The Walkley Riot, Sheffield June1922

When I was posting the article on the Unemployed riots in Sheffield in the early 1920's I came across a brief reference to a riot that occurred in the district of Walkley (Sheffield) in the summer of 1922. I knew nothing about this event. There was no information in local history books and so after a visit to the local archives, I decided to post the following articles to the site. 

The first report was taken from the Sheffield Telegraph dated 8th June 1922 and details the cause and the course of the riot.




Twenty-five Sheffield policemen fought about 400 men at Walkley, and in spite of the long odds victory went to the police.

The combat arose out of the ejectment of the occupiers of the rooms at no2 crt 6 Providence Road Walkley. The ejected persons were Harold Charles Cundy, his wife and two children, and the unemployed who were induced to go to the house to reinstate the family.

The few poor goods belonging to the ejected family were on the ground in the courtyard and into this area the "rescuers" surged. They saw standing across the doorway Superintendent Hebb, Inspector J Oates, Sergeant Skelton and five constables of the Walkley Division. They had been warned of the approach of the unemployed and had taken up their position the execution of the law by seeing that the order of the ejectment affected in the morning was not countermanded by outside interference. There they stood waiting expectedly, one against 50 or more.


The Superintendent made a straightforward appeal to the crowd not to interfere. The magistrates granted an ejectment order and thathad been duely executed. No useful purpose could be served by creating a disturbance, and the adoption of any forcible methods to place the furniture back into the house would be ill-advised. It was an honest appeal to the common sense of the men, but they were not as a crowd prepared to listen to sane reasoning.

Councillor Butcher mounted the window sill and addressed the crowd. Behind them in Providence Road other stood eagerly awaiting events and from the walls, the hen-houses of the adjoining courts, and windows in the vicinity, hundreds of men, women and children looked on. Butcher asked Superintendent Hebb to withdraw his men so that the unemployed may carry on with their intention to peplace the furniture. To this the Superintendent could make but one reply - they had a duty to perform.

While this talk was proceeding police reinforcements were hurrying to the scene and evetually Sergeant Rose and 16 policemen joine dtheir comrades.


A missile from the crowd was thrown at the police. This was followed by a fusilade of stones and other articles. A shovel was hurled over the heads of the crowd. This knocked off the helmet of Police Constable Peck and struck Police Constable Barker across the face. Police Constable Rawson was hit full in the face by a brick and few of the officers escaped being hit by the rain of missiles. With much brutality the cowardly attack continued.

The only chance the police had aginst being overwelhmed was for them to take the offensive.

There was tremendous pressure on the crowd to get out of the court, The exodus was so violent that a stone pillar at the entrance of it was snapped of at the base. The storm of not only bricks but great stones taken from the walls and picked up from adjoining premises still continued from a neighbouring yard.

In all directions the mob took flight over walls into gardens, down entry's and alleys - over fowl pens - anywhere to get away from the reply from the police. For ten minutes pandemonium reigned, the disorderly mob was routed, and the law was upheld.


the result of the affray was that four men were taken by ambulance to the Royal Hospital. No police officer needed so much attention. The most serious injury was to a constable whose cheek and lip were cut.

Eye witnesses of the "battle" living in the immediate neighbourhood say that the crowd approached the house singing the "Red Flag". The police spoke to them at the entrance to the court, but the throng forced the officers back into into the yard and they stood about the doorway, the crowd quickly hemming them in. An appeal they said was made by Butcher and the statement was made that then unemployed would not disperse until they had put the furniture back.

"They came into my garden" said a neighbour climbed on to my hen-house and smashed it, lined the walls and covered every available space like ants. then the first stone was hurled, and a rapid fire of these followed. The police drew their staves and there was a mad rush to get away. Over the walls they came, tumbling and jostling, all intensely bent on flight. One fellow went head first over this wall, I think he will die. Coates (Inspector) was knocked on the top of head with a shovel and Hebb (Superintendent) got it on the head. One of the first thing discharged at the police was an iron wheel that was sent with considerable force. A constable got two big cuts and one fellow was hit in the stomach and laid down here.

"They were caught like rats in a trap - those in the yard. It was a fierce ten minutes skirmish . When they started the little "playhouse" tricks it was lively.

They are four houses in the court, and when the trouble was brewing, the residents promptly locked their doors and retreated within, a precaution taken by other householders in the vicinity who feared that the mob would get the upper hand and extend their activities.


A " Sheffield Telegraph" reporter visiting the house shortly afterwards saw something of a commotion that the event had created. All the people in the neighbourhood were discussing the affair and a body of police was in charge. In the neighbourhood knots of men gathered. 

The missiles used had been collected, the police taking possession of these. Something like 11/2cwt. of stones and bricks had been picked up and in their haste to elude the police about 50 caps and hats were brushed off the heads of members of the crowd and left behind.

It was amazing that no serious damage to property was done. The rainwater fall pipe from the roof was smashed in one place by a missile that might have killed the policeman standing by it.

On the yard fresh blood had been spilled this probably coming from the constable whose face was cut.

Gazed upon by hundreds of inquisitive eyes, the ejected woman stood above her few possessions: the two children were unconcerned.

Children of Mr and Mrs H. C. Candy, evicted from 2 Court, 8 Providence Road - June 1922

The bedding was tied up in bundles on the ground: there was a battered picture and a perambulator, the scattered parts of a bed, a box and a wash-bowl. Mrs Cundy, was busy washing the two mites, both of whom she said had just recovered from measles. The little girl still bears a heavy rash.


Whatever the reasons for the ejectment, the family presented a pitiable spectacle. The mother said that the reason given for the ejectment was that she was behind with the rent, but she denied this. "I had two rooms, one upstairs and one down. They were let furnished, the furniture consisting of a table, a chair and a bed that I had to get rid of. For this I paid 6s a week.

"They came to the house this morning just before breakfast to turn us out. They said the time was up. When they put our things into the yard I went to look for rooms and was away when the unemployed came. I did not know they were coming nor did my husband. He worked for the Corporation as a labourer but has been on relief for 12 months."

"I don't know where we shall sleep tonight" she added with a woe-begone expression. " I won't go to the workhouse. I should have let the children sleep in the perambulator but they have smashed it in the riot. My husband was an ex-serviceman when he joined up in 1914 in the last war. This (meaning the unemployed demonstration) has done me no good. It has  done me a lot of harm. I have kept my place respectable and now I don't know what I will do".    


The names of the four men treated at Sheffield's Royal Hospital are -

George Mealia (32) of 5ct 1hse Hurlington Street Sheffield

Lewis Newill (21) of 12 Dinnington Road Sheffield

William Keyworth (33) of 7ct 1hse, Langsett Road Sheffield

Charles Barker (36) of 21 Ash Street Sheffield

the first three are all suffering from scalp wounds whilst Barker has a severe bruise on his nose as a result of a blow. Newall's condition is serious as he is suffering from concussion and Keyworth's wound is also very bad necessiting several stitches.

Talking to our representative after the occurrence, Barker said that the crowd was quiet until the sergeant guarding the house pulled out his staff. After a few stones were thrown the policemen went mad. One in particular was striking out with his staff indiscriminately. The whole affair was brutal. Barker said that he saw one old man laid out and immediately went to find a telephone  to call an ambulance, and whilst doing so was hit over the nose by one of the constables. When the police had drawn their batons and were trying to force the crowd out of the yard, the men were jammed together in a narrow entrance. We were nearly squashed to death said one of the men. There was a big stone pillar about one foot thick in the centre of the entrance and this was stopped off at the bottom as though it was a walking stick.


The police version of the affair was that there had apparently been an unemployed meeting at Crookesmoor and the men afterwards visited one of the Poor Law Union Offices. From there they marched to Cundy's house and the police were informed of their intention. A Superintendent, an inspector with a sergeant, and five police officers went to the house and in a short time 400 unemployed came. They were going to march into the court and take possession. Superintendent Hebb explained that an ejectment order had been made and advised the crowd to go away. Councillor Butcher made a speech. The crowd became very disorderly and tried to go into the house. Missiles were thrown and the conduct of the crowd was so violent that several constables were assaulted. It was necessary for the constables to draw their batons. In the meantime additional police arrived, these included two mounted men. there were about 25 police. Every chance was given for the crowd to go away quietly but they would not go. The police were so hemmed in that they were at a great disadvantage. The reinforcements came over the wall from the next court and by other means.

In view of the way that the police were crushed up against the house it was impossible for them to arrest the men they saw throwing. Apart from this, they had their hands too full on protecting themselves. However one man was taken into custody. He was George Henry Grantham of Don Road.

It transpires that on account of Cundy's two children having measles the magistrates on the doctors advise had previously extended the time allowed them to get fresh rooms. A fortnight's additional grace was give. The doctor states that the children affected are now almost well.

One enquiry this morning at the Royal Hospital it was stated that Newell who was admitted was in much the same condition.

The following day another report appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph in connection with the riot. No mention was made of George Grantham but appearing before the magistrates was Councillor Butcher, who had made a speech to the crowd at the time of the riot.

From the court report it is rather apparent that there was little love lost between Superintendent Hebb and Councillor Butcher!

The only other information I have been able to obtain to date is the following report.

The Times dated 12th June 1922

In connection with the unemployed disturbances in Walkley, Sheffield on Wednesday, Councillor Albert Smith and six other men were arrested at their homes on Saturday morning and later in the day were charged with riotous conduct and remanded on bail.

I am in the process of obtaining further information relating to the outcome of these court cases but if anyone can supply me with further details in the meantime I would be grateful

As a footnote the following article appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph dated 31st August 1922


Sheffield Telegraph dated 8th 9th June 1922

Sheffield Telegraph dated 31st August 1922

The Times dated 12th June 1922

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