A pioneering black gay doctor who served the Elephant & Castle community for 45 years, including during the Blitz, has been recognized with a blue plaque at London South Bank University.
The plaque marking the site of Dr Cecil Belfield Clarke’s surgery at the junction of the Newington Causeway and Southwark Bridge Road was unveiled on Wednesday by the Bishop of Croydon and the Barbados High Commissioner.
The plaque is on the outside wall of London’s South Bank University Perry Library, which now occupies the site of the surgery.
Cecil Belfield Clarke came to Britain from Barbados in September 1914 on a scholarship to study medicine at St Catharine’s College Cambridge.
In 1920 he founded the GP Surgery at 112 Newington Causeway from where he served the local community for 45 years until his retirement in 1965. The Surgery was one of the few buildings left standing after the Blitz.
The doctor’s name lives on through Clarke’s rule, a mathematical formula used to calculate the proper dose of medication for children.
In 1931 he was one of the founders of the League of Colored Peoples, along with Jamaican physician Harold Moody and others who fought for racial equality in housing, health care, child care, and successfully challenged the ban on color in the British Army.
The plaque is one of more than 80 monuments to notable black people erected in London by the Nubian Jak Community Trust. Dr. Clarke’s plaque has been sponsored by Tony Warner of Black History Walks.
The ceremony on Wednesday was preceded by speeches from a number of invited guests, including Dr Latifa Patel, from the British Medical Association, and Dr Colin Higgins, from St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge.
L’myah Sherae, who researched the life of Dr Clarke while studying at St Catharine’s College, shared some of her findings.
Kamran Abassi, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, read a letter that Dr Clarke sent to the BMJ in 1962 and quoted from the obituary that appeared in the journal after his death in 1970.
In his speech, local historian Stephen Bourne painted a wartime picture of Elephant & Castle and explained how Dr Clarke commuted daily, from the Barnet home he shared with his partner Edward Walter, to see his Southwark patients. .
Rachel Picton, Dean of LSBU’s School of Community Health and Allied Health, said: “Dr Cecil Belfield Clarke and his contribution to this community will now be properly recognized and remembered, and his legacy will live on, at the site where he diagnosed, treated and cared for patients with the passion, expertise, and commitment that we aim to instill in all of our health and social care graduates.
“It’s a great role model to learn from and a story to be proud of.”
LSBU Chancellor Sir Simon Hughes added: “We are one of the few universities in Britain where the majority of our students come from global majority communities, and we are very proud of that.”
The Bishop of Croydon Rt Revd. Rosemarie Mallet, who was born in Barbados and taught at LSBU before her ordination, told the gathering that Clarke’s story had been “made invisible” and appreciated efforts to raise awareness about her life and work.
He said he would urge local primary and secondary schools associated with Southwark Cathedral to teach their pupils about Dr Clarke and his history.
His Excellency Milton Inniss, High Commissioner for Barbados in London, thanked all those who had “brought Dr Clarke’s story to light”.