Sidney Street

1911 started off with a bang. What came to be known as the Siege of Sidney Street provided lots of material for the first issue of The Graphic for that year. It made the cover.

I remember watching a film about it with my dad, who remarked that Jimmy Sangster made a good imitation Churchill. I'd recently read some of Sangster's rather salty 'Touchfeather' spy/crime fiction. I also remember Peter Wyngarde being in it but - apart from the moustache - his resemblance to Peter the Painter was passing.

Mind you, everybody wore moustaches in those days, so having a moustache contributes really very little to a resemblance.

Anyway - here's a bunch of pictures and some words from the issue published on 7th January, four days after the event. Mr Churchill's presence at the scene is not mentioned at all. The media did pick up on it - and report it - fairly soon afterwards, but not quite yet.


The people occupying the tenements adjacent to the anarchists' den (outlined in black in the drawing) were removed by the police at an early hour, and the formal investment began. A cordon of police was drawn round the premises, so that escape was impossible, and every coign of vantage was occupied by armed police or detectives and later on by Scots Guards, a vigorous fire being kept up both by the attacking force and the beseiged until the house was burnt out and the grim tragedy was over.

Drawn by our Special Artist, D MacPherson


... the unprecedented scene witnessed in Whitechapel on Tuesday, when a couple of desperate foreign criminals, wanted in connection with the Houndsditch murders, held over 1000 police and military at bay for several hours. The desperadoes were entrenched in the upper part of a house in Sidney Street, Commercial Road, and the police, on attempting to gain an entrance in the early morning, were met with a fusillade of bullets, Detective-Sergeant Leeson being wounded. The street was closed to the public, and reinforcements promptly appeared on the scene of battle ...

A Picked Marksman Firing from the Brewery Loft


At ten o'clock a squad of Scots Guards arrived from the Tower, and picked marksmen were placed in the cooling-loft of an adjoining brewery, whence they could fire into the desperadoes' den. For several hours the battle raged between the soldiers and the anarchists, Colour-Sergeant Chick being wounded in the foot, and several spectators injured. At one o'clock the house caught fire, and soon was blazing furiously, loud explosions were heard, and finally the roof fell in, the charred remains of the men being found later among the ruins.

The Anarchists' Fortress in Sidney Street breaking out into flames


But of Peter the Painter (not known to be related to either Bill the Butcher or Pat the Postman) no trace was found.


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