You never know what the day will bring. Just this morning I went past the newly stacked portacabins outside the soon to be demolished Heygate Estate and saw that the notices have gone up advertising the Charlie Chaplin Festival next month. Chaplin claimed that he was born in Walworth. It seems plausible, his parents were married here in St John’s Larcom Street, but no records of his birth being registered have ever been found. It’s no secret that Chaplin had a childhood that included periods of great hardship and poverty, and it is tempting to think of Walworth as an area that has always been a bit shabby, down-at-heel, a ducking and diving sort of place, yet there is more to the story.
In the eighteenth century Walworth was developing as a genteel suburb for the well off middle classes. Charles Babbage, father of the modern computer, was born in a comfortable house where the health centre now stands. Only a few examples of the houses that stretched down the Walworth Road remain. The most obvious is John Smith House, once home to the National Labour Party, now a hostel for visitors to London on a budget. Where Mcdonalds is was the site of the Cuming family home. Father and son, Richard and Henry Cuming were avid collectors. They make my own hoarding habits look minimalist. Not only do they seem never to have thrown anything away, even keeping paper bags that bread came in, they bought new collections and items to add to their own. Their interests were wide, and they had the cash to indulge their collecting passion.
Continue reading “The Cuming Collection”