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Woolton Police Officers Evicted From Their Home

August 1919 saw Liverpool in turmoil as mobs rampaged through the streets smashing shop windows in what can only be described as an orgy of rioting and looting.

The reason for this orgy of rioting and looting was because the government had introduced a new Police Act that banned trade unions, which meant that any form of strike action by a police officer was a disciplinary breach and a criminal offence.

Tricked by trade union propaganda and misleading press reports, 954 Liverpool police officers, which represented half of the force, went on strike on the 31st July as part of a national protest for improved pay and conditions. In less than 24 hours all but a small handful of the 954 had been sacked. During this 24 hour period over 700 strikers were out on the streets intimidating and assaulting those fellow officers who had refused to strike.

Within hours of the protest starting gangs commenced smashing shop windows and stripping the premises bare of everything they could carry either by hand, prams, carts or wheelbarrows - anarchy reigned for days as over 400 shops and buildings were looted and in some cases torched.

The government response was to dIspatch the battleship, HMS Valiant, as well as two destroyers, Venomous and Whitley. All three anchored off the Pier Head. Nearly 2,500 troops were drafted in with guns loaded and bayonets fixed. One looter was shot dead and a gang looting a bonded warehouse were shot at.

A notice to police officers to return to work was issued in all of the local newspapers, some being delivered personally to the officers homes. This resulted in 50 officers returning to work - the rest were sacked.

It was a needless strike for the police because the government had already promised to improve their pay and conditions following a strike by officers in London the previous year. Police officers who did not take part in the Strike were given a silver ring to place on their truncheon, inscribed: Liverpool City Police Riots, [recipients name] August 1919. Those police officers who went on strike were dismissed, refused reinstatement and also forfeited their pension rights.

Amongst those who were sacked were constable George Stuart, of 5 Berrington Avenue, off Cam Street, and ex-Sergeant William Brown whose house was adjoining Woolton Police Station, Quarry Street.

Constable George Stuart had taken up residence at 5 Berrington Avenue in 1916, renting the property for 7s 3d (approx. 36p) per week. He had applied to the Liverpool Watch Committee to guarantee the rent to the owners and reduce his liability to 2s (10p) per week, which was the customary amount paid by a constable. His application was granted and the Watch Committee became the tenant and the constable became the subtenant.

On the 3rd October both officers were summoned to attend before the Stipendiary Magistrate, Stuart Deacon, at Liverpool, to be evicted from their homes. The magistrate, having heard their plea, upheld the Watch Committee decision and ejection orders were granted against Stuart and Brown, the Magistrate remarking that: "… he was convinced that the premises were required by the Watch Committee for the occupation of a public servant, which made it somewhat different from a private landlord requiring the premises for a servant in private employment." He went on to say: "…there was not, and could not, be any punitive intention, or any suggestion of victimisation."

The final blow came when all arrears of pay, due to the 850 police officers who went on strike, was paid to them in the vestibule of the north entrance of St. George’s Hall… on Christmas Eve.

Ironically, one of the striking police officers who returned to work was PC Joseph Wright Teesdale Smith, who went on to become the Chief Constable of Liverpool in 1960!



 

 

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