Died 15th June 1959 aged 76,
(Communist Party & Secularist)
Jack Iliffe was a self educated man
and one of nine children. He was described by fellow Secularists as a
"rough diamond, whose god was the working class. His whole life was
dedicated to their service." During the 1930s, he was a CP activist who regularly
spoke in the Market Place. When he appeared in
court, following a blackshirt meeting he described himself as a
propagandist. He was active in the NUWM and in 1935 was campaigning to get
trade union rates of pay paid to the unemployed 'employed' on work schemes.
At that time a corporation worker got 50/- for a 48 hour week, whilst
the unemployed, doing the same work, got 7/- in cash and a 7/- food ticket for 36
hours work. He was also an active member of the Secular Society for
over 60 years.
Sources: Leicester Mercury 14th
October 1935, Leicester Secular Society Minute Books.
Born: Leicestershire 1852, died: 1899 (Liberal)
William Inskip was a laster in the
boot and shoe trade, becoming treasurer of NUBSO in 1880. He lacked any
formal education, but nevertheless read widely. He was elected general
secretary in 1886 and dominated the union for many years. He was a trade
unionist of the old school whose social and political attitudes could be
described as ‘Lib-Lab.’ He was contemptuous of egalitarianism and was
convinced that social progress required the generous rewarding of
individuality, thrift and energy. He linked those virtues of self help
with skilled artisans and trade unions, whilst he saw the sins of
idleness, unscrupulous and improvidence linked to the unskilled. Whilst he
could be hostile to co-operative schemes, he was a personal investor in
During the 1890s, he became increasingly isolated in the
union as socialists like T.F. Richards and Martin Curley gained support,
breaking the close relationship between the NUBSO executive and the
Leicester Liberal Association. He was elected to the Town Council, as a
Trades Council nominee to the Liberal Association in 1891 and was
treasurer of the TUC parliamentary committee. He died of T.B. aged 47 in
1899 and many Leicester firms closed for a few hours to allow workers to
attend his funeral.
Sources: Fox, Alan, A History of the
National Union of Boot and Shoe Workers. 1958, Bill Lancaster,
Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism
Born: Leicester 1877 (I.L.P. & Labour Party)
Catherine Irwin was educated at High
Cross School and Wyggeston High School for Girls. She was elected as a
member of the Board of Guardians in 1909 and remained on the board for 15
years until it was disbanded in 1928. In 1919, stood in the Council
elections and was also appointed as a JP. Along with other Labour
guardians she opposed relief being paid half in kind (bread) and half in
money. She believed that relief should be given in money.
Born: Southampton, 23rd July 1900 (Labour Party)
Jackson came to live in South Wigston in 1914 and commenced work in a
biscuit factory for 5/- per week. In 1916 he joined the I.L.P. and he
served in the Leicestershire Regiment during the later stages of the
1914/18 war with the Rhine Army of Occupation. Afterwards he spent ten
years as a railway cleaner and locomotive fireman, and member of the N.U.R.
He subsequently worked in the Engineering Department of the Leicester
Co-Operative Society and later still as General Secretary of the National
Growers Association, and then as a Welfare Officer to a local firm of
In 1926, he became Honorary Secretary
to the League of the Blind and was a delegate from the League to the
Trades Council. He became president of the Trades Council in 1931 and
assisted the blind marchers in 1936 when they came through Leicester on
their way to protest in London.
He was elected to City Council in
1928 for Castle, but lost his seat in 1948. He was then elected for
Humberstone in 1950. He became Lord Mayor in 1957 and an alderman in 1960.
He was leader of the City Council Labour group in 1964.
Sources: Leicester City Council,
Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000
Born: King's Lynn, Norfolk, 17th February 1896
During the 1939- 45 war, she was
appointed by the Minister of Labour as Employment Officer with the
Ministry of Labour and National Service. In October 1945, she given a
week's notice from her job because she refused to withdraw resign or
withdraw her candidacy from the Municipal
Elections. She was elected and as the wife of Fred
Jackson became Lady Mayoress in 1957. She was chair of the Council’s
Welfare committee in the late fifties and early sixties. She became Lord
Mayor in 1963.
Born: c1779 (Framework Knitter)
Described as the most vigorous and
enterprising of the Leicester framework-knitters’ leaders, William Jackson
was leader of what was probably the first really permanent union in
Leicester. It lasted from 1817 to 1823 and at its peak, it had 8,000
members paying 6d per week. Although, Jackson started in the
stockingers’ trade at the age of 11, he managed to acquire some education
and could express himself well, both on paper and on the platform.
1817, Jackson appealed directly to Lord Sidmouth (the Home secretary)
against the combination laws which he considered to be one of principle
causes of low wages and pleaded with the government to fix a minimum wage
and a single poor relief fund for the whole of the country. That year he
successfully persuaded the overseers of the Leicester parishes not to
grant relief to those who were working in the hosiery trade 'at an underprice,' but to give relief to those who might be thrown out of work.
As wages fell from 14s to 7s per
week, he was active in the general strike
which called took place in the East Midlands from September 1817. The
strike seems to have lasted until the beginning of 1818, when the stockingers’ funds became exhausted and they were obliged to return to
work defeated. There was considerable sympathy for the stockingers and this
is reflected in that local magistrates failed to enforce the Combination
Laws and outlaw the union of which he was secretary. This took place at a
time when the 'respectable classes' fear of a Luddite insurrection was at
In 1819 wages became as low in 1817 and there was a
further strike, the parishes supported the workers and their
families for about six weeks until agreement was reached.
That year Jackson gave evidence to the Commons Committee on the
Framework-Knitters Petition in which described the difficulties and
hardships that confronted his family.
It was also in 1819 that Jackson
became chairman of the Framework-Knitters Friendly & Relief Society of the
Town and County of Leicester which was in reality a trade union disguised
as a friendly society in order to avoid persecution under the Combination
Laws. (This was aided by Rev Robert Hall) Counsel's opinion was that it
was perfectly legal and could pay relief when members were out of work (on
strike). Care was taken to disclaim all violent or illegal intentions. The
core of the organisation was the framework knitters of Leicester whose
organisation was divided into thirteen districts each with treasurers and
stewards. Men paid 6p a week and women and boys 3d a week when in work and
were entitled to eight shillings a week relief. Although in 1820, one
hosier attempted to summon Jackson and other officials on a charge of
combination, it was quashed on a technicality.
This society was continued successfully from 1819 to
1823. During the winter of 1820, 2,600 framework-knitters drew upon
the funds of society which soon became exhausted. Fortunately, the
society was able to borrow £1,500 from the 'gentlemen the town and county'
and this supported the unemployed until the summer of 1823 when they all
found work. The money borrowed was paid off and subscriptions were more
than adequate during the next two year. However, in 1830, Jackson
"Unfortunately, the workmen forgot their sufferings -
they left off subscribing - and they again became involved in distress;
but having resumed their subscriptions in the year 1824, they subsisted in
comfort until the panic, which quite destroyed all vestiges of the plan of
1819......Wages have been declining during the last four years, and the
framework-knitters having no resource but parishes, have suffered much
Jackson’s political sympathies were
not always with the reformers as many were also employers espousing
laissez faire economic principles. In 1822 he argued that political
reform by itself was inadequate and even useless. So long as 'the
principle of gain' alone ruled commerce, demand would fluctuate, men would
be tempted to work at an underprice and wages would drop.
In 1822, the Framework Knitters
launched out into an experiment in Co-operative production. With a
warehouse in Cank Street, the society bought worsted yarn and manufactured
hosiery. In return for a salary, Jackson acted as storekeeper, accountant
and organised the manufacture. This lasted until the spring of 1823, when
the enterprise was overtaken by debt. This probably discredited Jackson,
because he seems to have temporarily lost his position and influence, as
the union was re-established.
However by 1830, he was once again
leading framework knitters in a strike for better conditions. He
criticised the Reform Bill of 1831 for not going far enough and was
attacked, by John Seal for attempting to sow division between middle and
working class reformers and for his support for the Tory candidate in the
Following the Liberal rise to
municipal power in 1835, Jackson was appointed as Keeper of the Town Hall
and in this post he passed the last years of his life writing letters to
the press chiefly advocating free trade. In March 1840, he became
secretary of the Leicester Working Men’s Anti-Corn Law Association which
claimed 750 members and the antipathy of the Shakespearean Chartists. He
address this call for repeal of the Corn Laws to the local landowners:
The sun and the rain, and the dews of heaven, while
you are sleeping, while going your journies of pleasure, and while
feasting upon the rich viands of this and every other clime, and drinking
the choicest wine, are causing your corn and grass to crow, and your
cattle to thrive; but the poor stocking makers of this town and county are
compelled rise early and sit up late, and toil incessantly through the
day, for the scanty sum 6s. or 7s. per week, and though they would able to
obtain much larger remuneration for their labour by being allowed to
exchange the articles of their manufacture for the agricultural produce of
other countries, your avarice says they shall not.
21st May 1830, A. Temple Patterson,
Leicester 1954, Leicestershire Mercury,
9th April 1842
1892, died: 1982 (Liberal and Labour Party)
Barnett Janner won scholarships to
the Barry County School and to the University of Wales. After he qualified
as a solicitor, he served with the artillery in the First World War in
France and Belgium and was gassed. From 1931-35, he was the Liberal MP for
Whitechapel and was selected for West Leicester in 1938. At that time, he
was opposed the policy of non-intervention in the Spanish civil war and
was very aware of the menace of fascism.
He was elected in 1945 and remained a
City MP until 1970, when
he stood down to enable his son Greville (11 July 1928 -19 December 2015)
to be selected at the last moment. Barnett Janner was a member of the British Board of Deputies,
expert on the intricate Rent Acts and worked out the Labour Party’s policy
on legal aid to the poor. He was awarded freedom of the City in 1971.
Greville Janner went on to serve 27
years in the House of Commons and then as a member of the House of Lords. Unfortunately there is very little in his career to
warrant his inclusion on this site as a 'radical.' He was never
a frontbencher, Janner was particularly known for his work on Select
Committees and was associated with a number of Jewish organisations
including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, of which he was chairman
from 1978 to 1984, and being prominent in the field of education about the
Allegations that he had sexually
abused children were made in 1991 but Greville Janner denied them and no action was
taken. The allegations re-emerged shortly before Janner's death, and
although the Crown Prosecution Service considered that there was enough
evidence to merit prosecution, they decided that a prosecution would not
be in the public interest as Janner had been diagnosed as suffering from
13th April 1882, Leicester, died: 3rd August 1932,
Dennis Jennett was the son of the professional boxer
Mick Jennett and lived at 58 Charnwood Street. He started work as a 'sprigging lad' in the
boot and shoe trade but at the age of 15, in 1897, he enlisted
in the Royal Navy. He served for five years aboard ships such as HMS
Impregnable and HMS Royal Sovereign. His rebellious character is reflected
in his service history which records that he was put in the cells on more
than one occasion, once for refusing duty and another time for desertion.
Having suffered a hernia, the much tattooed 5'6" seaman was invalided out
of the service in 1903 before his period of service ended. The next year,
aged 22 he married Amelia Potter. Two years later she summoned him for
desertion, he claimed he was at sea working as merchant seaman. Amelia
said she had no money from him and had to go to work to support herself
and her child.
Jennet returned to Leicester, but was out of
work. In 1908, he spoke on behalf of the unemployed when the
Right to Work Committee met with the mayor to press for a work scheme for
the unemployed. The following year he emerged as leader of the Leicester
'land-grabbers' whose slogan was the 'Land is for all.' In Nov 1909, a
group of unemployed men took possession of a vacant plot of Corporation land in Walnut
street and set up camp, whilst another group were reportedly digging a
piece of land near the Cricket ground in Aylestone Road. Jennett
reportedly told the mayor that he would:
rather go to the House of Correction than to the Workhouse, for at the
House of Correction one was treated as a man. As a protest, the men had
made their made up their minds that that they would not go the Work house
or register their names at the Distress Committee, knowing how hopeless
their case was.
Apparently the unemployed had come to the conclusion
that the only way solve the unemployed problem was to solve it themselves
and were asking the Council for assistance to work the land.
Jennett described the labour test as an abominable and degrading system...
he wished to reminded the Mayor that: while the grass was growing,
the horse was starving. The men were not clamouring for themselves, but
for their wives and children. I want to live, I don’t want to die by slow
Chronicle urged that in view of their impromptu boxing bouts and concerts
at night, the Land-grabbers should be 'moved on.' Internal dissent seems
to have led to the Leicester land-grabbers.
In 1911, Jennett with two other men was charged with
stealing 180 dozen hose, valued at £90, from a factory along. He pleaded
guilty. Evidence was given that Jennett and his family were living in
poverty first in Rathbone Place and then in Calais Street and did not even
have a table, Jennet told the court that one of his children was very ill.
He had a previous conviction in 1909 for stealing two loaves of bread from
a poor law relieving officer as a protest against the Poor Law. The police
gave evidence that Jennett's role in the land-grabbers activity had caused
him to loose his work.
The recorder said he felt sorry for Jennett and
sentenced him to six calendar months in prison whilst Freeman, who
received the stolen goods, got 15 months and was to be deported as an
undesirable alien. In court and on the 1911 census Jennett's occupation
was given as a ship's
stoker in the merchant services.
Whilst in prison, his young
daughters are listed as being patients in the North Evington Poor Law
Infirmary. Soon after he was released, he was accused of assaulting a
landlord's agent and gave his occupation as a hawker.
he must have moved to London, because it was from there on 25th
August 1914, just weeks after war was declared, that he enlisted in the
army. He gave his occupation as a shoe maker. Two years later, in November
1916, the Police Gazette listed him as a deserter from the Royal Hampshire
Regiment giving his full description including tattoos. In June 1917 he
was court marshalled in Portsmouth. yet he deserted again in July 1917
from Bognor and yet again in November 1917 and was still at large in March
1918. As yet no further details of what happened to him during the war
have emerged, except that it was said that he actively participated in unrest
in the army. This may explain his relatively early demobilisation.
He settled in Islington where he sought work as a
shoemaker. By early 1919, Jennett was heavily involved in the Federation
of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers (FDDSS) and in May 1919
he was one of those arrested at a demonstration at Constitution Hill after
it was baton charged by the police.
He went on to become one of the most prominent figures
in the Islington Unemployed Council, becoming chairman
of the committee. He also became secretary of the London District of
Unemployed Associations and was involved in disrupting the 1920 Labour
Party conference in Westminster. During a discussion on unemployment at
the 1920 Labour Party conference he ran into the gallery and addressed the
delegates in stentorian voice, asking for the recognition of the Russian
Soviet Government. He was constantly interrupted, and shouted: "You are
a crowd of dirty, lazy fakers."
In January 1920, a spokesman for the Central Council of
Unemployed Committee, he told the Asociated Press that:
75% of the London unemployed are ex-servicmen. We are
not out for loot, but we want work provided at once. Deputations to
cabinet ministers result in vague promises and don't help us.
Relieving acute distress is by no means our full programme. We want to
reshape the relations between capital and labour. Workers of all trades
must be admitted to control of enterprises. We propose to make this our
main issue and get all workers to adopt this idea. This, we realise, is
not attainable without a hard fight. We a re certain there will be a big
social upheaval this winter.
Jennett played a leading part in the occupation of
the Essex Road public library in Nov-Dec 1920.
Following its recapture by the police, he
led a raiding party which intended to seize Islington Town Hall in January
attempt came to grief when they were met by the police, who had been
tipped off, and were waiting in the Town Hall. There was an affray,
nineteen unemployed were arrested and thirteen police injured. According
to the police, one of those arrested had a letter of detailed instructions signed
by 'Jennett of Islington.' Jennett was subsequently arrested and charged
with breaking the peace, though he challenged the police to prove
that he had written the note. Much was made in the press that his military
medical record noted 'mental instability.' He was ordered to
prison for three months or to give two sureties of £25 each: however, the
magistrate refused sureties from the chairman of the board of guardians
and a fellow guardian.
Late in August, he negotiated
with the Guardians in Islington and obtained their agreement to pay 25/- a
week in outdoor relief for a man and wife. This compromise was widely
reported in the national press and criticised for giving many families a
larger income weekly than they would have if the head of the family were
fully employed. By September, he had moved back to
living at 6 Willow Cottages, Taylor
Street, in the heart of Leicester's slums. Rowland
Walton described him a a very forceful person.
According to police intelligence,
Jennett had come
with others, from the N.U.W.M. in London to give help to Leicester's
unemployed. However, Jennett maintained that he had come to Leicester to
set up as a market trader, since his children were living in the district.
September 1921, Jennett led a 1,000 strong crowd which marched on Rupert
Street offices of the Guardians to demand that a scheme of outdoor relief
be put into operation. The unemployed were met with police truncheons and
many were left bleeding in the roadway. An eyewitness described Jennett's arrest:
As he was walking
away, a policeman walked up behind him and struck him with his baton. He
lifted his baton for a second blow, but it was not necessary; the man was
down and out.
Jennett was subsequently charged
with assaulting a police officer. The inscription of the press photo of
the event describes it as a 'baton arrest. 'The
police clearly regarded Jennett as a dangerous subversive
and their over reaction to a largely peaceful march is probably directly
attributable to Jennett's presence.
In the subsequent protests over the
treatment of the unemployed, shop windows were broken and the police
station surrounded by those demanding his release. In court, the police
gave evidence that he had had been to prison for a month for deserting his
wife and family and had been bound over for stealing two loaves from Poor
Law offices. He had been sentenced for six months for warehouse breaking
and had been arrested twice as a deserter from the army. They also alleged
that he had been was connected
with the attempt of a crowd to force its way into the House of Commons and
the attempt to occupy Islington Town Hall. The police also said that on February 23rd 1921, in Hyde
Park, Jennett had proposed a raid on Lyons' Corner House, but this did not
materialise. Worse, he had been “associated with a Jewess on the Clyde
in preaching Bolshevist ideas.”
Jennett was sent to prison for one
month in the second division. He was reported to have replied to the
sentence with the comment: “Roll on the revolution.” The is no
evidence as to Jennett's political allegiances, but circumstantial evidence
suggests he was in the Socialist Labour Party. A joint work scheme for the unemployed was
promptly instituted by the Council and Guardians soon after the
In January 1924, he was thrown out of
a Railwaymen's meeting Rechabites Hall in Leicester and charged with
disorderly conduct. He was accused of standing in a crowd and shouting.
Jennett claimed that he was a 'marked man' and had an altercation with the
stewards. The police told the court that he 14 previous convictions. Jennett
then seems to have dropped out of the political limelight. In 1927,
Jennett now a council tenant, was summoned before court for owing £3 to
the Corporation. Jennett told the court that he actually owed £3 10s. He
explained that the Council had refused to supply him with slot gas meter,
but said they would put in an ordinary meter, payment to be made
quarterly. He refused as he considered it unfair to make workmen pay a
heavy quarterly bill when they could pay for the gas they got it with a
slot meter. In consequence he went without light for three months. When
then the Corporation put in a slot meter, and he started paying rent; and
was willing, having made his protest and got what wanted, to pay off the
arrears by instalment. The judge agreed.
Sources: Leicester Daily Post, 31st
March 1906, Nottingham Evening Post, 6
November 1909, Leicester Chronicle, 13 November 1909, Melton Mowbray
Mercury and Oakham and Uppingham News, 5th January 1911, Leicester Post
6th July 1911, The Police Gazette, 14th Novmeber 1916, Dundee Courier, 30
December 1920, The Evening Independent, 13th Jan, 1921, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette,
25th Jan 1921, Evening Telegraph, 30th August 1921, Leicester Pioneer 30th
September 1921, Leicester Evening Mail, 1st, 6th
October 1921, Leicester Mercury, 6th October 1921, Nottingham Journal,
28th January 1924Yorkshire Evening Post, 8th April 1927, PRO CAB 24/128 Special
Report No. 23 Peter Kingsford, The Hunger Marchers in
Britain 1920-1940, Ken Weller: 'Don't be a soldier!' The Radical
Anti-war Movement in North London 1914-1918
Born: Cosby, died: January 1855 aged 47 (Chartist & poet)
Sons of poverty assemble,
Ye whose hearts with woe are riven.
Let the guilty tyrants tremble,
Who your hearts such pain have given.
We will never from the shrine of truth be driven.
From Spread The Charter far
and Wide, 1842
William Jones was an active Chartist,
prolific poet and musician. He was a Primitive Methodist and worked as a
framework knitter first making socks and then making gloves. The latter
being generally better-paid work. In 1845, he gave evidence to the
Commission of Enquiry into the Conditions of the Framework Knitters. In
his evidence he describes his working conditions and the workers’
grievances over frame-rents and middle-men.
The 1851 census describes him as a
‘framework knitter and poet.’ His wife was a ‘Day School Teacher’ who took
in stockingers’ children as soon as they could walk. However, once they
were about five they were taken out of her school and put to work. He did
not want his son to be a stockinger and the census describes him as a
He contributed to the
Shakespearean Chartist Hymn Book in 1842 and assisted Thomas Cooper at
his Adult Sunday School. He contributed poems to Cooper’s publications, to
Jonathan Barstow’s ‘Chartist Pilot,’ the English Chartist
Circular and to the Northern Star. In 1843, he was active in
support of the Leicester Democratic Hall of Science. His criticism of
O’Connor’s ill fated land scheme in 1847, lost him some friends, but he
was ultimately vindicated when the scheme collapsed.
In 1848, he edited a
new version of the Chartist Hymn book. He also contributed poems to the
national Chartist press and also to the local Liberal papers. In 1850, he
wrote an article on The Factory System vs. Frame Charges in The
Leicestershire Movement arguing against the iniquities of frame charges.
By 1851, with some other local Chartists leaders, he had reached an
accommodation with William Biggs and other middle class radicals who
wanted an extension of the franchise. He was now a respected local poet,
with stable employment with a sympathetic master. He published two books
of poetry: The Spirit; Or A Dream in The Woodland (1850) and
another in 1853.
Sources: Draft of a letter to the
Leicestershire Mercury, Leicestershire Records Office, DE 2964/32/1,
Report of he Commission on the Condition of the Framework Knitters, 1845
p22, Leicestershire Mercury, 11th October 1851, 3rd
& 10th February 1855, Thomas Cooper, The Life of Thomas
William Jones was from Liverpool and was sent to Leicester in 1842 in Thomas Cooper’s
(not to be confused with the local poet and the Welsh Chartist transported
to Australia) Following the general strike in July/August 1842, he was arrested
for using seditious language and was put on trial in April 1843. He was
brought before Sir John Gurney KC (Baron Gurney) who in 1835 had become
the last judge in England to sentence two men to be hanged for sodomy.
According to Gammage, the sedition with which he was
charged, was "such as no unprejudiced jury would have construed into
guilt; but he committed the additional offence of delivering one of the
most brilliant defences ever addressed to a jury ; it lasted for four
hours, and its eloquent diction even extorted the praise of the Daily
Times." Gammage compared Gurney's partial conduct to that of the
imfamous Judge Jeffries.
Jones told the court that he had always advocated peace
and order, but it was true he had denounced the Government as tyrannical.
Baron Gurney, with great vehemence, "Then you have done exceedingly
Jones, "That was my conviction, my lord."
Baron Gurney, "You may hold your convictions as you please sir, but you
have no right to hold out to the people that the Government is tyrannical,
that's a crime."
According to Gammage: "A servile jury bowed to the ill-tempered caprice
of the tyrannical judge, and delivered in a verdict of guilty."
After the trial the Morning Chronicle asked, "Which
is the judge, and which the criminal?" And it remarked, "Had Jones
been the most unprincipled agitator, or even the most daring traitor that
ever infested society, the treatment which he is reported to have received
from Baron Gurney, would not the less violently have shocked every
received notion of judicial decorum."
When Jones, the Chartist, was taken prison, he entrusted his best clothes
to Jonathan Bairstow. On his release Jones asked for his suit back only to be
fobbed off by Bairstow who told him it had been accidentally damaged by
water. It turned out, however, that Bairstow had worn the suit threadbare.
Jones later emigrated to America, but returned to Liverpool.
Sources: Northern Star 1st April 1843, R. G.
Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement 1837-1854, 1894
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© Ned Newitt Last revised:
June 05, 2018.