Marsden Grotto pictures

I am writing a brief piece on the above for BBC History Magazine and I really need half a dozen good digital images of the Grotto. If anyone has some they didn’t mind me using it would be much appreciated – I can’t offer any financial recompense but you would get a picture credit.

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Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 9:40 am  Comments (4)  
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Marsden Grotto’s re-opening, and the Italian Connection

According to the South Shields Gazette, the Grotto re-opened this weekend. I hope everything went smoothly.

A bit more digging reveals that Peter Allan’s successor was Sidney Hawkes, brother-in-law of social reformer, advocate of Italian independence and supporter of women’s rights, Sir James Stansfeld:

(That’s the ODNB link for those with a subscription. Wikipedia here for those without)

For more on Hawkes see Memoirs of a social atom by the radical journalist, William Edwin Adams, another English supporter of Mazzini, Garibaldi and Italian nationalist republicanism.

Hawkes appears to have kept a good table at the Grotto, offering ‘devilled kidneys for breakfast, champagne for luncheon, fowls and roast beef for dinner, and cigars and soda water on a limestone balcony for the rest of the evening.’

Ref. ‘Marsden Rocks’,  The Graphic, London, Oct 7 1882.

More on ‘Jack the Blaster’ and Marsden Grotto

According to my borrowed copy of The Lefties Guide to Britain ed. Peter Clark (Politico’s, 2005), p. 301, the grotto was also used ‘in the 1950s by a group of Leftie writers, artists and politicians.’ In the true, teetotal, puritanical tradition of the British left, the guide goes on to say:

‘Nowadays it is a bistro, but tea for two may be enjoyed for £2’.

Published in: on February 8, 2008 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Jack the Blaster”, Thomas Spence and the ‘Rights of Man’

Does anyone out there know more about the above 18th C character? He figures in the history of English radicalism as the inspiration for Thomas’ Spence‘s use of the phrase ‘Rights of Man’:

which was on the following remarkable occasion: A man who had been a farmer, and also a miner, and who had been ill-used by his landlords, dug a cave for himself by the seaside, at Marsdon Rocks, between Shields and Sunderland, about the year 1780, and the singularity of such a habitation, exciting the curiosity of many to pay him a visit; our authorw as one of that number. Exulting in the idea of a human being, who had bravely emancipated himself from the iron fangs of aristocracy, to live free from impost, he wrote extempore with chaulk above the fire place of this free man, the following lines:

Ye landlords vile, whose man’s peace mar,

Come levy rents here if you can;

Your stewards and lawyers I defy,

And live with all the RIGHTS OF MAN

The Marsden Grotto, as the cave became known, went on to become a smugglers’ den and then, more recently, a pub and seafood restaurant. The pub has unfortunately had to close due to safety fears about the steps that lead down to it.

The following note comes from the annotated bibliography of Spence’s works by Mary Kemp-Ashraf, reproduced at the excellent Thomas Spence website

“Mr. Alex Robson of North Shields, the veteran seamen’s leader who figured in the S.S. Linaria case and was active in the Red International Seamen’s Union of the nineteen-thirties, claims to be a descendant.

Published in: on February 4, 2008 at 11:28 am  Comments (2)  
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