Friday, December 18, 2015

Into the New year...

For those of a wake-me-when-it's-over disposition vis-à-vis the season, here are a few events to come.

WCML (Working Class Movement Library, Salford) -
Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent,
Salford, M5 4WX

To End All Wars - 
an exhibition to mark the centenary of the introduction of conscription
A new exhibition opened at the Library on Friday 20 November. To End All Wars examines how local men opposed military conscription, introduced into Britain for the first time in 1916, and how local women developed organisations to agitate for peace.
The north-west had a vigorous anti-war movement from 1914 onwards. This exhibition looks at some of those involved, both men and women, who fought for peace. Bill Chadwick from Westhoughton and Hugh Hutchinson from Bolton, whose stories were previously known only to their families, can now take their place amongst more famous names. Documents from the Hyde branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship, a unique collection held by the Library, are also on display. This is an alternative narrative of the war that deserves to be remembered as much as we commemorate those who fought and died.
The exhibition is open Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5 pm, and will run until Easter 2016.  
A specially-written 'Living History' performance, No Power on Earth, will accompany the exhibition thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This tells the story of James Hindle Hudson, a Salford conscientious objector.  The 30-minute free performance can be seen at the Library on Wednesday 2 March at 1pm and Saturday 5 March at 2pm, and at Salford Museum and Art Gallery on Sunday 21 February at 2pm.  It will also be put on in Salford schools during February.
The exhibition and Living History performance are supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
There will be another series of Invisible Histories talks, including two linked to our WW1 exhibition.
On Saturday 6 February at 2pm we will celebrate LGBT History Month with a talk by Helen Smith from the University of Lincoln, 'It's queer up north? Working class men and same-sex desire in the North of England'.  And on Saturday 5 March at 2pm we mark International Women's Day with a talk by Catriona Burness, 'Remembering Mary Barbour - social reformer, rent strike leader, women's peace crusader and pioneering woman councillor'.
Keep an eye on for more details. 

LGBT History Month
Saturday 6 February 2pm
Helen Smith, University of Lincoln - with readings by Mike Joyce
It’s Queer Up North? Working Class Men and Same-Sex Desire in the North of England

In this talk, Helen will be delving into the lives and loves of working class men in the north throughout the twentieth century. Throughout her research she has uncovered many stories that had been lost and because of this, gives an alternative history of same-sex desire.
Mike Joyce, ex-Smiths drummer, has more recently been developing his acting and reading career - not least by kindly appearing in Library fundraisers!
Admission free; light refreshments afterwards.

International Women’s Day
Saturday 5 March 2pm
Catriona Burness
Remembering Mary Barbour - social reformer, rent strike leader, women's peace crusader and pioneering woman councillor
Mary Barbour worked tirelessly to change laws to help families in poverty.  Her capacity to mobilise working class families, especially women, to challenge the power of landlords and the state during the 1915 Govan rent strike led to the passing of one of Europe’s first rent restriction acts.  She also fought for free school milk, children’s playgrounds, municipal wash-houses, and an end to slum housing.
This event will also feature a discussion on current related issues. Admission free; light refreshments afterwards.

Invisible Histories talks
A new series of free Wednesday afternoon talks will begin in March.  Full details at

2 March 2pm Tom Besford  Rapper dance - its creation and what it meant to working communities

16 March 2pm Chloe Mason Justice for Alice Wheeldon!

30 March 2pm Cyril Pearce Communities of resistance: patterns of dissent in Britain during the First World War

13 April 2pm Robin Stocks Manchester volunteers in the Easter Rising

27 April 2pm Richard Milward – Luddites’ Nightmares

Jim Allen retrospective
A Jim Allen retrospective season takes place at Manchester's Home from 9 to 31 January.  It includes screenings of The Spongers (with accompanying Q&A with producer Tony Garnett), The Lump, The Big Flame, Raining Stones and Days of Hope.  
Jim Allen (1926-1999) was a socialist writer of international significance, who made a major contribution to British TV drama in the 1960s and 1970s and to British film in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Library is very pleased to house the Jim Allen archive, which his family have kindly entrusted to us. The archive includes books, videos, scripts (produced and non-produced) and other material. The Library welcomes deposits of new material from anybody who knew or worked with Jim. More information at

Call Mr Robeson

If you've not seen Call Mr Robeson, Tayo Aluko's bravura retelling of the activist life of Paul Robeson in words and song - or if you enjoyed so much you'd like to see it again - Tayo is performing it at Bolton Socialist Club on Friday 29 January.  More details and ticket enquiries: 07966 136169.

Tayo is also putting on a concert on Saturday 23 January at 7.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House in Liverpool to mark the 40th anniversary of Paul Robeson's death. He will be accompanied by Liverpool Socialist Singers and Birmingham Clarion Singers - details here.

'People Make Their Own History' WEA course
A ten-week Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) course, People Make Their Own History, starts 11 January between 1 and 3pm at the People's History Museum, Manchester.  The course will cover Peterloo and the Chartists; the struggles over jobs, against Fascism, and for access to the countryside in the1930s; fighting Section 28 and for LGBT rights in the 1980s; to Stop the War, and the protests against the Bedroom Tax, and at the Conservative Party Conference in 2015.  More details here.
Booking required by contacting WEA on 0151 243 5340 or 
booking online via WEA’s Web site.  Please quote course ref C3838091. Cost: £65.10 or free (please enquire).


Wakefield Socialist History Group
Next event:
Saturday 13 February 2016, 1 p.m. 
at the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club).
(One confirmed speaker so far).  

Our next meeting is on Saturday 13 February, 1pm 
at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF1 
Ian Brooke and Steve Freeman have agreed to speak.
Clifford Slapper from the SPGB is now not able to make the event.
(We are looking for a third speaker.) 


Day School on the History and Future of the Labour Party.
Labour Party: Where's it been? Where's it going?

It's time to sign up for one of our Day Schools.
Places are limited. Email

Saturday 23rd January, Northern College, Barnsley, Yorkshire
£25 or
Saturday 6th February, Ruskin House, Croydon, South London
£20 (Concessions may be available)

Both events include lunch. 10.30 - 4.00.
There will be presentations and lots of discussion, covering
the foundation of the Labour Party, issues about staying or
leaving, 1945 and all that, and where we are at with Labour
- old and new - and Jeremy Corbyn. 

Attendance will have to be First Come/First Served as places
are limited. Full details will be sent to attendees.

London Socialist Historians seminars Spring Term 2016
Newly published research in socialist history

Mon January 25th The Life of Angela Gradwell Tuckett -  Rosie MacGregor. "Rosie MacGregor will speak on her biography of Angela Gladwell Tuckett. Tuckett was the first female solicitor in Bristol, a pilot, England hockey player and Communist Party activist."

Mon February 8th The Politics of Public Space in Nineteenth Century England - Katrina Navickas

Mon February 22nd Paris at War, 1939-1944 - David Drake

Mon March 7th Clara Zetkin, Letters & Writings -  Ben Lewis

All seminars are at 5.30pm in Room 304 Institute of Historical Research. All welcome.

LSHG Conference - The Irish Easter Rising
Institute of Historical Research, London
Date: 30 April 2016, 12 noon

 A number of speakers will address the significance of the Rising
on its 100th anniversary. Here John Newsinger sets the scene. 
"On 24 April 1916, Easter Monday, a force of some 900 Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army members seized control of the centre of Dublin and proclaimed the Irish Republic. They held out against the British army until the deployment of artillery forced their unconditional surrender on the 29th. By this time 64 rebel fighters had been killed, together with 132 soldiers and police and some 250 civilians, many shot out of hand by the troops. In the context of the horrors of the First World War, this was a minor episode, the death of some 450 people at a time when hundreds of thousands were being slaughtered on the  
Western Front. Indeed, there were at the time considerably more Irishmen fighting for the British in France than took part in the Rising. Nevertheless, the Rising had an impact out of all proportion to the numbers involved, the damage suffered and the casualties inflicted. It prepared the way for the triumph of Sinn Fein in 1918 and for the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed. A hundred years later, the rebels are generally celebrated as heroes but important questions remain. Did the they believe they had a realistic chance of success in the face of apparently overwhelming odds or was their rebellion a self-conscious blood sacrifice intended to keep the spirit of republicanism alive? How much popular support did the Rising have at the time? How significant was their alliance with Imperial Germany? What was the attitude of the British left, both revolutionary and reformist, to the Rising? Did Labour MPs really cheer the news of the execution of the rebel leadership in the Commons? What part did women play in the Rising? And what of James Connolly? Was his participation, indeed his leadership role, in the Rising, the fulfilment of his socialist politics or an abandonment of them? What was the significance of his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood? Did Connolly really argue that the British would not use artillery because of the damage it would cause to capitalist property? Did he tell the Citizen Army men and women to hold onto their rifles because they were out for social freedom and not just political freedom or is this just a myth invented years later? What became of Connolly’s socialism after his death? Why was the socialist presence in the War of Independence so easily contained, indeed marginalised? For Sean O’Casey, Connolly had forsaken his socialist commitment in favour of republicanism and the only genuine socialist martyr of Easter Week was Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. What was the impact of Sheehy-Skeffington’s murder at the hands of British troops on opinion in Britain? How important was Catholicism to the rebel fighters? Even Connolly was reconciled with the Church before his execution and privately urged his Protestant wife to convert as a dying wish. And the only Protestant in the rebel leadership, Constance Markiewicz herself subsequently converted. There are a host of questions still to be explored and debated while at the same time honouring the memory of those who died fighting the British Empire."

Socialist History Society lectures

Free to attend

Saturday 23 January 2016
Willie Thompson speaks on The Forces that Shaped our History. Willie will discuss themes covered in his latest book, Work, Sex and Power: The Forces that Shaped Our History
Saturday 2.00 pm. 
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green. London EC1R 0DU. 
Free admission, retiring collection

Saturday 19 March 2016, 2pm
Sylvia Pankhurst, the Easter Rising and Women's Dreadnought 
Professor John Newsinger
Venue: Marx Memorial Library, 37a Clerkenwell Green. London EC1R 0DU. 
Free admission, retiring collection

LGBT History Month
LGBT HM is celebrated in February in the UK but our work to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia continues throughout the year. Our interactive calendar is also all-year-round so check it out or add an LGBT related event of your own.
This year [2015] our theme was Hidden Histories and Coded Lives. In 2016 our theme will be Religion, Belief and Philosophy. In 2017 we will look at Citizenship, PSHE and Law as we mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.
We celebrated Valentine’s weekend in February by hosting the first ever UK LGBT History Festival in 3 locations in Manchester: The Central Library, The People’s Museum and the LGF Centre. To visit the site go here. To see broadcasts of the event from LGBTV go here
Following the massive success of the first ever LGBT History Festival to be held in the UK, Schools OUT UK is presenting 6 festivals over LGBT History Month in 2016. The festivals cover several regions in England and will cover popular LGBT history presentations by experts in their field, as well as having a presentations for teachers and schools. 
The third ‘What is & How to Do LGBT History: Methods, Subjects and Approaches’ conference [in Manchester] is part of the second National Festival of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans* History that will run throughout the month of February, which has been designated since 2005 as LGBT History Month (UK).
New Year message from Past Tense:

Two technological developments:
1. Not sure if we mentioned it, but past tense is now on twitter (groans from many directions no doubt). It has its uses... If you want to follow us we are @_pasttense_

2. We have a new wordpress blog; the aim of which will be to complement or maybe gradually replace (if possible) our existing website, which has become a bit of an albatross, for one reason or another.   {Already featuring "On this Day" pieces]

We are also in the midst of thinking about how past tense goes forward as a project... We're thinking of holding
a social/discussion event soon, to talk about the future of the past...

Public History Discussion group
Archiving the unlawful: collecting, but concealing, suppressed material in a University library'with speaker Dr. Richard Espley 
Saturday 16th January in room 6.12 at UCL's Institute of Archaeology.
More information please here: 

We will be serving tea and coffee from 11:00 in room 6.09. The talk will start promptly at 11:30, lasting until lunchtime (about 13:00).

Future dates for your diary:
Saturday 13th February: 
Commemorating Anti-Racism: The origins of the C.L.R. James Library in Dalston, Hackney. Dr. Christian Hogsbjerg 
Saturday 19th MarchWalk – bombs in BloomsburyDr Gabriel Moshenska 

Monday, December 7, 2015

"For a Nuisance": Street Art in London, 1834

The full report of Richard Carlile's 1834 trial, below (accessible via the Digital Panopticon), makes fascinating reading and conveys a rare picture of London in the 1830s...

155. RICHARD CARLILE was indicted for a nuisance.
MESSRS. ADOLPHUS and GURNEY conducted the Prosecution.
WILLIAM MARCH. I am ward-beadle of Farringdon Within. The house, No. 62, Fleet-street, is the defendant's, and in the parish of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, in the ward of Farringdon—I have called there for taxes, and seen the defendant—I was there last week—I have received the taxes from him for that house for nearly ten years.
WILLIAM CUTTRISS (City policeman, No. 2.) The house, No. 62, Fleet-street, is on my beat—on the 21st of October I observed a figure in front of the house, at the first-floor window—it did not reach to the top—the whole window was taken out—there was an inscription of "Church-rates" between the two windows—there was a man dressed in blue, described as a broker, in one window, and under that were the words, "Temporal broker:" at the other window was a figure dressed in the form of a bishop, in lawn sleeves, with a mitre, and under that figure was written, "Spiritual broker"—this is a tolerable representation of the appearance of the house (looking at a frontispiece of a number of the Scourge)—there were only two figures on the 21st of October—there was a third figure put up on Sunday, the 9th of November—the words, "The props of the Church," were inscribed between the two windows—this exhibition caused a great nuisance and great disturbance on the path—on the side where the house is, there are a great quantity of people assembling at times all day long—there was no room for people to walk along the footpath unless it was made—we are obliged to tell the people to walk on—they must walk out into the coach road if we did not interfere—I have frequently seen persons obliged to do so—I have seen a great quantity of people assembling on the other side of the street—this has continued since the 21st of October, less or more—the figures continue to be placed there to this time, and were there when I came by this morning—it still continues to produce the same effect; but not to so great an amount as before.

Defendant. Q. Did you see any persons standing about this morning?
A. I cannot say I saw a quantity—I saw ten—I did not count them—there might be three or four, or more, or ten—I did not take notice—nuisance meant a great quantify of people collected, and not leaving room for people to pass—I have been there on duty every day except Lord Mayor's day—frequently when people wanted to pass they were obliged to shove and push through; to push by them; and often got to words about it—I was obliged to make them pass on—I saw no riotous disposition at all.
Q. Did you see any disposition on the part of the people to give offence?
A. Of course, by shoving one another about—"What did you shove me for?" for instance; and the answer was, "Why do you not get out of the way?"—I have seen other people besides policemen shoving one another—I have lived in London all my life—I never saw a crowd of people congregate together at a shop window in that way in my life—I never saw a caricature shop window so bad as that—I have seen many in London—I cannot mention any particular sight at which I have seen crowds—I have been on duty on Lord Mayor's day, and have seen a greater number of people collected together, and in Smithfield on market-day.
Q. Have you seen, at other sights, people more orderly, considering the crowd, than those you have seen before my house?
A. I cannot say as to that, because many of us are stationed at bars in different places, and are not in the habit of going about to see all the crowd—there have been three people taken up before your house; two confined, and one fully committed, and found guilty of picking pockets; and the other two, for attempting to pick pockets, were sent to Bridewell—I cannot say the number of persons on any one day that I have seen before your house—I never counted them—I cannot say there was any fighting or row in particular.
MR. GURNEY. Q. You did not observe many there this morning?
A. No—there are not so many people on a wet day as on others—I passed at eight o'clock—I have seen people there on Sundays as well as week days.
THOMAS LIGHTFOOT . I am one of the street-keepers of Fleet-street. I have known Mr. Carlile's house many years—I have lately observed figures exhibited in the windows of his first floor—one represented a broker—this is a fair representation of the house as it is at present—one of the figures represents a Bishop—I am at a loss to say what the other represents—it is a black figure—that and the figure of a Bishop stand together arm-in-arm—the other figure has a pitchfork in its hand, and horns on its head—I have been in the street on Sundays as well as other days—it is my duty to go round every morning—I have seen the same exhibition there—they were not taken down during Divine service, to my knowledge—I saw them up—I have seen them as I went to church, and in the midst of church time, when it is my duty to go round, I have seen them there as before—I have seen an unusual number of people collect on week days and Sundays, on both sides of the way—sometimes more and sometimes less—sometimes twelve, or sixteen, or eighteen on each side, and sometimes, I should think, nearly forty on each side of the way at a time—several times persons have been compelled to go into the carriage-way, instead of going along the footpath—I have continued to observe this up to the present time—I was not able to attend on duty yesterday, but I saw it on Sunday week, and the number of persons, and the exhibition of the figures, were not the least altered.

Defendant. Q. You have stated there were from sixteen to forty persons on each side of the way since the 21st of October?
A. At different times—at times not so many as sixteen—at different times there has been different numbers—I have seen people compelled to pass in the carriage way on several occasions—it was my duty to be there—it [is] seldom necessary for people to go into the carriage way unless there is some particular obstruction in the street—I have been present at a seizure for church-rates at your house—I was at the last one—I saw you on that occasion—I saw no resistance on your part—at one time, on account of the business going forward, I thought you were rather irritated.
Q. Was there not a particular reason for that? Was it not an attempt to put a ladder to the window to remove the figures?
A.Being in the house, I did not see the attempt made, but I know there was a ladder—I found no obstruction on your part to the officer's levying—no particular anger—you seemed rather excited, as was natural—the officers were allowed to carry away goods without impediment—no obstruction whatever was put in their way—I have seen no disorderly conduct on the part of the persons before your house—no further than a little jostling when we could not get through, such as is common in obstructions.
LEONARD COLE . I purchased these papers, "The Scourge," Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7, at Mr. Carlile's shop, No. 62, Fleet-street, on Sunday, November 16th—I purchased No. 9 this morning—that has the picture in front representing Mr. Carlile's house, and the figures at the windows.
The following Extracts were here read:—
"To hoist these every day will be like shutting up my own shop, as well as my neighbours': I must have some consideration for both. I am thinking that one day in a week will be enough: perhaps Sunday will be the best day, as that will not injure business; and that is the day on which the Church is most thought of—the people, in passing by, will see how it is supported. I have no view but public good; certainly no desire to injure any one, but a passionate desire to do some good in the world, so as to leave it better than I found it. Out of respect for the business of my neighbours, I will, after this week, fix on Sundays as the best day on which to exhibit the props of the Church,—the spiritual broker and the temporal broker."
"R. C."
"We hoisted them full length on Sunday, and made the Bishop preach on the present state of the Church to all passers by, from eight o'clock in the morning until six in the evening, while the temporal broker officiated as clerk and published other notices. I very much respect the institution of the Sabbath, and never call on my shopmen to open on that day; but one of them requested that he might be allowed to open, and did so. He retailed seven hundred copies of A Scourge over the counter, beside many other things. Thinking of the matter, I could not but consider it as doing more good than is done by an open gin-shop on that day, particularly as I, the master, (as Cobbett would say,) was preaching the revelation of the gospel in assistance of a sick minister of the true Church, both morning and evening.
"They have been partially exhibited on every other day; but Sunday is to be the grand gala day of public appearance, when the bishop is to have clean boots and clean linen; while the temporal broker must be content to remain as he is, as not worth repair."
"R. C."
MR. LEONARD HILL . I am a silversmith, and live next door to Mr. Cariile's shop. I have seen the effigies up at Mr. Carlile's—this is a correct representation of the exhibition in front of the house—there is a window with two figures in it—when I first observed it, it was the same, except that there is an additional figure now—this continues till the present time—I observed it this morning—the consequence of that exhibition has been, a continued assemblage of crowds on the pavement next Mr. Carliles, and on the opposite side as well, in considerable numbers—I have counted them—I should fairly state that, on one occasion, it happened to be Lord Mayor's day—yesterday I counted, on the opposite side of the way, upwards of fifty persons—if I was to say that is the average number of the crowd which have been there since the 21st of October, perhaps it would be more than was the case—there is a perpetual succession of people in the street—the numbers have been so great on the same side as the shop as to be, to me and my neighbours, a serious injury; at I have witnessed persons, passengers, coming from the west being obliged to turn off the pavement into the carriage road repeatedly—I and my neighbours have been incommoded to a considerable degree—I have not been able to keep my shop open as usual on all occasions—on some occasions I have not been able to keep it open—I do not mean to state I have closed altogether on account of the crowd, but partly, that part next to his house—I have had cases of some of my customers (ladies) approaching in a carriage, and fearful of coming out of the carriage lest they might be interrupted by the crowd.

Defendant. Q. On what particular day has your shop been shut during hours of business?
A. In the first instance, as well as my memory serves me, on the 21st of October—I cannot tell how long it was shut, for I was out part of the time, making the necessity still greater; for my son, being prudent, thought it right to close the shop—it was partly closed on Lord Mayor's day; and at the police-office you admitted the great injury done to me and the neighbours—I did not witness the shop being shut up on the 21st of October—the shutters were taken down before I came home.
COURT. Q. Did you leave it shut? A. No.

Defendant. Q. How long have we been neighbours? A. I should say about seven or eight years, as well as I can recollect—I have witnessed nothing else in your mode of conducting business different to other shopkeepers, except one instance, I think, in January last; there was a similar exhibition with regard to the effigies; but if you mean to ask otherwise whether I have been annoyed by you as a neighbour, I should say "No;" I complain of this case—my answer applies to the Sunday as well as other days—my shop door is westward of your house, and the remote point from it—the crowd has obstructed my private door to a very high degree; that is, at the end nearest your house—the inmates of my house have sustained very great inconvenience in going in and out since the effigies have been up—I am speaking within compass when I say I counted fifty persons standing opposite your house at one time yesterday—I cannot say I noticed any disorderly conduct—I should have found it difficult on many occasions to pass through them—prudence would have told me to go into the road instead of going through the crowd—my shop was closed on the days I have stated; and, as a matter of precaution, I have been obliged to have my shutters in the passage, ready, if occasion occurred—I came home on the 21st of October, or the 22d, about four o'clock in the afternoon—I saw the effigies the first day they were exhibited—the crowd had subsided, in a great degree, on the first day.
JAMES HART . I am a linen-draper, and live at No. 60, Fleet-street, two doors westward of Mr. Carlile's shop. I have observed the effigies in front of his shop—I have constantly noticed a crowd of persons on that side of the pavement next Mr. Carlile's, and also on the opposite side—I have generally seen foot-passengers obliged to go out of their way in passing the house—there has not been room left to pass along the footpath—the crowd has not extended so far as my house—Mr. Hill's frontage is about twenty-three feet—I have counted the persons at various times before Mr. Carlile's door—there have been fifteen, sixteen, thirty, and thirty-five, on the side nearest to his house—I counted on one occasion twenty-five—and on two occasions, fifty and seventy, on the opposite side—the crowd extends more along the pavement on the opposite side.

Defendant. Q. You have not found any obstruction of a passage to your shop?
A. No further than the obstruction before your house has caused one at my shop—there has been no persons assembled before my door—there has been a decided inconvenience to carriages stopping at my house—I consider not only the foot passengers, but even the omnibuses and other carriages have caused inconvenience in the street—I have seen no obstruction of carriages which I could say was occasioned by a crowd of persons—when I counted the persons, they were before your door in a group—on the other side they stood more in a line—I only counted persons standing before the shop to witness the effigies, and partly the placards—if persons' curiosity was very strong to see the figures, I suppose they would cross to the opposite side—I have inhabited my house nearly seventeen years—I do not recollect any other crowds of a similar nature—I have seen several processions through the street occasioning greater crowds—in the annual procession of mail coaches—I have not witnessed any thing disorderly on the part of persons assembled, during the last few weeks—I have not been made uneasy on account of it—I may have seen more policemen about than usual, but never outnumbering the people.
COURT. Q. Your door is twenty-three feet from Mr. Carlile's door, at least?
A. My door is in the middle of my shop window, and is still further from Mr. Hill's frontage—in the procession of mail-coaches, they pass on, and the crowd disperse.
HENRY HARRIS . I live at No. 59, Fleet-street, and the third door westward from Mr. Carlile. I remember the first exhibition of the figures of the bishop and broker—from that time to the present, people have been obstructed in their passage through the street, both in the carriage-way and foot-way—there has been another effigy added in the course of the time, representing the devil, which has increased the crowd considerably—on one or two occasions there has been a tumult among the crowd assembled opposite Mr. Carlile's door—on one occasion, in particular, a lady and her family came into my shop for protection from the crowd—that was on the Lord Mayor's day—I am an Indian-rubber and sponge dealer—on the day his "Satanic majesty" was exhibited, a lady also came into my shop for protection—that was after the Lord Mayor's day—the third figure was put up on the Lord Mayor's day—the whole of his shop front is covered with writing, and different pieces of paper—it is made a complete puppet show of—on a Sunday I have stood in my third floor, and seen frequent obstructions—omnibuses standing, and looking at those figures, to the annoyance of gentlemen's carriages passing, and several persons were annoyed by it.

Defendant. Q. How long have you been an inhabitant of Fleet-street?
A. Four years and five months—I have been only a year and a half in the house I now live in—I sell wholesale and retail—the drivers and passengers of several omnibuses stop on Sundays, so as to prevent carriages passing—I have frequently observed policemen desiring them to go on—I swear they stopped for no other purpose, but to gaze at the figures—I think the exhibition of the third figure has increased the crowd—I have numbered fifty on the other side, and forty before your shop—I have been obstructed myself going to 'Change, and have been obliged to go into the coach road—I know no other obstruction in the City, except it may be a parcel of pickpockets—there was a great tumult on the Lord Mayor's day opposite your house, and the female came into my shop about one o'clock—there was no procession at the time—I have seen a crowd in the street on former Lord Mayor's days—they pass to and fro without interruption—I have noticed a crowd when there was a procession of mail coaches—they look and pass on, but at your shop they stop, and prevent people passing—I have stopped to see the effigies, and read every particular about them—when the lady entered my shop, she complained of the mob collected opposite Mr. Carlile's shop; which is a great nuisance indeed, and it is a pity but what It was removed in so grand a city as London—the ladies took care to avoid any insult by coming into my shop to avoid the crowd—there was a kind of disturbance—a kind of running of pickpockets one way or the other—any gentleman passing would have looked at his pocket.
Q. Have you not seen many well-dressed persons stopping opposite my shop?
A. Very few indeed—I do not think I have observed any but the lowest of the low stop opposite your shop—my house is not so near yours as Mr. Hill's is—I have suffered an injury—I used to take 6l.[£6] a day—I now do not take 2l. or 2l. 10s. [£2 or £2.50], which is the consequence of your nuisance, which causes many carriages to go away—I have got a very good carriage connexion—I sell various articles manufactured from Indian-rubber.
MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. What do you make of Indian-rubber?
A. Shoes, clogs, garters, braces, cloaks, and various things, which ladies and gentlemen principally call for.
ROBERT GRAY . I live at No. 64, Fleet-street, two houses east of Mr. Carlile. I am a coach-proprietor, and conduct the business of the Bolt-in-Tun—I noticed the figures exhibited at Mr. [Carlile's] when they were first put up, and have continued my observation of them up to the present time—the effect has been the attracting a concourse of people on both sides of the street—I think usually there was more on the opposite side—there were placards on the wall as well—I read some of them—the crowd assembled caused the stoppage of the foot-passengers passing to and fro—I have frequently seen people obliged to go out into the carriage-way, there not being room on the foot pavement.

Defendant. Q. There is another house between yours and mine?
A. Certainly, the newspaper shop, "Bell's Weekly Messenger"—that is rather a large frontage, and there is Bouverie-street between—I should think I send out twenty coaches in the course of the day, and twenty come in—I have exhibited very large placards about those coaches—my object is to attract attention as much as possible—I have loaded coaches in front of my place, but not unloaded—I once received a letter from Alderman Waithman about it—they may have loaded a coach opposite your door occasionally—I cannot say I ever heard a complaint about it—I never had complaints as to No. 63, about it—I do not unload coaches in the street—they finish their loading in the street—I do as much down the yard as can be, then the coach is drawn up for the passengers to get into it—perhaps two or three porters are employed about the coaches—I exhibit a bill with the names of the coaches on it—that is never complained of—I was present when the late Lord Mayor was at your house for about half an hour—after talking the matter over with you, pro and con, threatening he should be obliged to call on the police unless you took down the effigies, and with the understanding that you should have a hearing before the Alderman—you agreed in about half an hour that you would take them down, which you did—the conversation was about the legality of the exhibition—when the Lord Mayor expressed a doubt as to the legality, you produced him the Statute, and consented to remove them If his Lordship would cause you to be summoned, that an investigation as to the Statute law might be examined into—I was present at Guildhall when the case was gone into before Mr. Alderman Key—you were not fined or detained on that occasion—I saw the effigies exhibited the day after the examination—I did not see them on the day intervening the examination—(Mr. Carlile said, in the shop, he would take them down, and unless he was summoned the following day he would put them up again)—I have counted from fifteen to fifty people repeatedly on the other side of the way—I also counted from ten to thirty opposite your shop from my neighbours opposite, (Mr. Crew's,) standing there—I consider that it caused an obstruction—I have seen people go out into the carriage-way on both sides of the street—I may have seen that occasioned before my own house by my coaches.
WILLIAM NOBLE . I live at No. 152, Fleet-street, nearly opposite Mr. Carlile's—I am a seeds man—I remember the figures being put up at his windows—they collected a great crowd in the street on both sides of the way, so as to cause inconvenience—it does not always extend so low down as my shop—it did on one occasion when the crowd was so great looking at the effigies, that it caused one of our windows to be broken.

Defendant. Q. Do you consider your house immediately opposite mine?
A. No; nearly opposite—the Portugal Hotel is directly opposite—that is a very large double house—twice as large as mine—the crowd have collected from the Portugal Hotel, up to Mr. Crew's, which is west-ward—my window was broken on the 6th of November—I have frequently had windows broken before by other people—not many times in a year—I never counted the crowd—my customers have repeatedly remarked to me what a disgrace such an exhibition was in Fleet-street.
STEPHEN BROWN CHANDLER . I keep the Portugal Hotel, No. 155, Fleet-street, exactly opposite Mr. Carlile's door. Since the effigies have been exhibited the crowd has very much increased on my side for the way—persons used not to stop any long time together opposite my house before the exhibition—it has been so every day since—they have rendered my house inconvenient, by standing over my grating, so that my servants could not see to do their business in my kitchen below, and are obliged to burn candles—my customers have frequently complained of inconvenience—mine is more of a country hotel.

Defendant. Q. Have you never need to resort to the use of candles during the winter in the kitchen?
A. Very seldom—I have on some occasions on dark days; I should have cause for candles in the summer time from this—I never counted the people—I have not noticed them particularly disorderly—they were rather quiet observers—I never saw any disorderly conduct—I never knew any tumult before your house since the 21st of October, in particular—the police officers have had occasion to interfere to clear the way for my customers to come in, when carriages have come up, or country coaches putting down passengers there—that would not have occured in the ordinary stoppage of coaches—I think fifty people may pass my house in five minutes.
COURT. Q. Did you ever observe any of the people stand about on former occasions? A. No.

Defendant. Q. Not on any occasion?
A. When they have passed in procession—when the king has passed I have seen as large a crowd, or larger, but they moved on immediately—it was not an annoyance all day—I was never compelled to put up my shutters in consequence of any expected procession.

(The Defendant, in an exceeding long address, contended that he had not acted illegally, nor caused so great an obstruction as is often occasioned by His Majesty going to the House of Lords, or other places in procession; nor more than a congregation leaving church—a funeral, or other processions—he stated that on a former occasion his shopman had been fined during his absence from town, for a similar exhibition, and his object in causing a repetition of it was, to prove that there was no Statute law under which that fine could have been legally levied; after which he called the following witnesses:—)

ANTHONY BROWN, ESQ. AND ALDERMAN . I sat as Magistrate at Guild-hall, the latter end of January and beginning of February last—I recollect a young man being brought before me for suspending over the street some effigy or effigies—I do not recollect what—but they were suspended over the street—I ordered a fine of £5.
COURT. Q. Was that order in writing? A. It must have been, I presume—it was a conviction.

Defendant. Q. Are you sure a fine of £5 was paid? A. No, I am not—I heard it was.
Q. May I ask whether it was on this statute (producing one) that he was brought before you? A. I apprehend it was—but really the thing has passed my recollection.
CHARLES FAREBROTHER, ESQ. AND ALDERMAN . Defendant. Q. Had you occasion to meet me in my house, in October last? A. I went into your house—you stated to me that you had legal authority to retain the figures there—you had an Act of Parliament that entitled you to retain the figures—and you considered you had been very ill treated—for that during your absence from home parties had come in and levied on your effects for Church-rates—I cannot call to my recollection that you stated any thing about the former exhibition—I think you stated something about a former conviction, but I cannot recollect what—indeed, I did not feel it any part of my duty to enter into that—I stated to you, that on coming down Fleet-street, I had heard from the officer that the mob there, was occasioned by placing the figures on the outside of your windows—that I considered it my duty, as Chief Magistrate of the City of London, to prevent the disturbance which would arise in the street from people collecting together—and that you might be perfectly satisfied I would not consent to the public peace being disturbed, that I had directed a force of twenty of the police to be sent for, that they might immediately clear the street—you certainly acted with great mildness—with great temper and respect towards me—I told you the figures must come down—you answered that your only wish was that you should be enabled fairly to try the question, or words to that effect—but that you had no money to throw away in law—and if I would allow you to be summoned for the offence, the figures should be immediately taken down.
Q. And they were removed on that arrangement? A. I hardly know how to call it an arrangement—I insisted that they should be taken down, that the crowd should be dispersed—I had no report that the figures were there the day following.
MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. What day was it you went to the house? A. The first day the figures were up—I sent for a body of police to remove the crowd—from the conversation I heard from the persons outside, I should call them loose, idle, and disorderly.

Defendant. Q. Should you describe the assembly, on that occasion, to differ from the ordinary current of people who pass in the street? A. Certainly, very much so—I judge not only from the conversation without the door, but from the conversation in the shop.
COURT. Q. From what you heard, you thought it your duty to interfere? A. Oh, certainly—about a week ago I was going through the street, and saw a great concourse of people round, and desired the officers to clear them away.
SIR JOHN KEY, BART. AND ALDERMAN . I was acting as Magistrate at Guildhall—I think from 20th to the 25th of October—the defendant was before me on a summons—my attention was called to this Statute—I ordered no fine to be levied on the defendant in that month.
SAMUEL DALBY . I live at No. 151, Fleet-street, next door to Mr. Noble. My house is nearly opposite Mr. Carlile's—I am a boot and shoe-maker—I have not noticed any thing in Fleet-street lately injurious to business—I have noticed the effigies at the defendant's house, and people stop to look at them—I have not seen any thing disorderly in the conduct of the people—I exhibit articles outside my window—I have lost nothing—my window is very large—I can see every thing that passes, more so than many tradesmen in the neighbourhood.
MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. For what length of time have you observed the effigies? A. I should think somewhere about a month—I believe all the time they have been there, there has been some people there—I believe the whole of the day; an unusual number since the effigies have been there—I observed nothing but people standing looking on—I do not care if they are there for seven years, it does not make any difference to me—I suppose I have seen twenty or thirty people standing at the Portugal Hotel—I have not paid any attention to the other side of the way—I think there were not so many people on Sundays, but perhaps I have not been at home.

Defendant. Q. Has it come within your observation that there has been a daily abatement of the curiosity? A. I think there has—I think I have heard the neighbours say they have decreased—there was a few people when I left my house this morning about ten or eleven o'clock—the crowd has occasioned some little obstruction.
COURT. Q. What sort of weather was it between eight and ten o'clock to-day?—was it not raining very hard? A. I think it did not rain at ten o'clock—I believe it did between eight and ten o'clock—I have seen persons obliged to go out into the carriage-way because they could not pass conveniently on the foot-way.
GEORGE COOPER . I live in Francis-street, Bedford-square. I have been in the habit of passing through Fleet-street occasionally, within the last six weeks—I found nothing that was an obstruction to my passage in the neighbourhood of the defendant's house, nor to any other person—I could pass freely, as far as my business is concerned.
COURT. Q. What time of day did you pass? A. From eleven till one or from eleven till three rather.

Defendant. Q. Can you mention the number of times? A. I did not take notice—I can say half-a-dozen 
times—I have passed to-day between eleven and twelve—I found nothing of a crowd more than is frequent in other places.
MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. What are you? A. A builder—I am not in business now—I used to go on the north side, opposite Mr. Carlile's house—I walked on, and met with no obstruction.
RICHARD SANDFORD TROWBRIDGE . I am a carpenter. I have been doing some work for a solicitor in Bouverie-street lately, which called me frequently to that part of the town.
COURT. Q. What was the nature of your business? A. If I am obliged to tell you, the gentleman's name is Drake, a solicitor in Bouverie-street—I think I have passed fourteen or fifteen times within the last month—I live in Kingsgate-street, Holborn—I go past the house, and directly round the corner into Bouverie-street—I never, on any occasion, found any obstruction there—as I came down to-day, through Fleet-street, I observed very nearly the same obstruction at a gentleman's, Mr. Waller, who has various prints up—I passed at 10 o'clock this morning.
MR. ADOLPHUS replied.

GUILTY.— Judgment Respited.

[Slightly edited for typos and formatting]

Richard Carlile and The Rotunda

One of the radicals whose brushes with the law turn up on the Digital Panopticon

"In 1831 he was jailed again for seditious libel, given two and a half years for writing an article in support of agricultural labourers campaigning against wage cuts and advising the strikers to regard themselves as being at war with the government.[5] He left prison deeply in debt, and government fines had taken from him the finances needed to publish newspapers." -

Old Bailey

6th January

Whipping, Imprisonment, Sureties for good behaviour
offence location
offence report
"indicted for a libel"
sentence report
"To pay a fine to the King of 200l., imprisoned Two Years, to find sureties for his good behaviour for Ten Years then to come, himself in the sum 500l., and two sureties in 250l. each, imprisoned till the fine be paid and the securities found"

Old Bailey

24th November

offence report
"for a nuisance."
sentence report
"Judgment Respited."


The following account is edited from a Past Tense message, sent 14 October 2012 in the context of solidarity with the Cuts Cafe: "reviving a powerful radical connection on that corner…"  

Just over the road, on the north side of Stamford Street where it meets Blackfriars Road, once stood the Rotunda; for a few short years nearly two centuries ago, this was the most influential social and political meeting space of its era.. Founded as a ‘Freethought Coliseum’ and debating club, with a capacity of 1000 people, sometime in the 1780s, the Rotunda stumbled through various owners and numerous uses, until it was taken over by Richard Carlile in 1830, when it entered a brief golden age. Carlile was a leading radical and freethinker in the 1820s and ’30s: famous/infamous, depending largely on how religious or orthodox you were politically, as a publisher and printer. Repeatedly jailed for re-publishing banned political works like the works of Tom Paine, and anti-religious texts, in a time when blasphemy laws were used regularly to silence anyone questioning christianity.

Carlile had also been at the forefront of the ‘War of the Unstamped Press’, in response to crippling government taxes on newspapers, designed to repress a huge explosion of radical and cheap newspapers aimed at the growing working classes. A huge movement evolved to produce, sell, smuggle these papers, evading a massive official effort to close them, through the 1820s and 30s… Carlile, and hundreds of others, were jailed, often over and over again, during this struggle, which ended with a victory, of sorts, with the reduction of the stamp, thus opening the way for a cheap popular press. From which we still benefit today (??!!)

Through the late 1810s, and the 1820s, Carlile had operated from several shops in Fleet Street, becoming one of the main focus points for a freethinking, radical self-educated artisan culture very powerful in London at this time… a culture that fed into the turbulent and rebellious working class movements of the 1830s and ‘40s.

In the late 1820s, Carlile had been eclipsed slightly as the most notorious rebel and blasphemer; he was bankrupt, his book sales were declining, and the radical movements that had erupted after the Napoleonic Wars were fizzling out. But Carlile had a gift for thinking big and doing the outrageous… In May 1830 he spent the vast sum of £1275 (he was skint, so he borrowed the whole sum!) to rent the Rotunda as a venue lectures on atheism (although a fait chunk of this went on cleaning and a paintjob, as the building had got somewhat run down)… The Rotunda’s location played some part in Carlile’s choice of venue, being 200 yards north of Rowland Hill’s chapel (on the junction of Blackfriars Road and Union Street, where the famous Ring later gave birth to modern boxing), a leading centre of religious revivalism of its day. Carlile and his collaborator Robert Taylor saw the Rotunda as the perfect counterblast to this famous chapel.

In cahoots with Carlile, at least for a while, was the ‘Reverend’ Robert Taylor, a former Church of England clergyman, who blended ultra-radical politics with a fierce opposition to religion. He was twice convicted of blasphemy, the first time in 1827 on an indictment for a blasphemous discourse at Salters' Hall and on another for conspiracy to overthrow the Christian religion. Sentenced to one year's imprisonment, at Oakham gaol he met fellow-prisoner Carlile; after they were both released they went on a four months lecture tour in May 1829. At the Rotunda, Taylor preached in to large audiences dressed as a clergyman. Two ‘sermons on the devil’ in June 1830 gained him from Henry Hunt the title of ‘the devil's chaplain.’ He was described him “over the middle size, inclined to be stout, and of gentlemanly manners”…

Taylor’s Rotunda lectures were multi-media extravaganzas, enhanced by 12 zodiacal emblems painted on the dome overhead, and a large board carrying greek ‘hieroglyphs’, a merchanical pointer, an expensive illuminated globe and a clockwork orrery… he was also sometimes accompanied by a female chorus playing guitars. His ‘Divine Service’ was offered on Sundays: a burlesque on bible, it usually started with readings from scripture, expanding into a satire on the Anglican service. Taylor, unlike Carlile, leant strongly on theatre as a means of propaganda and saw it as a powerful lever of social change… They also disagreed on the demystifying power of satire and ridicule. Taylor’s Rotunda performances featured more and more burlesque and buffoonery, while Carlile always inclined to the more serious and moral style of lecture.

In 1830, southern England was rocked by the Swing riots: agricultural labourers smashed and burned threshing machines in a mass movement of riotous rebellion. The reputation of the Rotunda can be seen in the fact that Government ministers of the time blamed the Swing Riots on the influence of the Rotunda: this was certainly untrue, in that the revolts were sparked by immediate grievances. But the Rotunda was certainly feared by the powers that be. Taylor put on a play enthusing about the riots: called ‘Swing, or Who are the Incendiaries?’; but a year late the authorities got their own back, jailing Carlile for 30 months for defending the rioters in print.

In the early 1830s, there was growing pressure for parliamentary reform...
[about riots and unrest...]

After Carlile was jailed for supporting the Swing rioters, the National Union of the Working Classes (NUWC) became the co-tenant of the Rotunda, in July 1831. They held mass debates here; according to leading London reformer (and police informer!) Francis Place: “I have seen hundreds outside the doors for whom there was no room within.”      
[about the NUWC…]

Richard Carlile in fact was not a fan of the NUWC, though he sublet the Rotunda to them, he was much more of an individualist, and and not greatly convinced by either the idea of class struggle, or organizations in general. But he had other problems… including a growing rift between him and Robert Taylor. Carlile disapproved of Taylor’s levity and clowning, and his wild behaviour, heavy drinking, and consorting with what ‘serious’ radicals saw as unsavoury characters, although he admired his ability to hold mass audiences. Taylor’s spoofs on religious services became wilder and wilder, he dressed as a bishop, parodied church services, and made more and more outrageous blasphemous comments on christian rituals or the scriptures. As a result he was hauled up in court in July 1831 for preaching blasphemy, found guilty, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Horsemonger Lane gaol, with a hefty fine. His friends raised a subscription for him in September 1832.

This jail sentence actually caused a real split between Carlile and Taylor. Carlile thought radicals jailed for their ideas should be stoical martyrs: upstanding, unbending and morally correct. But Taylor was an unsatisfactory freethought martyr: he whined, wrote to the Prime Minister trying to get his sentence reduced, and got caught smuggling brandy into his cell.

Without Taylor’s appeal to large audiences, Carlile struggled to fill the Rotunda, though he continued lectures, with the Southcottian shoemaker John Zion Ward, and Carlile’s free love partner and feminist freethinker Eliza Sharples as speakers… But he just couldn’t put bums on seats, so he eventually gave up his lease on the Rotunda in March 1832. The building’s brief life as the pre-eminent radical political centre of its day was largely over (though the NUWC did continue to meet there).

Context of message: Solidarity to the Cuts Café. By past tense, October 14th 2012.

RaHN Postscript: A little known episode in Carlile’s career, although it evidently caused quite a stir locally, occurred in 1834, when he was put on trial for displaying anti-religious "effigies" at his premises in Fleet Street. These attracted such large crowds that they were alleged to have caused serious obstruction: the charge was "nuisance" rather than anything openly directed at his ideas. He defended himself at length and articulately, and was apparently not penalised on this occasion: "Judgement Respited" (see following post).