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Political Associations

Constitutional or Liberal? Evidence of polarised political opinion in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
'Double click' on the photograph for larger pictures and more notes.

Sileby was (and is) no stranger to political debate and agitation. Villager's petitions presented to Parliament reveal their zeal in forwarding their viewpoints and feelings to the important topics of the day. In addition, parishioners held meetings locally about slavery, Parliamentary reform, Chartism and union representation.

Broadly speaking, in the Victorian period political opinion was divided down religious lines, split between the Whigs and Tories. The Tories generally represented the landed classes, farmers and the established church. On the other hand the Whigs tended to be nonconformists and had support from industrial reformists and the up and coming mercantile classes. In Sileby, this polarised, entrenched position manifested itself in the political clubs formed by these groups. Local political clubs and parties followed national party evolution; the Whigs morphed into the Liberal party and the Tories into the Constitutional, Unionist or Conservative party.

A Liberal Association was formed at Sileby in 1881. This was rivalled by the Sileby and District Unionist Association. However, during this period the Liberals had more success locally and were in a position to build a club due to Thomas Caloe's generous contribution in providing a building with fittings. The initial idea to have a Liberal Club was first mooted in 1889 and it came to fruition in 1891. By contrast, the Constitutional Club did not appear until 1912 when sufficient monies to build and furnish a club were raised by subscription.

Politics evolves as different ideas and policies are adopted or rejected. Sileby is no different to the general picture. Therefore, Sileby's Liberal Club later became the Sileby Working Men's Club (WMC) and the Constitutional Club changed to the Sileby Conservative Club.

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