Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Stumbling across gems in local histories


Mimack Theatre 

Wherever I go in Britain I always try and look in the local history museums, heritage centres and churches.

In July Ann and I were in Penzance for a short holiday and to see Surrey Opera’s performance of the Benjamin Britten’s ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’ at the open air Mimack Thetare overlooking the sea.

At Penzance’s Penlee House there is an exhibition of local history. Four things took my interest.

·        Sambo’s Row

Mention was made in the exhibition of a road called ‘Sambo’s Row’. Katie Herbert, the curator, tells me: ‘Local rumour has it that these houses, and then the Crysede factory, were built on a field previously inhabited by a black donkey whose nickname was Sambo.’

·        Roller skating

During the Edwardian boom investment was made through the Penzance Palace and Skating Rink Ltd. One of the Directors was E. W. Phillips, who was also Manager of the Rink Department at Keith Prowse & Co Ltd, and a Director of the Rink Owners Association. Katie Herbert, the curator, tells me that as far as she knows no one has written about roller skating in the town. Its collection includes glass from Penzance Palace and Skating Rinks. ‘The glass has a moulded pattern around the top and the royal coat of arms with "Penzance Palace and Skating Rinks, Ltd" acid-etched below. The Palace and Skating Rink was situated in New Street, with the picture palace above the skating rink. It opened in December 1909 but burnt down on the night of 17th April 1914, as reported in "The Cornishman" of April 18th 1914. The palace was described in "The Official Guide to Penzance 1911 -1914" as having "a maple floor, a splendid electric orchestra and electric light".’


A little more research on the internet provides details about the opening of the rink in Rosalind Claire Leveridge’s DPhil thesis ‘Limelights and shadows’: popular and visual culture in South West England, 1880-1914’ (Exeter University. 2011), and the compnay was struck off the companies register in 1917 (London Gazette. December 1917). 

My Cousin Tom playbill 1839

This playbill advertises ‘For one night only at the assembly rooms Union Hotel Penzance. Master B Grossmith in My Cousin Tom. 29 October 1839.’

Born in 1825 Benjamin Grossmith was famous as a child and juvenile actor. Research on the internet tells us that he continued to perform this play e.g. at Dublin’s Adelphi Theatre on 8 January 1841. (Dublin Morning Register) as part of this ‘great Juvenile Monodramatic Actor’s appearance in his unparalleled Comic Entertainmenis, MY COUSIN TOM. POETS. PROCTORS, AND DOCTORS, AND EYES RIGHT! In which he makes above Sixty Changes, Transitiona, and Metamorphoses, in his Character’. The British Museum has a broadside ‘advertising the performance of Master B. Grossmith, the six year old actor prodigy, in 23 stage characters at the New Assembly Room, Peacock Inn, Northampton on "Wednesday evening next, May 15th, 1833"; with woodcut decorations of his various roles.

His older  brother William Robert Grosssmith (b. 1818) also  performed as a child e.g. at the New Theatre, Bridgnorth, on 6 August, 1825. (Black Country Bugle website). A book about William’s life was quickly written going into a second edition in 1827: ‘The life and theatrical excursions of William Robert Grossmith, the juvenile actor’; republished in 1839. The Victoria & Albert Museum has a painting, and the British Museum an etching of William playing Richard III.

Samuel Hodge, West Indian VC

Penlee House has the painting by Louis William Desanges ‘The Capture of Tubabecelong, Gambia, 1866’ which depicts Samuel Hodge (1840 – 14 January 1868) who was awarded the Victoria Cross in June 1867 for his role in the fighting. From Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, he was a member of the 4th West India Regiment. He died in 1868 serving in Belize. Penlee curator Katie tells me: ‘This is actually one of the most popular paintings in our collection and a great number of historians and VC enthusiasts (mostly in the British Virgin Islands) have written articles on it.’  Jeff Green has written about Hodge at


Hodge has also been written about (February 2016) as part of a Warwick University/British Library project.


Friday, 25 March 2016

Ruskin Square: A Revisionist History - Guest Blog by Susan Oliver


BoxPark was talked about quite a bit during the 16 February 2016 Scrutiny Committee Meeting (webcast here: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/210555 and I would like to point out a falsehood given at the proceedings.

Mr Matthew McMillan, Development Director for BoxPark, says at 29.15 that BoxPark “is using a piece of land that wouldn’t be used otherwise.”

That’s not true.

CTT Co-operation with Stanhope

Stanhope had approached Croydon Transition Town (CTT) to get involved with the land and we had started to transform the area into something more hospitable for the public. 

The following is taken from the 5th September 2013 CTT minutes, with the most important parts underlined:

At the end of August, CTT members met the architects, sub-contracted by Schroders, who are responsible for making best use of the space (Ruskin Square) before and after the new buildings have been built.
South London Botanical Society had identified 150 species of plants growing there and the architects would like to see some of the space being used for a community garden or something along those lines. If we’re able to get something going, again with the participation of people living or working nearby or passing through East Croydon, then it’s possible that it would be retained when Schroders start building...

Volunteer Input

After our initial August meeting, other CTT volunteers and I put in between 50 and 75 hours of volunteer time at the site.  We would get the key from the reception desk at AMP House to open the locked door. 

Although heavily over-grown, it was clear that effort and expense had been expended in establishing an area for activity.  Paths had been clearly established and further delineated by ropes. There was a handball court close to the Dingwall Road gate and I recall something that looked like a poly-tunnel.  Mounds specially built for wild-flowers lie closer to the tracks.  The survey done by the South London Botanical Association was formatted into an expensive-looking booklet but, sadly, not widely distributed.

It was my understanding that employees of AMP House used the area as a place to take their lunches, exercise and use the handball court. 

Open ‘House’ 21 September 2013

A public opening was held on 21 September 2013 as part of Open House London,  where people came and enjoyed the grounds; tables were set up, some selling food and drink from local establishments.

This is all to prove that BoxPark wasn’t always the chosen messiah of Ruskin Square and that Stanhope was planning to work much closely with community members to develop it.  This would have resulted in a space that was much more creative and directly supportive of businesses and organisations already established in Croydon than the BoxPark proposal.

BoxPark: “big, brash and in-your-face”

During the Scrutiny Committee meeting, at 34:00, Jo Negrini gives a colourful justification for BoxPark by asserting that, at the time, Croydon needed something “big, brash and in-your-face; something to say that things were changing in Croydon.”  

That means they wanted to hit people over the head with the look and feel of wealth.  Apparently Croydon Council believes that giving the right impression - which means creating an image associated with money, trendiness, superficiality, and material success - is the most important aspect to running a successful economy.

Let’s not turn away from the fact that this ethos is also driving the Fairfield refurbishment. 

Nor should we shut our ears from the gleeful laughter of Roger Wade, BoxPark CEO, who’s set to make a ton of money to say, “Things are changing in Croydon.” 

Stanhope Subsidies BoxPark

The public should also have the right to reject the terms of the rental arrangement between BoxPark and Stanhope.  I actually yelled out loud when it was exposed during the meeting webcast that Stanhope was giving them free rent for the duration of the project!

This is weird.  When does a developer give free rent to a wealthy business? 
This rental agreement amounts to a generous hand-out to a very successful commercial operation. Is this what we do in the U.K., help the wealthy? 
It is deeply suspicious that Stanhope has given BoxPark free rent for such valuable space when most other restaurants and cafes have to pay a landlord.  Why has BoxPark been given these miraculous terms?  How are ordinary businesses supposed to compete in an economy where megaliths are given such boosts? The Council or Stanhope itself needs to explain this arrangement because I am left with grave concerns.   


Stanhope Schroder was on course to create something very special for Croydon until someone stepped in and convinced them – or strong-armed them? – to make way for BoxPark.   A park is not “big, brash and in-your-face” but, like the Hippocratic Oath, it does no harm.  It would not have brought in competition to restaurants and cafes already operating in Croydon. BoxPark will. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Four Black Women in 1840s England


On 17 March leading history of Black Britain Jeff  Green talked about four black women in 1840s England at Black Cultural Archive with different origins: one born in slavery in America, another born ‘free’ in America, a third born in Jamaica and the fourth born in England. They are Zilpha Elaw, Agnes Foster, Elizabeth Magness and Harriet Ann Jacobs. 

This postings sets out the general points he made about them

‘Presenting information on people of African descent in Victorian Britain exposes several problems as well as our ignorance of black lives. British documentation is inconsistent in the use of ‘coloured’, ‘negro’, ‘black’ and so on –  and official documents are blind (there was no ‘racial’ notification in schools, street directories, cemeteries etc). Females are often obscured or ignored for the era was male-dominated.’

He hopes ‘that stereotypes about and ignorance of black Victorians will be weakened by this and similar researches.’
Having then sketched out the lives of each woman Jeff then teased out some general conclusions.
‘Zilpha Elaw’s life in Britain needs investigating but we can be sure that as a female evangelist she experienced critical comments. Her social circle would have been nonconformist Christians. We know far more about the African American evangelist Amanda Smith, active in Britain in the 1890s whose autobiography was published in London in 1894 and a biography in 1916 the year after she died.

Agnes Foster’s pioneering role in founding the Salvation Army in Jamaica is firm, but the lives of her children need investigating. Her life as a farmer’s wife in Yorkshire is outside any stereotype.

Elizabeth Magnes(s) is a very uncomfortable tale of one – perhaps two? – person’s experiences, exploited and driven to alcoholism. The terminology used in accounts of fairground and circus performers (such as ‘freaks’ and ‘human oddities’) is unpleasant but Joanne Martell’s study of Millie-Christine McKoy, subtitled Fearfully and Wonderfully Made published in North Carolina in 2000, reveals a triumphant life.

Harriet Jacobs has a firm place in the history of American feminism and in the documentation of the abolitionist era. Perhaps I am the only person who wonders how much of her narrative is true? There were several black speakers who toured Britain from the 1830s, obtaining funding and selling tracts and narratives. Jacobs could have moved into these circles without much trouble. Her brother relocated to England in the 1850s. The weekly Leisure Hour magazine of London published his ‘A True Tale of Slavery’ in four instalments in February 1861. We know about him because of his sister.

The presence of these four people in Britain – and our ignorance of their lives – shows we still have much to do to understand the black participation in British life. Each piece placed in the mosaic adds to our knowledge. The well-known Mary Seacole and Sarah Forbes Bonetta are not diminished by the stories of these four women.’
Jeff’s sketches of the lives of each of the four women can be seen on his website - http://www.jeffreygreen.co.uk
Zilpha Elaw page 149, Harriet Jacobs p. 151, Agnes Foster p. 156 and Elizabeth Magness p. 159.
Details of other black women in Victorian Britain are
Sarah Bonetta p. 20
Jane Rose Roberts p. 51
Ellen Smith p. 59
Coloured actresses p. 82
Black women p. 93
Black swans and black nightingales p. 120
Amanda Smith p. 130
Ida B. Wells p. 130
Hallie Quinn Brown p. 130
Ann Styles p 131  
Mattie Lawrence p. 153
Martha Ricks p. 158
Sarah Remond p. 152









The Case Against Elected Mayors

Back in 2008 my friend Tony Belton, then Labour Leader on Wandsworth Council, wrote a piece against elected Mayors, It was on my old website until it shut it down earlier this month. Given the Government wants to have more elected Mayors it is worth posting what Tony wrote here.

The Despatches programme of 21st January and subsequent debate poses a simple question, “Is it Ken Livingstone or the role of the London Mayor that is at fault?”

The programme gave plenty of ammunition to those, who might think that Livingstone is the problem. It raises issues about cronyism at City Hall, about dubious grant decisions, about the Greater London Authority members’ ability to scrutinise Mayor Livingstone’s actions and about Ken Livingstone’s personality. 

Livingstone’s reply in the February 4th New Statesman is, however, robust and convincing. Moreover, Livingstone was positive in his defence of the Mayoral role in a recent Today interview. He declared that he had originally opposed the role as proposed by Tony Blair and doubted that it was appropriate for London, or indeed anywhere else in Britain. But he claims to have been converted and to doubt that he, or anyone else, could have introduced anything as radical as the Congestion Charge under the traditional
committee structure of British local government.

Leaving to one side whether the Congestion Charge is or is not a sufficient justification for the role as defined, it is surely time to analyse the success or failure of the Mayoral role and the demands it places on individuals. Has Tony Blair’s radical, even revolutionary, change to the British local government system been a vindication of his confident assertion “that we are at our best when we are at our boldest” or has it
demonstrated instead the dangers of unconsidered innovation?

The Greater London Act of 1999 established the role and function of the Mayor and the Greater London Authority (GLA) following the overwhelming Referendum result of 1998. In the Referendum, the London public had decided by a 78:22 majority that it wanted to reverse Mrs. Thatcher’s abolition of the Greater London Council. Even Conservative-dominated Bromley voted 57:43 in favour of the reform and in every other Borough the result was more emphatic.

The Act establishing the GLA also became a model for other local government reforms passed by the New Labour Government, especially the Local Government Act of 2000, which was the legislative basis for establishing the Executive Mayors and Cabinets that are now part of English local government. Ken Livingstone was elected Mayor of London in 2000 and two years later in May, 2002, Doncaster, Hartlepool, Watford, Lewisham, Newham, North Tyneside and Middlesborough elected Executive Mayors.
They were followed by elections for Mayors in Stoke, Mansfield, Hackney and Bedford in October, 2002, and in Torbay in May, 2005.

But the turnout for the London Referendum was a meagre 34%, whilst for the Mayor and GLA it was an even more anaemic 31%. The equivalent referenda in the Boroughs and cities had a wide range of turnouts. In areas where the Mayoral system was rejected the range was between 9% and 64%. At the Mayoral elections turnouts ranged from 15% to 36%, with 18% at Mansfield and 26% in Hackney, though Mansfield’s turnout rose to 34% in May, 2007.

What had happened to inspire this sudden change in England’s traditional local governance arrangements? And indeed was it such a change? Certainly two of the objectives were clear. It was claimed that electoral turnout needed to be improved and “democratic accountability” needed to be strengthened. The inspiration came from two major sources: one political and the other academia and the media world. English local government had traditionally and universally been considered boring, worthy and probably more efficient and less corrupt than most of its equivalents in the developed world. It was probably most graphically displayed in the opening scenes of the iconic Room at the Top (pub. 1957), which sent a clear message of just how boring and square a job in local government really was. Indeed, it continued to be galling, as a
councillor, to read newspaper articles starting with phrases like, “I shall start with the two most boring words in the English language – local government” (Guardian, some time in the 90s).

This began to change when in the 60s Governments of both persuasions used local authorities to achieve national housing targets. In the 70s a new, self-confident graduate generation of mainly London councillors challenged the government’s “right” to lay down not just the framework but many more of the rules of local government. By the 80s, for the first time in post-war history, local government was far from boring. On the left there was Lambeth and Liverpool, but also Islington and Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council (GLC), challenging the Thatcher government politically and ideologically. On the right Bradford, Westminster and Wandsworth were privatising services and along with Croydon urging the abolition of the GLC, the ILEA and the metropolitan counties.

The Labour Councils, including those caricaturised as the “loony left” Councils, of the 80s were not only battle-grounds for such groups as Militant and their fellow travellers but also a nursery for many aspiring young politicians, who were to get into Parliament on 1st May 1997. At least half a dozen MPs post-1997 had been Leaders of London Labour Groups and many more came from similar positions across the country.
Most of them had had a difficult time controlling, or not, their Labour councillor colleagues and were all too ready to go along with a Government scarred by the experience of the 80s and eager to ensure that its own reputation would not be destroyed by irresponsible or naïve local representatives.

The academic world was providing an answer, which fitted very neatly with both their personal experiences and the inclinations of Tony Blair. A key player in this was Professor Gerry Stoker. Stoker was the founding Chair of the New Local Government Network (NLGN), a contributor to influential Labour think tanks like Demos and an author of many books and articles on local governance.
2
Another was Paul Corrigan, husband of Hilary Armstrong, Blair’s first Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions with responsibility for Local Government. Along with Simon Jenkins, the journalist, they popularised a view that local government was insufficiently accountable and/or interesting and as a consequence it was a prey both to the extremist left and the nimby right.

In an interesting, if later, work (New Localism, Participation and Networked Community Governance, Univ. of Manchester) Stoker etched a sociological history of local government, in which he argued that local government had transmuted from the “traditional public administration” model, the Room at the Top model, through the “New Public Management” model, his description of the minimalist Nicholas Ridley model, to
today’s “Networked Local Governance”. 

In the first of these models the agreed objectives of local government were simple, even if large and technically complex. The objectives were about providing housing, drainage, roads and schools. The leadership of such authorities could be left to large, mass political parties, whose basic stance was generally understood. 

In the second model, where ideally local authorities would meet once a year and award service contracts to service providers, the goal was again simple – the most efficient delivery of services at the lowest cost. Unsurprisingly under Mrs. Thatcher’s administration, Conservative-controlled Councils such as Bradford and Wandsworth were in the vanguard. In this model governance was hardly an issue. Ridley thought that
ideally a Council Election would take place annually, or four-yearly depending upon location; the Council would meet and allocate service delivery contracts and then the Leader and Cabinet could simply get on with the job of governing. 

The Ridley model had one big advantage over the experience that most Labour councillors (and future MPs) had in the 80s. Because the goals were simple, the model facilitated the rise of powerful and focused Leaders. They may not have had quite the aura of a Livingstone but Dame Shirley Porter of Westminster, Eric Pickles of Bradford and Sir Paul Beresford of Wandsworth had a clear sense of direction and strong united groups behind them.

There was, however, a major disadvantage. What were the other 60 or so councillors on the authority supposed to do? Michael Heseltine came up with his own version of this in the early 90s when, as well as advocating elected executive mayors, he suggested that councillors should concentrate on their casework and become community representatives. 

Peculiarly enough this was essentially the same conclusion that New Labour came to under Tony Blair. The process started with the optional introduction of Executive Mayors and Cabinets in 2000 and 2002. In the GLA Act the Blair Government did not quite have the courage to install a Mayor, unconstrained by other members of the authority, but it did the next best thing. A Greater London Authority was created with 25
members performing an overview and scrutiny function.

But from its creation it had less chance of scrutinising the Mayor than any other elected body in the UK, whether Parliament or the humblest local council. Fourteen members were elected to represent mega-constituencies with populations of about 450,000. The other 11 were elected by a form of proportional representation by all Londoners. This structure was designed to ensure that it was impossible for any one party to “win control” and operate as a real check on the Mayor. New Labour reformers had argued, and were to continue to do so, that one fault with local government was that few knew who their councillors were. Ironically, they created the 25 most unknown councillors in history!

That was not, however, the only or even the major weakness with the institution. The ultimate sanction in the British Parliamentary (and Council) system is the potential loss of confidence in the Leader. Less seriously, Parliament and Councils can refuse to vote for policies or pass budgets. The first of these options is not open to GLA members – they can merely scrutinise and comment. The second is almost denied them. Rejection
of the Mayor’s budget is only possible with a two thirds majority, which given the 25 members of the GLA means that 17 of the 25 members have to oppose. Quinton Hogg once described British democracy as an ‘elective dictatorship’. 

Ironically, New Labour with its emphasis on new localism and democratic participation has managed to create an elected Mayor with all but dictatorial powers. Blair, of course, expected to have a “business-man” Mayor. The last thing he expected was a Mayoral candidate, who knew London, had experience of running it and with the charisma to win. The other Mayors have similar, if slightly less powerful positions. Once given
their four year mandate they are secure in their position. In NLGN’s own words, “A mayor is equally responsible to the whole city, borough or council, unlike a council leader who has been directly elected from only one ward amongst many and whose power is derived primarily from an ability to retain the support of other councillors (or, more likely, the dominant political party).”

Accountability “to the whole city, borough or council” may have theoretical advantages but the writer fails to understand that having “ability to retain the support of other councillors (or, more likely, the dominant political party)” is not just a valuable political asset, but a much more immediate and far more effective system of
accountability than a once in four years election. It is a crucial “check and balance” in the system.

Recent Government White Papers suggest that the lesson has still not been learnt. For example, it is now suggested that where directly elected Mayors are not introduced then Leaders should be elected by their fellow councillors for four-year terms. There seems to be no recognition of the reality of political life at Council level, which is simply that, if the Leader loses the confidence of the councillors, even if only of “the dominant political party” s/he will last no time at all and if s/he does not lose that confidence then
they have no need to be protected by national legislation.

Unfortunately, there appears to be little evidence that other claims for the new governance system have been justified. For example, much of the anguish about the state of local government relates to electoral turnout. But using London Boroughs as an example the evidence from 2006 is not encouraging to the reformers. In Hackney, despite going to the same polling booths on the same day more people actually voted for their
councillors than for the Mayor. The Borough-wide turnout was 34.41% and the Mayoral vote just 32.24%. In Newham the turn-out was 34.41%, but in non-Mayoral votes on the same day Bexley managed 42.35%, Greenwich 35.81% and Richmond 51%. 

Wandsworth is an interesting example, which suggests a different explanation for differential turnouts. In Wandsworth turnout rose from 34% at its inception in 1964 to 49% in 1978 and then in the following four elections in 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994 to 54%, 51%, 57% and 51%. However, the 1998, 2002 and 2006 elections have seen turnouts falling again to 40%, 30% and 34%. This exactly mirrors the very tight nature of the political contest in the 80s and the very much less closely fought battles since gentrification took strong hold. In other words, and unsurprisingly, people seem to have a greater tendency to vote when it looks likely to make a difference. 

A similar explanation might apply in Hackney. Although the disparity in figures is not very great, surely it is conceivable that the 2.17%, who voted for their councillor in Hackney wards but not for their Mayor, either did not know who the Mayor was or thought it a non-contest with Mayor Pipe certain to be returned to office.

So in practice neither turnout nor accountability has been improved by the introduction of the “Executive” Mayor. Indeed lack of Mayoral accountability is a major platform of the “Bring back democracy” campaign in Lewisham and the move to abolish the Mayor in Doncaster. Indeed on 27th February 2007 Doncaster Council responded to an 11,000 signature petition by voting for an abolition referendum, which is due to take place on 1st May this year.

Interestingly googling “remove mayors” brings up 705,000 results, including Doncaster and Lewisham but also many, many examples of electors trying to remove executive mayors in many of the United States and other places round the globe. The last remaining argument for the Mayoralty, used by Ken Livingstone and his supporters, is the claim that only the new Mayoral power enabled him to introduce the Congestion Charge. The philosophical basis of that argument, “the end justifies the means”, is so shallow as to be unworthy of Livingstone. But it also demeans his previous achievements. As Leader of the Greater London Council, with traditional local government powers, he was capable of introducing the equally radical and challenging Fares Fair policy, which had a similar and possibly greater impact than the Congestion
Charge. 

None of this is an argument to deny a vote to Ken on 1st May. If you believe, as I do, that Ken’s record has been overwhelmingly positive for London (despite his crazy dalliance with high rise developments!) then voting for him must be the correct move for a Londoner. The Conservative Party’s irresponsibility in putting forward Johnson as an alternative effectively robs the electorate of any real choice.

However, personal power on the scale of the London Mayor’s would be enough to turn the character of a saint. It is, therefore, incumbent upon politicians, of all persuasions, to resist the introduction of any more Executive Mayors, to reform the Greater London Authority’s constitution, to restrain the Mayor’s role and to give real power and influence to its members. Politics is and should be a pluralist process, and emphatically not an elective dictatorship.

(February 2008)

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Battersea. Some historical background

Battersea Old and New

Historically Battersea comprises a large area east from Wandsworth Common to Clapham Common, south from the Thames Riverfront tapering down to Balham. The Village was in the northern part lying back from the Thames.

Some aspects of the development of Battersea

• Semi Rural. Well into the 19th Century Battersea was mainly a rural, agricultural and market garden area, with some industry mainly along the riverfront.
• Isolated. Until Battersea Bridge was built in 1771 Battersea Village was a backwater. People going to and from London by-passed it using what are now Battersea Park Rd and York//Wandsworth Rds/Lavender Hill and St John’s Hill.
• Industrial Development. The riverfront became important as industries that set up there could be serviced from boats and barges. The 1840s to 1880s saw a dramatic change of Battersea into an industrial area.
• Railways. From their arrival in 1838 the railways began to dominate the northern part of Battersea helping to trigger the industrial changes with the growth of a large working-class.
• Politics. A wide-range of mutual, collective self-help organisations were established by local workers including co-operatives, trade unions, friendly societies, loan societies, and cultural, educational and sports organisations. Their political organisations controlled Battersea’s local government for all but six years from 1894 to 1964. Battersea Council pioneered municipal services.
• Religious Social Welfare. The Anglican and Non-Conformist Churches played an important role in providing welfare services before the post-war welfare state was established.
• Services. The focus of municipal, cultural and retail facilities became based south of the railway line, with the Town Hall and main Library on Lavender Hill, Clapham Junction shopping centre, and music halls and cinema
• War-time Bombing. Industrial Battersea and the Nine Elms district suffered badly from war-time bombing.
• De-Industrialisation. The 1950s onwards saw Battersea de-industrialised.
• Merger with Wandsworth. Battersea ceased to be a local authority in 1964/5 when it was merged into Wandsworth. From then until 1978 political control swung from Labour to Conservative, back to Labour and then since 1978 to Conservative control.
• Recent Social and Economic Change. Dramatic changes in housing tenure, de-industrialisation and the social and economic composition of the population have resulted in today’s Battersea having pockets of high affluence next to pockets of disadvantage.
• Housing Re-development. As a result of the war damage and slum clearance there were large-scale housing estate developments from the 1950s, including high-rise blocks.

Key dates in the history of Battersea
(with emphasis on buildings that still exist, or pictures of which can be seen)

1067 William the Conqueror grants the Manor of Battersea to Westminster Abbey.
1627 The St. John family become Lords of the Manor.
1675 Walter St. John gives some cottages to the Church wardens to use as almshouses.
1700 Sir Walter St. John’s School is endowed.
1733 Battersea Workhouse opens in Battersea Square.
1736 Baptist Meeting House opens in York Rd.
1763 Isaack Ackerman, a London businessman, builds the Sisters House – one of which survives as Gilmore House on the corner of Elspeth Rd and Clapham Common Northside.
1771 Battersea Bridge opens – a wooden bridge.
1777 St. Mary’s Parish Church is re-built.
John Fownes opens a glove factory.
1782 William Blake marries Catherine Boucher in Battersea Church.
1790 Horizontal Air Mill is built next to St. Mary’s Church.
1801 Benedict Arnold, the American Revolutionary General who switched sides to the British, is buried in the Church.
1811 Town stocks are moved from Battersea Square to church gate.
1815 Wellington’s army at Waterloo wear boots built at Marc Isambard Brunel’s factory in Battersea.
1827 Henry Beaufoy buys land to build acetic acid factory (closed 1901)
1838 Railway line opens through Battersea from south-west to Nine Elms
Israel May Soule is appointed as Baptist Minister (to 1875)
1840 St John’s College for training school masters opens in Battersea House.
1843 Price’s Candles starts production at York Rd factory using palm oil from West Africa.
1846 Railway line from Richmond opens.
1848 Railway is extended to Waterloo Station.
Orlando Jones starch works opens on riverfront (closed 1901)
1849 Christchurch (Battersea Park Rd) is built.
1852 Royal Freemasons’ Girl’s School relocates to Battersea until 1934.
1855 Earl Spencer sells land on Wandsworth Common to build Royal Victoria Patriotic Hospital.
1856 The Morgan brothers set up the Patent Lumbago Crucible Co, later Morgan Crucible, becoming a major employer till the 1970s.
1858 First Chelsea Bridge opens.
Battersea Park opens – built on land that had formed part of Battersea Fields.
Nine Elms Gasworks starts production.
1860 Railway extends across the river to Victoria.
1863 West London Extension line running across Battersea High St and over the Thames opens.
Clapham Junction Station opens.
St. John’s Church in Usk Rd is built.
1865 Nine Elms Gasworks gasholder explodes – ten men killed.
1867 The Congregationalists open their first Church on Battersea Bridge Rd.
1868 St. Paul’s Church on St. John’s Hill opens.
1870 St. Philip’s Church, Queenstown Rd, opens.
Education Act leads to building of schools in Battersea.
1871 St. Saviour’s Church, Battersea Park Rd, opens
After local campaigns Act of Parliament saves Wandsworth and other Commons from development.
Battersea Dogs Home relocates to Battersea Park Rd.
1872 Southlands Wesleyan teacher training college opens in Southlands in the High St (until 1927).
1873 Albert Bridge opens.
1874 St. Mark’s Church on Battersea Rise opens.
1875 Battersea Grammar School is founded as off-shoot of Sir Walter St. John’s
1877 Local campaign saves Clapham Common from development.
1881 Start of tram services
1883 Emmanuel School transfers to Battersea Rise.
1885 Arding & Hobbs Department store opens at Clapham Junction.
1889 Vestry opens Latchmere Baths.
1890 New stone Battersea Bridge opens.
Central Library on Lavender Hill opens.
1891 Battersea Vestry opens new cemetery in Morden.
1892 John Burns is elected as a socialist as Battersea’s Member of Parliament.
1893 Start of building of mansions flats built along Prince of Wales Drive.
Opening of Battersea Town Hall (now Arts Centre) on Lavender Hill.
1894 Progressive Alliance of radical, socialists and Liberal organisations takes control of Battersea Vestry.
1894 Battersea Polytechnic on Battersea Park Rd opens.
1895 Salesian Catholic College moves to Surrey Lane.
1900 Battersea Vestry replaced by Metropolitan Borough of Battersea. Progressive Alliance takes control.
Grand Theatre, St. John’s Hill, opens as music hall, later becoming a cinema, bingo hall and rock venue.
1901 Battersea Council opens its own electricity generating station, and starts to electrify street lighting.
1902 London County buys up tram company and starts electricification form 1903
Anti-Vivisection Hospital opens (later Battersea General Hospital closed 1974)
Latchmere (Burns) Estate opens as Battersea Council’s first housing scheme.
1907 Short Brothers start making planes in railway arches.
Medical students severely damage anti-vivisection Little Brown Dog statue in Latchmere Recreation Ground.
1909 Erksine Clarke retires as Vicar of St. Mary’s
Arding & Hobbs store is destroyed by fire – 8 people die.
1910 London County Council opens St. John’s Hospital (closed 1970s)
1920 The South West London Synagogue opens in Bolingbroke Grove (till 2000)
1922 Shapurji Saklatvala, an Indian Communist is elected as Labour MP in 1922; is defeated 1923; re-elected 1924 (to 1929).
1925 Reference Library opens in Altenburgh Gardens.
1929 Work starts to build Battersea Power Station.
1931 Completion of electrification of street lighting
1934 St. John’s housing estate is completed on site for former St John’s College.
1936 Granada Cinema on St. John’s Hill opens on site of Battersea Grammar School, which had moved to Streatham.
1937 Current Chelsea Bridge opens.
1939 Start of Second World War. Battersea experiences heavy bombing.
1945 Council starts Home Help Service
1951 Battersea Park becomes home for Festival Gardens during the Festival of Britain.
Last tram runs through Battersea.
1959 Battersea Heliport opens.
1964/5 Battersea Council is merged into the new London Borough of Wandsworth.
1985 Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park is unveiled.
2001 Montevetro apartment block in Church Rd opens.

Battersea Population 1831-1871


1831
1841
1851
1861
1871
Battersea
 5,540
 6,887
10,560
19,600
 54,016
Clapham
 9,958
12,106
16,290
20,894
 27,347
Streatham (inc.Balham)
 5,068
 5,994
 6,901
 8,027
 12,148
Tooting
 2,063
 2,840
 2,122
 2,055
  2,327
Wandsworth
 6,879
 7,614
 9,611
13,346
 19,783
Putney (inc)Roehampton
 3,811
 4,684
 5,280
 6,481
  9,439
Total Area
33,319
40,125
50,764
70,403
125,060
Battersea %
 16.6
 17.2
 20.8
 27.8
 43.2

Battersea Population 1881-1921


1891
1901
1911
1921
Battersea
150,558
168,907
167,743
167,739
Clapham
 43,698
 54,325
 58.592
 60,540
Streatham (inc.Balham)
 42,972
 70,933
 96,192
 52,607
Tooting
  5,784
 16,473
 35,958
 40,135
Wandsworth
 46,717
 68,332
 92,376
 95,579
Putney (inc)Roehampton
 17,771
 24,139
 28,242
 28,558











Source for lines 2-7: Census tabulation by Wandsworth Local History Collection at Battersea Reference Library

Some Famous People in Battersea:


John Burns. The local socialist leader John Burns becomes a Battersea member of the newly formed London County Council in 1889. From 1889-1892 he is leading figure in Dock and Gas workers' strikes and in the development of New Unions especially among low paid, semi-skilled workers. Many of the new Unions developed into the big unions of today, like Transport & General Workers Union and Unison. 1892 he is elected as socialist MP for Battersea. In 1906 he is appointed Minister in Liberal Cabinet. In 1914 he resigns Cabinet in protest at declaration of First World War.

John Archer (1863-1932), black Catholic Liverpuddlian elected as Progressive Councillor. In 1906 he is elected as Progressive Councillor. In 1913 he is elected as Mayor. Supporter of black rights and colonial freedom. Made his living as a photographer. Special interest public health. Campaigner for the unemployed in the 1920s. Backed Shapurji Saklatvala as Battersea Labour MP until 1926 split between Labour and Communists. Block of flats on St John’s Estate/Battersea Village named after him.

John Smith. 1660s to early 1670s ran a refinery processing sugar from Barbados where he owns plantations.
William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Lived in Battersea Rise/Broomwood Rd area 1792-1807. Campaigner in Parliament for abolition of the slave trade.

John Walter (1739-1812). Founder of Times newspaper. Lived in Gilmore House 1773-1783.

George Alfred Henty (1832-1902). Lived at 33 Lavender Gdns. Journalist and writer of adventure stories for boys.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917). Writer and poet, Educated at Battersea Grammer School. Killed in France in 1917.

Tom Taylor. Editor of Punch magazine lived on Lavender Sweep (1859-1880). President Lincoln was assassinated while watching Taylor’s play ‘Our American Cousin’ in 1865.

Richard Church (1893-1972). Writer. ‘Over the Bridge’ records his reminiscences of growing up in Battersea as a child.

Edward Adrian Wilson (1872-1912). Died with Scott at the South Pole.

Albert Mansbridge. Founded Workers’ Educational Association and other educational organisations promoting adult education. Went to Walter Sir John’s and Battersea Grammar Schools.

George Shearing (1919-) Blind Jazz musician born in Battersea. Now lives in United States.

Julian Bream, guitarist (1933-). Born in Battersea.

Charlotte Despard. Campaigner for votes for women, freedom for Ireland and other causes. Socialist. Lived and undertook social welfare work in Nine Elms.

Caroline Ganley. Leading socialist and co-operator. Battersea and LCC Councillor. Battersea South’s MP 1945-51.

Buster Merryfield. (1920-99). Born Battersea. Actor. Played Uncle Albert in ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

Note: transferred from former website.

Performance, Display and the Negotiation of Power in Public Space



Explanatory Note. On 29 April 2004 I took part in thInterdisciplinary Workshop supported by White Rose Consortium of Universities held at Wakefield campus of Leeds University. I contributed a set of notes for discussion. They were on my old website which I have now closed because of the problems I have had in keeping it up to date. I have been asked to ensure that material on it is still accessible. 

Some Questions 

What are we defining as public space?

How do we differentiate between ‘privatised’ public space and ‘open’ public space?

When are buildings public spaces?

How have definitions of public space changed over time?

How have public spaces been used for performance and display over time and what changes have taken place?

What have been key elements in the negotiation of power in public space?

How have public spaces been managed in the past and what are the contemporary issues in management?

What has been the changing legal framework in relation to the use of public space?

How have law and order concerns changed the use and management of public space?

What lies behind the decline in performance and display since the Second World War?

Are there any remaining residues of the tradition?

What motivates the continued organisation of carnival processions in local festivals?

Do the public have a different view of what public spaces are to those in government (at every level) and business?

Public spaces for who?

Public spaces
• the street
• the square
• the park
• open spaces
• community gardens
• commons
• rivers
• canals
• beaches and coastline
• countryside
• National Parks
• Rights of way
• The role of buildings and their design in defining public spaces
• Monuments and statues
• Ponds
• Town Halls
• Libraries
• Swimming pools
• Public and community halls
• Churches

Performance:
• Street theatre
• Buskers
• Carnivals
• Circuses and funfairs
• Pageants
• Races
• Sport
• November 5
• Open air pop and other music festivals
• Historic re-enactments

Display:
• Marches and demonstrations
• Funeral processions
• Religious festivities
• Organisational events
• Commemorative events
• Military parades
• Remembrance Day
• Art
• Murals
• Statues
• War Memorials
• Banners

The Negotiation of Power:
• Peterloo
• Hyde Park
• Speakers Corners
• Enclosures of commons
• The Royal Parks, inc. Richmond Park under Charles I, Cromwell and Charles II
• Municipal activity to increase public space
• Ideology of the creation of public spaces e.g. Trafalgar Square
• Marches and demonstrations
• The stocks, executions and hangings
• Trafalgar Square and its three Ps: protest, pigeons and plinths
• Cable St
• London Squares
• Public space management
• Crime
• Anti-social behaviour and disorder
• CCTV
• Utility services inc. mobile masts
• Cars, cyclists and pedestrians
• Notting Hill Carnival
• Use of parks for events
• Safety and risk
• Children’s play and adventure
• Rambling and the right to roam
• Signage and street furniture
• Commemorative plaques on buildings
• New Year Festivities in Central London
• Riverside walkways
• The London Eye
• Conservation areas
• Demolition, redevelopment, regeneration
• The planning system
• Town and City waterfront areas
• Prostitution and kerb-crawling
• Tramps and begging
• Public toilets
• Playsites
• Street public phones
• Railway stations
• Disability Access
• Noise
• The 24 Hour Economy
• Street Wardens
• Museum charges
• Litter, graffiti, vandalism
• Flyposting
• Advertising
• Street trees
• Civil liberties
• Street trading
• Gambling
• Strikes and pickets
• Charges for use of sports facilities on public spaces

The Players
• The people
• Central Government
• Local Government
• Police
• Magistrates
• Businesses
• Landowners
• Developers
• The Armed Forces
• Friendly societies
• Freemasons
• Church groups
• Political organisations and campaign groups
• Charities, community and voluntary groups

Statues
• Hilda Kean (Ruskin College Public History) article 'An Exploration of the Sculptures of Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Brown Dog, Battersea, South London, England' published in Society and Animals 11:4 (2003), looks at two public statutes and their meanings and the context of acceptance/conflict in terms of their siting in public spaces.
• The Trafalgar Square plinth debate
• Richard Oastler. When he died the Trade Unions and Short Time Committees in Manchester and Lancashire erected a memorial to him. 100,000 people attended the unveiling on 21 May 1869. (Edmund & Ruth Frow. Radical and Red Poets and Poetry. Working-Class Movement Library 1994, p. 58)

Public Meetings
• Illustrated London News 13 April 1872 picture showing agricultural labourers meeting underneath a tree at Witnash to organise strike action. (Edmund & Ruth Frow. Radical and Red Poets and Poetry. Working-Class Movement Library 1994, p. 124)
• The Wellesbourne Tree: Agricultural workers song set to Auld Lang Syne: ‘When Arch beneath the Wellsbourne Tree. (Edmund & Ruth Frow. Radical and Red Poets and Poetry. Working-Class Movement Library 1994, p. 122)

Banners

During the Great Dock Strike 1889:
• "The banners were a striking feature of the procession. First came a white canvas, on which in plain letters was set forth the demands of the men, then the banner of the Stevedores' Protection Association and lastly that of the Original Grand Order of Abstinent Sons of Temperance, bearing the words 'In God is our trust' and 'The Greatest of These is Charity.'" (Evening News & Post, 17 August 1889.)
• 'When all had assembled to join the procession the muster was estimated at between 60,000 and 70,000. There were several bands of music and banners were very numerous from the handsome and artistic productions owned by several lodges of the Sons of the Phoenix which took part to the mere sheets of calico, supported by sticks and bearing encouraging inscriptions rudely painted, which were carried by members of various trades, who joined the strikers from the docks.' (Evening News & Post, Monday 26 August 1889*).
• "There were not only dock labourers and waterside workers in the gathering, but men of temperance and provident societies, with their banners...' (The Times, Friday, 6 September 1889)

Friendly Societies Use of Public Space
• Foresters Regatta with Oddfellows from Putney to Hammersmith. (Labour & Unity, July 1870)
• Wandsworth & District Amalgamated Enrolled Friendly Societies met on 15 March 1888 to fix date of parade and which funds money to go to. Committee members included representatives of the South London Unity of Oddfellows, the Foresters and the Hearts of
Oak. (Unity, March 1888)

Public Protests and The Use of Song (see Annex)
(Several of these website references that were originally in the paper have been deleted as they no longer exist.)

Young People and Public Spaces
Dr. David M. Pomfret, University of Hong Kong ‘Lionised and Toothless’: Young People and Urban Politics in England and France, 1918-1940. European Cities, the Public Sphere and Youth in the Twentieth Century Conference. 

Contemporary Public Spaces
There is an enormous public effort through charities, and community and voluntary groups into preserving, conserving, managing and promoting open space whether parks and commons, canals and waterways, etc. These often link with the history of the spaces.
• Bankside Open Spaces Trust (South Bank London): www.bost.org.uk

Canals and Waterways
The Waterways Renaissance Awards 2002 started in 2002 by the British Urban Regeneration Association and the Waterways Trust partly recognise the years of campaigning achievements of members of the public in canal societies, like Forth & Clyde, in getting the canal network cleaned up, and improved for public leisure benefit.
The Trust is now part of the Canal & River Trust: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk

Government Policy on Public Spaces
Government Policy on Public Spaces was  on Office of Deputy Prime Minister's Site under Urban Policy..Now on Local Government & Communities Department website:
https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-communities-and-local-government
£89m announced October 2003 for revitalising public parks and spaces.

Visual and Other Material
• Engravings .e.g. in Illustrated London News e.g. 4 July 1857. p. 6. Engraving of 'Great Open-Air Demonstration Against the Chelsea New Bridge Toll' - public space issue.
• Postcards e.g. the 1929 Godiva Coventry Pageant (May issue of Picture Postcard Monthly)
• Photographs
• Films e.g. ETV collection
• Newspaper accounts

Promotion and Some Connections
• Simon Fowler, Editor, Family History Magazine on public space themes. e.g.’ Did you ancestor take part in ....?'
• History Today article
• Other specialist historical journals
• Friendly Society Research Group
• Society for the Study of Labour History
• Local History Societies
• Labour Heritage
• Waterways Trust
• Proboscis – inc. Public Reveries, Public Spaces project: www.proboscis.org.uk
• Civic Trust: www.civictrust.org.uk
• Amenity societies
• Sensory Trust: www.sensorytrust.org.uk
• Policy Studies Institute. Green Spaces Report 2001
• The Living Streets organisation. www.livingstreets.org.uk.  Champions streets and spaces for pedestrians
• Noise: United Kingdom Noise Association
• Landscape Design Trust journal ‘Green Places’ launched October 2003 www.landscape.co.uk
• Joseph Rowntree Trust funded research projects dealing with aspects of public spaces. www.jrf.org.uk  . Search ‘Public spaces’
• Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. www.farmgarden.org.uk
• Groundwork UK. Undertakes a lot of work to improve public space  
environment. www.groundwork.org.uk
• Open Spaces Society. www.oss.org.uk: John Stuart Mill, Octavia Hill. George Lefevre

Annex: Public Protests and The Use of Song
• Among the processions to Peter's Field on 16 August 1819 were female societies preceded by female bands. The resultant Peterloo Massacre is commemorated in With Henry Hunt we'll go (to the tune The Battle of Waterloo).
• During the campaign for a Ten Hour Bill in 1832/3, there was a demonstration involving 17 bands and hundreds of banners to Campfield by the Salford and Manchester Short-Time Committee. Children sang their factory song: 'We will have the Ten Hours Bill’
• In the campaign for the Tolpuddle Martyrs a broadside verse The gathering of the unions was used at the mass demonstration held on 21 April 1834.
• The membership card of the National Charter Association included the words God is our Guide taken from a song sung at a rally organised by the Birmingham Political Union on 6 August 1838, attended by 200,000 people.
• An early mass meeting of Chartists in Leicester in November 1838 attended by an estimated 3-7,000 people sang the Corn Law Hymn to the tune of the Old Hundreth. On 19 November at an outdoor meeting to officially adopt the Charter the meeting began with singing of three verses by the Corn Law Rhymer (Ebenezer Elliot) ‘God of the Poor! shall labour eat?’
• In 1875 in the village of Cherhill William Durham and his family were evicted from their tied cottage, and his 12 year old daughter excluded from the village school. The Union organised a rally in support of the family in a field and in pouring rain 1,000 farmworkers sang When Arch Beneath The Wellesbourne Tree.
• Alfred Linnell's funeral procession on December 18 1888 was one and a half miles long and comprised 120,000 people went from Great Windmill St, to Bow Cemetery. William Morris spoke. While the rain poured down 10,000 people sang Morris' Death Song to music arranged by Malcolm Lawson.
• In 1905 four hundred unemployed workers set out from Leicester to march to London to be welcomed at an SDF/ILP rally in Hyde Park against the Unemployment Bill. They set off amidst packed streets on 5 June 1905 to the tune Lead Kindly Light.
• One Sunday in May 1906, the police prevented the SDF from holding a meeting in front of the market Hall in Nelson. The branch Secretary Bryan Chapman and Ernest Marklew, another speaker, were arrested. Supporters stood outside the police station singing socialist songs. They were fined. In the Sundays that followed thousands went to hear them and other speakers continue to try and exercise their right to speak in the street. Chapman and Marklew were arrested again, and this time imprisoned. The following Sunday 5,000 marched to the Market Hall, led by the Nelson Old Band singing The Red Flag.
• Electioneering involved numerous variations of the same political campaigning song to the tune of Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, The Boys Are Marching. In the 1906 General Election in Hastings, where Robert Tressell, the socialist author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists lived, the final Liberal procession with 5,000 people and a 54 piece instrumental band, sang: Vote! Vote! Vote!" for Freeman-Thomas!
• When Christabel Pankhurst was released from prison on 3 November 1908, there was a protest march to Holloway, by which time thousands were taking part half-a-mile long. Brass bands played the Women's Marseilles, John Peel, Men of Harlech and John Brown's Body', with the women joining in singing their own words to the tunes.
• During 1910 the suffragettes used bicycle parades to advertise meetings up and down the country. 'About a dozen men and women would set out on decorated cycles, heavily placarded with details of the coming meeting. They rode in file along the country lanes singing the Women's Marseilles, and when they arrived at an open space or a village green, they would dismount, and from an improvised platform encourage the local people to come and hear the distinguished Suffragette speaker.'
• On Emily Davison's funeral procession on 14 June 1913 from Victoria Station to Kings Cross bands played solemn music of Chopin, Handel and Beethoven.
• Just before Christmas 1921 large demonstrations of unemployed workers marched through the West End, singing 'workers' battle-songs, particularly the "International" and the "Red Flag", recalled one of their leaders Wal Hannington. On New Year's Eve 1922 outside St. Paul's their bands played Auld Lang Syne and the Red Flag.
• When the Poplar Borough Councillors were summonsed to the Council Chamber by the District Auditor to show cause why they should not be surcharged in respect of excess wages paid in the year 1921-2, a large crowd assembled outside singing 'The Red Flag' before getting into the building.
• When the imprisoned Councillors were released they walked through the gates of Brixton Prison singing The Red Flag to thousands of their supporters outside.
Page created February 2007