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This is work in progress: the result so far of a number pf people researching the Bolton volunteers.  These are notes rather than an argued narrative and messy.  There are conflicts in the data and overlaps. We make no apology for this as this is far from complete.  It is hoped that in the relatively near future we will be able to publish/upload something closer to being definitive. As ever, anyone reading this who knows something about any of these peoploe, or wants to put is right on anything here we have got wrong, please get in touch.


Researchers:, Anita Bateson at Barry Mills  Dick Perkins  Gaynor Cox Dave Burnham Anne Hodgson Tom Smith


Initials, Name



Clarice Banks and Jack Banks

(Housewife) 34 Arthur Street, Little Lever mentioned as helping with the Pub and the PeopleShe also submitted recipes to the Labour Party newspaper The Bolton Citizen, which James Banks (her father in law?) edited and other MO volunteers contributed to. 

(One possible, but unlikely Clarice was born 12.11.1905 in Reading, Berkshire, a wedding (to Norman in October 1936) and death (Dec. 1998 in Cheshire East), Census 1911 and 1939.  Unable to say how many children she had.  There are instances of other Clarices and plenty of Normans.  Re Jack Banks (Schoolboy) unless her marriage to Norman was a second one it is doubtful that Jack was Clarice’s son). 

Anita Bateson:  Clarice Banks.  According to the 1939 register Clarice Banks was  living at 34 Arthur Street, Little Lever with husband Norman. A place she and Norman stay all their lives. Norman dies 16 August 1985 and Clarice in 1994. No Obit found in Bolton Press, may be in the Farnworth or Kearsley papers.  (BUT what about 28 Arthur Street and which Clarice Banks died in Cheshire in Dec 1998?) Clarice born Clarice McCardell 12 November 1905.  Norman Banks born 1905.  Married at St Saviour’s Church, Ringley on 5 December 1936. Both aged 31, Clarice is described as a dress maker. Norman a packer. (from LanOPEC ).  One son found, Roy Banks born 1943 ( April ?) registered at Radcliffe ( RAD/13/61).  Roy married Marilyn Young on 7 September 1966 at St Thomas the Apostle, Halliwell, Bolton. He was 23 and she is 21, a shorthand typist. No address found but they do have an electoral roll entry in Macclesfield between 2003 and 2010 at 3, Hope Green Way, Addlington SK10 4NR.

Who was James Banks, 53 Randall Street, Bolton, or later 4 Lincoln Grove, died 1982?  A possible connection is with the editor of the Bolton Citizen (BC), a short-lived newspaper funded by the Labour Party, a James W Banks, born in 1875.  Is that Clarice Banks’ father in law?  In the BC ‘Mrs Banks’ offered recipes, including one on Macaroni cheese in Feb 1938.  


AB, Annie Barlow 

b 11/10/1916.  As a child lived at 68 Pennington Rd, her father a ‘currier’ (leather worker) in the 1939 listed as a civil servant for the Ministry of Labour (as Annie Hughes). Became involved after writing of her interest to Tom Harrisson (THH).  Supplied substantial material ‘overheard’ from Radcliffe Labour Exchange and other ‘overheards’ in 1939 and 1940.  Had a relationship with MO volunteer photographer Alec Hughes (b. 8/9/1915) in 1939/40.  She married him in July 1940.


(Reel 33 Box 42B) topics of conversation 23/10/37

(Reel ?, Box 42C) Letter from AB to THH titled ‘Labour Exchange’.

(Reel7, Box 1A) Alec Hughes – AB’s boyfriend, memo on Bolton Work 13/1/1940

(Reel 40 Box 52D) AH reports tale of anti-Belgian racism from Radcliffe Labour exchange from AB – 13/6/40

Also May/June/July 1940 with the crises in the war the MO team offer scores of comments, rumours and overheards, AH in particular used AB’s comments from the Labour Exchange.


PB (occasionally SPB)

(Sophia) Penelope Barlow

b. 10/4/1914 Daughter of Thomas Delmahoye Barlow, MD of Barlow and Jones.  PB’s mother Esther Barlow was a JP and a social worker, in Didsbury presumably (Dene Road), that’s where they lived. SPB educated at Cheltenham Ladies College, Newnham College, Cambridge, then LSE for personnel training.  Some prior connection with Harrisson?  Certainly knew him before MO.  Spent time in the Winding Room and Cardroom at Atlas Mill complex – there befriended Lilian Greenhalgh, 1932 National ‘Personality Girl’.  Married during the war, (Raymond Whitter Baldwin, senior civil servant, MBE for service to community in the NW).  Did SPB work after marriage? She had three children.  She was clearly upper class and was noted as such during her three weeks in the mill, but the other workers thought she was training to be a welfare officer.  Harrisson was determined that people from whatever class background could get on with each other, despite difficulties understanding each other, working class deference and suspicions by local people of upper class busybodies.  

SPB Died in 1991 in Alderley Edge leaving £650,000. Raymond died 19 Dec 1998. Their son Thomas Raymond Baldwin (1947) went to Winchester College and Cambridge (with an address of 17 Willow Road, Hampstead).  Did he become a professor at the University of York?  Alice Margaret Baldwin b. 1944, married Andrew Talbot-Ponsonby.  Rosamund Penelope b 1949, married Cameron Thomas Campbell Kennedy 1973 in Macclesfield – he was a dermatologist.

Panelope’s father was Thomas Delmahoye Barlow, son of Ada and Thomas, MD of Barlow and Jones, donated money to MO.  Marlborough and Trinity College Cambridge. Did SPB introduce Harrisson to him? 

(Reel 32 Box 40B) comments on cotton industry

(Reel 33Box 42B) topics of conversation 23/10/37


David Bee

said to be ‘blind unemployed’ in The Pub and the People, a book he helped with.  1939 register says he was unfit to work.  Terry Higginson of Halliwell History Soc. told me that David Bee was blind and used a white stick and also wore a white cap.  He lived in Fraser Street in Brownlow Fold and had two daughters, Brenda Bee and Irene Bee. A David Bee was born in 1897 and lived in 1 Tyndall Street in 1932, 13 Tyndall Street in 1939 (with his mother Eliza) and 21 Tyndall Street 1964 when he died on his way to Bolton Infirmary.  His father was George, his siblings Florence, Jane, Joseph and William.  In the 1911 census he was learning to be a grinder in a foundry – something he would not have been doing had he been already blind.  Industrial accident?  His father George Bee worked in the Iron Foundry.  His sister Florence (b 1894) married a Mr James Astley.   Sister Eliza Jane married James Gabbott, brother Joseph b. 1907 married Nellie Neary, Lawrence William b 1911. Married Elsie Blears.  DB died 1964 being taken to BR Infirmary.  David Bee’s brother Albert b 1902 married Elsie Standish – who was the sister of Peter Jackson’s wife, so Bee and Jackson were related by marriage.


AB Alice Bennett

Married to Eric Bennett.  (Reel 30, Box 37A) West Ward Labour Club police raid. 6/11/1937 AB did this, but Eric Bennett did the observation of the trial along with Walter Hood. 

It seems likely that the two obs below were Alice Bennett rather than Annie Barlow. 

(Reel 11, Box 8A) an ‘AB’ observed the fascist meeting on 17/11/1937

(Reel 13, Box 11B) AB comment on Tonge Moor By election  



EB Eric Bennett

Eric Whitham Bennett. Born 12 May 1908, son of William Bertram Bennett and Lily Beatrice Whitham.  1911 Census living at 95 Moorfield Grove, Tonge Moor. Father a Cloth Packer in a bleachworks. Had a brother William Bertram and a sister Beatrice Hilda.  Two further sisters born after 1911 – Margaret b 1918 and Mary b 1922

Married Alice Murphy in April 1934.

EB was on Labour Party candidates list of June 4 1938 (Reel 13 Box 11A) has EB’s address as 15 Powell Street with younger sister Margaret, father William, brother John.  Trade Union Official working for the Railway and NUR.  Father was a railway goods clerk.  Full timer?  Unemployed shop assistant - sacked by his employer for Trade Union activities – Labour Party activist.  Obs report by EB mentions ‘Alice’ as his wife. Helped with The Pub and the People.

They appear on the 1939 electoral roll at 15 Powell Street but on the 1939 register no-one was living at this address.

There is an entry on the 1939 census with - Address – 39 Collingwood Avenue, Wallingford, Berks

Eric W. Bennett  d.o.b. 12 May 1908 Married – Occupation Storeman (Civilian) in R.A.F. Depot

Alice Bennett d.o.b. 8 Sep 1913 Married – Occupation Unpaid Domestic Duties

John T. Bennett, son, d.o.b. 29 May 1938 Single – Under school age.  Possibly had a further son Colin P W Bennett in 1945, registered in Wallingford, Berks).

Only death that seems plausible is 1977 in Kidderminster.

On the 1939 Register, his sister Margaret is living at 81, Thicketford Road with her parents and some of her siblings. She is shown as working as a Textile Bleaching, Printing and Dyeing, Stamper and Cleaner.

 (Reel 10 box 7c) Observed a Labour Party Exec meeting on 29/1/37 (Too early?) although he was on it and was Labour Party rep on the Trades Council. 

(Reel 31, Box 8D) comment re mental health 4/8/1937

(Reel 31, Box 38C) Council meeting, 1/9/1937 (and subsequently 31/12/37, 5/1/38, 2/3/38, 20/10/38)

(Reel 33 42J) Happy homes Exhibition 25/9/ 37? (or 38?)

(Reel 11, Box 7E) EB also observed CP meetings 3/10/1937

(Reel 33 Box 42B) topics of conversation 27/10/37 and 29/10/37

(Reel 13, Box 11B), Tonge Moor By-Election (date?) and canvassing in other wards

(Reel22 Box 23D), Christian Science 17/12/1937

(Reel 22 Box 23D) Age Groupings 15/1/1938

(Reel 13, Box 12H), Jan 1938 Parliamentary by election 27/1/1938

(Reel 14 Box 13F), observed Ratepayers Association and Trades Council meeting

(Reel 21 Box 22C) St Georges Rd Methodist 13/2/1938

(Reel 22, Box 25B) Transport, 20/2/1938

(Reel 27, Box 33B) Holiday Savings Clubs 17/9/?

(Reel27, Box 33C) Eric and Alice Bennett holiday budget, no date

(Reel 25, Box 30E) Geoffrey Thomas mentions in a Woolworth’s ‘follow’ on 24/6/39 meeting Margaret Bennett ‘prospective observer’.  THH mentions ‘the Bennetts’ so Eric and sister Margaret or Alice may have worked together

From (Reel 27, Box33B) Holiday Savings Club.

Holiday Budget.

Eric and Alice Bennett of 15 Powell Street.

Married, no Children

went to Heysham, June Holiday Week

Cash before holiday - Husband's Wage          £2.8s 10p

                                    (paid for holiday)

                                     Withdrawn from bank   £2.


Expenses before leaving.

          Boarding dog                                                  3.0

         Carriage of luggage, rent of field,

         space, paraffin inclusive 3/6 per head        7.0


         Return Fares by Private Car                        16.0



Arrived in Heysham Friday Night 9.30p.m.  Lorry with Luggage arrives 10.00pm

Camping Place - Park's Rose Bungalow, Worsley Close, Heysham



TB Tom Binks

b. 1909 Son of William Herbert Binks and Ellen Coyne. William was a Blacksmith's labourer.  In 1911 Tom lived at 42 Burnaby Street.  Ex Catholic, atheist, side-piecer in a spinning mill. Lived at 21 Chip Hill Road, Deane – did he know Alice Foley who lived until 1932 on the same street?    Tom was a reader and on the WEA Council from 1937 and Alice F was involved with the WEA Council from before the Second War.  He married Annie Whitehead in 1941.  They do not appear to have had any children.

(Reel 37 Box 48C) St Peter and Pauls dance (Catholic School) with Walter Hood

(Reel 20, Box 20e and 20F) May 1937 wrote a note about ‘the Catholic’ attended a service and the St Peter and Paul’s Sunday Procession

(Reel 22, Box 25A) Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Feb 1938?

(Reel 37 Box 48B) Carnival – no date

(Reel 23, Box 26C) Good Friday – which year?

worked with Albert Smith on arranging the Day School with Jomo Kenyatta on 22 October 1938 at the Co-op Guild Room on Bridge Street (BEN, 21/10/1938).


The first record of him at the W.E.A. Council is on Friday 10 March 1937 where the Chairman extended him a cordial welcome on his appointment as Secretary of the ? Class. Miss Alice Foley J.P. and a Mr Albert Smith were also present at this meeting.  He remains on the committee until at least 1943.

On 9 September 1938 he agreed to help in the arrangements for a One Day School with Jomo Kenyatta as speaker. On October 14th he reported that this would go ahead on Saturday October 22nd at the Co-op Guild Room and Jomo Kenyatta would speak on the subject “Relations between black and white in Kenya” This was very successful and on November 11th he reports that it would probably yield a profit.

At the December meeting there is correspondence from Mr T Binks suggesting that the District Council be asked to agree to the forwarding of the resolution passed at the One Day School to the proper quarters.

It was resolved that the District Council be requested to sanction this proposal.

For the first few years of the war he appeared to miss a few meetings but in February 1943 he suggests that a One Day School be organised on the Beveridge Report. This suggestion was well received and it was decided to explore the possibility of so doing.  This went ahead on Saturday 18 May.  His PPU activism and imprisonment might account for some of his absence from W.E.A. Meetings.


Peace Pledge Union Activists Trial at Bolton 7 October 1941

(Bolton Journal 10/10/1941 p5)

At Bolton Borough Court Tuesday 7 October with Magistrates –Alderman Taylor, Councillor J A Lomax, Capt Hill and Mrs Lever – a Manifesto from the Peace Pledge Union Activists Group was produced but not read. Two married couples and another man were charged for not registering under the National Registration Act. The accused were:

Harold K Holt, 29, warehouseman, Sunnymead Avenue, Bolton and his wife Marjorie Holt,29, shorthand typist

Thomas Binks, 32, farm labourer, 21 Chip Hill Road and his wife Annie Binks (formerly Whitehouse)

Thomas K Taylor, 23, dyehouse foreman, Earlsmere, Chorley New Road

They had all avoided registering in September 1939 and questioned why they were being prosecuted 2 years after the event. They were all Pacifists opposed to assisting war in any way and regarded conscription as a denial of individual freedom.

The Borough Prosecutor E Fielding attacked Howard Holt as ‘a member of the pacifist organisation, accepting all the advantages from this country but doing nothing in return’. Howard objected to the National Register as ‘a totalitarian measure for the more efficient waging of war’. Marjorie said ‘we object to all compulsion’. Annie said ‘each individual had the right to judge for himself’ (sic). Thomas Taylor said he had informed the Town Clerk in September 1939 that he would not register.

All 5 were found guilty and fined £5 with 26 days in prison in default. They all said they would not pay the fine apart from Thomas Taylor whose reply was inaudible

In David Hall’s Worktown confirms Tom Binks was also a diarist (no 217) sending material into Charles Madge at Blackheath.  An atheist ex Catholic side piecer of exactly the right age sent in an account of his day at work (Thursday 9 March 1937 - the account is dated 12 March) to Madge.  It is unlikely to be anybody other than Tom Binks. 


JB John Edward Bright

b. 9/3/1897.  From Worcesteshire, but born at Atcham, Shropshire Lad, Ford a village near Shrewsbury.  In the army in the Great War, nicknamed ‘parson’, was at Passchendaele in 1917, injured in the war and ‘a semi invalid’.  Taken prisoner, his life was saved by a German soldier putting him on a hand cart.  Received an army grant to train as an engineer.  Became a peddlar and worked in a wagon works and joined a reading group.  Trained at as a Unitarian minister in Harris Manchester College in Oxford (a mature student college).  Unitarian minister appointed in 1934 – 1960.  His first ministry was in Halliwell Road Free Church, a mission building but opened as a Church in 1931.  He met Elsie his wife and married in the Free Church.  Local for a few years in the 1930s.  Lived with his wife Elsie at 57, Manchester Road Bolton, but when did they marry?  She was born in 1918 so was 21 years younger then him.  Who was she? JB helped Joe Wilcock with his work on religion.  Left Bolton in June 1939/40 Revd Bright resigned from local church then served in Derby, Birmingham then Evesham.  d. 2/9/1974 at Pershore having lived in the Memorial Trust Houses. He married at Halliwell Free Church.  

(Reel 20, Box21C) Interviewed by THH 7/11/1937 THH visited JB at his home, an annexe of the Grosvenor Hotel, 57 Manchester Road, where he kept a motor bike in the hall.  He was NOT married at the time.  Came across a strange man, superior and thought that Revd Faulkner at Bank Street was very ordinary.  He had a thing for astrology and spiritualism saying he had two Chinese ‘controls’ (spirits) and thought the idea of religion was to develop group consciousness.  See note of Interview.


Elizabeth and Arthur Catherall,

26 Florence Avenue, Astley Bridge.  Not MO observers or volunteers but Elizabeth was interviewed (Reel 26, Box 32) for the food and shopping survey in summer 1939.  And Arthur, who had a regular column about scouting in the BEN, as the Robin, and was on the Propaganda Committee of Bolton Peace Week with Tom Binks, Jack Fagan and Mrs Fagan (Reel 37, Box47J).  Arthur became a successful and renowned children’s author after the war.


Bridget Coulton

a teacher who helped on the Pub and the People – nothing known       


M. E. Dahl

(Reel 7, Box 1E) letter from this curate of a local church asking to be an observer.  (Reel23, Box27A) Dahl sent note about Armistice Day)


BD Bob Davies?

The CP member who ran the workers book shop on Deane Road.   Delivered the daily worker to 85 Davenport Street, or his partner Louie Boon did, one of the two.  Not mentioned as a volunteer, but they knew many of the local volunteers: Harold Shaw, Jack Fagan, Phil Harker.


JD Joe Darbyshire (Derbyshire?)

Unemployed observer, 52 Arnold Street, ‘common Labourer’ – interviewed as part of MO by WH about the difficulty of making ends meet.  (Colliery Shot Firer?)


(Reel 13, Box11B) Tonge Moor By-election and canvassing in other wards

(Reel 21 Box 23A) Astley Bridge Men’s Class, 27/2/1938


The Duckworths


(75 Davenport Street), Ernest and Constance and their children Sheila (13 in 1940 – born 14 November 1927 - who went to school in Whitecroft Rd) and young Tommy (b. 24 Sept 1937).  (Between 1951 and 1955 they lived at 2 Benson Street).  The Duckworths were neighbours of the MO people in Davenport Street and were known to the MO people from 1937.  They were not volunteers but provided a huge number of comments war and observations.  During the first year of the war MO volunteers Brian Allwood and Alec Hughes spent a lot of time with them, and they seem to have been friends. They were all sg=haring the same experience; air raid warnings, sharing space in the shelter, rationing, shortages, rumours.  Sheila’s and Constance’s comments are often referred to in the MO reports. On Friday 10th March 1939 Sheila Duckworth (at the age of 11?) appeared in one of two plays put on at the Bolton Little Theatre, Easter by Strindberg and /or Dirge without Dole by Cedric Mount (aka Sydney Box, radical playwright – film producer Betty Box’s brother) (BEN 11 March 1939).  Sheila was one of the children in Dirge without Dole.  Geoffrey Thomas, an MO volunteer, was involved in the production and fellow MO volunteer, Gerald B Edwards (Lawrentian, Whitman fan, intellectual) directed it and set up Bolton Drama School, working at the time for Bolton Council to encourage drama while living rent free in the attic at Davenport Street. He also worked as an observer for MO.  

(Reel 23, Box 27A) Sheila Duckworth selling poppies 4/11/1937 SD called round to 85 selling button hole poppies, saying she had to return them to the trader by Sat.  TH bought one for a 1/- which he said was snapped off at the head and was probably from last year.  TH did not describe SD – he probably knew her already. That being the case Sheila had a rolling relationship with the people at 85 for nearly four years!

(Reel 34, Box 44A) Mrs Duckworth’s answers to questions 30/4/?

(Reel 23, Box 26D) WH Discusses April Fools tricks with Sheila Duckworth – year? Probably 1937, lots of observations that year about Spring.

(Reel 38, Box49D) Sheila Duckworth’s Autograph Book – year?

 (Reel22 Box24B) Thomas Duckworth’s baptism 15/10/1938

(Reel 37 Box48D) the manager of the palais by Mrs Duckworth 3/1/40 (notes by AH)

(Reel 40 Box 52A) conversation with Duckworths 21/1 and 22/1/40 (notes by GT) Mr D talking about fears for young soldiers and family talk about two-year-old Tommy not wanting to wear a gasmask, though 12-year-old Sheila likes it)

(Reel 26, Box 32G) conversation with Constance Duckworth re ‘sales’ 16/2/1940

(Reel 32 Box 41F) interview with an unnamed family, by Gertrud Wagner, about attitude to the children.  Was this the Duckworths? 18/4/1939

(Reel 40 Box 52/A) comments from several including the Duckworths, 31/5/40

(Reel 40 Box 52A) story from Sheila…16/6/40

(Reel 40 Box 52A) Mrs Duckworth passes on a comment re Albert Smith being apprehended by the police for having no ID card 4/7/40.  He asked a special policeman the way to Astley Bridge and the special got suspicious and asked him for his ID card and gas mask ‘I have not got one or the other’.  The policemen took him to the Town Hall.  (July 1940) The catalogue says Sheila but the record has it as her mother.

(Reel 40 Box 52L) Sheila Duckworth, note re refugees (those from Guernsey?) 4/7/40

Also May/June/July 1940 with the crises in the war the MO team noted scores of comments, rumours and overheards (and sent regular communiques with these comments to London), several of which came from the Duckworths, Ernest, Constance and Sheila (who often wandered into 85 it seems) and Edna, Constance’s sister.

Sheila married Fred Farnworth in early 1951 and lived at 8 Vickerman Street (with his parents Fred and Mary?).  Son Thomas went to Canada in 1958 from 214 Benson Street


JF (p199)

Jack Fagan (John Martin Fagan)

John Martin b 31/8/1906 41 Prince Street, Little Bolton.  In MO records the volunteer and left wing activist is always referred to as ‘Jack’.  There is the occasional mention of J. M. Fagan, the left-wing activist (for instance involved in organising Bolton Peace Week 21/9 – 27/9 1936) so a strong assumption is that J. M. Fagan is ‘Jack’.  Lived at 78 Hamden Street – his mother and father (Joe) next door at no 80.  Mother Ann, brothers Thomas, James and George - Joseph (b 1910), Thomas (b 1912) James (b 1918), Vincent (b 1922). 

Coalyard Foreman.  Member of Socialist Club.  Ex-communist, Labour party, sometime secretary of local National Unemployed Workers Movement branch.  (But in 1939 did he work as a turner in an airscrew works – Lostock?  Helped with the pub and the people. Involved in a project in the food trade.

A ‘Jack’ is mentioned in an August ‘36 THH letter to Albert Smith, though a report of a conversation by THH in 11/37 in which JMF offers twenty volunteers to MO indicates that is when JMF got involved in MO. And why else before then would Walter Hood have to ‘infiltrate’ the Labour Party?   

In the summer of 1931 Jack married Jo Wilcock of 34, Rawsthorne Street. Her sister Annie Wilcock had eloped with Bill Naughton and married him in 1930.  So Jack Fagan was Bill Naughton’s brother-in-law.


(Reel 37 Box 47J and BEN 19 – 26 September 1936) Involved in organising the Sept 1936 Bolton Peace Week where he was on the Propaganda Committee and served as Chief Marshal for the Tableau and procession on 26/9/1936 Appears to have done a lot of work for MO, several chats with Tom Harrisson which THH wrote up, one about the impact on people of moving into a council house

(Reel 34, Box 44a) ‘social conditions and housing’

(Reel 10, Box 7c, 4/11/1937) one about the Labour Party during which he promised to supply 20 volunteers.  This was in conversation with THH in the Royal.

(Reel 11, Box 8A) observed at a meeting of the British Union of Fascists on 17/11/1937 (with two other Labour members, Maughan and Hadfield)

(Reel 11, Box 7H) Jack Fagan and Harold Shaw set up a ‘socialist forum’ to meet every Wed evening.  Jim Paulden spoke at the first meeting on 8/12/1937

(Reel 32 Box 41C) comment on 1938/39 small area study (300 yard length of Higher Bridge Street in 1939)

(Reel 47, Box 64A) on 10/4/1940 Jack Fagan submitted a tale about spies up a tree in Queen’s Park

(Reel 40 Box 52A) BA reports spy story from Jack Fagan, 10/6/40


John Martin Fagan (36) of Hampden Street at a Conscientious Objector tribunal of 5/2/1943 applied for a variation of his work status.  Reported as a tram driver but had been registered by tribunal for land work or as ARP or in the Auxiliary Fire Service.  Min of Labour reported that he’d had an accident and fractured ribs while working for Lancs Agricultural Committee – after which a thrombosis ensued.  After this he could only undertake light work and this could no longer fulfil the tribunal conditions.  This was adjourned for three months.


(WEA file, Bolton Library, FWO/1/1/5) 14/1/1944 Jack Fagan’s first appearance at the WEA Council.  (254 students enrolled in 44/45)




Harry Gordon

2 Darbishire Street.  Born 12/6/1905 Bolton – John and William were his brothers and a sister called Annie McCormick.    Married Sarah Jane Hall in 1928 and lived in the same street at Jack Fagan’s brother.  Josephine was born in 1928 and David in 1941.  Sarah Jane died in 1979.  Josephine married Leonard Lomax in 1953 in Bolton.  He died in 1988 at 39 Wilmott street, the same street as mum and dad.  Josephine was there until 1993.  Did she marry Howard Wilkes in 1991.  He was a member of the anti-fascist society that met at Harold Shaw’s house in Davenport Street. Shaw introduced Harry to MO a few doors up the street.  Gordon did not ‘observe’ himself but guided and interpreted and smoothed the way for others. He would take affluent observers places and explain to locals what was going on if they took fright at someone with a posh voice questioning them – often thinking they might be trying to sell something or were from the Public Assistance Board. 


Tom Hadfield

Helped with the Pub and the People – warehouseman?  Son of Harry Hadfield (25/4/77) who lived at 82 Davenport Street?  If so born 1909 in 5 Vernon Street (just round the corner from Davenport Street).  In 1911 census Tom’s father Harry Hadfield is down as a ‘removal contractor and carrier’.  In the 1932 Street Directory Harry Hadfield is down is noted as a ‘furniture packer’ and Tom (10/8/08) is noted as a warehouseman. In the 1939 Register Harry is down as a ‘furniture remover packer’ and Tom as a ‘grocer’s warehouseman’, living in Grosvenor Street.


PNH Phillip Neville Harker

b. 1906. Congregational family, father a Post Office supervisor.  Grandfather Bailey John Harker, congregational minister who instigated Bolton’s Labour Church.  Brought up at 115 Withins Lane. Phil with literary pretensions, member of local intellectual group 22 Club pals with Wally Walsh (future Labour councillor who switched allegiance to the Tories in 1972), Denbigh Hilton who became a Unitarian Minister, Isaac Edwards, son of the BEN Editor, Tommy Pitfield who became a classical composer, Leslie Kay who was later instrumental in setting up Bolton Art Circle, George Parkinson and Fred Marshall who became a doctor.  PNH was chair of young Liberals in the early 1920s. Worked in a bank in Chetham Hill, hated it, caught socialism as a result of the 1926 miner’s strike, his hero became Arthur Cook, then Wal Hannigton (prominent CP member).  Went to London 1927 trained as a Unitarian Minister, tagged along with Charlie Mann (his cousin, trade union leader Tom Mann’s son) in radical theatre, joined CP in Jan 1930, became Intourist employee and visitor to Russia early 1932.  He then returned to Bolton, living in Red Lane and then St Georges Road.  He worked as a freelance journalist for the BEN in summer 1932, then became a rabble rouser leader of local National Unemployed Workers Movement in Bolton.  Imprisoned for causing disturbances at demonstrations in Bolton December 1932, later leader of hunger marches to Preston, then London.  During this time he was working at the Refuge Insurance Company, Oxford Road Manchester.  Joined International Brigade as volunteer in Spain probably late 1936, ‘deserter’ from the IB (disputed), MO volunteer in summer 1937, penny stall holder Blackpool in 1938 and seems not to have returned to Bolton after that. Bookkeeper in Buxton during the war, imprisoned for claiming to have been robbed of £200 of employer’s money, married four times, moved to Bexhill in Kent.  (Have available a work in progress biography being written by his son David Neville).


(Reel 37, Box47J) September 1936 secretary of the ambitious and widely supported Bolton Peace Week, at which he was a speaker.

(Reel 9 Box 4C) report on bowling green in Queen’s Park 10/6/1937

(Reel 33 Box 42C) Labour Exchange 10/6/37

(Reel 20 Box21D) comment about Oxford Group devotee, 11/6/1937

(Reel 30 Box 37B) lawbreakers at the police sports 12/6/1937



Tom Honeyford

Father was a cotton spinner, Richard Honeyford.  (Did Tom Honeyford have an uncle who was a School Board Inspector?) Tom Honeyford was a spinner, badly injured in Great War, spinner again from 1919, but sacked around 1934, allegedly for standing against an oppressive foreman, snitched upon by his own brother.  According to Harrisson a beer house licensee (although there is no record of this in 1930s licencing records), pub pianist, gold beater from 1939.  TH wrote an evocative lengthy autobiographical note for MO (Reel 33, Box 42M) including his war experiences and disillusionment about any fairness in mill work.  He seems to have been recruited to MO from Albert Smith’s WEA class.   TH married Clara Alice Wolfendale (b. 1894, whose father was John Thomas Wolfendale a railway worker of 301 Vernon Street Bolton) on 18 Feb 1922 at St Barnabas on Chorley Old Road. They had a son Tom born in 1929.  TH’s son Tom married Margaret Thomas in 1956.  TH Died 28/8/1961 when living at 193 worsley Rd Walkden.    
(Reel 33/ Box 42M) autobiographical note tells all this,
but in 1988 a former workmate of his (Mr Whitworth of 40 Spartside Avenue, Walkden) said he was a little piecer when TH was a spinner in a mill in Walkden (TH had in the 1920s lived at 69 Bolton Rd, Walkden), that he had a silver plate in his head and was hard of hearing though a good piano player.  He also said that Jim, TH’s brother, had claimed to the overlooker that TH had let some ‘snarls’ go through on his yarn and had been sacked – this was in 1934.  Tom was uncle to Harry Honeyford who worked in 1988 at P. Lee Electrical shops in Bolton.  TH helped with The Pub and the People.



Peter Jackson

unemployed, WEA class and on Bolton WEA Council and involved in 1936 Bolton Peace Week.  Had two sisters.  Was he the one born in 1893 or 1897?  An engineer or fireman?  Lived at 17 Moorland Grove, Smithills, wife Mary Alice nee Standish.  An engineer (Married at Claremont Baptist Church, Peter was living at 37 Leicester Street and Mary Standish was at 19 Leicester Street when they married). Had 5 children Edna, Norman, Stanley and and

PJ’s father was Joseph, mother Alice Anne. He had a brother called Norman and three sisters, Florrie b 1897 Ada b. 1899 both of whom remained unmarried.  Sister Alice b. 1908 married William Tyas.  In 1939 Florrie and Ada were living at 19 Moorland Grove, next door to Peter and his wife.

at the age of 15 Peter ran away from home and joined the RN (Jan to June 1912). He was bought out by his father, but in 1915 joined the navy and served until March 1918 – qualified in oil fuel engineering. 

David Bee’s brother Albert married Elsie Standish and on the 1939 register they are living at 19 Leicester Street. So David Bee was probably Peter Jackson’s brother in law…

(Reel 8, Box 3B) finishers arms and founding of bowling club (no date)

(Reel 23 Box 26A) St George’s Day, 23/4 but gives no year

(Reel 23, Box 26C) Easter, Tonge Moor Methodist (St Andrews?) 19/3/1937

(Reel 33 Box 43F) Mere Hall 9/4/37 (or 38?)

(Reel21 Box 22B) St Peter’s procession 13/6/1937

(Reel 34 Box 45C) Bolton’s holiday exodus 27/6/37

(Reel Box 42C) Jackson wrote a note about the demeaning nature of signing on in a ‘A Brush with the Bureaucrats’

(Reel 9, Box 4b) observed a rounders match on 10/8/1937 and at the J W Chadwick Cup rounders final at the Heaton cricket ground in 11/8/1937.  He mentions that he noticed a big 15 stone lad watching him during the match, a big deal as the Mayoress was present and 1200 people attended.  The big lad, ‘Paddy’, was employed by the Labour Exchange and of course PJ was unemployed.

(Reel 36 Box 47A) Ballet dancing 23/10/?

(Reel 28 Box 36A) A cinema, 18/11/1937



Ernest Jesse Luetchford

Local. WEA unemployed class. Born at Borough Green in Kent on 17 September 1903.  He lived at least until 1911 at 22 Buckhurst avenue in Sevenoaks.  He died 27 November 1975, cremated at Overdale on 2 Dec 1975 (In David Hall’s Worktown [2015] he is referred to as Eric Letchford.  This may have come about in a misreading of his name in a Walter Hood report about Sunday Tea at Ernie’s house.  His name was Ernest Leutchford, although he sometimes used ‘Letchford’).  He married Mary F Carter (b 27 March 1905, died 1976) in Jan to March 1927.  They had four children. 

Ernie was a drinker, unemployed iron miller, atheist, ex policeman.  In the early 1920s he went to Canada to work at the harvest and was deported that autumn, presumably for overstaying.  He joined the police in 1925 but was sacked for a sexual assault on a young woman while on duty late at night (Police Watch Committee 27/4/1927).  A member of the public stepped in but Ernie threatened to arrest him.  He reported Ernie and Ernie was dismissed. 


produced many reports, many from pubs –

-          (Reel 23, Box26A) Easter Eggs 28/3/1937

-          (Reel17, Box17B) Castle Street Methodist 18/4/1937

-          visit to a pub 25/4/37? Fall out with JS?

-          (Reel 8 Box 3A – Ernie was producing reports in April, May, July and August 1937).

-          (Reel 8 Box 3I - not 1, but ‘I’) report on a visit to 14 pubs on Bradshawgate in a two hour period on the Friday (7/5/37) before the 1937 coronation

-          (Reel 13, Box 12B) 25/5/1937 West Ward by-election and questionnaire about Labour Party

-          He also produced reports about prostitutes operating out of Yates Wine Lodge (Reel 8 XXXXX). 

-          (Reel 26/Box 32E) He seems to have palled up with Walter Hood and a tea party at his home on a Sunday is observed by WH

-           (Reel 34 Box 44) Ernie’s report of his family’s furniture and clothing being fumigated before being allowed to move into a brand-new council house Feb 1938 (or was it Feb 37?).

-          (Reel 12 Box 9D) Letter to BEN complaining about housing

-          (Reel 33 Box 42B) overheards 7/8/37 Saturday

-          (Reel 30 Box 37A) comment by THH about EL disrupting trams when he was a PC 1925 9/8/37

-          (Reel 33 Box 42I) weather 14/8/37 Saturday

-          (Reel 33 Box 42B) street row 21/8/1937 Saturday

-          (Reel 33 Box 42C) Labour Exchange 26/8/37 Thursday

-          (Reel 21 Box22D) Lymefield fete 28/8/1937 Saturday

-          (Reel34 Box 45D) B’pool to Bolton train 6/9/37

-          (Reel 34 Box 44F) class distinctions in our street 21/9/37

-          (Reel 33 Box 42J) Trades Exhibition 22/9/37

-          (Reel 34 Box 44A) letter from EL re a housing problem (no date)

He was working again as an iron miller at an engineering works by 1939.  Somehow during the war 39/45 Ernie got himself taken on as ‘temporary special constable’.  In 1939 his family lived at 165 Shackleton Grove, having moved from 17 Shackleton Grove.   

One of Spender’s photos shows a man and wife and four children at tea.  As the number of homes the volunteers entered was limited it is conceivable that as Walter Hood was a pal of Ernie’s and he visited his house as part of an observation, that this is Ernie and his family – OK, that’s a long shot.

Mary’s family lived in Snowden Street, which is a continuation of Davenport Street, so that may be the way the Ernie found out about MO, although it may well have been through A. Smith’s WEA class.  Luetchford is a southern name and there are only two Luetchfords today in Bolton.

According to Terry and Jim Naughton a Bill Luetchford worked at Dobson and Barlow’s as an electrician in the 1950s and 1960s (and at another electricians - Rushtons?) and then had the chippy on Crompton Way (near the Thicketford Road junction) once he had retired.


Betty Luetchford, b 1927 of 17 Shackleton Grove, was married at St Peter’s Halliwell on 4 September 1948 to Harry Rigby, aged 20 of 85 Nuttall Street.  One of the witnesses was her brother Maurice.  Bride’s father Ernie was still down as an iron miller.  Maurice Luetchford lives at 8 Paris Street (off Deane Church Lane) BL3 4HW – his wife Jean died in 2001.  William Luetchford lived in 2019 at 4 Thornham Drive, Astley Bridge, BL1 7RE. 



Joyce Mangnall?

Born in 1917 as Margery Joyce Dalton.  Local.  Margery Joyce Mangnall was her married name, she married James Mangnall (born 1911) in Bolton in April 1935.  Met Harrisson in late 1936 working as a weaver at (possibly) Vernon Mill.  Volunteering for Joyce often consisted of cooking for Davenport Street crew.  Worked in Chorley arms factory with her husband during the war, but MO archive records two observations in London in summer 1943 (Sussex MO Archive, Sx MOA 1/2/20/8/D/8)  Emigrated to Australia 1951, 28 September, on the MV Dorsetshire, Orient Line (Ten Pound Poms?)  Bolton address in 1951 was 20 Fleet Street (This is next to Hampden Street where Jack Fagan lived).  Marjory Joyce and James Mangnall were there in 1950.  Became a social worker or a nurse in Melbourne?  Listed as nurses 1963 electoral role at Melbourne.   Died in Melbourne 1979 and is buried at Lilydale Lawn Cemetary, Yarra Ranges Shire, Victoria.  Did she have a daughter called Cynthia Jennifer Mangnall who attended Camberwell High School in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne?

Joyce Mangnall’s unnamed, tall female friend was mentioned by Dennis Chapman

(Reel 35 Box 45D) Woolworths, June 1939

Margery Joyce Mangnall was her married name, she married James Mangnall (born 1911) in Bolton in April 1935.  Met Harrisson in late 1936 working as a weaver at (possibly) Vernon Mill.  (Could it be she lived between 1939/1941 12, Kershaw Avenue, Little Lever, BL3 1QS or 43 Park Road Little Lever?)  Had an affair with Dennis Chapman (so Chapman claimed) while volunteering.  Emigrated to Australia 1951, 28 September, on the MV Dorsetshire, Orient Line (Ten Pound Poms?)  Bolton address in 1951 was 20 Fleet Street.  Became a social worker or nurse in Melbourne?  Died in Melbourne 1979 and is buried at Lilydale Lawn Cemetary, Yarra Ranges Shire, Victoria

Did she have a daughter called Cynthia Jennifer Mangnall who attended Camberwell High School in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne?


Frank and Alice Mayoh

(b 27 Feb 1886) of 76 Davenport Street (afterwards at 58 it seems?).  Was she the Mrs Mayoh who was the housekeeper/cook at the MO HQ at 85 Davenport Street?  In 1939/40 the three young men at Davenport Street spent a lot of time with the Mayohs.  Married in Bury in 1922 the Mayoh’s daughter Eileen was born in 1922.  She married Albert Whittle in 1947 from 58 Davenport Street. (BUT the housekeeper Mrs Mayoh may have been Lily Mayoh of 84 Davenport Street. But she was the only registered voter in 1938 at the house and the comments in 1940 refer to ‘the Mayohs’.  She may of course have been related to Frank and Alice – Frank’s mother or sister.



Bill Naughton

38 Marld Crescent between 1934 and 1940.  Coal Lorry driver.  Active in MO from summer 1938 until Feb 1940.  Wrote few reports in 1938 then wrote several ‘overheards’ in 39/40.  His first report with Gertrud Wagner was at a Wrestling March in the ‘All-in Stadium on Turton Street in August 1938. But it seems he was used more as a contact than observer – he knew hundreds of people from his coal round.  Had affair with Austrian observer Gertrud Wagner, followed her to London 1940, leaving wife, but taking his two children.  As a Conscientious Objector he worked as a civil defence driver in London.  Had two children with Gertrud, Barney and Michael, then he took up with Erna Pirold, Austrian refugee and twenty years his junior, in 1948.  She was working as an au pair for Gertrud.  Gertrud returned to Austria in 1948. BN married Erna. BN began publishing short stories 1943, given a leg up by Charles Madge in 1945 who commissioned a novel for the Pilot Press.  Hit the big time in 1960s.


(Reel 33 Box 43B) - Wrestling was not reported in the BEN but was in the left-wing Bolton Citizen.  In the Feb 1938 edition the proprietor W. Isherwood complained about the constant insults made of the wrestlers from the cheaper seats and reported on a visit to the stadium by a group of Basque children being cared for in Bolton at the time.

(August Bank Holiday 1938 BN hitched a lift from a lorry driver mate in Orlando Street to Blackheath, where Charles Madge ran the other end of MO - this is in John Hinton’s ‘The Mass Observers’)

(Reel 40 Box 52A) 4 – 9/11/39 overheards, 17/11/39 church, and 2/12/40 comments re radio

(Reel 40 Box 52D) 9/11/39 – 7/12/39 radio counts

(Reel26, Box32G) household budget and fish and chip shops, early 1940?

(Reel 40 Box 52E) reports on transport 3/11/39 – 23/1/40

(Reel 40 Box 52E) overheard 17/1/40

Also May/June/July 1940 with the crises in the war the MO team offer scores of comments, rumours and overheards – BN may well have provided some of those 


Andrew Rosthorn, who knows about road hauliers, told me that on his trips to London and back just before and during the war Bill got lifts from any lorry of Delaney’s transport (based in Crook Street) there and back.  He first did this August bank holiday weekend 1938 to work for Charles Madge at Blackheath for MO.  Later when he lived in London he’d do the same thing when visiting the children at Johnson Fold.   


Naughton, Bill – 1st Tribunal at Manchester 14/8/1940

William J Naughton, motor driver, Marid Crescent, Bolton –

Would not wear gas mask, to which Judge C Frankland said ‘You silly ass, you really are cracked’.

When Naughton smiled, the Judge said ‘You should laugh at yourself, you really deserve to’.

Naughton said he was Roman Catholic but had not discussed question with a priest. His CO

Came from studying the question for a number of years. He had been sacked by the Co-op for his views. He would  not do ARP but would  help the wounded, doing hospital or land work in a civil capacity. Given Non Combat service.

Bill Naughton at Northern Appellate CO Tribunal at Manchester 11 January 1941

Bolton Journal 14/1/1941 p3

William John Naughton, motor driver aged 30, of Conyngham Road, Manchester and formerly of Marld Crescent, Bolton appealed against the Local Tribunal decision to order Non Combat military service

His wife Annie Naughton wrote that although she worked on shell production and felt a nation at war could not afford COs, she felt compelled to support his appeal ‘out of fairness’. Bill ‘opposed war with strong emotions’. In 1938 he had refused a gas mask and quarrelled with an ARP warden about it. His CO stance, including refusing to have a gas mask in his lorry, had lost him a job held for 8 years. When unemployed, he had refused work of a military nature, selling a typewriter, books and clothes to support the household. He registered as a CO although exempt as a heavy goods driver. Bill’s ‘constant pacifist conversation had estranged many friends’. Finally ‘his attitude caused a rift in our marital relations’. If he had merely wished to have avoided the Army, ‘he could have stopped in his job and avoided all this unhappiness’. ‘Misguided though I feel him to be, his objections are undoubtedly conscientious’.

When Bill tried to explain why he refused the gas mask, the chair of the tribunal Judge Frankland called him ‘a silly ass’ and said ‘you really are cracked’. However, the Tribunal did allow the appeal and gave conditional exemption, subject to staying in the same job or taking full time ambulance, hospital or farm work.


Tribunals tended to be dismissive of COs who had not shown a long-term commitment to a religion or political organisation, suspicious of men who just wanted to avoid the call up.  The implication of these stark notes is that Bill Naughton was persuasive in his commitment even though he had not joined any organization.


J. B. O’H Brian O’Hara

James Brian O’Hara (known as Brian).  Commercial Traveller or elsewhere ‘clerk’.  Candidate in November 1938 council elections for Hulton.  Lived at 916, Plodder Lane, (house known as Southfield) helped with The Pub and the People. Reported in BEN on 22/10/1938 as Labour Candidate for Hulton Ward

(Reel 33 Box 43B) mention of a short lived Labour newspaper the Bolton Citizen.  Brian O’Hara is noted as the secretary of the Left Book Club at 7 Churchbank in the February 1938 edition of the Bolton Citizen, the newspaper of the Bolton Labour Party

(Reel 11, Box8B) J.B did a tour of pubs on 11/12/1937

(Reel 22 Box24A) St Edmunds 20/1/1938

From Allan Gardner.  I take it that he was Brian O'Hara a Labour councillor on Bolton County Borough Council in the 70s. I don't recall if he transitioned to the Metropolitan Borough.

He was one time president of the Socialist club in Wood Street and a character.  I knew him through chess. He had two sons. The eldest Michael died some years ago. I don't recall the name of the younger one but he may be traceable via Bolton School former pupils. However I know Michael did not get on well with his father l don't know about the other son's feelings but I would suggest any approach is handled carefully. 


From Brian Whittle.  I remember James Brian O’Hara from my Chess playing days at Bolton Chess Club.

 Mother was Elizabeth Ellen Pickvance.  Father James O’ Hara. (no information on him)

 Born on 11th September 1916 in Bolton.  Died in North Wales June 1975 at Meirionydd

 Married in December 1946 to Dorothy Florence Currier 

 They had two sons Michael J O’Hara born June 1950 in Bolton (He went to Bolton School) he also played Chess.  Second son was Sean F O’Hara born in Sept 1954 in Bolton


John Rees

mentioned as a shop assistant who helped with The Pub and the People. In Reel 11, Box 7e he is mentioned as being a CP member and attending a lecture on Communism and Socialism in the Empress Ballroom on 5 December 1937 by Tamara Rust.


BR Bill Rigby

Unemployed collier born in 1879. Odd job man at Davenport Street – but if so how did that work as he lived at least two miles away?   

(Reel 24, Box 30B) Bolton Chamber of Trade

(Reel 30, Box 37A) Police Court – 24/3/38?

(Reel 13 Box 11) Dec 1937 council elections.  He had been canvassing for the Labour Party along with other MO vols, WH, EB and Joe Darbishire

(Reel 33 Box 42D) document 2/5/38

(Reel 34 Box 44A) full day in an ordinary life 26/4/38 and 5/5/38 life on a corporation housing estate.  In this he is very positive about life on the estate, how friendly people are, and of course they estate is near shops on Higher Swan Lane.  He drew a map of where he lived in a new council house off Higher Swan Lane and the Electoral Register shows a William Rigby the sole elector at 34 Hawker Avenue.  His account of life confirms that he stayed at home during the day in his own (unemployed?) so was widowed or estranged from a wife. He lived with two daughters Molly and Elizabeth (Betty) who both went out to work.  In the evening he walked over to see a brother Plodder Lane way, who had a new radio set.  As neither daughter is on the electoral register they must have been over 14 but under 21. The 1939 register has ‘Betty Rigby’ (b.3 August 1921, a cone wrapper and packer) of 34 Hawker Avenue living on her own with William Rigby (b. 22 November 1879 a coal cutter at a colliery), making him 60 in 1939.  Betty married a man called Alfred Morgan (in July 1945), a coal bagger of Edgmont avenue Great Lever (b 3 May 1919). 


Ri, Rita R

Must have been local: did a significant number of food and shopping survey interviews (probably twenty between June – August 1939) although these are sometimes credited to WH – so he must have sub contracted them. Rita did ‘shopping follows’ and ‘long follows’ in 1939.

(Reel 26, Box31/1) 24/6/39 shopping overheards

(Reel 26, Box 32A) shopping interviews

(Reel 36 Box 45D) co-op Oxford Street 27/6/39


Norman Ryce

Helped with the pub and the people. ‘clerk, 4 Crowland Ave’, (died at Strathmore Nursing Home on Seymour Rd in 1994),


HS Harold Shaw (Could be Humphrey Spender, but unlikely)

Harold Shaw was not a recognised volunteer but involved with several local observer/volunteers.  He was a pharmacist and sometime Secretary of the Communist Party in Bolton.  He lived at 69 Davenport Street, seven doors up from MO headquarters, with his wife Louisa Beatrice.  Was he related to the John James Biss Shaw (of 73 Davenport Street) whose funeral was recorded by Humphrey Spender in September 1938 (and observed by volunteer Brain Barefoot)?  Harold was also involved in the Anti-Fascist League, which met at his house. On 22, December 1932 he was arrested at a demonstration about Transitional Benefit in Mawdsley Street which turned into a near riot (see BEN).  He was discharged from any charge claiming he was picked up near the Market Hall, only because he was a CP member.  He was also a senior figure in the National Unemployed Workers Movement. 

Involved in September 1936 with the Peace Pledge Union in the Bolton Peace Week (Reel 37, Box 47J). 

(Reel 22, Box24C) secular funeral of JJB Shaw, neighbour (and relative?) of Harold Shaw in Davenport Street, 21/9/1937.

Shaw and Jack Fagan set up a ‘socialist forum’ that met at the Socialist Club Wednesdays.  Jim Paulden gave the first talk about the history of the Socialist Club on 8/12/1937

On 9 February 1938 (Reel 33, Box 43B) HS gave a talk at the Socialist Club on ‘the Futility of Pacifism’.

(Reel 24, Box 30A) 1938 sometime, several reports about Bessie Hilton who achieved some notoriety, but why?  The reports confirm that she is a supervisor not a weaver.


BS Barbara Smethurst

Lived at Sidcot on Chorley new Rd.  Local, daughter of a cotton dealer in Turton.  She was introduced, it seems, via her brother Philip Smethurst, a photographer, who invented a photoelectric exposure metre taken on and sold commercially by Ilford, the film company.  (PS was born in 1906 and brought up in Selwyn Church Road Halliwell, and Barbara was a younger sister).  Chapman said that Philip was uneasy about Barbara meeting a fate worse than death at the hands of the MO volunteers.  She did not stay around, uneasy it seems about her skills not being not being appropriately used. (PS was born in 1906 and brought up in Selwyn Church Road Halliwell, and Barbara was a younger sister. Later the family lived at ‘Sidcot’ 420 Chorley New Road).  Chapman said that Philip was uneasy about Barbara meeting a fate worse than death at the hands of the MO volunteers.   She married Dennis G Roberts in 1940 and went to US in 1951.


AS Albert E. Smith

b 1902 (3 May?), lived at 32 Swan Lane in 1911, father Frederick Smith, an insurance salesman, and had a brother Frederick Smith.  He went to the Municipal School on Great Moor Street.  Married Ruth.  Jesus College, Oxford on a  grant or some sort of scholarship.  Gained a degree in history and ran WEA classes in Bolton for unemployed including a course ‘from Shakespeare to Striptease’.  Very active politically, instrumental in inviting Jomo Kenyatta to speak in Bolton on 22 October 1938.  Pacifist and Anarchist: refused to get ID card and ration card during the war or even a gas mask, but was left alone.  Had been a controversial figure in the WEA for his overtly left wing take on the world.   In Autumn 1941 he was imprisoned for twelve months for refusing to have a medical.  Lived at 32 Swan Lane during the war with Frederick (dad or brother?).  Had a son called Mark who jointly owned Shaw’s undertakers, but moved to Wolverhampton and set up an embalming college.  Mark said that after the war his father lectured in Wales.  Albert Smith’s appearances before tribunal/court in Bolton Journal 18/10/1940 and 19/12/41 at which he was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.  Died in Bolton in the late 70s?


Albert Smith said he knew Harrisson from Oxford.  THH lived in Oxford for a while (though not a student there) and Albert studied at Oxford – or did THH enrol in one of Albert’s WEA classes for unemployed men?  See commnets from Tom Smith (no relation) below.

(Reel 37 Box 47J) Wrote pamphlet for Bolton Peace Week September 1936 with J. A. Cox Director of Education

(Reel 23 Box26H) signs of Spring, note by AES, no year given


Comments below are all from Tom Smith, who knew Albert Smith in the early 1970s. 

An interesting former Bolton County Grammar school pupil was Albert Smith who had been there around the time of the First World War. He went to Oxford where he met Tom Harrison and others who later came to Bolton to conduct the Mass ObservationBolton Study in 1936. He was the ‘interpreter’ for the group as they had difficulty in understanding the local accent. Albert also heard R H Tawney speaking in Bolton during the depression and was greatly influenced by his views on social ethics and education for workers. He ran and taught on a number of adult education schemes in the town mostly around social anthropology. From one of his adult groups in the 1960s he developed his ideas further and they initiated and developed the ISIS Housing Society a housing association in Astley Bridge on the site of the old Eden orphanage and school. The original idea was for communal facilities such as laundries and kitchen but after long battles with the newly formed Housing Corporation it didn’t quite work out that way. A tutor that Albert took under his wing was Trevor Griffiths who later became a playwright. The central figure in his 1975 play Comedians is based on Albert Smith – played originally by Jimmy Jewell, but then by Ronald Fraser, it depicted an adult education tutor teaching a group who wanted to become comedians and trying to up hold moral values at a time when growing materialism had created a climate of moral bankruptcy


Albert was the reason I came to Bolton. I had just married and came up on a visit to St Helens to see Linden's parents in 1972. Both her parents were in Albert's class at that time and her father was chairman of the committee that managed the newly built housing association in Astley Bridge that had come into being as a result of a project in one of his WEA classes.


At that time we were planning to live somewhere in Italy or Croatia for a year or two but I don't think her parents were too happy about it. Anyway after a long chat with Albert we were offered a house on the estate which then seemed like a great place to live after being stuck in a small flat in London. I had never been to Bolton before and it sounded quite exotic


I ended up as chair of the Association and got to know Albert very well. He then lived in Eden Lodge and was running a private school in the old Isis Orphanage schoolroom (now a house). He was probably in his 70s then and looking for someone to continue the school but it was never a viable proposition. I remember him upsetting some of the people on the estate. His son was an undertaker (a great disappointment to him as a career) and he was trying to persuade him to start a school of embalming there - I think it must have got to planning permission stage because people round about started to object. I am not sure his son was told of it and got a surprise when people started sending him letters about it.


Albert was an old-fashioned intellectual who had fascinating ideas and theories but was a little detached from reality when it came to putting them into practice.  He was very well read and connected (through people he had met and worked with at his time in Oxford and as archivist at the National Library of Wales). His main interest was anthropology - I don't think sociology had developed sufficiently as a discipline in his formative years. He was also an anarchist, teetotaller and pacifist and held these views very strongly.


As I said he was very well read he had an extensive and interesting library but he never read novels and only one poet as far as I was aware and that was Wordsworth (the theories I suspect rather than his poetry). He did tell me once that one of his great delights at school was reading Shakespeare but he felt life was too short for reading fiction. If I picked a book off the shelf and talked about it he always seemed to have some personal recollection of the author who he had met or been in correspondence with. He told interesting stories about Richard Crossman, Michael Foot, Beveridge and others who would have been contemporaries.


He kept up to date. I once had a long conversation with him about Buckminster Fuller who was in vogue at the time and he delighted in construction systems and effective structures but people with all their foibles seemed incidental to him. I think that is why he was attracted to anthropology he could see life in terms of structures, symbols and systems not in terms of individual feelings, personal failings and desires. That is why I suspect he avoided fiction.


He had problems with the housing association - I think his vision had been shaped by the problems of another era. He couldn't understand why people didn't want community kitchens and laundries. It was the 70s and people could do these things effortlessly in their own kitchens and we were very much part of a consumer society which he didn't really understand. A little like new technology deniers today can't understand what is happening now.  Ironically something like the cafe/coffee shop society we have today I suspect is the sort of thing he wanted to achieve.  Much of his teaching in Bolton had been at Wood Street Socialist Club but he couldn't understand why people would want to drink when they had the opportunity of discussing important and profound issues - it was here he worked with Trevor Griffiths and you can see Albert very much in his portrayal of him as the tutor in Comedians.


I think the thing that he was most proud of was his involvement in the Pan African Conference in Manchester and he spoke about that a lot. He didn't actually say but I suspect he met Ghandhi on his visit to Lancashire or at least he was one of the audience - he was a great admirer and as well as the vision he had some of the failings you find in Gandhi.


He was a very kind man and wanted to improve the lot of those not as fortunate and he was enthusiastic and had the capacity to initiate things. Unfortunately many of his solutions were not for the modern age. Like many of his generation what shaped him was the trauma of the first world war, the inequality of wealth and the impact of the depression and the stifling effect of the class system. He couldn't understand the impact of popular capitalism and individual aspirations.


Had he stayed in Oxford or moved to London he would have probably be better known than he is.


II am not sure about Frederick - I think he mentioned a brother Fred but I can't be certain. The family historians could easily sort that out.


Thinking about the association with Tom Harrisson I am not sure if Albert didn't have some influence on the choice of Bolton for the location of the mass observation study. I know there have been a few theories put forward - my favourite is Tom Harrisson was sitting on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific wondering if the research methods he was using on native populations there could be applied to a study in Britain when he saw a British ship coming in to dock to collect palm oil. It is then said to have occurred to him that the logical extension of his studies in the South Pacific would be through the person responsible for the economic and social changes taking place on those islands - Lord Leverhulme. Where did Leverhulme come from?  Bolton!


I don't think it was such a random choice - to set something up like they did they would need some inside knowledge, a rudimentary infrastructure and locals who could show them around at the planning stage. They would not have 'parachuted in'. I think Albert with his connections would have been a key person here. I never realised before how many of the interviewees were members of Albert’s classes - that doesn't sound like a random sample to me. 


In the early seventies Albert made a number of visits to Haywards Heath to see other people who had been involved with the Mass Observation. I suspect that may have been around the decision to house the archive at the University of Sussex.


A few other things I didn't mention in my email. The land for the housing estate in Astley Bridge was donated by Albert. At some stage he had become the owner of the Eden Orphanage/Isis School site. I don't think he would have made a fortune as a WEA tutor to pay for this - there may have been legacies. Another project for the family historians.


I did say that he was influenced by R.H.Tawney who I now remember he said he first heard speaking on the steps of Bolton Town Hall and particularly his theories on ethical socialism. Albert was an active humanist and I remember him going to meetings of various interfaith groups to put the humanist case. Indeed he was a great expert on religious group rivalries in Bolton and how these had an influence on social divisions and political choices in the town.  He could be very stubborn and awkward - I remember my father-in-law saying (even though he was a pacifist himself) if Albert had come before him during the war he would have given him five years - Albert just wasn't capable of compromise.


When he was talking about history though he was a riveting story teller. I remember mentioning to him a visit I had made to the canal complex at Nob End in Kearsley. Albert started telling a story about a canal barge that had been sunk by 'roughs' near Church Wharf in Bolton and the bargee drowned. His account was so vivid I thought that he had witnessed it. I asked how old he was when this happened and he looked at me and said very sternly 'it happened in 1837'


One of Albert’s comments was that he was an interpreter for local people and MO.  Albert interpreted it the way he was thinking.  One of the first people from state school in Bolton to go to Oxford – he told Tom that he met Harrisson in Oxford. He returned to Bolton after working for the National Library of Wales.  He was involved across the NW on a permanent basis including St Helens. AS was connected with influential people via Oxford. Albert bought the Eden Orphange – he lived at the Lodge of the Estate, Pendle Court in Astley Bridge. He still had a lot of connections with Mass Observation, frequently in Horsham (Sussex) to meet people re MO, about the archive. The houses for ISIS were designed without kitchens as AS thought that people should cook in communal kitchens – a 1930s solution for a modern problem. His plan was for disadvantaged people living on the estate.  When Albert maintained a school at the Eden Orphanage – he didn’t approve of novels. He still had pupils there in 1975. He wanted then to have a college for embalming run by his son.  Trevor Grffiths worked for him and in the ‘Comedians’.  Trevor thought he was a remarkable man. 


ISIS Housing Association was Albert’s idea.  Thorns Rd. Astley Bridge – four and a half acre site.  A mixture of houses bungalows and town houses, 40 dwellings.  Albert donated the land – that would be quite a lot of money.  Where did that money come from?  The committee was the St Helens WEA group which oversaw the administration, and involved with the Housing Corporation. Started in 1970 When Tom S left in 1977 the question was whether houses were allowed to be sold – which they have been now. Early days were troubled as the people were from all sorts of backgrounds.  ISIS school was a secondary school opened in 1948 and closed around late 1960s after the end of the baby boom it disappeared. A fragment was kept up by Albert as a private school.           


Tom Smith, Enjoy Learning, Tom


SS Stanley Spencer

(Reel 7, Box 1E) volunteer living at Davenport Street for Sept 39 Register.  So probably an outsider.

(Reel 20 Box 21B) …probably not the Minister at St Georges Road Congregational Church, another Stanley Spencer, who was interviewed by Brian Alwood on 20/12/1939.

(Reel 35 box 45D) Woolworths 23/6/39 and 24/6/39

(Reel 35 Box 45D) Woolworths 26/6/39


LT Leslie Taylor

Unemployed pharmacist’s assistant?  Stayed with MO for a couple of years – went with Harrisson and Norman Cohn to Oxford to set up a project there.  Called up at the beginning of the war.  Did statistical work for The Pub and the People and work for MO in Blackpool.

(Reel 33, Box 42B) overheards 23/10/37

(Reel 33 Box 42I) weather 7/11, 22/11, 29/11, 6/12/37

(Reel 23 Box 27E) Christmas and overheards 22/12/1937, 24/12, and 5,6,7/1/1938)

(Reel 21 Box22D) Victoria Methodist Bazaar 31/12/1937 (and Claremont Baptists Bazaar and Westhoughton Cong)

(Reel 23, Box 12B) overheards

(Reel 33 Box 42C January Figures 1938 14/1/38

(Reel 41 Box 53C) overheards in Blackpool

(Reel 23, Box 26B) Shrove Tuesday Obs, several days and places 1 – 3 March 1938 On 1 March obs asking if children were having pancakes, some said yes and some no.  He talked to footballing boys at Back Kent Street, Talbots on Deansgate, Woods on Vernon Street, Scofield, a butcher on Deansgate, Liptons Corporation Street, Hampson’ s Liverpool Street.  2 March dance at Aspins and then dance at St Joseph’s Halliwell I shall give up smoking, drinking and eating sweets and probably the pictures as well, but I am having a Bloody good time tonight!  Then 3 March, Dance at Westhoughton Catholic club and he talks to people about what they are giving up for Lent. (Also investigation pre Christmas into whether shop sold simnel cakes)

(Reel 22 Box23C) Catholic Crusade at Spinners Hall, 9/3/38

(Reel23, Box26D) April Fools Day 1/4/1938

(Reel 30, Box 37A) police court 4-8/4/1937 (?)

(Reel 34 Box 45D) conversation 16/4/?

(Reel 24, Box 29C) Open air market three reports, 26/4/1938

(Reel 24 Box 42D) ‘follows’ 27/4/38

(Reel 34 Box 45D) 30/4/38 railway trips

(Reel 33 Box42E) Dog Shelter at Vernon Street visits, 1/5, 5/5 and 6/5/38

(Reel 24, Box 30A) suit shops in Bolton, 24/6/1938

(Reel 31 Box 38C) Council meeting, June 1938

(Reel 29, Box 36F) overheard 1/12/1938

…and Box26H Spring notices – which year?

(Reel23, Box 27F) conversations at a fairground 6/1/39


JW Joseph Wilcock

b. 1895 Farnworth, shop assistant with the co-op? (Working for the co-op was a prize job.  Good conditions, plenty of scope for advancement, physically safe job for life, pension). Or apprentice iron worker?  1911 lived at 241 Manchester Road, Walkden, Farnworth. One of Harrisson’s original outside full timers – engaged to work on religion.  JW had been working in an East End mission and had a name as a ‘Hedge Priest’ and was seduced back to Bolton for MO, although he had a wife living near Beverley it seems.  THH thought of him as a fundamentalist and JW was suspicious of THH as he thought THH would do something blasphemous with the material.  JW’s reports of religious services note the hymns, readings and words of the sermon – bland as anything compared to, say, Walter Hood’s which have life and comment on facial expressions, what people wore and so on.  Scores of observation reports.