Lambeth Heritage Festival: The Murder of Mary Ashford

The murder of Mary Ashford - book by Naomi Clifford

London audiences venturing across Waterloo Bridge in May 1818 to the brand new Royal Coburg Theatre (later the Old Vic) were thrilled by a melodrama based on a shocking murder prosecution that had recently failed in the Court of King’s Bench. Naomi Clifford, whose latest book is The Murder of Mary Ashford, talks about a case that gripped and appalled the country and led to a change in English murder law.

Admission free. Refreshments are available.

This talk is part of the Lambeth Heritage Festival. Please note that this replaces the originally scheduled talk on Samuel Johnson and the darker side of 18th century Lambeth.

Our survey shows why the library is a treasure

In early July the committee of Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library organised a week-long survey of the use of our library.


We wanted to get a picture of how a fully-staffed small local library operates – how many people use it, what they do and what role the staff play – and how this contrasts with the largely unstaffed “neighbourhood” libraries that have replaced the former  staffed libraries at Carnegie, Minet and Waterloo.

How did we go about it?

Ten volunteer monitors sat at the library entrance on the five days July 9th and July 11th-14th, counting the number of people, who came in, by gender and age group – sometimes guess work (we didn’t question people) and sometimes incomplete when there was  a rush of entrants. We did not conduct the survey on Tuesday July 10th since – while the library hosts two major activities (the support session for the visually impaired and the English class for foreign language speakers) each Tuesday – it is not open to the general public.

The monitors then observed what the users did – borrowing or returning books, reading books or newspapers, using the library’s computers or their own laptops and devices, sitting around and chatting, taking part in a library activity, seeking help from staff.

What were our main findings?

Numbers. We recorded 937 people using the library, almost equally divided between male and female, with females a little ahead.

Breakdown by age. About one tenth each were pre-school and school-age , three tenths were young adults (18-30 years), just over  a third were adult ( 31-60 years) and one seventh were seniors. (This survey was within the school term, so the numbers of school age children were lower than in holiday periods.)

What library users did. All types of activity were registered. Particularly strong numbers were use of library computers and borrowing/returning books (one fifth each), seeking help from library staff (one sixth of the total) and taking part in a library activity (just over one tenth)

So what did our survey show?

The dependence on library staff –  by number and by nature.

We recorded 153 cases of people seeking help (and always receiving it).

The type of help provided  was very diverse – answering membership enquiries, setting up or renewing library membership, helping with printing and photocopying, giving help and guidance on the use of the library’s computers, sorting out a cabling problem on the library’s computers, helping on the book issue machine, searching for books on the library system, providing information on library services and activities, registering children for the Summer Reading Challenge and helping them select books.

Our monitors commented on the unfailing patience and friendliness of library staff in dealing with users. Particular sensitivity was displayed in talking to a recently bereaved elder and in conversing with a man with a speech defect.. A young woman was allowed access to the desk computer to resolve a problem. Understanding and calm was displayed in dealing with a man furious at his computer

All this help, unfailingly offered, is critical to the warm, and relaxed atmosphere of our library. Many satff members and users were already well known to each other.

So we need our staff – all the time – if this library is to remain a place where all community members feel  welcome and sympathetically treated..


Mischief Makers – this year’s Summer Reading Challenge

During the current school holiday period the library is running its regular Summer Reading Challenge – a programme aimed at children from 4 to 11 years. The “challenge” is straightforward and enjoyable: reading at least six library books (any sort of book – library staff will be on hand to help choose) and visiting the library regularly.

This year’s programme is entitled Mischief  Makers. Children can help characters from the Beano comic on the trail of buried treasure.

To get started children sign up at the library. Then for each book they read, they will get a sticker to put on a map of mischief of Beanotown. Tool stickers will help them find the  treasure.

Here’s the list of special activities the library is offering during this period, all on Thursdays – except the celebration party on September 15th -and from 2pm to 4pm.

July 26th Arts and crafts

 August 2nd Quiz and treasure hunt

August 9th Paper planes and paper darts

 August 16th Board games

August 23rd Face painting

 August 30th   Comic creations

September 15th Party and awards ceremony 

Full details of this programme, which is entirely free of charge, will be found in the leaflet  at the library desk. Places are limited, so booking is needed – at the desk or at 0207 926 0705.


Bring us your books – and we’ll sell them for the library’s benefit

Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library are holding our annual book sale on Saturday June 16th (10am-4pm).

Prices are modest – £1 for hardbacks, 50p for paperbacks, 40p for children’s books (with three for £1).

All proceeds will be used to buy equipment or materials for the library or to fund special activities.

Please add to our stock of books for sale (all in good condition), by dropping them off at the library desk, in a bag or box clearly labelled Friends Book Sale – by mid-day Friday June 15th.


Day of Portugal at the library in Little Portugal

Come along to the annual celebration of Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking community worldwide:

Saturday June 9th  10am-4pm

Wilcox Close, alongside Tate South Lambeth library

There’s live music from midday on, stalls offering Portuguese and African food and drink, handicrafts, garden produce, hairdressing,and a wellbeing tent with  health services.

There’ll be activities for children in Wilcox Close ( face-painting, a cooking workshop, and games) and inside the library ( storytelling and a photographic set up to take family portraits).

And  more – the list is still being added to.

A report on our Annual General Meeting – with some good news

Friends of TSL held their annual general meeting, at the library, on May 22nd .

The chairman’s annual report reaffirmed Friends’ commitment to campaigning for the maintenance of a full public service library at the Tate South Lambeth building. The report highlighted the threat represented by current Lambeth Council plans to set up a new “town centre” library elsewhere in the north of the borough and the downgrading of our library to a “neighbourhood” library along the lines currently in place at three other sites in Lambeth. (This is a library facility confined to one room in a mixed use building, and with professional library staff in place only two hours per day.) Friends are seeking  a commitment from the Council to maintain funding at current levels at least until the 2022 date envisaged for the coming into operation of the North Lambeth library.

Library management and staff were thanked for their energy, hard work and friendliness.  A vote of thanks was also accorded to Lino Diogo and his team of teachers – all unpaid volunteers- in the Basic English classes at the library.

The treasurer’s report showed a substantial increase in our income last year, while spending remained steady. This boosted our bank balance by around £3,380 to £4,858 at end March 2018. The rise in income reflected support for library activities from Castle House Sheltered Scheme and the Vauxhall Society and the award of a grant from the London Community Foundation for the English classes for Portuguese speakers.

In voting for the committee for 2018/19 the following were elected:

Chairman                             Edith Holtham

Vice-chairman                      Laura Swaffield

Secretary                               Philip Inglesant

Treasurer                               John McCay

Membership secretary         Helen Holmes

Other members                                 Jana Hale, Lyn Robbins and Ben Rymer

A special for this AGM – a presentation by the libraries’ head of service

Susanna Barnes, the head of Lambeth Libraries and Archives, presented an encouraging run down of the service’s performance over the past year, when Tate South Lambeth recorded higher than the overall service rates of growth in borrowing and new membership.

Even more encouraging was the list of innovations that have been or are shortly to be introduced, including at Tate South Lambeth. The list set out by Ms Barnes included: PressReader (online access at the library to 7,000 newspapers and magazines from 120 countries in over 50 languages); an online  business information service, in partnership with the British Library, providing help for start-ups; a 3D printer; Tovertafel ( a visual tool for people with dementia); and  the Holiday Hunger Project, proving food over school holiday periods for disadvantaged children. All except the printer free of charge. In addition new computers will be installed at TSL in September-October.


Our library – and the Council elections on May 3rd

The Defend the Ten campaign, which works to support all Lambeth’s ten libraries, has produced VOTE LIBRARY pledge cards for the local elections on May 3rd.

The card makes five simple demands which, if fulfilled, would put Lambeth’s library service back on a sensible footing for the future.

It boils down to asking for fully-staffed libraries (like Tate South Lambeth) to be maintained, or restored where they have been lost (as at Waterloo). And no peculiar ideas, such as the gym proposed for TSL, which was averted after strong local opposition.

The idea is for residents of Lambeth to approach candidates from all the parties and ask them to sign – any time they are encountered, and definitely when they turn up at hustings!

For those with smartphones, Defend the Ten would love to receive selfies showing candidates with the cards. No doubt the candidates will be happy to do it themselves…

TSL committee member Laura will be collecting the selfies ( at She would also be grateful to be told about any selfie-less signings. There are hundreds of candidates, so reaching them all will be quite a job.

Paper copies (postcard size) can be picked up at the Friends noticeboards in the library lobby. The pledge can also be downloaded from the Defend the Ten website (

Separately  Friends of TSL have put two specific questions to candidates in Oval and Stockwell – the prime catchment area for Tate South Lambeth library – on their stance on its future.

They are:

1.Do you support the continuation of a full public library service, with permanent on-site professional library staff, at Tate South Lambeth Library, 180 South Lambeth Road?  

2. Will you maintain this support if elected as councillor in May 2018?  

These are straightforward questions, requiring a yes or no answer.

They are also carefully phrased, to make it clear what sort of library provision we are talking about – full public library service, with permanent on-site professional library staff –ie what we get at Tate South Lambeth Library. We are not talking about a “neighbourhood library”, which is what is currently in place at three of Lambeth’s libraries –  Waterloo, Minet and – incompletely- Carnegie. This is a library facility confined to one room in a mixed use building, and with professional library staff in place only two hours per day. This type of library does not offer constant, on-site support and help from trained librarians, particularly important to novice computer users, nor a safe environment for unaccompanied children, nor the space needed to deliver valuable services to the community such as sessions for school classes, and in TSL’s case advice and training sessions for the visually impaired and classes in English for foreign language speakers.

Current Lambeth Labour policy is to confine full public library service to five locations, with TSL downgraded to a “neighbourhood library”. That is why we have put these questions to candidates in Oval and Stockwell, and why we want clear answers.

Here are the answers Friends of TSL have received as of early April.

Question 1. Yes from the Conservatives, Greens and Lib Dems. No direct answer  from Labour, but an affirmation of current policy.

Question 2. Ditto


Just another Saturday at Tate South Lambeth

Lots of activity on a recent Saturday at Tate South Lambeth Library …!