Longden, Frederick

First name/s: Frederick
Last name: Longden
Known names / nicknames: Fred
Date of birth: 23/02/1886
Year of birth: 1886

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth 23rd February 1886 Ashton-under-Lyme
Family He was the second eldest of seven sons to Harry Longden, an iron-moulder, and his wife Elizabeth Ann (née Royle). Due to his father’s search for work the family lived in many towns and Fred attended a number of elementary schools.
Work At the age of 13, he took a job as a railway ‘nipper’ (an errand and messenger boy). After a few months, he followed his father and became apprenticed as an iron-moulder.
Politics/Trade union activity His mother, who had been a silk weaver, encouraged him to take an interest in politics and, at the age of 16, he entered the labour movement by helping to form the Irlam and Cadishead branch of the ILP, an association that lasted for the rest of his life. He joined the Friendly Society of Ironfounders in 1907. (His membership lapsed in 1917, re-entering in Birmingham in 1944, by which time it was the National Union of Foundry Workers. He attended WEA classes in his youth and this led to a recommendation from Manchester University and WEA in 1912 that he should receive preparatory tutorship.)

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin)

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin 1912
Source of funding not known National Union of Foundry Workers (?)
Campaigns/political activity In 1913 he won the Hodgson Pratt travelling scholarship and went to Belgium to study apprenticeship conditions in foundries, an account of which he published in 1915.
Subjects studied at Ruskin Economics and political science.
Qualification In 1914 he was awarded at Ruskin  Oxford University’s diploma, with distinction, in economic and political science.

Life after Ruskin

Work During the 1920s and 1930s he was a full time lecturer and tutor for the WEA.
Politics/trade union activity After the outbreak of war in 1914 Longden joined the Union of Democratic Control, which he helped to organise in the Birmingham area. He was arrested over a speech which he made appealing for immediate peace negotiations and, although offered exemption from military service on grounds of his trade and his health, he chose to refuse military service as a conscientious objector and spent two years in prison. An able public speaker he undertook engagements on behalf of the cooperative movement, writing a book on the art to which Sir Cedric Hardwicke contributed an introduction. On the left of the ILP, Longden co-operated with CPGB members in launching the Sunday Worker which first appeared in March 1925.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts he was elected to Parliament for the Deritend division of Birmingham in 1929, only to be defeated again in 1931. At the beginning of the Second World War, his lecturing to members of the armed forces was stopped by the authorities on account, Longden believed, of his anti-war views.

In 1945 he was re-elected as MP for Deritend and when the constituency was reorganised to become Small Heath he continued to sit as Labour and Cooperative MP. In the general elections of 1950 and 1951 he had the largest majority of all the Birmingham MPs although during the 1951 Parliament he was only able to take his seat in the House on a few occasions due to deteriorating health.
Family Married to Alice in 1914, a City councillor for forty-two years. One child Freda, also a Labour councillor in Birmingham.
Place & date of death Erdington, Birmingham

For the last few weeks of his life he was confined to his home in Erdington, Birmingham, where he attempted to continue working from his bedroom. He died at home on October 5th 1952 and was survived by his wife Alice, His funeral took place on October 9th.



Date of death: 05/10/1952
Year of death: 1952

Achievements / Publications

Labour MP 1945 – 1951

His published books, pamphlets and articles include:

Apprenticeship in Ironmoulding: a comparison of apprenticeship conditions in English and Belgian Foundries – Hodgson Pratt Memorial 1915.

‘The ILP “Programme of Work”,’ Labour Monthly 7, Jan 1925 pp 44-51.

Why a Feud between Co-operation and Labour? Burton-on-Trent , 1935.

Essentials of Public Speaking (with an introduction by Sir C. Hardwicke) Birmingham 1937.

‘Municipal Election Prospects – in Birmingham’, Labour Monthly 27, Sept 1945 pp 270-1.

Can Consumers’ Co-operation survive without a Socialist Philosophy? Nottingham, 1945, 8 pp.

The Proletarian Heritage, Glasgow 1951.

Material in archives or already published articles

Ed. Joyce Bellamy & John Saville, , Dictionary of Labour Biography vol 2, 1974, pp 239-242, contributor David E.Martin;

Fred Longden (1889 – 5 October 1952) – Wikipedia.org (viewed 27.8.13)


They Work For You.com – A list of parliamentary questions asked, contributions made to debates, etc


Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Fred Longden


Municipal Election Prospects – in Birmingham by Fred Longden M.P. in The Labour Monthly September 1945 pp.270-271

http://www.unz.org/Pub/LabourMonthly-1945sep-00270 (viewed 22.8.13)

Ian Bullock, Romancing the Revolution: the Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left, AU Press, Athabasca University, Alberta 2011. p.384



Notes on Image/s


There is one  portrait in the National Portrait Gallery


Comment of contributor/s and sources

Sources: Dictionary of Labour Biography vol 2  pp239-242, contributor David E.Martin;

Biographical details can be found on the dustjacket of  The Proletarian Heritage 1951. Source:http://www.ppu.org.uk/coproject/COArchiveCat%20WW1.htm (viewed 27.8.13)

There is also a reference to Fred Longden being injured in Singapore in The Straits Times, 5 April 1948, Page 2. Unconscious M.P. BIRMINGHAM. Sunday.— “Mr. Fred Longden, Labour MP, for Deritend, left hospital after receiving treatment for head Injuries received when …” The microfilm is held in Lee Kong Chian Reference Library and a copy can be requested for a fee.http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19480405.2.14.2.aspx

In his recent publication The Ruskin College Fellowship and the First World War, Alan Shepherd has noted that Fred Longden contacted the Fellowship saying he was ‘having a rough time on conscientious grounds’


Dave Reeves

created 14/10/2013 at 3:46 pm, updated 21/08/2014 at 10:42 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

four × 2 =