In Pictures

A look back at the Battle of Lewisham

A crowd listens to a speaker speak through a microphone Image copyright Chris Schwarz

On 13 August 1977, National Front members from all over the country gathered in the south-east of London.

The white-nationalist group planned to march from New Cross to Lewisham town centre.

As counter-protesters and police gathered, there were violent confrontations between the groups, resulting in more than 200 arrests.

Photographers such as Homer Sykes and Chris Schwarz attended the so-called Battle of Lewisham to capture the scenes.

Local residents are pictured watching the gather. Two National Front supporters cheer and clap from the balcony of their tower block flat. Image copyright Homer Sykes
The Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, and the Mayor of Lewisham Roger Godsiff give a speech to anti-fascists Image copyright Chris Schwarz

At 11:30 a group of peaceful demonstrators known as the All Lewisham Campaign against Racism and Fascism (ALCARAF) gathered near Ladywell station.

After hearing speeches from the mayor of Lewisham, the bishop of Southwark and the exiled bishop of Namibia, the group marched towards Lewisham High Street.

A young man stands next to an ALCARAF sign Image copyright Chris Schwarz
Anti fascists hold up a copy of the Socialist Worker Image copyright Chris Schwarz
A crowd of anti-fascist protesters gather Image copyright Chris Schwarz

A separate group of counter-protesters gathered close to the assembly point of the National Front march, with the intention of blocking its path.

As the police attempted to clear a way for the National Front, truncheons and riot shields were deployed against those obstructing it.

Once cleared, the police accompanied the National Front members down their planned route, leading to violent confrontations along the way as objects were hurled at them.

A left wing demonstrator called Robert Johnson tries to break through a police cordon Image copyright Homer Sykes
Police protect defiant National Front supporters. Some carry printed placards, “National Front is a Racialist Front Join the National Front.” Image copyright Homer Sykes
A man walks alongside a building daubed with National Front graffiti Image copyright Chris Schwarz

On reaching Lewisham, the National Front members were again met by protesters, and were forced to retreat, boarding waiting trains. By 17:00 the march was over.

During the 1970s, the National Front made political advances by capitalising on anti-immigration sentiment fuelled by high unemployment.

But by the early 1980s the National Front had fragmented into several parties, the biggest of which was the British National Party.

More photographs can be seen in the Richard Hoggart Building in Goldsmiths, University of London, until 13 September 2017.