Born: Leicester 1907, died: January 1987, (Labour Party &
Albert Hall was educated at the
former Milton Street Board School before starting a five-year
apprenticeship with a local wood working firm. In the late 1920s, he
was living in the slums of Fleet Street and then managed to get a council house on
the new South Braunstone estate. He then became one of leaders of the
Braunstone Tenants' Association. During the 1930s he helped produce the Braunstone Gazette
which was distributed free to tenants on the estate. He was very prominent in the
campaign for local community facilities and lower rents.
He was also an active
anti fascist and resigned from the Labour Party in
protest over the party’s initial support for non-intervention in Spain. He
was an active member of the Spanish Aid Committee and took in Czech
refugees from the Sudetenland. In 1939, he unsuccessfully sort to get the
T.U.C. ruling which banned Communists from serving on the Trades Council. In 1950
he tried again, but his motion was lost 61 - 42. He was a member of the Communist
Party member from the late 1930s, but left the party in the mid
1950s in the wake of the Hungarian invasion. He was an organiser for the
Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers for 26 years and Trades Council
President in 1954 & 1970-1.
In the early 1960s, he lent his support to Arnold Wesker’s Centre 42 activities. This culminated in a
very successful arts
festival sponsored by the Trades Council in 1962. He was a member of the
Phoenix and later Haymarket Board as well as a governor of Charles Keene,
South Fields and Leicester Polytechnic. In the early 1970s, he was active
in opposition to the government’s legislation on trade unions.
Sources: Leicester Evening Mail, 22nd
February 1939, Leicester Mercury, 1st March
August 1982, 12th January 1987, interview Leicester Oral
History Archive, author’s personal knowledge
Born: County Durham, died: June 1992 aged 53 (Labour Party)
Hall was an instrument maker and member of the E.T.U. He was elected as
both a City and County Councillor. During the 1950s, he was a RAF
electrician and witnessed Britain’s nuclear tests on Christmas Island. He
suffered ill health as a result and in the 1980s, he became a leading
light in the campaign for compensation for nuclear test victims.
Following his death from leukaemia,
his case for compensation was raised in parliament by Keith Vaz MP.
However, successive governments have refused to acknowledge any link
between the tests and the ill health of ex-servicemen. His son Colin also
served on the City Council.
Sources: Leicester Mercury, 4th
Arnesby, 1764, died Bristol: 1831
Every man must have a natural right
to use his limbs in whatever manner he pleases, that is not injurious to
another. In like manner he must have a right to worship God after the
manner he thinks acceptable ; or, in other words, he ought not to be
compelled TO CONSULT ANYTHING BUT HIS OWN CONSCIENCE.
Robert Hall was one of the 14 children
and his father was the local Baptist Minister. He was educated at Mr
Simmon’s school in Wigston, then at Dr Ryland’s school in Northampton,
then at the Bristol Baptist College and finally as a Scholar to King’s
He became a minister in Bristol , where
he also taught, but then moved to Cambridge, where he revived the local
chapel, wrote books and pamphlets and became famous for his eloquent
preaching. After a breakdown in health he returned to Leicestershire in
1806. As he recovered he returned to preaching and was appointed as
minister of the plain, red-brick Baptist Chapel in Harvey Lane in 1807. In
the early 19th century the Baptists were the most numerous nonconformist
body in Leicester, although the Unitarians were more influential
dominating local politics.
Robert Hall was active with those who
agitated for peace in the wars with France and America, for the relief of
poverty, for parliamentary reform and religious emancipation. In 1793 his
celebrated Apology for the Freedom the Press and for general Liberty
was published which discussed the right of public discussion,
of political associations, the reform of parliament, the rights of man. A
number of his sermons were printed as tracts including: On the
Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes (1810)
He was, with many other Whig supporters,
a signatory in 1813 of a requisition demanding the use of the Town Hall
for a meeting to demand parliamentary reform. The requisition was refused
by the Tory Corporation, so the meeting was held at the Bowling Green Inn.
In 1818, the Leicester framework
knitters in Leicester were agitating for better pay, better conditions and
limitation of machine made goods. Robert Hall was active on their behalf.
He was a leading proponent of disguising what was effectively a trades
union (which by law was not allowed to pay workmen who were on strike) as
a friendly society which could make payments to its members who were
actually out of work because they were on strike. In 1821, with the unrest
showing no signs of abating, Robert Hall published anonymously a pamphlet
“The Question at Issue between the Framework Knitters and their
Employers”, which attracted the wrath of William Cobbett in his
Political Register. Although he was quite prepared to advise radicals and
to write in their support, he kept put of political meetings and speech
He was, however, famous for his
preaching. Apparently he would start in a low voice with a hesitating
manner, but “as he proceeded”, said one listener, “his voice gained
strength and flexibility, his utterance became more rapid, and so neat was
his delivery that I have distinctly heard twenty or thirty syllables in
one breath”. Shorthand writers attempted to take down his sermons, but
failed. He poured forth a torrent of words while his body gently swayed
and “his spirit seemed to be abstracted into the image he was creating“.
His audience contained not only his
congregation, but also strangers visiting Leicester. Public speakers,
barristers and Judges at Assize all made a point of hearing him. It was
not uncommon for visitors to come from London by Saturday’s Mail Coach,
attend his service and return to London on Sunday night. Apparently, John
Ryley, the first editor of the Leicester Chronicle which was the
mouthpiece of the radical Whig opposition in Leicester, moved from
Cambridge to Leicester entirely for the purpose of enjoying Robert Hall's
Robert Hall's health was always poor and
suffered extreme pain from a number of conditions. He bought laudanum by
the pint to ease the pain, taking a full wine glass at a time.
In 1826, he moved to Bristol , where he
died of heart failure aged 67. A
statue of him was erected of him in 1871 on the imitative of
Sources: A. Temple Patterson,
Leicester 1954, John Webster
Morris: Biographical Recollections of the Rev. Robert Hall
Born: Burton-on-Trent, 1877, died: December 1933 (I.L.P.&
father was a railwayman involved in the 1886 strike, for which he was
subsequently victimised. As a result, the family moved to Leicester and
his father began business as a coal merchant. Although Herbert had studied
Ruskin College, he went into the family business. Despite this, he was an
advocate of the municipalisation of the coal trade (including his own
business). He became member of the Fabian Society and was a believer in
He was active in the Labour movement in
1904 and was elected to Board of Guardians in 1907. He was subsequently
elected to City Council in 1913 for St Margaret’s’ ward where a
high proportion of property was landlord owned property and which also contained some of
Leicester's worst slums. With many landlords now raising
rents, Hallam's election manifesto now advocated that the corporation
should initiate a housing scheme:
“The outstanding fact was that in St.
Margaret’s children died three times as fast as the children in Spinney
Hill ward? Why? Because men like Mr Yearby (a Conservative councillor)
represented themselves and their property owning friends, instead of
protecting the lives of children.”
Hallam too was strongly influenced by
the ideas of Town Planning. He opposed streets being laid out on the grid
iron system of heavily paved streets running parallel and at right angles.
His proposal, in 1914, that the Council should undertake a housing scheme
was agreed by the Council, but delayed by war.
In August 1914, he spoke
out against the war in the Market Place arguing that:
We must stand firm in demanding
peace. It is not the Russian people who are causing the war; it is a
clique of diplomatists. War is not going to make either the workers or
capitalists make a penny better off- it would make it worse for everyone.
Should England range herself on the side of Russian diplomatists? No! The
time is now ripe for a rearrangement of the balance of power in Europe.
The advancing democracies of England, Germany, France and Italy should
unite in helping to check the reactionary forces of Europe.
He stood as the Labour candidate for
Loughborough in the 1918 general election and was heavily defeated.
In 1921, he became Vice Chairman of
the first Housing and Town Planning Committee and after the death of Cllr
Arthur Wakerley (Liberal) in 1924, he became its Chairman and was
responsible for the planning and building of the Saffron Lane and the
South Braunstone estate. He held this position until a month before his
death. He stood firm against government pressure to build smaller
(non-parlour) council houses and advocated parlour houses which had two
living rooms downstairs.
“Let me give you an idea of how a
parlour should be furnished. This is it: a table a few easy chairs and all
the books you can afford. By this simple method of furnishing, the parlour
would become a place in which the various members of the family would
retire when they had important work to do. Gas and electricity should be
laid on in all houses and there should be a continuous supply of hot
water. Electricity will soon be used in every household, and so reduce the
housewife's hours of labour to those of the miner. Why should we demand 6
hours a day for men and be content to let women work twice or three times
He was regarded as being an
intellectual and was described by the Tory Leicester Mail as: ‘the most
gentlemanly socialist we know….’ He is commemorated by Hallam
Crescent, Braunstone Estate.
Sources: Howes, C. (ed),
Leicester: Its Civic, Industrial, Institutional and Social Life, Leicester
1927, Leicester Pioneer, 9th January, 13th March,
1914, Leicester Evening Mail 6th December 1933
Born: c1868 died: 1936 (Labour Party)
Henry Hancock Hancock was a draper by
trade and a Quaker. He was president of the Friends' Adult School and a
teacher at Westcotes Congregational Sunday School. He was also a
magistrate and a founder of the W.E.A. in Leicester. He was a elected as a Guardians
of the Poor in 1913 and became chair of the board in 1924. In 1917, he
drew attention to Leicester's high rate of pauperism in contrast to other
similar cities. He was a Labour
candidate for Belgrave in 1925 and eventually won Westcotes in 1927 (Lab
gain). His political career ended in ignomy when he nominated the
prominent Tory J.L. Harrison rather than Amos Sherriff as chairman of the
new Public Assistance Committee. He resigned from the Council shortly
Sources: Leicester Daily Post 22nd September 1917, Leicester Evening Mail
4th March 1930, 3rd September 1936
Born: 12th February 1865, died:1948 (I.L.P.&
Hand was the eldest child of a large family and attended Charnwood Street
Board School, he was at work as a part-timer at the age of 8 and left
school aged 11. After a series of dead end jobs he was apprenticed as a
carpenter and joiner, joining the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and
Joiners in 1886. However trade depression meant that he had to seek work
in Sheffield and Birmingham. Returning to Leicester he worked as a
journeyman until the outbreak of war. Early in 1915, he set up in trade on
his own account as a joiner and shop-fitter.
In 1886, he joined the Amalgamated
Society of Carpenters and was branch secretary for nine years. He was a
founder of the Leicester Labour Party in 1903 and became Vice Chair of the
Labour Party in 1907. He was elected councillor for Abbey ward in 1909 and
served until 1945. In 1914, he was the co-sponsor, with Herbert Hallam, of
a proposal for council housing in Leicester. In 1918, he became president
of the Labour Party, succeeding George Banton. In 1924, he became the
chairman of the Labour Group on the City Council and was made an alderman
that year. He was Lord Mayor 1928-29. He was vice chairman of the Housing
Committee during the 1930's. He was a prominent member of the City of
Leicester Working Men’s Club (Bond Street) Speaking in the Market Place in
1923 he is reputed to have demanded ‘Homes for the homeless, boots for
the footless.’ He studied music in his spare time at Vaughan College
and sang in St Luke’s and later St Saviour’s choir. He is commemorated by
Hand Avenue, Braunstone Estate.
Sources: Howes, C. (ed),
Leicester: Its Civic, Industrial, Institutional and
Social Life, Leicester 1927, Leicester
Pioneer 20th June 1924
Charles Harris became the president
of the Trades Council in 1892. He was also elected to the Board of
Guardians for Wyggeston in 1905 and campaigned for the unemployed with
George White. He was re-elected in 1913. He was a member of the Labour
Party executive 1910.
December 1905, aged 65 (Co-operator)
Henry Harrott was a frame smith. He was elected to the
board of the L.C.S. in 1872 and on his death had been its secretary for 18
Sources: Leicester Pioneer 23rd December 1905
Born: Bradford 1854, died: 1918 (I.L.P., S.D.F., B.S.P. and
E.R. Hartley spent most of his life
in Bradford. His started out as a half-timer in a factory later becoming
an apprentice butcher, eventually setting up in business on his own. He
became a Socialist in 1884 and was involved with the formation of the
I.L.P. In 1895 he was elected to Bradford Council and elected again in
1898, becoming an alderman.
After 1901, he gave his allegiance to
the S.D.F. after a disagreement with the I.L.P. He was involved with the
Clarion vans and was an unwearying propagandist, visiting Leicester
several times. However, his propaganda work was always enlivened with a
dry caustic humour, which was always disconcerting to opponents. This gift
of humour made him much sought after as a lecturer. His parliamentary
contests were numerous and unsuccessful. There were many that considered
that his relentless opposition to anything in the way of canvassing helped
him to loose votes that he might otherwise would have obtained. This did
not apply to bye-elections where the fight was a rushed one, but to steady
fights for the SDF in East Bradford in 1906 and 1910. He was a candidate
for the I.L.P. in Dewsbury (1895), Newcastle (1908 & 1913) and stood for
the British Socialist Party in Leicester in 1913, after George Banton was
prevented from standing. He polled 2,580 votes, somewhat less than
Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 1st
Charles Hassell born Leicester, 24th October 1889 Died: December
Harold Hassell born Leicester 19th September 1883, died October 1948 (Secularist)
Albert E Hassell born c1900
Both Charlie and his brother Harry grew up in Northgate
Street where their father had a fruiterers' shop. Before WW1, Harry Hassel
worked in the shoe trade whilst Harry was a tram conductor. Both brothers
were Secularists. Younger brother Albert (born c1900) worked as a
Charlie Hassell was member of the I.L.P and No Conscription
Fellowship. When he was called up in 1916, aged 26, he declared himself a
conscientious objector. In May 1916, he was granted “Exemption from
Combatant Service Only” following a hearing by the local tribunal hearing and assigned to the Army's Non Combatant
Corps. The NCC was formed with the deliberate aim of freeing up soldiers
behind the lines from routine labour and logistics tasks, giving the army
more effective fighting men for the front lines. Charlie believed that the
NCC aided the war effort and he wanted full exemption from military duties.
His refusal to co-operate with the military authorities
meant his was given Field Punishment no. 2 at Glen Parva barracks.
This involved being kept in irons though not tied to a fixed object. He
would have undergone hard labour and made to march in full order with
packs and rifles twice daily, usually morning and afternoon. Soldiers
under field punishment no.2 were not allowed to smoke or drink any rum;
were only allowed blankets and made to sleep on the floor.
At a court martial at Richmond Castle in July he was given 112 days in
Durham Prison for disobeying an order, but was transferred to the Home
Office Scheme after three months and sent to Warwick, Dartmoor and Knutsford. He was not discharged from the army until 1920. After the war
he became a shop worker and volunteered for A.R.P. durring WW2.
18 year old Younger brother Albert was arrested iin
Leicester Market Place on the morning of Sunday 13th October 1918, for
failing to join the Army. He told the magistrates that he had
appealed unsuccessfully to the Appeals Tribunal on conscientious grounds
and he would not became a soldier. He was handed over to the military
Both Charles and Harry were stalwart members of the Leicester
Secular Society, Charlie was the Secular Hall's manager in the late 1920s.. Ernest Hassell, known as "Harry", worked as a sole cutter
in the boot & shoe trade and lived at 74 New Park Street. He was
Vice-President of Leicester Secular Society from 1923 to 1938, and
President from 1939 to 1948. He was also a Trustee of the Leicester
Rationalist Trust during this whole period. When Harry died in October
1948, the minutes of the Society record that his death came as a
misfortune of the first magnitude and that the Society had lost a guiding
Sources: Leicester Daily Post 15th October 1918, Leicester Secular Society minutes, British Army
WWI Service Records, 1914-1920, Census returns.
Born: Stafford, 4th March 1863, died: March 1946
Hawkins came from a working class background and left school at the age of
13 to become a machinist in the boot and shoe trade. In her early twenties
she was taken on by the Equity shoe factory and was active in the No 3
branch (woman’s branch) of NUBSO. She was a founding member of the
Leicester I.L.P. and in 1894 was vice president of the women’s I.L.P.
In 1901, Alice
and her husband Alfred (also from Stafford and
born c.1858) joined the Leicester Secular Society. Alice was a member of
the Clarion Cycle Club and in 1902 a newspaper reported that she was
accused of “outraging public decency” by riding in rational dress.
In 1905, both Alice and Alfred played
a prominent role in the organisation of Leicester's famous unemployed
march. In 1906, she was a founder member of the Women’s Labour League,
though, less than a year later she deserted the W.L.L. for the more
In 1907, she attended the W.S.P.U.
rally in Hyde Park and following a march on the House of Commons, she was
arrested and sent to prison. On her release, she invited Sylvia Pankhurst
to speak in Leicester and the Leicester branch of the WSPU was formed soon
after. It is thought that Alice is the subject in one of Sylvia
Pankhurst’s painting made at the Equity shoe factory. She wrote that “...
at night I held meetings for the local WSPU, amongst whom, only Mrs
Hawkins, as yet, dared mount the platform.”
Alice and her Leicester colleagues
began a tireless campaign of speaking at factory gates, market squares and
village greens throughout Leicestershire and parts of Northamptonshire.
Alice and her fellow suffragettes used their bicycles to travel to the
nearby countryside and neighbouring towns. In 1909, Alice, with the
support of Gladice Keevil of the Birmingham WSPU, spearheaded a bicycle
drive to increase membership in the WSPU by targeting supporters beyond
town's boundaries. It was so successful that enough new members were
recruited to establish a new WSPU satellite branch in Loughborough. In the
summer of 1910, Hawkins and others suffragettes set out every Sunday
morning to rural villages including Syston, Shepshed, Castle Donington,
Kibworth, and Melton Mowbray, ranging from 6 to 30 miles away. Once they
arrived at their destination, they held open air meetings, greeted
supporters, distributed WSPU literature and solicited donations.
Alice went to prison five times for
various militant actions which included chaining herself to railings,
throwing a stone through a Home Office window, pouring ink into letter
boxes and making a disturbance when Winston Churchill held a Liberal
meeting at the Palace Theatre in 1909.
Her husband, Alfred was a committed
socialist and supported her in the suffragette campaign. On one occasion,
he followed Winston Churchill to a meeting in St George’s Hall, Bradford
and heckled him over the issue of votes for women. The stewards threw him
out the meeting and down a flight of stairs breaking his leg. The Men’s
Political Union successfully sued the Liberal party and gained £100
compensation. Alice’s presence in the branch ensured that the WSPU in
Leicester did not become a totally middle class organisation, despite the
national direction of the movement.
In 1911, Alice Hawkins became
president of breakaway Independent National Union of Boot and Shoe Women
Workers, which was led by her colleague
Lizzie Willson. Both women were
already delegates to the Trades Council. In 1913, Alice wrote:
I have worked at the shoe trade from the age of
thirteen. I was married in 1884, and am the mother of seven children, of
whom five are alive. I early began to find out there was something very
wrong with the lives of women workers. Twenty years ago I joined the I.L.P.
and my trade union, and have worked for the uplifting of my sex ever
since. For the last eight years I have been organiser and hon. president
of the Women's Boot Union, but was never satisfied with the conditions of
women's labour as compared with men's. I joined the militants in 1907 to
fight for the weapon which men have to push their trade union principles
into the only place - namely, Parliament - where it was possible to better
their conditions. I have been four times in prison, three times in London
and once in Leicester, where I hunger struck as a protest against being
treated as a common criminal.
I was in London on Black Friday and the following Tuesday. I have spoken
in Hyde Park, and been in several processions. I am still working in my
trade union as president and organiser, and am doing good work by rousing
them to a sense of their needs.
By 1913, the Suffragettes had been physically assaulted
several times during meetings and the windows of their shop on Bowling
Green Street had been broken. Public speaking had become so dangerous for
the Suffragettes, that the Leicester Watch Committee asked the WSPU to
refrain from any further public meetings. Alice Hawkins refused and under
the watchful eye of the police she continued to speak in the marketplace
and hold parades around the town. The Leicester Mercury even suggested
that the second wave of letterbox attacks around the town centre in May
1913 was a direct response to Alice Hawkins and her daughter being
attacked by an angry mob in the marketplace.
Alice Hawkins was arrested for damaging the Royal Mail
with a "deleterious substance" (Brunswick black ink). She pleaded guilty and
was sent to prison for seven days. In her defence she claimed it was a
political offence and refused to take food. But primarily due to failing
health and a request by her close family, she declined to hunger-strike
and was spared the indignity of being force-fed.
Like Mrs Panhkurst, Alice
supported the First World War and in 1918, she appeared on platforms with
Jabez Chaplin to condemn the 'cowardice' of the I.L.P. However it
seems unlikely that she joined the short lived Women's Party, founded by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst in 1917. After the war, she continued
with her involvement in the local Trade Union and Labour movement.
In 2018, a statue of Alice was unveiled in the new
market square, behind the Corn Exchange, to mark her contribution to the
campaign to win the vote for women.
Sources: The Suffragette, 24th
January 1913 Leicester Pioneer, 4th
July 1913 & 16th August 1918, Richard Whitmore, Alice
Hawkins and the Suffragette Movement in Edwardian
Born: Leicester 1889, Died? (Labour Party)
Alfred Hawkins was the son of Alice
Hawkins. During WW1 he served in both the army and navy, after the war he
worked as a school caretaker. He was a member of the Transport and General
Workers Union and became president of the Trades Council in 1936. In 1936,
he was a delegate to the Leicester Peace Council. In her
old age, his mother lived with him at his house on Herrick Road.
Source: Leicester Evening Mail 27th January, 18th March 1938, Census
Died c1983 (Communist Party)
From 1926 to 1940 Arthur Haywood worked as a tram driver for Leicester
City Transport. He started on the trams in the year of the General Strike
and his first pay packet was strike pay.
was a former pupil of Moat Road School and was well-read, cultured and
played the violin. According to his grandson, he was a very strict,
obstinate and opinionated man who loved Russia and idolised Stalin. This
caused no end of family rows and rifts.
August 1940, he was sacked from his job on the advice of the Chief
Constable. Arthur appears to have lost his job on the very day he was
given his 15 year Gold Medal for safe driving. His dismissal was raised in
the House of Commons by Willie Gallacher MP, the Communist member for West
Fife. He asked: Is the Minister aware that there is nothing whatever
against this man so far as his employment is concerned, and that he has
said or done nothing against the law of this country? Can the hon.
Gentleman give any reason why the police should advise that a competent
worker,... should be removed from his employment? Gallacher did not
manage to elicit a reason for his sacking which remains a mystery to this
day. In 1944, Arthur moved to Coleorton and he died alone, divorced, near
Sutton on Sea around 1983.
Sources Hansard, 13th
August 1940, R Haywood
President of the Trades Council 1967,
delegate from the U.S.D.A.W. and also full-time official.
Born: Thringstone 1817, died 18th May 1885
Born in humble circumstances, he owed his education to
his father’s knowledge and was a bread winner from an early age. Even when
he attended Dames School in Thringstone, he took stockings to mend. From
the age of 13 or 13, he worked in Nottingham’s lace factories and in 1860,
he and his wife moved to Leicester where he worked as a stockinger. He was
member of the Methodist New Connexion domination
Benjamin Hemmings and Daniel Merrick were members of a
short-lived Co-operative Society started by Thomas Cook in the
Amphitheatre, Humberstone Gate. It was set up to sell the ‘essentials of
home consumption.’ It sold potatoes from a yard on London Road and had a
place for the sale of flour in Bowling green Street. Benjamin Hemmings
joined the committee of the LCS in 1868 and became its president in 1870,
being re-elected every year until his death.
Although a naturally cautious, modest and unassuming
individual, he played a significant role in the society’s development and
expansion. Beginning with the opening of branch stores and ending with the
opening of the High Street Central store. During the period of the
society’s financial difficulty (1877-80), he retained the confidence of
the members. In middle age he was a foreman in a hosiery factory. After
his death, portraits of him were available at the High Street store.
Sources: Leicester Co-operative
Record, June 1885 (obit), Leicester Co-operative Society, (1898)
Co-operation in Leicester
Born: Leicester, 11th February 1911, died: 30th
Jan 1979 (Labour Party)
Henig was educated at the Wyggeston Boys School. On leaving school he went
to work in his father's Company, Henig & Sons Limited, Wholesale Textile
Distributors, Burley's Way of which he later became a Director.
He was elected to the City Council in
1945. After losing his seat in 1947, he returned by way of a bye-election
in North Braunstone in 1949. He was secretary and whip of the Labour group
from 1949 until 1962. In 1965, he became the leader of the group, however
within a year or so he was made chairman of the Association of Municipal
Corporations and had to give up being leader and chairman of council
committees. He was twice president of the Labour Party, its treasurer for
eight years and became an alderman in 1958 and Lord Mayor 1967. He served
on a long list of other public bodies as well as holding major offices in
the Leicester Synagogue. He retired from local government in 1970 and
became chairman of the English Tourist Board. He was described as one of
the most dynamic and forthright councillors of the post-war years.
Sources: Leicester Mercury, 31st
January 1979, Leicester City Council, Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000
Born Leicester: 1789, died: 1831 (Anti
slavery and radical campaigner)
born Elizabeth Coltman and her father, John Coltman, was a manufacturer
of worstead cloth and a Unitarian. Her mother Elizabeth Cartwright was a
poet and writer. As a young woman, Elizabeth was exposed to radical
politics and the writings of Thomas Paine. She met John Wesley when he
visited the family house and soon after became a practising Methodist.
She had a natural ability for painting landscapes and in 1787 she married
John Heyrick, a lawyer and a descendant of Robert Herrick the poet.
When he abandoned the legal profession to serve in the 15th Light
Dragoons, Elizabeth followed, residing with him in barracks in England and
Ireland. He eventually returned to Leicester and took up an appointment
as a Captain with the Leicestershire Yeomanry. According to her
biographer: "The marriage was said to have been stormy, but she mourned
fervently, with lifelong observance of the anniversary of his death. They
had no children."
John had died
in 1795 when Elizabeth was only 25. She moved back into her parents home,
renouncing all worldly pleasures, and in 1809 became a Quaker. For a
time she ran a school in her home, but this did not absorb all her
energies and she found an outlet for her compassion in many charitable
works and social reform. Her friend, Susanna Watts, who was 20 years
older, no doubt encouraged these endevours.
deeply concerned for the welfare of the long-term imprisoned and she
became a prison visitor. In 1809 she stopped a bull-baiting at
Bonsall in Derbyshire by purchasing the bull.
By the 1820s, she had became one of the
most prominent radical women activists.
as becoming a prison visitor, she wrote political pamphlets about a range
of issues, from the Corn Laws to the harsh treatment of vagrants. However,
her overriding interest was in the abolition of slavery in the British
colonies. In the early 19th century, campaigners who wished to see an end
to slavery in the British West Indies had two approaches to the problem.
Some wished to push for a gradual end to slavery, on the
understanding that eventually the existing slaves would die and along with
slavery itself. Others, like Elizabeth, wanted a complete and immediate
abolition of the institution of slavery.
Heyrick was a strong supporter of complete emancipation for enslaved
Africans. In 1824 she published a pamphlet anonymously entitled
Immediate, not Gradual Abolition, which was influential in encouraging
public opinion to support the cause. She criticised the principal
anti-slavery campaigners, William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, for
what she regarded as the overly slow and cautious way in which they had
led the campaign in parliament up until that point. For her the call for
gradualism by these men was “the very master-piece of satanic policy”.
West Indian planters, have occupied much too prominent a place in the
discussion of this great question. The abolitionists have shown a great
deal too much politeness and accommodation towards these gentlemen."
of slavery in our West India colonies is not an abstract question, to be
settled between the government and the planters; it is one in which we
are all implicated, we are all guilty of supporting and perpetuating
slavery. The West Indian planter and the people of this country stand in
the same moral relation to each other as the thief and receiver of
pamphlet was widely distributed and caused much discussion in public
meetings in various parts of England. Wilberforce gave out instructions
for leaders of the movement not to speak at women's anti-slavery
societies, most of which supported Heyrick. In his view:
"....for ladies to meet, to publish, to go from
house to house stirring up petitions were things unsuited to the
female character, as delineated in Scripture."
1824, the ladies organised a boycott of sugar from the West Indies. This
was done to promote public awareness of the issues of the slave trade and
to hit the profits of the planters and importers of slave-produced goods.
For them, direct action was the way forward. Elizabeth argued that
abstinence from sugar by only 10% of the population would defeat the
interest and machinations of the 'West Indian gentlemen.' "It is
therefore a grave error to disdain simple individual action through
abstinence and to prefer the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of legislative
visited local grocers' shops to persuade them not to stock sugar and
claimed that 1,500 families were 'abstaining' from the use of West-Indian
sugar. She was helped by Lucy Townsend, Mary Lloyd, Sarah Wedgwood and
Sophia Sturge. Later that year, together with her sister Mary Ann Coltman
and Susanna Watts, they launched an anti slavery periodical, The
message was clear cut. She described the West India planters as being like
thieves and those who bought their produce, like receivers of stolen
goods. She asked, why petition Parliament when we can take swifter
action ourselves? She wanted all slavery ended forever. She criticized
the mainstream anti-slavery figures for being slow, cautious and
accommodating. They also met with opposition and ridicule from the Tory
supporting Leicester Journal which did not support abolition at
".... neither John nor his family
will pay any kind of attention to the prejudices and passions of these
canting hypocrites. We have no wish see sugar, coffee, rice, &c. &c.
doubled and trebled in price; the West Indies depopulated, and their
merchants ruined; and both the trade and the islands fall into the hands
of our French, Dutch, and American rivals. That these would be the
following consequences, if the doctrines the emancipationists of the
dear blacks in the West Indies were attended too."
she became treasurer at the inaugural meeting of the Female Society for
the Relief of Negro Slaves and the Leicester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society
branch was formed the same year. In 1830, the Female Society for
Birmingham submitted a motion to the National Conference of the
Anti-Slavery Society calling for it to campaign for an immediate end to
slavery in the British colonies. She published several more anti-slavery
pamphlets, sometimes addressing women specifically.
the author of more than twenty pamphlets and other works on subjects as
diverse as bull-baiting, prison reform, war, the plight of the poor,
vagrancy, wages, corporal punishment and election reform. Towards the end
of her life she became involved in the campaign against capital
Heyrick never lived to see the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
She died on 18 October 1831 and is buried in Leicester. Her admirers in
the USA included Benjamin Lundy, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick
Douglass, and Lucretia Mott. For Mott her work became an argument for
women’s participation in public life and social reform. Garrison praised
her on his visit to Britain in 1840, for instance in a public speech given
at Glasgow. A Brief Sketch of of the Life and Labours of Mrs Elizabeth Heyrick, published anonymously
in 1862 and probably by her niece Alicia Cooper, called her “one of the
noblest pioneers of social liberty, not only for her own sex, but for
mankind at large.”
Sources: Shirley Aucott, Susanna
Watts, Dr Isobel Grundy, Women’s Writing in the British Isles from
the Beginnings to the Present, Leicester Journal, 24th & 31st
July 1829, A. Temple Patterson,
Leicester 1954, A Brief Sketch of the Life and Labours of Mrs.
Elizabeth Heyrick 1862, Wikipedia
In 1907, George Hern and his team of
12 assistants formed the Anchor Tenants Building Society which was
responsible for the construction of the Humberstone Garden Suburb. Hern
modified the layout drawn up by Raymond Unwin. George died in October
1911. A beech tree was planted in his memory at the bottom of Fern Rise.
Born: 1866 died: July 1945 (I.L.P. & Labour Party)
Alf Hill was a village boy, born in
Welwyn, Herts. He became an apprentice clicker in the shoe trade at the
age of 13. After completing his apprenticeship, he came to Leicester in
1885, joining N.U.B.S.O. No. 2 branch in 1890. He was elected branch
president in 1898 and president of the Trades Council in 1901 and 1916. He
was a delegate to the Trades Council from 1893-1943. He was described in
1903 as a prominent member of the local Peace Society,
he has always, in and out of
season, raised his voice in favour of peace and to oppose militarism.
a Town Councillor for Wyggeston ward 1905-19, being made an alderman in
1919. On the first Sunday in
August 1914, he felt compelled to leave his
religious work (he was a Primitive Methodist preacher) and take part in a
political demonstration on a Sunday.
“No orator thrilled the crowd as
Alfred Hill did. He spoke with a fervour and passion that told of the
fierce earnestness of his soul, against the black hellish horror through
which the nations of the world have since passed. He spoke for peace, as
a man inspired, and no jingo raised his voice for war on that memorable
day. In the war that followed, he never wavered in his stand for peace
and although it meant a certain amount of unpopularity and brought on
his shoulders a certain amount of abuse, he came through as a man who
could stand for great religious and political principles.”
He was elected to Parliament for
Leicester West in 1922, taking back the seat for Labour from J.F. Green of
the National Democratic Party (pro war, anti-Labour coalition). In 1923 he
stood down in favour of W. Pethick-Lawrence because of illness. He was no
relation to T.R. Hill.
Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 27th
Born: c1836, (Leicester Democratic Association, Leicester Republican
Joseph Hill was active on the radical
wing of the Liberal Party and a supporter of P.A. Taylor MP. He lived and
Rudkin Street near Wharf Street and was a clicker in the boot and shoe
trade. He was active
in support of the nine hours movement in 1871 and was anxious to increase
working class representation. In 1871, he was secretary of the
Leicester Democratic Association which became the Republican Association
the following year. The objects of the Republican Association were the
repeal of primogeniture, game laws, the creation of equal electoral
districts, universal suffrage, secret ballots, the payment of M.P.s,
triennial parliaments, direct, rather than indirect taxation, a national
poor rate, and the dissolution of the House of Lords and the
disestablishment of the Church of England.
The Republican movement in Leicester
sought to work within the Liberal Party and although it was only
short-lived, it was the precursor of the socialist groups of the 1880s.
However, Hill was not a supporter of the Paris
Commune and condemned the extremes of the ‘Communists’ and the party of
‘order.’ In 1873, he criticised the founding meeting of the
National Republican League for meeting on a Sunday, since there were many
Christian republicans. He was, however, a supporter of the Sunday opening
of museums. The Association had a large working class membership.
Sources: Midlands Free Press, 3rd
June & 13th June 1871, Leicester Chronicle 22 April,
3 June 1871
Born: 22nd May 1885 died: 1968 (I.L.P. & Labour
Hill attended Melbourne Road Board School entering as a new boy on its day
of opening in 1892. He was active in the Labour Movement from 1905 and
became president Leicester branch National Union of Clerks in 1909. By
1914, he was president of the Trades Council and was secretary of the
I.L.P. in 1917. He was Vice President of the local branch of the Union of
Democratic Control which sought to put a reasoned case against the First
World War. He was a conscientious objector and, in 1917, he had his
conscription deferred as a result of a petition to the military tribunal.
However, at the end the period of deferment he had to go ‘on the run,’ to
avoid call up. At this time he wrote for the Leicester Pioneer under the
pen name ‘Robert Dale.’
From 1919, he acted as agent for the
Harborough Constituency and from 1926-32 was secretary of the Trades
Council. He was also a director of the Co-operative Society during this
period. He stood for Spinney Hill in 1920 and lost. He eventually won
Westcotes ward in 1926, but was defeated in 1929. He was eventually
elected back to City Council 1930 for Westcotes Ward as a result of a
He commenced his career in a
commercial office and held jobs connecting with the building and
shopfitting trades. He was director and secretary of Harry Hand (Shopfitters)
and also of the City Sheet Metal Works.
He became chairman of the City
Council Labour Group 1937 and was the longest serving chairman of the
Finance Committee, holding the post from 1934 until 1955. Although Labour
was not in the majority for most of that time, it became customary for
committee chairs to come from different parties. Rowland Hill was
re-elected in 1945 and became Lord Mayor in 1951. He was awarded a C.B.E.
in 1955 and the freedom of the City in 1956 and continued on the City
Council until 19?. His daughter Mrs Janet Setchfield was also a councillor
and also became Chair of Finance and Lord Mayor.
Sources: Leicester City Council, Roll
of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, Howes, C. (ed), Leicester: Its Civic,
Industrial, Institutional and Social Life, Leicester 1927, Mrs Janet
Mary Hill with Hugh Gaitskell in 1956
Born: 1888 died: (I.L.P. & Labour
Before she married Rowland Hill, Mary Stretton worked as
a tailoress. She had been active with her mother,
in the Women's Labour League before WW1. Although the W.S.P.U. ceased
campaigning during the war, the fight was continued by Sylvia Pankhurst.
Her East London Federation of Suffrage
Societies had become the Workers' Suffrage Federation.
Initially it campaigned for universal suffrage and agitated among
parliamentarians, with the assistance of Keir Hardie.
With the outbreak of
World War I, the WSF began also to attack participation in the war.
Sylvia Pankhurst's orientation toward working-class women and her
willingness to work with the radical wing of the socialist movement made
it attractive to many women socialists of an earlier generation
who had serious reservations about the WSPU. In Leicester is had support
from Miss Gittings.
In 1916, Mrs Mary Hill became secretary
of the short-lived Leicester branch of the Workers' Suffrage Federation. It held a series of open air
meetings and in November 1916, a conference of Suffrage and Labour
organisations was convened by the Leicester Branch of the Workers' Suffrage
Federation at the Foresters' Institute and was attended by delegates
organisations. Sylvia Pankhurst was the main speaker. The I.l.P. and W.S.F.
held joint meetings in 1917 at which Sylvia Pankhurst spoke.
By the end of
the war, Sylvia Pankhurst had become a somewhat sectarian revolutionary socialist
and the W.S.F. had become the Workers' Socialist Federation which now rejected parliamentary
elections. This was a rather contradictory position for someone who had gone to prison to
get women the vote.
Mary Hill remained active in the Women's Section of the
Labour Party and in 1951 as Mrs T. Rowland Hill, she became the Lady Mayoress of Leicester.
Womens' Dreadnought, 2nd & 23rd Dec 1916
19th July 1870, died: 1937 (Liberal)
Teddy Hincks left school at an early
age and was apprenticed at a shoe machinery firm. He became branch
secretary of the A.S.E. at Gimson’s Vulcan Road works at the age of 27 on
10th July 1897. Three days later, he and his colleagues were
locked out. The national employers' federation decided to lock all union
members out of work as a result of strikes in London in support of a 48
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 claimed that a 48 hours week would add to Gimson's
costs and put the firm at a competitive disadvantage. The firm refused to
allow any union member into work. It was reported that although only about
25% of Gimson's workforce were in the Union, the rest went on strike in
sympathy with those locked out. This heavy handed response by the
employers resulted in 600 firms
locking out 45,000 union members. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers (A.S.E.)
had healthy funds to support those locked out, but the employers' action
dragged on until January 1898 when the union admitted defeat.
Hincks had gained prominence as
strike leader and became a delegate to the Trades Council. He was then
elected to the Town Council for Castle ward, as a Liberal, in 1900. He
became chairman of three standing committees at different times. (Watch,
Health and Libraries Committees)
During World War One he was a thorough going jingo and
supported the refusal to allow the use of the Corn Exchange for a
meeting organised by the anti-war Union of Democratic Control at which Ramsey MacDonald M.P. was to be a
speaker. He believed that there were some men who should not be allowed to
speak in Leicester and who were traitors and should be put in irons.
Hincks became secretary of the
Charity Organisation Society in March 1903 and held the position until his
In his role as
secretary, he was not known for his progressive views on social issues.
The COS supported the concept of self-help and limited government
intervention to deal with the effects of poverty - it had the view that
private charity was superior to public welfare.
Hincks was bitterly opposed to granting outdoor relief -
that is not requiring people to suffer the indignity of the workhouse.
Leicester's guardians tended to grant slightly more relief outdoors than
elsewhere and Hincks was of the opinion that
this led to people being better off while in receipt of poor law
relief than they were in work. Hincks believed this to be 'indiscriminate, prodigal and
In 1921 he supported the refusal of
public assistance to men “living in adultery." However, in the 1930s, he
was at one with Labour on the need for slum clearance. He became Lord
Mayor in 1929.
Sources: Leicester Chronicle 17th
July 1897, Leicester Daily Post 1st December 1915, 25th September 1917. Leicester City Council, Roll
of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, Howes, C. (ed), Leicester: Its Civic,
Industrial, Institutional and Social Life, Leicester 1927
Co-op Corn mill 1911
Co-op Central Stores, High Street c1910
Born 1838, died: 1912 (Liberal, Co-operator & architect)
Hind was an architect by profession
and was a pupil of the celebrated artist John Flower. For many years he was a member of the
board of the Leicester Co-operative Society
and was elected to the Co-operative Wholesale Society committee in 1877.
then retired from architecture so he could carry out
his duties for the C.W.S. which required him to travel
extensively. He was also a Poor Law
Guardian and member of the Town Council, as well as a governor of the
Royal Infirmary. He was an Anglican.
In 1877, his design for the Midland Co-operative Corn
Mill was completed. The five storey high structure was close to the
railway, on Oak Street off Humberstone Road and was intended to supply
several surrounding co-operative societies. The establishment of the flour
mill was the culmination of the campaign for unadulterated flour dating
back to Thomas Cook and others in the 1840s.
Hind was also the architect responsible for design of the Co-op
Central Stores on High Street which opened on 10th November 1884. (now
part of the Highcross shopping complex) It was a four storey building with
a frontage 157 feet designed in the Queen Anne style. The outside
was built with red brick, relieved with terra-cotta and and brick carved
panels with pilasters and cornices in Ancaster stone. The name
Leicester Co-operative Society was also formed in stone, with letters in relief. Each staircase
was of stone, and consequently fireproof. The building was about 5,700
square feet in area and cost around £8,000.
A warehouse, bakery and stables on Union
Street, adjacent to the Central Stores, was completed to his design in
year Hind designed the Victoria Model Lodging House on
Britannia Street for Harry Wilkinson, an illiterate lodging house owner. Hind had already designed
two houses in Britannia Street, one of which was for Wilkinson. At the
time the Council was discussing plans to build its own lodging house in
order to drive up standards. The Victoria Model lodging house can be seen
as an attempt to show that the private sector could provide decent
accommodation in the common lodging houses used by migrant and transient workers.
The term 'model' became somewhat debased when other lodging houses
owners used it to describe their establishments.
When completed, the Victoria was the largest lodging
house in the street, accommodating 126 residents. The original plans show
that it was built in brick around a central stair well and the plans show
large communal bedrooms on each floor, each taking about 15 beds. On the
ground floor there was a kitchen, office and reading room. The floors
above each had one bathroom, two WCs and one urinal. Initially the toilets
may well have been pail closets rather than flush WCs. Whilst the kitchen
had glazed white bricks, all the other rooms were lime-washed.
The front of the building has two large moulded brick
panels on the outside walls above the ground floor. The panels consist of
four national stereotypes in half relief: a Welshman with a large leek, an
Englishman as represented by John Bull with a rose, a Scotsman in a kilt,
with a thistle and an Irishman with a shillelagh. They were intended to
show that all were welcome. (apart from women). In 1892, an outbreak of
small-pox occurred in the lodging houses of Britannia street, which were
all promptly fumigated. Tom Barclay wrote an account of Britannia Street
which appeared in the Wyvern and which includes a description of
the lodging house. (This can be found in The Slums of Leicester, Ned
died shortly after returning from a trip on
Co-operative business to Newcastle and he is buried
in Welford Road cemetery.
Sources: Leicester Daily Post, 11th
July 1877, Leicester Chronicle, 8th
November 1884, 17 September 1892, 2 November 1912, The Wyvern 5th July
1895, Leicester Co-operative
Society, (1898) Co-operation in Leicester,
Leicester: A Souvenir
of the 47th Co-operative Congress, Manchester 1915,
Deposited plans, 22 April 1887, April 1889 (1887/17684, 1889/19781, ROLLR
Hollings' memorial sometime after 1892
Born: Chelsea 15th March
1806, died: 15th September 1862 (Radical)
James Hollings came to Leicester in
1837 as second master at the new purpose built Proprietary School on New
Walk. (now the Museum) The school was founded by non-conformists to rival
the Collegiate School run by the Church of England. Whilst the
establishment of two schools reflected of the deep sectarian divide in
Leicester, the Proprietary School declared itself to be unsectarian,
liberal and utilitarian. Initially did not have religion on in the
curriculum and corporal punishment was rarely, if ever, resorted to.
Weekly lectures at the school were often given by Hollings and were thrown
open to the public as a means of supporting the school's finances.
In 1846, the poor remuneration of the head, Cyrus R.
Edmonds, led to his departure and to the founding of a rival
academy. Although Hollings became the headmaster at £250 per annum, his
tenure was short-lived. The school lost more pupils and was no longer
financially viable - it closed at Christmas 1847. A flavour of Hollings'
views on education was given in his comments made following his
examination of the
system at the British School in Melton where he was pleased to note
that pupils: "had obviously been taught to think—an essential matter in
the educational process."
Before his arrival in Leicester,
Hollings interests were largely literary and scholastic and during the
1830s he had a number of poems published. His The Life of Gustavus
Adolphus: Surnamed the Great, King of Sweden was published in 1838. It
was claimed that at this time he was a moderate Conservative. In
Leicester, Hollings threw himself into the activities of the Literary and
Philosophical Society. He was its president three times: (1846-47, 1853-54
During the 1840s, whilst starving
Chartists were protesting over frame charges and demanding the vote,
Hollings was lecturing on such diverse subjects as History of Leicester
during the Civil War, (1840), Chemical Constituents of Air and
Water (1842) The Life and Character of Simon de Montfort
(1843). He frequently lectured at the Mechanics' Institute. Through
these lectures where he was sometimes critical of earlier historians for
their lack of rigour, Hollings made a significant contribution to the
study of local archaeology and Roman Leicester.
One of the main objectives of the
Literary & Philosophical Society was to open a museum in Leicester. In
April 1841, the Society opened a museum at the New Hall which was also the
site of the Mechanics' Institute. The closure of the Proprietary School
was very fortuitous and Hollings was well placed to help move the museum
into a permanent and more spacious location in the empty school in 1849.
More than anyone else, Hollings was the founder of the museum and its main
support, he added to its collection and influenced others to make
In 1849, he married Sarah Biggs
(1815-1862) at the Unitarian Great Meeting. Sarah was well-educated in
Greek and had previously submitted to Hollings' experiments in mesmerism.
She was the sister to the highly influential Leicester manufacturers and
politicians, John and William Biggs.
She had been active member of the Ladies Committee of Anti-Corn Law League
from the early 1840s. Having married into a family of radical
politicians, James' interest in the political questions seems to have
stirred. He now became a key political ally and friend of
John Biggs, who clearly respected
Hollings' scholarship. Following his marriage, James moved into
John Biggs' nine-bedroomed mansion in Stoneygate, which stood in five
acres of land where Knighton Park Road is now situated. He lived there
with Sarah, her mother, John and three domestic staff until his
It was reported that James came into to a considerable
fortune, which enabled him to retire from teaching and 'devote himself
to his literary pursuits which had long been his chief delight.' This
might have been what enabled him to qualify as barrister-at-law, which he
did in November 1851, though he was never to practise.
In 1854, George H Smallfield sold his interest in the
Leicester Mercury to the Biggs family and Hollings was entrusted with the
job of running the paper. Under the editorship of Hollings, the Mercury
was regarded by the Whigs as John Biggs' mouthpiece. There are many
references to Hollings as being the Mercury's proprietor, but this may
well have been to disguise John Biggs' interest. According to his
obituary, as editor despite ample provocation:
"he never wrote a line intended to wound the feelings
of those from whose opinions he conscientiously differed, nor ever
exceeded the legitimate bounds of argument ."
Hollings still continued with his research and lectures;
the most remarkable being his 1857 lecture on "The Social
Position of Women in the nineteenth century." He had already delivered
lectures on Joan of Arc and Catherine II and one might to detect
influence of Sarah in this matter.
His lecture on the position of women began in classical
antiquity and worked towards the C19th. He drew attention to the fact that
women were part of the ministry of the early Christian church. He argued
that whilst women were excluded from political power, Elizabeth I,
Katherine II and Christina of Sweden had showed that women could be
successful leaders. He then went on to list women who had major
accomplishments in the filed of literature, science and the arts and noted
"let be remembered, have been attained under the
disadvantages of imperfect education, and defiance of conventional
prejudices eminently hostile to the mental elevation of the female sex."
He dwelt on the injustices of the married women's
property laws and observed that:
"Common Law views relation of husband and wife that
of master and bondswoman.... that, by the common law, the husband, in
order to prevent the wife from eloping, has right to confine her his own
dwelling, and restrain her from liberty for an indefinite period......."
"....when an unmarried woman has received the
deadliest injury which can be inflicted upon her by the wanton betrayal of
her affections, no proceedings can be instituted for the punishment of her
seducer her own name, since, the eye of the law, she regarded only a
chattel from the use of which its owner has been temporarily debarred. "
He wanted to see: "Equality for women in all moral
responsibilities, in all intellectual advantages, all legal rights, and
all social relations... so far as women themselves may desire or demand
Hollings became a patron of the former Chartist and poet
William Whitmore and supported
the fund for memorial to William Jones another Chartist poet. Hollings was
not a supporter of the Temperance Movement and was Vice President of the
Leicester Licensed Victuallers Association. Like John Biggs, he was
noticeably quiet on the issue of the Sunday question, but he was
nevertheless a supporter of its main proponent
Sir Joshua Walmsley.
1857 was a difficult year for the radical cause, it was
the year Sir Joshua lost his seat as a result of a coalition of Whigs and
Baptists. Folling his defeat, there was a very large demonstration, made
up of non voters, at which Hollings presented Sir Joshua with a
testimonial. In November, Hollings was elected without contest to the Town
Council for Middle St Margarets ward. He had become a magistrate earlier
in the year.
You would have thought that fellow historian and editor
of the Leicester Chronicle
James Thompson would have a deep regard and kinship with Hollings.
This was not the case since by the mid 1850s, Thompson had become a die
hard Whig and a bitter opponent of 'ultra radicals' and 'Chartists' which
is how he described Hollings. He, no doubt, penned the Chronicle editorial
which opposed Hollings' nomination as mayor describing it as a "reward
for political inconsistency, unmitigated bigotry, and rancorous
exclusiveness." The Chronicle also alleged that Hollings was not a
'substantial householder' since he was a lodger with John Biggs and
therefore not qualified to be a councillor or mayor.
In November 1860 and the end of his year in office,
Hollings stepped down as Mayor and resigned from the Town Council. It was
probably then that he ceased to be editor of the Leicester Mercury. The
explanation for this may be his book The Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero,
which was published in 1861.
Hollings continued to sit as a magistrate and was
president of the Mechanics' Institute. He was one of those 'advanced
Liberals', like Thomas Emery, who supported
P.A. Taylor's first bid
for parliament in 1861.
On 22nd May 1862, Hollings' wife Sarah died suddenly
from typhus. Hers was the fourth death within the Biggs family circle
within fifteen months. It came when John Biggs financial situation had
deteriorated forcing him to put his house up for sale. Following Sarah's
death, Hollings was distraught and was said be "prostrate in mind and
body," and that he "sank under the burden of grief." He
was deeply depressed and he told friends that he would not survive it.
During the night of 14th September, Hollings
hung himself with a silk handkerchief from a bed-post in John Biggs'
house. His body was discovered by Bigg's servant Hannah Hubbard who was
bringing him his post.
Hollings was a popular and forcible political writer and
a fluent and able orator, providing intellectual weight to the Radical
cause in Leicester.
His loss was deeply felt and William Whitmore wrote a widely praised poem
in Hollings' memory which was published in 1863 by F. Hewitt.
In 1864, a memorial for James Hollings was designed in the gothic style by
the Birmingham architect J. H. Chamberlain. It was paid for by
subscription and was erected by Samuel Barfield of Welford Road. (He would
later build Leicester's Clock Tower). The monument was situated in the
grounds of the Museum and bore the inscription that it was erected by
"who knew the nobleness of his character, the vigour of his intellect and
the tenderness of his heart."
The total height the monument was about thirty two feet and it was
constructed in Bolsover Snowstone which was considered to be of
great beauty and considerable durability. It became known as Leicester's
little Clock Tower. In 1954, the monument was found to have a crack across
it and the total repair cost was estimated at £60. In 1955, the Museums
Committee decided it was beyond repair and had it demolished. There seems
to have been no reported protest against this act of municipal vandalism.
This photograph shows the memorial sometime after 1892.
Source: Leicester Chronicle 27th
November 1841, 15th June 1844, 21st March 1846, 5th & 12th November 1859,
26th January 1861, Leicester Evening Mail, 13th January 1954, 22nd January
& 16th April 1955, Leicester Guardian 9th May & 27th June 1857, 5th
February 1868, Leicester Journal 8th May 1840, 2nd April 1841, 10th
February 1843, Leicester Mercury 3rd May 1845, 22nd December 1849, 24th
May, 20 September 1862, Northampton Mercury 12th February 1842, Caroline
Wessel, The Club in Exchanging Ideas Dispassionately and
without Animosity, 2010, A.Temple Patterson, Radical Leicester
R.H. Evans, The Biggs Family of Leicester, LAHS 1972-73
Born c1910 (I.L.P.,
Co-operative Party & Labour Party)
Len Hollis worked at the C.W.S.
box making and print works on Cranbourne Street. He was active in the
Co-operative movement and the I.L.P. from an early age until the
1970s. He joined the Co-operative Comrades Circle which used to meet in
the Union Street Education Offices, when he was a teenager. He was
Secretary of the I.L.P. Guild of Youth until he was 25 organising rambles
and social events.
He was an active anti fascist during
the 1930s and along with fellow co-operative activists, R.V. Walton &
P.T.A. Campell, he had his name taken by police for speaking at an
anti-fascist meeting held at the Haymarket in 1936.
In 1936, he was elected to the
political council of the Leicester Co-operative Society and in the late
1930s, he was vice-president of the Leicester Co-operative Party. He also
served on numerous co-operative bodies including the national committee of
the Co-operative Party. He became a member of the LCS board during the
1950s and was elected as president of the Leicester Co-operative Society
in 1963. He served until 1978. Len Hollis Court on St Peters Estate
was named in his memory
Source: Leicester Evening Mail 12th
May 1936, 22nd June 1937, Leicester Chronicle 5th May 1978. OHA interview with Len Hollis
Born Tonypandy, died
Leicester 2020 aged 89 (Friends of the Earth)
Doug Holly was one of several educationalists in Leicester
who helped provide an intellectual unpinning for comprehensive and
progressive education during the 1970s.
Doug went to Queen Mary College, London and trained to be
a teacher at the Institute of Education, University of London. He was
active in the student unions, including becoming president. He began work
in some of London's first comprehensive schools and arrived in Leicester
to teach at the School of Education in the 1970s.
Doug trained teachers to teach Humanities and became
president of the Humanities
Association. He published several books that outlined his views on
education. These were: Society,
Schools and Humanity (1971 and 1972), Beyond Curriculum (1973,
1974) and Education or Domination? (1974)
Adversity: Teachers' Experience of Integrated Humanities in
(1986), The Politics of
Competence: a Green Left Approach to Education, (2000). Integrated
Humanities, in which geography, history and English were taught together,
later came under attack in Leicestershire schools, though it lives on
Doug retired from teaching, disillusioned by Britain's
failure to develop genuine comprehensive schooling. He then became active
in a wide range of campaigning organisations. He was co-ordinator of
Leicester Friends of the Earth and was involved with the Red-Green
Alliance, and Campaign Against Arms Trade. He also chaired the Evington
Road Neighbourhood Association.
With his increasing age, he moved into care home and it
was there that he died from Covid-19.
Sources: Barry Dufour
and author's personal knowledge
Leicester, 1850, died: 1911 (Liberal Party, I.L.P.)
James Holmes entered the trade as a
winding boy, progressing from hand frames to being a Cotton’s Patent
Knitter. By the mid 1880s, he had operated every kind of knitting machine
then in existence In the mid 1870s, he was elected to the executive of the
Framework Knitters’ Union and soon afterwards became the unofficial leader
of the power machine men. He became an official of the union in 1881. In
1885, the machine knitters seceded from the old union and he became the
architect and first secretary of the Leicester and Leicestershire
Amalgamated Hosiery Union. He was the first full-time paid official in the
hosiery trade since the days of Nottingham’s Gravener Henson 50 years
earlier. In 1886, the was a major strike which led to a series of
disturbances where blacklegs were struck by missiles, windows in factories
broken and 15 people arrested for rioting. It ended with concessions being
made on both sides.
Holmes was an exceptional organiser
and a powerful orator. In the early 1870s, he spoke on Republican
platforms and was a supporter of Charles Bradlaugh. He chaired Bradlaugh's
Leicester meeting in 1877 on the 'Relation of Population to Poverty' which
was about birth control. This was soon after Bradlaugh's celebrated trial.
During the 1870s, he was a prolific lecturer for
the Secular Society, however in 1881 he declared himself to be a
spiritualist, giving a series of lectures on the subject.
He was a member
of the Town Council for four years, having to retire due to pressure of
work. He was also a newsagent. In the 1880s, Holmes was a friend of Tom
Barclay and sympathised with the early Socialists. He was a founder member
of the I.L.P. in the 1890s and was a supporter of the co-operative
movement. He was a member of the TUC parliamentary committee in the late
1880s and a shareholder in the Leicester Pioneer Press in the 1900s.
His life ended in disgrace when it
was discovered, as he lay dying of cancer, that he had embezzled union
funds on a grand scale, investing in about 200 houses in and around
Leicester. They were all heavily mortgaged and the union realised little
on their sale. One admirer of Holmes described this as “a sad ending to
a brilliant and honourable career in the championship of Labour.” His
union position was filled by Jabez Chaplin.
Sources: Midlands Free Press 5th
February 1881, 13th & 20th February 1886, The Wyvern
22nd October 1897, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation
Died: March 1961
served as City Councillor from 1945 to 1949. She was councillor for St
Margaret’s and chairman of the Public Baths and Cleansing committee.
She was a member of the Union of Shop and Distributive and Allied Workers
and a business woman in the textile trade. In
1958, she moved the proposal to build St Margaret’s baths, the first new
swimming pool built in the City since 1914.
In 1960 she told the press
“I shall be very pleased to see the day when every house in the city has
its own bath.” Alas, this was not to be, as she died the following
Born: Sileby 27th Jan 1818, died: September 1907
(Secularist and bookseller)
the Luddite disturbances, William Holyoak’s family migrated to the little
town of Chard, in Somersetshire. He tried a variety of occupations before
settling down as a tailor's apprentice. His only schooling was received at
Chard, but he supplemented these scanty lessons by a good deal of reading.
On the return of the family to
Leicester, they frequented the Bond Street Chapel. But when William had
the tenacity to ask questions on theological subjects, and when the
minister and deacon gave him unsatisfactory replies, he turned to
Secularism. The 1841 census finds him working as a tailor and living in
Halford Street with Josiah Gimson, John Taylor (also a tailor) and Henry
Layton Knight, an Owenite Social Missionary and Knight’s 15 year old wife,
Margaret, and baby. This maybe this is the ‘sort of vegetarian colony’
that is referred to in his 1902 interview
George Jacob Holyoake (no relation),
now a prominent advocate of Freethought, visited Leicester in 1843, just
after his imprisonment in Gloucester Goal for blasphemy and roused the
liveliest interest among Holyoake and his friends. They also owed a great
deal to the influence of the venerable George Bown, a reformer whose
memories went bade to the days of the French Revolution and Thomas Paine.
At this time Holyoak would have been a member of the Owenite Rational
In 1844, Holyoak became secretary of
a branch of the Anti-Persecution Union which met in the Owenite Social
Institution in Leicester and was set up to defend those being prosecuted
for blasphemy. It was an offshoot of the Rational Party branch and
Jonathan Bairstow of the Chartists wanted to make common cause with the
Union since so many Chartist were also in prison. Nothing formal seems to
have resulted, though Holyoak had chaired a meeting to protest at Thomas
From 1846 onwards, Holyoak continued
tailoring and bookselling, and many radicals must have
learned the rudiments of Rationalism through publications bought at his shop in Bond Street, or at 18, Belgrave Gate, or, still
later, in Humberstone Gate.
In 1853, 1861 and 1867 it was he who
called and organised the meetings to re-start the Secular Society. He
stuck to the Secular Society through all its ups and downs, taking part in
its business and discussions, and occasionally reading papers at its
meetings. He assisted in the movement which promoted Sunday music in the
parks, and in the agitation for the Sunday opening of museums and picture,
In 1885, he pubished ‘Cyclostyle
edition’ of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The duplicator was
only invented in 1880 and Macmillan who had acquired the copyright
regarded Holyoak’s printings as a serious threat to their business and
threatened him with a court action. The affair drew the attention of G.J.
Holyoake who came to his namesake’s defence.
Excluding one year, he presided at
the Bookstore connected with the Secular Institute from 1881 to 1902. He
wrote poetry often with a Secular message and, with the aid of the duplicator,
he was able to distribute it via his bookshop and Secular Society. He
retired in 1902 and continued to live with his son in Humberstone Gate.
Sources: Leicester Reasoner, Leicester
Chronicle, 14 September 1907.
Leicester Pioneer, David Nash, Secularism, Art and Freedom
Maurice Hookham graduated from the London School of
Economics and Political Science in 1935 and that year visited the Soviet
Union. During the war he served with the British Military Mission in
Russia. For five years he worked in local
government publishing A Plea for Local Government in 1949.
He researched methods used by local Soviets in the USSR to plan the municipal
He became a lecturer in Government at the University
College, Leicester. In 1956, he delivered two lectures on British economic
problems during a visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Soviet Society
for Cultural Relations with foreign countries. In 1965, as national president of the
Association University Teachers, he joined students in opposing a
Government suggestion that students should be given loans instead of
grants. He told the Leicester Mercury that:
Psychological worries and strains among students are disturbing enough
as it is. If students anxieties are increased by money troubles and need
to pay back a loan, the problem could stampede into a real crisis. I think
what is behind the Minister's suggestion is that student grants are
costing so much. That, and the thought that we are handing to young people
on a plate three years easy life at university without any incentive to
He wrote extensively and his publications include: Philosophy of
Equality and Inequality (1976), Reflections On The Russian
Revolution, (1967) He also contributed articles on Higher Education to
Marxism Today. He is remembered by the Department of Politics and
International Relations Maurice Hookham Prize for the best final year
Sources: Coventry Evening Telegraph
17th October 1956, The Leicester Mercury, 18
Born 22 May 1915, died 1971, Leicester (Communist Party)
Born Hilda Henriette Kuttner in Hampstead to a mother
with the last name of Allen. At an early age she was Interested in distant
lands and in writing. Wben she was nine she began a pen-friendship with
somebody in Japan. Two years later she formed an international penfriend
club. At 15 she corresponded with George Bernard Shaw who lent her a book.
A year later Virginia Woolf commented on her review of The Waves-
"l am really surprised that she enjoyed the Waves and
understood so well what I was trying to do. "It is a great encouragement
because most people who write reviews are not nearly so intelligent. . .
is she going to be writer?"
A couple of years later Walter de la Mare looked over
some of her verse and said it had "thought, imagination, feeling and
gift for words." Hilda married Maurice Hookham early in 1935 in Wandsworth
and the Hookhams visited the USSR in 1936. A year later, she
became organiser for the National Union of Students and had already joined
the Communist Party. Known widely as `Kutty’ in her youth, as she had
acquired the nick-name at school as a contraction of her maiden name.
When he had been ambassador in Moscow, Sir
Stafford Cripps had become friendly with Maurice Hookham. Cripps selected Kutty for
the job of General Secretary of the
Anglo-Soviet Youth Friendship Alliance that had been created in the summer of
1941 to demonstrate solidarity with the Soviet war effort. Whilst she had kept her
Party membership discreet, in the hope of future career development, it
was actually not a secret. The US State Department quickly
ascertained that she was a member and would later make much of the supposed
In 1944, she was appointed Secretary of the World Youth
Council and was the main British contact for the World
Federation of Democratic Youth. In 1949, she was described as a 'red
haired student' when she addressed the Communist supported World Peace
Congress. She told the delegates, who came from 59 countries that
"more than half the world today youth is being thrown
the scrapheap. "They are hunting for homes that are not being built,
looking for jobs that are growing fewer, seeking in vain for better
education and vocational training. "They are facing the firing squads,
laying down their lives once more for freedom and democracy......"
In the growing cold war climate, Britain and the US
began to break-up bodies associated with the wartime alliance. The World
Federation of Democratic Youth now became a target
of McCarthyite harassment. Kutty’s name was widely banded about in
early 1950s courtrooms in America as evident for supposedly underhand
practices. She was even labelled the most dangerous woman in the world!
This may have led the Hookhams to move towards a quieter life.
In 1953 she began teaching at the Ashby Girls' Grammar School where she
became the senior history mistress.
As Hilda Hookham, she produced a series of articles and books with
connections to China and the Soviet Union.
Tamburlaine the Conqueror, (1962)
A Short History of the
Philippines (1969), A Short History of China (1972),
and the Builders of Trans-Siberian Railway.
Sources: Hull Daily Mail, 22nd
February 1949, Leicester Evening Mail, 17th December 1962, Graham Stevenson: Communist
Born: London 1834, died: 1911 (Liberal)
John Page Hopps was a
well known radical and a Unitarian minister at the Great meeting from 1876
to 1892. After studying at Leicester Baptist College, in 1856 he became
minister of a Baptist meeting at Hugglescote, Leicestershire. However, the
following year he moved doctrinally and geographically to liberal
non-denominationalism in Birmingham. Before coming to Leicester, he had
been minister at the Upperthorpe chapel in Sheffield and then the St
Vincent's Street Chapel, in Glasgow. He was elected to the Glasgow School
Board and was a prominent advocate of secular education.
In Leicester, he was
particularly noted for the huge Sunday evening meetings he held in the
Floral Hall which attracted very large numbers of working people through
flowers, music, and popular preaching. He wrote hymns which are still sung
by many denominations.
His radical beliefs
led him to support the Democratic Association’s campaign for Liberal
school board candidates and he had good relations with the Secular Society
where he sometimes lectured. In 1877, he became first President of the
Women’s Suffrage Society and a supporter of the Leicester Women’s Liberal
Association’s attempts to get women elected to the Board of Guardians.
Politically he was an advanced Liberal, a strong supporter of Irish Home
Rule (a position that was unpopular with his Leicester congregation), of
land reform, of anti-vivisection, and of the peace movement. In 1877, he
gave his support to the opening of the free library on
Sundays: "if a strong body of ratepayers desire the use of public
property on the Sunday, they take dangerous ground if they resist it on
Hopps ran for
Parliament in Paddington as a Radical Liberal against Lord Randoph
Churchill in 1886. He believed that the:
“undue aggregation of capital
must be met by the aggregation of labour, in other words by unionism on
the one side, and co-operative industry on the other. What ultimate form
this co-operative industry is to take is, of course, a problem for the
statesman as well as the social reformer. …The foulness of the sweaters’
dens, and the hard unfriendly mechanical relations of the sweaters’
‘boss’ to his hands, may be replaced by the cleanliness, the order, and
the genial associations which might spring up in a co-operative clothing
or cabinet-making company. Of course behind these excellent enterprises
lies the double danger of successful competition by the sweaters, and of
driving the trade in cheap sweater-made goods abroad, where the standard
of living among the workers is even lower than among us. But such
experiments are always worth trying, as doing much to bring out the
gentler and more human forces of society in place of the grinding and
Rejecting belief in the resurrection
of the body, he was also an early advocate of cremation. He also
corresponded with Oscar Wilde and was later involved with Spiritualism. In
1892 he left the Great Meeting because of continuing tension with his
Sources: The Star, October 1888,
12th May 1877, Isabel Ellis, Records Of Nineteenth Century
Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism, R. K. Webb,
Oxford National Dictionary of Biography
Born London 1856, died: Leicester, January 1909 (Liberal)
Hornidge worked in several trades before he became a laster in the shoe
industry in London in 1876. He had several spells of unemployment during
which he went on the tramp in search of work and moved to Northampton. In
1891, he was elected President of the Northampton branch and a member of
the Board of Conciliation. He was fiercely opposed to the
‘anti-arbitrationist’ militants within the union and within two years he
had became General President of the union. After six years as president,
he resigned from the post in order to succeed William Inskip as general
secretary in opposition to T.F. Richards.
He was a staunch Liberal-Radical and
earnest and conscientious in his beliefs. In fact his forthrightness, his
unwillingness to deviate from the stand he had taken and his views on
arbitration made him many enemies. He was sapped and weakened by bronchial
asthma which was the cause of his periodic disappearances from the Union
scene. At conferences he spoke only briefly and infrequently, but despite
his chronic illness he was unwilling to lay down his office. Finally he
was asked, by a deeply sympathetic, but uneasy, union conference to
resign. Having done so, he relapsed into an invalid condition and remained
bed-ridden until his death a few months later at the age of 52. Despite
member of Leicester Secular Society, he was given a religious funeral and
was buried in Welford Road cemetery.
Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 2nd
January 1909, Richards, T.F. & Poulton E.L., Fifty Years: Being The
History Of The National Union Of Boot And
Shoe Operatives, Alan Fox, A History of
the National Union of Boot and Shoe
Howard was born in the South of Scotland of working class parents. He went
to Glasgow University with the aid of a scholarship and graduated as a
Master of Arts. He was a teacher for a short time before becoming Labour
organiser for Gloucester. In 1919, he came to Leicester as Labour
organiser, acting as the secretary of the City party. During the inter-war
years, he was in charge of Labour’s election campaigns and his skills as
an organiser helped the party recover from the 1918 defeat and to expand
the electoral base of the party during the 1920s.
This culminated in the 1945 election
victory when for the first time there were three Labour MPs and a Labour
controlled City Council. He retired in 1947 and wrote a history of the
party in Leicester which was published to mark its 50th
anniversary. He was not on the left of the party and remained dismissive
of ‘popular fronters’ and other left groups. Despite being considered
something of an eligible batchelor in Labour circles, he never married,
though he had a long friendship with Edith Scott. He was awarded the O.B.E.
Sources: election address 1924,
Leicester Mercury 21st October 1931, Leicester Evening Mail
11th April 1947.
Born: circa 1870 Uppingham, (I.L.P. & Labour Party)
was orphaned at an early age and attended board
schools. After leaving school he became an apprentice electrical engineer
and then an apprentice auctioneer and land agent in London. He returned to
Leicester, where he had relatives and secured a partnership in a hosiery
firm which was not successful. He then returned to being an auctioneer and
travelled the country. In 1898, he became a
clerk in a trimmers and dyers factory, he later became a commercial
traveller in the hosiery trade.
He said he was a politician as soon
as he could read and was a radical of the ‘most advanced type.’ He heard
MacDonald make his first speech at the Temperance Hall and said “If
this is Socialism, I have been a Socialist for years.” He joined the
I.L.P. and quickly became prominent. He was elected to the executive and
became minute secretary. He was an I.L.P. delegate to the meeting called
by the Trades Council which launched the Labour Representation Committee
and he was made its first secretary. It was claimed that the success of
the L.R.C. in Leicester was largely due to his organising ability. In
1906, he was Ramsay MacDonald’s election agent.
“Within the year practically all the
trade unions of the town had formally affiliated with the Committee…From
the very first the members of the Committee were unanimous and
enthusiastic in maintaining a definitely independent attitude. This policy
has given to the Party an influence far greater than its actual proportion
of members on the local governing bodies and had led many of the workers,
who were at first very critical, to throw in their lot with the Party.”
He was a member of the Shop
Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks Union and represented his society on
the Trades Council. He was president of the Trades Council two years
running (1907-9), president of the WEA and a member of the Town Council
until 1910. Following the takeover of the ‘Leicester Pioneer’ from the old
company by the L.R.C., he was one of those who guaranteed the expenses of
the first three numbers out of his own pocket. He was on the committee of
the new company from its formation and became secretary. He was elected as
a City Councillor for Latimer Ward in 1907.
During the war, Hubbard became President of the
Leicester and District Branch of the Union of Democratic Control. The
U.D.C. was a pressure group formed in 1914 which called for a full
examination of the war aims in public and by Parliament. Whilst the Union
did not call for an immediate end to the war, it strongly opposed
conscription and wartime censorship along with other restrictions on civil
Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 9th
February 1907, The Labour Party Conference 1911, Official Souvenir,
Bill Hynes became president of the
Trades Council 1969, delegate from U.S.D.A.W. City Councillor for Wycliffe
Ward elected in 1973 and 1979.
Born 9th May 1951, died: 31st March
1999 aged 47. (Labour Party, International Marxist Group, Socialist
Son of Bill Hynes, Bernie Hynes was
secretary of the Leicester Anti- Nazi League and a leading member of the
Troops Out Movement. He often visited Ireland, assisting Republican
prisoners and their families. He worked in the gas industry and was a
member of Leicester Trades Council.
Source: author’s personal knowledge
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© Ned Newitt Last revised:
May 11, 2021.
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