POWER OF CARING
AND NELLIE CRESSALL - THE POPLAR RATES REVOLT
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.
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.
Little of the History - The Poplar Rates Revolt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
six weeks or imprisionment the High Court responded to public
opinion and released the councillors.
mural depicting the rebellion can be found in Hale Street, E14.
This was painted in 1990 by local resident Mark Francis.
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.
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.
artwork attributed to Mark Francis, restored in 2007 by David
Bratby and Maureen Delenian with help from local children. See
London Mural Preservation society - http://londonmuralpreservationsociety.com/murals/poplar-rates-rebellion-mural/
Branson, "Poplarism, 19191925: George Lansbury and
the councillors' revolt", Lawrence and Wishart, 1979.
Janine Booth, "Guilty and Proud of it Poplar's Rebel
Councillors and Guardians 19191925", Merlin Press,