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Clapham Society finish friend’s book a year after his death as a ‘fitting tribute’

By Aliss Higham
January 30 2020, 11.38

Members of the Clapham community have banded together to finish a book written by their late friend.

Peter Jefferson Smith died in December 2018, shortly after finishing the text for his book The I’Ansons: A Dynasty of London Architects and Surveyors.

Three members of the Clapham Society edited and designed the book, led by Alyson Wilson.

She said: “One thing we always do with a well-known local person is pop another tree on the common. But that was not an appropriate memory of somebody who had spent all his life here.”

Mr Jefferson settled in Clapham after studying at Trinity College Cambridge, and worked as a civil servant before dedicating his retirement to documenting the evolution of London’s architecture and the work of three generations of the I’Anson’s, a successful family of Victorian architects and surveyors. 

The book chronicles the life and work of the family, whose buildings still stand in Clapham and across London today, as well as the social history of the area. 

She added: “He was a serious all-rounder and deeply devoted to the area, so we thought this was a really good way of paying tribute.”

Mrs Wilson was determined to finish it within a year of his passing, and recruited a team to help her compile an index, take pictures and provide sketches. 

“Like so many things in life, you don’t know what you take on until you’re halfway through it.

“It was very hard work and even though it was difficult it was very rewarding and I got very interested in the whole thing.

“The most rewarding thing of all is his widow is absolutely ecstatic. It’s done something for him by keeping her happy.”

The group even self-published the book, not wanting the delay that often comes with big publishing houses. 

The society had a launch at the end of November at the Omnibus Theatre, one of the buildings featured in the book. 

Mrs Wilson said: “It is a fitting tribute for Peter who was always known, not only for his intellect, but for his tireless support of others and his kindness.”

The I’Ansons: A Dynasty of London Architects and Surveyors is available to buy online through The Clapham Society website and on Amazon, or in person at Clapham Book, 26 The Pavement, SW4 0JA.

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