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The 1958 riots

Newspaper articles

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 African 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.

Catalogue = This symbol after a link means that it links to catalogue descriptions of the documents (including the reference numbers which will help you to order up the original documents at the MRC).

Digitised = This symbol after a link means that it links to digitised copies of the documents.


Overview:

Responses to the riots are included in several collections at the Modern Records Centre, and include documents from the trade union movement (particularly the Trades Union Congress), Members of Parliament and government departments, community groups and individual members of the public.

Selected sources:

'Commonwealth Workers in Britain, 1956-1960' Catalogue

Trades Union Congress file which contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, press cuttings, leaflets, circulars and other documents from a variety of organisations and individuals. The file includes:

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

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.

Trades Union Congress statement issued in response to the riots, 4 September 1958 Digitised

The statement condemned the riots and called for tolerance and understanding.

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

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 the Trades Union Congress statement of the same date. Another, similar example of the correspondence received by the TUC is also available online.

Minutes of emergency meeting, 18 September 1958 Digitised

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.

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

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".

'Race Relations in Britain', November 1958 Digitised

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

Statement on racial violence, September 1958 Digitised

Statement released by the London-based Afro-West Indian Union, in response to the "racial assaults in Nottingham and London".

'The habit of violence', Autumn 1958 Catalogue

This edition of the journal Universities & Left Review includes short extracts from essays written by secondary school girls in West London re the Notting Hill riots and their opposition to immigration.

Coventry: immigration, 1958-1975 Catalogue

File from the archives of the Coventry Member of Parliament Maurice Edelman. It includes correspondence and newspaper cuttings following the 1958 riots.

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

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.

Afro-Asian West Indian Union, London branch, circular, 1959 Catalogue

The circular letter includes information about local activities against "Fascists and racialists".

The Defender, 1959 Catalogue

The journal The Defender was intended to provide a platform for those who had moved to Britain from Commonwealth countries (particularly the West Indies). The June 1959 and July 1959 issues include sections on the murder of Kelso Cochrane and racial tensions in Notting Hill.