Cyclists introduce Labour Party to Wrenthorpe

A seemingly odd piece from 1910, explaining how the Wrenthorpe branch of the Labour Party came about.

Labour Leader
Friday 8 April 1910


An encouraging letter, full of fire and swing, has been sent by A E Stubbs, Secretary of the Scouts in Yorkshire. He opens thus:

I am glad to learn from the Labour Leader this week that we are to have a National Army of I.L.P. [Independent Labour Party] Cycling Scouts to convey the gospel of Socialism to our toiling brothers in the country, and I write these few lines to welcome its inception. The agricultural labourer is ignorant of Socialism and what it means to him, and the Scouts can do a great work. They have done some good work already in Yorkshire. Organised last May, we have had forty runs, held twelve meetings, established one new branch of the I.L.P., and there are two more in the making. Leaflets, Labour Leaders, and Pamphlets were distributed in the homes of the people, and some of the seed fell on good ground. The Yorkshire Scouts have commenced work already for the season, and are about to form a new branch at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. Several other places on the Yorkshire Coalfield are down to receive attention from the Scouts.

Stubbs concludes his letter as follows:

I am an old racer, but I never raced in such a hurry nor enjoyed any race so much as the race I am now engaged in, namely, the race to win converts to Socialism.

The idea of teams of cyclists spreading a political message has got lost in time. Before the First World War, ILP cycle scouts took socialism to English villages, distributing literature to households.* Local MP Frederick Hall (Normanton), had stood as a Labour candidate for the first time at the January 1910 general election, following the MFGB’s (miners’ union) political affiliation with the Labour Party the previous year.

* Griffiths, Clare V J, Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp.110-111.

Knitting fog, or the 80-year wait

Searching for ‘Royal Oak’ and ‘Potovens’ turned up this unexpected find. No doubt a considerable amount of spin’s been put on this story, and it chimes with the then political allegiance of the Post and Intelligencer.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 9 May 1887


The inaugural dinner of this newly formed association was held on Saturday evening at the Royal Oak Inn, Potovens. About seventy persons sat down to an excellent repast. The company included Mr J Thomas, president; Messrs W Pearson, J Brooke, and T Thompson, vice-presidents; Mr B F Glover, president of the Alverthorpe Conservative Association; Mr J Shuttleworth of Wakefield, the Conservative agent for the Normanton Division; Mr Haigh, Silcoates Mills; Mr W Briggs, Red Hall; Mr Bryan H Ramsden, &c. A letter was read from Mr C E Charlesworth, Moor House, Stanley, regretting his inability to be present, and at the same time expressing his pleasure at the formation of the association. A resolution of confidence in Her Majesty’s Government was proposed by Mr Haigh, seconded by Mr B F Glover, and supported by Mr Shuttleworth, the latter of whom replied at length to the speech recently delivered at Wrenthorpe by Mr B Pickard, MP [founder and President of the Miners’ Association of Great Britain and the local MP], with regard to the Mines’ Regulation Bill. Other toasts followed, after which the meeting assumed a convivial character, and a very pleasant evening was spent.

It wasn’t until 80 years later, in May 1967, that the Tories actually won an election in Wrenthorpe.

Vicar dabbles in politics

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 7 August 1905


A by-election for the Wrenthorpe Ward of Stanley Urban District Council took place Saturday. Tom Lumb was returned by 205 votes. His unsuccessful opponent, Rev Philip S Brown, Vicar of Wrenthorpe, polling 150 votes.