Sunday, 19 August 2007

Chartist Lives: Samuel Kydd

Kydd[1] was born on 22nd February 1815 in Arbroath, Forfarshire, the second son of James Kydd. He first came to public attention in 1837 in York when he issued a pamphlet which contributed to a national debate about joint-stock banks; his arguments that such banks should issue paper money were an early indication of a deep interest in financial and economic matters. Kydd’s circumstances had dramatically changed by the early 1840s when he featured in the Chartist press as a Glasgow shoemaker. He was soon in demand as a Chartist lecturer. Throughout the north of England in 1843–4, he sought to refute the arguments of the Complete Suffrage Union and the Anti-Corn Law League. Having established himself as Chartism’s most persuasive protectionist lecturer, Kydd relocated to London. As secretary of the Chartist executive in 1848–9 he was at the centre of the movement’s activities. Unlike other executive members, he managed to escape arrest, and, without going to the official polls, was twice (in Greenwich in 1847 and the West Riding in 1848) a Chartist parliamentary candidate. During these years, Kydd continued to undertake extensive lecture tours, especially in the north and in Scotland.

Though greatly liked and respected by the Chartist rank and file, Kydd decided to realign himself. By 1850 he was a close associate of Richard Oastler and a fully fledged Tory radical, arguing in his lectures and journal articles for factory reform and the reintroduction of tariffs. He became Oastler’s secretary, and, using the memorabilia he now had access to, produced, under the pseudonym ‘Alfred’, a History of the Factory Movement (1857); it remains a valuable document for students of the subject. Kydd had long desired to enter the legal profession. In 1858, he was admitted to Gray’s Inn, and in 1861 was called to the bar. Kydd lived during the second part of his life with his wife, Mary Ann Appleford (d. 1898), in Sutton, Surrey, and operated from chambers in the Middle Temple. Until the late 1880s, he practised on the northern circuit and appeared at the York assizes. Shortly before his death, he published A Sketch of the Growth of Public Opinion (1888). A man of outstanding ability, Samuel Kydd died at his home, Holly Cottage, Sutton, on 21st December 1892. He left no children.

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[1] Sources: S. Roberts ‘Samuel Kydd’, in S. Roberts Radical politicians and poets in early Victorian Britain, 1993, pages 107–27, Arbroath Herald, 19th January 1893, Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 14th January 1893 and J. Foster Men-at-the-bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various inns of court, 2nd edition, 1885. Archives: Newcastle upon Tyne Central Library: letters.

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