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The Notting Hill riots of 1958

The Notting Hill riots took place in late August and early September 1958, and coincided with similar unrest in Nottingham. In the late 1950s, North Kensington (including Notting Hill) was an impoverished area of London, with high crime rates and a shortage of housing. Tensions between members of the white working class and the new Afro-Caribbean residents broke into open violence in 1958 and 1959 with attacks by white youths ('Teddy Boys') on Caribbean people and properties, followed by counter-attacks by members of the Caribbean population. Some contemporary responses to the violence can be seen in these primary sources.

Click on the images to read the documents in full.

Memorandum of interview with residents of Notting HillMemorandum of interview with residents of Notting Hill, 5 September 1958

This is a report of a meeting between a representative of the Trades Union Congress and six Jamaican residents of Notting Hill. It includes comments on the increase in violent attacks and fascist involvement in the area, and the behaviour of the police, together with an outline of the trade union official's view of the situation.

[Included in a file on 'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960', from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]

Statement on racial violenceStatement on racial violence, September 1958

This statement was released by the London-based Afro-West Indian Union, in response to the "racial assaults in Nottingham and London". It blames the British government for creating the conditions which led to the attacks and calls for co-operation from the British labour movement. The leaflet also includes a list of the aims and objects of the AWIU.

[Included in a file on '"Colonial work": circulars, correspondence, etc.', from the archives of the Socialist Party; document reference: 601/B/3/2/1]

Minutes of emergency meetingMinutes of emergency meeting, 18 September 1958

The emergency meeting of the Paddington Overseas Students and Workers Committee, part of the Paddington Council of Social Service, was called to discuss the causes of the local riots and lines of possible action. The actions of "irresponsible young hooligans" and the "teenage problem of hooliganism" were blamed by several committee members.

[Included in a file on 'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960', from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]

Anonymous letter in support of the riotersAnonymous letter in support of the rioters, 4 September 1958

The author of this letter uses racially offensive language to attack recent West Indian migrants, and argues that there are no "hooligans", just members of the white working class with "injustices bottled up and it has got to come out in some way". It was written in response to a Trades Union Congress statement which had condemned the riots and called for tolerance and understanding.

[Included in a file on 'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960', from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]

Another, similar example of the correspondence received by the TUC is also available online.

Coloured people in Great Britain: Summary of press news and comment'Coloured people in Great Britain: Summary of press news and comment', September 1958

This summary of press coverage on "coloured people in Great Britain" was part of a regular series compiled by the Institute of Race Relations. The September 1958 issue includes an outline of media coverage of the Notting Hill riots, together with summaries of reports on immigration, employment, housing and "mixed marriages".

[Included in a file on 'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960', from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]

Race Relations in Britain'Race Relations in Britain', November 1958

This circular or press release was issued by the Central Office of Information (a government department), and summarises the booklet 'Colour in Britain' written by James Wickenden and published by the Institute of Race Relations. It includes statistical data relating to West Indian migration and comments on issues relating to employment, housing, social integration and racial intolerance.

[Included in a file on 'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960', from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/805.7/3]

To the coloured citizens of West London'To the coloured citizens of West London', 1959

This leaflet was issued by the Afro-Asian West Indian Union following the murder of Kelso Cochrane, an Antiguan carpenter, in Notting Hill. It includes comments on the murder and racially motivated attacks on "shops and cafes owned by coloured persons", together with five points of action, as "Evil has to be fought, but it must be fought in an organised way". A companion leaflet addressed to 'To the citizens of West London' has also been digitised.

[From the archive of Jimmy Deane; document references: MSS.325/44/NMisc(10-11)]