Battalion banners and other Spanish Civil War artefacts on show at Marx Memorial Library

Post date: 16/04/2015

A “hidden gem” of London’s radical and working class history has opened its doors properly to the public for the first time. 


The Marx Memorial Library (MML) is now offering guided tours twice weekly. This will allow people to see the two banners of the British Battalion in the Spanish Civil War 


One (pictured below) was sewn by the women of Barcelona and presented to the battalion on its departure from Spain at the end of 1938.*


Designed and made by the anti-fascist Artists International Association (AIA) in Britain, the other banner also dates from 1938 and is the oldest original battalion banner. 


Both were recently shown at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester as part of the acclaimed “Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War” exhibition. 

The IBMT has now loaned the older banner to the MML so that it can be displayed alongside the one made in Spain.


This banner was last year at Newhaven Fort as part of the IBMT’s “Antifascistas” and “Sussex and the Spanish Civil War” exhibition. A replica of the Barcelona banner will instead now be going to Newhaven.


Many other artefacts from the Spanish Civil War are on display at the MML, including posters, leaflets and photographs.


There is also a memorial courtyard dedicated to media workers killed in the 20th century war against fascism, from Spain in 1936 to victory in Europe in 1945. 


Until now visits to the MML have been by appointment only or on special occasions.

The library was founded by a group of socialists in 1933 in response to the Burning of the Books by the Nazis in May of that year and has been at the heart of the British labour movement ever since.


As well as memorabilia of major industrial disputes, other highlights include the room and desk where Lenin worked in exile in London in 1902/3 and a Hammersmith Socialist Society banner embroidered by the William Morris family, dating from the early 1890s. 


There is also a 1934 mural by AIA artist Jack Hastings (later Lord Huntingdon), who had worked with the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in Mexico City – and who later visited wartime Spain as part of his efforts in support of the Spanish Republic.


The Library’s Archivist, Meirian Jump, said: “We have a fascinating story to tell and we hope to welcome as many visitors as possible to be inspired by our amazing collections.”


She added: “Everyone who enters the building agrees that we are one of London’s hidden gems. We hope that thousands more people will now be able to understand why this is so.”



Tours of the Marx Memorial Library (37a Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU) are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm; £5 (£3 unwaged). To book contact Monica Brown: [] or 020 7253 1485.


* This banner is currently on show at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. It will return to the MML in June, until when there is a replica on didplay.




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