Autumn 2008

Little Moscow and Moscow Row

Two articles by Veronica Kelly (CAVA – Cornwall Audio Visual Archives 2008) about two housing estates built for employees of the Great Western Railway in Cornwall, including quotations from some of the residents.

The growth of the railways in Great Britain was thought to be the most dramatic development of the nineteen and twentieth centuries.  For Cornwall, the rapid   expansion of rail track by the Great Western Railway into twentieth century Cornwall created employment for large numbers of people.  This meant more housing was needed for large numbers of workers.  Working for the railways in those days meant rail workers were libel to be moved anywhere in the country either at their employers request or if they wanted promotion. The short notice clause in their contracts hinder many of them in applying for local council housing. It also made it difficult for them in the private housing sector.  This prompted rail companies, such as the GWR to promote Housing Associations to combat this problem. In areas where there were railway yards, you would normally find railway housing.  However, only two housing estates were ever built in Cornwall, thus making them unique. 

 Vera Bowden (Little Moscow). ‘In 1924, the GWR decided to open up a Locomotive Depot at Truro and  twenty sets of men from Plymouth moved to Truro. A set was a driver and one fireman’.  

The housing estates were not only unique. They were also a political enigma because all their residents were known to have aligned themselves politically with the Labour Party in Conservative and Liberal marginal constituencies.   Also, they were the only Labour-aligned housing communities to be given a Bolshevik label. Truro estate was labelled ‘Little Moscow’ and Penzance railway houses were labelled ‘Moscow Row’.   
The money to buy the land to build the houses in Cornwall was loaned interest free by the Great Western Railway (GWR) to the Great Western Housing Associations (GWHA), a non-profit organisation from South Wales experienced in building railway houses in other areas.  The shortage of council housing in Truro and Penzance and expansion of railway yards prompted  the GWR to form Housing Associations in those areas.  Both Associations were formed in August 1925 and   registered in London on the 13 January 1926 under the Industrial Provident Societies Act. They were managed by the Welsh Town Housing Trust, but the day-to-day running of the estates was the responsibility of elected local committees made up from the tenants.

  Muriel Boynes (Little Moscow).
The GWR Housing Association from Wales built Green Close, an estate of 36 houses. The association was non-profit making and due to the housing shortage in Truro, the GWR loaned the money on an interest free basis. At the time, it was stated there was a choice of paying a deposit and having a mortgage or having shares and paying rent. The majority, which did not include my father, preferred the shares option. Interest of two and half percent was paid yearly on that account’

The three bedroom parlour and non- parlour houses on both estates were designed by a London Architect named Thomas Alwyn Lloyd (F.R.I.B.A) in partnership with local Architect, B. C. Andrew.  The builders of the Green Lane and Green Close estate were  Henry Lobo (Mevagissey) and N. J. Jury (Hayle) built   the Chy-An-Mor row  in Penzance. Both  housing estates had similar  architectural design, a  mixture of three bedrooms, parlour, non-parlour, and indoor bathroom.  
Rents were collected each week from a small shed erected in a tenant’s garden. Number seventeen  in Green Close and number one  in Chy-An-Mor. Complaints about maintenance and sometimes neighbours were also reported.  One such complaint was against a tenant who kept fowl during wartime. The complaint was specifically against the noisy cockerel.  In his defence, the  tenant responsible argued his fowl was supporting the food war effort. ‘Keeping fowl means keeping both sexes if successful egg laying is to be obtained.’  Sadly, the cockerel had to go.  These complaints then went before the committee where it was decided if it should go to the Agent. These sustained democratisations lasted over 50 years and meant all the residents were irrevocably linked by their housing, work, and trade unionism.
None of the present day privately owned houses, with their tarmac drives and garages, has benefited from the original uniformity of grass lawns, privet hedging in Truro and granite hedging in Penzance. Both estates have lost their panoramic views. Green Lane is adjacent to what is the main artery (A303) into Truro and Chy-An-Mor is surrounded by industrial sprawl.  
In 1925 however, when the first tenants moved in to ‘Little Moscow’ (Truro),  it was distinctly idyllic and families enjoyed a ‘marvellous view   of the city. ‘

 Muriel Boynes (Little Moscow)
‘I can remember the unloading of the tea chests and having my own bedroom.  All the houses were considered a luxury with wash boilers  in the kitchen lit by coal, which heated the hot water. Cooking was done on a Cornish Range also lit by coal. Although the smaller houses had their toilets just outside the back door, they also had the luxury of a bathroom.’

 The community spirit in ‘Little Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Row’ was noted by all those interviewed.   In Truro, they could even boast their own concert party, which was invited to perform as far away as  St. Austell and St. Blazey.
Typical long time residents of ‘Little Moscow’ were the Bowdens. Bill Bowden (MBE) started work aged 14 as a railway cleaner and worked his way to engine driver. He was continually elected onto his estate’s management committee and was a rail union activist in ASLEF.   He was also a Labour Party Councillor and elected Mayor of Truro in 1959 to 1960.   Vera Bowden was active in Truro Labour Party and a founder member of the Truro Labour Women’s Section. 
The longest living tenant still living in ‘Little Moscow’ is Muriel Boynes  (MBE), who moved into Green Close aged two. Muriel is unique in that she was the only tenant interviewed who went back to live in ‘Little Moscow’ after a successful wartime career and marriage to a railwayman.  The sense of belonging to such a close-knit community was obvious in Muriel’s interview and the railway worker’s cultural values instilled in Muriel as a child were bound up with a sense of community spirit. Muriel went on to be a local Magistrate.      
Working for the railways in the early twentieth century created a sense of identity, which distinguished them from other communities.   One particular characteristic in ‘Little Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Row’ was the phenomenal number of tenants who became local Councillors and held executive position in their local Labour party.  At least three became Mayor of Truro during the 1950s and 60s. The interviewees believe this is why neighbouring communities bestowed the labels ‘Little Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Row’ upon their estates.  

 Kathy Pope (Moscow Row)
 ‘We were labelled ‘Moscow Row’ because we all voted Labour. No Conservative or Liberal candidate would ever show his or her face in Chy-An-Mor’

 Vera Bowden (Little Moscow).
‘I think the label was attached because we were all Labour and many of us active in the local Labour Party’.  

 Muriel Boynes (Little Moscow)
‘I suppose the Railwaymen were one of the first groups of union men in Truro. This is why Green Close was to become know locally as ‘Little Moscow’. I have been reminded of this …over the years… when I was asked where I lived people would say ‘Oh yes ‘Little Moscow’ (Boynes, M. 11 April 2006).

Harry Oates (Moscow Row).
‘I think the label must have been attached because railwaymen were thought to be militant’ (Oates, H. Interview 18 December 2006).
There had been other areas in Britain were the Bolshevik labels was attached. This was in areas were the residents were  considered to be sympathetic to the Communist Party or were industrially militant.   According to  historian, Stuart Macintyre the labels were used by both the press and the State when they wished to remind the public that strikes for better working conditions was a conspiratorial character of militancy.

1926 General Strike

The history of rail unions during the early twentieth century had been turbulent, with many of the unions amalgamating to make them stronger. There had been strikes to limit their working hours, which unions felt would reduce the high levels of accidents. The first recorded industrial dispute relating to the tenants and future tenants of ‘Little Moscow and Moscow Row was the 1926 General Strike.
Overall, two million trade unionists stopped work on the 3 May (1926) in defence of the coal miners who had been locked out of their pits by their employers.  Railway workers were major players in the General Strike and their solidarity was denounced by the government and press.  It was noticed that the constant demonization of trade unionists in the press took the form of  identifying them as “reds”. (Laybourn 1990:122).
Editorial comments in all Cornish newspapers in the months leading up to the General Strike were also critical of trade unionist values and socialist philosophy in general. In the last six months of 1925 forty-eight editions of the West Britain  recorded  thirty-four articles carrying emotive headlines about trade unionists and socialism in general. For example, ‘As in Russia’ (WB, 03.09.25. p.10 cool: 4), ‘As in the Soviet Union’ (WB 17. 09. 25. p.8 col: 5), ‘The Moscow Policy’ (WB, 28.09.25.p.2.col:1), ‘Influences of Communism’  and  ‘True Patriots’. Implying union members were unpatriotic if they went on strike (WB, 19.11.25.p2.col:4). (WB, 28.09.25.p.2 col: 1). (WB, 01.10.25.p.7. col: 2).
Similarly,  the  Royal Cornwall Gazette circulated   headlines such as ‘Communist Flirting’ (RCG,
28.01.26.p.2.col:4), ‘Constitution At Stake’ (RCG, 29.04.26.p2.col:4),. Two of the  headlines call Socialism a ‘Virus’ and ‘The Common Enemy’(WB, 29.04.26.p2.col:4).  
Press coverage  overall  was partisan  and  portrayed  trade unionists  as communist sympathisers, thus planting in the publics’ consciousness the idea that all trade unionists were militants.  Historian, Stuart Macintyre (1980:15), notes how frequently those critical of trade union communities used ‘pathological metaphors of viruses and inoculations’ when describing them, which is why I believe  the  two railway housing estates  in Cornwall  were  bestowed with the ‘Bolshevik’ labels of ‘Little Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Row’.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the only two rail housing estates in Cornwall would be labelled ‘Little Moscow’ and ‘Moscow Row’. What I did find surprising is that many of the younger residents I interviewed from both estates did not know about the other’s label.
However, they were all-proud of their communities and remember them with affection and mourned the end of an epoch when the houses were sold off in the 1970s.

 Administrative history

The Great Western (Truro) and (Penzance) Housing Associations were established in 1923. Their design was based on the Garden Village society and its aim was to provide houses at moderate rents for employees and their families of the Great Western Railways (GWR).  This Co-operative scheme was set up largely in response to the acute housing shortage after the First World War.
The GWR Company acquired the sites at Green Lane (Truro) and Chy-An-Mor (Penzance). The company then leased the land to the Association as and when it was required. The Houses in Truro were built in a horseshoe group of 30, the first being completed between May and September 1925. Penzance was delayed for a further six months, because of planning setbacks.  A financial agreement between the Company and the Association enabled the Company to lend up to ninety per cent of the approved cost of the houses, the loan being secured by a mortgage.
The Association was administered by the Welsh Town Planning and Housing Trusts until the 1970s. The Trust was experienced in the formation and management of garden villages in England and Wales. When the opportunity arose in 1970s for  the Association to buy the freehold interests from the British Railway Board a joint venture agreement was therefore entered into, whereby the shareholders and tenants were able to purchase their properties from the Board and the association. Thus, the GWH (Truro) and GWH (Penzance) was dissolved.
The records in the collection housed in the Cornwall record centre cover the Association creation in 1923 to its dissolution in 1975.  They include a complete run of 20 volumes of minute books and annual reports.
These duplicate tripartite agreements between the Society, the GWR Company, and the Welsh Town Planning  Housing Trusts  allowed the   Society to  carry  many housing schemes for GWR  railway employees  in  London  Wales and elsewhere in the Southwest. Only two were  ever  created in Cornwall.

Copyright   © Veronica Kelly (CAVA – Cornwall Audio Visual Archives 2008

The Socialist Fellowship 1908 – 2008

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) was established at Sheffield in 1897 as the National Association of General Railway Clerks; it became the Railway Clerks’ Association in 1899 and the TSSA in 1951. Amazingly, railway clerks had a well-established pension scheme in every company by the time the Association was formed. Never known as a militant union (its early motto was “Defence not defiance”), most railway workers thought that clerical colleagues were more concerned about their pension than fighting for an increase in pay. Be that as it may, members of the RCA did strike for recognition in 1919 and, to the amazement of the railway companies, participated in the 1926 General Strike. For this, many clerks and supervisors were punished or dismissed and some had their applications for promotion denied for many years. 
The Association’s politics have been close to those of the Labour Party to which it affiliated in 1910, one of the few “white collar” or at that time “black-coated” unions to do so. This did not happen by chance; in fact the RCA repeatedly proclaimed its non-political position but it was willing to work with any party to enact progressive legislation or block Bills. The first attempt to affiliate to the Labour Representation Committee came in 1903 but this failed. Several more attempts took place and although there was agreement at RCA conferences, the members rejected affiliation by ballot. 

Campaign to affiliate to the Labour Party

In 1908, as part of the campaign to affiliate to the Labour Party, a small number of members formed the RCA Socialist Fellowship at the Association’s Annual Conference. George Ridley, the youngest delegate at the conference, became its President. The first meeting took place in his bedroom and was a social occasion as much as it was political. It was the start of a tradition that still exists in the TSSA.
George Ridley, and several of those present, went on to achieve high office in the Association and the Labour Party. Renowned for his oratory, Ridley revealed his ability at an early age. By the time he was 22 he was Secretary of his local Independent Labour Party, Chairman of his RCA Divisional Council and a member of the Association’s Executive Committee. Devoted to the union, he often used his annual leave to recruit members. In 1920 he joined the RCA’s staff and from 1937-1944 he was Editor of the Association’s Journal. Ridley was elected to Parliament in 1936 and when he died in 1944, he was Chairman of the Labour Party.
Among those that attended the Socialist Fellowship was Arthur Chandler. At the 1909 Conference he convinced delegates that the RCA should affiliate to the Labour Party, and this time the membership agreed. Chandler was popular and he was the first lay member to represent the Association at the TUC. However, very few in the RCA would have agreed with all his political views. A strong supporter of syndicalism, his actions led to his expulsion and also the closure, for a short period, of the Sheffield branch in 1913. In 1917 he was President of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council and a member of the Yorkshire Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council. A member of the Communist Party, he rejoined the RCA just before the 1926 General Strike and played a significant role during that historic event.

The Socialist Fellowship is unique. It does not have a constitution and, by tradition, both the President and Treasurer are appointed by their predecessor. It has one rule - the current business of Conference is never discussed. By tradition the President has unlimited powers for the evening, with the authority to ask anyone to contribute to the entertainment. Those attending the Socialist Fellowship have always reflected the wide range of political views within our movement but, most importantly, comrades have always been listened to with respect. It is this willingness to hear everyone’s opinion that has made the evening so successful. By tradition, the event concludes with singing the Red Flag and the Internationale.
Very little is known about the early years of the Fellowship and events recorded in the Association’s Journal are rare. What we do know is that its social evening at the Association’s conference was frequently promoted as the “Red Revue”. For a period it had a formal paying membership and each year a book was issued containing the names and addresses of comrades. This proved invaluable as it enabled members to meet friends and find accommodation when working away from home. The membership card contained a quote from the Dream of John Ball stating: “Fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death.”
A programme of activity was planned at the AGM. Rambles were popular and in 1913 Arthur Chandler organised one in Derbyshire that attracted members from Cleethorpes, Barnsley, Leeds and Manchester. The Fellowship flourished until 1914 when the ravages of war took their toll. Many RCA members joined the forces, including George Ridley, although when the war started he was one of the few members of the union to express his opposition in the Association’s monthly magazine. Another member, Jim Haworth, who was President of the Fellowship from 1938-1944 was a conscientious objector during the First World War and spent three years in gaol for his views. He later became Treasurer and then President of the RCA and the MP for Liverpool Walton from 1945-1950.


The Socialist Fellowship was revived in 1919 at which time it had approximately fifty members who paid 10p p.a. for the privilege. Very few meetings were held during the 1920s but since the 1933 Conference, when it was revived, it has met every year at the Association’s Conference for a social evening. 
In 1929 two key supporters, George Chandler and Stewart Purkis, both communists, were expelled from the Association. Eventually, they were readmitted; both retained their revolutionary principles, were eventually elected to the Association’s EC, and gave years of valued service to the union. It was arising from their expulsion that the rules of the Association were changed and it was forbidden to use “RCA” without permission. Indeed, when the Fellowship was revived in 1933, “RCA” was dropped and it became “The Socialist Fellowship”.

Cold War

The Cold War brought a difficult period for the Fellowship. Although those attending still came from both left and right of the Labour Movement it was those on the left of the Labour Party, along with communists, who were the Fellowship’s most loyal supporters. Numbers dropped, and by the 1958 Conference the attendance was down from a pre-war peak of approximately 100 to 14. Furthermore, the participation of TSSA employees was frowned upon.
Nor did any support for the Fellowship come from the Association’s President, Labour MP and Cabinet Minister, Ray Gunter, who never attended the Fellowship.
Slowly but surely, the position improved and at one meeting three former MPs turned up, Jim Haworth, John Belcher and Herbert Romeril, the President of the Association from 1912-1916. (He had presided over the 1913 Special RCA Conference that expelled Arthur Chandler.) Romeril was the first RCA member to enter the House of Commons in 1923 and for many years the Association had a presence in the Commons and Lords. Indeed, by 1945 there were fifteen members as MPs, and Alexander Walkden, the former General Secretary of the Association, was in the House of Lords. In fact a number of those that have led the Socialist Fellowship as President or Treasurer went on to achieve high office in the TSSA and Parliament.
Such is the popularity of the Socialist Fellowship that some TSSA members travel many miles to attend its social and to renew their friendship with comrades. The Fellowship celebrated its centenary this May at Scarborough and it has become one of the key events at the Association’s Annual Conference. Its format remains exactly the same as in its early years and it still retains a broad approach to politics. In addition to a wide range of socialist views and experiences the contributions embrace poetry, music, songs and humour. It is a truly remarkable evening and one of which our movement can be proud.

Malcolm Wallace

Malcolm Wallace is author of “Single or return? : the history of the Transport Salaried Staff Association”, published by the TSSA in 1996

From New Lanark to Letchworth Garden City

Ebenezer Howard, founder of Letchworth Garden City, was elected an honorary member of the Leningrad Society of Revolutionary  Architects in 1927, a year before his death. In the same year he was also knighted to become Sir Ebenezer Howard. The son of a baker born in the City of London in the year 1850, he made a living from being a short-hand writer, recording the proceedings of the Houses of Commons and Lords for entry into Hansard – the book containing the records of all parliamentary meetings.
Published in 1898 and again in 1903 his book “Garden cities of tomorrow” earmarked him for honours from both revolutionary Russia and also from capitalist Britain.
In 1903, putting word to deed, Howard and a gathering of supporters dug the first sod to start the building of Letchworth, then, a scattering of hamlets on an acreage of 4,500 acres with some 300  people, today it is a thriving city with a population of 34,000 on an estate of 5,400 acres.
The origins, however, of Howard and his supporters came from the onset of the industrial revolution, particularly land reformer, Tom Spence and manufacturing industrialist Robert Owen.

Tom Spence

Born to a family of Scottish net makers who emigrated to Newcastle, Tom Spence became a school teacher and early in his career published tracts on land reform. His family were members of a radical branch of Scottish protestants – the Glassites, and he carried forward their ideal of a community into advocating that land should be a common possession and income for its use at the disposal of a community settled in parishes. After expenses of parish maintenance and improvement had been made, the surplus should be divided with each member of the parish – including children, receiving equal shares of the “divi”. Migrating to London in 1790, he continued his radical publishing activities as a bookseller, operating from Little Turnstile St, near Lincolns Inn Fields. He died in nearby Covent Garden in 1814 at the age of 64 years.

Robert Owen

Robert Owen was born in Newtown, Wales in 1771, the son of a saddler and ironmonger. At ten years of age he was apprenticed to a draper at Stamford in Lincolnshire. Completing this he went to London in 1785. Seeking better opportunities he moved to Manchester, which was becoming the centre of the cotton manufacturing industry. Meeting Ernest Jones, an engineer working with the textile industry, they set up in business together. From this he moved at twenty years of age to managing a modern steam-powered mill employing 500 people, receiving a salary of £500 per annum. From this vantage point he soon became known as a thinker and advocate of far reaching proposals for bettering the life of working and distressed people.
Various business ventures and partners led him to New Lanark in Scotland. There he met the owner of a cotton spinning mill who was also a reforming industrialist and member of the Glassites, David Dale.
Owen married one of Dale’s daughters and also entered into partnership of Dale’s New Lanark Mill. There he used the technical knowledge learned from Jones and other modern engineers and when New Lanark was burnt to the ground, rebuilt it to become one of the most advanced mills of its generation – besides being the largest with almost 2,000 employees.
Thereafter, Owen and his father-in-law set out to prove that an industrial village such as New Lanark could produce enough surplus money to build houses for its workforce, educate children from pauper workhouses, feudal highlanders, and families from the slums of Glasgow, provide a health service, pensions for retired workers, shops selling unadulterated food, pay wages during a business slump and still pay handsome dividends into shareholders.
Dale and Owen were able to do this besides their advanced factory they were able to benefit from owning the land on which the factory village, surrounding countryside with its river, were in their possession. Therefore, being their own landlords, they paid no rents to the landed gentry. Furthermore, David Dale, was also a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland and through this position was able to ensure that finance could be obtained at the going rate of interest, and during times of cash-flow-shortages, his bank could advance loans knowing the underlying strength of the firm was sound enough to ensure its repayment.
Following Dale’s death in 1806, Owen continued to pursue their joint task and, following the victory over Napoleon, the disbandonment of regiments and their unemployment and impoverishment consequent on a government with total disregard for their welfare, he proposed the setting up of industrial/agricultural communities for their resettlement.
Drawing on his experience as an industrialist, he pointed to the enormous advance machinery had brought to society and, to this, he coupled the known productivity of agriculture when tended by people on their own allotments.
By combining these two productive forces into parishes, consisting of some 2,000 persons and federating these to other communities for higher purposes, he saw this as the way to a New Moral Order,
Failing to do more than gain applause and lip-service for his proposals, Owen set about the task of helping like-minded supporters to do such for themselves. During the following years, scores of attempts were made. These failed as those attracted were mixtures of people, searching for a new life without much more than that in common. Different trades and skills, different cultures, some with money and most without, religious differences from mystics to atheists – all were thrown together in attempts to coalesce into a well-planned economic and civil structure. Even with Owen spending his very large fortune on the various ventures, all failed save New Harmony in the USA where Owen’s son continued to live after his return to England. What did remain of his endeavours was the spirit of co-operation which he continued to expound upon his death at Newtown in 1858.

Co-operative movement

The co-operative movement came into existence along with the industrial capitalist. Every paid worker knew that his employer became rich, it came out of the wages he/she was denied. The problem was how to alter this to ensure that they who labour receive the full value of their labour. And co-operatives came into being to put right this manifest wrong in the economic order of society.
A most notable advocate of co-operation who published these views in a regular newspaper was Dr King of Brighton. During the latter years of 1820 his newspapers proclaimed the message of co-operation, and by the time he ceased publication the message was endemic in the thinking of all radical reformers and working class advocates for an alternative society.
In 1844 at Rochdale, Lancashire, the method was developed, whereby retail shops which had been established to counter the widespread policy of adulterating working class food, could achieve sustainability. Here, people who joined the co-operative, could purchase for cash – no credit was allowed, unadulterated food. Members – and this was the key principle which ensured their success, would also receive a “divi” on the profits made from trading – each in accordance with the amount spent purchasing goods from the co-operative store.
At this juncture the co-operative movement had come of age. It had cracked the method, “the divi” to convert people  from being providers of capitalistic profit in the retail sector, to being providers of betterment for themselves and their families, and, also, build within a capitalist society the way to overcome the anomaly of working for the benefit of the capitalists.


These pioneers in pursuit of their aims, advocated that education in particular was to be the way forward. Two per cent from trading profit was enshrined as a principle for this purpose. Using these same methods, houses would be built and factories for the unemployed. Finally, they set themselves the task of changing the present form of society to one based on co-operative principles by becoming the government of the country.
“The Times” (1898) said of Howard’s book “details of administration,  taxation ,etc out to perfection”. The only difficulty is to create the City, but that is no small matter to the Utopians’ perfection”. One hundred and ten years on, we can agree with its first assessment and refute the second.
For Howard and like-minded people associated with the co-operators, political progressives etc. had learnt deeply from the century of mistakes associated with Owen’s and others’ attempted communities. They had also witnessed that wealth of land increased dramatically wherever population and industry were sited together and hence the enormous popularity in this country and America for the “Single Land Tax” whereby taxing the existing value of land for the public purse was being advocated by Henry George – a bill to Parliament for its introduction had over 100 municipal borough’s supporting, was advocated, along with the writings of Tom Spence, Tom Paine, William Ogilvie and the supreme importance of John Stuart Mill both as land reformer and co-operator.


Two architect members of William Morris’ Socialist League, Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker were chosen to build Letchworth. Unlike former attempts at community building whereby individuals “just chucked in”, Letchworth leased land only to those with the finance – either as companies or co-partnership groups of self-help workers – most houses in fact, were built by such groups, with Letchworth concentrating on providing the infrastructure.
It had a brick-works and aggregate supply. Built its roads, provided its water, gas, electricity from its own companies, as well as civic buildings, market, shops, etc – for the community.
All in all by 1913 its income from land leases and service companies showed its viability and enabled it to repay loans from wealthy supporters, Cadbury, Rowntree and Leverhulme.
Letchworth Garden City became a world wide phenomenom and like New Lanark, heaped with praise and promises by various governments to emulate. The 1945 Labour Government launched a major programme to build 32 New Towns as follow-ons from Letchworth.

“Gold mines for the future”

Stevenage, the first to be completed in 1968 and described at its opening by Harold Wilson to be “gold mines for the future”. This turned out to be not so because with the election of Thatcher in 1979, one of the first decisions was to sell off the assets of those completed or completing and then to close down the programme completely.
Howard wanted Letchworth to be the proof that his model worked and that thereafter a programme of emulation would be carried out. His vision was that the success of such would encourage industry to migrate to these New Towns and that this would bring the price of land down in established towns. And thus enable government and local authorities to rebuild on cheap and vacated land.
Speculators and the landed gentry however saw Howards’vision also but the labour movement was slow to do so. Letchworth however is still with us as an example to follow. Its 5,400 acres of urban and farmlands is still a community asset which annually uses its surplus to provide improvements to its infrastructure – in addition to that provided by government and local authorities.


As for Russia, Garden Cities were part of its revolutionary programme. The church loaned to Lenin for its 1907 Congress in London was provided by a group with a church in Letchworth. He was invited and visited this new form of city building. Also, leading Russian architects were part of Letchworth and took their experience back for building the new Russia. Lenin died before his vision could be implemented along with his view that, whereas Owen believed that example would convince the ruling classes to convert to New Lanark, Lenin said that it was political power. Having obtained this in Russia its future lay in education – for as Lenin said “co-operation equals socialism”.

Alan Spence


Review of   Historical directory of trade unions  Volume 5

by Arthur Marsh and John B. Smethurst, Ashgate, 2006ISBN 978-0-85967-990-9

A project to list and record a brief history of every trade union known to have existed in the British Isles was launched in the early 1980s by Arthur Marsh, a Fellow in Industrial relations at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford.  The first volume of the Historical Directory of Trade Unions, as it was called, was published in 1984 and the fifth is the latest in the series to appear so far.
Sadly, several of the key researchers involved died before the completion of the project and Arthur Marsh himself died in 1998.  The task of continuing what was left undone was undertaken by John B. Smethurst, a retired electrical engineer who has devoted much of his life to active work and historical research within the Labour and Co-operative movement.  Amongst other things, he is the last survivor of the original trustees of the Working Class Movement Library begun by Edmund and Ruth Frow.
During the course of his work on the project, John Smethurst was struck down by bouts of ill-health and the failure of his sight.  With the help of his devoted wife, Alice, and several assistants, however, he has finished the task he undertook and Volume 5 is a tribute to his painstaking research, his extensive knowledge of the Labour movement and his unflagging effort.

Volume 5 covers trade unions in the spheres of printing, publishing and paper making, domestic services, wholesale and retail distribution, insurance and finance, agriculture, public employment, general work, and staff associations.  Among the more unusual sectors covered are those comprising unions catering for hotel workers, barbers and hairdressers, sports and entertainment workers, and window cleaners and chimney sweeps.  Some of the unions listed were founded in the eighteenth century, although few have survived from that period even as constituent parts of later trade unions which took them over.
Each section is prefaced by a general account of organisation within the field under consideration and England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland are treated separately.

Friendly Societies

Many of the organisations – particularly those formed in the early days – were really friendly societies which provided their members with a variety of benefits in times of need.  Those which fall into this category had little to do with industrial relations or negotiations with employers, but they are an integral part of the movement.
The stories told of obscure trade union formations are fascinating and sometimes slightly bizarre.  A friendly trade society of pressmen, who printed off type provided by compositors in the late eighteenth century, functioned as a federation of groups – one of which had forty members and was known as the Forty Thieves.  They met with forty pots of ale and forty twists of shag (tobacco)  before them at each meeting.
A Brotherhood of Father Christmas and Santa Claus Union was formed in 1869, the secretary of which was to be known as Super Santa [p.323].
The multiplicity of attempts to form trade unions, some of which, it is true, were stillborn or shortlived, conveys a picture of the organisation of working people different from that projected by many standard trade union histories.  About a hundred agricultural trade unions are listed, for example.  Even specialists in the sphere of farmworkers’ trade unions would not be aware of the majority of these.
It is, incidentally, a pity that for details of some of these one is referred to other volumes in the series.

The book includes an index that covers every organisation mentioned in the text, and this is extremely helpful.  A bibliography of standard trade union histories and a special bibliography of Irish trade union histories is provided.  Sources of the information published are provided at the end of each excerpt.

Volume 5 of the Historical Directory of Trade Unions is a handbook and a source which is unlikely ever to be surpassed in the areas it covers.  It is an invaluable book of reference for Labour historians and deserves to be on the shelf of any library dealing with labour or trade union history and added to the collection of every researcher studying industrial organisation in the areas with which it deals.

Stan Newens,

Review of  Was that really me?  By Ernest Millington

published by Fultus Corporation ( 2006ISBN 1-59682-076-4.

Ernest Millington is the last surviving member of the pre Second World War House of Commons, which was originally elected in 1935 with a National, i.e. Conservative majority of 247.  Probably its most untypical member, he was elected at a by-election in the previously safe Conservative constituency of Chelmsford on 26th April, 1945.  He stood as a member of the left-wing Commonwealth Party and became, at 29 years of age, the youngest MP.
One of the sons of Edward Millington, a professional soldier, subsequently a print worker, and his wife, Emily, Ernest Millington attended Chigwell Grammar school in Essex, a minor public school.  Here he learnt Latin, Greek and French and read Plato and Voltaire, who helped give him a left-wing outlook.  He was also influenced by religion and, at fourteen years of age, joined the Labour League of Youth.  This led him to speak in public, and he shared platforms with another left-wing activist, Ted Willis, later the author of Dixon of Dock Green.

Ernest’s political views, however, offended his father, and at sixteen years of age he was thrown out of his home and forced to leave school and seek work to support himself.  Having established himself, he married Gwen just after his twenty-first birthday and, as a committed anti-fascist, joined the Territorial Army.

In the RAF

After being called up just before the outbreak of the Second World War, he became an Army officer, but transferred to the RAF to train as a pilot.  Allocated to Bomber Command, he was assigned to fly Lancaster bombers and was unexpectedly promoted to the rank of Wing Commander after an outspoken outburst at a conference of senior officers.  Losses in this branch of the armed forces during the war were horrendous.  Of 125,000 members of aircrews in Bomber Command, 60% became casualties – most fatal [p.74].
Ernest Millington relates two particularly narrow escapes from disaster in which he and his crew could have died; but he was regularly dicing with death on the missions that he flew.  Indeed, the record of his experiences reads like a thriller.  He was an exceptionally skilled pilot, but he was very fortunate to survive.

Member of Parliament

His selection and election as a left-wing MP was also exceptional.  However, committed as he was to his ideals, he found it difficult to support his wife and growing family and to fulfil all his political duties on the salary paid to MPs at that time of £1,000 p.a.
His account of his experiences is interspersed with amusing stories.  For example, after being re-elected for Chelmsford in the July 1945 General Election, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and attended a Commons session dressed in uniform, as was expected.
A Tory MP, who had been an RAF officer with the rank of Squadron Leader, informed him that he was incorrectly dressed as the DFC ribbon was too wide.
“If you are talking to me as an RAF officer”, Millington replied, “stand to attention, take your hand out of your trouser pocket and address a senior officer as ‘Sir’.  If you are talking as a fellow Member of Parliament, mind your own business and bugger off.”
The Tory MP took the second option.
Ernest Millington particularly admired John Strachey and Aneurin Bevan, but made many other friends among the Members.  On the whole, he supported Labour Government policy but, as the sole representative of Commonwealth in the House, he found his scope for effective political initiatives was limited and he did not enjoy being a Member of Parliament.

Back to the RAF and a teacher

Unfortunately, after losing his seat in 1950 it was difficult for him to find suitable employment to enable him to support a wife and four daughters and he went back into the RAF.  However, he made enemies and was victimised.  He was cashiered on a charge of stealing £1. 8s. 6d. and an unaccounted sum of £50.

Subsequently, after a difficult time, he became a teacher at Shoreditch Comprehensive School and at a Teachers’ Centre in Newham.  After retirement, he went to live in France.

His story is quite fascinating and, once started, is difficult to put down.  He has been a man of the left of great courage and deep commitment who never gave up his socialist convictions.  His life is unique, ranging over experiences never previously combined in a single career.  It is astonishing that Ernest Millington’s autobiography has not received more attention, but this book makes it possible to read his own account.  I recommend it without reservation.

Stan Newens,

A communist community in Hanwell in 1843?

I would like to share with readers of Labour Heritage this gem which I picked up from doing a search using the keyword “Hanwell” into the online version of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

According to the DNB entry for  – John Goodwyn Barnby and his wife Catherine Isabella (nee Watkins), this couple established this utopia in “a small house in Hanwell, Middlesex, a place well known for its lunatic asylum. They lived there for a year, in some disarray, until the birth of their son…….led to the experiment being abruptly abandoned.”
Both John and Catherine were active in the Owenite and Chartist movement, but he became increasingly impatient with the Owenite movement, and in 1841 he formed the Central  Communist Propaganda Society, which soon became the Communist Church. This survived for eight years. Joined by other Owenites with a millennialist outlook, it remained small. In the 1840s the couple travelled the streets of  London with a hooded cart from which they dispensed communist tracts and harangued passers-by. As millennialists they believed that the final state of “communization” was about to arrive – the probably site – Syria! (not Hanwell).

Catherine Watkins is interesting for her articles on women’s rights which she wrote for the Owenite journal – the New Moral World, condemning restrictions on the employment of women. In 1841 both she and her husband issued a “Declaration of electoral reform” which demanded that the People’s Charter be amended to include the vote for women and in 1843 she issued a tract – “The demand for the Emancipation of Women, Politically, Socially” which set out the case for votes for women. However she believed that full equality for women was possible only in society organised on collectivist principles.

The DNB entry on the Barnsbys is written by Barbara Taylor, author of “Eve and the New Jerusalem :socialism and feminism in the 19th century”, published by Virago in 1983.

Barbara Humphries

Will Crooks and the Labour Representation Committee

There are a number of inaccuracies which need responding too: ‘Herbert Gladstone and the Lib-Lab pact of 1903’, in the Spring Bulletin 2008. This outlines an article by Larry IIes in the Journal of Liberal History that deals with the Lib-Lab pact of 1903. Will Crooks was not the first ever pact LRC candidate in 1904. He was elected Woolwich MP at a by-election on 11 March 1903; the pact was not signed until September. Crooks was adopted by the Woolwich Labour Representative Association (WLRA) in November 1902, and his candidature endorsed by the LRC in January 1903; the local Trades Council, Coopers Union, and George Cadbury’s Daily News funded his campaign. For example, the WLRA opened an Election Fund for Crooks in January by appealing for £600, the Daily News followed, raising £1,000 within a fortnight. The newspaper also issued five leaflets in support of his campaign while the Weekly Dispatch and the London Liberal Federation issued one each.  
It is important to note that Crooks’ victory was influential to the negotiations between MacDonald and Gladstone: ‘Events at Woolwich accelerated the proceedings’ and that the ‘victory was a great fillip to the cause of Labour representation.’ MacDonald and Jesse Herbert met the day after the election to discuss what arrangements needed to be made enabling MacDonald to see Gladstone. Two days after the election (13 March), Gladstone outlined the proposals put forward by the LRC in a memorandum to the leader of the Liberal Party, Henry Campbell-Bannerman: ‘We are ready to do this as an act of friendship and without any stipulation of any kind, because we realise that an accession of strength to Labour representation in the House of Commons is not only required by the country in the interests of Labour but that it would increase progressive forces generally and the Liberal party as the best available instrument of progress.’ Woolwich was greeted by many Liberals as an example of how both parties could benefit from local co-operation between progressive forces. Both Sir Edward Grey, a Liberal imperialist, and Campbell-Bannerman welcomed the Woolwich victory. Gladstone regarded the LRC as the latest instalment of radicalism (from Chartism onwards) that could be contained naturally and easily within Liberalism. The victory confirmed Keir Hardie’s belief that to capture the votes of Tory workingmen, Labour must remain independent of the Liberals in the constituencies. From the above evidence, it can be argued that Crooks’ election was significant to the negotiations, and to the subsequent development of the LRC.       It is noteworthy that Jesse Herbert in his correspondence with Gladstone in 1905 considered the Woolwich and Barnard Castle (Arthur Henderson - July 1903) by-elections as Liberal gains.
Crooks was the first LRC candidate to win a straight fight against a Conservative in a single seat constituency.  Hardie and Bell, for example, were returned in the two seat constituencies of Merthyr Tydfil and Derby respectively in 1900; Shackleton was returned unopposed at Clitheroe in 1902. Therefore, Crooks’ victory in Woolwich was the first example of what could be achieved in a Tory stronghold without Liberal opposition. His election victory accelerated the electoral success of Labour, and became pivotal in the electoral pact between MacDonald and Gladstone. Crooks’ victory, therefore, should be seen for what it was, the beginning of Labour’s rise as an electoral force of political significance. The Woolwich election result marked the beginning of Labour’s rise electorally, and had a lasting political resonance on the pattern and style of future elections throughout the country. The advent of Labour threatened the electoral supremacy of both the Liberals and the Conservatives by influencing decisions that sought to change the balance of power within the bounds of national politics. An analysis of the evidence shows that not only was Crooks’ contribution significant to the emergence of the LRC, but that he played an important role in the consolidation of the Labour Party after 1906.
For detailed analysis of the Woolwich by-election, the lib-lab pact, and Crooks’ relationship with the LRC, see my book ‘Labour’s Lost Leader: The Life and Politics of Will Crooks.’

Paul Tyler