Mods and Rockers Clash | British Newspaper Archive


Hot Off The Press – New Titles This Week

We’re starting this week off with a bang as we have added 218,828 brand new pages to The Archive, as we investigate the 1964 ‘Battle of Pier Gap,’ in which mods and rockers clashed in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. Meanwhile, we’ve added one brand new title to The Archive, the East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News, as well as making extensive updates to our existing titles from across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

From Croydon to Clacton, from South Bank to South Devon, read on to discover more about our new and updated titles of the week, and also to learn all about the uproar that the mods and rockers caused in Clacton back in 1964.

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Our exciting new title this week is the East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News, which was first published on 8 March 1889 as the Clacton News, the ‘First Clacton Newspaper.’ Published in the seaside town and resort of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, this independent newspaper appeared every Friday, at the cost of just one penny.

The first editorial of the East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News hoped that the new publication would be ‘an instrument powerful for good.’ Indeed, the piece went on to state:

For our part we shall endeavour, by consciously fulfilling the true function of the press — that of a devoted and useful public servant — to gain the aid and trust of all sections of the community. Neutral in politics and religion, we shall independently criticize what we deem hurtful, and encourage what we think beneficial to the public in general.

The editorial also addressed how a place like Clacton was in need of a newspaper, explaining how ‘a town without a newspaper is what our American cousins would call a ‘one hoss’ place, and Clacton is now large enough, and enterprising enough to appreciate and encourage an enterprising public print.’

And so, with what were the four pages of the East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News filled? The newspaper published visitors’ lists for the town, as well as a look at ‘coming events’ in the area. Its local focus also saw it report both on ‘Clacton News’ and ‘District News,’ from the likes of Frinton-on-Sea, alongside a railway timetable. Looking further afield, the East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News printed a ‘London Letter,’ as well as correspondence from its readers.

The publication saw early success. Indeed, it enlarged from two to three columns on 5 April 1889, and was known to circulate ‘in the populous districts of Clacton-on-Sea, Great Clacton, Walton-on-Naze, Frinton, Holland, Weeley, Thorpe, St. Osyth, Brightlingsea, and the Tendring Hundred.’

We’ll come back to Clacton shortly to investigate the clash between mods and rockers in 1964, but now we’re going to take a quick look at the awesome additions we have made to our existing titles this week. Leading the charge are the nearly 80,000 brand new pages that we have added to the Liverpool Daily Post, which was founded in 1855 by Michael James Whitty, a former Chief Constable for Liverpool. These additions span the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from 1878 through to 1989. The Welsh edition of the newspaper has not been neglected either, with new pages from the year 1960 joining the Wrexham-based title.

Meanwhile, our other Welsh updates of the week are to the Aberdare Leader, which sees over 15,000 brand new pages join its ranks, all from the 1990s. From Northern Ireland, we’re delighted to have added nearly 40,000 brand new pages to Belfast’s first ever newspaper, the Belfast News-Letter, whilst over 20,000 brand new pages have joined both the Torbay Express and South Devon Echo and the Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter.

Chaos in Clacton – Mods and Rockers Clash in Essex

Mods and rockers were two opposing British youth subcultures: the mods were known for their love of scooters and parkas, the rockers were known for their love of motorbikes and leather. Originating in the 1950s, and spanning into the 1960s, in 1964 the rivalry exploded into physical conflicts. One such clash between the mods and rockers occurred in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, in the March of 1964.

New pages added to the Belfast News-Letter tell us more about the violence that marred the peace of the seaside town. Under the headline ”Wild West’ Clacton Cools Down,’ published on 31 March 1964, the newspaper detailed how arrests were made ‘after a series of incidents in Clacton’ between the mods and rockers. Indeed, George Harnett, the chairman of the Clacton Hotel and Guest House Association, stated how Clacton had been ‘like a wild west town’ a few days previously.

On 29 March 1964, Easter Sunday, the Belfast News-Letter relates how ‘ninety-seven youths were arrested…after a series of disturbances and fights.’ The next day, Easter Monday, another ‘fight developed …when some 20 or 30 youths and girls were refused service at a seafront cafeteria.’ The police, however, arrived ‘quicky and prevented serious trouble,’ whilst ‘many of the young scooter-riders who had caused the trouble’ were observed ‘heading for home soon after mid-day.’

Hotel managing director George Harnett was outraged by the behaviour of the mods and rockers, stating how:

…the damage caused by the hordes of youths will ruin Clacton’s image as a family resort. There was no rhyme or reason to the stupidity of their antics and damage.

He described the violent behaviour of the mods and rockers, outlining how ‘a middle-aged holidaymaker had been thrown 20 feet down a drop at Pier Gap.’ Indeed, this clash between the mods and rockers would become known as ‘The Battle of Pier Gap.’ Harnett also related how ‘beach huts had been entered and cigarette, milk, and amusement machines were damaged and the youths had fought among themselves.’

Meanwhile, the mods and rockers caused more disturbances in Clacton by ‘lying down in the middle of the road to halt traffic,’ whilst Harnett also saw a girl ‘run on to the road to push a boy off his bicycle.’ The hotel manager was, however, full of praise for the police, describing how ‘on one occasion an inspector and three police constables faced up to about 400 of these wild ones and dispersed them.’

As for the police, they were nonchalant about the ‘disturbances’ in Clacton-on-Sea. The Belfast News-Letter reported how Police Superintendent Wood said how ‘the town was quiet and that many reports of the week-end disturbances had been exaggerated,’ the police chief claiming that ‘some incidents had been ‘blown up’ and magnified.’

On 13 May 1964 the Belfast News-Letter followed up on the situation in Clacton, ‘where the ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’ ran riot.’ It profiled its ‘stern remedial measures,’ one of which included banning bingo in the town hall. The writer of the piece for the newspaper was incredulous at such a decision, penning how:

This is a bit like trying to curb rowdyism at football matches by outlawing cricket in the aquarium. Leaving aside the question of how bingo got into the town hall in the first place (although in Clacton it is quite feasible, seeing that they already have wrestling, rock and roll sessions and jiving there), it would be, to say the least, unusual to find either “Mods” or “Rockers” crouching over their bingo boards, excitedly munching their purple hearts. There must be some other means of keeping them out of Clacton. Why not deny them access to poetry readings or refuse them admission to the local sewing circle?

Find out more about mods and rockers, youth culture, and much more besides, in the pages of our newspapers today.

New Titles
TitleYears Added
East Essex Advertiser and Clacton News1889, 1900-1905, 1912
Updated Titles

This week we have updated eleven of our existing titles.

You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.

TitleYears Added
Aberdare Leader1991-1996, 1999
Belfast News-Letter1962-1970
Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter1990-1992, 1994-1996, 1998-1999
Heywood Advertiser1986-1990, 1992-1994, 1996-1998
Liverpool Daily Post1878, 1926, 1952, 1960-1961, 1963, 1965-1966, 1968, 1972, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1989
Liverpool Daily Post (Welsh Edition)1960
Middleton Guardian1996-1998
Rochdale Observer1933, 1997
Selby Times1898
South Bank Express1914-1934
Torbay Express and South Devon Echo1986, 1991

You can keep up to date with all the latest additions by visiting the recently added page.  You can even look ahead to see what we’re going to add tomorrow.


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