ILP occupying Kingsley Hall, by Lilly Harper

5th October 2023

Focus: Independent Labour Party (ILP) occupying Kingsley Hall

It is hard to see beyond what we have only ever known. As such, it is difficult to imagine Kingsley Hall in 1911 as a puzzle piece fitting into an international political jigsaw.

This blog will discuss the Independent Labour Party’s activities in 1911, the year they reopened 59 Old Market Street as ‘Kingsley Hall’, the headquarters of the Bristol branch of the ILP.

First, introductions. The ILP was a socialist and labour organisation formed in 1893 which hoped to replace Britian’s capitalist infrastructure with “a classless society with all economic resources communally owned”. Lacking the popularity and internal structure of the major political parties, in 1975, the ILP identified itself as a political pressure group.

The ILP named 59 Old Market Street after Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) who was a socialist, Anglican clergyman and writer of both literary and historical works. Kingsley concerned himself with social problems and advocated discourse both through his literature and alternatively, coming to be one of the founding members of the Christian Socialist movement in 1848. As such, one can suggest ILP named Kingsley Hall in Charles’ memory as he represented a desire for radical reform that ascended class boundaries.

Pamphlets and leaflets published by the ILP in 1911 cover a broad range of matters, the most identified and prevalent being matters of: socialism, trade unionism, wages, railway strikes, the coal industry, opposition to workhouses, child welfare and education, foreign policy, anti-colonialism and of course internal ILP logistics, meetings and visions for the future.

In 1911, a Daily Newspaper Committee met to discuss the proposal of a daily socialist newspaper linked to the ILP, indicative of popular socialist discourse and an engaged audience.

Moreover, records show correspondence between party branches and external individuals and groups all over Britain in 1911 as well as America, Australia, Belgium, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Egypt, France, Greece, India, Iraq, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

As such, through the exploration of Kingsley Hall’s past occupants, specifically the ILP, one can discover a rich history of interconnectedness and desire to fight for social change. In 1911 alone, Kingsley Hall’s first year being named such, its inhabitants were part of a popular and far-reaching political party that advocated for the working class and other disadvantaged groups such as women and the suffrage movement as well as political activist groups representing colonised countries. In its additional 316 years of existence, Kingsley Hall must have much more to tell us.


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