Peace at Bexley Square

1856

“The personifications of Agriculture, Music, Lyres and Poetry, and Unity (a bundle of fasces or rods), War and Peace are classical in both costume and conception.”

C&C salford

Meet the people of Salford in 1856 outside their Town Hall in Bexley Square (now the Magistrates’ Court). It had been decorated to celebrate the end of the Crimean war. The painting hanging from the front portico was illuminated by gas burners, so the people would have viewed its images flickering in the growing darkness. The allegorical figures in the painting were eclectic: Peace (holding an olive branch),and the lion and the lamb are Christian images. The personifications of Agriculture, Music, Lyres and Poetry, and Unity (a bundle of fasces or rods), War and Peace are classical in both costume and conception.  The Doric Town Hall (begun 1825) was designed by Richard Lane, who had studied neoclassical architecture in Paris with none other than Achille Leclère, famous for his restoration of the Roman pantheon.

But a more important event took place outside the building on 1st October 1931. A massive demonstration gathered to protest against the means test for unemployment benefit which the government had introduced, removing the rights of many starving people around Manchester to any benefits whatsoever. Mounted police and squads of foot police (all armed with batons) prevented them from entering the square. Among them were the socialist folk-singer and poet Ewan McColl, and Walter Greenwood, who later described the scene in his novel Love on the Dole.

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