What makes a person really famous – their army of followers or how many times their photo appears in a glossy? But will today’s celebs be recognised or remembered in 100 or 200 years time? To my mind, to achieve fame longevity, you need stuff named after you – streets, parks, museums, whatever. Peerless in this respect are Victoria and Albert, with untold amounts. Wellington and Nelson don’t do badly either and Thatcher has an -ism; that’s almost as good as an -ology isn’t it?
So SLB conducted an in-depth survey of famous South Londoners, people either born or who lived a significant part of their life here, and came up with the definitive list of the top 5. No place for Bowie or Chaplin I’m afraid on this index yet – maybe in 100 years time?
A son of Southwark who has a library in his name in Borough High St. But he has the trump card, the huge one – a whole university, and not just any old uni – no! We’re talking Ivy League, global top 5. Yes siree, reckon that’s going to be around for some time to come in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sir Henry Tate
His kids were the first sugar babes (all eight of them). He lived by Streatham Common, and got loads of libraries named after him too, but the big one is his gallery, sorry, galleries. Buried in West Norwood Cemetery
Man of letters, artist, philosopher – a true Renaissance man who spent his childhood in Herne Hill. He has a couple of south London streets and a park to his name, but more widely, a university (Anglia Ruskin) and an Oxford College – not bad.
Sir Henry Bessemer
Lived on Denmark Hill where a school and a road take his name. He revolutionised the Industrial Revolution with his steel process and has three industrial cities in the USA named in his honour. Solid!
Born at the Elephant, this scientist’s inventions made the electric motor possible. There are streets and university buildings with his name all over the place and locally an electoral ward, a school, a park and a wing of Kings College Hospital. Best of all he has the weirdest memorial ever, which you’ll have been past a thousand times. You know that shiny, metal box in the middle of Elephant & Castle roundabout, looks like something out of Dr. Who? Yes that’s it. Illuminating!
Disagree with our list? Let’s hear from you!