Luton Peace Riots 1919 Family Stories

Where They Burnt The Town Hall Down

The UK held a Peace Day on July 19th, 1919 to celebrate the end of the First World War. In Luton the day ended with the mayor fleeing in disguise and the town hall burned down. The council had organised festivities - including a banquet that most former servicemen could not afford, while councillors dined free at ratepayer’s expense. Former servicemen’s groups boycotted the events to protest against unemployment and high food prices – councillors were accused of profiteering. The mayor, Henry Impey, read a message from the king at the town hall but was jeered and booed. He retreated inside with council officers and fled through a back door disguised as a police special constable. Rioters set the town hall on fire that night and stopped the fire brigade reaching it. People dragged pianos from a music store into the street, singing, dancing and allegedly playing Keep The Home Fires Burning. Stories of the riots, and the people involved, have lived on in families’ memories.

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