A. J. Mundella

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A. J. Mundella
A. J. Mundella 0001.jpg
President of the Board of Trade
In office
17 February 1886 – 20 July 1886
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
Preceded by Hon. Edward Stanhope
Succeeded by Hon. Frederick Stanley
In office
18 August 1892 – 28 May 1894
Monarch Queen Victoria
Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
The Earl of Rosebery
Preceded by Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
Succeeded by James Bryce
Personal details
Born (1825-03-28)28 March 1825
Leicester, Leicestershire
Died 21 July 1897(1897-07-21) (aged 72)
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Mary Smith

Anthony John Mundella PC (28 March 1825 – 21 July 1897), known as A. J. Mundella, was an English manufacturer, reformer and Liberal Party politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1868 to 1897. He served under William Ewart Gladstone as President of the Board of Trade in 1886 and from 1892 to 1894. [1]

Early life

Mundella was born in Leicester, England, the first of five children of Antonio Mondelli (later known as Anthony Mundella), a refugee from Lombardy, of uncertain background, and his wife Rebecca Allsopp of Leicester.[2] He was baptised on 15 August 1826 at the Great Meeting nonconformist chapel in Leicester.

He attended the Church of England school of St Nicholas in Leicester, an establishment maintained by the National Society to provide elementary education for children from poor homes, until the age of nine.[2] He then started work in a printing office as a printer's devil. At eleven he was apprenticed to William Kempson, whose business made cuffs, ruffs, tippets, mantillas, boots, shoes, slippers and hosiery.

At 15 Mundella became politically engaged and enrolled as a Chartist, becoming increasingly involved in the movement. He became adept at writing political ballads and while still 15 heard his compositions sung on the streets and at political meetings.

Manufacturing career

He worked in the hosiery trade and became a partner in the firm of Hine and Mundella, manufacturers of Nottingham, Loughborough, and elsewhere. He was Sheriff of Nottingham in 1852. In 1859 Mundella originated and organised the first Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration to settle disputes between capital and labour. He was a J.P. for Middlesex and for Nottingham Borough and was an Alderman, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Board of Arbitration for Nottingham.[3]

Political career

Anthony Mundella c1895
Mundella by Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1894

Mundella was elected as Member of Parliament for Sheffield in the 1868 general election. He had been asked to stand by trade unionist William Dronfield, to defend the interests of labour in the wake of the Sheffield Outrages. He served as President of the second day of the first ever Co-operative Congress in 1869.[4] When the Sheffield constituency was divided under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he was elected as MP for Sheffield Brightside, a seat he held until his death.[5]

Having made a close study of the educational systems of Germany and Switzerland, Mundella was an early advocate of compulsory education in England. He rendered valuable service in connexion with the Elementary Education Act of 1870, and the educational code of 1882, which became known as the "Mundella Code," marked a new departure in the regulation of public elementary schools and the conditions of the Government grants. To his initiative was chiefly due the Factory Act of 1875, which established a ten-hours day for women, and children in textile factories; and the Conspiracy Act, which removed certain restrictions on trade unions. It was he also who established the labour department of the board of trade and founded the 'Labour Gazette'. He introduced and passed bills for the better protection of women and children in brickyards and for the limitation of their labours in factories;. and he effected substantial improvements in the Mines Regulation Bill, and was the author of much other useful legislation. In recognition of his efforts, a marble bust of Mundella, by Boehm, subscribed for by 80,000 factory workers, chiefly women and children, was presented to Mrs Mundella.[6][7] The bust, now restored, is situated in the Bromley House Library in Nottingham. There is also an original oil painting of Mundella by A J Black on the second floor. An oil portrait by Arthur Stockdale Cope was also presented, and hung in the Mayor's parlour in Sheffield, and is now in the library. Both the Boehm bust and the Cope painting are the property of Mundella Grammar School.[8]

Mundella served under William Ewart Gladstone as Vice-President of the Committee on Education between 1880 and 1885. He then served under Gladstone and later Lord Rosebery as President of the Board of Trade (with a seat in the cabinet) in 1886 and between 1892 and 1894. In 1880 he was sworn of the Privy Council.[9]

The system of price regulation, which, as President of the Board of Trade he imposed upon rail freight, was a disaster for the railways and, in the longer term, for the railways' customers. It was based on the fallacious, but widely held assumption, that the cost of moving a ton of freight was proportional to the distance moved. In fact, the cost per ton mile depends mainly on the number of tons being carried and the amount of loading and unloading involved. It does not cost very much more to move 100 tons 100 miles, than to move them 1 mile. The practical consequence was that the railways had to turn away traffic, that could be efficiently and profitably moved by rail, whilst they were not permitted to raise prices for unprofitable traffic.[citation needed]

Mundella's 1894 resignation from the Board of Trade was brought about by his connection with a financial company which went into liquidation in circumstances calling for the official intervention of the Board. However innocent his own connection with the company was, it involved him in unpleasant public discussion, and his position became untenable.[7]

Personal life

On 12 March 1844 Mundella married Mary Smith, the daughter of a warehouseman of Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire. They had two children, Eliza Ellen and Maria Theresa. While Mundella was a manufacturer they lived in a house in The Park Estate in Nottingham, and after moving to London when he became an MP they lived, firstly, in Dean's Yard in Westminster and, when he was elevated to the Cabinet, in a large house in Elvaston Place in Kensington.

The crash of the company which had been the cause of Mundella's resignation left him in financial difficulties, but he was fortified by the receipt of a Civil List pension which allowed him to continue to live in Elvaston Place.

His wife had died on 11 December 1890. On 14 July 1897 Mundella suffered what was believed to be a stroke. He died on 21 July 1897. After a memorial service at St Margaret's, Westminster his body was taken to Nottingham and was buried in the Mundella vault in the Church Cemetery there where his parents, his wife, and his youngest brother had been previously interred.


  1. ^ Smith, Elder & Co. 1901.
  2. ^ a b W H G Armytage, A.J.Mundella 1825-1897, The Liberal Background to the Labour Movement, Ernest Benn Limited, London, 1951
  3. ^ Debretts Guide to the House of Commons 1886
  4. ^ Congress Presidents 1869–2002 (PDF), February 2002, archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2008, retrieved 10 May 2008
  5. ^ Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Anthony Mundella
  6. ^ http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/16th-august-1884/3/mr-mundella-received-last-saturday-in-manchester-a
  7. ^ a b Dictionary of National Biography 1901.
  8. ^ http://www.mundella.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=157:mundella-appeal-more-news&catid=55&Itemid=205
  9. ^ The London Gazette, 4 May 1880

"Mundella, Anthony John" . Dictionary of National Biography (1st supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1901. pp. 209–212.;

DNB references

These references are found in the DNB article referred to above:

  • Private information
  • Hansard's Debates
  • Revue des Deux Mondes, 1898
  • Pamphlet biography published by the Sheffield Independent Company in 1897

External links

  • Brief biography at the University of Sheffield Library
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Anthony John Mundella
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Arthur Roebuck
George Hadfield
Member of Parliament for Sheffield
With: George Hadfield, to 1874;
John Arthur Roebuck, 1874–1879;
Samuel Danks Waddy, 1879–1880;
Charles Stuart-Wortley, 1880–1885
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside
Succeeded by
Frederick Maddison
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord George Hamilton
Vice-President of the Committee on Education
Succeeded by
Hon. Edward Stanhope
Preceded by
Hon. Edward Stanhope
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
Hon. Frederick Stanley
Preceded by
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
James Bryce
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