Short EV Account: Struggle for an Effigy

Today’s Short EV Account took place #OnThisDay in 1880.  One feature of the disturbance was the presence of an effigy of a leading statesman – though it did not survive for long…

On the 12th of April 1880 (a Monday night), the local election contest in Barrow-in-Furness was in full swing.   A torchlight procession proceeded throughout the town to great fanfare.  At the head of the procession, an effigy of Lord Beaconsfield, Conservative Prime Minister (better known as Benjamin Disraeli), was held aloft.  As the figure was passing along Cavendish Street, however, ‘some of the admirers of the earl dashed into the crowd, and, seizing the figure, demolished it’, simultaneously trading blows with the ringleaders of the procession.

This was a prelude to somewhat larger proceedings; a massive crowd, estimated to consist of 10-12,000 people, moved in the direction of Ramsden Square by nine o’clock. There were considerable fears entertained of a ‘row’ developing, and varied ‘everything was done to conciliate the feeling of the mob’.  Some members of the crowd started to throw stones, and very soon afterwards four of five windows of the local Liberal club were smashed.  Retaliation followed swiftly, and shortly afterwards ‘equal damage’ was done the premises of the Conservative club.

This all went on for over an hour and a half, and despite the police deciding to charge the crowd several times they refused to disperse. It was claimed that, despite the tit-for-tat exchanges of partisan window-breaking, ‘most of the damage was done by lads, who had no connection to either party, and it was evident they enjoyed the fun’.  Order had been restored by half past ten, at which point it was found that each and every window of both political clubs had been completely broken, with much damage done to the insides also.  The article reporting the disturbance ruefully noted in conclusion that ‘the cost of this outrage’ would, of course, fall upon local tax-payers.


(Source: Lancaster Gazette, 17 April 1880Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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