John Burns of Battersea – Builder of the Borough and Opponent of War

Burns Poster 1892

(c) Battersea Labour Party

Liberal Cabinet 1906

 Sean Creighton Collection

Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council (BWTUC) is preparing to commemorate the action of its founder John Burns, MP for Battersea and a working class Cabinet Minister, who left the government in protest when Britain entered World War 1. Burns was horrified by this development and stated:

‘Why four great powers should fight over Serbia no fellow can understand. This I know, there is one fellow who will have nothing to do with such a criminal folly, the effects of which will be appalling to the welter of nations who will be involved .. My duty is clear and at all costs will be done.’

Burns’s stand did indeed cost him his political career.

John Burns Walk and Celebration

BWTUC is planning a John Burns Walk, to be launched on Saturday 9 August, starting at 12 noon from Burns’ grace at St Mary’s Cemetery, Battersea Rise, Bolingbroke Grove, SW11 1HE. The route has yet to be finalised, but there are plans to take in his house of Clapham Common, the Labour Party office, old Battersea Town Hall, Battersea Library on Lavender Hill, Burns Road in the Latchmere Estate and John Burins School in the Shaftesbury Estate. The walk will finish at BWTUC’s pub, the Bread and Roses in Clapham Manor Street, SW4 6DZ, where a function room will be ceremonially renamed ‘the John Burns Room’. There will be speakers on Burns’s local and national character and entertainment including a socialist choir.

All are welcome to the walk and the celebration!

Special Wandsworth Guardian coverage

In the lead-up to this event, BWTUC is preparing a four-page illustrated account of John Burns’s’ role as local trade union activist and promoter of local council services, as well as his parliamentary and ministerial career, culminating in this stand against the war. This will wrap around’ the 31 July edition of the Wandsworth Guardian.


About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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1 Response to John Burns of Battersea – Builder of the Borough and Opponent of War

  1. richard temple says:

    Dear Sean,

    This looks really interesting. Just in case it’s of interest, John Burns’ library and some archives are held at Senate House Library, University of London:

    Best wishes,

    Richard Temple

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