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The structure of elite power in the early twentieth-century city: Norwich, 1900–35

  • Barry M. Doyle (a1)

Through a study of middle-class power in Norwich in the first third of the twentieth century, this paper tests a number of hypotheses concerning the behaviour of British urban elites. Analysis of networks (freemasons, business organizations and family) assesses the level of social unification among the middle class; elite involvement in chapel, charities and voluntary organizations addresses the question of social leadership; whilst elite politics is considered through three questions: did they become unified behind a single anti-socialist stance? Did the more important members of the elite leave urban politics? And did they abandon faith in grand civic projects? Its conclusions suggest that the power and involvement of the elite continued into the 1930s, maintaining a positive approach to the scope and function of municipal authority.

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1 Trainor, R., ‘Urban elites in Victorian Britain’, Urban History Yearbook (1985), 117.

2 Morris, R.J., Class, Sect and Party in the Making of the British Middle Class: Leeds 1820–1850 (Manchester, 1990); Fraser, D. (ed.), A History of Modern Leeds (Manchester, 1980); Kidd, A.J. and Roberts, K.W. (eds), City, Class and Culture: Studies of Social Policy and Cultural Production in Victorian Manchester (Manchester, 1985); Garrard, J., Leadership and Power in Victorian Industrial Towns, 1830–80 (Manchester, 1983); Joyce, P., Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (London, 1980); Trainor, R.H., Black Country Elites: The Exercise of Authority in an Industrialized Area, 1830–1900 (Oxford, 1993); Hennock, E.P., Fit and Proper Persons: Ideal and Reality in Nineteenth Century Urban Government (London, 1973); Meller, H., Leisure and the Changing City, 1870–1914 (London, 1976); Yeo, S., Religion and Voluntary Organisations in Crisis (London, 1976). For developments in Wales and Scotland see Daunton, M.J., Coal Metropolis: Cardiff 1870–1914 (Leicester, 1977) and Morgan, N. and Trainor, R.H., ‘The dominant classes’, in Fraser, W. Hamish and Morris, R.J. (eds), People and Society in Scotland: Vol. II, 1830–1914 (Edinburgh, 1990).

3 Simon, S., A Century of City Government: Manchester 1838–1938 (Manchester, 1938); Chorley, K., Manchester Made Them (London, 1950); Lee, J.M., Social Leaders and Public Persons: A Study of County Government in Cheshire since 1888 (Oxford, 1963); Garrard, , Leadership and Power, Joyce, , Work, Society and Politics; Savage, M., The Dynamics of Working Class Politics: The Labour Movement in Preston, 1880–1940 (Cambridge, 1987).

4 Trainor, , Black Country Elites, esp. conclusion.

5 Jones, G.W., Borough Politics: A Study of the Wolverhampton Borough Council, 1888–1964 (London, 1969); Jones, P., ‘Politics’, in Nash, D. and Reeder, D. (eds), Leicester in the Twentieth Century (Stroud, 1993); Meadowcroft, M., ‘The years of political transition, 1914–39’, in Fraser, , Modern Leeds, 410–36; Carr, F., ‘Municipal socialism: Labour's rise to power’, in Lancaster, B. and Mason, T. (eds), Life and Labour in the Twentieth Century City: The Experience of Coventry (Coventry, 1986), 172203; Waller, P.J., Democracy and Sectarianism: A Political and Social History of Liverpool, 1868–1939 (Liverpool, 1981). For Edinburgh see McCrone, D. and Elliott, B., Property and Power in a City. The Sociological Significance of Landlordism (Basingstoke, 1989).

6 In addition to the works cited in note 2 see also, Perkin, H., The Origins of Modern English Society, 1780–1880 (London, 1969), 430–7; Hay, J.R., ‘Employers and social policy in Britain’, Social History, 2 (1977); Turner, J. (ed.), Businessmen and Politics: Studies of Business Activity in British Politics, 1900–1945 (London, 1984).

7 Blewett, N., The Peers, the Parties and the People: The British General Elections of 1910 (London, 1972); Searle, G.R., ‘The Edwardian Liberal party and business’, English Historical Review, 98 (1983), 2860; Clarke, P.F., ‘The end of laissez-faire and the politics of cotton’, Historical Journal, 15 (1972), 493512; Cook, C., ‘Labour and the downfall of the Liberal party, 1906–14’, in Sked, A. and Cook, C. (eds), Crisis and Controversy (London, 1976); Ramsden, J., The Age of Balfour and Baldwin, 1902–1940 (London, 1978).

8 Savage, , Dynamics of Working Class Politics; Savage, M., ‘Urban history and social class: two paradigms’, Urban History, 20, 1 (1993), esp. 72–6.

9 This study is based on an analysis of approximately 400 Liberal and Conservative mayors, sheriffs, aldermen, councillors, guardians, and unsuccessful candidates for the latter two posts, in the period 1900–39. Evidence was also collected on those who were politically committed but did not seek office, including members of political clubs, attendees at political meetings and officers and activists in ward organizations. For biographical sources see Doyle, B.M., ‘Middle class realignment and party politics in Norwich, 1990–1932’ (unpublished University of East Anglia Ph.D. thesis, 1990), 90–2 and footnotes. For the middle middle class, see Trainor, , Black Country Elites, Appendix 1.

10 Trainor, , Black Country Elites; Joyce, , Work, Society and Politics. For the ‘conventional’ approach, see Jones, , Borough Politics; Hennock, , Fit and Proper Persons; and Garrard, , Leadership and Power. For further discussion of elite recruitment in Norwich, see Doyle, B.M., ‘Urban Liberalism and the “lost generation”: politics and middle class culture in Norwich, 1900–1935’, Historical Journal, 38, 3 (1995).

11 Cambridge, Exeter, Chester and Worcester all had populations of less than 50,000; Bath, Oxford, Reading and York less than 100,000. Mitchell, B.R. with Deane, P., Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge, 1962).

12 Fraser, W.H., The Coming of the Mass Market, 1850–1914 (London, 1981).

13 Hawkins, C.B., Norwich: A Social Study (London, 1910); Edwards, J.K., ‘Industrial development of the city, 1800–1900’, in Barringer, C. (ed.), Norwich in the Nineteenth Century (Norwich, 1982); Sparkes, W.L., The Story of Shoemaking in Norwich (Northampton, 1949).

14 Cunningham, P., ‘Unemployment in Norwich during the nineteen thirties’ (unpublished University of East Anglia Ph.D. thesis, 1990).

15 Muthesius, S., ‘Nineteenth century Norwich houses’, in Barringer, , Nineteenth Century Norwich; and Travers, P., ‘The changing pattern of prestige rrsidence in Norwich, 1871–1971: a case study of the geography of segregation’ (unpublished University of East Anglia Ph.D. thesis, 1984).

16 Compare Savage, , Dynamics of Working Class Politics, 112–15 with Trainor, , Black Country Elites, 110; Cannadine, D., ‘Victorian cities: how different?’, Social History, 2 (1977); Jones, , Borough Politics, 207–9; Joyce, , Work, Society and Politics, ch. 1.

17 Cook, C., The Age of Alignment: Electoral Politics in Britain, 1922–29 (London, 1975), 6870.

18 Jones, , ‘Politics’.

19 For studies which include some discussion of marriage see Joyce, , Work, Society and Politics, 1518; Trainor, , Black Country Elites, esp. 73 and 121; Binfield, C., So Down To Prayers (London, 1977); Benwell Community Project Final Report Series 6, The Making of a Ruling Class: Two Centuries of Capital Development on Tyneside (Newcastle, 1978), 38 and Appendix I.

20 For further discussion of these marriage patterns see Doyle, , ‘Urban Liberalism’, 628, and ‘Middle class realignment’, ch. 6.

21 Eastern Daily Press [hereafter EDP], 21 05 1929.

22 Finn, G.P.T., ‘In the grip? A psychological and historical exploration of the social significance of freemasonry in Scotland’, in Walker, G. and Gallagher, T. (eds), Sermons and Battle Hymns (Edinburgh, 1990), 160–92.

23 Jones, , Borough Politics, 136–7; Joyce, , Work, Society and Politics, 37; Trainor, , Black Country Elites, 78; Lee, , Social Leaders, 34; Savage, , Dynamics of Working Class Politics, 114.

24 Evidence on membership was collected from biographical dictionaries, obituaries, reports of funerals and the following sources which provided full or partial lists of members. Le Strange, H., History of Freemasonry in Norfolk, 1724–1895 (Norwich, 1896); Lord Amherst of Hackney and Le Strange, H., History of the Union Lodge, Norwich No. 52 (Norwich, n.d.[1896]); The Norwich Masonic Association, Twenty Sixth Annual Report of the Directors (Norwich, 1906) and Thirty-First Annual Report of the Directors (Norwich, 1911) [hereafter NMA Annual Report]; ‘Records relating to the registration of Lodges of Freemasons in Norfolk: list of members and occupations of members of Walpole Lodge 1500, 1925’, Norfolk Records Office [hereafter NRO] C/Scg 7/1/21; ‘Union Lodge of Freemasons: register of members 1864–1905’, NRO/SO9/26 465X.

25 NRO/C/Scg 7/1/21.

26 Amherst, and Strange, Le, Union Lodge, 134–50; NRO/SO9/26 465X.

27 The Liberal group did include a defector to the Liberal Unionists who subsequently served as an alderman, mayor three times, and chairman of the Unionist Association.

28 Compare NMA Annual Report, 1906 and 1911 with membership of the Norwich Master Builders Association reported in EDP, 22 03 1902, 24 March 1904 and 23 March 1905.

29 For similar links in Wolverhampton see Jones, , Borough Politics, 137.

30 McKenna, J.A. and Rodger, R.G., ‘Control by coercion: employers' associations and the establishment of industrial order in the building industry of England and Wales, 1860–1914’, Business History Review, 59 (1985), 203–31; Norwich and District Master Builders' Association, 11th Annual Report (Norwich, 1909).

31 Cherry, S., Doing Different?: Politics and the Labour Movement in Norwich, 1880–1914 (Norwich, 1989), 3740 and 5560; Hawkins, , Norwich, 36–7; Board of Trade, Directory of Industrial Associations in the United Kingdom in 1907 (London, 1907).

32 Doyle, B.M., ‘The development of the Norwich Chamber of Commerce, 1896–1930’, Norfolk Archaeology (forthcoming, 1998).

33 Hay, , ‘Employers and social policy’.

34 Doyle, , ‘Chamber of Commerce’.

35 Jones, , Borough Politics, 130–1; Carr, , ‘Municipal socialism’, 173 and 177.

36 Binfield, , Down to Prayers; Gilbert, A.D., Religion and Society in Industrial England (London, 1976).

37 Gilbert, , Religion and Society, Fig. 2.2, 39. The Congregationalists and Baptists were both larger than the national average, the Methodists, especially the Wesleyans, smaller. Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, 3744 and Doyle, B.M., ‘Gender, class and Congregational culture in early twentieth century Norwich’, Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society, 5/6 (1995), 317–35.

38 Jewson, C.B., The Baptists in Norfolk (London, 1957); Doyle, , ‘Congregational culture’. For a similar example of a strong dry centre congregation see Binfield, C., ‘The building of a town centre church: St James's Congregational church, Newcastle upon Tyne’, Northern History, 18 (1982).

39 Doyle, , ‘Congregational culture’, 331–2; Anon., 1910/1960: Fifty Years of Baptist Witness: The Story of Silver Road (Norwich, 1960).

40 Doyle, , ‘Congregational culture’, 326. Compare Savage, , ‘Two paradigms’, 74 and n. 41.

41 Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, ch. 3.

42 Membership figures for the main city centre chapels had returned to pre-war levels by 1929, though some of the working-class churches were experiencing decline: Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, 44.

43 Doyle, , ‘Congregational culture’, 325–7 and 330; Palgrave-Moore, P., The Mayors and Lord Mayors of Harwich, 1836–1974 (Norwich, 1978).

44 Yeo, , Voluntary Organisations.

45 Mardle, J., R.J. Colman, 1861–1946 (Norwich, 1954).

46 Yeo, , Voluntary Organisations.

47 Kidd, A.J., ‘Charity organisation and the unemployed in Manchester, c. 1870–1914’, Social History, 9 (1984), 5960. See also Laybourn, K., ‘The Guild of Help and the changing face of Edwardian philanthropy’, Urban History, 20 (1993), 4360 and Moore, M.J., ‘Social work and social welfare: the organization of philanthropic resources in Britain, 1900–14’, Journal of British Studies (1977), 85104.

48 Norwich District Visiting Society [hereafter NDVS], Annual Report, 1912 (Norwich, 1913).

49 Toynbee, H.V. and Kay, H.A., Norwich: Its Endowed and Voluntary Charities (Norwich, 1909).

50 Fifteenth and Final Report of the Norwich Charity Organisation Society, 1912–1914 (Norwich, 1914). Norwich did not have a branch of the Guild of Help as implied by Moore, , ‘Social work’, 95 and picked up by Laybourn, , ‘Guild of Help’, 49.

51 Hawkins, , Norwich, 160 and 165; NDVS, Annual Report, 1908 (Norwich, 1909) and 1909 (Norwich, 1910).

52 See collection of news cuttings relating to the flood, NRO/N/ED/11/18, 58–118.

53 Kent, P., ‘Norwich 1914–18’, in Gliddon, G. (ed.), Norfolk and Suffolk in the Great War (Norwich, 1988); Colman, H.C., Sydney Cozens-Hardy: A Memoir (Norwich, 1944).

54 EDP, 12 03 1987. Jones's comments on Rotary and Round Table membership are clearly influenced by their profile post-Second World War and do not cast much light on their place in our period: Jones, , Borough Politics, 135–6.

55 EDP, 15 01 1920.

56 See the speech of the Mayor, Lord, Samuel, A.M., EDP, 5 03 1913. For similar criticisms of the multiples from Marchesi in the later 1920s, EDP, 2 March 1928.

57 Clarke, P.F., Lancashire and the New Liberalism (Cambridge, 1971); Clarke, , ‘End of laissez faire’; Cook, , ‘Downfall of the Liberal party’; Searle, , ‘Liberal party and business’; Bernstein, G.L., ‘Liberalism and the Progressive Alliance in the constituencies 1900–1914: three case studies’, Historical Journal, 26 (1983), 617–40.

58 Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, chs 3 and 8.

59 Craig, F.W.S., British Parliamentary Election Results, 1885–1918 (London, 1974), 622–3; Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, 52–5.

60 EDP, 31 10 1901; Bernstein, , ‘Progressive alliance’, 623–4; Whitemore, F., ‘The Labour party, municipal politics and municipal elections in Norwich, 1903–1933’, Kent Papers in Politics and International Relations, ser. 1, 13 (Canterbury, 1992).

61 Cherry, , Doing Different?, 7782; EDP, 2 11 1910. For an intelligent reading of prewar pacts see Adams, T., ‘Labour and the First World War: economy, politics and the erosion of local peculiarities’, Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 10 (1990), 2347.

62 EDP, 2 11 1920.

63 Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, ch. 3.

64 This was not a uniform response. Leeds saw the revival of a radical Liberal challenge from 1926, as did Nottingham, but in both Leicester and Wolverhampton pacts with the Tories were strengthened. Cook, , Age of Alignment, ch. 3; Meadowcroft, , ‘Political transition’; Jones, , ‘Politics’, 99.

65 Doyle, , ‘Urban Liberalism’, 632–3.

66 For resistance to branch mergers in a middle-class ward, see Minutes of Norwich Conservative Association, June 1935, NRO/SO 122/4.

67 Mardle, , R.J. Colman.

68 Doyle, , ‘Middle class realignment’, 6585; EDP, 26 11 1920; Palgrave-Moore, , Mayors and Lord Mayors.

69 See Doyle, , ‘Urban liberalism’, for evidence of occupational, religious and educational backgrounds during this period, esp. Table 1, 624.

70 For the conflict between ‘modernizers’ and ‘economizers’ see Daunton, , Coal Metropolis; McCrone, & Elliott, , Property and Power; Jones, L.J., ‘Public pursuit of private profit? Liberal businessmen and municipal politics in Birmingham, 1865–1900’, Business History, 25 (1983), 240–63; Carr, , ‘Municipal socialism’, 175.

71 EDP, 31 10 1901.

72 See EDP coverage between 15 01 1920 and 2 02 1920.

73 EDP, 2 02 1920.

74 NRO/NTC51/15; EDP, 9 October 1926. There are three books of news cuttings relating to the activities of the Chamber of Commerce Rates subcommittee 1926–33, in the library of the Norwich Chamber of Commerce. I am grateful to the Chamber for providing copies of these books and to Sally Japp for her help.

75 EDP, 7 10 1926; Facts, 04 1927.

76 NRO/NTC 51/15.

77 Norwich Chamber of Commerce, Annual Report, 1927 (Norwich, 1928); NRO/NTC51/15; EDP, 18 July 1928. For a contrary view which sees the Conservatives and Liberals wedded to the idea of economy see Cunningham, , ‘Unemployment in Norwich’, 127–8.

78 EDP, 6 01 1933.

79 Ibid., 7 January 1933.

80 Ibid. Braund denied that either the Chamber of Commerce or the Rates Reduction Campaign were involved directly in the opposition. EDP, 30 December 1932.

81 See copy of the leaflet in Chamber of Commerce News Cuttings, vol. 3 and comments by Braund, , Eastern Evening News, 9 01 1933.

82 For an anti-purchase letter signed by Ethel Colman, her brother-in-law, E.T. Boardman, her uncle, Sydney Cozens-Hardy and his business partner, Frank Jewson, see EDP, 10 01 1933.

83 Ibid., 11 January 1933.

84 Yeo, , Voluntary Organisations; Campbell, J., Lloyd George: The Goat in the Wilderness (London, 1977), 187201.

85 Carr, , ‘Municipal socialism’; Jones, , Borough Politics; McCrone, and Elliott, , Property and Power, Jones, , ‘Polities’, 92102.

* Versions of this paper were given to the Urban History Group Conference, ‘Elites in Urban in History’, Edinburgh, March 1995 and the ‘Mid-West Conference on British Studies’, Ann Arbor, Michigan, November 1995. I am very grateful to the Overseas Conference Grants section of the British Academy, and the Special Staff Travel Fund and the Department of History at the University of Durham for financial assistance towards the completion and presentation of this research.

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