locales: Kennington

I’m involved with a great HLF-funded project by the Friends of Kennington Park to commemorate the Chartist monster meetings of 1848 on what used to be the common.

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Kennington Common

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Kennington Common 51.481370, -0.107095 [caption id=\"attachment_274\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"6000\"] Kennington Common, Feb 2018[/caption]Kennington Park, site of mass Chartist meetings since 1839, culminating in the monster meeting on 10 April 1848.Go to the post on Kennington and video of the 10 April commemorationsKennington Park Gardens England, United Kingdom (Directions)

Here are some pictures of a very cold February lunchtime walking round the park, followed by some commonplace snippets of the long history of public use of the space in Lambeth, south London.

Kennington Common, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington park, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington Common, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington park, 22 Feb 2018
Kennington common
‘common’ on the other side of the park boundary

 

Kennington park
cherry blossom just emerging

 

The monster meetings on Kennington Common were just one of the many uses of the open space.

Here’s a potted history of the park in Curiosities of London by John Timms (1855):

http://mapco.net/cary1837/cary44.htm
1837, Cary’s new plan of London and its vicinity, http://mapco.net/cary1837/cary44.htm

Site of execution:

The common became renowned as a site of execution in the 18th century, most notably of Jacobites in 1745.

read the popular ‘last confession’ pamphlets below:


Site of new religious practices:

The site was also renowned as where the Methodist leader George Whitefield preached:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Whitefield#/media/File:George_Whitefield_(head).jpg

Site of Chartism:

ok here’s the famous daguerrotype of the 10 April 1848 mass meeting.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/kennington
https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/kennington

 

Kennington Common
Kennington  park, 22 Feb 2018
http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/Tl_Display.php?irn=7000002&QueryPage=../AdvSearch.php
http://www.unionhistory.info/timeline/Tl_Display.php?irn=7000002&QueryPage=../AdvSearch.php

Dave Steele has done some excellent research piecing together exactly from where it was taken, and consensus is that it is from the second floor of a building that stood on the site of what is now a brutalist Job Centre.

  • See F. C. Mather, ‘The railways, the electric telegraph and public order during the Chartist period, 1837-1848’, History, Volume 38, Issue 132 (February 1953), 40–53 on how the army and police were kept informed by telegraph about the Chartists’ movements.
  • David Goodway, London Chartism 1838-1848 (Cambridge 1982)

Protest meetings had been occurring on the common since at least the 1830s:

The Champion, 23 April 1838, on the mass trades’ procession to call for the pardon and repatriation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, which assembled at Kennington Common:

The Chartists held their first big monster meeting on the common in 1839:

NorthernStar17Aug1839
Northern Star 17 Aug 1839

There was trouble at the Chartist meeting in August 1842, when the police were alleged to have attacked some of the participants in the meeting. The Northern Star continued to comment on the brutality of the police with reference to this meeting.

Northern Star 1842
Northern Star 27 August 1842

Here’s a report of the mass meeting of 10 April 1848:

Northern Star 15 April 1848
Northern Star 15 April 1848

In reaction to the monster Chartist meetings of 1848, the common was quickly enclosed. In part this was reflective of the wider Victorian public parks movement that wanted to have accessible spaces for working class leisure in urban areas, but in this case it was definitely about control. The railings, set out walks and flower beds, and the park wardens patrolling and shutting up the park at night, ensured that the ‘respectable’ classes could control both the leisure activities of the working classes and prevent mass political meetings using the space.

  • Kennington Common, &c. Improvement. A Bill to Empower the Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Works and Public Buildings to Inclose and Lay Out Kennington Common in the County of Surrey as Pleasure Grounds for the Recreation of the Public (1852)


The ‘Prince Consort house’, a show-house for the respectable working classes displayed at the Great Exhibition, was a material symbol of this new attitude in the Victorian public parks movement.

Prince Consort Lodge
Prince Consort Lodge

 

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