Born: 1812, died 4th June 1856, (Radical)
Despite coming from a privileged background, Richard
Gardner was a radical. He went to Charterhouse School, then Manchester
School, then finally Wadham College, Oxford University. He was a barrister
and member of the Inner Temple. In 1842, he was a member of the Manchester
Complete Suffrage Union and that year published.
An address to the middle and working classes engaged in trade and
manufactures throughout the empire on the necessity of union at the
He was elected as a Radical member of parliament for
Leicester in 1847 in conjunction with Sir Joshua Walmsley. However, as a
result of a petition he was unseated the following year. Although the
election being remembered as the most sober and least lavish in memory,
the Tories alleged corruption and proved their case to their colleagues in
Parliament. The petition was something of a double edged sword since it
served to awaken public feeling against the corrupt practices which had
been endemic at election times - usually benefiting the Tories.
Despite being branded as Chartists, Gardner and Walmsley
were elected again in 1852, and retained their seats, notwithstanding a
second petition by the Whigs and Tories. Gardner was a supporter of
national (secular) education and, as a supporter of free trade, he took an
active part in the repeal of the Corn Laws. Although a member of the
Church of England, he was liberal in his views on religion and civil
freedom. He objected to the alliance of Church and State under any
circumstances, and was opposed to public endowments for religious purposes
under any pretexts. Gardner was regarded as a 'learned theoriser' and a
However he ignored working class opposition to frame
charges, despite the support he had earlier received from framework
knitters. The charges were a major working class grievance, since knitters
had to pay the rent of their frames even though they had no work. Despite a petition signed by, 13,000 workers and 900
ratepayers in support of Henry Halford's bill to abolish frame charges, Gardner voted against whilst Walmsley
voted in favour.
In 1850, he married Lucy, the only daughter of count de
Mandelsloh, minister plenipotentiary from Wurtemberg. He died on 4th June
1856 from a heart condition, leaving a wife and two daughters. He is
buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Leicestershire Mercury, 14th May 1853, 7th June 1856,
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 52, Victoria County History.
Died: April 2016, aged 69
(Communist Party, Labour Party, Left Unity)
Geoff Gay worked as a maths teacher at Burleigh
Community College from 1976 to 2000. He was active in the NUT and was
assistant secretary of Leicester and District Trades Union Council from
2013 to 2016.. Although he had
motor-neurone disease, he died of a heart attack.
In 1966, as a student, he joined the Communist Party of
Great Britain because thought that it had a realistic programme for
achieving Socialism in Britain. Having no truck with apologists for the
Soviet Union, he eventually came to the view that the internal divisions
within the party were irreconcilable. However, he stayed in the CP until
it wound itself up in 1991.
In 1993, he joined the Labour Party, and was a Labour
councillor from 1999 to 2011 for the Shelthorpe ward in Loughborough,
where he campaigned on behalf of residents on the estate. In 2003,
he was close to leaving the Labour Party over the invasion of Iraq and over
policy, but decided to stay in because the resignation of a councillor
would have been embarrassing.
He decided to leave following privately-educated Tristram Hunt's appointment as education spokesperson and
his continuation with the Tories’ quasi-privatisation of publicly-funded education
. He resigned in late 2013, and became a founding member of Left Unity.
Geoff was also a long standing member of the Leicester Secular Society and
an active member of the Leicester group of Unlock Democracy and a member
of the Electoral Reform Society.
Geoff was also an avid fan of rugby and coached the
Under 15s at Burleigh as well as the Under 19s Loughborough Colts. He was
also involved in the North Leicestershire and County Under 15s. Close
friend and teacher, Lea Toone told the Loughborough Echo: “He was a
very good councillor and well rated. He was a single bloke and put his
time in. He was also a union representative for the National Union
of Teachers. He was a hard working, honest guy and a character.”
Sources: Geoff Gay,
Loughborough Echo & author’s personal knowledge
Died: March 22nd 2020, aged 73 (Secularist)
Michael Gerard was a stalwart and long standing member of
the Leicester Secular Society. He was instantly recognizably by his hats
and his distinctive rich plummy voice. Michael was president of the
Society in 2011.
During the 1970s he was an active member of the Leicester group of the
Anarchist Workers Association and was later involved in a
host of causes and pressure groups. These included C.N.D., the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign and the Friends of Bethlehem. He helped arrange the
visits of children from Bethlehem to Leicester and the shipment of surplus
musical instruments to Cuba. He took a great interest in the politics of
South America, visiting Guatemala and Nicaragua, learning Spanish in the
Before retiring, Michael was a peripatetic teacher who
taught partially sighted children. This irony was not lost on him as he
too lost his sight. He had a great love of music and his violin
playing was the foundation of the Greenshoots Ceilidh band.
Having been ill with what he thought was pneumonia, tests
revealed that he had Covid 19 and the quarantine regulations at the Royal
Infirmary meant that his family were unable to see him. He died on Sunday
Sources: author’s personal knowledge
Died: May 22nd 2005, aged 56 (Labour Party)
Getliffe was elected to represent Beaumont Leys on what was then the
county council in 1993, before taking a seat on the new city council in
1997. He was described as a key player in the team which helped bring £13
million of European regeneration cash to Beaumont Leys to combat problems
such as crime, unemployment and poor quality housing. He was remembered
for being the local councillor who was truly local.
Sources: author’s personal knowledge
Died: January 1994 aged 76
After training in Liverpool as a
plumber, in 1949, Harold Gibson joined the hosiery union. He later became
district secretary of the northern region and in 1962 he was elected
General Secretary, holding the post until 1975. He then became general
president until he retired in 1982.
Sources: Leicester Mercury, 13th
Born Leicestershire 1818, died: 1883 (Owenite,
Liberal & Secularist)
His father had been a carpenter
and a Quaker. Josiah and Benjamin Gimson started an engineering business
in 1842 on Welford Road, Leicester, after serving their apprenticeship at
Cort's foundry. In the early years the principal product of the firm was
braid machinery for the elastic web trade; Gimsons also advertised as
brassfounders, millwrights and manufacturers of boot and shoe making
In the 1840s Josiah was active in
support of Robert Owen's socialist ideas. He was president of the local Owenite branch, the Rational
Society, from 1844 onwards. He was a supporter of the rationalism of G.J.
Holyoake and in the 1870s Gimson
became the influential leader of the Leicester secularists.
Though unorthodox and therefore
unpopular with churchmen like Canon Vaughan, Gimson stood consistently for the utmost freedom of discussion and this
cause was one to which he gave his heart. The Leicester Secular Society,
formed in 1852, faded out of existence, was revived in 1861 and was
revived again in August 1867 with Gimson as treasurer. It has been in
continuous existence ever since.
In February 1847, Gimson works on Brown Street had suffered
a disastrous fire and he was under-insured. Both he and his brother went bankrupt,
years later, he scrupulously paid off his creditors. The Leicester Journal commented:
Mr. Gimson has set a noble example, and one which, in these day of
commercial morality will, we fear, not be largely imitated.
In October 1872 he paid off his last debt and the
following month began to collect money for a Secular Hall. The Leicester Secular Hall Company was formally constituted on the 2nd
May, 1873 and Gimson was a major shareholder. A plot of land of some two
thousand square yards was purchased for £4,500 and the hall was opened in
Baradlaugh and Holyoake offered
two different approaches as to how Secularism could best be advanced. This
hinged on whether the Secularists should directly attack the churches.
Holyoake and Gimson’s view was that they should not do so, but rather work
for the diffusion of Secularist principles, even attracting liberal-minded
churchmen to the ranks of Secularism. Bradlaugh and his supporters,
however, took a widely different view. Maintaining that the churches stood
in the way of Secularism, they held to be the task of the Secularists to
do everything possible to weaken their hold on the people.
In 1877 Charles Bradlaugh and
Annie Besant decided to publish The Fruits of Philosophy, Charles
Knowlton's book advocating birth control. Besant and Bradlaugh were
charged with publishing material that was “likely to deprave or corrupt
those whose minds are open to immoral influences.” In court they
argued that “we think it more moral to prevent conception of children
than, after they are born, to murder them by want of food, air and
clothing.” Besant and Bradlaugh were both found guilty of publishing
an ‘obscene libel’ and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of
Appeal the sentence was quashed.
In 1877, Gimson and his allies in
the National Secular Society, believed that Bradlaugh’s leadership was too
controversial and attempted to get him to stand down. When that failed
they backed the formation of Holyoake’s short lived rival British Secular
Union and the Leicester Secular Society parted from the National Secular
Society. Yet, such was Bradlaugh’s standing among rank and file
secularists that both he and Annie Besant were present to open the new Secular
Hall in 1881 and his portrait hung next to that Gimson, Wright and
Holyoake in the hall.
In 1872, Josiah joined the first local committee
established to promote women's suffrage and was also active in the
Workmen's Peace Association.
In 1879 he
gave an address entitled "War and how to avoid it." He described the
situations of nations standing in an attitude of armed defence each
towards the other, as one of the most barbarous features of the age.
Gimson's business grew and
expanded and in 1878 the Vulcan Works was opened on Humberstone
Road/Nedham Street adjacent to the Midland Railway. He became one of the largest employers in the city,
employing 270 men & 1 boy in 1881. He prided himself on the favourable
wages and conditions he offered his workers.
Around 1872, Messrs. Gimson &
Co. had introduced a system of industrial partnership to their engine works
which, it was claimed added a bonus of 11% to wages. The scheme
ended in 1879 not because of a 'diminution of profits,' but through staff
disinterest. (K.S. Gimson). Gimson & Co was also one of a number of local
firms that met the demands of the Nine Hours Movement by reducing the
working week to 54 hours.
According to G.J. Holyoake, a
share of the profits (after a dividend on the capital had been paid) was
initially entrusted to ‘leading workmen.’ Those selected could then
nominate others whom they discerned to be “capable and willing to
increase the prosperity of the company by zeal and judgment in the
discharge of their duties. This plan had the advantage of limiting the
division of profits to those who showed increased efforts in augmenting
them, and left the responsibility of excluding the indifferent to their
In January 1857, Josiah Gimson's wife Elizabeth died.
They had married in 1843 and had five daughters and two sons. In 1858 he
married Sarah Ansell at St Mary de Castro Church and had another five
In 1877, he was elected to
the town council as a Liberal for West St Mary’s ward. He soon became
vice-chairman of the Floods, Highways and Sewerage Committee. Shortly
before his death, he was active in support of G.J. Holyoake's attempt to be
a Liberal candidate for Leicester. On his death, in addition to his firm,
he had a personal fortune of £20,000.
Sources: Leicester Mercury 13th
Febrary 1847, Leicester Journal, 4 October
1872, Midlands Free Press, 10th
January 1874, Leicester Chronicle 4th Ocober 1879, F. J. Gould, The History Of The
Leicester Secular Society,
1900, George Jacob Holyoake, The History of Co-operation, 1875,
David Nash, Secularism, Art and Freedom, Elizabeth Crawford, The
Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey
Born 1860, died 1938 (Secularist & Liberal)
Sydney Gimson was a son of Josiah
worked in the family engineering firm, Gimson and Co. Sydney,
like his mother, was an active Unitarian for many years. Following death
of his father, Sydney began to play a very active part in the Secular
Society, becoming its secretary, treasurer and later president.
He was President of the Secular Society from 1883 until shortly before his
Sydney's older brother J. Mentor Gimson
(died 1925) was active from the 1880s in support of the Secular Hall Company and
in 1908 was President of the Leicester & Leicestershire Women's Suffrage
Society. His younger
Ernest (1864-1919) became an innovative Arts and Craft furniture
designer. William Morris’s visits to Leicester had a profound influence on
both Ernest and Sydney. However, in Sydney’s case this influence only
extended to matters of art. Sydney vigorously opposed Socialism and
supported the Personal Rights Association and ‘individualism.’
Leicester branch of the Kyrle Society was set up in 1880 to improve the
urban environment including the planting of public gardens and trees and
Sydney was president from 1913 to 1915.
Although Gimson was firmly wedded to
the principle of the free discussion of ideas, as an employer he was less
amenable to the freedom of his workforce to belong to a union. Whilst his
father had backed the nine hours movement, his resisted the campaign for
eight hours. When the engineering union (A.S.E.) began a strike in London
for a 48 hour week in the summer of 1897, the Employers' Federation
declared a national lockout. One of the factories in Leicester which
locked out union members was Messrs Gimsons. In a letter to its workers,
the firm acknowledged that whilst none of its workers had gone on strike,
union members were nevertheless contributing to union funds and therefore
supporting the strike. The letter said that a 48 hours week would add to
Gimson’s costs and put the firm at a competitive disadvantage. It
supported the lock-out and refused to allow any union member into work.
This was about 25% of the workforce.
In November 1897, Sydney was forced
to defend his action to Eleanor Marx who was speaking at the Secular Hall.
Justice recorded that after her lecture:
There was an immensely lively and
long discussion, and Mr. Gimson tried to put the case of the Federation.
But although Gimson is immensely popular (even with his own locked-out
men, for he is honest, and, as his hard work for Secularism shows, no
ordinary middles class man) the audience was with the workers, and nothing
was more applauded than the contrast between the employers' international,
backed by the German Emperor and German police, and the international of
the workers. I should, in justice to Gimson, say that he took it all in
the kindliest and best humoured way
was elected to the Town Council in 1910 and served as Chair of the
Museum and Art Gallery Committee and was responsible for acquiring the
buildings that are now Newarke Houses Museum. He also served as a member
of the Municipal Technical and Art Schools Committee and the Colleges of
Art and Technology Committee until his death.
First World War was opposed by many Secularists, however Sydney declared that it
was a "just war forced upon (England)
by the military aggression of Germany"
urged young men to enlist. He was then appointed chair of Leicester Town
Council's Belgian Refugee Committee, and the Secular Society raised a
subscription in January 1915 to guarantee a house to a Belgian family.
remained as guests of the Society until February 1919. Gimson
Engineering was heavily involved in the manufacture of
munitions for the was and in
1915 Gimson & Co co-founded the Leicester District Armaments Group of
Engineering Employers. Sydney was chairman of the Board of Management of
the local Munitions Committee.
This was all a far cry from his father's espousal of
Gimson said later that he saw his role during the war as trying to hold
the Secular Society together and guiding it on a path of
However, Gimson's main influence seems to have been to prevent the Secular
Society from opposing the war.
The opposing views in the Secular Society can be seen in 1917, when it rejected a call for a negotiated peace
and but then deplored the disenfranchisement of conscientious objectors.
The Secular Hall was used on numerous occasions by the Union of Democratic
Control when other venues were refused to them. During the 1918, election
when the Labour Party found it very difficult to obtain premises, because
its opposition to the war, Gimson firmly supported the use of the Secular
Hall for the Labour election campaign.
the 1920s, Gimson became President of the Leicester and County Saturday
Leicester Chronicle 17
July 1897, Leicester Journal 1 October 1897, Justice. 20 November 1897,
Midlands Free Press, 17th Oct 1914,
F. J. Gould, The History Of The
Leicester Secular Society, 1900, S. Gimson, Random
Recollections of the Leicester Secular Society 1932, Edward Royle,
The Records of the Leicester Secular Society, 1981,
David Nash, Secularism, Art and Freedom,
Born Leicester 1840, died: 1930 (Liberal &
Mary Gittins grew up in a
comfortable Georgian house in Churchgate. She left home in 1865 to become
the governess to the family of George Melly MP which gained an entrée to
Liberal circles in London and Liverpool. In 1879, she settled in
Birmingham as Art Mistress in the Edgbaston High School. She returned to
Leicester in 1900 and her Liberalism became ardent Socialism and Pacifism.
For many years she worked for Women’s Suffrage, though never on militant
lines She was secretary of the local branch of the National Union of Women
Workers (later National Council of Women) from 1900 to 1916 and in that
capacity she helped initiate the Bond Street Maternity Hospital and the
movement for Infant Welfare.
In 1913, she resigned as president of Leicester Women's Liberal
Association in protest at the Liberal Government's refusal to grant votes
for women. That year, large numbers of the officers and committee of the
Women's Liberal Association had also resigned for the same reason. A
motion to disband the W.L.A. was only lost by one vote.
Catherine, was also the Secretary of the
local Kyrle Society; founded by Miranda Hill (sister of Octavia) and
supported by William Morris. The Society provided art, books and open
spaces to the working class poor, around the slogan ‘Bring Beauty Home
to the Poor.’ This involved, at first, artistic decoration of
hospitals, schools and working-class clubs. The Leicester branch, founded
in 1880, lasted nearly fifty years before being merged with the Leicester
In 1917, Sylvia Pankhurst's Workers' Suffrage Federation
was meeting in her studio a 2 Berridge Street and she was active in the
anti war Union of Democratic Control.
Sources: Leicester Daily Post, 28
February 1913, Isabel Ellis, Records Of
Nineteenth Century Leicester, Common
Cause, 11th April 1913, Woman's Dreadnought, 2nd June 1917
Born Leicester 1845, died:
7th August 1910 (Leicester Women’s
Gittins, like her elder sister, was a watercolour artist and a teacher of
drawing, but the whole of her life was spent in Leicester and centred
round the Unitarian Great Meeting Chapel. She was an unusual combination
of artist and social reformer, she was a born leader gifted with much
personal charm. High minded like her older sister Mary, every man to whom
the Gittinses were closely related were inadequate to the claims made upon
them. She founded the Leicester Women’s Liberal Association in 1886 at a
time when women had no political power and led it for many years; she was
the secretary of the Leicester Women’s Suffrage Society, through times of much
discouragement. In 1890, she gave a lecture of women's suffrage to the
Leicester Liberal Club and was probably the first local woman to fulfil such
a public function on the question of the vote. She told the meeting that:
The granting of the franchise had not been based in
the past on education or wisdom, but it had been conferred as a matter of
justice. Wisdom was not a qualification, but the payment of a rate or the
possession of land to a certain amount. At the present time about 800,000
women in the United Kingdom had those qualifications, and their contention
was that they ought to be able to vote at parliamentary elections if they
wished to do so.
In 1907, she spoke at a meeting of the Women’s Labour
League and distanced herself from the tactics of the WSPU. She was active
in the Leicester Branch of the National Union of Women Workers up to her
death and was a vice president of the National Union Women's Suffrage
She was also a watercolour artist and
drawing teacher. As
a member of the Leicester Society of Artists,
she exhibited several landscape paintings at the Royal Academy and the New
Walk Museum and Art Gallery holds several of her watercolours.
She was a disciple of Ruskin and
Morris and according to Sydney Gimson, she almost worshipped the latter.
The painting of Bablake School (left) was probably undertaken because the
school was founded in 1344 by Queen Isabella of France.
Edith taught at the Great Meeting
Sunday School for 40 years. In 1907, she attempted to bring a court case
in which she argued that women had been unlawfully deprived of the vote.
When she died, Edith Gittins left a bequest of £500 to erect a
sculpture of Ethelfloeda (d. 918), the eldest daughter of Alfred the
Great. As Queen of Mercia, she re-captured Derby and Leicester from
the Danes in 918 A.D.
The work was commissioned by the Corporation in accordance with her wishes
Benjamin Fletcher and a Leicester Art School colleague, Crosland McClure, designed a
public drinking fountain surmounted by Fletcher’s bronze
sculpture. In 1922 was finally positioned in Victoria Park (rather
than the High Street as she had wanted)
After the statuette was stolen in 1978, the fountain was
relocated to the new Dolphin Square development near the Market Place and
the statuette was replaced by a replica. After further acts of vandalism,
the statuette and upper part of the fountain were eventually installed in
the entrance hall of the City Rooms in Hotel Street, but following the
sale of the City Rooms it is now in the courtyard of the Guildhall.
Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 19th
April 1890, Isabel Ellis, Records Of
Nineteenth Century Leicester, David Nash, Secularism, Art and Freedom, Howes, C. (ed), Leicester: Its Civic, Industrial,
Institutional and Social Life, Leicester
1927, Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and
Ireland: A Regional Survey
Born: Leicester 12th November 1893
(Labour Party), died March 1978
Goodwin was the only girl in a family of six children. She attended the
Avenue Road Elementary School which she left at the age of 13 in order to
enter the boot and shoe industry where she worked for 52 hours a week for
a wage of 4/ 6d.
She became a skilled operator in
the boot and shoe trade, before rising through the ranks of her union,
NUBSO, to become a full-time official and executive member from 1939-58.
On the retirement of
Bell-Richards, in 1939, she was elected President of the Leicester Women's
Branch of the Boot and Shoe Union (the only women's branch of the Union in
the country to be served entirely by women officers) and became
responsible for the working conditions in the industry of over 6,000 women
workers in Leicester & Leicestershire.
She was an expert motorist and
motorcyclist. In 1942, she was awarded the MBE for services to the
footwear industry, and was made a JP the following year. In 1944/45 she
was elected Chairman of the City Labour Party. She became a member the
City Council in 1944 and in the 1950s served as chair of the Housing
Committee for many years. In 1953, she successfully opposed plans by the
Tory group to sell off council houses. She was conscious of the stigma
attached to living in the slums. This led her to ensure that when slum
clearance re-started, former slum dwellers were not re-housed on one or
two estates as they been during the 1930s. She was appointed as an
Alderman in 1955 and became Lord Mayor in 1961 in which office she was
accompanied, as Lady Mayoress, by her very close friend, Mrs Ada Rawlings,
who for many years had worked with her in the boot and shoe industry. She
was chair of the Heath committee from 1962. She was commemorated by
Goodwin House, on St Matthews estate which has now been demolished.
Sources: Leicester City Council,
Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, Alan Fox, A History of the National
Union of Boot and Shoe Workers,
Born: Aston, c1856, died: 1941 (Socialist League,
Anarchist Communist Group, I.L.P.& Labour Party)
Gorrie came from a Presbyterian background.
In the 1870's, he was treasurer of the St Stephen's
Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society and a member of the Rev Meyer's
Total Abstinence Society. However, he was ‘converted’ to socialism after
listening to Tom Barclay speaking from the back of a dray in Humberstone
Gate. He became one of the founder members of the Socialist League in
Gorrie was in business on his own
account as a draper and Barclay described him as ‘a middle class activist who would
always put his hand in his pocket to pay a speaker’s expenses or for the
rent of a hall.’ He became secretary of the Leicester Branch of the
Socialist League in 1889 and, during the 1890s, was active as both a
Christian Socialist and a member of the Anarchist Communist Group. He was
also active in the local branch of the Land Nationalisation Society. In
1898, the remaining Socialist Leaguers regrouped as the short lived
Leicester Socialist Society. This claimed support from dissident I.L.P.
members and linked itself to the old anti-vaccination campaign.
During the Boer War, Gorrie was
active in the Leicester Society for the Promotion of Peace and was
secretary of the Anti-Conscription League. From 1902, he was involved with
the Leicester Passive Resisters' League and the Leicestershire, Leicester
and Rutland Citizens' League which spearheaded non-conformist opposition
to the 1902 Education Act. He was among those who refused to pay the share
of rates that supported sectarian religious education in schools. As a
result, his household goods were seized and sold to pay his debts to the
He was elected to the Board of
Guardians c1910 as an I.L.P. candidate and was treasurer of the City of
Leicester Labour Party from 1923 to 30. He was the Labour candidate for
Wycliffe in 1928 and was
agent in Leicester west during
the 1929 general election. He was eventually
elected to the City Council for Latimer ward in 1934.
Archibald Gorrie’s grandson was
active in the anti-fascist movement. He and others hung and anti fascist
flag/banner on the building between High Street and Silver Street after
gaining access from the Silver Arcade c1935
Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 28th
November 1896, 26th May 1900, Archibald Gorrie Collection
of Political memorabilia, University of Leicester Library, election
address 1933, census returns
Gould's 1903 election addresss
Born: Brighton, December 19th 1855 died:
1938 (Secularist, I.L.P., British Socialist Party, National Socialist Party, Social
Democratic Party, Labour Party)
Frederick Gould attended
choir school at St. George's Chapel, Windsor for three years and Chenies
school for nine years. He then studied theology and in 1877 became a teacher
at the Church school in Great Missenden. It was here where
he began to develop doubts about his own religious faith. In 1879 he moved
to London, married, and began working as a teacher at
the Turin Street Board School in Bethnal Green.
By the early 1880s he had become actively involved in the Secularist
movement and was also a rigid abstainer. At the end of
1887 some of his columns in the Secular Review came to the notice of his
employers, the London School Board, and he was
he was exempted from teaching the Bible.. He was transferred to Northey
Street, Limehouse and taught there for eight years.
He later asked to be allowed to resume Bible teaching, to stress its
ethical rather than supernatural elements, but this was refused.
His desire to continue teaching principles of morality and religion was
raised in the House of Commons in 1888, and in the National Reformer 1891,
but to no avail.
Gould left teaching in 1896 and in April 1899 he was appointed
organiser for the Secular Society
where he succeeded Joseph McCabe. He was already
known in Leicester since
he had first spoken at the Secular Hall in 1883.
His role was more of a pastor to the
society and in 1900 he published
History of the Leicester Secular Society. During this period he
became increasingly influenced by the writings of Auguste Comte and in
1902 he joined the Positivist Church of Humanity.
Gould argued that Comte's positivist philosophy was
Although it has been said that his
arrival breathed new life into the Secular Society, he was also a
divisive figure. His puritanical attitudes on the issue of drink and his
criticism of the more working class Secular Club seemed to suggest he
preferred the Secular Society to be better fewer and purer.
In 1900, he stood as the Secular
Society’s candidate for the school board and was elected. In 1901, he
persuaded the School Board to adopt a programme of Ethical and Moral
Instruction in Schools. Gould was a lifelong champion of moral education and wanted children to
have an inclusive ethical instruction, free from religious bias. He was a leading light in the
Moral Instruction League, founded in 1897 which sought to encourage the
teaching of secular moral education in schools. In the course of his life,
Gould produced nearly 50 books on subjects relating to moral education, as
well as hundreds of articles, pamphlets, and teaching materials.
In 1901 he joined with Burt Williams
(well known in the Co-operative world), F. W. Rogers, and others in
re-launching Tom Barclay’s Leicester Pioneer. He was an unpaid regular
columnist until 1909 when he resigned after the editor. Arthur Reynolds
declined to published some of material. He joined the I.L.P. in 1904 and
acted as secretary to the Labour group on the Town Council.
Following the dissolution of the
School Boards, he stood for the Town Council in 1903 for Newton ward for
the I.L.P. and lost. In 1904 he stood against a Conservative publican in
Castle ward and was elected on a teetotal platform by Wesleyans and
Baptists. (Gould had ended the sale of alcohol in the Secular Hall in
1902) His Secularism was obviously seen as the lesser evil. He lost the seat in 1907
and was re-elected for Wyggeston ward in 1908.
On April 30th 1908 Gould
resigned as Secretary of the Secular Society, though he continued to be a
member, and with two others set up the Leicester Positivist Society, which
lasted two years. They set up a ‘Church of Humanity’ at 14 Highcross
Sometime in 1908, he appeared in court as a passive resister
having refused to pay the share of rates that supported
sectarian religious education in schools. (see
Archibald Gorrie above) Although a member of the I.L.P. he was very
sympathetic to Henry Hyndman's Social Democratic Federation.
In 1909, he was one of the first to adopt the term "Humanist" in its
modern sense and that year published "On the Threshold of Sex" which
was a pioneering sex
education book intended for 14 to 21 year olds.
In 1910 he resigned from Leicester
Town Council and moved to Ealing to become ‘Demonstrator’ of the Moral
Education League (which was dissolved in 1919). In this capacity, he
travelled across the UK, as well as to the US, and India, lecturing on and
promoting the cause of non-theological moral education. Although, his
subsequent political life after he left Leicester lies outside the remit
of this page, his experience in the town continue to feature in his
Following he departure from Leicester
his politics were very much those of the various manifestations of Henry
Hyndman's parties : the Social Democratic Party, the British Socialist
Party and the National Socialist Party. He was a major contributor to its paper Justice well into the 1920s.
Not surprisingly he gave his backing to British Socialist Party candidate
Edward Hartley during the 1913,
Although he claimed also to have left the I.L.P. in
1916, by 1914, he was chairman of the Ealing Branch of the B.S.P. His continued
interest in Leicester politics was driven by the divide in attitudes towards the
First World War and a dislike of Ramsay MacDonald. Initially ambivalent about
the war, he came to the view that it was the moral duty of British citizens to support the cause of the
Allies. No doubt spurred by the I.L.P.'s anti-war stance, Gould
starts to voice a critique of the I.L.P. in Leicester.
However such criticism is singularly absent from his pre 1914
In 1916, following the split in the B.S.P., over the war Gould
became a luminary in the unfortunately named National Socialist Party
which was the pro-war faction of the B.S.P. According to the veteran
E. Belfort Bax:
His attempt to reconcile his sentiments of national
patriotism with Socialist Internationalism, when applied by him to the
German question, appears to have got him into a tangle.
In 1917, he produced a leaflet entitled "A Letter to
Leicester" in which he agued for the prosecution of the war until the
"bad spirit" (Germany) was "checked, broken and damned."
In 1923, Gould wrote
The Life-Story of A Humanist which gave an account of his years in
Sources: Justice 26th May 1906, 20th
February 1909, 6th August 1914, 19th October 1916, 20th September 1917,
21st February 1918, David Nash, Secularism,
Art and Freedom, F. J. Gould, The History Of The
Leicester Secular Society,
1900, The Life-Story of a Humanist, 1923
Born: April 3rd 1941, Croydon, died:
December 22nd 1982 (Communist Party)
studied sociology at Leeds University, where she active in the Communist
Party during the 1963 elections. She came to Leicester to train as a
teacher in 1964 at the Leicester University School of Education. She was
active in the Leicester University Anti-Racialist Committee, which
organised a demonstration against the colour bar at the Admiral Nelson
pub. In her post-graduate year, she married lecturer Dipak Nandy (later
founder and Director of the Runnymede Trust 1968-73), but they separated
in 1969. Both were active in the Campaign for Racial Equality. In October
1965, the Campaign illegally reproduced 3000 cyclostyled copies of the
Electoral Registration form and registered some 2,000 Asian and Caribbean
residents of Highfields. They then counted them at every polling station
in the constituency. Just one extraordinary statistic: 94% of the Asian
women eligible to vote had actually turned out on polling day.
By 1967, Maggie she was Secretary
of the Leicester Campaign for Racial Equality and campaigning for stronger
legislation to outlaw racial discrimination. In 1969, following the
daubing of the Synagogue with slogans, she helped found the Inter-Racial
Solidarity Campaign and was active in the campaigns against the National
Front in the 1970s.
She taught at Bushloe and later at
Countesthorpe College. She became warden of the Blaby Teachers centre and
contributed many articles to Forum – a left leaning education
magazine in which Brian Simon was involved. She was active in the early
stages of the Youth Foundation, now a well-established organisation
providing housing for black people. In 1977, she was appointed deputy head
at West Moors Middle School in Dorset. She returned to Leicester in 1980
and was studying to become a solicitor when she died of cancer.
Sources: Maggie Gracie memorial
booklet, author’s personal knowledge
Arthur Gratrix was a member of
AEUW district committee and the Communist candidate for the City Council
in Humberstone 1967. He was active in Thurnby Lodge tenants’ Association.
Not to be confused with A.A. Gratrix who was a Labour councillor.
Born: Mitcham 1851 (Liberal)
George Green did not go to school
and joined the London and Brighton Railway at the age of 10 as a signal
box clerk. He moved around the country working as a porter and a signalman
before coming to Leicester in 1878. He was active in the Amalgamated
Society of Railway Servants and became secretary of the Trades Council in
the 1890s. He was an ardent Liberal.
Sources: The Wyvern January 1898
Born: circa 1795, Hallaton, Leics, died 1858?
Henry Green was a grocer and tea
dealer who had a shop in
Rutland Street, though he later became a yarn commission agent. He was a
moral force Chartist and in 1842 sided with the All-Saints Chartists. He used the term ‘mushroom Chartists’ to
describe those who flocked to support the Charter during the periods of
depressed trade. In 1848, he played a leading role in the movement,
chairing large meetings at the Amphitheatre and other places. He was also
active with the Biggsite radicals. (not to be confused with Henry Green,
also of Rutland Street, who was a paper merchant and general agent.
Sources: A. Temple Patterson,
25 March, 6th May 1848
(I.L.P. and Labour Party)
James Green was president of the
Trades Council in 1938 and a delegate from the Transport And General
Workers. He worked as the manager of the Leicester Transport Dept canteen
and following his retirement, in 1953, he was elected to City Council for
Newton Ward, he was a council tenant.
Born: Leicester, Jan 19th 1873/5, died:
December 1952 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)
Ernest Grimsley was born in Syston
Street Leicester and one of nine children. Whilst at Syston Street Board
School, he obtained part-time employment at the age of 11 and after
leaving school he worked at a tackers boot shop. In 1889, was apprenticed
to Mr J. M. Hemmings printers. He became a Methodist lay preacher in the
1890s and was a strong advocate of temperance. He joined the Typographical
Association in 1894 and became president of the branch in 1914. He was
either president or secretary for many years. He was elected to the City
Council in 1919 for Castle ward. He became president of the I.L.P. in 1922
and president of the Trades Council in 1925. We
applied to book the Corn Exchange for a meeting of the T.A. during the
General Strike he was told "the printers of Leicester are dangerous men
and could not meet in a public hall" that the hall could be booked
only on condition that the officials persuaded the Leicester printers to
go back to work.
He became Lord Mayor in 1934 and in 1945 he
stepped down from the Council.
Sources: Leicester Mercury, 7th May
1926, Leicester City Council, Roll
of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, Howes, C. (ed), Leicester: Its Civic,
Industrial, Institutional and Social Life, Leicester 1927
Born: Heanor, Nov 1926, died: October 1994 aged 67
1960 Colin Grundy, then a science teacher at Roundhill School, first stood
for the council for Westcotes ward and lost. He was the Labour candidate
in the Parliamentary elections for the old constituency of
South East Leicester held in 1966 and 1970. In the General Election of 1970, he
was defeated by Tom Boardman (Conservative) by just 106 votes.
Colin was subsequently elected to the
Council in 1973 for the North Braunstone Ward and became a Councillor for
Westcotes Ward from 1983 onwards. He became chair of the Planning
Committee and was a very active supporter of Leicester’s twinning
arrangements. For many years he was a teacher
and deputy head at Alderman Newton’s school, eventually retiring in 1987.
He was renown for his practical jokes
which were not always in good taste. He once painted a cross on the
pavement outside a local chip shop and told the owner that the Council was
planning to install a public toilet there. The worried owner was
consequently very grateful to Colin, as his local councillor, for getting
the proposal halted. At a time when there were still left and right divisions
Labour group, he managed to keep a foot in both camps. He became Lord Mayor
1991 and is commemorated by Colin Grundy
Drive, off Keyham Lane.
Sources: Leicester City Council,
Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, author’s personal knowledge
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© Ned Newitt Last revised:
May 15, 2021.
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