The project’s backstory
Samuel Godley’s story first became known to the council through the bicentenary celebrations of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015. In a serendipitous coincidence, the Education Officer encountered a party of his descendants who had come to pay their respects upon visiting Samuel Godley’s grave with a local school. It was then that both parties noted the damage to the memorial and the question of whether any work could be done to restore it was poised. The gravestone neighbours in a playground.
In late 2016 the City of Westminster Archives Centre happily secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund a programme of creative learning activities telling his story to local school children who visit the playground. The City Archives is leading this project in association with the National Army Museum, Cartoon Museum, Household Cavalry Museum, Lord’s Cricket Ground, and Digital Works. Working directly with schools, sessions will develop a narrative and representative artwork that will elevate the tale of a common soldier whose story reflects the national story of Britain and has local significance.
Why save Samuel Godley?
Samuel Godley’s story, though fascinating, is shrouded in mystery. He is depicted in a singular print where he is facing away, and has been written about only in the singular description of his act of bravery in the contemporaneous memoir of Sergeant Major Thomas Playford. Still, as a Life Guard and later a Chelsea Pensioner Samuel Godley traversed Regency London, witnessing momentous historical events like the Battle of Waterloo and the Westminster riots in 1814-1815 and working at the Baker Street Bazaar, next to the site of the original Lord’s Cricket Ground. Godley’s relative anonymity offers an opportunity to imagine an encompassing narrative, asking how he and his compatriots might have felt living in London at the time of the Napoleonic Wars and how life across these historical parishes might have differed for different social classes.
Looking at the historical context of the Battle of Waterloo and Samuel Godley’s own story through the lens of satirical drawings and cartoons, the project will also explore the way that the relationship of Britain with the continent was depicted in from the time of Napoleon and how political cartoons of the present day compare. In this comparison, the project will create a space in which to engage with issues like Europe’s historically tense diplomatic ties.
What will the project achieve?
In late 2016 the City of Westminster Archives Centre happily secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund a programme of creative learning activities telling his story to local school children who visit the playground. The City Archives is leading this project in association with the National Army Museum, Cartoon Museum, Household Cavalry Museum, Lord’s Cricket Ground, and Digital Works.
Three schools are participating in the project over two academic years – Barrow Hill Junior School, Westminster Cathedral Roman Catholic School and St Saviour’s Church of England Primary School. Classes will visit local museums with relevant collections, including the Household Cavalry Museum, Cartoon Museum, National Army Museum and the Royal Hospital. Creative workshops will cover caricature drawing, drama, creative writing, 2-dimensional animation and claymation and documentary film-making.
The first academic year will focus on the restoration of the gravestone to be unveiled in a commemoration for Waterloo Day 2017. In early 2018, an information board will be erected alongside the grave, telling Samuel Godley’s story through excerpts from an imagined memoir and illustrations created by the classes.