Saturday, December 17, 2011

Occupy St Paul's Cathedral Circa 1887 - #OccupyLSX 2011

Occupation's and demonstrations in support of the unemployed have been waged on streets outside and even inside St Paul's Cathedral on numerous occasions.

In 1886 and 1887 the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) conducted a broad campaign of agitation among London's unemployed. The church parades were a form of this agitation, practised in early 1887. It was an attempt to address the unemployed from the pulpit. One parade, on 27 February 1887, took place in front of St Paul's Cathedral. During the sermon, parade participants proclaimed socialist slogans.

After the service the Social Democratic Federation held three meetings in the streets, the speakers including John Burns, George Bateman and Fielding.

Some refer to the events of 2th February 1887 as an "occupation" lead by John Burns later MP for Battersea (1892-1918)


Christian Socialism lecture by Rev Stuart Headlam in West Middlesex (probably Uxbridge)

"some years ago when the socialists marched in a body to St Paul's cathedral the old archdeacon of London was the preacher the men paraded the streets with banners and he stood on the steps of St Paul's and watched the procession arriving and was struck with the words on nearly all the banners being the sayings of Jesus Christ or his apostles and the chairman of the meeting (Rev Thomas Hancock) preached and published a sermon which he hoped all had read or would read, entitled "The banner of Christ in the hands of the Socialists" (published 1887) But the old Archdeacon told the congregation that we should never get rid altogether of poverty for Christ had said "the poor ye shall have with you" But Jesus did not say that, He simply said noting the persistence of poverty, "The poor, ye have with you" a very different thing to his saying "Ye shall always have them "

Christian Socialism lecture by Rev Stuart Headlam in West Middlesex (probably Uxbridge)

Buckinghamshire December 2nd 1890

The Banner of Christ in the Hands of the Socialists

from a sermon by Thomas Hancock

[The years 1886 and 1887 saw widespread unemployment and suffering among the working people of London, as well as in the North, and many of them adopted the tactic of marching into fashionable churches to dramatize their plight, armed with banners proclaiming appropriate Scriptural texts. Stewart Headlam responded to the predictable squeals of the pious by saying "It is no worse for a disinherited brother to come to church to 'show his rags' than for a middle class dame to attend for the purpose of displaying the sweetest new thing in Parisian bonnets; but where can the hungry worker make his mute appeal more appropriately than before the altar of Him who bade the hungry thousands sit down upon the green grass and made them eat until all were filled?" The following are excerpts from a sermon Thomas Hancock on the same subject. - - Ted M.]
* * * * * * *

The non-church-going masses have taken to churchgoing. We have seen what journalists of Mammon and Caste call an invasion of the 'Churches by poor Socialists.' We have seen nothing else like it in our generation. 'This is the Lord's doing; and it is marvelous in our eyes' . . .

If some old Athenian philosopher had risen from the dead . . . had come into the streets of London on Sunday and watched the great multitude surging into St. Paul's Cathedral, they would naturally have asked, 'whose disciples are all these men? What leader so they follow? From whom do they derive the axioms and rules which are moving them?'

Have you, my brethren, looked at the banners of this 'mob'? Have you observed 'whose image and superscription' they bear? It is not Caesar's, not Victoria's, not Gladstone's, not Schnadhorst's. not Hyndman's.

You see that they carry banners with mottoes upon them. Who is the author of these texts which express the social faith of this huge multitude? From what teachers have they borrowed the dogmas which they call upon all the city to read and to respect, and to obey? On whose authority are these innumerable crowds of the poor and rough doing this unwonted thing? They, or a great many of them, call themselves 'Socialists.' Let us read what is on their banners; let us discover who is the ultimate dogmatist of this multitudinous sect.

Christians, as you watch the mighty multitude pass by, you will soon be shaken out of your hasty a priori conjectures. Do you expect to read upon their banners wild words of their own invention? Do you expect extracts from Babeuf or from Proudhon, or even from Ferdinand Lasalle or Karl Marx? Are not the 'Socialists' their disciples? Ought not the mottoes by which they declare before the world their convictions, their demands, their faith, to be extracted from Das Capital or from the Arbeiterprogramm? Oh, come, all ye faithful! Look again and again at these inscriptions. Recognize, while you have time, what they are: see, clergy and laity, out of whose mouth the cries of the 'mob' have come. They are the words of your Master. They are the laws of the Eternal Father. They are the lessons which He taught us by His Son. They are the new commandments which you and I were pledged at our Baptism to keep. 'Feed My lambs!' 'My house is a house of prayer, but ye (capitalists and landlords) have made it a den of thieves!' 'I was an hungered and ye gave Me no meat; naked and ye clothed Me not." It is a small matter to what sect or party this great 'multitude' fancies it belongs, or by what denomination it pleases to call itself. You can see to whom they have felt obliged to go in order to find the fullest expression of their faith. 'In the name of our God,' said the crowds of the London poor, as well as the Hebrew psalmist, 'we will set up our banners.' We have not seen in our generation any other such warning, any other such an acknowledgment, that Jesus Christ the Crucified is He whom the Father has exalted to be the Head of Humanity, to lift up an ensign for the peoples, to be the one and only all-sufficient mediator, representative, spokesman, and avenger of 'all that are desolate and oppressed.'

- -quoted in Gilbert Clive Binyon, The Christian Socialist Movement in England, 1931


House of Commons Debate 28 February 1887 vol 311 c725
MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether the accounts of the proceedings in St. Paul's Cathedral yesterday have been brought under his notice; and, if so, whether he will give such orders to the police, as will, in future, prevent the recurrence of such disgraceful scenes?


I have seen the newspaper accounts of what took place in St. Paul's yesterday. Those accounts appear to me to be considerably exaggerated. From an interview I have had to-day with one of the officers of the City Police, who are not under my jurisdiction, I have no doubt that in future they will act vigorously in order to prevent any recurrence of the disturbance.