council. In 1928 it is described as having lawns and flower beds and 'very attractive'."
An on-site public information board provides the following three paragraphs:
"This site was originally part of South Lambeth Common, a large tract of open land belonging to the Manor of Vauxhall and owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was gradually enclosed, often illegally, by local tenants for keeping livestock at the beginning of the 19th century, until they were evicted and new restrictions were placed on enclosures or buildings.
These restrictions were lifted in 1843, and a local developer called John Notely bought up and developed much of the land for housing, but left behind a small piece of open space in front of Stockwell Terrace. His successors passed it to Lambeth Borough Council in 1920 in order for it to be developed into a new war memorial garden. A splendid stone memorial tower, originally commemorating men who died in the 1914 - 1918 War but since then including the dead of the Second World War, was built in 1922 and the rest of the site grassed over.
At the centre of the site is a large ventilation shaft which serves the nearby Stockwell underground station. Covering the external walls of this structure are murals commemorating those who fought and died in Two World Wars, including a memorial to Violette Szabo GC MBE (1921 - 1945), the famous Second World War heroine. Originally born in Paris, she grew up and went to school in nearby Stockwell Road, before serving in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) until her capture and death in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The memorial gardens also contain the Bronze Woman Sculpture, which celebrates the many achievements of Black Caribbean and African women in Britain, and which was unveiled on October 8th 2008."
Naomi Klein, who has done extensive research on this memorial tells us that the information on this board is inaccurate. Lambeth are (2012) in the process of refreshing this memorial and the garden and have agreed to use Naomi's text for a new board. The reference to Stockwell residents lost in WW2 on the Szabo plaque seems a rather cheapskate memorial.
A label on the mural gives: "This mural was unveiled by 96 year old In-Pensioner A. E. Alexandre of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in the presence of Cllr. Daphne Hayes-Mojon, the Mayor of Lambeth, on 14 October 1998 - 80 years since the end of World War One. The mural is based on designs by pupils from Stockwell Park School and has been painted by Brian Barnes. It was commissioned by the Stockwell Partnership - a multi-agency body working to improve the Stockwell neighbourhood."
In 2005 Brian Barnes who painted the original mural added a painting of Jean Charles de Menezes but the council quickly removed it.
A blue plaque reads: "This plaque commemorates the restoration of the Stockwell War Memorial and the memorial mural, unveiled on 14 September 2013 by the Mayor of Lambeth. The project was funded by Lambeth Council and the War Memorials Trust, and carried out in partnership with the Friends of Stockwell War Memorial & Gardens and the London Mural Preservation Society and with the help of artist Brian Barnes and a team of volunteers."