Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Luton > LutonIntroduction > The Luton Peace Riots - Sunday Night

The Luton Peace Riots - Sunday Night

The Town Hall smouldering [Z1306/75]
The Town Hall smouldering [Z1306/75]

The Luton News of 24th July 1919 continued its coverage of the Peace Riot by describing the events of Sunday 20th July:

"Sunday evening saw a fresh attempt to start a destructive disturbance, but when the Police Station in Dunstable-place was fixed upon as the scene the ringleaders made a decision which they soon had reason to regret. There were threats to burn down the Corn Exchange, and someone smashed a window of one of the public lavatories adjoining this building. Then the attentions of the rowdy element seem to have been swerved to a different direction on it being stated that the place belonged to Lady Wernher and a raid on the police station was suggested [Lady Wernher was a benefactress of the town but, more pertinently perhaps, her son 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Pigott Wernher of the Welsh Guards had died in action 10th September 1916 on the Somme and she had just offered Luton Hoo Park as a venue for a memorial service to all those killed in the war]. Additional excitement was created when it was stated that a Marine was in custody at Dunstable-place, and there was an avowed intention of rescuing him".

The Corn Exchange about 1919 [Z50/75/95]
The Corn Exchange about 1919 [Z50/75/95]

"An excited crowd accordingly went to the Police Station, and gathered outside the gates, where violent speeches were made. Then the crowd, of which a small gang of youths seemed to be the ringleaders, received a violent shock. Refusing to comply with a police request to go away quietly, they found themselves attacked by a very strong force of police who charged down Dunstable-place and along Stuart-street with batons drawn and caused a number of casualties in routing the crowd".

"Chief Constable Griffin himself made an earnest appeal for order and good conduct, but without avail. Tackled in such summary fashion, however, the rioters soon faded away and after a wide sweep of the streets in the centre of the town had been carried out by the police with complete thoroughness, order and decorum again reigned".

"As a result of these encounters, one constable and one civilian had to receive attention by Dr. Archibald for somewhat serious injuries. These were the only casualties of which there was any official note, but it is understood that some of the medical practitioners had a busy time the following morning in patching up broken heads".

Wardown Park Museum has a permanent display on the Peace Day riots in its Luton Life galleries.