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David Taylor

Died: September 1996 aged 55 (Labour Party)

Dave Taylor was first elected for North Braunstone ward in 1971 and became a County Councillor for the same ward in 1974. He was an active in the field of Social Services. In 1978, a charge of indecency was brought against him, though he was found not guilty. His political career survived and he became Lord Mayor 1989.

Because of his links to the world of entertainment, he was known as the showbiz mayor, as he had worked as a cabaret singer and dancer. Eventually, his drinking took a toll on his health.

Sources: Leicester City Council, Roll of Lord Mayors 1928-2000, author’s personal knowledge

John Thomas Taylor

Born: Leicester, c1864, died 1957 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

J.T. Taylor started his working life with the C.W.S. By 1892, he was working at Equity Shoes and a member of its management committee. He suggested the formation of a co-operative to produce children’s footwear. This lead to the formation of the Anchor Boot Society, whose early members were drawn, like Taylor himself, from the Church of Christ sect. Taylor was originally president of the society, but from January 1896 he was the manager of the factory which had expanded into a new premises in New Evington.

Taylor was treasurer of the I.L.P. and was briefly elected as a councillor for Wyggeston ward. He played a prominent role on the formation of the Anchor Tenants Ltd., the co-operative which was responsible for the development and building of the Humberstone Garden suburb where he lived at 99 Keyham Lane. After its opening in 1910, he took over the leadership of the Christian meeting house at Humberstone, before it had a minister.

Sources: Leicester Co-operative Society, (1898) Co-operation in Leicester, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism

Peter Alfred Taylor M.P.

Born: 1819, died: 1891 (Radical Liberal)

Peter Alfred Taylor, the son of Peter Taylor and Catherine Courtauld, was born in 1819. His father had invested money in George Courtauld & Co, when his cousin, George Courtauld, was short of capital in 1817. The following year, George left for America and Samuel Courtauld joined Taylor in expanding the business. Over the next few years Courtauld & Taylor purchased steam-engines and power-looms for its mills in Braintree, Halstead and Bocking. Taylor, like his father, was a Unitarian, who favoured social reform.

As a young man he lectured on behalf of the Anti-Corn Law League and in 1847 he joined Giuseppi Mazzini to establish the People's International League, an organisation that campaigned for universal suffrage, though he stood aloof from Chartism. In 1849 Peter Alfred Taylor joined the Courtauld & Taylor company as a partner. The following year, when his father, Peter Taylor, died, he took a more prominent role in running the business.

When one of Leicester's two radical MPs, Dr Noble, died of cholera whilst on holiday in Malaga,  Taylor was invited to stand in the ensuing bye-election. . Taylor was little known and with the Liberal vote split between Whigs and Radicals, the Tories won the seat. Stung by this defeat, the Whigs and Radicals began to contemplate a re-union. Following the sudden retirement of John Biggs, in 1862, a conference was called between the two Liberal factions and they gave Taylor their full support. In effect the Whigs were to have one constituency and the Radicals the other. This deal meant that P.A. Taylor would have a clear run in the coming election unencumbered by a challenge from the so-called 'moderates.' Despite of Taylor being described as a member of the "anti Sunday League," he was elected unopposed as the Tories did not contest the election claiming they were content with one seat. At his election, when his programme included abolition of church rates and separation of church and state.   Taylor’s election sealed a political alliance in Leicester between the working and middle classes in the town which enabled the Liberals to dominate Leicester politics until the emergence of the Independent Labour Party.

Taylor was an advocate of universal suffrage and became vice-president and one of the few middle-class supporters of the Reform League, constituted early in 1865 to campaign for manhood suffrage and the secret ballot. (This was a rival to the National Reform Union, which sought the more limited aim of household suffrage) He appeared on League platforms during the parliamentary reform crisis of 1866–7.

He was a Republican and opposed public money being spent on the royalty. In the House of Commons Taylor worked closely with John Stuart Mill and Henry Fawcett in supporting women's suffrage. He had good relations with local organisations representing working class interests like the Democratic Association. His supporters claimed he was known as: ‘Grievance-Monger’ because “he is ever ready to espouse the cause of the suffering poor,” John Morrison Davidson said that during the time he was in parliament he

“has neither led nor followed, -neither been misled by the leaders of his party, nor been found following the multitude to do evil. If he has led at any time, it has been as the captain of forlorn hopes, the champion of forgotten rights, and the redresser of unheeded wrongs. he is the Incorruptible of the House.”

However, his commitment to ‘liberty’ meant that he was initially reluctant to do anything to rid Leicester of the iniquity of frame rents and charges. He did not support the first attempt at legislation brought by the South Leicestershire Tory MP Albert Pell, which was supported and campaigned for by Daniel Merrick and the unions. Taylor did not like the idea of state interefence and believed that workmen could refuse to work on such terms. “You might as well ask Parliament to determine what rent a landlord should put on a house.” He eventually became quiescent over the issue when Pell’s bill was brought before the house again.

During the 1870's, he tried several times to convince parliament to allow the Sunday opening of free libraries and museums. Taylor had a huge interest in foreign affairs and was chairman of the Society of Friends of Italy and a friend of Mazzini. (a leading figure in Italian liberal nationalism) During the American civil war, he supported the Northern cause and the emancipation of Negroes. His wife, Clementia Taylor, was also active in the movement and for many years was treasurer of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage. Taylor presented three petitions for women's suffrage, in 1866, 1868 and 1869 and publicly endorsed the women's suffrage campaign. After his retirement from Parliament in 1884, Peter Alfred Taylor moved to Hove where he died in 1891. Throughout his life Taylor gave generously to humanitarian causes and this is reflected in the small amount of money that he left to his family in his will.

Sources: Midlands Free Press 26th August 1871 & 25th February 1888, Leicester Chronicle, 15th February 1862, 16th June 1877, Bill Lancaster, Radicalism Co-operation and Socialism, John Morrison Davidson Eminent English liberals in and out of Parliament 1880, Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey

Sydney Taylor

Born: Hinckley, 21st November 1884 (I.L.P.& Labour Party)

Syd Taylor’s was the son of a stockinger and he was apprenticed as a joiner. At the age of 20, he went to work in the motor trade for Humber in Coventry where he worked for nine years making car bodies. He came to Leicester in 1912 where he found work as a shop fitter and became secretary of the Workers’ Union branch that year. He became district organiser of the Workers’ Union in 1915. During the war he led a successful nine-month strike at Hathern Brick and Terra Cotta Works. He was elected for Newton ward in 1921 and became district organiser of the Workers’ Union. In 1922, he was elected to the board of the L.C.S. having been previously a member of the L.C.S. Education Committee. He was a noted public speaker and both within the Council and Co-op had responsibility for the oversight of new building. He was also a member of the Distress Committee having responsibility for organising relief schemes for the unemployed. He became Lord Mayor in 1942. In 1944, he was threatened with expulsion from the Labour Party if he chaired a public meeting of the British Soviet Friendship Society to be addressed by the Dean of Canterbury..

Sources: Leicester Pioneer 4th July 1924, election address 1924, Liverpool Daily Post, 14th November 1944

Dave Thomas

Born 3rd Oct 1948, died: July 1996 (Labour Party)

Dave Thomas was one of several teachers who were former students at Scraptoft College of Education who became City Councillors. Once known as the ‘Scraptoft mafia,’ this group included Sir Peter Soulsby, Graham Bett and Tony Yates and rose to prominence in the late 1970’s and early 1980s. This was a consequence of Leicester losing its unitary status in 1972, Up until then teachers as employees of the Council were barred from standing for election. This was part of an influx of councillors from a profession backgrounds now employed by the County Council. This contributed to the Labour council of the 1980s adopting a range of radical policies.

Dave taught at Uplands primary school in Highfields and became a City Councillor for Coleman ward in 1987. He was a Castle branch activist and was president of the Trades Council in 199? He died whilst waiting for a heart transplant. His wife, Ruth Thomas, (born 13th Jun 1952,) was also an active Labour Party member and became head teacher at Evington Valley School. She died of cancer in May 2000

Sources: author’s personal knowledge


Harry Thompson

Born 26th April 1907, died: October 1993 (Communist Party)

Harry Thompson was a miner and active in the General Strike in the North East. Unemployment forced him to move finding work in Birmingham and Coventry before moving to Leicester, where he worked in several different factories, eventually becoming shop steward for the Transport and General Workers Union.

He became leader of the Mowmacre Tenants Association and when a 27% rent increase was proposed by the Tory controlled council in 1961, his stentorian interruptions brought the City Council meeting to a halt. He was also involved in protests about the removal of rent collectors. He was a delegate to the Trades Council and a member of its executive in the early 1970s and still active in the tenants’ movement up until his death in 1993.

Sources: author’s personal knowledge

James Thompson

Died 20th May 1877 aged 60

James Thompson was born five years after his father bought the Leicester Chronicle. His main education was entrusted to the minister of the Great Meeting, the chapel where the very soul of Leicester piety and radicalism resided. Thompson is best known for his history of Leicester and as a Liberal newspaper editor. However, in the late 1830’s, he used to debate religious and social questions at the Owenite Social Institution in the Market Place. G.J. Holyoake refers to James Thompson being at the at the unofficial Owenite community of Manea Fen’s editing the paper the “Working Bee.”  If he did so, it could been only for a short time since there were two other editors. F.J. Gould refers to Thompson’s attendance at the Social Institution and his obituary makes reference to the “scepticism and doubt of earlier years.”

Like the Manea Fen experiment, Thompson’s radicalism was short lived. In 1841,  he became joint proprietor of the paper and then sole owner in 1864. Under his editorship the paper was Whig-Liberal rather than Whig-Radical.  Whilst the paper admitted the justice of universal manhood suffrage in principle, it certainly did not support it in practice. It claimed that the poor and the half-educated were the last people who ought to influence the government and that universal manhood suffrage was "as ill adapted to English society at present as a renewal of the Borough­ mongering system."

Thompson gave his support to the 'economists' on the Town Council and in 1852 he was among those who broke with the radical section of the Liberal party and formed a new committee 'to secure the independence of the Borough from dictation'. They saw the radical wing of the party as a 'Chartist clique.' In 1860s, the rift was healed and in 1864, he bought out the Radical Leicestershire Mercury and merged it with the Whig Chronicle. He claimed there was no political necessity for the two papers to exist.

Thompson was a man highly regarded in Leicester, having helped to found the Mechanics Institute and the Leicester Historical and Archaeological Society. He wrote several works on the history of Leicester: He brought out a History of Leicester, from the time of the Romans to the end of the Seventeenth Century in 1849 and among his other works were: An Account of Leicester Castle, 1859; Pocket Edition of the History of Leicester, 1879. He was honorary curator of the town's museum.

Sources: Leicester Chronicle 26th May 1877, F.J. Gould, History of the Secular Society, 1900, Derek Fraser: The Press in Leicester 1790-1850, Steve England, Magnificent Mercury History of a Regional Newspaper, 1999, George Jacob Holyoake, The History of Co-operation, 1875, VCH Vol 4


William P. Throsby

Born c1818 Died:?  (Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists)

In 1839, William Throsby was described as the 'excellent' amiable young secretary of the the Owenite branch in Leicester. He had lectured at the Mechanics' Institute on scientific subjects alongside the veteran radical George Bown.

Early in 1838, Throsby with fellow Socialists met in a room rented from the Working Men's Association and in April and May began some public lectures reading aloud Robert Owen's speeches. He also lectured at the local branch and in Coventry where he spoke on the connection between 'Socialism and Christianity.'  He described the object of the Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists, as wanting to:

form communities of united interests, the members of which must be convinced that man is influenced by the circumstances in which he is placed, and must practice the divine religion of charity in their daily intercourse with mankind, engrafting thereupon any other religion, not interfering with the right of others to do the same; and, further, that we do not constitute a sect or party, for our desire is the universal benefit of mankind—the happiness of the whole human family is our aim, unbounded fraternity our end.

 In 1838 he lived in Bond Street and after he married, he went to live in the Owenite community at Manea Fen where he became secretary. (see James Thompson) Several others from Leicester were among those at Manea. Thomas Willey became secretary of the Leicester Owenites after him.

After his return from Manea, he seems to have abandoned politics and moved to Lincoln where in 1871, he was secretary and manager of Lincoln gas works.

Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 7th April 1838, Leicestershire Mercury,1st September 1838, New Moral World, 1st June & 24th August 1839, W.H.G., Armytage,  Heavens Below: Utopian Experiments in England, 1560-1960

Bob Trewick

Died: October 1982 aged 47 (Labour Party)

Bob Trewick was the son of a miner. Before coming to Leicester, he was a full-time agent for the Labour Party in Keighley, Yorkshire and had been a school governor at the age of 20. He found a job in Leicester as a production clerk at the Leicester Co-op Dairy. He was elected to City Council 1963 for Abbey ward and at the time was the youngest ever councillor. He was chairman of the old North West Constituency Labour party, Chair of Housing 1973-6, member of U.S.D.A.W. and Co-op Party. He lost his City Council seat in 1976 and was elected to the County Council in 1981. He was described in the press as being a ‘confirmed bachelor’ who although being in some ways a loner was respected for his ‘political honesty.’ He is commemorated by Bob Trewick House.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, 23rd October 1982


Clifford Tucker

(Labour Party)

Cliff Tucker lost his council seat in 1968, but was subsequently re-elected for Charnwood ward. He was deselected by Charnwood ward in 1973 and he then announced that he was “going to do a Dick Taverne because the Charnwood branch had selected a coloured man.”(Kris Shah) He stood as ‘Independent Labour’ and lost.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, May 1973

Horace Gladstone Twilley

Born: Leicester 31st August 1886 died: Cambridge, 24th July 1961 (Independent Labour Party, No More War Movement)

Horace Twilley was the youngest brother of the suffragist and poet Gertrude Richardson who was later active in the Canadian peace movement. He was born to working class radical parents and worked as a commercial traveller for a woollen firm. About 1910 he became a Socialist and was the secretary of the Leicester Branch of the No-Conscription fellowship during World War One. He was also active in the I.L.P. in opposing the introduction of conscription.

In May 1916, when conscription was introduced, he was charged under the Military Service Act, with "failing to appear at the time and place at where they were required." Twilley said he was not guilty of being an absentee, he was a conscientious objector. He pointed out that the Tribunals were directed to grant exemptions that would meet the genuine scruples of objectors. The chairman of the court told him to take his hands out of his pockets and that the magistrates did not deal with conscientious objectors. Horace told the court that whatever was decided, "I shall never be a soldier."

He refused all military orders and was first placed on remand, then sentenced to twenty-eight days' field punishment which he was told by a sergeant would break his spirit. Horace refused to put on a uniform or to do orderly duties and was placed in irons for two hours. The following morning he was:

fetched out forcibly and rushed to the parade ground. Hauled around for an hour by one soldier after another until exhausted - scores of soldiers laughing at me. Afternoon, again dragged out of room and dragged with other conscientious objectors around the parade ground. One burley Sergeant caught me by the collar and in the small of the back and propelled me for about a hundred yards...I was out in irons for two hours, am told this will be done every one of the 28 days 'to tame me'...

This brutal treatment led other COs to call for a doctor to attend, but Horace was passed as fit. Word of his mistreatment was sent to his Congregational Church and the minister attempted to intervene, but to no avail. After 28 days at Glen Parva he was sent to Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire. Horace served three terms of imprisonment of hard labour as a conscientious objector and spent time in Durham Prison, Wormwood Scrubs, Wandsworth Prison and Leicester Prison. At Christmas 1917, the sounds of carols sung by the choir of the Leicester No-Conscription Fellowship drifted over the walls of the prison. They had sung hymns to him every Sunday since April of that year. Leicester had one of the longest established N.C.F. choirs in the country, and one of its members wrote to other branches, advising them to set up similar ensembles and to make use of them outside prisons where their members were held:

Providing one is able to stand within hearing distance of the ugly walls, it does not take many voices to send a 'volley' of music 'over the top' .

After the war, he continued to be active in the I.L.P. and in 1930, was its president.

Although he supported the disaffiliation of the I.L.P from the Labour Party, he resigned as chairman of the I.L.P. in 1932 because it was not pacifist enough. This was probably due to the growing influence of the revolutionary left. During the 1930's, he was prominent in the ‘No-More-War’ Movement. He was also very prominent in amateur dramatic circles, being the Chairman of the Leicester Amateur Drama Federation, as well as acting in and producing plays. He also wrote an amateur drama column for the Leicester Evening Mail. By 1935 he had moved to Peterborough.

Sources: Leicester Daily Post, 26th May 1916, Leicester Free Man, August 1917, Leicester Mercury 15th November 1932, Leicester Evening Mail, 3rd March 1932, An Anthology of World War One, Extracts from Selected Titles, Barbara Roberts, A Reconstructed World: A Feminist Biography of Gertrude Richardson.



Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas MP

Born: 1904 died:? (Labour Party)

Lynn Ungoed-Thomas was born into the home of Welsh clergyman. He won a scholarship from his local board school to his grammar school and thence to Oxford. He played rugby for Oxford, was a reserve Welsh international and spent a season with Leicester Tigers. He was called to the bar in 1929. After serving through the war as a major, he won Llandaff and Barry from the Tories in 1945. He was made a Kings Counsel in 1947. The seat disappeared under boundary changes and he won Leicester North East in a bye-election in 1950. In 1953, he attempted with Sidney Silverman and other M.P.s to persuade the Home Secretary to change his decision refusing a reprieve for Derek Bentley for his part in the murder of a policeman at Croydon. He held the seat until 1962 when he stepped down to become a high court judge.



George Harley Vaughan

Born: 10th October, 1760, Leicester

George Harley Vaughan was a master at the grammar school and a member of Richard Phillips’ Adelphi Club. He was regarded as the martyr of Leicester Liberalism.  Despite his aristocratic connections, in May 1794 he was given three months imprisonment for distributing seditious literature in the form of a pamphlet denouncing the war with France. He was defended by the notable barrister Felix Vaughan (1766-1799) who was known for his role as defence counsel in the numerous treason trials of the 1790s. Felix Vaughan was a member of the London Corresponding Society. In 1839, Richard Gardiner described what happened:

Harley Vaughan, was the son the venerable at-law residing in Leicester, and godson of Harley, the Earl of Oxford, unfortunately fell under tbe fangs of our municipal governors. He was high-bred gentleman, and in our society, occasionally gave lectures on moral philosophy; his father, whom I have known preside as judge, through age infirmity was obliged to relinquish all the emoluments of the bar, and their circumstances became so straitened, that Mr. Harley Vaughan accepted, at the hands of the corporation, the mastership of the lower free-school, at a stipend of £30 per year.

At the trial, William Davis, a dealer in second hand clothes, stated that on 26th September 1793 at between eleven and twelve in the evening he saw the Harley Vaughan give away some papers. Davis asked him for one and Vaughan gave him a bundle.   The prosecution stated that the paper was to render the people dissatisfied with the king and his government at a time when we were at war....."  Richard Gardiner continues:

Unfortunately for him, he was seen reading a handbill which he received from a coachman, purporting to call a reform meeting at Manchester; this he gave to a person of the name of Davis, then a creature of the corporation, but some years afterwards a powerful opponent. Upon this Vaughan was arraigned and found guilty of sedition, sent to gaol, and deprived of his situation. These circumstances so preyed upon his mind when released, that he walked into the fields, tied his legs together, jumped into a pit, and was drowned. Such was the end of a high-minded, ill-treated gentleman.

Sources: Stamford Mercury, 26 September 1794, Gardiner's Music and Friends, Leicestershire Mercury, 19th January 1839, R.W. Graves, The Corporation of Leicester 1689-1836, Andrew Kippis, The New Annual Register, Or General Repository of History ..., Volume 15

Merlyn Verona Vaz

Born: Goa, 1930, died: 15th October 2003 (Labour Party)

Mrs Vaz and her late husband, Xavier, were born in Goa, India. They came to Britain in August 1965 and moved into East Twickenham. They later lived in Richmond and East Sheen. After the death of her husband, Mrs Vaz moved to Leicester in 1985. She taught at Whitehall Primary School before standing as Labour candidate in Evington. In 1989 she was elected as a Councillor for the Charnwood ward and became the first Asian woman to serve on Leicester City Council. She retired from office in May 2003.

Merlyn Vaz was also a director of Maplesbury Communications, a company registered at the home address of her son Keith. The company received a donation from the billionaire Hinduja brothers, whose British passport application led to the resignation of Peter Mandelson from the cabinet of the Labour government.

Sources: author’s personal knowledge


Albert Vesty

(Labour Party)

In 1950 Albert Vesty was beaten by nine votes in Belgrave Ward Municipal election. Before his defeat, he had served on the City Council for 12 years. For four years he was vice chairman of the Highways Committee and chairman of the Plans sub-committee, and he was also member of the Education Committee.

Sources: Leicester Mercury, 20th November 1950

Gertrude Von Petzold

Born: Thorn, Prussia 1876, died: 1952 (Unitarian Minister, SPD)

Gertrud von Petzold was the daughter of a German army officer and a native of Thorn, in Prussia. She came to England in her teens to study, and took University degrees at both St. Andrews and Edinburgh. After a further three years at Manchester College, Oxford, she entered the Unitarian ministry. Despite there being seven other male contenders for the job , she was appointed to Leicester's newly built Narborough Road Free Christian Church in 1904.

As pastor she had the distinction of being the first woman minister in Britain. Von Petzold had a clear voice and spoke with a slight accent. She had a scholarly preaching style and she was theologically, socially, and politically progressive. Her uniqueness attracted attention and crowds attended her services. She had a large following of young women.

She appeared as a speaker at various Leicester venues, giving lectures on various scholarly topics and on more immediate questions such as peace and international arbitration.  She was a keen suffrage supporter and  appeared at a number of suffrage events in Leicester, notably a mass women's meeting in March 1908. She also spoke at open air meetings, appearing, for example, on an impromptu stage (a lorry) in the marketplace with visiting WSPU speakers. Fellow suffragette Agnes Clark wrote in her book, The First Woman Minister that like Ramsay Macdonald, Petzold was democratic in theory, but autocratic in spirit.

In 1908, her detractors in the church gained the upper hand and she left Leicester to take charge of a church in America. On her return to England in 1910, she took up the appointment at Waverley Road, Unitarian Church, Small Heath. In 1915, with the First World War in progress, her application for naturalization had lapsed because of her time in America. Despite the support of civic leaders in Leicester and Birmingham both for her and 'her friend and helper' Rosa Widmann, her application and Rosa's were turned down and they were deported back to Germany.

In 1917, she became pastor in the free Church in Konigsberg and Tilsit,  before taking a PhD and becoming a lecturer in English at Frankfurt University, the first woman to achieve this status in Germany. In the 1920s, she became a SPD councillor in Konigsberg.

Sources: Barbara Roberts: Reconstructed World: A Feminist Biography of Gertrude Richardson, The Vote - Friday 21 August 1931, Growing Together, Unitarian General Assembly 1985

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© Ned Newitt Last revised: February 06, 2021.



















Radical History

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