Fringe Box



Bonfire Sculpture – Gavin Morgan Is Wrong

Published on: 9 Mar, 2012
Updated on: 9 Mar, 2012

from Bernard Parke

Hon Alderman

I say again, there is nothing romantic about riots in any age, especially in Guildford during the nineteenth century and I disagree with Gavin Morgan that they should be commemorated with the proposed statue.

It is true there was extreme hardship at the time but there was also a great problem with alcohol: the only opium of the people at that time.

The Victorian school master John Gardiner (committed lay preacher and teetotaller) counted as many in as 97 pubs and drinking establishments in the town, which practically consisted of only two streets at that time. Is it not surprising that there was so much unrest not only here but also throughout Europe at that time. But the riots did not simply end with a flash of cutlasses.

Police truncheons (the larger one said to be for riot control) and hand cuffs of the period

The newly formed Salvation Army’s main enemy was the demon drink, and so their ‘soldiers’ were often the target of these riots and many Salvationists were badly injured. Publicans reacted to their challenge by forming a rabble who called themselves ‘The Skeleton Army’ who attacked the Salvationists relentlessly, indeed a wife of the local Salvation Army Captain was knocked unconscious outside of the very police station itself.

As in the case of the Guy Fawkes Riots, central government help was forthcoming mainly through the efforts of the founder of the old Gammon’s department store which stood in North Street until the 1970’s.

No doubt, accusations of ‘police brutality’ were made then too when peace was restored, as they are now. Few ever praise the police and their efforts to maintain sanity. No! The best that they can hope for is “No Comment”. How long before someone suggests a monument to the “Skeleton Army”?

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