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A unique collection capturing the stories and struggles of ordinary people's efforts to improve their world
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Socialist Sunday Schools

Socialist Sunday School certificateFor a generation of working class children, Socialist Sunday Schools provided an introduction to political thinking and alternative ideas that neither mainstream education nor traditional church Sunday schools would countenance.
The first was set up by Mary Gray, a member of the Social Democratic Federation, in Battersea in 1892. Another opened independently in Glasgow, and by 1896 there were 16 in operation.
The schools were in a radical tradition stretching back to the Owenite and Chartist movements of 50 years earlier, and arose in response to feeling among socialists that their children were missing out on the education provided by church and chapel Sunday schools.
Socialist Sunday Schools offered secular hymns and even their own hymn book, a Socialist Ten Commandments, and a monthly periodical, The Young Socialist.
By 1914 there were 120 schools, many with hundreds of pupils. But the first world war marked the beginning of the end, and many teachers were called up or imprisoned as conscientious objectors.
Later, splits in the Labour movement as the SDF went its own way into the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Independent Labour Party left the Labour Party further weakened the movement. By the end of the 1930s the influence of Socialist Sunday Schools had effectively ended.

The Library holds a selection of Socialist Sunday School Hymn, Tune or Song Books ranging from 1907 to 1932. The earliest one held was published in March 1907 for Yorkshire Socialist Sunday School.  More on Socialist Sunday Schools...

Click here to arrange a visit to the Working Class Movement Library


Explore 200 years of working class movement activism

Timeline slider
  • 1791

    Thomas Paine publishes 'Rights of man'

  • 1798

    Irish Rebellion

  • 1819


  • 1834


  • 1844

    Rochdale Pioneers

  • 1848

    Chartist banner, 'More pigs and less parsons'Kennington Common Chartist meeting

  • 1867

    'Manchester Martyrs' executed

  • 1868

    First meeting of TUC

  • 1871

    Fall of the Paris Commune

  • 1893

    Foundation of the Independent Labour Party

  • 1906

    Creation of the Labour Party

  • 1908

    Formation of the Plebs League

  • 1913

    Cat and Mouse Bill cartoon : Cartoon from Votes for Women, 1913
    Cat and Mouse Act

  • 1924

    Ramsey MacDonald
    First Labour government

  • 1926

    Arthur Cook_1926General Strike

  • 1931

    Red Megaphones first performance

  • 1932

    Kinder Scout mass trespass

  • 1936

    Map of SpainSpanish Civil War

  • 1944

    Education Act

  • 1945

    National Coal Board notice : National Coal Board noticeNationalisation of the coal industry

  • 1948

    Birth of the NHS

  • 1956

    Tanks on Hungarian street, 1956Hungarian uprising

  • 1958

    CND symbolAldermaston marches and birth of CND

  • 1968

    Prague Spring

  • 1971

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders : Poster depicting demonstration in support of the ship workers

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders

  • 1976

    Grunwick dispute

  • 1982

    Falklands War : Cover image from pamphlet 'Resist the Falkland madness: a pacifist response'

    Falklands War

  • 1984

    Miners' strike

  • 1990

    Nelson Mandela's  release from prison

  • 1998

      Good Friday agreement

  • 1999

    Minimum wageIntroduction of national minimum wage

  • 2001

    Stop the War logo
    Stop the War campaign

We need your support

To maintain the momentum of the huge increases in usage of the Library over the last few years, we need to raise an extra £86,000 each year.

Can you help? Click here for news of our 'Future Fund' fundraising appeal.

Wonder Women

The Library's contribution to this Festival, a talk by Tansy Hoskins about her book Stitched Up - the Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, takes place on Saturday 7 March at 2pm.

To find out more click here.

Object of the Month

Our Object of the Month is a tailor's notebook from 1907.  Find out more here.