Socialist Sunday School Collection

Scope and Content

The Socialist Sunday School collection comprises minutes, correspondence, reports, text books, attendance registers, account books, petitions, pamphlets, song books, greeting cards, biographical material on leading comrades and other material relating to the Socialist Sunday Schools and later the Socialist Fellowship. The collection also includes the minutes and correspondence of Young Socialist journal committee and an almost complete run of the Young Socialist, 1901-1971.

The collection includes the minutes of the national body the British Council of Socialist Sunday Schools, 1909-1929; complete minutes of the National Executive Committee from 1926-1971; Conference minutes 1923-1971; School reports submitted to the N.E.C 1912-1971 (incomplete).

Local branch records of Sunday Schools are also represented in the collection, including Halifax, 1905-1956; Huddersfield, 1923-1934; Minutes of the Yorkshire Union 1912-1951; Minutes of the North of England Union 1951-57; Fulham 1903-1963; East Barking 1953-1959 and Bradford Great Horton Street, 1964-1975. There are also minutes of the London Union from 1966-1973.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the Socialist Sunday School movement can be traced back to the 1892 Great London Dock Strike. During the strike Mrs Mary Gray of Battersea organised a soup kitchen for children of the strikers and finding that many of them had little or no education she began to teach them about the causes of poverty. The movement soon spread and by 1912 there were approximately 120 Socialist Sunday Schools.

The Schools taught children about socialism and encouraged them to join the broader labour movement's fight for a fairer society. Central to the Socialist Sunday School teachings were the ten 'Socialist Precepts', which combined the principles of socialism and Christianity. The precepts paralleled the Ten Commandments of the Bible. For example, 'No. 4, Be just and fair to all men, Bow down or worship none; Judge man by what he tries to do, Or has already done'. Many labour activists were products of the Socialist Sunday School and the Labour Church Sunday Schools.

For the purpose of fair representation on its National Executive Committee theBritish Council of Socialist Sunday Schools divided the country into 3 groups (District Unions) namely Scotland, North of England and London and the South. District Unions were made up of schools in the area that were affiliated to the National Council. District Unions also paid an affiliation fee to the National Council for the number of Schools represented on the District.

The movement met a great deal of opposition from local authorities. It was perceived as a subversive, irreligious force and as a consequence prevented from holding meetings in many public buildings. Many of the schools were aligned to the Independent Labour Party (ILP). During the Inter-war period the movement declined, due to the effects of the First World War and also because of the split between the ILP and main Labour group in 1931. However Socialist Sunday Schools continued in some areas until the 1970s.

In 1965 the National Council of British Socialist Sunday Schools changed its name to The Socialist Fellowship.


The depositor Ivy Tribe arranged the collection and also provided a basic inventory. However the collection requires further sorting and listing.

Access Information

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

The collection was presented to the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society for safe keeping at their museum in Limehouse, London. The date of deposit is not known. Later the Ivy Tribe Socialist Sunday School collection became part of the National Museum of Labour History (now called the People's History Museum), which opened in Manchester in 1990.

The collection is now held at the Labour History Archives and Study Centre, which is based at the head office of the People's History Museum and managed by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.


Collection level description created by Janette Martin

Other Finding Aids

The depositor created an index, which is available for consultation at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre. In future this collection will be listed more fully.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication or reproduction of any material within the Archive. Please contact the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD Tel.: +44 (0)161 834 5343.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal, destruction or scheduling has taken place.

Custodial History

These papers were collection by Ivy Tribe, President of the Socialist Fellowship, and a supporter of the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

At the Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC) there are also related files in the Labour Party Archive (Middleton papers, 'Socialist Sunday Schools and the Woodcraft Folk 1926-1938; Morgan Phillips Papers, 'Specialist Sunday Schools' and 'Young Socialists', box 6). The Crowther collection also includes material on the Socialist Sunday School and the Labour Church.

The People's History Museum holds the objects, ephemera and banners, which were also deposited as part of the Ivy Tribe Socialist Sunday School Collection.

The minute book of the Southend Socialist Sunday School, 1902-15 is held at the Marx Memorial Library; Records from the Glasgow and District Socialist Sunday Schools Union, 1931-58 and the Scottish Socialist Sunday Schools Union, 1906-32 are held by Glasgow City Archives; The minutes of the Edinburgh Socialist Sunday School, 1907-1931 are held at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division and the minutes of the Saltcoats and District Socialist Sunday School, 1916-1917 are held at North Ayrshire Library whilst the administrative and financial records, 1916-1942 are held at the Ayrshire Archives.


See, John Trevor - The Labour ChurchAnd Socialist Sunday Schools, by Bernard Mends MA RMN, November 1996, available on line at