Petronella and Basil

Story by Saleema Imam

Have you ever wondered about the names of the blocks of flats on Orphanage Road and Pitsmoor Road? Basil Griffiths and Petronella Breinburg were once well known members of our local community. Basil worked as a volunteer within the black community, from its beginnings in the huts off Oxford Street, through ‘Philadelphia’ off Infirmary Road, to the acquisition of premises on the Wicker and the setting up of SADACCA and beyond. He was largely responsible for persuading Northern Counties Housing Association to make provision for elderly black residents, hence the flats being given his name.
He taught black history to adult education classes around the city until his death at the beginning of the 1980s. Petronella – from Surinam – trained as a school teacher and travelled widely through the Caribbean and Europe with particular connections with the Netherlands. She
spent five years in Sheffield where she was a fellow of the University of Sheffield linguistics department. Her ‘Shawn’ children’s book series, was one of the first with illustrations of black children to be published in Britain. She retired as a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths College in
London. Her autobiographical book ‘Thoughts of a Creole Woman’ is well worth a read. The black history library at SADACCA contains books donated by Basil Griffiths. To use the library, contact Christopher Benjamin at SADACCA on 0114 275 3479.