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Mass-Observation headquarters commemorated by English Heritage

The original headquarters for Mass-Observation has been commemorated with a blue plaque, by MO blue plaqueEnglish Heritage. The plaque marks 6 Grotes Buildings in Blackheath, where the idea of recording the thoughts and experiences of ordinary people – as distinct from ‘public opinion’ as presented by newspapers – first emerged. In addition to being the national office for the organisation, this large detached house overlooking the heath was also the home of poet, journalist and co-founder of Mass-Observation, Charles Madge.

Madge recalled that an initial meeting took place in December 1936, the month in which Edward VIII abdicated. The issue of misconceptions surrounding public opinion was thrown into focus by the abdication and the presumptions made about the public reactions to it. It wasn’t until Madge’s letter inviting volunteers to write about everyday life appeared in the New Statesman on 30 January 1937, that the anthropologist Tom Harrisson made contact. They joined forces with the broad aim of creating a social anatomy of Britain; Harrisson, initially, was mostly based in Bolton, Lancashire.