I work in South London, in Clapham. On Wandsworth Road. Just off The Common.
Surprisingly, although I did my Masters degree just down the road at Southbank University, I never really explored the area that much. My girlfriend and I used to take the tube north and wander around Pimlico, neglecting the wonders of South London.
I can put that right now. Battersea Arts Centre you know about already. I'm working on an article / short story called The Dead Pubs of Clapham which, well, talks about the dead pubs of Clapham. You'll like that.
Clapham Old Town is just a few minutes stroll from my office. And there lies, workmanlike and unshow-ey, The Holy Trinity Church. Splendidly set on the Common itself this eighteenth century evangelical church was the home of the Clapham Sect.
The Clapham sect - including William Wilberforce - used to meet and pray here. They were prime movers behind the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act. But not only did they drive the abolition of slavery in both Britain and her Empire but, with the establishment of the naval West Africa Squadron in 1807, Britain then used her considerable military muscle to stop the trade completely. Our navy was employed to enforce the abolition of the slave trade.
The church still stands in splendid isolation on the Common. If you are in the area (and it's a beautiful area) take a few moments to visit it, reflect and think of those who came before us who fought the good fight. And it was a hard fight. The easy thing would have been to do nothing. I'm sure most countries in the world have proud boasts, acts of enlightenment and empathy that are produced to show they are a great society.
But Britain has many. Many proud boasts. Standing on Clapham Common, passed daily by thousands of people, is a representation of one of them. We should talk about our past more and not through the unseeing eyes of today, the triviality, easy choices.
The landmarks series continues next week with my views on the pies at the Amex Stadium in Brighton.