Thursday, 17 May 2018

Is Croydon Council seriously looking at the issues around families in tall buildings?

On 4 May Croydon Citizen published my discussion article Do Croydon’s children and young people have enough space at home?

It was published by I was waiting for a reply to a Freedom of Information request to the Council on the knowledge of Council officers about the issues.

Here are the questions I asked and the answers.

(1) Have the planning and other relevant officers looked at research such as that undertaken by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Australia, the Berkeley Homes study of their South Quay Plaza proposals, or the paper The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings by Robert Gifford of the Department of Psychology and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia in Canada?

We are not aware that officers have not read the specific studies and research that you have referred to but it is possible that some officers may have done so as part of their professional studies or CPD (Continuing Professional Development) activities

(2) What analysis has the Council undertaken into the detrimental effects not just on families but also of the psychological issues among residents and the mechanical failures of lifts which can trap residents in tall building structures, or in the case of the elderly and physically disabled prevent them getting up to their homes?

Policies in the Local Plan were subject to a Health Impact Assessment and recommendations from that process were integrated in to the Submission Local Plan. The policies in the plan were also subject to formal consultation and an Examination in Public process and were found sound by an independent Planning Inspector. Scheme proposals that include tall buildings are generally subject to thorough pre-application processes, some including independent review by Croydon's Place Review Panel, and subsequent planning applications are subject to public consultation. Schemes including tall buildings are required to accord with adopted national, regional and local planning policy and all other relevant adopted policy and guidance related to tall buildings. Issues such as those described in your email are considered by applicants and officers as part of the design process to ensure high quality design

(3) Where is the Council’s evidence that particularly for families with children and young people and the elderly living in tall buildings meets the criteria for living in a healthy community?

Please refer to the answer to question 2) above. In addition, a Housing Typologies Study for Croydon Metropolitan Centre, which formed evidence base for the Croydon OAPF and the Local Plan, identified that those areas most appropriate for schemes including tall buildings would not be required to include the same proportion of family homes, acknowledging that it is more challenging to include family homes within tower typologies. The study sets out a range of typologies that could be used in Croydon to optimise family housing provision and indicates that lower rise and mid-rise typologies are more suited to higher proportions of family accommodation

(4) Does the evidence show any difference in family experience between living in blocks up to 10, 20, 30 & 30+ storeys?

We do not have specific evidence regarding family experience at different building heights however appropriateness of different unit types, their design and location within schemes is thoroughly considered as part of pre-apps and planning application process. We would also refer you again to the Housing Typologies Study.

Tall building typologies are not the only development typology being used to deliver new homes in Croydon but where appropriately located and well designed, are expected to form an important part of the overall pattern of growth and development required to meet Croydon's housing need. The provision of high quality family housing is a key priority for the Council and schemes that travel through the planning process are assessed thoroughly by officers in terms of optimising family housing and ensuring that these types are well designed and appropriately located as part of overall scheme design.

In addition to being required to conform with policies set out in the NPPF, London Plan, Local Plan and associated local and national planning guidance, schemes including tall buildings routinely undergo thorough pre-application processes, independent design review and public consultation. Schemes including tall buildings are also required to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations.

The full letter can be seen at

Evidence to the Local Plan Public Hearings

If the officers have not looked at the reports mentioned then it looks like another example of ignoring the evidence submitted during the Local Plan public hearings with the Inspector. In my submission to the Inspector at the session of Tall Buildings I stated:

‘By the mid 1970s it had become clear that living in Council tower blocks was detrimental to families. Wandsworth Council brought in for a short while a policy that no family should be housed above the fourth floor.

There may be a case for having a policy that requires applicants to place 3 bed plus flats only the ground to four floors, and smaller units above. While a two bed may be still be occupied by a family with one child it should be a planning requirement that no sale or renting of a two bed should be to a family with more than one child. If housing is now supposed to be flexible for life, then a family with two children needs to have three bedrooms because at a certain age boys and girls should stop sharing bedrooms. Obviously where a family who has been sold to or is rented to has another child the problem of the need for an extra bedroom becomes difficult.

Of course it can be argued that those couples and parents who purchase a flat have taken on the risk of finding they do not have enough space as they have their first or subsequent child. This is not the case with occupants of affordable housing in tall buildings whose choice may well be prescribed by allocation policies.’

‘If a key aim is ensure a balanced community in the Opportunity Area then the needs of families with children need to be very carefully planned for and measures included in the plan to seek to prevent overcrowding and the sharing of bedrooms by children of the opposite sex after they reach the age where they should have separate bedrooms. Flats also need to be large enough to ensure that children at school have a quirt space to do their homework, especially those at secondary school.

The Policy Exchange’s 2013 report Create Streets argues that:
·       demolishing council tower blocks and moving residents to low-rise flats and streets of terrace houses could dramatically improve the quality of life of thousands of Londoners.
·       multi-storey housing costs far more to build and maintain so moving families elsewhere would save money in the long-term.
In preparing the Plan did the officers look at research such as that undertaken by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Australia:
or the Berkeley Homes study of their South Quay Plaza proposals:
or the paper The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings by Robert Gifford of the Department of Psychology and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.

The latter’s abstract states: ‘A full account of architectural science must include empirical findings about the social and psychological influences that buildings have on their occupants. Tall residential buildings can have a myriad of such effects. This review summarizes the results of research on the influences of high-rise buildings on residents’ experiences of the building, satisfaction, preferences, social behavior, crime and fear of crime, children, mental health and suicide. Most conclusions are tempered by moderating factors, including residential socioeconomic status, neighborhood quality, parenting, gender, stage of life, indoor density, and the ability to choose a housing form. However, moderators aside, the literature suggests that high-rises are less satisfactory than other housing forms for most people, that they are not optimal for children, that social relations are more impersonal and helping behavior is less than in other housing forms, that crime and fear of crime are greater, and that they may independently account for some suicides.’’

My final point was to ask what analysis the Council had undertaken of the detrimental effects not just on families but also of the psychological issues among residents and the mechanical failures of lifts which can trap residents in tall building structures, or in the case of the elderly and physically disabled prevent them getting up to their homes? If the Council cannot provide any evidence then it will be unable to prove how its policy of allowing family size homes in tall buildings will fit with promoting health and well-being.’

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What is happening in Black British History - a review of the Conference held on 10 May

Given the Windrush citizenship scandal the holding of the What is Happening in British Black History VIII Conference  was timely, with its reminders of the long presence of people of Africa heritage in Britain including during the Roman period. Many of the 40-odd attendees were themselves part of communities who knew or worked with those who had come from the Caribbean on vessels such as the seminal Empire Windrush in June 1948, and beforehand too. 

The information on the black presence in all its forms keeps growing as The Black Tudors book by Miranda Kaufmann which was I had on sale, exemplifies. Visible, too, is the exhibition revealing  the story of the 2,000 French African-Caribbean soldiers, women and children captured in the West Indies and imprisoned at Portchester Castle, Hampshire, between 1793 and 1814. Curator Abigail Coppins (English Heritage) spoke about the research behind the display, now available for all to see. (1)

Prisoners of War

Many of the prisoners were captured on Guadeloupe. It is not yet clear how many stayed, including being recruited into the British Army and Navy, at  a time when c10,000 – 15,000 black people are thought to have been in Britain.

Although there was no time to discuss the details it was clear that there were many other prisoner of war depots and soldiers out on parole in towns and villages across Britain during the Wars with France. One example is the Norman Cross depot in Huntingdonshire. ‘Black Jimmy’ was transferred from it to the hulks at Chatham; Jean Beautemps,  born in Dominique, killed a French seaman fellow prisoner there in August 1797; and Eustache was paroled from it to Ashbourne. A number of Lascars imprisoned by the French at Dunkirk were exchanged for French seamen at Norman Cross. (2)

Black soldiers 

Previous research has identified two men from Guadeloupe who joined the army. Jean Baptiste joined in 1813. He was a labourer in Croydon. It is not known whether he had been captured and had been paroled or later released. He was discharged in 1841 due to ill health. The second was William Buckland was in the 5th Foot which recruited in Northumberland and later became part of the Royal Fusiliers. He served from May 1810 to March 1817. Aged 31 he then enlisted for unlimited service in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers  at Valenciennes in France in March 1817. He was discharged as a private on pension in June 1823 due to ‘being worn out and unable to march, together with impaired vision.’ In 1848 a William Buckland, formerly of the 5th Foot, was awarded the Military General Service Medal 1793-1814, with bars for Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees and Toulouse. He drew his pension initially in Limerick, and then later in Liverpool where he died in December 1857.

Buckland’s details had been researched by John Ellis, another of the speakers, who spoke about soldiers of African origin from the 1700s to the 1840s. Black members of British regiments were often trumpeters and drummers with the all-important role of sounding out the battle orders as well as fighting. John Ellis, a school teacher, who pioneered work on black soldiers in his MA dissertation in 2000. (3) His return to undertake further research is welcome. He has found out more about Tommy Crawford who settled in Darlington, whom I have written about, after discharge from the army. (4)

Black Liberationists

People of African heritage came to Britain, and Europe, for a wide variety of reasons, including for education and as entertainers. One particular group were the African-American liberationists like Frederick Douglass, Henry ‘Box’ Brown, William Wells Brown, and William and Ellen Craft who spoke at hundreds of meetings around the country. They were heavily dependent on the support of the abolitionist networks. Hannah Rose Murray, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, explained that Moses Roper spoke very few times in London because his patron fell out with him. (5)

Although there has already been a lot of work on Black Liberationists in Britain Hannah’s unique contribution plotting the locations of the speaker engagements on maps, adds an enormous amount to our knowledge of where they spoke, including in the tiny seaside hamlet of Cullercoats on the Northumberland Coast, because Anna and Henry Richardson has a seaside home there. As a historian of the Richardsons I did not know this. (6)
Wide British interest in the realities of US pre-emancipation slavery and the problems faced after emancipation there meant that campaigners came long after the end of the American Civil War (1861-65). These inspiring campaigners included the Fisk Jubilee singers raising money for their University, and Ida B. Wells raising support for her anti-lynching campaign. As Jeff Green pointed out the interest in such lectures continued into the 1920s.

Black Americans in Victorian Britain

The variety of black people in the Victorian period was augmented in a talk  by Jeff, whose book Black Americans in Victorian Britain should be published in September, and by Joe Williams discussing William Darby/Pablo Fanque the circus owner. Jeff ranged across many people including Edward Lewis, the Negro Messmorist in the 1850s, Agnes Foster, who went to Jamaica and founded the Salvation Army there, and Clarissa Brown, one of the daughters of William Wells Brown. Jeff also used the opportunity to show how he did his extensive research.

Yorkshire's Black History

Audrey Dewjee gave a presentation on stories from Yorkshire’s Black History, which is currently an exhibition in Beverley near Hull. (7)

After the end of the First World War the race riots in 1919 and the E. D. Morel campaign against the use by the French of African troops in their area of occupied Germany, highlighted the strong strand of racism that had built up within British society as a result of colonialism and imperialism. Owen Walsh (University of Leeds) spoke the Jamaican and Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay. Although only in Britain for a couple of years McKay wrote against Morel’s campaign in Sylvia Pankhurst’s Workers Dreadnaught newspaper. While McKay was attracted to revolutionary ideas and to Communism, the question arises as to what his relationship was with men like John Archer and Dr John Alcindor of the African Progress Union, especially as Archer supported Battersea Labour Party’s resistance to the ban and proscriptions on Communists which led in February 1926 to its expulsion from the national Labour Party. (8)

Black Performers 

In the 1930s the League of Coloured Peoples adopted a non-revolutionary approach.  Audrey Dewjee told the attendees about one of its members George Brown who became owner of John Kay & Sons (Huddersfield) Ltd (the very town in which this Conference was being held). He was a friend of Paul Robeson. Catherine Tackley (University of Liverpool), who had been involved British Black Jazz project (9) in the discussed how musicians in Bute Town were able to obtain work in in London in the 1930s including as members of Ken ‘Snakeships’ Johnson’s Dance Band. Later in 1958 Brown arranged for Robeson to entertain the factory children.

(From Sean Creighton collection)

The RAF and Windrush

Although there was no specific talk on black servicemen in the Second World War, there were photos shown of RAF members from the West Indies. Some were recruited for the RAF by an African airman on board the Windrush when they returned to Britain 1948. Sharon Watson of the Phoenix Dance Theatre showed extracts from the performance Windrush: Movement of the People. (10)


There was also a talk by Milton Brown (University of Huddersfield and Kirklees Local TV) about projects researching the views on identify of people who came from the West Indies, and the second generation who grew up in the 1980s. The latter’s cultural experiences often centred around sound systems, and those in  Huddersfield were discussed by Professor Paul Ward (Edge Hill College). (11)

Identity was also a theme in Black Men Walking, the play discussed by its writer, rapper and beatboxer Testament. (12)

Slavery profits and music

Inevitably the issue of slavery and the fact that many black people up to 1834 had come to Britain as enslaved people or to escape slavery  was raised. Professor David Hunter (University of Texas) spoke about the use of slave generated  money to fund music and culture, like investment in an Assembly Hall, and the manufacture of a specialist form of piano made for the daughter of a wealthy slave owner. Hans Sloane’s collection in the British Museum included drum which had gone from Africa to Virginia, which was included in former Museum Director Head Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 objects series. (13)     

George Handel and John Gay were shareholders in the Royal Africa Company. Jews harps were made in large qualities in Britain using metal from the Principio Mine in America which used slave labour, while the harps were part of the range of goods used to buy slaves in Africa. Conference attendees gasped when they heard that while landowner and MP Peter Beckford was on his Grand Tour he had actually purchased the 14 year old Italian composer Muzio Clementi from his father.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Conference

This was perhaps the best WHBBH conference so far in terms of new information and ways of looking at the material, sharing information, seeing interlinks, without some of the theoretical angst that sometimes dominates gatherings held in London.

A major problem is the format is too many talks and not  enough time for discussion. Information sharing and networking has to take place quickly over tea and coffee, lunch and at the post talks drinks, which does not allow everyone to get to know each other.
This causes frustration  because issues people want to discuss in details such as how to get the growing information about the black presence into schools cannot be discussed in detail, although it was clear that telling stories through plays, music, and other art forms is an  important approach. Nor was there time to explore in more detail Jeff Green’s cautioning about how sources should be used.

An agenda for the next Conference

So how could the next Conference in the series be organised? I suggest small group discussions around such themes as (1) research sources and interpretation; (2) dissemination; (3) networking and collaboration; and (4) reaching into schools and Universities.

The themes should be introduced by 2 key speakers. The day could be structured so that there were four sessions of small groups, with the composition of each group being mixed up so more people get to engage with each other. The day would end with a report back of conclusions and action points – and people on the stage and in the audience would make kind use of many microphones. Possibly also the room layout could be more democratic: night-club style seating not university lecture theatre.

Thanks to Jeff Green and Jo Stanley for helpful comments on a draft of this article.
For comments by other attendees at the Conference see


(2)        Thomas James  Walker. The depot for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross Huntingdonshire 1796 to 1816. Constable & Co. 1913. I found this book in a second hand bookshop last year.
(3) The Visual Representation, Role and Origin of Black Soldiers in British Army Regiments during the Early Nineteenth Century. University of Nottingham). Ellis wrote A Revolutionary Activist in His Own Cause; William Afflick of the 10th Hussars (Westminster History Review. No.5. 2003). See also & his 2009 posting at
(4) I mention Crawford in my article Black People in the North East (North East Labour Journal. Vol. 39. 2009)
(6)        Anna & Henry Richardson. Newcastle Quaker Anti-slavery, Peace and Animal Rights journalism. Topic 55. North East Popular Politics database. (put ‘55’ into the search box. For details of the content of their journals put ‘Richardson’ into the search box. My article about the Richardsons Slavery is Sustained by the Purchase of its Productions: The Slave; His Wrongs and Their Remedy (1851-1856) in Ulrich Pallua, Adrian Knapp and Andreas Exenberger (Eds.) (Re)Figuring Human Enslavement: Images of Power, Violence and Resistance. (Innsbruck University. Edition Weltordnung – Religion – Gewalt 5) is downloadable at
(8)        Sean Creighton. John Archer. Battersea’s Blck Progressive and Labour Activist 1863-1932. (History & Social Action Publications. London. 2014)
(9)        Jason Toynbee and Catherine Tackley. Black British Jazz: Routes, Ownership and Performance (Ashgate. Farnham. 2014).


(1)        In our chats over supper and breakfast in Huddersfield and at the Conference Jeff Green told me that the Royal College of Music’s digital exhibition on the internet includes the image of the rules and members of the United African League formed in 1903. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Dr John Alcindor and Robert Broadhurst was a member of the Executive and R. Archer (probably John Richard Archer of Note (8) above) was Secretary. Archer, Alcindor and Broadhurst went on to be members of the African Progress Union established in 1918. The details about the League appears to be new information but little more can be added to what is shown. (; see also Samuel Coleridge-Taylor newsletter No. 52 (May 2018) at

(2)        Two days later I was on  a visit to Sheffield Park in Sussex. One of the people in the group was the great grandson of an African sailor who settled and married an English woman in Liverpool. He is just one of the growing number of white looking people who know or are realising that they have African heritage.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Knife Crime and Young People in Croydon

Croydon Conservatives are trying to use knife crime as a reason why electors should vote for them in Croydon’s local elections. The most detailed discussion has been published on Croydon Citizen by their candidate Robert Ward -

Robert is usually a very thoughtful and balanced commentator, but this article fails to do so because of his emphasis on it being a party political issue.

He rightly asks the question: ‘Are we talking about the availability of knives, gang culture, economic deprivation, jobs, policing, education or what?’ and comments: ‘Stand too far back and you miss important details; stand too close, and you can’t see the wood for the trees.’

Let’s look at some context.

A study by Green Party Greater London Assembly member Sion Berry London’s lost youth services The dramatic disappearance of support and facilities for young people in London published in January last year found that since the 2011/12 financial year:

  1. ·      At least £22 million has been cut from council youth service budgets across     London
  2. ·      The average council has cut its youth service budget by nearly £1 million – an   average of 36 per cent
  3. ·       More than 30 youth centres have been closed
  4. ·       At least 12,700 places for young people have been lost
  5. ·       Council youth service employment has been reduced on average by 39 per      cent
  6. ·       Funding to voluntary sector youth work has also gone down – by an average      of 35 per cent in councils that were able to provide data
  7. ·       Half the councils who were able to tell me about future budgets were              planning to make more cuts in 2017/18.

 Department for Education statistics published in December show that total expenditure by local authorities on youth services in 2016/17 came to £447.5m, £41.99m less than the figure they told the DfE they were intending to spend and a 15.2 per cent cut on actual spending in 2015/16. Their planned spending in 2017/18 would be £415.8m.

Recent national debate suggests that cuts to policing budgets may be a contributing cause to the rise in violent crime.

Knife crime in Lambeth in the 1980s

I first became involved in the issue of knife crime when I was Secretary of the Community/Police Consultative Group for Lambeth (1984-9).The issue came forcibly to the Group's attention following the fatal stabbing of a Solicitor in the Kennington Division. The Kennington Police and the Group developed a campaign against knives involving posters, street awareness training and bins, some aspects of which went London wide. It had a lot of success. My suggestion that they ask the producers to include the issue in East Enders was negotiated, and it ran as a story across several weeks. The Group lobbied for a tightening of the law on knives and offensive weapons.

Key factors which emerged from seeking to understand knife crime in Lambeth in the 1980s and later was that there was a strong link between street robbery and truanting from school, and the contribution family tensions had on truancy.

The parental support work of the Brixton Against Robbery project in the 1990s  found that it was the first time that many parents had been able to share their anxieties about their seemingly uncontrollable children, and be helped to come to a better working relationship with them, These were not uncaring irresponsible parents, quite the reverse.

Later experience when I was working in Kennington and Vauxhall in the 2000s  suggested that there are young people who have a public life for their parents, and a private life their parents know nothing about, including gang membership.

Why is there such a high incidence in Croydon?

Are there things about the experience of Croydon which are unique to it, even though some of the components exist elsewhere?

Croydon has an underbelly of a whole range of anti-social and illegal activities by residents, developers and businesses, some of which get publicity when the Council is able to take action. e.g. fly-tipping, health & hygiene infringements, illegal smoking in premises, breaches of planning, slave labour,  breaches of minimum wage legislation.

Is it a continuing consequence of not have seriously dealt with the underlining causes of the elephant in the room: the 2011 riots?  Is it linked to the growth in social inequality especially in the North in recent years, to the neglect of neighbourhoods in favour of the demands of  the property developers in the Town Centre?

Is the behaviour of some young people influenced by the complex interaction of problems of living in the neglected neighbourhoods, including the physical look and feel due to vandalism, graffiti, litter and fly-tipping, environmental decay, and fear of personal attack?  Do many prefer life on the streets because their families live in cramped conditions and there is no privacy.

Understandably each murder shocks  local communities and  has been a traumatic experience for victims’ family and friends, but also of  those who carried out the murder.

While young murderers are not typical of the great majority of young people, their actions and their trials raise questions about society’s attitudes and provision for young people, especially those who experience difficulties.

Historical moral panics

Moral panics over episodes of youth violence have a long history. The TV series Peaky Blinders is based on a real gang in Birmingham in the late 1800s. They took part in  mass street brawls with other gangs, and ran protection rackets. Weapon-carrying members aged 12 and 13 were among those arrested.  Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock (1938) centres on Pinkie, a 17 year old gang leader who kills people. There were the seaside battles between mods and rockers. In the second half of the 1980s there were attacks on Vietnamese refugee teenagers. Occasionally it has been attacks by pupils from one school against pupils from another. Among older groups of young people there was wide drink fuelled violence at weekends in town centres across the country. Without trying to minimise the seriousness of what happens, these episodes flare up and die down.

The complexity of the issue

For some a complex interplay of factors seems to underline the current wave of violence and knife murder including a lack of money, the need for excitement, and hyper masculinity. Do circumstances push some young people into gangs and violence as suggested by the Kenny Report ‘How do politics and economics affect gangs and serious youth violence across the UK’ (November 2012)? (  

Other influences may be the sense of belonging in a group, notoriety gained amongst peers and wider, the baiting by other ‘gangs’ particularly on social media, and through the lyrics of grime and drill put out on YouTube etc. How can the excitement of drugs, guns, knives and reputation be replaced, let alone the money that can be made through robbery and drug selling?

Carrying knives does not always mean membership of gangs. Over the years it has been clear that many young people carry knives as they fear being attacked and want to defend themselves.

Youth work

Youth work is supposed to be about building self-esteem and confidence, developing relationships and skills, and life-long learning. It is about helping young people cope more effectively with the transition through adolescence to adulthood and to understand and act on the personal, social and political issues which affect their lives, the lives of others and the communities of which they form a part. In the 2000s while there was an increasing understanding that youth services needed to more responsive to what young people and their parents wanted, resources were drastically cut back, and the role of youth work increasingly came to be seen as crime diversion, crime prevention and community safety. But how are disaffected young people to be reached?

Community and individual initiatives are welcome if they can reach those who might get caught up in the knife carrying and gang cultures. They may be able to engage with young people in a way that the police, schools and other agencies cannot.

Croydon community initiatives

The Croydon based Lives not Knives campaign was set up by Eliza Rebeiro in 2007 when she was still a teenager. Clearly its work has proved an uphill struggle in the light of the number of incidents. Others are seeking to develop special projects like the community peace cup football tournament set up by Raymond Robb, of Ray's Barbers in Whitehorse Lane, bringing together staff and customers from six barbershops in and around Croydon. The London Mayor has given £50,000 to Croydon BME Forum for work on youth and knife crime.

Turning the tide on youth violence and the use of knives is a highly complex process with no easy answers, and which simplistic and knee-jerk reactions could make worse.

Robert derides Sarah Jones’s initiative last year in establishing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on knife crime, following the murder of 15 year old Jermaine Goupall. Having helped set up one in the 1990s I am aware of the strengths and weaknesses of All-Party groups. One of their strengths is to recognise that not all issues can simply be brought down to party politics. Please take note Robert.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Black Christians in the Atlantic world 1760s-1830s

Black Christians were the subject a talk by David Killingray (School of Advanced Study, University of London)  at the Annual Conference of the British Society for 18th Studies in Oxford 3-4 January, as part of the two panels I organised on Black ‘Georgians’.

David’s paper provides a wider picture of the lives of black people who were active Christians in an Atlantic world dominated by the violence of the slave trade and slavery during the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries.  Current scholarly emphasis has been on a small number of well-known black figures who were literate and wrote books, or had contemporary books written about them.  Largely ignored are the many other black men and women, often also literate, who left a record of their lives, who were committed Christians active in teaching, preaching, and evangelising in churches, chapels, and in the open air, throughout Britain and more broadly serving with missionary societies in the three continents of the Atlantic world.

Being  literate and articulate men and women, well known some of the black Christians are well known, for example, Philip Quaque, James Albert Ukawsaw  Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, the Quaker Paul Cuffe, and Samuel Barber.

There are a good number of lesser known black figures in Britain who were believers who can be retrieved from the condescension of obscurity, and also many more possibly beyond retrieval , for example  the many who are in parish records as being baptised,  and individuals such as William Luboys,  Frances Coker, Sophia Campbell, Mary Allay,  Nestor, John Ishmael Augustus James, James Filly, John Sharp. There were many who were priests such as Bryan Mackay, John Jea, David Margrett, George Liele and Rev. George Cousens. 

Others visited Britain such as Nathaniel Paul and  Richard Preston.


David argues that Christianity was transformative, it had revolutionary implications for peoples’ lives and ideas, something of which slave owners in the West Indies and the USA were all too aware, thus the ban on slaves being taught to read and write, and the hostility towards the presence and activities of Christian clergy/missionaries who sought to evangelise black people including slaves.


Central to this throughout a large part of black Atlantic diasporic Christian thinking was providentialism: the responsibility of people in the diaspora to share the Christian gospel with fellow Africans. 

Generally researchers on black British history have ignored the Christian constituency, although this is less the case for the late 18th and early 19th centuries where black Christians are so prominent, and their voices so clear, that their ideas and beliefs cannot lightly be marginalised.  Understanding such beliefs and aspirations requires a different prism of enquiry which engages with theology, historical theology at that, and I am not sure that this has always appealed to or informed the considerable scholarship that has been produced by literary critics and historians.  So, we need to encourage a more balanced research agenda in the period that we are now discussing, which in turn may help to promote a similar and better directed interest in the very many black Christians in the Black Atlantic world post 1840.

NoteDavid is working up his paper into an article for publication.

The other papers and talks in the two panels were Kathy Chater on the poor law treatment of black people, Arthur Torrington on the musician and composer Joseph Emidy, and me on the geographic spread of black people across Britain. I will working this up into an extended piece for publication.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Campaigning for Votes for Women in Croydon

2018 sees the 100th Anniversary of women over 30 
getting the vote and the right of women to stand as MP.

There will events to celebrate this success of the pre-war suffragette campaigning in Croydon and elsewhere  across the country.

Because there did not appear to be be a published study of Croydon’s suffragettes, the Croydon Radical History Network published a note in April 2015..

There are two dissertations which can be read in Croydon’s Local Studies (CLS).

·    Anne Stonebank. Suffrage and the Women of Croydon: 1907-1914. Harbouring Hopes; The Struggle for Women’s Freedom. (BA Dissertation. University of Greenwich. CLS: S70(324)STO)
·    Ruth Margaret Davidson. Approach to Social Action: Public Women in Croydon 1900-1914. (MA Dissertation. September 2003 (CLS S70(3240DAV)

In addition to these dissertations a framework can be built from a number of accessible books and web resources which allows the start of in-depth research.

·    Lee Webster’s article The Croydon women who laid down their lives for equality on Inside Croydon on 3 June 2013.
·    Elizabeth Crawford’s The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928; & The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey. (Routledge. 2013)
·    Antoinette M. Burton’s Burdens of HistoryBritish Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915. (Univ of North Carolina Press. 199???) & Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India. (Oxford University Press 2003) – latter re Bonerjee
·    Laurie Magnus’s The Jubilee Book of the Girls' Public Day School Trust 1873–1923. (Cambridge University Press. 2014) – re Neligan
·    Kate Luard’s Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918. (The History Press. 2014) – re-Neligan. 
·    Joy Bounds’s A Song of Their Own: The Fight For Votes For Women in Ipswich (The History Press. 2014) – miscellaneous
·    Sandra Stanley Holton’s Feminism and Democracy: Women's Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain, 1900-1918 (Cambridge University Press. 2003)
·    Cherly Law’s Suffrage and Power: The Women's Movement 1918-1928. I.B.Tauris. 1997.

 Suffrage Organisations

·    Croydon WPSU branch. Formed 1906. It had a shop at 50 High St. Its Secretary was Miss D. Arter. The Secretary in 1913 was Mrs Cameron Swan. The WPSU office was raided by the police on 30 June 1914. 
·    Croydon Actresses Franchise League branch.
·    Croydon Women’s Freedom League branch
·    Anerley Womens Freedom League branch. 1913 Secretary Miss J Fennings.
·    Purley NUWSS. Formed January 1912. 40 members enrolled. Joint Secretaries: Miss Wallis and Miss Brailsford.
·    Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association branch 1913. Secretary Miss Edith Moor (Glan Aber)
·    South Norwood Suffrage Society.


·     Miss D. Arter, ‘Melrose’, 38 Blenheim Park Rd. First Secretary Croydon WPSU 1906.
·     Florence Baxter of South Croydon photographed campaigner Vera Wentworth
·     Annie S Biggs. She wrote My Life and Why I am a Suffragette in Croydon Citizen 1907
·     Miss Brailsford. Highwood, Peaks Hill. Joint Secretary Purley NUWSS.
·     Mrs Dempsey – member of the Women’s Freedom League who was imprisoned.
·     Miss Lottie Denham presided at South Norwood Suffrage Society meeting April 1913.
·    Miss J Fennings, 149 Croydon Rd, Anerley: Secretary, Anerley Womens Freedom League branch 1913.
·    Kattie Gliddon was member of the Croydon WPSU in 1910 and 1911. Her papers include press cuttings are held at the Women’s Library at London School of Economics (Cat: GB 106 7KGG/4/3 & 4)
·    Marion Holmes – see below.
·    Miss James, tax resister – see under Dorinda Neligan below.
·    Mrs Leeds and her husband - members of the central committee of the Central National Society for Women’s Suffrage. She became honorary secretary of the Union of Practical Suffragists (1888-9) They lived at Tower House, Birdhurst Rd, Croydon.
·    Mrs William T Malleson, and daughters Alice and Catherine. Unitarians, Alice member of Kensington Society 1865, lived at Duppas Hill.
·    Miss Miller. There is a newspaper photo of her talking of Rev. Penman of Thornton Heath, under the title The Persuasive Suffragette. (CLS. Well Known Residents. S70(929)WEL. p. 54).
·   Miss Edith Moor. Glan Aber. Secretary Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association branch 1913.
·    Dorinda Neligan – see below.
·    Mary Pearson - member of the Women’s Freedom League who was were imprisoned.
·    Miss Dorothy Simmons, B. A., Secretary Croydon WPSU 1907. 5 Heathfield Rd.
·    Helen and Margaret Smith, imprisoned following February 1907 deputation to the Commons. One of these may also be referred to as Miss E. Smith of Norbury in Croydon Times, 20 February 1907 – see below).
·    Polly Smith. Wife of local builder J. A. Smith, on 13 March 1912 she was involved in smashing shop windows in the West End when 119 were arrested. She had 4 children, the youngest being 8 years old. While she refused to pay the fine it was paid for her, she was bound over and released. The hammer belonging to her husband which she had borrowed had been confiscated by the police. (John Bailey-Smith. A Local Suffragette. Bourne Society Bulletin. No. 181. August 2000).
·    Rev Rudolph Suffield. Unitarian Minister Croydon 1870-77. Member National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act 1883/4.
·    Mrs Cameron Swan, 79 Mayfield Rd, Sanderstead. She worked from Croydon WPSU offices at 2 Station Buildings, West Croydon. In March and April 1912 she was in Australia touring and lecturing. 
·    Mrs Terry, 6 Morland Ave, Secretary Croydon WFL.
·    Miss Wallis, Birkdale, Foxley Lane. Joint Secretary Purley NUWSS.

Dorinda Neligan (1833-1914) 

She was Irish, educated at the Sorbonne and served with the British Red Cross in the Franco-Prussian War. She was headmistress of Croydon High School (1874-1901). She supported the Women’s Emancipation Union in 1894, the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1900, the WPSU 1909, and later WFL and Church League for Women’s Suffrage, and was patroness of the Actresses’ Franchise League. She was arrested on 29 June 1909 for being part of the deputation to Prime Minister Asquith from Caxton Hall, On 18 November 1910 she was a member of the deputation to the House of Commons. As a supporter of the Tax Resistance League her goods were restrained and sold in April 1912. Along with those of Miss James at Messrs. King and Everall’s Auction Rooms, Croydon; a simultaneous protest meeting being addressed by Mrs. Kineton Parkes. 

In 1913 she lived at Oakwood House, Croydon. Her sister was on the Committee of the Croydon branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. One of her pupils was Janaki Bonnerjee who wrote her family history including a chapter about Neligan. Another pupil at the school was Mrs Elsa Gye (1881-1943) a musician who devoted herself to the suffrage cause. 

Marion Holmes (née Milner, 1867-1943)  

Born in Leeds and grew up near Barnsley. From age ten the family lived in Nottinghamshire where she married aged 21, having two daughters. Having moved to Margate she set up the local Pioneer Society; then moved to Croydon. She was President of the Croydon Women’s Social & Political Union. Christabel Pankhurst came to the meeting to celebrate her release from prison on 5 March 1907. She was opposed to the Women’s Co-operative Guild’s adult suffrage initiative introduced into the Commons in 1907: ‘“Half a loaf is better than no bread.” The women of this country are in the position of political starvation at the present time.’ After the split in the WPSU she joined the Women’s Freedom League, and became a National Executive member and co-editor of The Vote newspaper. She wrote two plays: A Child of the Mutiny and Brass and Clay. As a freelance journalist she was active in the Society for Women Journalists. She also published biographical sketches of sketches of people like Josephine Butler, Florence Nightingale, and Elizabeth Fry and wrote ABC of Votes for Women (1910 and 1913). She was the first female election agent in the Parliamentary election in Keighley in April 1918. ‘For Marion Holmes the history of antislavery made the whole question votes for women cut and dried. “In a word, the difference between the voter and the non-voter is the difference between bondage and freedom.”’ The Museum of London has a postcard of her. 


·    1907 – Croydon WPSU members Marion Holmes, and Helen and Margaret Smith imprisoned for taking part in deputation to the Commons in February.
·    1909 - Suffragette week Croydon High St – see photo Suffragette on Croydon on Line website.
·    1909 - Muriel Matters, an Australian and actress who chained herself to the grille of the Ladies’ Gallery in the House of Commons in 1908, scattered Votes for Women leaflets over London from an airship landing in a tree in Coulsdon.
·    AFL Croydon met at Pembroke Hall on 11 November 1909.
·    1910 - Bertha Mason was a visiting speaker at the Croydon branch of the NUWSS giving an illustrated lecture on the movement’s forerunners.
·    Croydon WPSU published Arncliffe-Sennett’s An Englishwomen’s Home. (1910)
·    1911 -Croydon Women’s Social and Political Union theatre event. Israel Zangwill’s Prologue performed by the AFL at the Lyceum in 1911.
·    1912 - another visiting speaker to the Croydon WPSU Mary Dawes Thompson had her lecture published as a WPSU pamphlet Adam and Eve.
·    Women’ Freedom League meeting with Mrs Despard (Croydon Times. 2 April 1913)
·     South Norwood Suffrage Society meeting 141 Portland Rd. Miss Lottie Denham presided. Speaker Mrs Terry on ‘The vote and why we want it.’ (ditto)

Leonara Tyson 

She and her mother Helen joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU.) in 1908. In February 1908 they were both arrested while taking part in a deputation to the House of Commons. From February 1910, Leonora was the Honorary Secretary of the Lambeth branch of the WSPU, and subsequently transferred to the Streatham branch. From 8 March to 8 May 1912 she was imprisoned in Holloway for her part in the W.S.P.U. window-smashing campaign. In 1959 she lived in Purley. Her story is told in Anne Ward’s No Stone Unturned: The Story of Leonora Tyson a Streatham Suffragette ( 2005). Apart from biographical notes about Marion Holmes there is no mention of Croydon on the ‘How the Vote was Won’ website: 

Mary Sophia Allen (1878-1964)

Although not a resident of Croydon when she was a suffragette Mary Allen was imprisoned for her activities three times. In 1914 she pioneered the first female police force, recruiting and training hundreds of women. Later she became Chief Women's Officer of the British Union of Fascists. She died penniless in a Croydon nursing home. (Nina Boyd. From Suffragette to Fascist: The Many Lives of Mary Sophia Allen. (The History Press. 2013)  

Barbara Duncan Harris, 1881-1959 

Quaker and feminist. NUWSS Organising Secretary for the Hampshire, East Sussex and Surrey County Federation. Initiated the Infant Welfare Movement in Croydon. Chair British Section Women’s International League between the World Wars. First Labour woman councillor in Surrey County Borough. (Ruth Davidson (Royal Holloway, University of London). Barbara Duncan Harris Pioneer, Fighting Spirit in Abstracts for the Aftermath of Suffrage Conference. An International Conference, Friday 24th and Saturday 25th June, 2011. Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield)

Women’s Activism 1914-1939 

The story of women’s civil activism from 1914 is by Ruth Davidson in Citizens at last. Women’s Political Culture and Civil Society, Croydon and East Surrey. 1914-1939. (PhD. Royal Holloway. July 2010. CLS S70(324)DAV.) 

Local Newspapers

The local newspapers are a rich source of advertisements and reports of suffragette meetings in Croydon, letters, and the speeches at other organisations meetings. These can be looked at in the Croydon Local Studies room in the Clocktower. There will also be material at the Women's Library at LSE.