Wandsworth Common Friends group to publish 150th anniversary book

A climate-conscious community group in Wandsworth will publish its first book in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Wandsworth Common this May.

The Wandsworth Common Story was written by members and contributors from the Friends of Wandsworth Common (FOWC).

Co-chairs of the group, Richard and Julia Fox-Bott, have been planning and collating the book’s contents since early 2020.

Friends of Wandsworth Common 150th anniversary logo
CELEBRATING 150 YEARS: The Friends of Wandsworth Common’s 150th anniversary logo

Richard, 66, and Julia, 67, have lived and worked in Wandsworth for over 30 years, and founded Friends of Wandsworth Common in 2018.

It developed as an offshoot from the common’s Management Advice Committee (MAC) after the couple found that the committee wasn’t reaching all users of the common.

The book comes as a result of users’ interest in the rich history and heritage of Wandsworth Common.

Selling off of Wandsworth Common land before transfer of ownership
BEFORE AND AFTER: Sections of the common that were sold off by the Lord of the Manor

Richard explained: “The 150th anniversary is a celebration of the Wandsworth Common Act, a parliamentary act which transferred ownership of the common from Lord of the Manor, the fifth Earl Spencer, and distant relative of Princess Diana, to a board of conservators in 1871.”

Richard expressed confidence in the popularity and interest for the book as 1500 copies are due to be printed.

Julia added: “It will feature 150 articles about different people, places, objects and interesting things in the common.

“We’ve divided it into five sections: nature, culture, society, buildings and politics.”

Poster explaining the need for transfer of ownership for Wandsworth Common
DOWN WITH THE FENCES: A plea to transfer ownership of the common out of Lord Spencer’s possession. He had been selling off parts of the common, reducing the original green space

The FOWC committee plan to host more celebratory events for the anniversary in July, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

This includes the unveiling of a blue plaque in Clapham Junction, honouring John Buckmaster, who spearheaded the protests that transferred ownership of the common.

There will also be a green Wandsworth Council plaque unveiled in the middle of Wandsworth Common to commemorate those involved in making the common what it is today.

FOWC also began a tree-planting project in late 2020, with the aim to plant 150 trees in commemoration.

This has extended to planting dense undergrowth “miniforests”, which has also been underway in Hammersmith Park.

The goal of raising £5000 for this project has almost doubled.

Miniforest-planting raises awareness of climate change.
MINIFOREST: An underground network of roots being planted, a process adopted from Japan

The Fox-Bott’s passion for climate change came after spending time exercising in the common, and they practise an environmentally-kind lifestyle.

They added: “We gave up driving our car 30 years ago. We try to eat as vegetarian and vegan as possible.”

FOWC’s mission statement engages users of the common to look after its green space, and leave it beautiful and preserved.

Pictures credited to Richard and Julia Fox-Bott

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