It seems an age ago that we started this Wednesday series on some of London’s ‘battlefields’ (we’ve used quotes given many of the battlefields we’ve covered haven’t featured what we might think of as having hosted battles in the traditional sense).

But we’ve finally come to an end, so before we launch a new series next week, here’s a recap of what the series entailed and please vote for your favourite below…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 1. Queen Boudicca takes on the Romans…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 2. ‘London Bridge is falling down’…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 3. London sacked in the Peasant’s Revolt…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 4. Jack Cade’s rebellion…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 5. Battle of Barnet…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 6. Battle of Turnham Green…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 7. Battle of Brentford…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 8. The Gordon Riots…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 9. The Battle of Cable Street…

10 London ‘battlefields’ – 10. The Battle of London…

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We hit the 20th century with this London ‘battle’, a confrontation in Stepney between police and a range of anti-fascist and fascist forces in the lead-up to World War II.

Battle-of-Cable-Street-red-plaqueThe ‘battle’ took place on a Sunday – 4th October, 1936 – following a summer of anti-Semitic violence and was sparked by a decision by the British Union of Fascists, led by Sir Oswald Mosley , to march through the East End, then the heartland of London’s Jewish community.

Incensed at the plans (and faced with government inaction despite calls for the march to be called off), anti-fascist protestors – which included large numbers of Jewish and Irish people as well as trade unionists, communists, socialists, anarchists and local residents – gathered initially at Gardiner’s Corner (named for a department store which once on the site at the junction of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Road) to prevent the march.

The protestors were chanting and carrying banners which read “No Parasan” (“They shall not pass”, a slogan taken from anti-fascist forces who used it during the Spanish Civil War).

Estimates as to how many people turned out in protest vary widely – from 100,000 people up to as many as 250,000 or even 500,000 – but it’s clear that whatever the actual number, the crowd was huge and vastly outnumbered the up to 3,000 fascists – known as Blackshirts – who turned up to march and the 10,000 Metropolitan Police officers, some of whom were on horseback, sent to prevent the march from being disrupted.

With the path blocked despite police charges into the crowd, Mosley and his Blackshirts were advised by authorities to head south to Cable Street but there they encountered road-blocks made from furniture, paving stones and even apparently overturned lorries which appeared at the street’s west end, around the junction with Christian Street.

Police again attempted to clear the road but were blocked by the makeshift barricades and a wall of protestors while residents in houses lining the streets threw rubbish and even the contents of chamber pots at them. Police responded by sending in squads of men to snatch the ringleaders of the protests; protestors responded by ‘kidnapping’ some police officers.

Faced with continuing violence, Mosley was forced to abandon the march and the BUF were dispersed back through the City of London. The protestors meanwhile were said to have turned the event into a giant street party in celebration of their victory.

More than 100 people were said to have been injured in the violence and some 150 of the demonstrators were arrested. Most of the charges were of a minor nature but some of the ringleaders were given up to three year terms of imprisonment.

A large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George’s Town Hall in Cable Street in the 1980s and there’s also a red plaque in nearby Dock Street (pictured) commemorating the incident.

Aside from a victory in itself, the battle was the catalyst for the passing of the Public Order Act of 1936 which meant the organisers of marches would henceforth have to seek permission of the police before holding them. It also banned demonstrators from marching in uniform.

PICTURED: A plaque commemorating the ‘battle’ in Dock Street which runs off the west end of Cable Street. Via Richard Allen/Wikipedia

Wilton’s Music Hall  seems to be regularly making news these days so the revelation that it’s London’s oldest (in fact, according to the venue’s website, it’s the oldest surviving grand music hall in the world) probably comes as no surprise.

The hall, located in Graces Alley, Whitechapel, started out life as a pub which stood in the middle of a row of terrace houses. Named the Prince of Denmark, it is said to have had the first mahogany counters in London (hence the ‘Mahogany Bar’ at the front of the music hall today) and incorporated a concert room built at the rear of the ground floor.

The building was taken over by John Wilton in the 1850s. He also bought up the neighbouring terrace homes and subsequently built the grand music hall which still stands today – one of what were then a new generation of large music halls which appeared in London in the mid to latter part of the 19th century but had all but disappeared by 1900.

Wilton’s Music Hall opened on 27th March, 1859, and continued to operate under Wilton’s management for the next couple of decades. In 1877 it was badly damaged in a fire an rebuilt the following year.

Ten years later, however, the Wesleyan Mission took over the building and used it as a hall – dockers were served meals here during their first ever strike in 1889, it was used as a safe house during the so-called Battle of Cable Street of 1936 in which police clashed with protestors opposing a march by the British Union of Facists, and during World War II it was used as shelter for people bombed out of their homes.

The Methodists left in the 1950s and in 1964, the building was scheduled for demolition. Thanks to the intervention of poet John Betjeman, however (he led a campaign to prevent its destruction), the hall was saved. While it’s been undergoing restoration work ever since, more work is still required and the hall is still looking for donations to help fund it.

As well as operating once again as a music venue, it has since appeared in numerous films including Chaplin, The Krays, and the latest Sherlock Holmes film – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

There is a more detailed history of Wilton’s Music Hall at www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Wiltons.htm, a music hall and theatre site. Wilton’s website can be found here.