Alf Dubs, MP, unveils plaque in Sugden Rd, Battersea, 1986
Fred Knee, known as ‘The Mighty Atom’, founder of the campaign for the building of working class housing and of the London Labour Party, is to have a second plaque unveiled in his honour in his home town of Frome on Monday 8 December. The first plaque was unveiled on his home in Battersea in 1986.
Monday 8 December, 11am
Vallis School, Milk Street School, Frome
Organised by Frome Society for Local Study
‘We expect the unveiling will be carried out by one of Fred Knee’s grandchildren. We have traced a number of his descendants who will be coming to Frome for the occasion.’
Fred Knee was born 6 June 1868. His parents were weavers living in Frome in Somerset. He had a lot of health problems as a boy (bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and pleurisy).
Leaving school at 13 he went to work for a printer becoming an apprentice compositor from 1882 to 1889. He became a lay preacher at the Zion Congregational Church from August 1887. In December 1888 he became a reporter/compositor on the Somerset and Wiltshire Journal.
In December 1890 he moved to London and joined the London Society for Compositors. He joined the Regent St Polytechnic in January 1891, and was the ‘Radical member for Frome’ in its ‘Parliament’ debating society. In May he joined the Fabian Society, the SDF and the Eleusis Club in Chelsea.
In April 1892 he married Annie Francis from Frome. They lived in Wandsworth from 1892-94, and then in Wimbledon from 1894-8. He stood as an SDF candidate for the Vestry in 1894 and 1897 and for the Guardians in 1896. From December 1894 he was Secretary of the Wimbledon Cheaper Trains Committee, from October 1896 on the Executive of the Wimbledon Educational Emergency Committee, and then the Education Committee of the Wimbledon and Merton Co-operative Society. He was also Treasurer of the South-Western District Council of the SDF.
In 1898 heand Annie moved into 24 Sugden Rd in Battersea. In September 1898 he founded and became Secretary of the Workmen’s Housing Council. Having failed to be elected to the Battersea Borough Council in 1900, he was appointed an Alderman by the controlling Progressive Alliance. He continued as Alderman until 1906, even though he moved in 1901 to Radlett in Herts.
He was particularly active on housing issues, both through the Housing Council and as a member of the Battersea Council’s Housing Committee.
From 1906 he was on the Executive of the SDF. He stood for the SDF in Kennington in the 1907 LCC election, and was adopted as a Socialist candidate for North Aberdeen. He worked on the SDF paper ‘Justice’ from 1909 to 1913 and for the Twentieth Century Press. From 1910 he served on the Aldersham Parish Council which covered Radlett.
He became Secretary of the London Trades Council in 1913, helping to set up the London Labour Party in May 1914, of which he became first Secretary. He also played a major part in the formation of the war-time London Labour Emergency Committee and was its first Secretary.
He died at his home in Radlett in December 1914, aged only 46. His son Harold later commented:
“No wonder that the ‘blind fury with the Abhored shears’
cut him down in the prime of his career… He was completely
worn out and had laid down his life by his unceasing and
fearless work on behalf of his fellow men.”