Athlone Gardens, in the north-east corner of Hampstead Heath, this afternoon - stunningly beautiful, and really hidden away. There was hardly anyone there. I'd never come across this wonderfully well kept glade before - it seems to have become part of the Heath quite recently. A big thank you to the friends who introduced me to this most enchanting corner of the Heath - a beautiful place to lie down, gossip, rest and wonder.
In the northern half of Regent's Park, not far from that venerated open-air cafe 'The Honest Sausage', stands this wonderful Gothic style monument. A watering hole, in its most literal meaning. And as you can see, enormously in demand on a wonderfully sunny bank holiday weekend.
What I hadn't appreciated until now is the India - indeed the Parsee - connection.
The fountain was built in 1869 by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association (not many charitable endeavours encompass both human and animal welfare quite so magnificently), inuagurated by a member of the royal family, and paid for by a wealthy Bombay (now Mumbai) based Parsee industrialist.
Parsees - Zoroastrians by religion, a community numbering only in the tens of thousands - have had, and continue to have, an influence out of all proportion to their numbers. They have played a role in Indian industry and commerce akin to that of the Quakers in Britain a couple of centuries ago. Their role in politics, in India at least, has been less evident - though both M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Indira Gandhi married Parsees. But quite remarkably in Britain, the first three Asian MPs were all Parsees - Dadabhai Naoroji ('Mr Narrow Majority'), elected Liberal MP for Central Finsbury in 1892, Sir M.M. Bhownagree a Conservative representing (unlikely as it seems) a seat in the East End of London, and Sharpurji Saklatvala, a communist who represented Battersea in Parliament in the 1920s.
The plaque on the drinking fountain in Regent's Park omits to mention the full name of its Parsee benefactor, and what a marvellous name it is - Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Readymoney. Here's his Wikipedia entry. As you can see, the plaque records that Sir Cowasjee provided the funds for the fountain 'as a token of gratitude to the people of England for the protection enjoyed by him and his Parsee fellow countrymen under the British rule in India.' This was barely a decade after the 1857 Rebellion/Mutiny - decsribed by some as India's First War of Independence - so quite a bold statement.
Above the plaque is what appears to be a likeness of the benefactor - judge for yourself how well it captured his features:
Another old shop sign uncovered by renovation work - this is on Fortess Road in Kentish Town, about a hundred yards or so from the tube station.
There is something bitter sweet about signs re-emerging after decades submerged, and then being covered again by the waters of time.
I've been able to find out nothing about the business - can anyone help?
LATER: Bill Ellson has been in touch to say: 'Evan J Evans married Jane T Laird in London in 1932. The newsagents in Fortress Road appears in the Telephone Directory from 1933 until 1964. They had two sons. The family lived above the shop.'
LATER STILL: Really good news - it looks like E.J. Evans is going to have an afterlife. The new shop sign doesn't cover the old sign but nicely complements the original.
AND DO READ THE COMMENTS (BY HITTING THE COMMENTS TAB AT THE TOP) - SEVERAL ARE FROM DESCENDANTS OF E.J. EVANS!
I've driven past this remarkable relief hundreds of times, but spotted it only today when I happened to walk by (strolling to work for the first time this year).
It shows the martyrdom of St Pancras - a Roman teenager beheaded for his faith in about 304. It later became the fashion to show him amid a menagerie. And as you can see, in this version he succumbs to a pre-modern Hound of the Baskervilles.
Can anyone - without Googling and otherwise seeking digital assistance - locate this over-stylised piece of Victorian religious melodrama?
It's almost half-a-century since what was in its day by far the biggest institution in British local government bit the dust.
The London County Council was established in 1889, and abolished in 1965 when the London boroughs were reorganised. (It was replaced by the still bigger Greater London Council, which bit the dust when Mrs Thatcher took against it in the 1980s).
Today on Hampstead Heath I came across a cruious remnant of the LCC - a boundary stone. This was where inner London (the LCC territory) met outer London. Still a boundary of sorts.
Sometimes you can go months without coming across any really great political pamphlets - and then you strike gold. Twice.
I've blogged below about the treasures I came across last weekend ... when I was also was able to buy an early (1890) copy of the Yiddish newspaper 'Der Arbeter Fraint' (The Worker's Friend), and even more spectacular, a copy of Henry Seymour's 'The Anarchist' from 1886.
Today at Walden Books in Chalk Farm, I picked up a handful of much more recent gems - of which this is my favourite.
This is the first - perhaps the only - issue of 'Underground', dating it seems from 1966. Here's what the editorial comment says:
underground's first aim is to print the work of young authors or poets, whether published previously or not, alongside that of older writers whose influence justifies their inclusion in a magazine aimed primarily at the young. Secondly we hope to provide a forum for libertarian ideas without consenting to follow any exclusive party line.
It was published by a group of Oxford students - the editorial board (and forgive me, i don't recognise any of the names) consisted of: Tony Allan, Kris Jastrzebski, Rick Blake, John Edge, Peter Whewell, Barbra Norden and Penelope Cloutte. Anyone able to tell me any more about the editors or the journal?
The cover, of course, caught my attention - very 1960s. I suspect it was designed by Humphrey Weightman. And the contents are also really interesting. Most of the first half of the journal is given over to a republication of Sir Herbert Read's (surely he was the only anarchist ever to accept a knighthood) 'Anarchism in the Affluent Society'. The poems that follow include two by Adrian Mitchell - I've posted one of these below (the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended the Canada Centennial in the summer of 1966, which probably provided the cocasion for Adrian Mitchell's verse).
LATER (May 2014) - This post has attracted comments from three of those who published 'underground' almost forty years ago - and now a scholar at a Canadian university has been in touch about Sir Herbert Read's essay included in this issue, and here explains its significance:
Herbert Read’s ‘Anarchism in the Affluent Society’
Originally written as a speech delivered to the Federacion Libertaria Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1962, Herbert Read’s short article ‘Anarchism in the Affluent Society’ was reprinted in the ephemeral Oxford-based magazine Underground four years later. As writing was Read’s primary source of income, he was a frequent recycler: regularly fusing together shorter pieces, and producing a number of collections of his occasional essays. Despite this, ‘Anarchism in the Affluent Society’ was not included in any of the political collections that Read assembled after he delivered the paper in Argentina. When revising his wartime essay To Hell With Culture in 1963, for instance, for its new life in a lengthier volume examining the commodification of modern culture, Read designed to include ‘Anarchism and the Affluent Society’. It would later appear under the rather pallid title ‘Anarchism and Modern Society’ in Irving Louis Horowtiz’s unorthodox reader The Anarchists in 1964, translated from the Spanish-language periodical Reconstruir.
Given the short-lived nature of Underground, and Read’s failure to revisit the essay, it is a piece of Readian ephemera that scholars have overlooked. I, for one, was unaware of the article until I came across Read’s own copy of the address, written in his neat handwriting in an old exercise book, which is currently part of the collection of his personal papers held at the University of Victoria. Perhaps judging the essay unexceptional, Read decided it wasn’t worth thinking about any more, and set it aside to concentrate on other projects, like the definitive version of his autobiography The Contrary Experience, which was published the following year.
Often, unfinished articles, and those marginal pieces that writers quickly forget, are especially revealing. Lacking the polish of repeated revision, short reflections on particular themes can cast light on the writer’s body of work as a whole, showing the enduring importance of certain ideas, or show a thinker struggling to keep certain sets of ideas relevant in shifting political and intellectual contexts.
Read’s essay is significant for this reason, particularly given the overall framing of the piece as an analysis of the relevance of anarchist politics in the ‘affluent society’. This term, he notes at the outset, is a ‘fashionable’ one, and Read was probably inspired by J.K. Galbraith in adopting it, who had published his famous work The Affluent Society in 1958. Read describes the affluent society as North American and Western European phenomenon, based upon ‘a union between the direct power of the state and the productive organization of monopoly capitalism’ that had attained ‘the highest standard of living that has yet been capable of satisfying the population of these countries’.
Read’s argument is, unsurprisingly, that while the ‘material condition of the working classes’ has improved, their ‘spiritual impoverishment is equally evident’. He goes on to diagnose a lack of ‘principles’ at the heart of contemporary politics, where governments democratic governments ‘change name but not purposes’, resulting in a politics of ‘expediency’ – actions guided solely by the desire to ‘maintain a high standard of living.’
This might seem a legitimate ambition, but for Read the triumph of the politics of expediency had enervating effects, producing a kind of spiritual lassitude. With this in view, in his paper he reasserted the value of anarchist philosophy as an outcry against this fate. Unusually for him, Read developed this theme through a relatively detailed discussion of the articulation of these ideas in the historical anarchist tradition. The form of Read’s argument is interesting, therefore, as it offers a restatement of his conception of anarchism’s core ideas, and the tradition’s key thinkers.
Both of these are idiosyncratic, and would have been met with scepticism by other anarchists. Central to his vision of anarchism is a commitment to non-violence, based on the assumption that the state was the embodiment of violence. He supports this by saying that ‘Lao-tse, Chuang-tze, Jesus Christ, Tolstoy, Kropotkin, and Gandhi’ had all recognised this truth, and that anarchists must never lose sight of the idea that ‘force corrupts the human mind’. The only legitimate action against the state is therefore also non-violent, and he closed his talk by reiterating Gandhi’s ‘enormous’ debt to the anarchist tradition, and concluding that ‘I cannot conceive of an anarchist movement in the world today that does take its departure from the point reached by Gandhi’.
The other central theme of his essay stems from this argument: the idea that the best way to popularise anarchism was to show it in action, as an ethos of peaceful ‘mutual aid’. This idea was based on a tactical assessment that anarchists cannot ‘contradict at least two thousand years of political evolution’ and change this process through ‘direct political means’. Spain, Palestine, and Cuba, he continued, all demonstrated that ‘splits or fissures’ could develop in centralised states, but he added that their ‘tragic’ history should be remembered, and that these examples should ‘not give us false hope’. For Read then, the duty of anarchists was to resist ‘conformity, fixity, and centralization’ in the present, and expound their principles of mutual aid and peaceful cooperation, albeit acknowledging that the road to anarchism would be a long, and perhaps endless, one. But as he said elsewhere, even if this vision proved to be a mirage, ‘we must remember that the mirage gives energy and direction to a man lost in the desert.’
Matthew S. Adams, University of Victoria
It's amazing what you can find in an Islington pub. When I popped in to the Red Lion recently - just a short hop from The Angel - there was no sign of anyone writing, or reading, anything that might be regarded as a radical classic. But the times have changed ... just a little!
Handbills are among the most ephemeral, and at the same time telling, evocations of past political movements and moments. It was very nice at the Radical Book Fair at Conway Hall today to pick up two very fine handbills. the one above is from the Pankhursts' Women's Social and Political Union and dates from the turbulent year of 1911, promising 'the greatest procession of women ever witnessed'.- and it was indeed regarded as the biggest suffrage march ever seen in London until that date, with 40,000 women processing along what had been the Coronation route.
This handbill is even older - dating to William Morris's Socialist League of the late 1880s. 1889 was the year of the 'new unions' - unions of the semi-skilled and unskilled, which rose to prominence with the Dock Strike of that year. The meeting advertised seems to have been on a similar theme.
Humberstone Gate is in Leicester - and there is also a Vine Street in the city, (though there was also a radical club on Vine Street in central London).
I sadly know nothing of Councillor W. Sanders of Walsall, who describes himself as 'the first Socialist ever elected in England on a Town Council' and a 'Member of the Knights of Labour' who had 'suffered imprisonment several times for the cause of the workers'.
Anyone know any more about him?
Yes, I was watching 'The Village' last night. And yes, it did put me in mind of the memorial in our local village, Highgate village. It stands at the top of Swains Lane, though you easily walk past the plaque without spotting it. And as you can see, some of the names are already undecipherable and in a few years all will have been weathered into anonymity.
You can find out a little about the memorial at what was once Highgate Camp here - the names are slightly more legible on the photo on this site. I do hope someone has taken the trouble to set down the inscription before it started to wear away. This is what I make out the names to be, with some of those on the right-hand column rather less then certain transcriptions:
RAYMOND C. BRICE CYRIL P. MADDAX
ERNEST JOHN DODD CHAS BERNARD MILLER
EDWARD E. GRIMWADE ALFRED MOORE
HERBERT HEAVINGHAM HENRY MORLEY
FRANK J. HOCKING, D.C.M. KENNETH H. RE...
ALAN J. HOPKINS JOHN WOODWA...
FELIX E. JONES, M.C. J.D. YOUNG
The memorial is on a gate, and opposite is a tablet which has survived the decades slightly better. There's more about James Dawbarn Young here.
Regent's Park and around has many attractions - zoo, mosque, boating lake, beuatiful gardens, open air cafes, and lots of open space for a kick around. Nice to see several generations joining in this game of soccer this afternoon. Quite a spectacle!
Around the lakes, the herons were as brave and brassy eyed as ever - at one spot, there was a bust up among a troupe of herons competing for what seemed to be chicken luncheon meat being provided by a - it would seem - regular heron tamer.
For most of the thousands sauntering around, the delight was the trees in blossom and the flowers in bloom, and weather which allowed you to take it all in. London in the spring!
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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