Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Demonstration against the 1908 Licensing Bill

Here's a newspaper report about the mass demonstration against the 1908 Licensing Bill in Hyde Park.

Special trains were arranged to ship people into London from all over the country. It was a massive event.


Yesterday afternoon there was a great demonstration in Hyde Park organised by the "trade" against the Government's Licensing Bill. Speeches were delivered by members Parliament, prospective Parliamentary' candidates, licence holders and others from twenty platforms, and the following resolution was carried amid scenes enthusiasm

That this national demonstration protests against the provisions of the Licensing Bill on the grounds that it will fail to promote the cause of temperance, will violate those rights property which have hitherto been encouraged and recognised by the State, will tend, largely the increase unemployment and will interfere with the reasonable liberty of the community.

The demonstration, one of the largest of its kind ever held in London, was attended by brewers, hop merchants, publicans and representntives of all classes who interested the liquor trade. Over one hundred and seventy special trains brought demonstrators from all parts of England and Wales — from remote Carlisle, from Newcastle-on-Tyne, from North Wales, Penzance and Plymouth.


The scenes at the railway stations were extraordinary nature, the usual quiet Sunday traffic having given way to continuous coming adult passengers, ninety-five per cent of whom were men, some wearing "broad sashes while in the coat of nearly every man was pinned the special badge in red, white, and blue colours, with the words "National Demonstration against Licensing Bill, Hyde Park, 27th of September, 1908" circling the motto "Liberty and honesty." The greatest part the passenger traffic was borne by the London; and North-Western, the Great Western, and Great Northern railways. As early as ten minutes to ten o'clock the first of the twenty-eight special trains reached Euston from Birmingham, and from that time onward to about three o'clock trains ran in at frequent intervals. It is estimated that this line alone brought eighteen thousand of the demonstrators. At Paddington demonstrators began to arrive at ten minutes to eleven. Traffic was very heavy, particularly from the South Wales and Devon districts. In all twenty-six trains were run. The Great Northern trains were similarly crowded. The Midland ran twenty-one specials, the London and South-Western seventeen, the Great Central fourteen, the South- Eastern and Chatham nine, the Great Eastern five, and the London, Brighton, and South Coast nine.


From fourteen different points in the Metropolis processions were formed, in which there were between eighty and ninety bands, some of which had competed the Crystal Palace festival Saturday, and over five hundred banners. Marching six abreast, the first lot of demonstrators reached the Park just after half-past three. The point of meeting was reached in front the Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, the Grosvenor Gate, and Albert Gate, and from the time the first contingents marched through till the moment of the resolution being put all had not arrived, some of the Lancashire and Cheshire parties having to struggle through a dense crowd at the Marble Arch at the moment the bugle sounded. The scene was remarkable one. It is impossible to compute the actual numbers present, which are variously placed between a quarter and half a million. It was not striking in a spectacular sense. Bands and banners were numerous, but amid such a throng they were comparatively lost, especially banners. Some thousands of the general public had arrived the scene long before the first contingent put in an appearance, and continued in vast numbers throughout the afternoon to pour on the scene.

The twenty platforms were arranged tha shape of an enormous horseshoe of irregular shape. Large as the crowd was, the greatest good order prevailed throughout the proceedings, though there was tangible evidence of opposition when the Plaistow Brotherhood marched in with their banners setting forth that their aim was "Fewer pubs, and happier homes." By the comparative few who could hear, the speeches were followed with close interest, while others who could not, carried heated arguments among themselves at numerous points. Punctually at a quarter past five o'clock the bugle rang out for the resolution to be put. There was remarkable scene of enthusiasm, a perfect roar of cheers rolling and echoing through the Park. Though the weather was threatening, rain, fortunately, with the exception of a few drops, held off, and thus in this respect the success the demonstration was greatly aided.

Hardly had the demonstration ended than rain began fall. The crowd left the park comparatively quietly, but some considerable time elapsed before the last the demonstrators got out so great was the press. Many the demonstrators who had travelled by train, in view the inclement weather, made their way to the railway stations, where trains were in waiting for their return."
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Monday 28 September 1908, page 7.

It would be interesting to know how many had actually turned out, a quarter or a half a million. Even the smaller number is still pretty impressive. The counter demonstration of temperance fanatics make it all sound rather modern.

I just realised what there's no mention of in the report: the police. They must surely have been a police presence at the event.

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