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Radical Spaces

Radical Spaces: Venues of popular politics in London, 1790-c. 1845

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Radical Spaces
    Book Description:

    Radical Spaces explores the rise of popular radicalism in London between 1790 and 1845 through key sites of radical assembly: the prison, the tavern and the radical theatre. Access to spaces in which to meet, agitate and debate provided those excluded from the formal arenas of the political nation-the great majority of the population-a crucial voice in the public sphere. Radical Spaces utilises both textual and visual public records, private correspondence and the secret service reports from the files of the Home Office to shed new light on the rise of plebeian radicalism in the metropolis. It brings the gendered nature of such sites to the fore, finding women where none were thought to gather, and reveals that despite the diversity in these spaces, there existed a dynamic and symbiotic relationship between radical culture and the sites in which it operated. These venues were both shaped by and helped to shape the political identity of a generation of radical men and women who envisioned a new social and political order for Britain.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-01-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On 4 March 1838, the life of veteran English radical John Gale Jones came to an end at his home at 32 Middlesex Street, Somers Town, London. He was aged sixty-eight.¹ In many ways, his was an archetypal radical life, lived during the efflorescence of radical culture in the age of reform of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A surgeon and apothecary by training, his enthusiasm for the principles of the French Revolution soon saw him abandon his profession to become a prominent member of the London Corresponding Society (LCS).² Jones entered the political fray during tumultuous times...

  7. 1. ‘Honourable House of Blasphemers’: the radical public of Newgate in the early nineteenth century
    (pp. 17-48)

    In 1799, former Newgate state prisoner Thomas Lloyd reflected on his ‘1187 days’ of imprisonment in London’s most notorious and loathed gaol as a ‘[c] ourse of life [that] has tended to bring into view almost all the great political questions which have agitated the two hemispheres for five and twenty years past’.¹ A debtor in the Fleet prison in 1792, Lloyd had received a further three year sentence to Newgate for producing and displaying a truculent political poster in the Fleet.² For Lloyd, incarceration in Newgate gaol allowed a period of intense intellectual development, fostered by a vibrant and...

  8. 2. ‘Bastilles of despotism’: radical resistance in the Coldbath Fields House of Correction, 1798–1830
    (pp. 49-82)

    In the early morning of 13 July 1802, the road from London to the town of Brentford was already buzzing with a carnival atmosphere. Thousands had assembled on foot while others rode in hackney coaches; riders on horseback and bands of musicians formed a cavalcade that snaked along the roadways.² The 1802 elections for Middlesex had become a major spectacle in the metropolis during the month of July.³ Crowds assembled each day at the Piccadilly home of Sir Francis Burdett to accompany their hero to the hustings. Burdett, the independent Whig MP for Boroughbridge and vocal opponent of William Pitt,...

  9. 3. The ‘She-Champion of Impiety’: female radicalism and political crime in early nineteenth-century England
    (pp. 83-104)

    In December 1822, another of Richard Carlile’s imprisoned shop workers, Susannah Wright, penned a letter from her Newgate prison quarters to Carlile’s wife, Jane, who was herself immured in the Carlile family cell in Dorchester prison. Susannah recounted her experience of arriving in the much maligned and feared prison, recalling that she and her seven-month-old baby were initially placed in a ‘small and disgustingly filty’ ward in the section of the prison that housed the female felons.² Upon her arrival, Wright found the ward already occupied by five felons of ‘the most wretched stamp’, two of whom were facing execution...

  10. 4. Radicalism and reform at the ‘Gate of Pandemonium’: the Crown and Anchor tavern in visual culture, 1790–1820
    (pp. 105-146)

    On the morning of 28 February 1820, John Cam Hobhouse sat down to write what he hoped would be his last diary entry from his Newgate prison quarters. Rumour had it, he noted, that his ‘den’ would be ‘adjourned this day’.¹ Later in the afternoon, as Hobhouse enjoyed a stroll on the top of the gaol, he received news from the Governor of his release. Paying the watchman a pound, he descended to his apartments,

    sent [his] boy for a horse...put on breeches and boots...packed up letters & c...and at half-past five p. m., after shaking hands with Mr Brown...

  11. 5. ‘Fresh Crown and Anchor sentiments’: radical reform in the Strand, 1817–1847
    (pp. 147-178)

    Despite some caricaturists’ attempts to associate the Crown and Anchor with devilry, subterfuge and sedition, the prominence of the tavern in the visual culture of the period helped ascribe it a legitimate, if not always celebrated, place on the political landscape. This is also evident in the representation of the tavern in the text-based print mediums of the early nineteenth century. If we return momentarily to Sir Francis Burdett’s first victory in the Middlesex elections in 1802, when the deep-blue cavalcade brandishing ‘No Bastille’ banners crawled its way from Brentford to London, The Times report of events illuminates far more...

  12. 6. ‘Temple of Knowledge and Reason’: culture and politics at 3 Blackfriars Road, Surrey
    (pp. 179-212)

    As we have seen in the previous chapters, by the early nineteenth century the very name of the Crown and Anchor tavern clearly signposted its political associations and identity. The tavern’s longstanding presence on the metropolitan landscape, combined with its early liberal-aristocratic connections, helped to secure its place as a bastion for London’s politicised middling classes. If the Crown and Anchor tavern had come to symbolise the moderate and measured opposition to the political landscape during the Reform agitation of late 1830, events south of the Thames signalled that plebeian radicals with more pressing intent had found a new home....

  13. 7. ‘Bitten with the Rotunda notions’: audience, identity and communication 1830–1832
    (pp. 213-242)

    The opening of the Rotunda in 1830 marked a new phase for London’s radical culture. For a combination of geographical, temporal and social reasons, the venue provided a much needed rallying point for plebeian metropolitan radicalism in the early 1830s and catered for a whole spectrum of London’s diverse radical ideology under one roof. For a period in 1830–32, the radical community found a venue open almost every night of the week, offering a rich array of heterodox political and theological thought communicated in a variety of ways. Working-class London, to Francis Place’s chagrin, had been ‘bitten with the...

  14. 8. ‘Pythoness of the Temple’: Eliza Sharples and the gendered public of the Rotunda
    (pp. 243-272)

    With Robert Taylor and Richard Carlile now ensconced in their separate prisons, and numbers declining nightly at the Rotunda, the ‘Palladium of Liberty’ was in dire financial straights. The entry of the National Union of the Working Classes (NUWC) to the repertoire of Rotunda radicalism provided a much needed boost to the finances of the institution and, importantly, its radical credentials. The NUWC, however, was purely a political group whose organisation and structure were modelled on traditional forms, and forums, of radical male sociability. With the imprisonment of the flamboyant Taylor, Rotunda radicalism had all but lost its theatrical element,...

  15. 9. Conclusion
    (pp. 273-286)

    Despite the importance of the venues examined in this book to Britain’s political history, none remains standing on London’s urban landscape. Newgate continued to operate as a prison throughout the nineteenth century, and although it underwent further renovation and extension during the century, it failed to shake its loathed reputation for squalor and harshness. Newgate’s continued resistance to prison reform and the apparent inability to effect either reform or redemption of its prisoners were lamented throughout the century. By 1902, pending another wave of reform measures, the authorities evidently considered this resistance was intractable; a decision was made to demolish...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-328)
  17. Index
    (pp. 329-338)