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Dominic (Dan) McCarthy

Born: Ireland c1862, died: 13th November 1937 (I.L.P.)

Dan McCarthy was from Ireland and arrived in England from Australia and joined NUBSO in 1892. He worked as a shoe laster and was employed at the C.W.S. Wheatsheaf works. In 1895, he was elected to the Trades Council. He was a member of the Board of Guardians for 18 years and was member of the board of the Leicester Co-operative Society for 13 years resigning in 1919. 

He was chairman of the Butchery Committee of the Co-op. Board of Management and it was on his motion that the dairy department was founded. He was responsible for starting the delivery of milk to Co-op members. He was also one of the first people to press for a week's holiday with pay for workers within the boot and shoe trade which was embodied in the a jealously-guarded feature of the industry's national agreement - the Holiday Provision Scheme of 1919. He was elected as a national organiser of NUBSO in 1919 and retired ten years later. He stood, unsuccessfully, in Westcotes ward for the City Council in 1930.

Sources: Leicester Chronicle 7th November 1929, Leicester Evening Mail 3rd November 1930, 14th Seprember 1934, 15th & 17th  November 1937, Richards, T.F. & Poulton E.L., Fifty Years: Being The History Of The National Union Of Boot And Shoe Operatives, Leicester Co-operative Printing Society, 1924. 


Rev. Archibald Forbes MacDonald

Born: Scotland c1809, died: Lewes 1886

The Rev A. F. MacDonald was a graduate of Aberdeen who embraced Unitarianism in the early 1830s. He was pastor at the Royston chapel from 1833-1848 and was also at Newhall Hill Unitarian Church in Birmingham. He was described as combative personality. In 1871 was a minister of the Free Christian Church on Narborough Road and that year he chaired meetings of boot and shoe trade unionists in support of the nine hours movement. According to him:

The nine hours movement was required by the employed in order that they might have more time for recreation and mental culture. Some people thought that increased wages would be danger to the working classes. But he had no more fear that too high wages would be a danger to the working classes any more than he had a fear that too high profits would a danger to another class. (Loud applause.)

 In 1871, he was also active in setting up a branch of the Workmen's Peace Association. He moved the resolution which  deemed the means  employed for the settlement of international disputes as costly, barbarous, and opposed to the best interests of the people. It called for 'the establishment of high court of nations as a remedy once practical and efficacious.' He was also active in support of the opening of the Museum on Sundays.

He also gave two lectures in support of women's suffrage in 1870 and 1871. In 1872, he became secretary of the newly formed suffrage committee with his wife Ann MacDonald as one of the committee members. By 1881 he had moved to Sussex.

Sources: Leicester Journal, 8th, 15th December 1871, 16 February 1877, Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey, Alan Ruston, Unitarianism In Hertfordshire

Margaret MacDonald

Born: 1870 died: 1911 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

Margaret MacDonald was educated largely at home, although attending Doreck College for a short while. As a young woman she was involved in various branches of voluntary social work, including working as a visitor of the Charity Organisation Society in Hoxton. By 1890 MacDonald had developed a keen interest in socialism, influenced by the Christian Socialists and the Fabian Society. She joined the Women's Industrial Council in 1894, serving on several committees and organising an enquiry into home work in London which was published in 1897. She met Ramsay MacDonald through this work in 1895 and they married in 1896.

Margaret MacDonald's political work continued after marriage. She was particularly concerned about the need for skilled work and training for women. She continued to work for the W.I.C . until 1910 and was also an active member of the National Union of Women Workers. She was a supporter of women's suffrage though she was opposed to militant action. She served on the executive of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Margaret MacDonald was instrumental in promoting a study in Leicester to investigate any correlation between women going out to work and infant mortality. She invested her own money and raised funds so the study could go ahead. Published after her death, the study showed that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that women who went out to work neglected their maternal duties.

In 1906, she was involved in the formation of the Women's Labour League, retaining an interest in its work until her death from blood poisoning in 1911. The Baby Clinic was created as a memorial to Margaret MacDonald and Mary Middleton, who both died in 1911. The goal of the clinic was to offer preventative healthcare to the children of the poor.

Sources: Shirley Aucott, Mothercraft and Maternity, 1997

Ramsay MacDonald

Born: 1866, died: 1937 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

MacDonald can reasonably be considered one of the Labour Party’s three major founding fathers. He began in the most disadvantaged of circumstances. He was born in 1866, the illegitimate son of a poor Scottish girl in Lossiemouth on the Moray coast. He made his way to London as an impoverished science student and, significantly, made an early political appearance as secretary of the Scottish Home Rule Association. But he also became active in a variety of socialist organisations at that time, the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabian Society, and eventually the Independent Labour Party.

In 1899, he was successfully nominated as candidate for the two member Leicester constituency by T.F. Richards. That year, he toured the country with Richards urging trade union bodies to support the idea of supporting a working alliance between the trade unions and the socialist societies such as the I.L.P. and the Fabians. This alliance was to an extent drawn on the relationship of the Leicester Trades Council, the Boot and Shoe Union and the I.L.P. in Leicester. When he stood in the General Election in 1900, it was in the midst of the Boer War. Whilst he polled no more votes that Burgess, it was a good vote, given his public antipathy to the war.

In 1900, MacDonald became secretary of the newly-formed Labour Representation Committee and his career as a political figure of national stature, had begun. In the years before the outbreak of the First World, MacDonald exercised a growing and visible influence over the growth of the young Labour Party. However, unlike Burgess, MacDonald was regarded sympathetically by the local Liberal political establishment and it was the personal relationships with men like Sir Edward Wood that provided the basis of the alliance with the Liberals. This ‘Progressive Alliance’ between Labour and the Liberals, brought considerable political and social changes in the Asquith-Lloyd George era between 1905 and 1914. It was this alliance that ensured his election in 1906 and in parliament he worked closely with the Liberals on such issues as Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909, the National Insurance Bill of 1911, and Irish Home Rule.

When he eventually became chairman of the Labour party in 1911-14 he played a vital role in ensuring that Labour kept up the alliance with the Liberals despite growing antipathy to it in his own party. In 1913, he opposed the standing of a second Labour candidate during the Leicester bye-election of that year and it was clear that even in Leicester, where he enjoyed enormous prestige, this continuation of this alliance was now unpopular. George Banton was unanimously selected as a candidate in the election, only to be told that the party had to support the Liberal candidate. Banton dutifully stood down. Members of the British Socialist Party and Clarion supporters campaigned under banner of ‘Socialism not MacDonaldism.’

MacDonald was totally against Britain's involvement in the First World War. He called for peace through negotiation and maintained links with his comrades in the German Social Democrats, some of whom were also anti-war. His views were shared by the majority of the I.L.P in Leicester and national figures such as James Keir Hardie, Philip Snowden and George Lansbury. On 5th August, 1914, the parliamentary Labour Party voted to support the government's request for war credits of £100,000,000. MacDonald immediately resigned the chairmanship. He wrote in his diary:

"I saw it was no use remaining as the Party was divided and nothing but futility could result."

Five days later MacDonald had a meeting with Philip Morrel, Norman Angell, E. D. Morel, Charles Trevelyan and Arthur Ponsonby. They decided to form a committee to articulate their opposition to the war. It became known as the Union of Democratic Control.

MacDonald and the U.D.C. argued that main reasons for the conflict was the secret diplomacy of people like Britain's foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey. They decided that the U.D.C. should have three main objectives:
(1) that in future to prevent secret diplomacy there should be parliamentary control over foreign policy;
(2) there should be negotiations after the war with other democratic European countries in an attempt to form an organisation to help prevent future conflicts;
(3) that at the end of the war the peace terms should neither humiliate the defeated nation nor artificially rearrange frontiers as this might provide a cause for future wars.

On 1st October 1914, The Times published a leading article entitled Helping the Enemy, in which it wrote that "no paid agent of Germany had served her better than MacDonald had done. " Another article said that "Mr. MacDonald has sought to besmirch the reputation of his country by openly charging with disgraceful duplicity the Ministers who are its chosen representatives, and he has helped the enemy State ... Such action oversteps the bounds of even the most excessive toleration, and cannot be properly or safely disregarded by the British Government or the British people."

In the midst of the pro war hysteria directed at MacDonald and the Leicester I.L.P., their pre-war differences were forgotten. Although, he was seen as a hero by his local supporters, the press portrayed him as a pariah figure and as a little less than a traitor. Ostracised and reviled, he was expelled from many public bodies; he received white feathers (a sign of cowardice) through the post and was physically threatened. Although the first Russian Revolution led him to hope that negotiations to end the war might start, the new Russian government continued to fight. At home, public meetings became increasingly difficult as small groups of 'patriots' draped in the flag tried to storm the platform In 1918 he was heavily defeated by J.F. Green a ‘patriotic’ ex-socialist and S.D.F. member. Shortly after the election MacDonald commented:

The great fight is over. The combination of hate, credulity, and reaction which we expected was veritably effected, and the desirable villas of the West united with the undesirable tenements the Centre to defeat Labour. The abandonment of principle was wholehearted, and everything was forgotten in the one object bringing about my defeat.
I had said things which disturbed the complacency of those people whose conception of foreign politics is the same order a child's conception of English history. I wrote sentences which were a stumbling-block to them. They wanted to believe fairies, and whoever said fairies did not exist was an enemy of society!

In the period 1918-22, MacDonald emerged rapidly as Labour’s outstanding leader. His reputation as an anti-war protester, was now a glowing asset as the domestic and foreign policies of the Lloyd George coalition unravelled amidst unemployment and international tension. MacDonald was ideally placed to appeal to embittered trade unionists furious at the government’s betrayal of pledges to build ‘a land fit for heroes’, to middle-class intellectuals disgusted by the injustice and stupidities of the Versailles and other peace treaties and the wider public to whom he seemed a ‘brave new world’ figure, full of hope for a better society.

In 1929, having won the General election, MacDonald was awarded the freedom of the City, despite opposition from local Tories. Two years later, MacDonald was prime minister of an anti Labour ‘National’ government and was reviled as a traitor by his former colleagues.

In July 1931, MacDonald backed a proposal that the government should reduce its public spending with a massive cut in unemployment benefits. The proposal was rejected by the cabinet, MacDonald resigned and he was persuaded by the King to head a new coalition government that would include Conservative and Liberal leaders as well as Labour ministers. The 1931 election saw the loss of the two Leicester labour MPs. However despite MacDonald’s huge following Leicester, the formation of the National Government did not create any splits or divisions in the local Labour Movement.

Sources: The Formation Of The Labour Party -Lessons For Today, Jim Mortimer, 2000, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism, Birmingham Post, 30th July 1913, The Times, 1st Oct 1914, Liverpool Echo, 27th December 1918, John Simkin, Spartacus.


Mary Ann Mackintosh (Grieves)

Born Newcastle? c1875, died Leicester, April 1939, (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

Mary Mackintosh had held the post of Foster Mother within a cottage children's home run by the Board of Guardians at Countesthorpe. In 1904, she stood as a a Labour candidate for the Guardians and criticised the Labour representation Committee for only running two women candidates.

She resigned as Foster Mother at Countesthorpe in 1917, but the Clerk of the Guardians, Herbert Mansfield, refused to give her testimonial as to her character. Attempts by Labour guardians to grant her a testimonial failed. She had her revenge when she eventually elected to the Guardians in June 1919. She attempted to improve the conditions for vagrants at the workhouse. The were required to go to bed at 5pm and wanted males to have straw mattresses as well as the females. She also wanted better heating arrangements, but this was rejected by the Liberal-Tory majority. In 1921, she criticised the guardians for paying different rates of relief to men and women, but her proposal was voted down. At the time of the 1921 unemployment crisis, she urged the unemployed to march to the Guardian's office in Pocklington's Walk and demand relief. You are entitled to it. Go in an orderly manner and demand what you were promised last Friday.

When 21 year old Edith Roberts from Hinckley was sentenced to death for the murder of her new born child in 1921, Mary Macintosh led the campaign for a reprieve and a petition gathered 30,000 signatures. A reprieve was eventually granted and Edith Roberts was released. Mary Mackintosh was described at the time as 'a prominent figure in the local feminist movement.' She was also a member of the Trades Council. In 1930 she married William Grieves, a photographer.

Sources: Leicester Pioneer 20th January 1904, 23rd September 1921, BOG minutes, June 1919, 25th October. Leicester Daily Post 21st July 1920, Leicester Chronicle 6th August 1921, The Vote, 19th August 1921, Leicester Mercury 6th April 1939

Amos Mann

Born: 1855, died: 1939 (Co-operator, Liberal Party, Labour)

Amos Mann was born in Leicester on 16th January 1855, the son of William Mann, who was a slater. He attended St Mary's and Laxton Street Church Schools, but started work at nine years of age in a match factory where he earned 1s 6d a week. Through night schools and his own appetite for reading he broadened his education. Social, political and religious reform appealed to him early in life and he took a keen interest in the campaign preceding the passing of the 1870 Education Bill. He joined the Church of Christ, where it was customary for members preach and teach without a minister. Being a gifted speaker, he soon became a preacher where he was able to show a fluency and mastery of language. The Church of Christ, being run by the laity, strengthened his belief in democracy and during his long life, his idealism never left him. He was a lifelong abstainer and a speaker on temperance platforms.

He was a member of Leicester No 1 branch of NUBSO, though by 1903 was a foreman. His first official connection with the co-operative movement was as one of the founders of the Leicester Anchor Boot and Shoe Co-operative Productive Society, of which he became the second president and held office for more than twenty years. He was outstanding among the pioneers of the Anchor Tenants Ltd, creators of the Humberstone Garden Suburb, being both a shareholder and a committee member, and he lived there during the latter part of his life. With other brethren he assisted in the formation of a Church of Christ at the Garden Suburb which he regularly attended. He subsequently became active in the co-operative, temperance, trade union and adult education movements.

Amos Mann became a member of the Leicester Co-operative Society general committee in 1898 but retired in 1900. Then in 1908 he was successful in being elected president of the society and was re-elected annually to the presidency until he stepped down in 1936. In 1922 he was elected to the central board of the Co-operative Union from which he retired in 1936.

Mann was one of Britain's leading advocates of producers' co-operation. For over thirty years he was treasurer of the Co-operative Productive Federation, and was one of its representatives on the joint exhibition committee of the Co-operative Union and on the co-operative inquiry committee set up by the Co-operative Congress in Dublin (1914). In 1911 he was elected president of the Labour Co- partnership Association and in his last years he acted as organising secretary of this association. Under the auspices of the Labour Co-partnership Association, and later the Co-operative Co-partnership Propaganda Committee, he lectured extensively, visiting most places of any size in the country, and he also contributed many articles to co-operative periodicals and published various books and pamphlets. One result of his lecture tours was a very much enjoyed series of travel articles which he contributed to the Leicester Co-operative Society Magazine. The Leicester Basket Makers (a co-op) benefited from his special knowledge in the field of co-operative production when he became their president.

He was elected to the Leicester Town Council as a Liberal in 1897 for the West Humberstone Ward and, during his period of office to 1908, he served on the Watch, Parks, Tramways and Distress Committees. In 1914, he described himself as a radical who would put the cause of Labour first and party second. He was opposed to the First World War and represented and assisted conscientious objectors at military tribunals. This led to him, in 1918, to be briefly adopted as a Labour candidate for South Leicester Parliamentary constituency. He withdrew in deference to the attitude of the co-operative society towards his candidature. He believed that all progressive forces should unite, and he was a strong opponent of class privilege. By the 1920s and 30s, his views were a strong mixture of socialism, co-operation and internationalism.

His other local interests included a life governorship of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, membership of the grand council of the Wycliffe Society for the Blind and treasurer of the Leicester Free Christmas Dinner Fund. He was also a JP. It was said that there was something prophetic in his being christened Amos, for he turned out to resemble that ancient Hebrew Utopian reformer and idealist. He died on 25 December 1939 at the age of eighty-four and the funeral service was held at the Church of Christ, Humberstone, Leicester.

Sources: H. F. Bing, Dictionary of Labour Biography, Leicester Co-operative Society, (1898) Co-operation in Leicester, Amos Mann: Co-operative Production from the Labour Co-partnership Standpoint (1913), Democracy in Industry: the story of twenty-one years' work of the Leicester Productive Society (Leicester, 1914), Leicester Co-operative Society Magazine, January 1940

John Manning

Born Leicestershire 23rd March 1791-13th January 1869 (Liberal)

John Manning was a grocer, a town councillor and prominent member of James Mursell's Harvey-lane Baptist congregation. At his china tea establishment at 16 High Street you could buy tea, freshly roasted coffee, Malaga raisins, Seville oranges and all kinds of 'foreign fruit.' He had been baptised in the Church of England and had been a churchwarden of St. Martin's  until he decided to become a Baptist.

From the mid 1830s, there was a sustained campaign by non-conformists against the compulsory payment of rates to the established Church. When in 1841, William Baines was sent to prison for his refusal to pay Church rates, there was a huge outcry which result in Baines being elected to the Town Council whilst in prison. The churchwardens were undeterred by the support for Baines and persisted in summonsing those who refused to pay. (They had even been rewarded by the gift of a silver cup and a purse of sovreigns). John Manning, Albert Cockshaw and several others were summonsed with the threat of distrait upon their goods. John Manning said he would rather go to prison than give in and pay the £1 he owed. He believed the rate to be illegal, but would refuse to appear in the Ecclesastical Court, since he could not expect justice there. Susanna Watts, a churchwoman, felt that the Church would lose more than it would gain by martyring Non Conformists and paid his fine. However, summonses and distraints continued to be issued from St Martin's parish until 1849 when the Liberals secured a majority in the Vestry ending the levy of Church rates in Leicester.

In 1842, he became the first chairman of the Complete Suffrage Association. which was something of a haven for middle-class reformers who shrank from the militancy of Thomas Cooper's brand of Chartism. Under the leadership of Joseph Sturge, they made very similar demands.

In 1848, Manning took the chair at the joint meeting between the Chartists and radicals which helped create a new alliance in the town. In 1852, he proposed the radical Sir Joshua Walmsley in very glowing terms at the hustings during the parliamentary election of that year . (He was Mayor of Leicester at the time). In 1856, he supported the nomination of John Biggs as one of Leicester's two MPs after the death of Richard Gardiner.

However his support for the radicals soon came to an end when Sir Joshua Walsley proposed opening of the British Museum on Sundays. This led to the desertion of many Baptists and Sabbatarians from the radical camp and in 1857, he helped, with other Baptists to defeat Walmsley and ensure the victory of the Whig John Harris. The defeat of such a popular M.P. caused outcry in the town among those not entitled to vote.

In 1859, the Leicester Mercury had still not forgiven him. That year, Manning had claimed that he had never liked Sir Joshua from the first to the last. The Mercury replied by reprinting his speech in Walmsley's praise. It felt that  "if eloquence consists of coarse vituperation, then it must follow that Mr Manning is an orator in the highest and most expressive sense of the term."  It also noted that in the past he had "laboured conspicuously, honourably and disinterestedly in the very van of the reforming ranks."

He is buried in Welford Road Cemetery.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, 6th March, 17th April 1841, 12th March 1842, 28th May 1859, Leicester Journal, 23 April 1841Leicester Chronicle, 3 April 1841, 7 June 1856, A. Temple Patterson, Radical Leicester, Leicester 1954.

John Markham's grave in Welford Road Cemetery

John Markham

Born: c1802, Wilbarston, Northants, died: 27th October 1861 (Chartist leader and Liberal)

John Markham was said to have lived and died within a few yards of Belgrave Gate. (in 1851 he lived at no 28, now the site of the pawnbrokers, Cash Generator) His schooling was limited and he was self educated, beginning life as a shoe maker. He was a gifted public speaker and became a Primitive Methodist preacher, first at George Street where his rebellious nature led to his departure and then at Denman Street, where his colleagues took umbrage at his political aspirations. This led him to retire to the ‘private ranks’ of the church.

In February 1838, John Markham urged the working men of Leicester to cease supporting middle  or upper class politicians who were not prepared to secure the people their rights. He urged them to form a political association of their own and this led to the formation of a local anti-Poor Law Society of which he became secretary.

In October 1838, the anti-poor law agitation, the activities of the Leicester Working Men’s Association and the efforts of the hosiery workers to stop the fall in wages was fused together into the Leicester Chartists under Markham’s leadership. His name appears at every phase of the Chartist agitation. He was shrewd and level-headed and probably the most statesmanlike of the Leicester Chartists. At the hustings, he was a formidable interrogator, especially if the candidate was suspected of not being well up in respect of the ‘bill of rights.’ He had no time for insurrectionists and only once did he use physical force language when he exhorted the Chartists never to think of violence “until non-resistance would be a crime.” He helped defeat the Whig candidate in the Nottingham election of 1841 and return an anti poor law candidate, he also used his influence against the Whigs in Leicester.

Markham did not share Cooper’s hostility to the repeal of the Corn Laws. He believed the repeal to be desirable, but the repeal in itself would not be a panacea to the ills of the working class. Nevertheless, Markham found himself steadily being eclipsed by Thomas Cooper.

Markham resented Thomas Cooper’s assumption of dictatorial power, his impatience with criticism, his disdainful treatment of the Chartist committee and the violent tone of his rhetoric. Markham was also disturbed by the unquestioning support that Cooper gave Fergus O’Connor. He had no truck with physical force Chartism. In his view the advocates of physical were the worst enemies of the people, because: "the nonsense which some had talked about physical force had only the effect of driving sincere reformers from their ranks."

Early in 1842 there was an open and furious quarrel between Markham and Cooper and the Leicester Chartists split into two unequal parties: Markham’s smaller All Saints Chartist Association and Cooper’s Shakespearean Association of Leicester Chartists. In 1843, Markham set himself up as an auctioneer and furniture broker and the All Saints Chartist Association faded.

Like other Chartists, he played no part in the 1848 Bastille Riots against the Poor Law, though he protested over the brutal violence used against unoffending citizens. By this time, with the departure of Cooper and Bairstow, the divisions amongst the local Chartists had heaked and he was once again in the forefront of the movement. With the decline of the Chartist movement, Markham reached an accommodation with those middle class radicals who wanted an extension of the franchise. Markham became a supporter of John Biggs and was elected to the town council for the North Saint Margaret’s ward in November 1852 and was re-elected in 1855 and 1858 unopposed. During the election of 1852, the Leicester Chronicle described Markham as a ‘Chartist’ candidate. As a town councillor, he apparently took every opportunity to raise the claim of the working classes to the franchise as a natural right. In 1852, he was also elected as a Poor Law guardian and although opposed to the law, he tried to ameliorate its harsher provisions, especially at times of depression.

He supported the Sunday League’s proposals to provide rational recreation of Sunday as a counter attraction to drinking, but in 1855 opposed attempts to close pubs on Sunday as he believed it would interfere with individual liberty. He also supported the Sunday opening of museums. He retired from business, due to heart disease and died aged 59. He was buried in Welford Road cemetery close to the grave of the veteran radical and political associate George Bown.

Sources: Leicestershire Mercury, 17th June 1848, Midlands Free Press 2nd Nov 1861 (obit), Leicester Chronicle 1852, 24th February 1855, J.F.C. Harrison, Chartism in Leicester, published in Chartist Studies Asa Briggs (ed) 1959


Arthur Marriott

Died: 1982 (Labour Party)

Arthur Marriott was an engine driver. He was president of the Trades Council in 1952 and was delegate from the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers And Firemen. He was elected to the City Council in 1953, but lost his seat in 1959. He was re-elected to the Council in 1964.

Lily Marriott

Died: November 1985 aged 76 (Labour Party)

Lily Marriott joined the Labour Party in 1937 and was renowned for her work in public welfare. She represented Abbey ward for over thirty years, finally stepping down in 1983. From its inception in 1946, she served on the Rent Tribunal and was chairman of the Hillcrest Hospital Committee, the Social Services Committee and was a member of the Public Assistance committee.

In 1959, she was elected to City Council for the first time. She became Lord Mayor of Leicester in 1975 and was awarded the M.B.E. and made a JP. She is commemorated by. Lily Marriott Gardens, Rowlatts Hill, opened in 1988 and Lily Marriott House in Aylestone.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, 27th November 1985, Leicester City Council, Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000

Jim Marshall

Born: 13th March 1941; died: May 27th 2004 (Labour Party)

The son of a labourer, Jim Marshall was born in Attercliffe, Sheffield. After elementary school and Sheffield grammar school, he took a BSc and a PhD at Leeds University, which qualified him to become a research scientist with the Wool Industries Research Association in Leeds (1963-68). He lectured at Leicester Polytechnic (1968-74) and worked as a supply teacher and market trader (1983-87).

His political career began in 1965 on Leeds council and in 1970 he was the parliamentary candidate for Harborough constituency and was subsequently elected to the City Council for Aylestone and later Castle ward. In August 1972, Jim was one of nine Labour councillors who rebelled over issue of Ugandan refugees. They took issue with the ‘no room at the inn’ being approach taken by the leadership of the Labour group. The following year Jim became leader of the group and at the first meeting of the ‘new’ district council in June 1973 he declared that it would have an important role in countering the effects of racialism introduced into the City by the National Front’s election campaign.

He first contested Leicester South in February 1974 and won it the following October. In 1977, at the tail-end of James Callaghan's premiership, he became an assistant whip. Later he became assistant home affairs spokesman (1982-83) before his Northern Ireland appointment. In 1983, the Tories won Leicester South by 13 votes and Jim worked as a supply teacher and a market trader.

On his return to parliament in 1987, he became deputy shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland (1987-92), when, with his boss Kevin Macnamara, he developed Labour's scheme for a devolved, self-governing Northern Ireland. They even proposed that the troubled province be jointly governed by Britain and Eire.

Jim’s frontbench hopes ended after he voted for Bryan Gould, rather than John Smith, in the 1992 Labour leadership contest, and, in 1994, he preferred Margaret Beckett to Tony Blair. As a northern working-class, leftwing Euro-sceptic, he was out of sympathy with the Blair project, denouncing the incoming prime minister's cheerleaders in 1997 as a ‘bloody shower’.

He devoted himself increasingly to Leicester, where an growing amount of his casework was bound up with problems of immigration and visas. He was furious at the Tories for ending appeals on denied visa applications in 1993, he was angered by the slowness with which the Labour government restored the appeal system and then hobbled them with charges. He and others dissuaded the Home Office from demanding a £5,000 bond to prevent overstaying by Asian visitors.

Jim's parliamentary voting record showed the extent of his unhappiness with his own side. In December 1997, he voted against cuts in single-parent benefits; in 1998, he opposed the abolition of student maintenance grants; in 1999, he voted to block cuts in disability benefits, in 2000, he voted against government limitations on the Freedom of Information Bill; in 2001, he backed a register of the royal family's outside interests. He was among the first to oppose the Iraq war. In June 2003, he defied a three-line whip on the university top-up fees vote. He died in his office, aged 63, of a heart attack.

Sources: The Guardian (obit), author’s personal knowledge

Ted Marston

Born: Leicester 17th May 1909, died: March 1987 aged 77 (Labour Party)

Ted Marston went the Brunswick and Curzon Street Schools. In 1923, aged 14, he started work in the Carriage and Wagon Department of the London and North Eastern Railway Company. 18 months later became an apprentice bricklayer with a local building firm and was for many years a building general foreman with the Leicestershire area Health Authority.

He joined the I.L.P. in 1928 was a member of AUBTW (later UCATT) from 1928, becoming was its secretary from 1939. He was an Executive member of the Trades Council and was first elected to the City Council in 1945 for De Montfort ward. He lost this seat in 1949, but was re-elected in Abbey Ward in 1953. He was Vice Chair of City Leicester Party (1958) and was leader of the Labour Group from 1966 to 1973. He was Lord Mayor in 1969 and an Alderman until 1973, when the title was dropped.

In 1972, when the Amin government started the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, Labour had just regained control of the council and Ted Marston was leader. He was faced with numerous petitions circulating against imminent arrival of refugees and pressure from the Leicester Mercury which published racist letters purporting to show how ‘the people’ of Leicester viewed the coming of the Ugandan Asians. Faced with this situation, the Labour leadership gave way and sent a deputation to Whitehall to tell the government that Leicester was full up.
“We urged that the Minister should use his influence to direct these people to other towns and cities where they would have more opportunities than in
On 15 September 1972 (and for three subsequent weeks) the Council placed a half page advert in the Ugandan Argus declaring that there was no more room for Asians in the City, urging the refugees not to come to Leicester. There was a revolt against this descent into xenophobia by nine Labour councillors led by Cllr Rev Billings whose dissent saved the Labour Party from complete ignominy. The following year Ted Marston lost his leadership of the Labour group to Jim Marshall, one of the rebels. In 1976, Ted Marston lost his seat. He was commemorated by Marston House, St Matthews Estate which has now been demolished.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, 31st August 1972, and 16th March 1987, Valerie Marett, Immigrants Settling in the City, 1987

Amos Martin

Born: Apeton, Staffordshire, 1865, died Leicester 1956 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

Amos Martin went to Church Eaton, Grammar School and started work at the age of 12 as a grocer’s errand boy. He was then apprenticed as a clicker in the shoe trade and had the usual experience of seasonal unemployment. In 1891, he joined NUBSO and was soon elected to various positions within the union, including national auditor. He was employed at the C.W.S. boot factory.

Amos Martin was noted for his special work in the area of figures. He was described as shrewd, calculating and level headed. Apparently he did not give the impression as one who had passionate feelings. However, he fought tenaciously and fiercely for the interests of the poor at the meeting of the Guardians. He was respected by his opponents, though there were some who hated him because of his “down right manner of speech and brutal bluntness of manner.”

He was elected to Board of Guardians in 1907 and served for 17 years. He became leader of the Labour Guardians and was Vice Chair of the Board in 1916. At various times he was President & Vice Chair of the Leicester Labour Party. In 1946, although he wanted to retire, he was still serving as one of the Council's elective auditors.

Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 24th February 1924, Leicester Evening Mail 21st January 1946, 21st November 1956. Election address 1923


Phoebe Mason

Born: Hinckley c1823, died: 1880

Mrs Mason was a seamer and became secretary of the Seamers and Stitchers Society when George Newell relinquished the post. The union was founded in 1874/5 with the help of George Newell, the Leicester Hosiery Unions and the Women’s Trade Union League. Mrs Mason recruited women from Leicester and the surrounding villages and within a few months she had recruited 3,000 members. By 1875 the union had established an out of work benefit scheme. Organising women outworkers was a sizeable achievement and Mrs Mason must have been someone of remarkable determination and perseverance. According to Mrs Fay, another union member, it meant she had to go from place to place in all weathers to hold meetings, walking miles on dark lonely roads.

She became the first woman delegate to the Trades Council in 1875 and, in 1877, the first woman to address the TUC. However the rise of factory production and a decline in trade sent the fortunes of the union into decline and with her early death from emphysema and bronchitis, the Union’s organisational power was greatly diminished. The union lost 2,000 members, became insolvent and, by 1882, had merged with the men’s hosiery union.

Sources: Midlands Free Press 13th March 1875, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism, Richard Gurnham, The Hosiery Unions 1776-1976, Aucott, Shirley, Women of Courage, Vision and Talent


Will F. Maw

Born: Middlesbrough, c1875 (Certified Teachers' Association)

Will Maw came to Leicester in 1902 from Lincolnshire. He became a delegate to the Trades Council from National Federation of Class Teachers in 1909 (later Certificated Teachers' Association.) During First World War, he served with the Leicestershire Regiment. He became president of the Trades Council 1930 and was its General Secretary from 1932-45.

Daniel Merrick

Born: 1827 died: February 19th 1888 (Leicester Democratic Association & Liberal)

Dan Merrick was a stockinger and was the able leader of the Sock and Top Union of framework knitters formed in 1858. The union had 800 members at its peak in 1870. Merrick was a tall, thin man and described being “as aesthetic as a cardinal…. poor of purse, feeble of body, but strong in mind and great in his love of humanity.” His thinking and sincerity and the firm way he gave expression to his views made him a great power in his day, despite having a thin and rather squeaky voice. He became the grand old man of trade unionism in Leicester.

As a young man, Merrick was a Chartist supporter, regularly attending Chartist meetings and taking part in processions. His book: The Warp of Life (1876) contains eye witness accounts of Chartism and Chartist demonstrations in the 1840s. He was also a member of a short-lived co-operative society started by Thomas Cook which sold potatoes and flour from a stall in Humberstone Gate in the late 1850s. He was a member of the first Co-operative Hosiery manufacturing Society formed in 1869 and on the breaking up of that society, he took part in the movement for carrying on the business under the auspices of the Hosiery Union. He became a member of the board of management of the second manufacturing society and held that position until his death. Although a member of the Leicester Co-operative Society, he did not join its board until 1878, becoming its secretary and then its president in 1885.

Framework knitters had been opposed to the practice of middlemen renting out knitting frames to stockingers since the 1840s and before. Merrick gave evidence on the subject to the Commission into the Truck System in 1871 and, along with Robert Bindley, was subsequently successful in the campaign for legislation to abolish frame rents and charges.

In January 1871, he was elected, as part of the Liberal slate, as a working man candidate to the School Board. He was re-elected many times and served on the board until his death. His first election was supported by the newly formed Democratic Association. The political aims and objects were to organize the newly enfranchised working-class voter to support the call for universal suffrage. The Association was in reality the organised working-class section of Radical Liberalism. The Democratic Association also pressed for the speedy establishment of Board Schools and against the use of rates to pay the fees of denominational schools. When the Democratic association, became the Republican Association he spoke on its platform.

In the after-math of the Franco Prussian war, he helped found the Workingman’s Peace Association, which called for international arbitration to settle disputes.

Merrick became the first working man to be elected to the Town Council. At the time there was a property qualification for councillors, all of whom had to declare they were worth £1,000. Merrick had little money, but a sum of £1,000 was paid into his account by his admirers. He looked forward to the time that working people could succeed in sending a representative of their own class to the House of Commons. He lost his council seat in the elections of 1876.  Merrick was deeply religious, a Congregationalist, and a member of the Oxford Street Chapel. He was a Sabbatarian and in the 1870s was a leading opponent of opening of the Museum and Free Public Library on Sundays, despite the benefits it would bring to those who worked on the other days.

In 1871, Merrick had chaired the first meeting to publicise the Nine Hour Movement which was inspired by a strike of Newcastle engineers. The demand for a 54 hour week was taken up by the local trade unions and the press published lists of local employers who had agreed nine hour days.

In 1872, he became the first president of the Leicester and District Trades Council and remained president until 1885. Initially the Trades Council represented just eight societies and was formed in the midst of the controversy over the 1871 Criminal Law Amendment Act which made picketing a criminal offence. Following a campaign, a new law, the Conspiracy and Property Act (1875) permitted peaceful picketing.

During the 1870s and 1880s, the Trades Council entered into the mainstream of working-class politics, endorsing candidates to the Town Council and School Board with close ties to the Liberal Association. Both Merrick and George Sedgewick nominated the Liberal parliamentary candidate McArthur in 1886. In 1877, Merrick became president of the Trade Union Congress for its meeting in Leicester and was nominated for the office of JP in 1886 by the Trades Council.

Sources: Leicester Journal, 22nd September 1871, Midlands Free Press 25th February 1888, Leicester Daily Post 21st February 1888, Leicester Co-operative Society, (1898) Co-operation in Leicester, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism

Ken Middleton

Died: November 2005 aged 82 (Labour Party)

Ken Middleton was dominant figure within local government during the 1970s and early 1980s. He was educated at a grammar school in Southampton and went to Oxford university where he obtained degrees in modern history and theology. He did his national service in the RAF, including active service in Malaya. In 1955, he came to Leicester to become vicar of a the parish covering St Matthews Estate and. in 1970, he was elected to the City Council. Following Jim Marshall’s election to parliament, he became leader of the council from 1974-76 & and again from 1979-82. He became a Leicestershire County Councillor in 1973 and served as leader of the County Labour Group. He did much to move the City Council towards a positive and inclusive approach towards the new communities then making their home in the City.

Sources: Leicester Mercury 1st September 1972

Jimmy Miller


In 1934, Jimmy Miller was secretary of the Leicester Unemployed Broad Council. It was not connected to the N.U.W.M. and claimed to be non-political and only concerned with remedying the lot of the unemployed. It opposed the means test and organised some local protest marches. By 1936, Jimmy was assistant secretary of the Leicester Anti-fascist Committee. The local fascists were very active in writing to the press and from 1934 Jimmy Miller had made the argument against fascism on the letters pages. He was Jewish and also active in the Co-operative movement. He was subsequently elected to the L.C.S. board.

In 1950, as a member of Leicester Peace Committee, he was  one of its two delegates who went to a conference in Warsaw. In 1950, the British Peace Committee which was frequently described as the "communist sponsored" was busy collecting signatures on  a nationwide petition calling on the British Government to reopen negotiations for the prohibition of all atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Sources: Leicester Evening Mail 19th April 1934, Leicester Mercury 13th May 1936, 30th November 1950.

John Minto

Born: Kilmarnock, Scotland, 18th November 1887 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

John Minto was born in a two-roomed cottage where he was the youngest of six children. He and he left school at the age of 11 and was apprenticed as an engineer and worked in the shipyards. He joined the I.L.P. in 1906 and was active as a propagandist, being associated with James Maxton. After working as a ship’s engineer, he joined the Royal Engineers during the war, working on anti-aircraft searchlights, rising to the rank of sergeant.

After a period of unemployment he came to Leicester in 1919, where he was again out of work for six months. During this time he became secretary of the unemployed committee and with Jack Binns published “The Unemployed Workers’ Bulletin.” (no copies are known to exist) 

He was elected to the Town Council for Newton Ward in 1922 and continued as a City Councillor until 1945. He was elected Lord Mayor in 1944. During the 1920s, he stood three times as Parliamentary Labour Candidate for, but was defeated each time by narrow a narrow margin.

He was a “fluent and convincing speaker and spent twenty years as a lecturer on Literary and Historical matters..” He was active in the Socialist Sunday School movement and in the Left Book Club during the 1930s. He became leader of the Labour Group in the early 1950s and was chair of the Watch Committee in the mid 1950s. He worked as an engineer for the LCS maintenance dept. for most of his time in Leicester.

Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 14th March 1924, Leicester City Council, Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, Howes, C. (ed), Leicester: Its Civic, Industrial, Institutional and Social Life, Leicester 1927


Albert Edward Monk

Born: Leicester, February 13th 1880 died: February 1958 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

Albert Monk attended Lethbridge Road School and left at the age of 13 to work in a boot factory for 4/6 per week. He joined NUBSO aged 14. He was unemployed for 5 months in 1903 and the following year left the shoe trade to work as a ‘spare’ conductor on the old horse-cars (horse-drawn trams) and was paid 21/- for a 60 hour week. By this time he had married the daughter of John Riley. Having joined the old Tramway and Vehicle Workers Union, he was elected branch secretary in 1911 and in 1913 became a full-time official. After the war he continued as an official for the united Vehicle Workers’ Union and then the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

He was secretary of the Trades Council for 1916-17 and its president in 1923. He was also secretary of the Labour Party during WW1 and was elected to the Town Council for Aylestone in June 1921. Though was subsequently elected for Castle.

Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 7th March 1924


Angelina Moore

Born: West Bromwich, circa 1866

After the death of her trade unionist father Henry Wright, Angelina Wright’s family returned to Leicester, c1885. She married and had several children. When the First World War came, it found a determined and consistent opponent in Mrs Moore. During the food shortages, she campaigned to get the Food Control Committee to institute a fairer system of rationing and transferred he interests to the world of politics. She became active in the Women’s Section of the Labour Party and won a seat on the executive. She was active in support of George Banton’s election campaigns and became secretary of the Spinney Hill I.L.P. She was also active in the Co-op Women’s Guild and was elected to the L.C.S board.

Sources: Census returns, Leicester Co-operative Magazine


George William Moore

(I.L.P.& Labour Party)

G.W. Moore was a member of Board of Guardians and in 1908 became its first Labour chairman. We was of the view that the guardians' powers should be passed to local authorities.

He was a stonemason by trade and was elected to the Town Council for Abbey ward in 1909 and resigned in 1910. This followed his appointment as clerk of works building an extension to the Council's Belgrave power station which provided power for the trams. He was Vice-chairman of the Labour Representation Committee 1903-1907 and its financial secretary 1907-1910.

George Moore was either a member or active supporter of the Women's Suffrage Society (Suffragists) and was campaigning on their behalf in 1906.

Sources: Leicester Daily Post 7th December 1906, 17th April 1908, 9th July, 30th September 1910

Horace Moulden

Born: Leicester, c1899

Horace Moulden was born in Leicester and left school at the age of 13. After spending a year in a drapery store, he entered Hall and Earl’s hosiery factory to learn ‘fleecy’ knitting in 1913. Trade was booming and his apprenticeship was consequently a short one. Within a month he was working a full twelve-hour shift. In the following year he left to become a knitter at Stibbe’s factory and, excepting four years’ war service, stayed there until his election to the Leicester Hosiery Union secretaryship thirteen years later. His qualities as leader were soon recognised. In 1921, he became the collector and shop steward (although the term was not used then) at Stibbe’s. Two years later he was elected to the executive of the Leicester Union and in 1927, following Chaplin’s death, he became one of the youngest trade union secretaries ever appointed in the industry.

He was described as a strikingly handsome man who was at ease in any company and looked every inch a leader. He was a fine orator who could apparently sway any audience.

During the 1930s he attempted to bring all the hosiery unions together into a national union, but the attempt failed. In 1944, a second attempt succeeded and a National Union was formed. He was general president of the new National Union of Hosiery workers from 1945-1963.

Sources: Richard Gurnham, 200 Years, The Hosiery Unions 1776-1976


Tamil Mukherjee

Born: India,?  died ? (Labour Party)

In 1948, Tamil Mukherjee came from India to study the Boot and Shoe trade at the Leicester College of Technology and Commerce. His grandfather had been a barister in Delhi. He was delegate to  the Trades Council from the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives and in 1958 became its president. He was a buyer for Freeman, Hardy and Willis, Ltd. He is also referred to as R. Mukherjee in some press reports.

Sources: Leicester Evening Mail, 22nd January, 7th May 1958.

Anthony Mundella MP in 1874 (The Bee-Hive)

Anthony John Mundella

Born: Leicester, 28th March 1825, died 21st July 1897 (Chartist and Liberal Party)

Mundella's political career as a Nottingham councillor, Sheffield MP and cabinet minister are dealt with elsewhere. This article deals with his early life in Leicester.

Mundella was the son a refugee. His father, Antonio (sometimes Anthony) Mundella, was a native of Monte Olimpino, near Como in Italy, who fled to England in 1820 after an ill fated attempt to end Austrian rule.

He settled in Leicester, where he married Rebecca Alsopp. Although Antonio was a Catholic, Rebecca was a Unitarian and she was employed as a frame-work knitter and lace embroiderer. Antonio originally set himself up as a teacher of languages, but had difficulty finding any pupils. Rebecca taught Anthony from infancy and from her he acquired a passion for books, to which he ascribed much of the pleasure of his life and much of his success. He later said that he never went to bed without reading a page of Shakespeare.

Anthony attended the Anglican 'county school' or St. Nicholas National School whose syllabus seemed to be that of reading the Bible aloud and of reciting English poets, especially Milton. In August 1832 Anthony participated in a procession through Leicester in support of the Reform Bill and was one of 2,000 local boys who marched at the front wearing special caps and medals. Mundella carried a banner which brought him to the attention of the school authorities who promptly expelled him. (The Leicester Journal had described the procession as a 'vile rabble.')

According to the Leicester Chronicle Muddela's banner was probably a large flag of yellow silk which bore the motto, "THE NATION'S HOPE,"  and it preceded upwards of 4,000 Boys, with 600 Flags, inscribed: "An Educated People," "Ours and our Fathers' Rights," " Learning is a Sceptre," " Ignorance is a great Evil," "Let Reason rule," " Our Native Country," "Learn, and be wise," " Tyrants cannot take away your Knowledge."  Anthony was readmitted after his parents had paid a small fine.

His formal education was brought to an abrupt halt in 1835 when his parents were forced to remove him from school. This was due to the loss of family earnings when his mother lost work as a result of her failing eyesight. Aged 10, he was employed as a printer's devil for a local firm and after nearly two years of drudgery, at the age of eleven, he was apprenticed to Mr. Kempson, the hosiery manufacturer. He attended classes at the Leicester Mechanics' Institute, stole time from his hours to study and completed his apprenticeship in his 18th year.

Contemporary accounts stress Mundella's humble beginnings and the part his mother played in sustaining the household through her by her skill and taste in lace making. Although they mention that his father had no trade or profession and had intended to enter the Church, they neglect to mention that Antonio ran a pawnbrokers shop in Orchard Street in the heart of Leicester's slums. During the 1840s, he was often a witness in court, when his customers were prosecuted for selling him stolen goods. (Antonio was an active radical and in 1857, he was remanded in custody for threatening to shoot the whig John Dove Harris who was standing against the John Biggs and  Joshua Walmsley. Dove Harris was regarded as a renegade. Antonio also got in trouble for his savage dog and for drunkenness)

Aged 12 or 13 Anthony he was a scholar at Harvey Lane Sunday school, where his superintendent remembered him as a red hot republican. His father's history and sufferings had made him a hater of oppression and misgovernment and that must have influenced the young Mundella. At the height of the Chartist agitation in 1842, Anthony attended Cooper's lectures and readings at the Shakespeare Room in Humberstone Gate. He also attended debating classes at the All Saints Open and at the Gallowtree Gate chapel. (now Boots) At the age of fifteen, he made his first political speech in support of the Charter. Thomas Cooper recalled:

a handsome young man sprung upon our little platform and declared himself on the people's side, and desired to be enrolled as a Chartist. He did not belong to the poorest ranks, and it was the consciousness that he was acting in the spirit of self-sacrifice, as well as his fervid eloquence, that caused a thrilling cheer from the ranks of working men.

Cooper had a strong influence of Mundella and at the age of  fifteen, had already heard Radical and Anti-Corn Law songs of his own composition sung in the streets. Mundella had a mighty bass voice which was a singular advantage to any politician in the days before microphones.

In 1845, he married Mary (d. 1890), daughter of William Smith, formerly of Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire. The marriage lasted forty-six years.

At nineteen he was engaged as a manager by Messrs. Harris & Hamel. Mundella's Chartist sympathies were shared by his employer William Harris and in 1848 Mundella emerged briefly as a local Chartist leader. At a Chartist meeting held in the Amphitheatre, he seconded John Markham's motion calling on the Queen to dismiss her Ministers and call to her council persons who would make the Charter cabinet question. Both Harris and Mundella supported the political accommodation between Biggsite middle-class radicals and Chartist movement.

In 1848, aged 23, Anthony was taken into partnership by Messrs. Hine & Co., hosiery manufacturers in Nottingham, and moved from Leicester.

In 1845, he married Mary (d. 1890), daughter of William Smith, formerly of Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire. The marriage lasted forty-six years.

The extremely short Mundella Street off Kimberley Road was named after him sometime in the early 1890s, whilst the Mundella School, Overton Road, was opened in 1939. Wood and metalwork rather the Shakespeare seem to be at the core of the curriculum.

Sources: Leicestershire Mercury 22nd April 1848, 26th May 1939, Leicester Chronicle 25th August 1832, 29th April 1848, 7th & 28th March 1857, 24th July 1897, Leicester Journal 23rd & 30th July 1897, Leicester Daily Post 28th July 1897, The Bee-Hive 4th April 1874 Thomas Cooper: The Life of Thomas Cooper, 1872.

John William Murby

Born: Leicester, June 1872, died March 1923 (I.L.P. & Labour Party)

John Murby came from an old Aylestone family and went to St. Martin’s school, leaving at the age of 14. (He went to school with the W.E. Hincks who was later a Liberal councillor) After working for a printing firm where he was injured in an accident, he became a clicker. Following a period of unemployment, he found work at the C.W.S. Wheatsheaf factory. He stayed there for two years before working for the Co-operative Self Help Boot and Shoe Works in Aylestone Park, where he became a member of the committee.

Murby came from a non-conformist stock and was an active Wesleyan and secretary of the bible class at Aylestone Road Chapel. He came in contact with W.E. Wilford, who introduced him to Tolstoy and he joined the I.L.P. in 1903. Together with him they founded the South Leicester Labour Church, which was described as one of the most successful Sunday meetings in the town; Murby was president. He was described as being “powerfully religious, but socialism adorns his religion……Like so many Socialist speakers, his oratorical skills have been forged on the anvil of necessity. If you survive, no audience has terrors for you. Murby survived.” 

He was elected as a town councillor for Castle ward in 1909 and soon became a prominent figure in the local I.L.P, being its chairman in 1913-16. Following refusal of the Labour Party nationally to support the candidature of Geo Banton for parliamentary by-election, he gave his support to the British Socialist Party’s candidate Hartley. He spoke against Britain's entry into World War One and was active in the local branch of the Union of Democratic Control.

In 1917, he became the Midlands representative on I.L.P. NAC (executive). He was a member of NUBSO No 2 branch. He later worked for NUBSO as manager of its National Health Insurance Dept and he held this position until his death. His wife Mrs J.W. Murby was elected to the Leicester Labour Party Executive in 1915, they were married in 1898

Sources: Leicester Pioneer, 26th October 1907 & 12th October 1912

J.P. Mursell holding a stone thrown by a supporter of Thomas Cooper at the New Hall (former lending library) during a Complete Suffrage meeting. (1886)

James Phillippo Mursell

Born: Lymington, Hampshire c1799, died: 1885

James Mursell succeeding Robert Hall at the Harvey Lane Chapel in 1826. He was later minister at the Belvoir Street Particular Baptist Church.  During the agitation prior to the 1832 Reform Bill he firmly established his radical credentials . He ministered in the town for fifty years, during which time he married three times. Mursell was one of the promoters of the old Mechanics' Institute, which provided lectures, education and books to working people when when free libraries were undreamt of. He then had distinguished himself in 1837 by his efforts to secure financial support for the Proprietary School, (now the New Walk Museum). which was the Nonconformists' answer to the Anglican Collegiate School in Prebend Street.

Mursell was a staunch political Radical. In 1838, wrote a series of letters on "The rights of labour"  and was an advocate of 'Negro' emancipation, the repeal of the corn laws, the abolition of Church-rates, and the disestablishment of the State Church. He was one of the founders of the. Liberation Society, founded in Leicester and known also as the 'Anti-State Church Society.'  He was also one of the originators of the Leicestershire Mercury, and one of its frequent contributors before it merged with the Leicester Chronicle.

Mursell was one of the few prominent middle-class men in Leicester to declare his sympathy with the Chartists. According to Thomas Cooper, he told a Chartist meeting: “Men of Leicester, stick to your Charter! When the time comes, my arm is bared for Universal Suffrage!” Apparently he never attended another Chartist meeting, though he was eagerly looked for and the cry “Where’s Parson barearm?” was heard subsequently at Chartist meetings. In March 1842, he became one of the founders of Leicester Complete Suffrage Association which represented the left wing of largely Baptist elements amongst middle class radicals.

Thomas Cooper was extremely hostile to the Complete Suffragists and when they engaged Henry Vincent to speak in July 1842, Cooper successfully disrupted the meeting.  Cooper's Shakespearian Chartists occupied the platform and attempted to put Thomas Beedham in the chair in the place of Mursell, however the Complete Suffragists resisted. A rowdy stalemate ensued: the ladies were asked to leave and Henry Vincent did not deliver his lecture. Further rowdy scenes followed at the close of the meeting, 23 panes of glass were broken by stones and people assaulted. Vincent gave his lecture the following night at a ticket only event. Mursell regarded Thomas Cooper as an infidel and described the Shakespearian Chartists as “the lowest rabble in Leicester with Cooper at their head.”

In 1845 the Harvey Lane chapel became a school room and the Harvey Lane congregation, led by the Reverend Mursell, moved to a new Baptist chapel in Belvoir Street (the Pork Pie Chapel) which had been designed by the leading architect Joseph Hansom.

In 1863, during the American Civil war a local  Emancipation Society was formed to support Lincoln's commitment to abolish slavery. Although Mursell had been involved with the anti-slavery movement from the 1830's, he declined to give his support claiming that he did not wish to favour either North or South. This was most likely in deference to the preponderance of Confederate Baptists.

Sources: Leicestershire Mercury, 14th February 1863, Leicester Chronicle, 6th March 1886, A. Temple Patterson, Radical Leicester, Leicester 1954, The Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times 18th November 1886

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© Ned Newitt Last revised: May 11, 2021.



















Radical History

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