Clapham School is named after the “Clapham Saints,” a group that met for fellowship and worship in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in an area of southwest London known as “Clapham.” Their devotion to the faith and how it intersects with the hostile world helped change countless lives in London and beyond. The name is therefore significant and greatly informs our vision for today’s Clapham School students.
Perhaps the most famous member of the Clapham Saints was William Wilberforce. As a young student at Cambridge in the 1770s, he turned away from his evangelical youth and pursued a worldly lifestyle. Socially gifted and very wealthy, Wilberforce exuded the qualities of a natural leader while still an undergraduate.
“No man has the right to be idle. Where is it, that in such a world as this, health and leisure and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate.”
He eventually became one of the youngest and most charismatic members of Parliament. However, his life changed after taking 2 trips to the Continent with dear friend and mentor Isaac Milner. It was on these trips that he immersed himself in the study of classics and Scripture. He was convicted of the depth of his sin and turned to Jesus and the Christian way of life.
Wilberforce felt compelled to retire from public life and Parliament, but was persuaded instead to utilize his position of influence to serve Christ. He dedicated his parliamentary life to the abolition of slavery. Along with his friends in the Clapham Saints, he labored over 20 years until slave trade was outlawed. His task was just partially complete, and he lobbied another 25 years for emancipation. Three days before his death, he was sent word that the House of Commons had outlawed the institution of slavery.
Other members of the Clapham Saints included Hannah More and Charles Simeon. Hannah More is a well-known writer and social reformer in the areas of serving the poor and educating women. Charles Simeon, the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, influenced Wilberforce as well as others for the cause of world mission. Their meetings were often centered at the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham, London, then pastored by John Venn. Undaunted by ridicule or opposition, tireless in their cause for moral reform, this group set up numerous Christian societies and published volumes of Christian material concerning social reform. They also founded the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Church Missionary Society.
Wilberforce and his friends understood the calling of the Christian to stand for what is right. They understood the Scripture to be good and true and lived under the compulsion of its commands. Together they stood against the powerful tide of their culture.
At Clapham, we desire to engender in our students’ hearts a strong Christian worldview. We seek to instill the yearning for the truth of Jesus Christ and voices that can clearly articulate that truth. We hope to see students who are willing to stand against the tide of a decaying culture while simultaneously serving those around them, thus showing the love of Christ to others.