The Luddite Memorial in York

It was always going to be a question: how long would the temporary memorial for the executed Luddites in York remain in place? Would ‘the authorities’ take it down or would the gradual effects of weather and vandalism end its days? The answer is here in pictures.

Before the memorial event on 19 January 2013, the assumed execution site looked like this. It is believed that, 200 years ago, the condemned men were brought out from the small door on the left, led up the raised bank and from there onto the scaffold set out in front.


As part of our memorial ceremony on 19 January, we set out small white placards, with each of the names of the men, along the raised bank. There was snow on the ground and this added a chilly poignancy to the display.


Ten days later and eight of the placards remained, nine names having disappeared along with the title placard. The names are now somewhat faded and not easy to read from a distance. Whether it was the effects of wind, rain and snow in the intervening days, souvenir hunters, people who recognised their own names, or simply acts of destruction, who knows? Certainly there has been no systematic removal.

Ten Days Later

Ten Days Later

Does it matter that the memorial gradually disappears, or is taken down? Does it matter whether or not it is replaced by a permanent memorial? Given what Malcolm Chase said in his talk in the Guildhall about York as a centre of numerous oppressive events such as this, how many more memorials would we need, here and on the Knavesmire? How would a memorial to the Luddites and other such victims sit, directly opposite the Boer War Memorial on the traffic island with its list of all those who died of disease in the quest to quell rebellion in the British Empire? Would people, especially tourists, catch the irony?


One thought on “The Luddite Memorial in York

  1. Lots of good points there Martin. As I’ve travelled past the place over the last ten days I’d seen a few disappearances, particularly between HMD (Sunday) and Tuesday. An irony was the number of York Labour councillors at Holocaust Memorial Day but I didn’t see any at the memorial to the Luddites…The placrds have also given me the chance to introduce more people to the site. Unfortunately, I have the same problem in Machester where numerous hangings took place and no memorial is allowed to exist…

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