Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
At 164 Queen’s Road, Peckham an English Heritage blue plaque has been installed to honour Dr Harold Moody, general practitioner and pioneer in race relations in the United Kingdom who served the people of Peckham from just before the First World War to just after the Second World War.
Dr Moody was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1882 to a devout Congregationalist family. His father was a retail chemist and Harold himself originally trained to be a pharmacist. In 1904 he travelled to London to study medicine at King’s College and upon graduation was refused employment in a hospital due to the colour of his skin. He set up his own practice in 1913 in King’s Road, Peckham (now King’s Grove) and moved to the house in Queen’s Road in 1922 where he both lived and treated patients. He married Olive Mabel Tranter, a white nurse, whom he met at The Royal Eye Hospital, in 1913. They had six children.
The house in Queen’s Road was open to ‘all the travelling black people who couldn’t find a room or a meal elsewhere’. One guest, the writer Una Marson, remembered the house as ‘a comfortable, four-storey property with a middle-floor entrance leading to a small, often cluttered hall, and beyond that, large dining and drawing rooms.’
Frustrated with the years of racism he had experienced in the United Kingdom, Dr Moody founded the League of Coloured Peoples in 1931. The League’s aims were:
To promote and protect the Social, Educational, Economic and Political Interests of its members;
To interest members in the Welfare of Coloured Peoples in all parts of the World;
To improve relations between the Races;
To cooperate and affiliate with organisations sympathetic to coloured people.
In 1937, a further aim was added:
To render such financial assistance to coloured people in distress as lies within our capacity.
Dr Moody also campaigned against racism within the armed forces and in October 1939 British subjects from overseas and those not of European origin were eligible for emergency commissions within the British forces. Three of Dr Moody’s sons received military commissions and a further son and a daughter worked as doctors during the Second World War.
He died as a result of influenza in April 1947 at his home in Queen’s Road and was cremated at Honor Oak Crematorium. As well as the blue plaque awarded in his honour, a park about half a mile from 164 Queens Road was opened bearing his name in 1999.