Hunting Oswald Chambers in Clapham Common

Clapham Common

I’m recently returned from a research trip in which I went hunting for Oswald Chambers in London’s Clapham Common.

Obviously, not for the man himself, he’s been dead since 1917.

But I was looking for his environs–where he lived during the four years he spent in London as principal of the Bible Training College. I’m writing a book that touches on his life and I needed some first hand information.

45 Clapham Common North

The Bible Training College (BTC) was housed at 45 Clapham Common. My intrepid patron of the arts (my husband) and I caught caught the Underground for Clapham Common itself.

By chatting with a worker, I learned that particular line, the Northern, was the oldest and thus one the Chambers family would have taken. It’s also the tube station BTC students who did not live there would have ridden.

Small matters, but pertinent to my tale.

Clapham Common is the largest park in London and  the northern side is lined with beautiful townhouse mansions overlooking the park. Nearby Speke Hall was where the League of Prayer conducted their meetings. Oswald Chambers spoke there often in the first decade of the twentieth century.

During those early years, Chambers traveled about the British Isles speaking. He journeyed to the United States and also Japan. He spent six months teaching and working with God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

While at God’s Bible School, Oswald savored the experience of actually living in community with other believers.

God’s Bible School inspiration

Clapham Common

Author David McCasland in Oswald Chambers: Abandoned for God, recounts how the Ohio time changed Chambers’ thoughts on teaching about the Christian life:

“Oswald’s months at God’s Bible School had brought home the value of day-by-day interaction in an atmosphere of commitment to God. In community living, more was “caught” than “taught.”

“During every Cincinnati camp meeting he had been most impressed by the unselfish work of the students who cooked and cleaned. In a class he could teach people to study and preach. In a home he could help them learn to serve.”

Members of the Prayer League agreed with him and decided to fund such a school in London. 25 students could live with Oswald, Biddy and Kathleen and study God’s word in depth. They found a beautiful home at 45 Clapham Common called The Cedars.

We found it, too.

The building

Clapham CommonIt’s a lovely building, three stories high, and no surprise, has a giant cedar tree between it and the busy park road. Between the tree limbs, you can glimpse Clapham Common stretching to the south.

I walked up the steps (two down from those potted plants) and stood at the bright red door. I felt a bit like a stalker, until I noticed a simple blue British Heritage marker affirming I’d found the right spot.

From the doorway I admired the view and tried to imagine Oswald, Biddy and Kathleen going up and down the cement steps. Clapham Common

Other than the cars going past, it was a quiet building, the air cool on a sunny day. And yet, for four years students sat under Oswald Chambers’ tutelage–students who went on to work as missionaries throughout the world.

I suppose this was an Oswald Chambers pilgrimage under the guise of research. Click to Tweet

We took photos of the shops along the street, trying to image life here 100 years ago.

And then we walked away to find another spot important to Oswald and Biddy Chambers. London looked different with someone else’s life in mind.

Clapham Common

Kathleen Chambers at 45 Clapham Common, 1914; Wheaton College Special Collections

Do you like to visit the spots where people you admire lived or worked? Is it a pilgrimage if you just stop in?

Tweetables

A London hunt for Oswald Chambers Click to Tweet

The Bible Training College’s London home Click to Tweet

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. I love the way you take us along on your research trips. Thanks for all the links, Michelle.

    Reply
  2. Leland Johnson

     /  January 26, 2015

    I am very jealous! I am an OC admirer and am currently writing an essay on his life. I hope I can find your work and see what else I can learn about that truly great, spiritual man. God bless.

    Reply
  3. Leland Johnson

     /  January 26, 2015

    PS- I recently learned that another very spiritual man enjoyed the Clapham Common area- William Wilburforce. Do you know if Deitrich Bonhoeffer spent time there as well? It seems to be a European Jerusalem if you will. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Michelle Ule

       /  January 26, 2015

      That’s a real interesting question, Leland, and a good one to ponder. My husband and I have seen the connection to Bonhoeffer and also Watchman Nee (who was of Bonhoeffer’s generation). I once sent a message to Eric Metaxas asking, but never got a reply from a very busy man.

      Clapham Common is a lovely spot and there’s that blue sign on the wall, so you can find the house. We, of course, only admired it from the outside. Best wishes. Would love to read your essay. I take it you’ve read David McCasland’s book?

      Reply
  4. Thank you for this information and pictures. I will be in London next week and hope to stand in front of a “holy” site where one of my heroes lived.

    Reply
  1. Who was Biddy (Mrs. Oswald) Chambers? Part I | Michelle Ule, Author
  2. Who Wrote My Utmost for His Highest and How? Part II | Michelle Ule, Author
  3. How to Understand My Utmost for His Highest | Michelle Ule, Author
  4. Who was Oswald Chambers? | Michelle Ule, Author
  5. Following Biddy's Steps | Michelle Ule, Author

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