Dr Cecil Belfield-Clarke

Dr Cecil Belfield- Clarke

Dr Cecil Belfield-Clarke, a remarkable medical student, embarked on a transformative journey from Barbados to the UK on September 28, 1914, just after the outbreak of World War I. This move marked the beginning of a life dedicated to medicine, civil rights, and healthcare. Despite the challenges of war, Belfield-Clarke's commitment to his patients remained unwavering.

He had won a scholarship to study at Cambridge University and within six years, founded his own surgery at 112 Newington Causeway, Elephant & Castle. This surgery, which he ran for 45 years until his retirement in 1965, remained open to the public even when it was bombed and had no roof during World War II.

Dr Clarke's influence extended far beyond the medical field. In 1931, he co-founded the League of Coloured Peoples, a pivotal organization that fought for racial equality in various sectors, including housing, healthcare, and childcare. The League's successful challenge of the colour bar in Britain’s military stands as a testament to Dr Clarke's pioneering activism and his commitment to a more inclusive society.

Dr Clarke's contributions extended far beyond his local community. He invented the formula for administering the correct medicine dosage to children, a ground-breaking development that has improved healthcare for millions worldwide. This life-saving rule, known as the Clark rule, stands as a testament to his innovative spirit and enduring legacy.

He did all of this while concealing his sexuality from all but a few close friends. His partner, Edward ‘Pat’ Walter, remained with him for over 30 years and shared his home at Belfield House in Barnet.

Dr Cecil Belfield-Clarke died in London in 1970 in relative obscurity. His achievements have recently become better known in Barbados thanks to Tony Warner and his book Black History Walks Volume 1.

This plaque was supported by Cambridge University, the British Medical Association, The British Medical Journal, Southbank University, Black History Walks and the Barbados government members - all present at the unveiling of a London blue heritage plaque at the site of Dr Cecil Belfield Clarke’s former surgery. (Read more about his life in Nursing a Nation: African and Caribbean Medical Contributions to British Healthcare.)

Location: Perry Library, London South Bank University, 112 Newington Causeway, SE1 6NJ

“At a time when we are approaching the Windrush Jubilee 75th anniversary as well as the founding of the NHS, it’s incredible that someone who contributed so much civil rights and community cohesion in Britain, as well as the NHS, is hardly known in the country he adopted and called home.” Dr Jak Beula - CEO of Nubian Jak Community Trust

“Dr Cecil Belfield Clarke was an extraordinary gentleman who combined a lifelong dedication to campaigning for racial equality with a passionate interest in the health and welfare of poor working-class families living in the deprived Elephant and Castle area of south London. He moved easily between the two worlds and gained the respect of everyone he came into contact with. He has rarely been given the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, the honour of a Blue Plaque will help correct this oversight.” Stephen Bourne, historian and author