ARCHER, John Richard (1863-1932)
Plaque erected in 2013 by English Heritage at 55 Brynmaer Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4EN, London Borough of Wandsworth
Civic Leader and Pan-Africanist
Philanthropy and Reform, Politics and Administration
JOHN RICHARD ARCHER 1863-1932 Mayor of Battersea who fought social and racial injustice lived here
The plaque is smaller (16" diameter) than usual to fit onto the building's façade.
John Archer was the former Mayor of Battersea and the first black person to hold a senior public office in London. He lived at 55 Brynmaer Road in Battersea for almost 20 years, including the period of his most significant political achievements.
Born in Liverpool in June 1863 to a Barbadian ship’s steward and an Irishwoman, Archer moved to Battersea with his wife Margaret in the early 1890s. Archer had many different jobs – the 1901 census records that he was a professional singer, and he may also have been a student of medicine.
Archer entered local politics after attending the Pan-African Conference held in London in 1900, where he met leading members of the African diaspora. He was voted onto Battersea Borough Council in November 1906. Although he lost this seat in 1909, he was elected again in 1912, in 1919 and finally in 1931, becoming deputy leader of the Labour group.
Number 55, a terraced house dating from the 1880s, was the home of John Archer and his first wife for approximately 20 years from about 1898 – a period which saw the most significant events in Archer’s political career: his first election to Battersea Council and his historic elevation to the office of Mayor.
MAYOR OF BATTERSEA
On 10 November 1913 Archer was elected Mayor of Battersea by his fellow councillors, winning by a single vote. It was the first time a black man held a senior public office in England’s capital. In his acceptance speech, he anticipated that the news of his success ‘will go forth to all the coloured nations of the world’:
They will look at Battersea, and say, ‘It is the greatest thing you have done. You have shown you have no racial prejudice, but recognise a man for what you think he has done’.
Archer continued to be politically active after his one-year term as Mayor, opposing cuts in unemployment relief and the use of a workhouse for Battersea’s young unemployed, as well as supporting Poplar councillors who had been imprisoned for their stance on the Poor Law. He later became secretary of North Battersea Labour Party.
John Archer died on 14 July 1932 in St James Hospital, Balham, after a brief illness.