Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Lewisham Unemployed invade Council Meeting, 1908

Times were hard in the Winter of 1908, with widespread unemployment. There were protests in many places demanding work and relief including a weekly unemployed demonstration from Tower Hill to the wealthier areas of Mayfair and Belgravia.

In Lewisham, the Council 'found its public gallery invaded... by a crowd. One councillor, the Rev. J.C. Morris, vicar of St Mark's, Lewisham, was told that he had a pebble where his heart ought to be; and when Councillor Trenchard looked up to the gallery cries of "Scamps" and "Rotters" were frequent. Others shouted: "Our wives and children are starving; you have got plenty: beware! look out! If you don't listen to us  you will know it. We don't want your half-sovereigns: we want work' (The Woman Worker, December 23 1908).

(Woman Worker, paper of the National Federation of Women Workers, December 23 1908).

The socialist paper Justice (26 December 1908) reported that there were similar scenes in other Council meetings including at St Pancras and Portsmouth, but in Lewisham 'the council went into the cowardly silence of committee and had the gallery cleared'.

(The Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham was created in 1900, and covered the Lewisham, Blackheath, Lee, Hither Green, Catford, Brockley, Forest Hill and part of Sydenham - but not Deptford and New Cross which were under the separate Deptford Council until 1965. Not sure of the political make up of the Council in 1908, but it would have been either Liberal or Conservative in this period)

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