I’m talking on this new episode of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, ‘Architecture and Protest’. I’m discussing Chartists’ use of spaces and buildings for protest and political meetings:
Adam Elliott-Cooper is a researcher based at the University of Greenwich, who works on histories of racism and policing in Britain. His first monograph, Black Resistance to British Policing, was published by Manchester University Press in May 2021. He is also co-author of Empire’s Endgame: Racism and the British State (Pluto Press, 2021).
Hannah Awcock is a researcher based at the University of Edinburgh who is interested in the social, cultural, and historical geographies of resistance, publishing on subjects from the 1780 Gordon Riots to climate protests at COP26.
Morgan Trowland is a Civil Engineer and member of the protest group Extinction Rebellion.
Your hosts were Matthew Lloyd Roberts and Dr Jessica Kelly, and this project was devised with Neal Shasore
My Open Spaces Society fellowship has come to its formal end, but I’m still working on some of the lines of research raised by the collection.
We’re also still hoping to get the planned online exhibition of selected lantern slides up and running. Delays because of lockdown meant that there is a backlog of exciting projects and exhibitions, so we’ll wait!
I’m updating the database of lantern slides with landownership details. Who owned and owns the sites shown in the slides? When were they acquired by bodies like the National Trust or the City of London commons? What percentage of the sites are privately owned?
List of archives that can be linked to the OSS collection at the MERL:
Surrey History Centre
1621 – Sir Robert Hunter papers – e.g. box 3/14, Coulsdon Commons Preservation Committee, 1873
Box 9/2 – Commons Preservation literature
FCP – footpaths and commons preservation society papers
E.g. FCP 2/382-286 – Surrey – Coulsdon and Banstead 1930-3
FCP 1/51 – CPS files on Limpsfield Common, Surrey
> to link with the MERL, SR OSS/C07/8 – Banstead Woods, 1877 R Number 5 High Court Chancery
SR OSS/C07/9/3/4 – OSS Mitcham Common 1885 case.
FCP 2/809-814 – Annual reports and journals of the CFPS, 1927-40 – the lantern slides may have been used to illustrate talks by Humphrey Baker, Lawrence Chubb and Sir Robert Hunter.
‘The Right of Recreation’, Annual Report, v, 1937, 176-77
‘Commons, what they are and how they are protected’, Annual Report, iii, 1935
London Metropolitan Archives
CL/PK/1/131 – Surrey County Council and London Green Belt Scheme – e.g. Sanderstead and King’s Wood scheme, 1936-7
Linked selected secondary sources:
Marco Amati and Makato Yokohari, ‘The establishment of the London green belt’, Journal of Planning History, 6: 4 (2007), 311-37, has a section on the Surrey proposals, 1937
Paul Readman, Storied Ground: Landscape and the Shaping of English National Identity (2018)
Francesca Church, ‘Amenity as educator: Geographies of education, citizenship, and the CPRE in 1930s England’, Geographical Journal, 185: 3 (2018), 258-67.
David Matless, Landscape and Englishness (1998)
Earlier histories of the CPS, prior to the 20th century:
Elizabeth Baigent, ‘God’s earth will be sacred’: Religion, Theology, and the Open Space Movement in Victorian England’, Rural History, 22: 1 (2011), 31-58
Jeremy Burchardt, Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change Since 1800 (2002)
Ben Cowell on the Berkhamstead Common dispute of 1866 – e.g. ‘The Commons Preservation Society and the Campaign for Berkhamsted Common, 1866–70’, Rural History, 13: 2 (2002)
Since the 1835 Highways Act and the implementation of the 19th century police, police have sought to control or disperse protest by classifying stationary groups of people as obstructing the right of free passage along the highway.
In reaction to the Insulate Britain tactic of obstruction, the government has in October 2021 taken out a High Court injunction against the protestors, though it is specific to particular motorways and A-roads:
Verges are important as they are technically classed as part of the highway, and therefore councils and police have historically tried to protect right of free passage along them as well, classing any encampments on verges or roundabouts as obstruction.
Further reading on ‘obstruction’ and ‘nuisance’ in 19th century policing:
David Churchill, Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City: the Police and the Public (Oxford, 2017);
Christopher Hamlin, ‘Nuisances and Community in Mid Victorian England: the Attractions of Inspection’. Social History, 38: 3 (2013), 346-79.
We had a great range of papers, photography, poetry and campaigns highlighted. I’m grateful to all the speakers, participants and Kate Ashbrook, Sarah Hacking, Nichola Finan from OSS and Caroline Gould, Tom and Danielle from the MERL for helping with the event.
Summary of the presentations:
I began with an overview of the Open Spaces Society lantern slide collection, showing how most of the early 20th century slides were taken of landscapes in the south-east of England, and highlighting some of my favourites from the themes of forests, rural idyll and the intrusion of modernity into the countryside.
Ruth Quinn (University of Hull) then followed with a paper about contested ideas of conservation of the rural landscapes in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire, West Yorkshire. How does heritage preservation deal with working farms and a changing countryside?
Adam Bennett shared his evocative photographs of commons around England. The variety of landscapes, topography, flora and fauna belied any public idea that commons are a homogeneous landscape. Adam’s current project, ‘Common Ground’, can be seen on his website: http://www.adam-bennett.com/#1
Mark Gorman (Newham Heritage) gave the history of the campaign to save Epping Forest in the 1870s. The campaign was distinguished by the working-class involvement, which contrasted with the more middle-class leadership of the Commons Preservation Society. His book about the campaign can be purchased from here: https://www.herts.ac.uk/uhpress/books-content/saving-the-peoples-forest
Dave Toft (Hayfield Kinder Trespass) gave a moving performance of his poem about the Kinder Trespass. Plans for the 90th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass will be posted on their website: https://kindertrespass.org.uk/
Chris Chilton (Winter Hill 125 and Bolton Socialist Club) showed us photographs of the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the Winter Hill Mass Trespass that had occurred on Sunday 5 September 2021. The day was attended by groups from across the region and from all sorts of communities. He noted Kate Ashbrook’s call to action, that the commemoration was not just a historical piece but had continued relevance for the campaign for rights of way and public access. https://www.facebook.com/groups/811210656375192/
Keith Sands gave the history of the Range West climbers’ trespass of 1991 in Pembrokeshire. He presented new research and contemporary photographs showing the creativity of protest, and a reminder of the long-term impact of military requisitioning of moorland by the MoD. The climbers ironically gave names to particular parts of the routes after phrases or sayings of the police, as an amusing form of resistance. Keith’s article about the trespass is in the current issue of Climber magazine: https://twitter.com/sandskeith/status/1427187351411961856
Main themes and areas of research emerging from the papers:
1. Why the prominence of forests and trees in the Open Spaces Society lantern slide collection?
The lantern slides are organised in boxes, and there are over a box of slides dedicated to ancient forests and trees. Burnham Beeches in Berkshire feature particularly. It’s obvious why the CPS would then be interested in preserving ancient forests, and be interested in ancient oak trees that were distinctive, for example the great trees in the New Forest. But why so many pictures of individual tree trunks, e.g. in the Burnham Beeches and Epping Forest images, when many were not particularly remarkable individually?
2. Flooding and erosion
There was some discussion about whether the early 20th century images could be used to show landscape change in relation to flooding and erosion in riparian landscapes.
3. The significance of locality and regional differences between commons
Adam’s photographs and the case studies presented by the speakers showed clearly how no commons are the same. Different landowners and commoners have different ideas of what the commons could be used for. A lord of the manor may not want a common to be regulated or developed because of the cost. Differences of ecology and nature preservation are also significant.
What were other countryside preservation and amenity groups elsewhere in the UK doing while the OSS focused on south-east England?
The impact of military requisition on public access and nature conservation also differs across the country.
Discussion on the chat and further links and reading:
There was a very lively discussion over the chat, with many useful links and further reading to be shared.
Simon Thurley’s Monuments Men is a good account of the development of Scheduling (introduced 1882), Matless (Landscape and Englishness) on attitudes to landscape conservation and there was a lead-up pre-war to 1947 act which introduced listing. Go to Historic England website.
Lionel Brett’s book ‘Landscape in distress’ was still bemoaning roadside advertising
Common Ground did a lot of work attempting to make the local, ordinary places ‘special’ by recognising the huge gulf between national designations and local cultural association and therefore importance. Parish Maps, Apple Days and other celebrations were part of that toolbox. Conservation rather than Preservation made the switch for developers easier.