John Archer Statue Campaign

The first person of African descent to hold civic office in London, John Archer is a significant figure in the early history of Black Britain. Peter Gray reports.

Wandsworth Council have joined forces with local community groups in supporting the John Archer Statue Campaign.

Following calls from the Love Battersea Community Group, council leader Ravi Govinda not only pledged to donate to the campaign, but also promised to support efforts to raise the remaining funds.

Archer, a key figure in the early history of Black Britain, Archer made a huge contribution to local politics in the early years of the 20th century, culminating in his appointment as Mayor of Wandsworth in 1913.

Born in Liverpool in 1863 to a Barbadian father and an Irish mother, relatively little is known about the councillor’s early life, although it is thought that he worked in the Merchant Navy for a time.

In the early 1890s Archer and his Black Canadian wife moved to Battersea. Once there, Archer quickly went to work setting up his own successful photography company. To supplement his income from the business, Archer worked as a singer.

Well spoken and extremely charming, the Liverpool born Londoner eventually gravitated towards politics, serving as a local councillor for many years, before finally being elected Mayor. At the time of his death, Archer was the deputy leader of Battersea Council.

Archer’s achievements are many and various, including successfully campaigning for a minimum wage for council workers, chairing the Pan-African Congress in London and becoming the first president of the African Progress Union.

Cllr Govindia said of the campaign: “Now seems the right time to look for positive role models and to celebrate the achievements of John Archer who remains an inspiration for so many people.

“I know many people in Battersea and Wandsworth are very proud of John Archer’s contribution to Battersea and London; he was a true pioneer and in time has become one of the earliest role models of black achievement in London. 

“With racial equality and justice at the forefront of the news agenda I feel that this is the perfect way to celebrate black achievement and a man who paved the way for future generations of politicians from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.”

No permanent location has yet been decided on for the statue.

You can read more about John Archer here.

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-London's Best Events-
What: London history
Section: Borough news
Where: Wandsworth
Website: John Archer