Close-up detail
Close-up detail






As I write nearing the end of August 2014 and the 100 year celebration of the suffragette movement which featured my Great Aunt and Uncle Nellie and George Cressall I have also decided to write about their involvement in The Poplar Rates Revlot in 1921.

As I carried out my research I was stunned by the facts that unfolded. After speaking at the East London Suffragette Festival held earlier in the month on the 9th August my mind has expanded. My childhood recollections of the stories told to me about my great aunt and uncle by Georges sisters took on unprecedented proportions. I never realised how famous they both were in their own right.

A Little of the History - The Poplar Rates Revolt.

The Poplar Rates Revlot or Rebellion as it has been termed was a protest regarding housing tax that took place in 1921 and was led by Labour MP George Lansbury. He had been Mayor in 1920 and was supported by members of the Poplar Council including my Great Aunt and Uncle.

The protest went against both the government of the time as well as the courts of the land and, of course, the Labour Party leadership. Poplar was one of the poorest areas of London and the government offered no direct support and based on the fact that local taxation at the time was assessed on rents Poplar was set a much higher rate in comparision with wealthier boroughs. So, in 1921, faced with such a large increase in rates which few people in the borough could afford to pay Poplar Councillors elected not to pass on such increases resulting in The London County Council taking them to the High Court.

The councillors response was to organise a procession of over 2,000 supporters from Bow. The result. Thiry councillors, including six women, one of whom was my great aunt Nellie Cressall, who was six months pregnant at the time, were sent to prison for not taxing the borough residents. The men, including my great uncle George, were sent to Brixton prison and the women to Holloway prison. The women councillors were taken by cab to Brixton prison where council meetings were held.

Within a short period of time the revolt received much public support. Momentum gathered when George Lansbury addressed the crowds outside the prison through prison bars. Soon neighbouring councils threatened to take similar action with trade unions passing resolutions to collect funds for the support of the imprisioned councillors families.

The term 'Poplarism' soon emerged as a powerful political term to be associated with large-scale municipal relief for the poor and needy and also with locall defiance of central government.

After six weeks or imprisionment the High Court responded to public opinion and released the councillors.

A mural depicting the rebellion can be found in Hale Street, E14. This was painted in 1990 by local resident Mark Francis.

However before I finish this article I want to talk about Minnie Lansbury. She was the wife of George Lansbury's son, Edgar in 1914. Minnie became a teacher and joined the East London Suffragettes in 1915. In 1921 she was one of the six women including my great Auntie Nellie on Poplar Council who, with their male colleagues including my Great Uncle George, were went to prison.

On release from prison she soon developed pneumonia and a few weeks later died at the age of 32. She was a great friend of my great auntie Rosie who I spent my childhood and early adult life with when she lived in Clapham and she told me about Minnie. They were both about the same age and spent much time together.


Original artwork attributed to Mark Francis, restored in 2007 by David Bratby and Maureen Delenian with help from local children. See London Mural Preservation society -

Noreen Branson, "Poplarism, 1919–1925: George Lansbury and the councillors' revolt", Lawrence and Wishart, 1979.
Janine Booth, "Guilty and Proud of it – Poplar's Rebel Councillors and Guardians 1919–1925", Merlin Press, 2009 (







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