Bristol riots: plus ça change

9 08 2011

The photograph below is of Bristol men rioting in Old Market Street on February 23, 1932, as some 3,000 unemployed engaged in running battles with the police as they tried to march down to the city centre, led by the National Unemployed Workers Movement. Police baton-charged protesters outside Trinity police station and along Old Market.

Thanks very much to Kathryn Mottram for the photo, taken by a local press photographer, which family lore believes shows her grandfather, who was  an inspector in the Bristol Police Force at the time. The Mottram family  have a sneaking suspicion that he may be the police officer on the right of the photo with the flat peaked hat, as worn by inspectors, as opposed to all the other baton-wielding pointed hat constables.

The following is a contemporary news story from the Bristol Evening World newspaper, with thanks to Gerry Brooke, editor of the Bristol Times nostalgia supplement which appears in the Evening Post every Monday:

Grave riots broke out in the streets of Bristol yesterday afternoon and last night, when unemployed demonstrators came into violent conflict with the police.

In Old Market Street yesterday afternoon, nearly 3,000 demonstrators, who intended to send a deputation into the City Council, were stopped by a double line of police when they attempted to march through the most congested part of the city.

Thick sticks and lengths of gas piping were used by the crowd as weapons against the baton attack of the police.

Bricks, stones and coke were also hurled.

Thirty of the unemployed were injured, and several police were struck by missiles.

The conflict occurred after the police had refused to allow the men to march up Castle Street.

The whole crowd momentarily paused, and when one of the leaders pushed an inspector and raised a stick, the rest pressed forward and broke through the lines of police, who drew their batons and used them to repulse the attacking mob of shouting men.

Within the twinkling of an eye, almost, four or five of the crowd were lying, stunned and inert, in the road, while others fought hand-to-hand with members of the police, who, in some cases without helmets and bleeding from face wounds, fought fiercely until they finally repulsed the marchers and drove them up Old Market Street.

There were no deaths, but some 20 men were treated for minor injuries.



3 responses

19 08 2011

Bristol 1932 riots – image cleaned

2 12 2011
Paul Williams

My mate Billy’s Grandad was there.

13 03 2012

My ancestor was hit on the head by a police truncheon and suffered brain damage which put him in hospital for the rest of his life. Hardly a “minor injury”!

Leave a Reply to tofu Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: