Meeting Report March 2019
Unfortunately, we had to make a last minute change to
the published programme due to the unavailability of Oliver Cooper, who
was to have been our speaker for the month. Stepping in, ELHAS members
Jacki and Bob Lawrence delivered an illustrated talk entitled "Stalwarts
of Leeds - a look at the lives of Leonora Cohen and Sir Montague Burton".
Jacki and Bob work together delivering talks, with Bob taking care of
the technical side and Jacki exercising her vocal chords and doing what
she does best - talking.
Jacki began the talk by explaining that although the title, 'Stalwarts
of Leeds', was a wide ranging subject, she was only going to speak about
two people that evening, Leonora Cohen and Sir Montague Burton.
with Leonora Cohen, Jacki recounted her early life in Leeds, showing how
the early death of her father, stone carver Canova Throp, and the subsequent
hardships the family suffered, coloured Leonora's political views. It
was what she experienced as a child that caused her to join the Women's
Social and Political Union as an adult - the Suffragettes.
As a prominent suffragette, Leonora took part in many demonstrations and
marches and was also involved in acts of civil disobedience which resulted
in jail sentences. The audience were intrigued and amused to hear of some
of her most famous exploits,
such as the occasion in 1913 when she threw an iron bar at a jewel case
in the Tower of London smashing it, and was seized by Beefeaters. They
were even more amused to be told how Leonora escaped justice on a technicality,
the cost of the repairs to the case being critical, causing the jury not
to come to a satisfactory conclusion, and the case being thrown out.
Using Leonora's own words and many contemporary photographs, Jacki continued
with the story of Leonora's later political life. This included visiting
Europe and beyond to look at working conditions and opportunities particularly
for women. This saw Leonora holding office in such organisations as the
Leeds Trade and Labour Council and the Yorkshire Federation of Trades
Councils, the first woman to do so. The audience were amused again to
hear that Leonora, during her years as a Leeds magistrate, frequently
visited Armley jail, and on occasion saw the records that showed that
technically she was still out on licence from a stint in the prison in
1913. This meant that she could have been recalled back to jail at any
Jacki ended her talk about Leonora by quoting the words her husband Henry
Cohen had written about her in his will, leaving everyone in the room
glad to have been able to learn more about this remarkable woman.
on to Sir Montague Burton, Jacki began by explaining about his early life
in Russian Lithuania and his subsequent journey to England, fleeing anti-semitic
pogroms. Charting his first years in northern England, Jacki showed how,
from a borrowed starting capital of £100, he built the huge clothing
manufacturing empire that was known the world over.
Whilst again it was the use of contemporary images that showed the growth
of this vast empire, it was little anecdotes and quotes from Sir Montague
that showed the character of the man, who declared that his workers were
not hands but individuals, and strove to provide them with the best possible
Stating that the building of Hudson Road Mills was Sir Montague's greatest
achievement, Jacki showed photos of the work rooms of the factory and
the grounds which provided so many opportunities for the employees to
get involved in sport and many other leisure activities. The audience
were amazed to learn of the extent of the Burton Group operations and
there were gasps of disbelief when told how the canteen at Hudson Road
Mills could serve 10,000 meals within an hour.
But it was not just Sir Montague's achievements in the manufacturing world
which held the attention of the audience. It was also his charity work
and his contribution to the war effort during
WW2, with management and the workforce raising the money to donate a Spitfire
to the Royal Air Force. Having been told that during WW2 Burton's also
supplied one quarter of the uniforms for the British Armed Forces, they
were perhaps not so surprised to be shown a map from the German War Office
showing Hudson Road Mills as a target for the Lufftwaffe.
Jacki continued to talk about the progress of the business following Sir
Montague's untimely death in 1952, bringing back many happy memories for
those there who had been employees at this huge Company. She ended the
talk with a quote from Sir Montague which showed the ethos by which this
great man had lived his life. Referring to charitable works he once said:
"We forget ourselves when we think of others. You have no idea how
much happiness we can feel if we are only charitable. The virtues, like
seven lamps, light up the world and everything seems bright".
The next meeting on Monday 29th April 2019 will be an illustrated talk
by Ann Lightman, Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery, entitled "Behind
the Chapel" This will be followed by our annual Pea & Pie Supper.
Oliver Cooper will deliver his talk "Fifteen Years of Archaeological
Investigation at Thorpe Park" on 24th June 2019.
1) Leonora Cohen. (from Wikipedia)
2) Leonora at Suffragette meeting in Harrogate - June1914 (from Leonora's
scrapbook, courtesy of Abbey House Museum)
3) Sir Montague Burton (from 'Ideals in Industry'
published in 1950 - out of print)
4) The Montague Bee - Spitfire donated to the RAF.