Home About Us Blog

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

Click here for more information.

Our bloggers

Courses's avatar.
Courses Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information on our courses
avatar
Events Featuring content from speakers our blogs give added insight into our events
Library 's avatar.
Library A new way to engage with the library collections and services.
Schools and Community 's avatar.
Schools and Community First hand accounts of our archive learning workshops

Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.

Events

Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.

Library

Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.

Courses

Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

Archivist Nicky Hilton writes about our Alternatives to Religion project in the recent issue of ARC, the monthly magazine for members of the Archives and Records Association.


Bishopsgate Library collections cover a variety of subject areas which explore radical, social, labour, feminist and gay history in London.

Stay up to date with all our events and activities. Sign up to our newsletter.

Our Everyday Muslim Project has also been featured in ARC magazine.

Library and Archives Assistant Emmy Tither has written about our Everyday Muslim project for the recent issue of ARC, the monthly magazine for members of the Archives and Records Association.


Bishopsgate Library collections cover a variety of subject areas which explore radical, social, labour, feminist and gay history in London.

Stay up to date with all our events and activities. Sign up to our newsletter.

Our Alternatives to Religion Project is also featured in ARC magazine.

A typically untypical day in the life of an Archivist

As part of #exploreyourarchives we asked one of our library archivists Nicola Hilton to describe a typical day in the archives:

Half way through my Masters course in Archives and Records Management, we had a curious seminar. The whole purpose of the lesson was to discuss how we would describe the job of an archivist to a stranger at a party. We all laughed at stories of people mishearing ‘archivist’ as ‘alchemist’ (it’s happened to me several times since!) but quickly discovered that describing a typical archivist’s job wasn’t as easy as it first seemed.
Nicola Hilton, archivist in Bishopsgate Library
One of the first things you learn when starting out in this career is that there is no typical day. The job can be incredibly varied and the tasks are heavily dependant on where you work. In the morning you might be travelling through Elizabethan London, decoding a deed for an amateur historian and fishing out early maps. But by midday you’ll have jumped right into the 21st century, advising depositors on state-of-the-art preservation for their digital photographs or generating metadata to support long-term access to digital files.

However, despite the day-to-day variation in the job, there are some myths about archivists and archives which prove hard to dispel. One of the most enduring misconceptions is that archivists are experts in local history. It certainly helps to know your local area and to also have a general overview of British and world history. But it’s much more important for an archivist to know their records. We’re here to be a helpful guide for others - historians, artists, community groups, who wish to explore the past. This includes turning vague statements like “I’m interested in Spitalfields market” into real pieces of history laid out on the study room table.

In fact a significant part of my time is taken up being a guide to others whilst they discover treasures in the archives. Running workshops about ethics for young adults, guiding artists who are using the archive to inspire new work, and taking local students on a tour of the collection are all in a weeks work. As you can see, it’s really important that archivists like talking to people! Gone are the days of the semi-academic sitting in their office. Today’s archivists have to be ready to give talks, write funding bids and give presentations on any aspect of their collection.

As an archivist, you also regularly come across a general misunderstanding about what makes an ‘archive’.  The image of a room full of dusty archaic papers, hidden from public view in a badly lit basement is the one favoured by TV producers, novelists and film makers. Although archives are often located in basements, archivists don’t wait for something to become ‘old’ before it’s worthy of inclusion in the archive. For an archivist, the past is as recent as yesterday. Archives can comfortably include the earliest written records of an ancient civilisation, as well as an email (in digital form) created by Bob in marketing last week.

In fact, one of the really exciting things about working at Bishopsgate is that we are receiving new collections all the time (it’s often a race to keep up!). A large part of my job is preparing this material for access by our researchers. Perhaps surprisingly this will usually include disposing of a good amount of material. Disposal of duplicate copies, scrap paper, and material of little value will make the archive easier for researchers to use and ensures we can provide high level care for the remaining documents and e-documents. For example, receipts for paperclips purchased in 1980 are on their way out. Planning documents for a protest in Hyde Park are here to stay. And when archivists say ‘here to stay’, we really do mean forever. Once something is selected to form part of the archives it will be kept in perpetuity. 

It’s a privilege to be responsible for a unique part of London and world history at Bishopsgate Institute. Although I’m still not sure I could concisely describe my job to a stranger at a party, I know I am extremely privilege to play a small but essential part in the making and re-making of social history. 

Bishopsgate Library's collections cover a variety of subject areas which explore radical, social, labour, feminist and gay history in London.

Stay up to date with all our events and activities. Sign up to our newsletter.

Clays Lane Live Archive

by Library on 03 / 07 / 2013

Bishopsgate Library is delighted to have recently accepted the Clays Lane Live Archive. Clays Lane Housing Co-operative was the second largest purpose-built, fully mutual, singles co-op in Europe and the largest in the UK. It was an experiment in building close-knit communities as a way of helping vulnerable single people in East London.  Initiated by the Borough of Newham, the Housing Corporation and the then North East London Polytechnic (now University of East London) in 1977, the co-op provided its members with low-rent housing and the possibility of self governance otherwise denied in conventional social housing through meetings and committees.

The co-op was a home for up to 500 contracted tenants spread across 2, 4 and 6 bedroom units with communal kitchens and bathrooms, and it housed a café and a community centre on its grounds. In 2006 the co-op received a compulsory purchase order from the London Development Agency. In 2005 the co-op lost its fully mutual status as a result of a Housing Corporation enquiry which transferred its assets to Peabody Trust. This effectively made protecting the co-op (by this time the Clays Lane estate) against the Olympics even harder. At the time of eviction 430 people inhabited the Lane.

The Clays Lane Live Archive was born out of long-lasting and more fleeting relationships between artist Adelita Husni-Bey and a number of ex-Clays Lane co-op members after the demolition of their homes. Each participating ex-member formalized a project according to aptitude and interest, thinking about what was to be ‘retained’ of this space and their particular experience of Clays Lane, swept away to accommodate the 2012 Olympic Games in 2007. Each individual project occupies one or more boxes, and the relative taxonomy developed with each resident is exposed within the catalogue for the collection in the form of a text and a description of contents. Questioning the authoritative practice behind archive-making through participatory projects this collection is ‘live’, and will be able to accommodate new ex-member interactions in the future.

Artist Adelita Husni-Bey explains the origins and aims of the project below.

Archives fascinate me in a very particular way. When I delve into boxes of documents, pages transcribed by hand and bodies I do not recognize in spaces which have changed dramatically over time, I am always struck by how those facets of the past speak to our present collectivity. Salvaged morsels of landscapes and micro-narratives, which do not only represent ‘their’ time but more importantly reflect ‘ours’. It’s at that junction, that break between what is perceived as the political, cultural and economic past and what is perceived as the political, cultural and economic present that the most interesting notions about archives operate. It’s in realizing how ‘progress’ is a very tormented line, far from being straight or forward pointing.

When I came across Clays Lane in 2009 the co-op had long been demolished. Throughout the first 5 years that allowed for this initial collection to be established I met Julian Cheyne, John Sole, Dexter Hoonamansingh and other incredibly generous and committed participants weekly, sometimes monthly and sometimes more sporadically. With their help I began to understand the extremely complex task I had set up for myself: how to represent a space that had now gone, collectively?

No place is ever ‘idyllic’ and Clays Lane certainly was not to be represented as such. It was incredible mix of classes, provenances, genders and age groups which appeared to me unlike any other space I had ever come across. It was both a site for mutual aid and self-governance as well as a site of conflict and transition. When it became clear that the co-op was no longer going to exist many quickly accepted the offer to move on, but others, who had spent 15, 20 and 30 years of their life there, would steadfastly refuse.

While conducting the initial research phases I ran across the only representation the London Development Agency was willing to grant Clays Lane. The image was a carefully constructed photograph, taken after the evictions had occurred and prior to demolition. Litter and an empty shopping trolley conveniently placed in the foreground, the caption below the photograph reads: "A deserted Clays Lane Estate, adjacent to the site of the Olympic Village". There is no mention of the co-op or it’s radical history. No mention of the court-battle. No mention of the Compulsory Purchase Order, the evictions, the delayed (and at times denied) compensation payments or the broken promises and half-truths which drove the ex co-op members out of their homes.

I began to think about collective memory and the type of surgical erasure that mega-projects can generate, a quick and minutely-prepared disappearance from our urban register. An erasure without mourning or acknowledgement, whilst the megaproject advances in its constant ‘urbanalisation’ of the spaces it colonizes. Frequently referred to as ‘waste’ or ‘wasteland’, the inhabitants of Clays Lane were a dent on the pristine surface of new pre-Olympic London. It was clear to me then that producing the archive was going to be more than just ‘the production of an archive’ but it was going to be a political act, aimed at re-establishing a memory purposefully consigned to amnesia.

All of the archival collections at Bishopsgate Institute possess this quality. Allowing the public to perceive social struggle, alternative lifestyles and forms of organization in detail, in their material character. Each collection becomes a testimony to the actual possibility of struggle; for identities, for housing and for work, which is a very powerful tool in understanding how struggle may be articulated in the present. This function and the institute’s focus on radical East London histories immediately appeared to be an ideal home for the Clays Lane Live Archive, making it’s final scope and it’s public availability, a reality.

If you have been a member of the Clays Lane Housing Co-op and would like to contribute to the project please get in touch with Adelita at adelitahusnibey@gmail.com

Jean Sargeant Archive at Bishopsgate Library

by Library on 11 / 04 / 2013

Bishopsgate Library has recently accepted the archive of writer and political activist Jean Sargeant (1933-2011). Long-term friend and depositor of the collection, Lynda Finn, recalls Jean’s life and work:

Jean Sargeant arrived in London from Antigua in 1950, at the age of 17, never to return. While taking a secretarial course, and living with her aunt, she began to explore London. Within a year she had met and married her husband and, for a few years, lived in Newcastle upon Tyne and Inverness.

By the early 1960s Jean was back in London and, although the marriage was over, she remained good friends with her ex-husband for the rest of her life.  She began work as a secretary at The Sunday Times and rose to become an editorial researcher in the travel section where she wrote many articles. She stayed at the Sunday Times until 1986 when she lost her job in the Wapping dispute.

Despite a colonial upbringing which might have led her to different politics, Jean joined the Labour Party and actively campaigned in the 1964 general election and all subsequent elections, general and local, until the last few months of her life. She was a committed Anglican, a Christian Socialist and an active member of the Jubilee Group. Her booklet describing her experience of the Wapping conflict, Liberation Christianity on the Wapping Picket Line, is dedicated to “the printworkers and journalists who were dismissed for defending union rights at Wapping, to everyone who supported our struggle and to the memory of those who died”.

It is not surprising that a girl who grew up in Antigua and was educated in both Antigua and Barbados should love cricket. A regular visitor to Lords, especially when the West Indies were playing, she was enormously proud that her grandfather, Percy Goodman, was a member of the first West Indies cricket team to tour Britain in 1900 and again in 1906 – a multi-racial team, she was pleased to point out. When the anti-apartheid Stop the Seventy Tour campaign sought to disrupt tours by the all-white South African cricket team in the late 1960s, Jean became actively involved. The campaign succeeded in stopping the 1970 South African cricket tour of Britain. Peter Hain MP, former chair of the campaign, remembered Jean as: “a lovely, warm and committed activist, who energetically helped in the ultimately successful struggle to defeat apartheid.”

She was enormously well-read, articulate and wise – she loved modern fiction, art, poetry and crime novels but had a special love for Shakespeare and Dickens.  After Jean lost her job in Wapping, she joined the Guardian as a secretary where she worked until her retirement.

The archive was catalogued by Bishopsgate Library volunteer, Dawn Harman, who describes the experience of working with the collection:

Cataloguing the Jean Sargeant collection has been fascinating; I am glad to have helped to make these papers available for research. The collection gives a great insight into her background, political and religious beliefs and how these influenced her activism. I have found the records relating to her work as a campaigner to be particularly interesting. Sargeant kept scrapbooks containing records of all of her campaigning activities and newspaper cuttings to show how her efforts were received by the media. The range of different campaigns she was involved in is demonstrated, as is her pride when she had been able to make a difference. It has been a pleasure to catalogue the papers of such an inspiring woman!

The catalogue of the collection can now be viewed on the Library’s online catalogue.

Paul Hallam Archive at Bishopsgate Library

by Library on 22 / 02 / 2013

Bishopsgate Library is delighted to have accepted the archive of award-winning screenwriter and author Paul Hallam. Paul has written or co-written numerous screenplays including A Kind of English (directed by Ruhul Amin, the first Bangladeshi feature film to be made in Britain), the feature films Nighthawks (Britain’s first gay feature film) and Strip Jack Naked (both directed by Ron Peck) and Cannes Critics' Prize winner Young Soul Rebels (directed by Isaac Julien). His play, The Dish, performed in London, New York and Toronto and BBC Radio 4 adaptation was broadcast in August 1998. Paul was also involved in the foundation of film and photography centre Four Corners in Bethnal Green in the early 1970s.

Here, Paul talks about his archive and its transfer to Bishopsgate.

Free from self-storage at last, such a strange idea, a locked and stored away self. I look with some horror at the metal cage in the bleak beauty of a Purfleet industrial estate. Nothing was well packed in my hasty departure from London for Istanbul where I now live. There is a mountain of books and papers, my own and those collected from other people after their deaths, their houses cleared by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Dealers swooped on the furniture, I grasped anything on paper. Stefan Dickers, the Bishopsgate librarian and archivist, will have quite a task sorting my papers from those of strangers. He seems more than up for and to the task. 

The first half of the collection reached Bishopsgate. I felt an immense release and relief. The weight of it, the expense of moving it from place to place, has been on my shoulders, and the shoulders of friends for years now. It has cost me more than one friendship in the past. Some of it will be in Istanbul with me soon for an arts project with the Istanbul artist, Mustafa Pancar. The arts organisation, Openvizor, is collaborating on the work in that city, as well as here on the archive in London.

I used to fantasise about a Montaigne tower for my books and papers; a tower to retire to. How much better for the tower to be open to all, and for new work to emerge from it. Already there are films being made of the opening and transporting of the boxes. It was then that I looked on the many rejected projects. Somehow the notes and drafts have become works in themselves. Nothing feels unfinished. The projects are what they are, or will change into. I would like to think that any visitor could find something there for their own use and purposes.

I have an archive and I am still alive! I think I am still in shock. So many people have helped make this move possible. As a teenager I loved the redbrick working men’s institutes, so many of them in the North, with their solid purpose of “improvement”. Such beautiful buildings, an immense dignity to them. I can’t think of a finer place than the Bishopsgate Institute for the archive to find its home.


A sense of the collection can be found in the film The Last Biscuit by Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Paul Hallam: http://vimeo.com/user2879340/videos

Openvizor can be found at:  www.openvizor.com

Trenton Oldfield, friend of Bishopsgate Library and joint co-ordinator of the forthcoming This Is Not A Gateway Festival at Bishopsgate Institute, discusses his protest action at the Oxbridge Boat Race in 2012, his views on the Institute and a recent deposit with the archives.

There are many fascinating aspects to the Bishopsgate Institute including how public pressure on the churches and businesses in the Corporation of London forced its creation, how the architecture was just ahead of its time and how the library and archives have remained the pumping heart of its operations. It is also fascinating that the building itself transgresses through and across the borders of the City of London and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The City of London is increasingly and profoundly wealthy, while one in two children in Tower Hamlets wakes up each day in poverty.

London today is the most unequal city in the so called ‘west’. The gap between rich and poor has accelerated dramatically since the early 1990's. Inequalities are quickly increasing with the politically motivated dismembering of the social contract or as it’s more commonly known, 'the welfare state'. It is reported the gap between London’s rich and poor is a gap of around 236 times. This entirely unnecessary poverty and the ideas that encourage it to occur, is what pushed me from the riverbank into the river on 07 April 2012.

The Oxbridge rowing race came at the end of a horrific week for people living in Britain – the bill to give the NHS over to corporate interests was given royal assent, the coalition introduced the Communication and Data bill to allow snooping on all personal electronic communication and the minister for the Olympics said people should report on neighbours they suspected might protest at the forthcoming Summer games. This was on top of some of the most violent attacks on social welfare in the last 30 years. There was no choice but to register the indignation felt by myself and countless others. The Oxbridge rowing race was both on the agenda that weekend and symbolic – an astonishing 70% of the cabinet in the current government are Oxford or Cambridge graduates. I bought the wetsuit under the Hungerford Bridge, Embankment on the Thursday afternoon. I was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for this act of public protest.

As a researcher archives are central to my daily work – it’s always best to go to the source wherever and whenever possible. I have always been attracted to and impressed by the Bishopsgate Institute’s library and archives. Its focus on social and political histories is seductive now and important for the future. The archiving of material culture is as much a battle as any other aspect of politics. Depositing the wetsuit here feels like the right thing to do. Having it in a box, underground, will also reduce the likelihood of my doing the same thing at a forthcoming race!

The forthcoming This Is Not A Gateway Festival, which I coordinate with Deepa Naik, will take place within the handsome rooms of the Bishopsgate Institute on 26 and 27 January. For more information, please visit: www.thisisnotagateway.net

Making the most of your special collections: Historic Libraries Forum annual conference, Bishopsgate Institute, 20 November 2012

By Ed

Bishopsgate Institute was proud to host the Historic Libraries Forum’s annual conference in November, which was dedicated to the theme of “Making the most of your special collections”. In times like these, in addition to their traditional tasks every library needs to raise its profile, boost its marketability, and maximise the impact that collections and services have on audiences old and new. Clearly, this is well-understood by librarians across the country, as indicated by the fact that this conference sold out well in advance.

Attendees arrived eager to hear about new ways and means of getting their libraries and collections under the public eye. Most of the presentations at the event centred on one of three topics: curating public exhibitions based on your collections; using social media to promote your library; and marketing and managing your library and building as a venue for filming (for documentaries, drama, and the big screen). Speakers generally focussed on the benefits of these activities for generating income, raising the profile of your special collections, and making the most of your holdings and professional expertise to build new audiences and new links with communities: burning issues for all libraries, not least historic libraries, all of which are increasingly expected to “do more with less”.

Highlights for me included Alison Cullingford’s talk about how she uses blogs and Twitter to promote Bradford University Special Collections; Alison provided important perspective and emphasised how social media provide a public arena where it is easier for small institutions to “punch above their weight”. In reference to work on a bigger stage, Harvey Edgington from the National Trust gave an entertaining talk about filming. In contrast to the National Trust, few heritage organizations are well-placed to act as venues for big-budget movies such as Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), but there are a number of potential benefits to being featured in a production, big or small, that may make the inevitable challenges and frustrations worth facing.

The speakers were all very good, and others hailed from institutions including the British Library, Cambridge University, King’s College London, and Lambeth Palace. While most were understandably drawn from large organizations, conference attendees seemed to come from a wide variety of institutions, including a large proportion from small or independent libraries and archives like our own. During the breaks, it was great to meet old and new friends in the profession, and to discuss ways of meeting the challenges and opportunities of the current period.

I found the talks to be very stimulating and finished the day with a number of new ideas. I was excited by the discussion about a potential future event on promoting and preserving digital collections; this is an area we are working on at Bishopsgate. On a personal note, I was also very pleased with the reaction of people to Bishopsgate as the conference venue: visitors appreciated our building and library for their visual appeal and distinctiveness, and we were also complimented on our efficiency as a venue hire service.

The Historic Libraries Forum is committed to promoting and protecting historic libraries and collections, and also serves as a forum for people working with these collections to share information and ideas. For more information about the Historic Libraries Forum, visit www.historiclibrariesforum.org.uk.

Bishopsgate Library holds substantial collections of digital material, which have mostly accrued through an ongoing project to digitise parts of the library’s archival collections, and through deposits of digital records from organisations such as the British Humanist Association and History Workshop.

We are delighted to have been awarded funding from SPRUCE and JISC for a new project which will enable the library to take the first steps towards preserving these collections.

Building on work carried out at the SPRUCE Mashup event held in London in September, the project has three objectives: firstly, to complete a comprehensive audit of the library’s digital collections; secondly, to compile a digital preservation business case; and thirdly, to produce and disseminate a short handbook documenting the project for the benefit of other digital preservation practitioners.

SPRUCE is a JISC-funded project which provides support for digital preservation activities through community engagement, both online and at a series of events around the UK.

For examples of some of the digital collections held by Bishopsgate Library, see our archives online pages.

Document of the Month

by Library on 16 / 10 / 2012

George Howell and the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform

Library and Archives Assistant, Natalie Whistance has selected two of her favourite documents from the Library and Archives Collections.

The Bishopsgate Institute Library and Archives holds a vast collection of material relating to the history of the labour movement and the struggles of various political and social gDemonstration in Hyde Park flyer roups.

The two images seen here come from one of our core labour history collections, that of politician and trade unionist George Howell (1833-1910). Amongst his other roles Howell was secretary to the Reform League which was a body established in 1865 to campaign for working class political reform. 

I was drawn to these records because they represent so much of what our archive and library holdings are about; showing the power that both individuals and groups of ordinary people have to change the world they live in for the better. 

reform demonstration in Hyde Park on 21st July 1884

There were three acts for large scale parliamentary reform passed during the nineteenth century. 

Briefly, the first, often called the Great Reform Act, was passed in 1832 and saw changes to the electoral system of England and Wales and extended the vote to the middle classes. However, there were many who did not believe that this reform went far enough. 

It was a subject that engendered much public feeling and there were many individuals and groups, primarily the Chartists in the late 1830s and 1840s who pushed for further reform. 

In 1866 William Gladstone, the Liberal Prime Minister, introduced a Reform Bill to extend the vote but this was unsuccessful.  Public disappointment at the failure of the bill to go through parliament resulted in several mass meetings and demonstrations organised by the Reform League; some of these demonstrations turned violent and there were several riots.  

This popular protest preceded the 1867 Reform Act, which for the first time enfranchised some (although not all) of the urban male working class. Working class males in rural areas were still not able to vote in parliamentary election and during the 1880s reform was once again being discussed.  Although the Reform League was dissolved in 1869 George Howell continued to play a part in agitating for parliamentary reform.  As secretary of the Reform Demonstration Committee in 1884 he helped to organise a reform demonstration in Hyde Park on 21st July 1884.

The flyer shown above is a handbill advertising the demonstration in 1884 and shows the various divisions of the planned procession, including the farriers’ society, agricultural labourers, miners and political and working men’s clubs (Howell Ephemera/42/5).

Thousands of people took part in the demonstration and we are lucky enough to have a collection of photographs from the day showing the sheer size and scale of the procession (Howell Collection/14/3). 

The second image shows some of the many banners that were carried by the various divisions.  The one in the foreground says ‘Kent and Sussex.  Will the Lords Defy the Labourers?’.  Each division on the day was accompanied by a brass band and you can just see one of these in front of this banner trying to make their way through the crowd.

Parliament did subsequently extend the franchise with the 1884 Reform Act. This meant that the counties now shared the same franchise rights as the boroughs and around six million voters were added to the total number eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.

The 1832, 1867 and 1884 reform acts provided hard won rights for working people. But even by 1884 around 40% of adult males, and of course all adult women, were still denied the vote in parliamentary elections. The records shown here are a testament to the workers who interested themselves in politics and demanded the right to have their voices heard.

Workers continue to demand to have their voices heard and as part of our Back to the 80's series we will look at the changing climate of industrial relations in Britain in our event Right to Strike?