Waterloo Lodge in the snow
Michael Meadowcroft & Liz Bee

Local & Liberal History

Michael's involvement with history, Liberal and local, began with his MPhil research into "Transition in Leeds City Government 1903-26" at Bradford University from 1975 to 1978. This was just in time to track down local politicians - and particularly Labour pioneers - active from the beginning of the twentieth century. His interview notes and other research material have been used for a great deal of local research since then. He has also put together an extensive reference library, including many items of local and political ephemera. In 2007 Michael unveiled a blue plaque in memory of Leonora Cohen, a remarkable Leeds suffragette whom he interviewed thirty years earlier when she was aged 103!

His thesis was followed by him inaugurating the Liberal History Group in 1980. The speaker at one of its Liberal Assembly fringe meeting was Stephen Wilson, the last secretary of the Rainbow Circle.

Also in 1980 he contributed the chapter on the inter-war years, "The years of political transition", in the History of Modern Leeds, edited by Derek Fraser and published by the Manchester University Press.

His articles in Liberal journals and his own publications, including the three booklets on social democracy, the Left and the Right respectively (see Liberalism) drew heavily on lessons to be drawn from Liberal history.

In 2008 he became Chair of the Trustees of The Leeds Library - the oldest subscription library in the UK, having been founded in 1768 - and inaugurated an annual series of lectures on Leeds politicians.

Michael has also lectured on The Leeds Peace Convention of 1917, Leeds in the 1880s and on Mary Gawthorpe.

Lectures in 2015:

Leeds Library lectures 2015 - the final series. PLEASE NOTE change of dates

The lectures start at 12.45pm with tea and coffee available from 12.30pm.
Download the revised flyer.

It is hoped that one day we can put these lectures on the website! In the meantime, for more details about any of the following subjects, or to contribute to, or comment on any of them, please contact Michael. The Power Point file of the images connected with a lecture can be supplied on a memory stick.

Josh Walsh

Jos Walsh (1901-1984)

Wednesday 22nd April 2015

Labour Councillor, 1932 to 1951, and Alderman 1952 to 1968. Lord Mayor 1966. Chairman of Leeds Education Committee for twenty-two years and a great educational pioneer in the City.

Joseph henry

Joseph Henry (1845-1923)

Wednesday 27th May 2015

Liberal Councillor, 1887 to 1892 and 1894 to 1906, Alderman 1892-1894 and 1920-1922, Lord Mayor 1918. Leader, Leeds City Council Liberal Group, 1895 to 1906. Known as "the uncrowned King of Holbeck"! Herbert Gladstone's key man in Leeds throughout his thirty years as MP.

Michael Meadowcroft

"Leeds Politicians - A Final Roundup"

Wednesday 24th June 2015

What do the thirty politicians covered over the past eight years have in common? How have they changed Leeds over 175 years of more or less democratic elections? How have politics changed in the City? Which other men and women have played influential roles? Is there a future for municipal democracy?

Lectures in 2014:

John Gordon

John Gordon (1854-1925)

Tuesday 23rd September 2014

Conservative Councillor, 1883-1896, and Alderman, 1896-1904. Conservative Leader 1886-1904. Described by Liberal Leader, George Ratcliffe, as "the ablest debater I have seen in my thirty-six years of service."

James O'Grady

James O'Grady (1866-1934)

Tuesday 21st October 2014

First Labour MP in Leeds, elected 1906. Served until 1924 when appointed as Governor Tasmania, 1924-31, and then Governor of the Falkland Islands. Labour Councillor in Bristol, 1897-99.

Elaine Burton

Elaine Burton, later Baroness Burton of Coventry (1904-91)

Tuesday 25th November 2014

A pupil at Leeds Modern School, a teaching training student at Beckett Park college and a teacher in Leeds, 1924-35, she has an interesting political history: Common Wealth candidate 1943, Labour candidate 1945, Labour MP for Coventry 1950-59, and created a Life Peer in 1962. Often regarded as on the Left of party, but joined the SDP in 1981.

James Kitson

Sir James Kitson, later Baron Airedale, (1835-1911)

Tuesday 16th December 2014

MP for Colne Valley 1892-1907, Lord Mayor of Leeds 1896-97. The moving spirit behind the development of the Monkbridge Iron Works and the Airedale Foundry. President of the National Liberal Federation, 1883-91.

Lectures in 2013:

Into the Arena, Leeds Jews and Leeds Politicians - for Jewish Genealogical Society (March)

Mary Gawthorpe, the launch of the Gawthorpe Papers - for Leeds Local Family and History Library (June)

Previous Leeds Library lectures:


Alice Bacon

Alice Bacon (1909-1993)

Leeds Labour MP, 1945-1970, and the first woman MP in Leeds. She was a junior Minister for six years. After retiring from the House of Commons she was made a life peer.

Sir George Martin

Sir George Martin (1884-1976)

A prominent Leeds Conservative and City Councillor. Freeman of the City and Lord Mayor of Leeds. Director of leading clothing company.

Alf Mattison

Alf Mattison (1868-1944)

Socialist pioneer and local historian. Prolific writer on labour issues and on Leeds history.
A printed version of the lecture is here. An edited version is to appear in the "Biographical Dictionary of ILP Politicians", see ILP website.

Herbert Gladstone

Herbert Gladstone (1854-1930)

Leeds Liberal MP, 1880-1910, thereafter Viscount Gladstone when he was made Governor-General of South Africa. Youngest son of William Ewart Gladstone.


James Milner

James Milner (1889-1967)

Thursday, 13th September 2012

One of the first professional recruits to Labour in Leeds. Served with distinction in the First World War. Leeds City Councillor, Member of Parliament and Labour peer.

George Ratcliffe

George Ratcliffe (1863-1940)

Thursday, 11th October 2012

Holbeck Councillor, Alderman and Lord Mayor, Liberal Whip and Leeds Party Leader.

Mary Gawthorpe

Mary Gawthorpe (1881-1973)

Thursday, 15th November 2012

Local teacher, Leeds suffragette, WSPU organiser and active Socialist.

Frank Marshall

Frank Marshall (1915-1990)

Thursday, 13th December 2012

Leeds Solicitor, Conservative Councillor, Alderman and Leeds Party Leader. Became Life Peer.


John Badlay

John Badlay (1860-1944)

Labour pioneer and one of the earliest Labour Leeds City Councillors.

He was Leeds Labour leader, 1908-12 and Lord Mayor, 1937. He was expelled by his party and ended his career as an Independent Councillor.

Isabella Ford

Isabella Ford (1855-1924)

A member of a prominent Quaker family in middle-class Adel, Isabella Ford was a founder of the Tailoresses Union, a member of the Independent Labour Party and an active suffragette.

William Lawies Jackson

William Lawies Jackson (1840-1917)

Leeds Conservative MP 1880-1902, when created Lord Allerton. He combined Parliament with being leader of the Conservative Group on Leeds City Council. In 1895 he became the first Conservative Mayor since the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act.

Fred Spark

Frederick Spark (1831-1919)

Radical Liberal Councillor and Alderman. Magistrate, and the Honorary Secretary of the Leeds Musical Festival for thirty years from 1877. He was the printer and publisher of the weekly newspaper The Leeds Express.


Edward Allen Brotherton

Edward Allen Brotherton (1856-1930)

A shrewd and successful businessman, Edward Brotherton was prominent in the civic life of Wakefield and Leeds. Possibly the greatest individual benefactor of the University of Leeds.

Charles Jenkinson

Charles Jenkinson (1887-1949)

A clergyman and a socialist, Charles Jenkinson was above all a man in a hurry. In three short years as Chair of the City Council's Housing Committee, Jenkinson transformed the City's housing policy

Jessie Beatrice Kitson

Jessie Beatrice Kitson (1876-1965)

The first woman Lord Mayor of Leeds and one of the first women magistrates in the City, Beatrice Kitson was a determinedly independent civic figure and yet another leading Leeds citizen from the Mill Hill Chapel.

Charles Wilson

Charles Wilson (1859-1930)

Arguably the most remarkable Leeds City Council leader ever. Councillor and Alderman from 1890 to 1928. MP for Leeds Central, 1923-29. Accountant, Justice of the Peace and Freeman of the City.


Robert Meek Carter

Robert Meek Carter (1844-1882)

A Chartist Councillor and MP, and a self educated farm worker who became a businessman and political activist, Robert Meek Carter's career provides a vivid study of radicalism, personal ambition and local politics.

T Edmund Harvey

T Edmund Harvey (1875-1955)

Community worker, pacifist and Liberal MP, T Edmund Harvey was a gentle but determined advocate for his Quaker beliefs and principles. He saw his role as being to give political expression to the causes he consistently espoused.

Hyman Morris

Hyman Morris (1873-1955)

A Jewish immigrant who fled from the Russian Empire, Hyman Morris became a leader of his community in Leeds, a very successful businessman and a Conservative Councillor, Alderman and the first Jewish Lord Mayor of his adopted city.

Bertha Quinn

Bertha Quinn (1872-1951)

Catholic, socialist, suffragette and trade unionist, Bertha Quinn was a formidable but difficult individual who espoused causes with great passion but little diplomacy.


T Walter Harding

T Walter Harding (1843-1927)

Harding was a manufacturer of pins for the textile industry and a Liberal Unionist politician.

John Shackleton Mathers

John Shackleton Mathers (1844-1899)

By profession a building society manager, he was a brilliant party agent at a time of political volatility. Had he been heeded - and have lived longer - it is possible that the rise of Labour in Leeds could have been fended off.

John Hope Shaw

John Hope Shaw (1792-1864)

Three times Mayor of Leeds and a Liberal Councillor of remarkable foresight and ability, he was instrumental in the municipal initiative which brought clean drinking water into Leeds from the valleys to the north of the city.

John Craig Walker

John Craig Walker (1880-1969)

A man who was a dedicated trade unionist and, through curious circumstances, became Leeds' only Communist councillor.


NB. A number of articles and reviews on the Liberalism pages are on local or Liberal history.