Cable Street in list of top 10 sites marking England’s ‘history of protest’
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Cable Street in list of top 10 sites marking England’s ‘history of protest’

East End landmark where Jews faced-off against fascist thugs, is recognised in new high-profile campaign by Historic England

Mural on the former St George's Town Hall in Tower Hamlets, London, which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street. Cable Street, for the event it witnessed, has been chosen by David Olusoga in the Power, Protest & Progress category of A History of England in 100 Places. © Historic England
Mural on the former St George's Town Hall in Tower Hamlets, London, which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street. Cable Street, for the event it witnessed, has been chosen by David Olusoga in the Power, Protest & Progress category of A History of England in 100 Places. © Historic England

Cable Street in East London has been identified as one of the top 10 landmarks in England’s “history of power, protest and progress”.

The accolade has been awarded in a high-profile national campaign launched this week by Historic England.

The East End street where Jews famously fought fascist thugs in the 1930s is listed by historian David Olusoga in Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places as being among the most iconic sites that “bring to life England’s rich history”.

The Battle of Cable Street took place on Sunday 4 October 1936. Anti-fascist protesters, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, clashed with the police who were protecting a march by the British Union of Fascists, known as the Blackshirts, led by Oswald Mosley.

By the 1930s, around 183,000 Jews lived in London, mostly in the East End. Exacerbated by the Great Depression, deprivation fostered anti-Semitism and some neighbouring communities blamed Jews for worsening conditions. By 1936, Oswald’s fascists had become the largest organised anti-Semitic force in Britain.

Hearing of the protest, those opposed to the Mosley march  blocked various routes into the East End, the last of which was Cable Street, shouting: “They shall not pass!”

Mural on the former St George’s Town Hall in Tower Hamlets, London, which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street. Cable Street, for the event it witnessed, has been chosen by David Olusoga in the Power, Protest & Progress category of A History of England in 100 Places. © Historic England

About 6,000 police tried to clear the area, and began attacking those building barricades.

The protesters  fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at police by women in houses along the street. It worked – Mosley was forced to march his troops back.

“Although this was a violent protest, as a nation we should be more aware and proud of the Battle of Cable Street,” Olusoga says.

Other selected sites include the operations room bunker from where the Battle of Britain was coordinated, the Manchester laboratory in which Ernest Rutherford pieced together the structure of the atom, and a sycamore tree in Tolpuddle, Dorset, under which workers agreed to form what became the first trade unions.

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