William Margrie Close, SE15

Place Name

William Margrie (April 7, 1877 – January 9, 1960) was a philosopher and eccentric, who was born in Camberwell, the youngest of five children. His independence of thought earned him the title of the Sage of Peckham. He became a member of the Bermondsey Independent Labour Party but after 12 years left, claiming it had an “anti-British outlook”. He devoted Darwinian theories and espoused some interesting views. England, he suggested, was increasingly feeble-minded, and argued that the Isle of Wight should be exclusively populated by the physically and mentally fit and renamed the Eugenics Isle. Turning to ministers of state he proposed they be chosen by a demonstration of their sporting prowess. Believing he was an example of a new evolutionary stage in human development he termed the phrase Peckham Man. He created and joined many clubs among them: the Radio Freedom League, the London Shakespearean League, the Lambeth Field Club, and the League of Nations Union. In September 1930, he founded the London Explorers’ Club (LEC) – slogan Know Your London – which arranged expeditions for its members to places of interest, “anything from a cathedral to a brewery” other visits included the Shredded Wheat factory and Croydon Airport. It also argued for a citizens’ parliament and a free metropolitan state with Margrie to be the first Mr London. He devised a concise form of prose writing which he called Tersid, a portmanteau of “terse” and “lucid”, and invented the concept of a silent orchestra that produced “music without noise”. He lived at Trafalgar Avenue, Peckham, until he was bombed out in 1945 and moved to Nigel Road which he named Sage Cottage. Claiming never to have slept outside England, and stating that his favourite dish was boiled beef and carrots, he was above all a Londoner. He died in his sleep. The Times wrote of him: “He had a zest for life and a vivid imagination and, above all, an inquiring mind which led him to evolve theories and remedies for present ills and a philosophy all his own. Much of his life he devoted to advancing the claims of South London… His pen was no less active than his brain and his handwriting was known to newspapers all over the country.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *