I took another annual leave today to continue my search on locations in London that are linked to our federation’s history. As I reported to you previously, Central London such as Westminster and Soho is one key area. East London/Docklands and Borough/Clapham are also important. Our colleague, Janina, is gathering information about Maritime House in Clapham. We have also been in touch with several union colleagues about workers’ history in general and Clerkenwell is reminded as an important location for radical left heritage. For example, Lenin used to edit Iskra there. Marx Memorial Library is in the neighbourhood and it is where the May Day march starts off to Trafalgar Square every year. Our federation’s highest governing body meetings in 1897 and 98 were held at the Club and Institute Union on Clerkenwell Road. Claire has found some interesting information about the 1926 General Strike and its link to our federation.
Another interesting episode that I spotted in our history book is that Tom Mann used to own a pub in Covent Garden. He was our first President and a leader of the 1889 London Dock Strike, just to name a few of the many roles he played in the workers and communist movements. He became the landlord of a pub called The Enterprise to generate additional income to our federation that was facing financial difficulties. Less and less affiliates were up-to-date with the fees. After we were passionately founded in 1896, employers fought back and black-listed our activists and we lost a major dispute in the port of Hamburg. The decline did not stop and our leadership was taken-over by the German rail union in 1904 and our office was relocated to Hamburg and then to Berlin. This is where the history in London ends until 1938.
This public house was on 96 Long Acre. I walked the area today and discovered that St Martin’s Hall used to be located on 98 Long Acre. St Martin’s Hall is where the first Congress of the International Workingmen’s Association (First International) was held in 1865. I believe the pub Enterprise existed into the 1960s as I saw records of singers like Pete Seeger appearing there. Sadly both buildings have been demolished and there is nothing that you can trace on that street anymore.
And finally, I have found out the location of Cranbourne Hotel (see my previous report). It was here on 27 July 1896 that our federation was founded. The hotel does not exist anymore and so I struggled to find it. The only hint I had was that it was near Charing Cross. To make a long story short, I found on the internet the following piece of information from the Old Bailey’s Archive; “...the prisoner said that Mr. Watson, of the Cranbourne Hotel, St. Martin’s-lane, wanted to purchase a gold watch, such as I had to sell…“. This street is connected to the Cranbourn Street that I came to in my last visit. I went back to the Westminster Archive Centre to reconfirm this information. From what I have gathered there, a Cranbourne Tavern existed in 1854 on Upper St Martin’s Lane which is the extention of St Martin’s Lane. Other information on the internet shows that Rober Owen had his 80th birthday at the Cranbourne Hotel in 1851 or Jenny Marx mentions about this hotel in her letter to F Engels in 1852.
Perhaps a fresh round of research into the history of the Cranbourne Hotel/Tavern will be interesting?!
I have also visited other places today.
Palace Street - Transport & General Workers’ Union had its headquarters here until they moved to Holborn about ten years ago. The old building was completely demolished. It is near Victoria Station.
Eccleston Square – This is where TUC was located in 1926. I was reading records of the General Strike and found this address on the TUC letter-head. It is near Victoria Station.
Greek Street – This is where the General Council of the International Workingmen’s Association first rented a space for their meetings. Later they moved to Fleet Street area. It is in Soho.
Lisle Street – This was where the German Hotel existed. It was a transit camp for many political refugees in the days of Karl Marx including he and his family. It is a block away from Leicester Square.
As I returned to my hometown and settled into my local pub, I received some feedbacks on my Blackberry from our Warick University Archive Centre via Valeska that our first office was located on Queen Victoria Road (I think Street is correct). It contradicts with our history book which says that our office was situated on Bridge Street, where Portcullis House is today.
So I need to do more research but this is a very exciting work! And thanks to advise from Alana and Ali always.