55 years ago, from 29th August – early September, the streets of London witnessed what Pathé News at the time rightly labelled a “shameful episode”. More than three hundred people suddenly attacked West Indian immigrants living on Bramley Road in Notting Hill, London.
British Pathé produced a short newsreel on the attacks. The film has a very different tone to the sort of news broadcasts one would see on television today, at least in Britain. It is an angry denunciation of the riots, containing a particularly powerful commentary which is worth repeating in full:
Something new and ugly raises its head in Britain. In Notting Hill Gate, only a mile or two from London’s West End - racial violence. An angry crowd of youths chases a negro into a green grocer shop while police reinforcements are called up to check the riot, one of many that have broken out here in a few days. The injured victim, a Jamaican, is taken to safety. But the police have not been able to reach all the trouble spots so promptly and the quietest street may flare up at any moment. The most disturbing feature of the riots is the suspicion that not all the troublemakers are locals, for some of the gangs who break windows or throw bottles or burning torches have arrived by car. Opinions differ about Britain’s racial problems. But the mentality which tries to solve them with coshes and broken railings has no place in the British way of life. This violence is evil and the law and public opinion must stamp it out.
The 1958 newsreel can be viewed online here.