Luton Peace Day Riots

The Luton Peace Day Riots occurred over three days from 19 to 21 July 1919.[1] Servicemen angry at the lavish spending for London's peace parade, held on the same day, following the end of the First World War, protested that the money should be spent on integrating soldiers returning from the war.[2]

Luton Peace Day Riots
A card showing the contrasts of 24 hours Z1306-75.jpg
Town Hall is burnt down
DateJuly 19, 1919
LocationLuton, United Kingdom
Non-fatal injuries
  • Dozens wounded
  • 39 people were arrested


The Town Hall in 1897, from George Street, Luton

On Peace Day, 19 July 1919, the Luton Town Hall was burnt down during a riot by ex-servicemen unhappy with unemployment and other grievances.[3] The riot started after members of the council arrived to read out the proclamation of peace,[4] and many in the crowd expressed their disapproval. One issue was veterans not being allowed to hold a drumhead mass in Wardown Park.[5] Tension boiled over into violence, and after a number of clashes, many protesters broke through the police line and forcibly entered the town hall, which was eventually set on fire.[6]

Order was eventually restored to the town by midnight on 19 July, but the fire brigade were unable to extinguish the fire, and by the next morning the town hall was little more than a ruin. The remains of the building were demolished in August 1919 and in 1922 the statue "Peace", designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, inscribed with the names of more than 280,000 dead servicemen from the Great War, was unveiled.[7][8]


Many of those arrested received serious sentences. John Henry Good who took part in the riots was sentenced to six weeks of hard labour.[6]

In 2019, to commemorate the centenary of the 1919 Peace Riots, Cultural Histories Community Interest Company, working with a number of partner organisations, individuals and local community groups in Luton, developed a range of projects to promote awareness and interest in the 1919 Peace Days riots via a programme of learning and the performing arts. The projects included collecting personal and family recollections of the Peace Riots, plus art and music projects to promote local awareness of the event.[9]


  1. ^ Borough of Bedford 2019, p. 777.
  2. ^ Craddock 1999.
  3. ^ Ed 2006.
  4. ^ "This month in history: Peace Day, July 1919". London Gazette. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  5. ^ The Guardian 1919.
  6. ^ a b BBC News 2019.
  7. ^ "Three designs for Luton War Memorial". World War I Luton. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  8. ^ "War memorial unveiled 14 years before town hall". Dunstable Today. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  9. ^ Cultural Histories 2019.