Founded in 1903, the Workers’ Educational Association is Britain’s major charitable voluntary adult education organisation, existing to provide high-quality learning opportunities with professional lecturers for adults from all walks of life. The WEA also has a social and community role, providing courses from Literacy and Numeracy to accredited courses leading to Certificate and Diploma qualifications.
Many students have progressed to an Open University or full-time degree and some became WEA tutors themselves. Roy Hattersley, Neil Kinnock and Michael Martin were all WEA tutors, as was Melvyn Bragg at Pinner WEA Branch, and Robin Cook became Secretary of the Scottish WEA. Sylvia Pankhurst and Emily Davidson worked for the WEA in the early days before the Great War.
Another important aspect is the opportunity for socialising. There is always a break halfway through for chat and coffee and many lifelong friendships have been forged.
If you have any queries about the Enfield as Southgate WEA, please do get in touch with Norma Chapman or Shirley Sandford at the details provided.
Delving into the archives and into the memories of members, the history of the three branches, Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate, is inextricably entwined.
From the Treasurer’s account books, it seems that the Edmonton Branch was founded in wartime about 1941, the account books starting on 29th May 1942. Edmonton and Enfield amalgamated in 1964 and then amalgamated again with Southgate in September 2005 to become the present Enfield and Southgate Branch. In 1943 the branch received an affiliation fee of five shillings from the Communist Party and the same from NALGO. Nevertheless, from the beginning, the WEA has transcended all divisions of religion and politics and continues to do. The Branch paid one pound five shillings to the LNER to put posters on the railway stations. Today the railway is generous enough to provide us with free publicity. Posters are given to the Local Community Notice Board Holder, who passes them on to Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill, Grange Park, Enfield Chase, Gordon Hil and Crews Hill stations. The Community Notice Boards are inside the station entrance or on the wall outside.
In the early days, there were classes on literature, music, psychology, criminology and ecclesiastical matters and in 1944 classes on local government and European affairs.
Some of our existing members have long memories that go back to 1952 when all the courses were evening classes for the benefit of those working. A one day course was introduced, however, for housewives at home. The classes are now almost predominantly held in the daytime with at present one evening course. In the 1970s there were WEA branch bookmarks in the library. These were put into every book borrowed publicising the courses under the names of both Enfield Branch and Edmonton and Southgate Branch.
London District bound all the branches together and held a series of Saturday afternoon talks and lectures at the Extra-Mural Department and weekend schools. They remember the partnership with Birkbeck, which made book boxes available from the University library to each class with relevant books that could be borrowed. Birkbeck allotted credits to essays counting towards exemption from a first-year degree course and as said earlier, many students went on to an Open University or full-time degree and some became WEA tutors themselves. Locally some afternoon talks were given by an industrial chemist on Saturday afternoons to full hired rooms, often at Enfield College, Queensway, Edmonton (long since gone, of course) and were invariably followed by tea.
National Trust lecturers ran courses and some members were the founders of the Enfield Branch of the National Trust. Sometimes tours abroad were organised. Birkbeck University also held study weekends. Walks were arranged and Christmas parties were very popular.
Originally the local branches managed their own affairs. They set fees, appointed tutors and circulated publicity. In the year 2000, it was announced that there would no longer be concessions for senior citizens but to celebrate the millennium, fees were reduced to £40 from £42 for twenty sessions. Life has become a lot more expensive since then and is a very far cry from the sixpence fee in Lee Hall’s play, The Pitmen Painters, in 1934. In the records, there is a 1970s flyer advertising a variety of lectures and outings entitled The Living Countryside at an overall cost of the incredibly low price of 45p or 10p a session. How times have changed. Today London Region fixes fees and appoints tutors. Ninety percent of the local branch income goes to London Region.
Enfield and Southgate now run courses in Enfield and Palmers Green, mostly in the daytime but one short one in the evening. These can cover subjects as diverse as Geology, Art History, Understanding Music, Literature, Social History and Film Studies. The first meeting of the daytime courses is free, paying and enrolling in the second session. Advance booking is also an option. After Easter, there is always a short course up to Half Term and at the invitation of Beaumont Care Homes, there is also another one in June on Art History at Southgate House for both residents and the general public.
Southgate House is on Cannon Hill near Southgate Green and will perhaps be better known as Northmet House and later the Legal and General. A Lecture Day is held at the beginning of September, which is usually on Literature, and there are occasional Saturday morning lectures.
An annual coach outing is organised in May or June to places of historical and archaeological interest.
Enfield and Southgate WEA courses are advertised widely. The annual WEA brochure, which covers all the London area, comes out in the summer ready for the new programme starting in September, and brochures are placed in a variety of venues, and in particular in the seventeen libraries throughout the Borough. At the beginning of September, Enfield Town Library makes available a table just inside the entrance of the building to promote the WEA with posters, publicity material and brochures. Do visit this.
The Branch is affiliated to the Enfield Over 50s Forum, who advertise our courses and also circulate our information amongst its members. We also advertise in N21Online and the N21, N14, Barnet and Muswell Hill Directories online and churches, halls, shops and even the waiting rooms of dentists and doctors. There is a webpage for the courses on the WEA London website, www.london.wea.org.uk. Advertising has travelled a long way from placing bookmarks in library books.
It must be evident that Enfield and Southgate is a large and thriving branch of the WEA with a lot to offer. Do sample some of our courses.
The three venues are in convenient locations with comfortable accommodation. One summer course and a Saturday Morning Lecture take place at Southgate House (Beaumont Care), the grand eighteenth-century mansion that belonged to the well known local Walker family.
- Southgate Beaumont, 15 Cannon Hill, Southgate, London, N14 7DJ
- The closest Underground stations are South Gate and Aros Grove, the closest overground station is Palmers Green.
- Bus routes that stop a short distance from the venue are: 121, 299 and W6
- This venue has disabled access
- United Reformed Church, Fox Lane, Palmers Green, London, N13 4AL
- Palmers Green Station line is a 10 minute walk away
- Bus routes to the venue are the 329 and 121
- Enfield Baptist Church, Cecil Road, Enfield, EN2 6TG
- This venue has disabled access.
- Enfield Town Station line is a 5 minute walk away.