Hackney: Cradle for Subversives
[Originally based on information in the programme for the 1996 Hackney Anarchy Week event. Corrections and additions would be welcome!]
1649 Hackney resident John Okey is one of the 59 signatories on the death warrant of Charles I. Okey lived at Barber’s Barn (or Barbour Berns) on Mare Street.
Late 1700s Stoke Newington is home to many prominent campaigners for the abolition of slavery, including James Stephen.
1770s Hoxton is a hotbed of heretical beliefs, with a Dissenting Academy and groups like the Ancient Deists being persecuted for their beliefs.
1783 Mary Wollstonecraft, the champion of women’s rights, started off a girls’ school at Newington Green.
1787 Homerton Hall is purchased by protestant dissenters who turn it into New College, Hackney.
1793 Big open-air demonstration on Hackney Downs, in support of the revolutionary gains in France. The tutors Richard Price. Joseph Priestley and Gilbert Wakefield organised lectures on the French Revolution at the New College, a non-conformist academy (“by-word for revolutionary opinion”) at Lower Clapton.
1794 Establishment of the Hackney Volunteers to suppress any riot or disorder, as ruling classes seriously worried about the revolutionary mood in Hackney.
1795 Meeting at Shacklewell, organised by The Society of the Friends of Liberty, for the Rights of Men (as proclaimed by Tom Paine).
1796 Lively meeting of the Middlesex Freeholders at the Mermaid opposing the passage of the Sedition Bill.
1812 Poet and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld writes anti Napolenoic war poem “Eighteen Hundred And Eleven” whilst living at 113 Stoke Newington Church Street.
1833 Secular reformer Charles Bradlaugh born 26 September at 5 Bacchus Walk, Hoxton
1848 Chartists meet at Bonners Park (near Victoria Park) to march on Parliament.
1849 Eliza Sharples runs a short-lived coffee house at 1 Warner Place, Hackney Road. She uses the venue to advocate for radical thought and women’s rights. She meets Charles Bradlaugh there, a significant figure in the secularist movement.
1855 Massive opposition to the Sunday Trading Bill, which was to outlaw shopping and other activities on Sunday, mainly affecting the “lower orders” that had to work throughout the week.
1860s Suffragettes campaign for votes for women.
1866 Widespread pickets and demonstrations for universal male suffrage as advocated by the Reform League during summer. After disorder at Hyde Park the Tory government banned all protest meetings throughout London. The ban was widely ignored; a huge “illegal” rally took place in Victoria Park.
1872 Meeting of Home Rule Association – demanding the end of British political influence/control in Ireland.
1873 Regular secularist meetings at Shoreditch. Secularists were then the chief upholders of the Radical-Republican cause.
1874 Rev Charles Maurice Davies describes Hackney as “the most heretical of the various quarters of the metropolis” in his book Heterodox London.
1875 December. Thousands destroy enclosure fences on Hackney Downs.
1879 Anarchist Frank Kitz sets up co-op printing shop in Boundary Street, Shoreditch. “…despite the destruction by the police of some of our handiwork, we managed to placard the East End with incendiary manifestoes.”
1881 Establishment of the Borough of Hackney Radical Club. one of the first political working men’s clubs in England.
1881 Homerton Social Democratic Club founded by Joseph Lane, who was the delegate of the club for the Social Revolutionary and Anarchist Congress in Homerton, which Kropotkin also attended.
1883 Homerton Social Democratic Club (see above) was forcibly closed down by the police for its radical stance. (“Because we printed socialism so large on our bills”)
1883 Labour Emancipation League, co-established by Joe Lane. Branches in Hoxton, Hackney and Stamford Hill. Forum for discussion and education, can be seen as an Anarchist group.
1886 Allegedly “year 1 of British Anarchism” with establishment of Freedom Press.
1887 Joe Lane wrote the Anti-Statist Communist Manifesto, the first attempt of self-expression by British Anarchists. By then he had become a member of the ‘Socialist League’ Hackney branch, which was resolutely anti-parliamentarian and included many Anarchists.
1887 Free speech demo in Victoria park in March. Autumn: daily meetings at Trafalgar Square of unemployed, leading to Bloody Sunday, three people died as result of injuries by the police.
1890 “East London Group”, Anarchist-Communist, mainly members from Clerkenwell Branch of the Socialist League, printed the Anarchist Labour Leaf, free distribution at public meetings.
1890 Dec. Socialist League & Commonweal moved to 273 Hackney Road (by 1892 in City Road which we can possibly claim as Hackney). Charles Mowbray, publisher of Commonweal lived around Hoxton.
1891 Freedom Press moved to premises of the New Fellowship in Newington Green Road.
1896 Rudolf Rocker, editor of the Jewish Anarchist paper Arbeter Fraint, moved to Shoreditch where he met his lover Millie Witkop.
1899 Emma Goldman attended fund-raising meetings for Arbeter Fraint in the East End.
1900 Hackney Trades Council founded at a meeting of 16 delegates from local trades unions on April 3rd.
1900s A masked “bash the rich” march in protest at the treatment of the unemployed.
1900-13 Enricco Malatesta lived in exile and great poverty in North-East London.
1907 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democrats at the Brotherhood Church in Southgate Road. Lenin, the originator of ruthlessly centralised organisations and states, attended (and had earlier visited comrades at Clapton Square, deepest Hackney).
1910 30th September. Anarchist and horticulturalist Edward Hyams is born in Stamford Hill.
1913 East London Anarchist Group meets Sundays: Victoria Park 11:30am, Ridley Road Dalston 12pm. Wednesdays: Outside Hackney Town Hall, Reading Lane 8pm.
1914-18 Anti-War agitation.
1919 The Labour Party become the majority in Hackney Council for the first time.
1920s Unemployed seize local drill hall & nearby house.
1936-9 Support for the CNT in Spain
1936 Hackney Anti-Fascist Committee
1936 The Battle of Cable Street
1939-45 Anti-war agitation
1946-50 The 43 Group, a group of anti-fascist Jewish ex-servicemen physically stop meetings of groups like Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement at pitches such as Ridley Road.
1949 “Two hundred fascists planned to march from Dalston to a meeting in Tottenham, a route calculated to take them right through the Orthodox Jewish area of Stamford Hill. Along the route that day, hundreds of Londoners joined Group commandoes, lying in wait. Between Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill, anti-fascists broke through the lines of 500 police protecting the marchers and hand-to-hand fighting ensued.” (The 43 Group – Morris Beckman)
1950 Hackney Communist Party active.
1950s East London Libertarian group.
1956 Radical Jewish mutual aid organisation The Workers’ Circle moves premises from Aldgate to 13 Sylvester Path, Hackney. Also HQ of London Jewish Bakers Union.
1957 First Hackney anti-H bomb march.
1958 21 February. The peace symbol (later: CND logo) designed by Gerald Holtom is adopted at a meeting of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War at 3 Blackstock Road. This address was also the office of Peace News.
1960s-1970s Opposition to the Vietnam War.
1962 East London Anti-Fascist Co-ordinating Committee.
1962-63 Fascist meetings broken up in Dalston (Mosley, Tyndall).
1963 January: More than 400 people attend what was reportedly “the first concert given entirely by West Indians”, held in Kings Hall Clapton, as tpart of a weekend organised by the Standing Conference for West Indian Leaders in London. (We’re not entirely convinced – Claudia Jones organised a pre-Notting Hill Carnival concert at St Pancras Town Hall in January 1959 that may be the first).
1967-71 Angry Brigade bombings (26 Oct 1970 Barclays Bank Stoke Newington fire-bombed).
1968 London Squatting Campaign founded.
1968 The Anti-University operated in Shoreditch
1969-74 Hackney Gutter Press newspaper, libertarian & class politics. (1974 amalgamated with Hackney People’s Press, more community issues & socialist)
1970 Hackney Committee Against Racism launched
1970s First half of the 1970s in particular there were continual struggles around housing, homelessness, slums and council redevelopment plans. Later, housing co-ops were set up as councils and housing associations did deals with squatters.
1970s Lots of community development, e.g. in women’s movement and housing. By 1980s many of these seem to have disappeared or become institutionalised.
1971 Centerprise founded, incl. Anarchists- a cooperative book-shop, cafe and community publishing project – at 34 Dalston Lane. Happy birthday Centerprise, 25 this year! [25 in 1996 when this list originated…]
1971 May. Aseta Simms dies in mysterious circumstances at Stoke Newington police station.
1971 Aug. London Street Commune squatted Victoria Dwellings in Clerkenwell Road. Thirty people behind barricades. People from Europe and Jamaica. Stayed at least 6 months.
1971 Aug Angry Brigade: police raid 359 Amhurst Road, N16. arrest six people, basis of the Stoke Newington 8 Trial.
1971 Nov. More Angry Brigade raids incl. 6 Mayola Road, Clapton, base of Jake Prestcott and Ian Purdie Defence group.
1972 Angry Brigade (“Stoke Newington 8”) trial at Old Bailey. SN8 heavily sentenced.
1971, 1972 Housing: resisting evictions of families from squats. Especially Dalston, Hackney and Stoke Newington.
1972 Squatter’s Union founded. Preventing evictions.
1972 Miners’ strike: Hackney power station, in Millfield Road Clapton, closed down by pickets.
1973 Resisting evictions around Amhurst Road area, particularly houses owned by Second Actel Housing Association which it had bought up and left empty. This HA seems to have been corrupt, and set up by property developers/speculators.
1973 Land squatted, corner of Downham Road and Ufton Road, opposite DeBeauvoir New Town Estate, and a play-ground built.
1973 July. Squatters invade Hackney Town Hall in protest at evictions and of the council not housing homeless families.
1973 Hackney Mental Patients’ Union founded. Founded Robin Farquarson House, at 37 Mayola Road, where ex-patients lived communally and organised. (MN collapsed 1976)
1974 Squatting in empty GLC properties waiting for redevelopment and rehabilitation, fighting landlords in the courts and resisting evictions, campaigns against slum housing (1974 Jan. Occupation of Centrepoint).
1974 August. Red Army Faction member Astrid Proll arrives in London having jumped bail in West Germany. Squats in London Fields and other locations. Works as a park keeper in Clissold Park and at the Lesney Matchbox factory. Arrested September 1978.
mid-1970s Anti-Fascism: fighting against the National Front who became stronger and more visible in Hoxton and moved their HQ to Shoreditch (73 Great Eastern St)
1974 Hackney Committee Against Racism relaunched.
1975 First Women’s Aid hostel opens in Hackney.
1976 Hackney Committee Against Racism march through Hoxton.
1976 Hackney Vandal Patrol documentary
1976 Lenthall Road feminist print workshop set up in Haggerston
1977 Greater London Council offers tenancies to some squatters throughout London in a lottery, incl. South of Hackney.
1977 A man jailed for refusing to work for three years – “refusing to maintain himself and his family”.
1977 Dalston Mens Group
1978 Broadway Market Squatters Group formed a housing co-op. Broadway Market residents had resisted shite redevelopment of the area since the early 1970s.
1978 Police raids on Anarchists’ homes in North and East London about bomb-making, incl. Forest Road Dalston.
1978 December. Michael Ferreira, a black teenager, stabbed by NF in Stoke Newington. Taken by friends to Stoke Newington Police Station. Michael is then questioned by the police about the incident rather than receiving medical assistance. He eventually dies in an ambulance on the way to hospital. Hackney Black People’s Defence Organisation formed in response.
1978 Hackney Needs Socialism published by Hackney Communist Party
1980s Greenham women active in Hackney, both signing-on here, and doing street protests
1980s East London Direct Action Movement (anarcho-syndicalist).
1980 First mass cycle ride through Hackney organised by Hackney Cyclists Action Group (to town hall to demand more Council-provided facilities for cyclists)
1980 A Report From Hackney published by Policy Studies Institute
1981 Protest squats at Sherry’s Wharf, a GLC developement, near the Kingsmead estate. The houses and flats were to be rented to vetted tenants at higher rents. Squat lasted three months. Direct action.
1981 January “Wolcott” – Britain’s first cop drama starring a black detective is broadcast on ITV. Filmed in Hackney.
1981 July. Three-day uprising/riot around Sandringham and Kingsland Roads. 1000 plus arrests, defence campaign started, many charges dropped.
1981 September: Launch of Hackney Mental Patient’s Association in the basement of Centerprise.
1982 First Stop the City anti-militarist, anti-capitalist direct action in the City of London
1983 Jan. Colin Roach killed in Stoke Newington Police Station by a gunshot.
1984 March – Greenham women blockade Dalston Junction on two occasions to protest against cruise missiles being transported on public roads elsewhere in the UK.
1984 Summer. Hackney Mental Health Action Group formed “by local patients, ex-patients and other people sympathetic to the aims of increasing the self-determination of mentally distressed people in Hackney”
1984 Sept. Stop The City much smaller, around 1000-2000 – and heavier policing, 500 arrests
1984 Clifford Harper’s the Education of Desire published by Anares in Dalston.
1985 Police Out of School published by Hackney NUT
1986 Hackney Broadcasting Authority – community pirate radio
1987 Hackney Union of Mental Patients set up “for the purpose of obtaining or devising useful and gainful ways of work”.
1987 3rd June. The HQ for the Conservative Party’s election campaign is destroyed in an arson attack, for which anarchists are blamed.
1988 Hackney Community Defence Association, police monitoring a victim advocacy group set up.
1988 3 day stand-off when the Coucil evicts Stamford Hill Estate squatters.
1988 Acid House parties spark hysteria.
1989 Active Distribution founded at Lee House squat (also evicted in 1989).
1989 Policing In Hackney 1945-1984 published by the Roach Family Support Committee.
1990 Hackney Solidarity Group, community politics organisation set up.
1990 700 attend a day of ‘Jewish Culture and Resistance’ organised by Hackney Jewish Socialists’ Group.
1990 Summer on the Estate documentary.
1990 March. Poll Tax riot outside Town Hall.
1990 21st June violent dawn raids on six flats in Stoke Newington – 11 arrested as part of Operation Carnaby – the cops’ investigation into the Trafalgar Square poll tax riot in April. “The whole area is an anarchist hotbed” said one police officer.
1991 20th January: Squatters resist evictions on Haggerston Estate. The housing office door is glued up, banners hung out, tyres let down on a police van and a council official’s clipboard stolen. Four people arrested, but released with cautions.
1991 September. Anarchist group Class War hold international conference in Shoreditch Town Hall.
1992 29th August. Class War’s “Summer of Discontent on tour” public meeting on the Narroway about the UK and LA riots.
1992 September. Anti-Fascist Action sponsor Unity Carnival on Hackney Downs.
1993 June: Rush FM, a pirate radio station broadcasting from the Nightingale Estate is raided by the police and DTI.
1994 July. Police attack protest at the Town Hall against the Criminal Justice Act and clampdown on squatters. “Hackney 7” trial.
1996 Autonomous Refugee Centre Hackney (ARCH)
1996 May. Hackney Anarchy Week ten day festival.
1999 Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) launched – pro-working class community politics in South Hackney.