Old Market Riot – 23rd February 1932

The photo at the top of the pages shows the Old Market Riot. It had begun as a march of 3,000 demonstrators who had intended to send a deputation to the City Council. They were stopped by a double line of police as they attempted to march down Old Market.

The site of the Hydra Bookshop is visible in the background in the photo. At the time, the site was occupied by the Alderman Stevans Almshouse since 1679. The Almshouse was bombed in WWII and the current buildings occupying the same burbage plot were rebuilt by the Alderman Stevans charity in 1957. The site still serves the same purpose and was rebuilt with the same two shop units at the front at street level.

Photo of Almshouse

Interview with Bill Curtis, a participant in the march, recorded in 1998 when he was aged 87.

The Bristol Radical History Event from 4th November 2006 – “The Revolt of the Unemployed”

The Evening Post report:

Grave riots broke out in the streets of Bristol yesterday afternoon and last night, when unemployed demonstrators came into violent conflict with the police. In Old Market Street yesterday afternoon, nearly 3,000 demonstrators, who intended to send a deputation into the City Council, were stopped by a double line of police when they attempted to march through the most congested part of the city.

Thick sticks and lengths of gas piping were used by the crowd as weapons against the baton attack of the police. Bricks, stones and coke were also hurled. Thirty of the unemployed were injured, and several police were struck by missiles.

The conflict occurred after the police had refused to allow the men to march up Castle Street. The whole crowd momentarily paused, and when one of the leaders pushed an inspector and raised a stick, the rest pressed forward and broke through the lines of police, who drew their batons and used them to repulse the attacking mob of shouting men.

Within the twinkling of an eye, almost, four or five of the crowd were lying, stunned and inert, in the road, while others fought hand-to-hand with members of the police, who, in some cases without helmets and bleeding from face wounds, fought fiercely until they finally repulsed the marchers and drove them up Old Market Street. There were no deaths, but some 20 men were treated for minor injuries.

We have been unable to find the Evening Post comments section that accompanied the above report.

Events to commemorate the 80th anniversary are being planned.


Filed under Events

2 Responses to Old Market Riot – 23rd February 1932

  1. mat

    Found the recording very interesting and very much chimed with recent events. Looking forward to the anniversary events!

  2. Pingback: Old Market March and Riot – 80th Anniversary | Hydra Books

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