Transpontine: Hilly Fields 1907: 'Socialists in hot water: eight arrests …

Once upon a time Hilly Fields in Ladywell was the scene of intense political dispute, with thousands arguing and sometimes fighting at public meetings in the park:

‘An enormous crowd charged a Socialist procession as it was leaving Hilly Fields, Brockley, yesterday afternoon, and, in the free fight that ensued the S.D.F. Social Democratic Federation red flag was hauled down and its bearers severely handled. The police made eight arrests. For some weeks public meetings have been taking place on the Hilly Fields on Sunday afternoons.

Yesterday nearly 6,000 people assembled, and distributed themselves into four groups, addressed by members of the S.D.F., a detachment of suffragists, an Anarchist, and an Agnostic respectively. There was a strong attendance of police and London County Council park-keepers to maintain order. The speakers were vigorously heckled during the afternoon, but the meetings were brought to a close without serious interruption.

The Socialists marched off, protected by a police escort. In their wake came a hostile crowd, several thousands strong, waving sticks and umbrellas, and hooting and jeering in a threatening manner. The procession passed into Eastern-road, and a strong force of police came up at the run, and attempted, unsuccessfully, to head off the crowd.

A sudden rush brought down the red flag, and the next minute the roadway was blocked by a mass of struggling humanity.

As the opposing parties came to grips, hats and sticks flew in all directions, and arms and legs were briskly used in the affray.

The police acted with restraint throughout, but matters rapidly became worse, and, in order to quieten the crowd, eight of the ringleaders were arrested and marched to the police-station at Ladywell’ (Nottingham Evening Post – Monday 25 November 1907)

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