Claiming the Streets

Claiming the Streets: Procession and Urban Culture in South Wales, c.1830-1880

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Claiming the Streets
    Book Description:

    Street processions were a defining feature of life in the Victorian town, and this book examines how those events created new civic identities in the growing towns of nineteenth-century south Wales.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2542-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Towns and cities are places where people live, work and consume goods and services. They are also arenas in which people move around, socialise and display themselves to others. Communal spaces provide a context for spectacles, demonstrations and for acting out the dramas of social relations. It is no accident that phrases commonly used to describe life in towns are the urban scene or stage. Phrases of this kind are more than useful metaphors, succeeding in capturing an essential part of life in towns and how urbanites express themselves on the streets. According to the influential writer on urbanism, Lewis...

  6. 1 Street Processions and Ritual in the Victorian Town
    (pp. 9-25)

    Civic identities were established, negotiated and re-configured in a variety of ways in the Victorian town. Such identities were formed and contested through mechanisms that ranged from official civic ceremonial to the creation of sporting teams associated with particular places. Processions were a key feature of this process of identity formation. The nineteenth century was a period when street processions proliferated as never before. Moreover, in terms of who organised them and took part in them, they became more democratic and inclusive than they had been in the past; street processions were organised from below as well as from above....

  7. 2 Town and Region: the Urban Context
    (pp. 26-50)

    Processions require a context in which to be performed. By the end of the nineteenth century capital cities in Europe and North America had begun to create ceremonial spaces for national celebrations by creating broad avenues and erecting ostentatious buildings around them. Such developments have attracted the attention of historians interested in the ‘invention of tradition’ in the nineteenth century.¹ However, other cities and towns also experienced changes that facilitated civic ceremonial and made holding street processions more congenial affairs. This was as true of the smaller towns of south Wales as it was of larger towns and cities elsewhere....

  8. 3 Protest, Processions and Stability
    (pp. 51-78)

    Forging public identities in the streets posed significant challenges for the authorities in a period of rapid social, economic and political change because it raised the spectre of ostensibly consensual events becoming sectional and divisive rather than being demonstrations of truly cross-class civic identities. Radical movements used public space not just as a forum for expressing their views publicly but as a way of re-defining public space in ways that legitimated the actions of social groups that were excluded from power. Access to public space by those who did not possess political power, therefore, entailed changes in the meaning of...

  9. 4 Ordering the Streets: Friendly Society Processions
    (pp. 79-100)

    The mid-nineteenth century, it was claimed in 1846, was the ‘Age of Societies’.¹ A host of voluntary friendly societies, benefit societies, sickness and burial societies, as well as literary and political societies, bore out this claim. Such organisations were not a completely novel growth at this time, but they did increase substantially in number, diversity and the sophistication of their organisation and means of communication. Networks of voluntary societies formed the matrix of civil society in Britain from the eighteenth century onwards, undertaking responsibilities that elsewhere were shouldered by the state or other established corporate groups. While they began as...

  10. 5 Sobering the Streets: Temperance and Teetotal Processions
    (pp. 101-122)

    The symbolic urban geography of friendly societies included the streets, public houses and places of worship. The public house – described by one writer as ‘a masculine republic’ – was the usual location for the club rooms of such societies and was the place where the members met to discuss business and hold sociable events.¹ The Registrar of Friendly Societies, J. Tidd Pratt, was especially critical of ‘liquid rent’, the name used for an agreement by lodges to buy a certain amount of drink in payment for use of a public house’s premises.² Significantly, however, reports of friendly society processions...

  11. 6 Sacralising the Streets: Religion and Urban Space
    (pp. 123-143)

    Religion found new ways of embedding itself in urban culture during the nineteenth century. The processions of the temperance and teetotal movements, with their hymn-singing and evangelical fervour, were merely one expression of this development. Organised religion was a dynamic influence on urban life, creating new social and cultural networks and easing the integration of some migrants in an unfamiliar society. Vigorous church and chapel building programmes imprinted religion on changing townscapes and created new points of reference in the spatial geography of towns. The creation of denominational schools, the installation of bells in places of worship, and the popularity...

  12. 7 Diversity on the Streets: Corpus Christi and the Salvation Army in the 1870s
    (pp. 144-162)

    This chapter focuses on specific examples of innovations in the processional landscape of south Wales in the 1870s, in the process demonstrating the continuing capacity of religion for sacralising public space and for creating new urban identities.¹ It emphasises the importance of bystanders’ attitudes, and the response of the media to attempts by organisations to become part of the accepted repertoire of processions. The first of these examples – the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi – is specific to Cardiff and is an example of how a religious minority that was frequently demonised by Protestants achieved acceptance by the wider...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 163-176)

    Claiming the right to use the streets for organised processions – and exercising that right – was an important feature of the creation of mass public cultures in nineteenth-century towns. Street processions can be seen as one way of charting the symbolic geography of towns in this period, underlining the definition of the principal thoroughfares as the most appropriate spaces for public ceremonial. A series of important public spaces in towns emerges from this study, depending on the particular event being studied. Friendly societies frequently used both public houses and places of worship as key points of departure and arrival...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 177-216)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-236)
  16. Index
    (pp. 237-242)