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A Tribute to

Gibbon Mitchell

(1869 - 1945)

Graphic - Gibbon MitchellThe Early Years

Gibbon was born in 1869 in a house built by his stonemason father on Malakoff Street, Stalybridge. His father had come over from Ovenden in the 1840's; an area outside Halifax well known for radical activities. As they were a Chartist family, there is no doubt Gibbon's socialism was learnt from his father at an early age.

Marriage to Hannah

Graphic - Gibbon, Hannah and son FrankWhilst working as a tailor's cutter in Bolton, Gibbon met a young woman called Hannah Webster, who was staying at the same lodging house. They soon developed a lasting friendship which led to marriage in 1895. Their son, Frank, an only child, was born soon after.

Political Activities

Hannah was drawn into Gibbon's already established socialist circles, which in turn strengthened her ideas on women's rights. As the nineteenth century saw a revival in the political activity of the working man and woman, Gibbon and Hannah were at the forefront of these activities. Gibbon, an early working class Fabian, helped to establish the Independent Labour Party (ILP), under Keir Hardie's leadership, whilst Hannah became a founder of the suffragette movement in Edwardian England and a tireless campaigner for equal rights for women.

In 1897 Gibbon gained a position in a small draper's shop in the south Derbyshire mining village of Newhall. As this meant an increase in salary, the family decided to move and rented a miner's cottage. They continued their political activities, with Gibbon joining the local ILP branch, while both he and Hannah were involved with Clarion meetings and in the opposition to the Boer War.

Three years went by before a better paid job in the tailoring department of the Ashton-under-Lyne Co-operative store meant a move to Tameside in 1900. They first settled in Ramsden Street but later moved to 43 Elizabeth Street. They soon became actively involved in the local community, once again joining the local branch of the ILP, with Gibbon become lecture secretary. With Hannah's help, they helped to set up a Labour church in 1901, a form of Sunday lecture meeting, often with religious overtones and extremely popular among many socialist groups in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Many famous socialists stayed at the Mitchells' home in Ashton-under-Lyne, whilst resting during their lecture tours.

Graphic - Gibbon Mitchell Blue PlaqueFrank's Dedication to his father

In later years, Gibbon's son, Frank, wrote of his father ... "he realised he would never be a public figure for he did not have the spirit of compromise, so necessary to hold a following. What he did have was a belief in working at the unspectacular task of local party organisation, to him Socialism was a commodity to sell and the ILP was the shop to sell it in. He was at most times a figure of controversy, feared but obeyed, for he never sought the glory" ...

Blue Plaque to Hannah Mitchell

A plaque paying tribute to Hannah was erected on 43 Elizabeth Street, Ashton-under-Lyne in March 1994, where the Mitchells lived until 1910.