What an exquisite piece of political memorabilia! 'Hunt and Liberty' - a jug celebrating the renowned radical Henry 'Orator' Hunt, and memorialising one of the most cathartic events in Britain's history.
At least fifteen people and probably many more died in the Peterloo massacre in central Manchester in August 1819. Cavalry charged into a large and peaceful crowd assembled to attend a Reform demonstration to be addressed by Hunt.
This jug was probably made shortly after Peterloo. It recites the key slogans of Regency radicalism, 'No Corn Bill' and 'Universal Sufferage [sic]'. And in a very gentle denunciation of those responsible for Peterloo, it wishes 'Bad Luck to the Manchester Butchers'.
Below the likeness of Hunt, there are some other indicators of radical demands: annual Parliaments; vote by ballot; Habeas Corpus, and Bill of Rights.
Hunt is surrounded by some of the radical motifs of the time. There's the phrygian cap, a symbol both of the American and French revolutions; and what appear to be laurel leaves; but what the ship is about, I don't know.
On the rear, there's a verse:
May the rose of england never blow
Nor the scotland thistle never grow
Nor the harpof ireland never play
Until reformers gain the day.
HUNT AND LIBERTY
Hunt was jailed for seditious conspiracy in the aftermath of Peterloo but in 1830 was elected the Member of Parliament for Preston. He criticised the 1832 Reform Act for being insufficient and in that same year he presented to Parliament the first petition for women's suffrage. He died in 1834.
The East End's 'last' synagogue
Always walk the back streets - it's amazing what you will come across!
I thought I knew the East End fairly well, but walking along Nelson Street in Whitechapel this week, I came across this squat and architecturally distinctly plain building. A synagogue! And it seems to be still in use.
The Nelson Street shul declares on its website that it is 'the last purpose-built synagogue in London's East End'.
There are a few other shuls still going in what was once the Jewish East End - but for example the beuatiful synagogue on Sandy's Row in Spitalfields was initially a Huguenot church.
The signage referring to 'sfardish' made me think this was a Sephardic synagogue. It isn't. It's Ashkenazi - but the term 'sfardish' suggests that the congregation originally followed a liturgy intended to bring together the two main Jewish traditions.
In the entrance porch there are rather wonderful inscribed plaques, some pre-dating the building of this synagogue in 1923, which I could only see through the padlocked gates -
I haven't managed yet to see the interior, but it is clearly much more ornate and splendid than the exterior. You can get a sense of that in this photo which is on the site of the Jewish East End Celebration Society.
And the always wonderful Spitalfields Life site three years ago profiled Leon Silver, the president, senior warden and treasurer of the synagogue.
In case you are wondering, as of 2018 there were four working synagogues in the East End and the adjoining City of London.
Oh, and by the way, on Varden Street, close to Nelson Street, is the London church of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, aka the 'Wee Wee Frees'. They bought the 1920s church building from the 'Gospel Standard Strict Baptists' in 1974.
A synagogue in what was once the Jewish East End makes some sense. But a Scottish Presbyterian citadel? What's that all about??
This is a prize piece of political ephemera. It's an election handbill issued on the day that Boris Johnson announced his intention to resign - printed and stuffed through letterboxes before anyone knew for sure that he would resign - and issued, remarkably, by Boris Johnson' own party.
Here's the other side of the handbill - issued for a local government by-election on 7th July 2022:
So, here's the story.
Labour did really well in London in the local elections in May. They even won some seats which they had always regarded as beyond reach. One was Hampstead Town in the London Borough of Camden.
I'm told that one of the Labour candidates in May only stood because he was assured he wouldn't win. On the night of the count, he was tucked up in bed when he was told to get down to the counting centre quick because he was about to become a Camden councillor.
Hampstead Town is a two-councillor constituency. In May, the Conservatives topped the poll but Labour's Adrian Cohen took the second seat, with a narrow margin of 59 votes over the Conservative in third place. The Lib Dems were a respectable but distant third.
Alas, Mr Cohen not only didn't expect to be a councillor - his work didn't allow him to be a councillor. Three weeks after his surprise victory, he resigned. So on 7th July, a by-election was held - with the Conservatives determined to win back what they regarded as 'their' seat.
Early in the morning of polling day - 7th July - the Conservatives started pushing the election handbill above through letter boxes in South End Green. They were seen at it at 8:15 in the morning - just about the time Chris Mason, the BBC's Political Editor, got a call from No. 10 to say that Boris Johnson had agreed to stand down.
So Hampstead Conservatives were so alarmed by the deep contempt for Boris Johnson evident on local doorsteps that they claxoned Boris's departure in an attempt tp regain local support. So desperate were they to disown their own party leader and prime minister, they printed the polling day handbill, and started distributing it, before Boris had even agreed to go. It reads -
Last May many of you told us you couldn't vote Conservatrive while Boris Johnson was Prime Minister.
We Camden Conservatives took up your call.
It took longer than we wanted but MESSAGE RECEIVED!
The Conservatives have listened and Johnson has resigned as PM.
We now ask you to come back to us and give us another chance. It's ok to vote Conservative again, starting today in Hampstead Town.
More than that, the handbill is a piece of election samizdat - it doesn't make clear who has published it in apparent violation of election regulations. The local Labour MP Tulip Siddiqui made quite a fuss about the issue on social media, and the Independent picked up the story too.
In the by-election, both main parties put up women candidates called Alex: Alex Andrews for the Tories and Alex Sufit for Labour. Here's Labour Alex's polling day handbill:
So, which Alex won the by-election?
The Lib Dems' Linda Chung captured the seat convincingly - with the Conservatives in second place and Labour third.
So the Tories' 'He's Out!' election day ploy didn't do the job!
Just like the Rolling Stones
I went to see the Rolling Stones last night. It's only taken me 60 years! What magical performers they are - and Mick Jagger is the ultimate showman. As he said, he's got more spangly outfits than Adele,
They didn't play any new material - why would they with such a peerless back catalogue! One of the few numbers that wasn't their own was Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' - a number which often tops the list of the best song of all time.
I saw Dylan performing the song at the same place, Hyde Park, a few years back. The Stones' version was better. It was written in 1965, so a few years after the Stones started hitting the charts. Much ink has been splilt trying to reckon whether Dylan's song was a sideways reference to the band. You make up your own mind ...
But when the Stones sang 'Rolling Stone' I just had to get my phone out - sorry I missed the opening bars.
And the woman just in front of me with the magnificent mohican and 'Vivienne' written on the side of her glasses was, yes, that Vivienne!
And for comparison with the Stones, here's Dylan's own rendition from the Newport Folk Festival in 1965:
And the best ever cover version of Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone'? Well, thanks for asking! I reckon it's this - by Spirit from 1976:
My visit to Orkney last month was not my first. I went there as a youngster with my family more than half-a-century ago. I don't remember too much of Kirkwall from that holiday. But I do remember visiting St Magnus Cathedral, which describes itself as 'the Light in the North', and then my parents chancing across the workshop of a local master craftsman, Reynold Eunson, who had been responsible for some of the superb wood carvings in the redesigned cathedral chapel to St Rognvald.
My parents bought a wooden bust by Eunson - a likeness of St Rognvald, and based on the full-size carving in St Magnus. I still have it.
You can see how precisely it was based on Eunson's statue of St Rognvald in the cathedral, which is below.
Rognvald was a Norwegian Earl of Orkney who in 1137 initiated the building of Kirkwall's cathedral. He took part in a crusade, was canonised, and is also remembered in the names of two of Orkney's islands, North Ronaldsay and South Ronaldsay.
Reynold Eunson also made traditional Orkney chairs and stools. My parents bought a child's chair and a stool - God know how they got them back to Yorkshire - and the chair, rather marvellously, bears Eunson's mark.
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