The Battle of Lewes Road Part 3
I was an eye-witness to the following which I actually saw on Tuesday May 11th outside the Corporation Tram Depot, Lewes Road at about 12.15 and afterwards. About 150 police constables were marched up to the depot and after a brief halt outside the main gate, they were evidently detailed their duties, some inside the depot, some on the north side, and some on the south side of the main gate of Depot. No arrest were made (and no reprisals on behalf of the strikers or other occurred) until the uniformed mounted police came up and were also halted outside the main gate. Chief Constable Griffin then gave orders to the police both mounted and foot to clear the road each side of the main gate, the mounted police then drew their batons and charged into the crowd, not studying woman, children or cripples (myself being limbless ex soldier with one leg) the police were striking out right and left, and in my opinion under that provocation alone caused the crowd to retaliate which was the direct cause of the arrest. No warning by the police was given to the assembled crowd to clear out. This happened just after the children had come out of school and for this reason only, was why so many children were present, the Lewes Road was open at this time to traffic, and pedestrians. People ran for their dear lives to get out of the mounted police’s way, children being lifted into the recreation ground and men, youths and boys scaling the fence for no other purpose than avoiding getting struck by the police.
Then came the stone throwing from the people in the recreation ground at the police. The Chief Constable then gave orders for the recreation ground to be cleared, and heedless of life or limb, nearly all mounted constables galloped away up Lewes Road into a panic, they entered the ground the south side of the Barracks by the married quarters after clearing the recreation ground the position was much quieter and the Chief Constable Griffin then came and warned the crowd (for the first time) to clear away as we were doing no good by waiting about. Very few special constables if any took part in clearing the road at the commencement of the trouble, but we actively on the seen afterwards.
“After the charge and arrests the volunteers tram workers were allowed to go through the gates. No trams were running that day. Police activity was not very notable throughout the remaining hours of that 11th day, in the vercinity of the Brighton Corporation Tram Depot.”
“You may use this letter for any purpose you wish, it is all god’s own truth. Wishing you ever success”
S. Staphnill, 41, Southall Avenue, Moulscombe
On Tuesday May 11th I was in Lewes Road opposite the big gates of the Tram Depot. I saw Mr. Marsh come out and he said “They are coming out here with mounted and foot police and determined to run the cars. I advise you to go home, keep the road clear.” The people moved off the road on to the pavement. He also said “I told the Council plainly, they run at their own risk I will not take the responsibility.” I sat upon the fence opposite the big gates when I saw the police coming. up came the police; I saw the chief of the police get out of his motor car, he looked around him, I did not hear him say a word and I was within 10 yards of him. He blew his whistle, the horses then began to push the people who were on the pavement, not in the road, back to the wall.
I saw the first man taken near the gates by 5 policemen. When he got to the gates 2 more came up, one hit him in the back of the neck the other jobbed him in the back with his knee. I was on the fence and a policeman came up to me “Get out of this or you will have this on your nut”. I got off and went into the children’s playground, above the pond. Then a policeman came up to me on horse with his truncheon raised and said ” Get out of this.” I am old enough to be your Grandfather. He backed his horse on to me and I fell back, he then hit me with truncheon as I lay flat on the grass, but missed me as he could not get down low enough from his horse.
I am 77 years of age and live in my present house for 50 years.
H. Hickmore, 41 St. Martin’s Place
Gustave de Lacy
On Tuesday May 11th at about 11 a.m. a large procession of strikers (Tramwaymen, Busmen, Railwaymen etc.) marched along Lewes Road towards the Tramway Depot, headed by a band. This sight was not unusual, there having been processions of a like character at various intervals throughout the strike. Ten minutes later, several hundred police and special constables followed in the same direction. There were on foot or speeding along in private cars and charabancs, a noticeable feature being a posse of about 36 mounted specials in semi military uniform who were each armed with long batons and were carrying them in a very prominent position. This sight was very unusual and was provocative in the very first instant. The spectacle had attracted large crowd who followed behind the police and I, being keenley interested, joined with the crowd and was fortunate in getting a view from a cart standing about 100 yards from the Depot. A scuffle occurred outside the Depot as soon as the police arrived. This was quelled and good order reigned for a few minutes.
Suddenly the mounted specials, who were lined up facing south, wheeled round and made for the north entrance of the recreation ground. This ground was covered with people, quite a good sprinkling of women and children being evidence. The charge of these horsemen, brandishing their batons, was not to be withstood and something like panic pervailed, the crowd scattering like rabbits for shelter. not content with this, the horsemen made an organised drive down the main road, going quite a distance up the side turnings, riding indiscriminately on the pavements and threatening, and in many cases striking, those who could not evade them quickly enough. I myself, with members of the family, standing well back on our forecourt, were threatened by mounted hooligans who rode on the pavement. a sergeant on foot was injudicious enough to say that he would go” through blood and fire” to get at me and would “bash me to pieces” if I dared to come outside. I was then inside the shop. This statement I will swear on and will say that there was not the slightest excuse for the whole affair, which was a deliberate piece of organised tyranny on the part of the local authorities
Gustave de Lacy, 136 Lewes Road Brighton
Many thanks to Paul Edwards
“The Brighton Motive Power Depots” website
Over many years much has been written about the various forms of traction that operated in and around the Brighton area.
But very little has been documented about the footplate-men who actually worked on them.
This web site tries to remedy this as it seeks to explain the history of
Brighton’s Motive Power depots and the creation of the Brighton branch of the train driver’s union,
ASLEF – the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers & Firemen.